16 February 2018

Letting Go

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My family and I have been privileged to travel to Europe from time to time in the past. Each time we have travelled with at least one child, but our record is four.  We were younger, and airfares used to be a whooooole lot cheaper (I still remember wistfully buying one non-stop round ticket from St. Louis to Paris for $198).  This upcoming pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela will be the first trip that we will make without young children.

One of the things I’ve learned the hard way over time is that I am not able to have things as I would want them, simply because I want them, or even simply because I try to make them that way.  If age makes me lose my mental focus (it seems that I am forever careening from one present-tense moment to the next, lucid at any one time but clueless as to the journey) it surely drives home the reality of my inability to “fix” things. This of course is part of God’s wonderful plan. It isn’t my plan of salvation; they really aren’t “my” kids, “my” job, “my” friends, etc.  Ditching the idea that I save myself, even temporally speaking, is a must-learn lesson that leads to dependence upon the One Person who is able to save it all.

So, we are preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago, which is one of my long-time goals.  Think of George Bailey– practically 3/4 of that movie was George telling everyone he was going to travel the world, thinking about traveling, and taking some steps to bring it about. And for one reason or another it never comes off.  Until now, I’ve been the Camino George Bailey.  Substitute the Camino de Santiago for George’s Grand Tour and you can understand how much I’ve bored and annoyed friends, family and sometimes total strangers over the years.

And planning a trip is nearly as exciting as taking one.  I take particular delight in making sure hotels, flights, trains, tickets and all the minutiae of travel are covered.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Methodist Jim sometime how early I arrive at a train station in the middle of nowhere so I couldn’t possibly miss a connection.  And what better trip to plan than the Camino?

As many have pointed out before, the pilgrimage is a metaphor for life.  I try to plan all the connections in life, too.  I love doing it.  I want to save my own soul and everyone else’s.  I want to plan my day and yours, too.  I want to know if Benedict’s abdication is valid, if the Dubia will ever be answered, who the next Vicar of the Oratory will be, and whether LeSean McCoy is over his leg injury.

And like in life, my wife (for blogging purposes I’ll call her “Sharon”) simply lives well and does well, and makes sure all my planning is not in vain.  It is my packing list, perhaps– but guess who actually packs it?  It might be my idea to travel here or there with children (to benefit them, wink), but guess who actually makes that possible?  I want to visit this or that place, but guess who actually makes those visits enjoyable and worthwhile?  These questions answer themselves.  And I don’t mean to imply that Sharon is a passive participant; she has a plan of her own when mine are too insane.

But, back to the title of the post– Letting Go.  This is no ordinary trip, it is not first and foremost a vacation. We have a purpose on this journey– several concrete prayer intentions that we are hoping God will grant.

And again, the pilgrimage is a metaphor for life.

This trip is different, even in the conception and planning of it.  We are going with another couple (for blogging purposes I’ll call them “Ed” and “Mary”).  It seems like a good fit for this enterprise. They have hiking and outdoorsy experience but have never traveled to Europe; Sharon and I have European culture and way-of-doing-things down, and I have some functional Spanish skills.  When it comes to the planning and execution of trips, their skills seem to be similarly alloted between husband and wife, but as if on steroids.  Speaking just for me and not my lovely bride, they are holier and more competent than I am.  I find that the planning, the connections, lodging, the gear, the schedule, the preparation–all of my normal slate of duties– are being done for me, and done well at that. All I have to do is to accept it; since they are very kind people, our input is genuinely sought, but I have no doubt they could plan the whole thing by themselves and hand us our bags at the airport and all would be well.

The pilgrimage is a metaphor for life. Who wouldn’t want a guide and friend to lead one safely on the way?  God has a plan. He sends us help. Why would I not leap eagerly at that, instead of viewing it as a cross that I’m not the one doing it? That I am not saving myself?  Letting go of planning this Camino is just the simplest of ways of reinforcing that I need to let go of having my way on the journey of life. And why not, when the Person planning it has my interests in mind better than I could, and will bring it about better than I could? The question, again, answers itself.

Time to let go.

14 February 2018

Beginnings: Lent and Journeys

Welcome to Lent. I wanted to write today to let the three remaining readers know what has been happening, blog-wise, and to give you a heads-up about plans for the immediate future. It is no shocking announcement that posts have been light and sporadic. The reason is also not shocking. News is almost uniformly bad, tends to depress, and is widely known already by those who care. And though such news needs to be chronicled and digested, there are those who have been doing it well, with greater reach: among others, I note Steve Skojec, Hilary White, Frank Walker, and New Catholic. Also, my work and home duties are many and immediate. And, frankly, my mind doesn't work as well as it used to.

However that may be, I intend to slog blog on, and even to write regularly. The focus will be more personal than merely chronicling events, but as in the past everything is still fair game.

Let me begin by noting some upcoming changes during Lent.  In the early part of March, I will be at last walking the Camino de Santiago, walking the English route from Ferrol to Santiago de Compostela and the tomb of St. James the Greater. After much thought, I decided to blog about the journey as I go.  It wasn't an easy call, and maybe I'll regret not "going dark" during the pilgrimage and trying to write about it later. However, I thought that some of you may want to "follow" events as they happen (more or less) and that it would be a better way to chronicle what I go through than trying to carve out time and memory later.  We shall see.

Which brings me to the practical consequence of this decision. The blogging platform I use for this site, Blogger, is-- shall I say this delicately-- not cool.  It is hard to use, particularly on a mobile device. It is not intuitive, particularly on a mobile device. Uploading photos is mercurial to impossible, particularly on a mobile device. Do you sense a theme? Lots of bloggers have their own website, and those who don't favor Wordpress. As do I. 

I have a Wordpress site, and I have thought of migrating to it for years. However, I figured that layout was not the reason people read this blog, and didn't want to shed readers by moving and worrying about my archives, etc. Fortunately, over time I have shed plenty of readers due to the poor quality of my writing, and my sporadic posting. What may have been a reasonably popular blog at one point is now, let's face it, fairly lame. I can't see how I could have fewer readers than I do now and still have readers, and I think if you are still sticking with me you will be able to follow a hypertext link and bookmark it for later.

So, in the near future, and at least for the period of March 9-24, I will be posting at stlouiscatholic.wordpress.com . I am able to write and post photos (which is important to me on the Camino, anyway) from my mobile devices, so I can approximate on the go posting from Spain. I probably will end up permanently moving to Wordpress afterward, but maybe I won't. I will leave this site active for a long time in any event, with a link so you can find me if you want to. Also, until I leave, I will be posting at both the Blogger and Wordpress sites simultaneously, so pick your poison.

So, thanks for reading still, particularly if you have stuck it out for all eleven years. I hope to make this page readable again. If not, I'll find enough Bob Dylan lyrics and bullfighting accidents to see me through. Buen Camino.

Ash Wednesday and the War of Defense

Prayer after the blessing of the penitent with ashes, from today's Mass:

Grant us, Lord, the grace to begin the Christian's war of defense with foly fasts: that, as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

May all readers have a blessed, holy, and spiritually profitable Lent.

There is still opportunity to assist at Mass and receive the blessed ashes at St. Francis de Sales Oratory at 12:15 pm (Low Mass) and 6:30 pm (Solemn High Mass) today.

13 February 2018

The Calendar Moves and People are Pretty Much the Same

"You wonder how people so united by geography and religious ideals could become such bitter enemies. After a while you become aware of nothing but a culture of feeling, of black days, of schism, evil for evil, the common destiny of the human being getting thrown off course. It's all one long funeral song, but there's a certain imperfection in the themes, an ideology of high abstraction, a lot of epic, bearded characters, exalted men who are not necessarily good. No one single idea keeps you contented for too long. It's hard to find any of the neoclassical virtues, either. All that rhetoric about chivalry and honor-- that must have been added later. Even the Southern womanhood thing. It's a shame what happened to the women. Most of them were abandoned to starve on farms with their children, unprotected and left to fend for themselves as victims to the elements. The suffering is endless, and the punishment is going to be forever. It's all so unrealistic, grandiose and sanctimonious at the same time. There was a difference in the concept of time, too. In the South, people ilved their lives with sun-up, high noon, sunset, spring, summer. In the North, people lived by the clock. The factory stroke, whistles and bells. Northerners had to "be on time." In some ways the Civil War would be a battle between two kinds of time. Abolition of slavery didn't even seem to be an issue when the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter. It all makes you feel creepy. The age that I was living in didn't resemble this age, but yet it did in some mysterious and traditional way. Not just a little bit, but a lot. There was a broad spectrum and commonwealth that I was living upon, and the basic psychology of that life was every bit a part of it. If you turned the light towards it, you could see the full complexity of human nature. Back there, America was put on the cross, died and was resurrected. There was nothing synthetic about it. The godawful truth of that would be the all-encompassing template behind everything I would write."

--Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One, writing about surveying antebellum newspapers in the New York City Library in 1961.

07 February 2018

Ave, Regina Caelorum,
Ave, Domina Angelorum:
Salve, radix, salve, porta
Ex qua mundo lux est orta:
Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa,
Vale, o valde decora,
Et pro nobis Christum exora.
V. Dignare me laudare te, Virgo sacrata.
R. Da mihi virtutem contra hostes tuos.
Oremus: Concede, misericors Deus, fragilitati nostrae praesidium: ut, qui sanctae Dei Genitricis memoriam agimus; intercessionis eius auxilio, a nostris iniquitatibus resurgamus. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

If you ever want proof of the superiority of Western civilization, just look at any photo of Venice. 

02 February 2018

The Purification of Mary

Christmastide comes to a close at last with today's feast of Candlemas. Celebrate the season at Solemn High Mass at the Oratory at 6:30 pm.

"If true, the highest levels of the FBI colluded with a British spy digging dirt for Hillary to ruin the opposition candidate, and, having failed, to bring down an elected president."

The headline comes from this post by Patrick Buchanan, released shortly before the memo it (accurately, as it turns out) discusses. 

These are the tactics of the communist thugs of the last regime, to wit: Obama, the Harpy from Hell, and their toadies-- not to mention those whom these thugs actually serve.

The P-D, like all other establishment rags, frames the story as "GOP releases partisan and strongly disputed memo critical of FBI". Right. As though the story is about the memo's release, and not about the truth of its contents. But then, that sums up any argument in modern politics. The truth is irrelevant and all that matters is power. The enemies of Western civilization don't want to convince us-- they only want to kill us.

Forget Trump the man. This is about the survival of whatever is left of the Republic.

29 January 2018

Feast of St. Francis de Sales

Today is the Feast of the great Doctor of Charity, St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Oratory, co-patron of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, patron of journalists and writers, and great agent of the conversion of heretics.

Faithful who assist at any Institute Mass today may obtain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.

Dom Gueranger says of the saint who converted 72,000 Calvinists:

God gave him to the Church at the very time that heresy was holding her out to the world as a worn-out system, that had no influence over men's minds.  He raised up this true minister of the Gospel in the very country where the harsh doctrines of Calvin were most in vogue, that the ardent charity of Francis might counteract the sad influence of that heresy.  If you want heretics to be convinced of their errors, said the leaned Cardinal du Perron, you may send them to me; but if you want them to be converted, send them to the Bishop of Geneva.

Thanks to JJR for this great novena prayer to St. Francis de Sales:

O Blessed Francis de Sales, who in your mortal life did excel in all virtues, especially in love of God and of neighbor, I earnestly entreat you to take me under your immediate protection, to obtain from God my perfect conversion, and that of all sinners, especially of (the names of persons for whom you wish to pray should be mentioned here). Teach me, O Father, to fix my eyes on heaven, that I may generously trample under foot every obstacle that presents itself in my way, and attain that degree of glory which you in your mercy hold out to me. Obtain also that particular favor for which I now pray. (mention intention)

Assist us, O Lord, we beseech you, through the merits of St. Francis de Sales. That what our endeavors cannot obtain may be given us by his intercession. Let us pray: O God, who for the salvation of souls, did will that St. Francis de Sales, your confessor and bishop, should become all things to all men and women, mercifully grant that we, infused with the gentleness of his charity, guided by his teachings, and sharing in his merits, may obtain eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


A reflection from Divine Intimacy quotes from St. Francis de Sales:

"O Lord Jesus, when You died on the Cross Your heart was so filled with kindness toward us and You loved us so tenderly, even though we ourselves were the cause of Your death, that You had but one thought: to obtain pardon for Your executioners, even while they tortured You and cruelly insulted You. Help me, I beg You, to endure my neighbors' faults and imperfections with kindness.

"To those who despise me or murmur against me, teach me to reply with humility, mildness, and a steadfast kindness of heart, never defending myself in any way. For love of You, I desire to let everyone say what he wishes, because words are not of value but love is, and he who loves more will be more loved and glorified. Help me, then, my Jesus, to love You; help me to love creatures for love of You, especially those who despise me, without letting myself be disturbed by their contempt, but applying myself to the practice of humility and mildness; then You will be my reward.

"Teach me to comport myself always with mildness and sweetness, and never to disrupt peace with anyone. All that I can do and obtain with love I will do, but what I cannot do or procure without a dispute, I will let be. Help me to make use of the repugnances and aversions I encounter in my contacts with others to practice the virtue of mildness, and to show myself loving with all, even with those who are opposed to me, or who are a cause of aversion.

"Finally, I purpose with Your help, O most lovable God, to apply myself to acquire kindness of heart toward my neighbor by thinking of him as Your creature, destined to enjoy You some day in Paradise. Those whom You tolerate, O Lord God, it is but just that I, too, tolerate them tenderly and with great compassion for their spiritual infirmities."

Blessed feast day to you all!