Coffee & Canticles
I don’t write lots of political posts because everyone else is so much better at it. (Example to follow)
The background: months ago, while researching a an article on third orders, I was put in contact with Harold O. Koenig, a delightful convert, ex-episcopalian priest, and delightful third order Dominican who cheers the hearts of his facebook friends with offbeat humor and right on the mark spirituality all infused with that undercurrent of joy which Harold tells me is a Dominican charism. He formed a “Novena for the Election” facebook group, the members of which have been encouraging one another since 9/11 (56 days before the election) to pray either a daily rosary (or another prayer o/ penance comittment) with the intention of ending the Obama presidency.
Yesterday morning, the Office of Readings started us on the book of Macchabees. Grim stuff. As I read of King Antiochus’ relentless efforts to strip the Jews of all religious identity, I found myself saying, “Please Lord, don’t let this be a prophecy about the results of the election. Don’t let this happen to us, much as we might deserve it for our sins.”
Then came this morning’s message from Harold on the Novena for Election group. It was perfect on so many levels. Here it is.
The last breath before the battle.
We need to get our expectations AND our virtues in order.
Our enemy loathes freedom. In recent years he has mounted, among many assaults, an assault on the election process.…
“Come, let us worship the Lord, all things live for him.”
To me, the best part of today’s office is its very first line, the antiphon of the Invitatory Psalm. What a glorious affirmation on the day we remember our beloved dead: that they are NOT dead, and that their unending lives will find their purpose and fulfillment when they are immersed in the beauty and goodness of Christ.
Remember that you can gain a plenary indulgence each day from now until November 8th by visiting a cemetery, praying for the dead there, and fulfilling the “usual conditions” for a plenary indulgence: sacramental confession and communion within a week plus prayers for the Holy Father. This indulgence is for the souls in purgatory only, it can’t be applied to yourself.
In addition, you can obtain partial indulgences–which don’t require the conditions of confession and communion–through any number of prayers and good works. Among these is saying either morning or evening prayer of the Office of the Dead, which is what we use today.
The Office of the Dead is interesting. It forms the liturgy of All Souls Day. We can also use it as a votive (at our own choosing) office on any weekday in ordinary time that doesn’t have an obligatory memorial, feast, or solemnity. We would do well to use it on learning of a loved one’s death, on the day of a funeral, and on the anniversary of a loved one’s death.…
Thank heaven that no matter what treacly pop tunes choir directors feel compelled to include in the Sunday lineup, at least they haven’t replaced that rousing anthem, For All The Saints, which I think is still used as the recessional hymn just about everywhere.
But next to For All the Saints, my favorite All Saints Day song is something you never hear in a Catholic church. It comes from the Anglican hymnal, and I suspect other protestant denomination use it as well. This morning, our pastor, a former Baptist, recounted vague memories of a song about the saints that he couldn’t quite recall, but loved because it suggested that the saints come from all walks of life. I knew right away which one he was talking about.
I Sing a Song of the Saints of God has the vibe of a children’s song. There’s even an illustrated children’s book about it. Here are the lyrics, followed by a link to a YouTube performance of this sweet little hymn.
I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew. And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green; they were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one too.
2. They loved their Lord so dear, so dear, and his love made them strong; and they followed the right for Jesus’ sake the whole of their good lives long.…
This is a good week to recall that the Church allows us to add specific intentions to the intercessions of lauds and vespers. It is suggested that these be added after the intercessions given in the breviary, although the final intention for the dead at evening prayer should remain as the last one. In other words, add your specific intentions before this petition for the dead.
This can be as simple as “For the victims of Hurricane Sandy” (Lord hear our prayer) since the Lord knows what all their needs are better than we do. Or if you like, you may pray more specifically for their material and spiritual needs: medical aid, shelter, etc., and for the souls of those who were lost in this storm. You may even “tack” this on to an intercession in the breviary that already mentions the homeless or the dead by simply adding, “especially for the victims of hurricane Sandy.”
It’s yet another of those mysterious “both/and” situations regarding prayer. There are times when it is best and most heartfelt to intercede for others with few words, or just the “sighs and groanings” that the Holy Spirit gives us. On the other hand, there are times when praying specifically and in detail about our needs is better for us. Yes, God knows what we are going to pray for. But sometimes, until we pray at length and in detail, we clarify what the need is in our own minds and,–this is important–exercise our faith and desire for the gifts God is waiting to give us.…
“There is also a Latin expression that captures how we often see things we missed before even in familiar texts. The expression is Non nova, sed nove, meaning that, though the text is not a new thing, it is experienced in a new way, or newly.”
Not new, but new for me.
This bit of Latin trivia comes from Msrg. Charles Pope, whose Archdiocese of Washington blog is eminently worth adding to your reader feed. He was writing about how a recent second reading in the Office Of Readings, something he’d read many times before, taught him something about preaching that he had never noticed before, despite having prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for 27 years.
We all have these delightful moments when a verse of a psalm, a reading, an antiphon that we’ve read a hundred times before just leaps out at us, blazing with new meaning. Today, for example, the psalter for the Office of Readings was Psalm 18: 2-30. All about thanksgiving to God for saving us from our enemies. Perhaps King David was thanking the Lord for some military victory. So, thinking in political terms, I started to pray it as a way of anticipating what I am hoping will be a presidential election outcome that is favorable to the interests of our Church regarding religious freedom. But then I came to this:
From on high he reached down and seized me;
he drew me forth from the mighty waters.…
Okay, so the catholic calendar hanging on my fridge (printed by J.S. Paluch for dioceses in the USA) says that today–October 22–is the Memorial of Bl John Paul II “in Rome and Poland”, followed by an asterisk which leads to no explanation or footnote that I can detect. I think that when this calendar was printed last year, there was uncertainty about whether this feast could be officially celebrated in the United States. You see, these things are not automatic.
Normally, a blessed, as opposed to a saint, is mostly of interest to a smaller niche within the church,namely the blessed’s country of origin and/or the place where he or she did whatever is it they were best know for, and/or the religious order he belonged to/founded. . For example, Kateri Tekawitha was only celebrated in the United States and Canada when she was only of blessed status. Now she may be celebrated as an optional memorial anywhere in the world, under the usual conditions. Even so, it is likely that her feast will remain of greatest interest to North Americans.
But John Paul II hardly fits the old rules, because he ceased being of local interest the day he was elected Pope. And his sphere of action? It was the whole world. So, shortly after his beatification, the US Bishops petitioned Rome to allow Bl. John Paul to be part of our liturgical calendar as well. That permission was recently granted.…
Although only an optional memorial, today’s feast of the North American Martyrs has special significance for us here in the United States and Canada.
If ever you are in the vicinity of Albany, NY, don’t miss the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville. It was built on the actual site of the Mohawk village of Ossernon where several of these martyrs–St. Rene Goupil, St. Isaac Jogues, and St. John LaLande–were martyred. Although shrine itself is kind of Standard issue Catholic shrine (Church, outdoor stations of the cross, gift shop, various statues) there is one very moving feature: the Ravine. Kept in its natural state of forest and grassy glades, this is the spot where the body of St. Rene Goupil was thrown after he was tomahawked. St. Isaac returned at night to locate the body and try to preserve it from carrion eaters and/or further insult by the Indians.
As the pilgrim descends the path into the ravine, there are stations for meditation: excerpts from St. Isaac’s account of that night are tacked on signboards to the trees. (At least that is how it was on my last visit 20 years ago.) It’s an opportunity to follow a via dolorosa of sorts. The quotations on the signboards are taken from the following account, so as you read this, imagine yourself with St. Isaac, climbing and slipping down a steep woodland path with a stream at the bottom:
“After René and I had been captives in Ossernenon (Auriesville, New York) for six weeks (September 1642) we lost all hope of again seeing Three Rivers (the Jesuit mission).…
“I am Poor and Needy”…and “I” would refer to…?
Today both Lauds and Daytime Prayer give us psalms that we just naturally want to pray on our own behalf. Because we are poor and needy. Pathetic, really. Oh sure, when life is good we trust God and thank him that we have received the graces to be devout, orthodox, committed Catholics. But then, some garden variety crisis occurs in our lives, or the novena does not produce amazing results. Suddenly, the proud and ruthless voices are right there:See? God doesn’t answer prayer…for that matter, do you really think there IS a God? Satan tries to chip away at our faith every chance he gets. And sadly, we are actually shaken at times by the jeering crowd of demons.
So it makes perfect sense to pray these words with ourselves in mind. We are poor and needy.
Turn your ear, O Lord, and give answer * for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am faithful: * save the servant who trusts in you… …The proud have risen against me; † ruthless men seek my life: * to you they pay no heed. (from psalm 86)
However, if we have taken up the privilege/burden of praying the psalter liturgically, we have to moderate that tendency. As Pope Benedict reminded us last week, it’s not just about you. Or at least, its about you only insofar as you are one tiny member of the body of Christ.…
Due to technical glitches my last two posts were cut off after only a few sentences. This has now been fixed. I apologize for the frustration this must have caused.
Since these posts consisted largely of the words of our Holy Father about the meaning of liturgical prayer, they are really worth going back to. Check them out.…
As promised yesterday, here are highlights of this week’s talk by Pope Benedict at the general audience given on October 3rd. Please remember that this teaching applies equally to the mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. My own reaction after reading this was along the lines of “Dear God! What have you been allowing me to do all these years with this breviary. It’s too much, too great a gift for an ungrateful schlub like me.”
Here are some highlights. The stuff in red is my own comments. The link for the full text is at the end.,
…Thus, participating in the liturgy, we make ours the language of the Mother Church, we learn to speak it and for it. Of course, as I have already said, this takes place in a gradual manner, little by little. I have to progressively immerge[my note: I think this was a slip on the part of the translator that was meant to say "immerse']
myself in the words of the Church, with my prayer, my life, my suffering, my joy, my thoughts. It is a journey that transforms us.[yes. we use the words of the bible to pray just as children are given the words to speak by their parents. If a baby did nothing but talk in his "own" words, for the sake of spontanaeity, he would miss out on learning to communicate well.]
Thus I think that these reflections enable us to answer the question that we posed at the beginning: how do I learn to pray, how can I grow in my prayer?…