A Catholic Blog for Lovers

A celebration of beauty, truth, and goodness, and, of course, love...and perhaps a little nastiness

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Saturday, August 21, 2004
The Catholic Church in Europe: new life, new hope

Good to read some hopeful words about the state of Catholicism in Europe.

Today in Christian history

August 21, 1567: Francis de Sales was born today. Bishop of Geneva and one of the leaders of the Catholic Reformation, Saint Francis de Sales is now best known for writing his "Introduction to the Devout Life" and his "Salesian spirituality." He is the patron saint of Catholic journalists.

August 21, 1649: The English metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw, one of the 17th century Catholic poets, died in Rome in exile.

August 21, 1741: George Frideric Handel shuts himself up in his home to begin writing "Messiah." He finished the composition 23 days later. "Whether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not," he later said.

August 21, 1874: Henry Ward Beecher, a popular Congregational clergyman from Connecticut, is accused of adultery. Sued for $100,000 by the alleged adulteress's husband, the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (and son of evangelical leader Lyman Beecher) would eventually be exonerated by his congregation and the jury (which voted 9-3 in favor of Beecher).

Friday, August 20, 2004
Hope, even for me

Any soul, even laden with sins, captive in its vices, held by its pleasure, imprisoned in its exile, locked up in its body, nailed to its worries, distracted by its concerns, frozen by its fears, struck by manifold sufferings, going from error to error, eaten up by anxiety, ravaged by suspicion, a stranger in a strange land, and counted with those who go down to hell - every soul, I say, in spite of its damnation and despair, can still find reasons not only to hope for forgiveness and mercy but even dare to aspire to the nuptials of the Word: as long as it does not fail to sign a covenant with God, and to place itself under the yoke of love.... For the Bridegroom is not only a lover: he is Love. You will say: yes, but also is he not honor? Some affirm this: as to myself, I never read anything of that kind. I have read that God is Love.

-Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

The Pope in Lourdes

John Allen expands his initial report on the Pope in Lourdes. I am so delighted to see John's approach to the Pope transformed over the years; his admiration for John Paul II is undeniable!

Recently The National Catholic Reporter fell even lower in my estimation. I regret that John Allen is associated with this journal. But I will continue reading him despite this affiliation. John is a good source of information and, as I have said more than once, he has grown in his appreciation of the Pope and, in general, of the Church and her rich heritage and culture.

Some of what he writes about the Pope in this latest Word from Rome column had me in tears. How I love this Pope of ours! How grateful to God for this gift!

(I am hoping against hope that I will perhaps we with him in Cologne for World Youth Day in August 2005..... unlikely but a real dream).


Not far off - Wednesday, Sept 1 - we leave for a week in Paris, France. This is a real big step for me, with one segment of the airflight 9 hours long! UGH! (We fly from BWI to Miami and then from Miami to Paris). I hope and pray I am up to this exciting challenge.

So far here's some of what we hope to do:

-visit Notre-Dame and Sainte Chapelle in Paris;

-visit Our Lady's cathedral in Chartres;

-visit the grave of Abelard and Heloise (incurable romantic that I am);

-attend some Office sung by the Fraternities of Jerusalem in the church of Sainte Gervaise Sainte Potaise in Paris;

-visit the monastic community of Bethlehem in Paris.

I had originally hoped to go to Taize but discover it is a 5 hour drive and that's just too much to bite off on a relatively brief visit. I am wondering, if anyone knows, whether a trip to the Dual Rite Monastery of Chevetogne is possible and practical (Fritz, are you there?). Also I would consider, very much, a trip to Lisieux, if it weren't too far to drive.

I will be traveling, once again, with Father Michael, who studied for over a year at the renowned Institute of Orthodox Theology of St Sergius in Paris (and he knows a good bit of French and is, generally, a gifted linguist due to a well attuned musical ear, I think). So there may well be some Orthodox sites to visit as well.

Any suggestions? (I have always found the suggestions helpful and have enriched my prior journeys).

Lourdes and Healing Today

Nice essay in The Tablet on the continuing gift of healing experienced at this Marian shrine.

Today in Christian history

August 20, 1153: Bernard of Clairvaux dies. Bernard was a towering figure of the 12th century; he helped strengthen and spread the Cistercian renewal, counseled kings and popes, and wrote still treasured treatises and letters. His hymns are still sung by Christians of various traditions. Bernard had a tender devotion to Our Lady, and the prayer "The Memorare" is often attributed to him.

August 20, 1745: Francis Asbury, one of the two first Methodist bishops in America (the other was Thomas Coke), is born in Birmingham, England.

August 20, 1912: William Booth, founder and first General of the Salvation Army, dies.

Thursday, August 19, 2004
Banff Photos

And, Alexa, we made it to Athabasca Falls!

Today in Christian history

August 19, 1099: Three years after setting out, the First Crusade armies defeat the Saracens at the Battle of Ascalon, a Palestinian city. For more than a century afterwards, Christians controlled the Holy Land.

August 19, 1631: The neoclassical poet John Dryden was born on this day in 1631. He began life as a Puritan, but by the end of his career he was a Catholic, a fact which lost him the post of Poet Laureate.

August 19, 1662: Blaise Pascal, French scientist, polemicist, and Christian apologist, dies at the age of 39 after an extended illness. In 1654, he experienced his "definitive conversion" where he discovered the "God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and men of science".

August 19, 1680: John Eudes, founder of male and female religious communities in France, died. John promoted devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and was an opponent of Jansenism. Canonized in 1925.

August 19, 1843: C.I. Scofield, dispensationalist creator of the Scofield Reference Bible, is born near Clinton, Michigan.

August 19, 1886: Richard G. Spurling, a Baptist minister, founds the Christian Union in Tennessee. In 1923 the organization took the name the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee, a Pentecostal denomination that now has hundreds of thousands of members.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Welcome to St Blog's

Being! or Nothingness
The Divine Ladder - Shawn Tribe
Exultet - Therese Z and Rosalind
The Catholic Conservative - George Dienhart
Dressing with Dignity

Remembering ONION

About one week before ONION left us I had taken a photo of him sleeping in the doorway of my room. I thought it too dark at that time and didn't do much with it but did, thankfully, save it. Looking at it yesterday - I thought it a truly excellent shot of ONION and loved the lighting! Here it is as a photo:

And here it is as a background on my own computer:

Spiritual Friendship

Love between the saints

One very fascinating area is the special bond among some saints, especially the male-female relationship. Coming to mind immediately is Saints Francis and Clare, Blessed Jordan of Saxony and Sister Diana, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr (not to mention Abelard and Heloise!) - and today's saint: Jane Frances de Chantal and her deep and abiding bond with Francis de Sales.

I came across this today in a book I have, "The Bond of Perfection" by Wendy M. Wright (Paulist Press), which describes Saint Jane (Jeanne) upon the death of her beloved father and brother and friend in Christ, Francis de Sales::

"His companions noticed that he appeared very ill the day after Christmas, yet he continued to spend himself in the service of others. He spent the evening with the Visitation sisters, giving them a conference on his favorite motto, “Ask nothing and refuse nothing.”

The next day he continued to keep his appointments and to say Mass although he noted that his eyesight seemed to be failing. When he returned to the convent at midday his servants noticed that he had difficulty rising after a light meal and that he found it impossible to write the letters that urgently needed attending to. As he rose from his desk chair he collapsed. The doctors were hastily summoned and they made a diagnosis of apoplexy through a rupture of the cerebral artery. For a full day the physicians used all their ingenuity to apply a truly horrible succession of remedies to their patient while friends and pious visitors clustered round the bed. Francois de Sales died at eight in the evening on December 28, 1622, the feast of the Holy Innocents.

Jeanne left Grenoble without hearing the sad news, and she arrived in Belley ten days after Christmas still ignorant of her friend’s death. For Michel Favre, Francois’ confessor and confidential secretary as well as chaplain of the Visitation, had made sure that no letters or information reached her while she was on the road because he wished to be the one to gently break the news to her himself.

At Belley the sisters were requested not to make any display of their grief for it was decided that the mother superior should be allowed to celebrate the feast of Epiphany, which marked the end of the joyous Christmas celebration, with serenity. Jeanne was not aware of the conspiracy of silence, but she was troubled that she had had no news of François for some time. Approaching Michel Favre, she inquired after their mutual friend. He replied that the bishop had fallen ill in Lyon and handed her a letter written by Francois’ brother Jean who had been his assistant and now, with Francois’ death, had become bishop of Geneva.

Jeanne’s first response upon hearing that Francois had fallen ill was to announce that she wished to return to Lyon immediately. But she sensed the mood of her informants:

"When Monsieur Michel put the letter.., in my hand my heart beat wildly. I drew myself close to the presence of God and his will, greatly fearing that there was something painful to be learned in this letter. In the small space of time that it took to recollect myself in God, I understood the words that I had heard in Grenoble: “He is no more,” the truth of which was clarified for me by reading that blessed letter. I fell to my knees, adoring the divine Providence and embracing the holy will of God which included my incomparable affliction, as best I could."

Madame de Chantal wept through most of the day and night, her tears in her own words being “abundant but very gentle.” She continued with the regular round of community life but in her grief paid little attention to what was going on around her. This warm woman whose heart Francois had said “loved powerfully and felt things strongly” was not even in this most personal of moments free from barbs of criticism thrown by her detractors. She was approached by one of the priests present at the convent for the feast. He informed her that a soul perfectly resigned to the will of God really ought to dry its tears. She answered simply:

'My dear Father, if I knew that my tears were disagreeable to God, I would not shed even a single one.’"

A favorite essay of mine by Father Gerald Vann OP, "Love Among the Saints." ENJOY!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
The Pope in Lourdes

I was blessed to catch a good portion of the Mass celebrated by the Pope with hundreds of thousands at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. I cannot express my admiration or reverence for this Pope in words! As John Allen writes, this Pope has become an "icon" of suffering with Christ, and in Lourdes he was one of thousands upon thousands of the sick and suffering. Unlike the seeming suggestion of Allen, however, I see no dicotomy between being an icon and a shepherd. (But that kind of thinking is needed for political purposes, I guess).

I was struck by what John Allen refers to as "large and disproportionately youthful crowds" - yes, so many younger folk there along with the elderly and sick. What a sign of catholicity and hope! Bodes well for the future of the Church in France, I hope, I hope, I hope..... Veni, Sancte Spiritus!


Yesterday at 3:30 ONION went to sleep. He was surrounded by three who loved him. I was able to put my arms around him and gently pet him as he received the overdose of anesthesia. His heart stopped beating within seconds. There were lots of tears, even sobs, but a sense that this was the right moment. No words spoken - just a sign of the Cross on his forehead. It was even quite beautiful.

I will miss this buddy of mine. But I will always be grateful that such a gift was given to me and that ONION had such a good, long, happy, healthy, fun-filled life. Some say ONION led a "charmed" life; that despite his "feistiness", he escaped so many dangers and potential problems and troubles. Only once in all those years did I take ONION to the vet for a health issue (he had begun to have seizures). But he was "cured" by the time we got to the vet!

I never looked on ONION, even after so many years, without saying either out loud or to myself: "ONION, you are so beautiful!" Or: "ONION, you are so wonderful!" He charmed me to the very end. I was completely enraptured by the way he aged and by the grace and dignity and courage of his last days.

So, yes, there were and are and will be tears. They will have their share of sorrow and the pain of loss, but mingled with tears of deep joy and gratitude as well.

ONION will be buried right outside my room. And he will live on in my own heart.

Thanks to so many for prayer and support.

Let me point you to a page on my website, fitting as a sort of tribute to my beloved ONION. It is a selection about the great Catholic thinker, Baron von Hugel, and his own relationship with his dogs (and a fine theological reflection as well).

Monday, August 16, 2004

Today, Monday, August 16th, at 3:30 PM, I will be saying my last goodbye to my beloved peke, ONION. The time has come. ONION is not in misery and seems content even; but he is unable to do much and I am unable to help much due to my own condition (and it breaks my heart not to be able to meet every need of my faithful companion and source of endless delight). So far it has worked out OK and I have either been able to do it or someone just somehow shows up who can help ONION do what needs to be done. ONION has had, I think, a long and good life. I know that I often thank God that we found each other! Words fail to express what this “little dog with a big dog attitude” has meant to me. I can hardly bear the thought, right now, of life without ONION. How I have loved this little fluff ball, this feisty and brave pekingnese!

Later today I will sign him with the cross and entrust him to the everlasting love and care of the Creator of our wondrous world and all its creatures.

So I post this now to ask your thoughtful remembrance and even your good prayers.

Here is the last photo of ONION. How gorgeous he is even till the end (Friday was ONION’s 17 and ½ birthday; the average peke lives to 13 and if unusually healthy, to 15. ONION is “the miracle dog.”).

My beloved ONION August 14, 2004

Sunday, August 15, 2004
Pope celebrates Mass in Lourdes

"Battling age and illness, Pope John Paul II has celebrated an open-air Mass at the Roman Catholic shrine in Lourdes, south-western France.

Some 200,000 people attended the Mass by the grotto revered for its healing powers, cheering the Pope through his sermon with cries of 'Viva Il Papa'..

..The BBC's David Willey notes that although the Pope's actual words are often incomprehensible these days because of the progression of Parkinson's Disease, the power of his presence remains undiminished.

For the vast majority of Catholics, our Rome correspondent reports, he has become an icon of suffering humanity..."

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Detail of wall mural in Assumption Ukrainian Catholic church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

On our way to the Calgary International Airport on our way home, we saw an onion domed church off the highway and we decided to check it out. It turned out to be a beautiful Ukrainian Orthodox church of St Vladimir. (Some photos to come). From there we were pointed to Assumption Ukrainian Catholic church up the hill. Beautiful iconography (in both churches). Here is a detail of the Assumption/Dormiton of the Mother of God wall mural. Beautiful!

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven
to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection,
and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way.
You would not allow decay to touch her body,
for she had given birth to your Son, the Lord of all life,
in the glory of the incarnation.

-From the Preface of the Assumption

A blessed feast to all!

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