Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Haven't done quizzes for a while

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Which Positive Quality Are You?
Your Result: Charity

You are Charity. The spirit of giving has been promoted by every religion. Charity is kindness. It is compassion for our fellow man. Charity doesn't ask anything in return, and in this way it serves as the opposite of greed. "Be charitable with many."

Which Positive Quality Are You?


Thursday, November 23, 2006

there's always an Open Door

When I'm healthy and wealthy enough and the weather is safe enough for me to get to Mass, here is where you'll find me afterwards.

Actually, it's one of the big reasons I belong to the parish I belong to. In my former parish, which I still love, I could no longer serve but only be served; there one has to be endlessly rambunctious or drive in order to serve, since everything except worship happens somewhere else. But at my current parish, there are many things I can participate in and ways I can serve, even when I only have enough vanfare for Sunday Mass. (It doesn't cost any more to go home at 1:15 in the afternoon than to go home at 9:30). I do like to be both receiving and giving!

Happy Thanksgiving Feast!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"..... to pray for the City and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."

A few days ago one of my favorite prayer tools arrived. Twenty tabliod pages of small-but-not-agate print, it's called the 2007 Archdiocesan Directory. It lists every priest of the archdiocese from "Acker, Rev. Karl H." and "Ackeret, Rev. Dennis R." all the way to "Zwaska, Rev. Victor L.", every parish from "Allenton, Resurrection" to "Woodland, St. Mary", and every deacon and deacon's wife, "Acosta, Carlos R. (Iris)" to "Zozakiewicz, Daniel T. (Barbara)".

As I prayed through the list of our priests last night, holding each one before the Lord, so many different thoughts ----

There are so many, still, who have remained able, and devoted, and faithful, and enduring. Some of whom are listed with multiple assignments. A few of whom were ordained before I was born. May the Lord sustain and strengthen them all.

and there are names who are missing now, who were there in previous years. Some have died; their souls are commended to God. A few have gone into the shadows as the after-effects of the Charter in Dallas; I pray the prayer for priest-penitents for them, that they may remain strong and faithful in this kenosis. One or two have been suspended about current bad acts, a few more may have just left; may the Lord be merciful to them.

Pray for your priests, and for all priests. We need them, it is by their hands that the Lord fulfills His promise to be our very food and drink, to life true and eternal, it is by their voice that we are assured of the forgiveness of our sins. And they need us, to plead for them, to give them strength to stay, for the task is so great, and their humanity so weak.

Pray for them. Hold them up, lest they crumple and fail under the load.
We have no Eucharist, and no absolution, without them.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Gerard Serafin lives

Yesterday was the second yahrzeit day of Gerard Serafin Bugge, the keeper of the Catholic Blog for Lovers and also of the now inaccessible most numinous site in all cyberspace, the Catholic Pages for Lovers, praiseofglory.com/ . Gerard was one of the pioneers of the Catholic internet, and his presence in the listservs and usenet was consistently uplifting and enlightening.

One of his very last public works of mercy was to beg for prayers for me, when I was hospitalized for my first bout with the MRSA.

Please pray for his twin and for the repose of his soul, as I am certain that he prays for us.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Henriette DeLille: "But, Mother, ...."


"...... I don't want to be a courtesan! I want to be a nun!"

Today is the anniversary of the death of Henriette DeLille.

Born in New Orleans in 1813, she was a "free person of color" and a pious Catholic child who was being raised to take her place under the social contract of the time as a courtesan. Her mother was a courtesan, her grandmother was a courtesan, her great-grandmother was a courtesan, and her great-great-grandmother was a slave. That's the way things were in New Orleans back then; young free coloured girls would attend the "quadroon balls" where, if they and their families were extremely fortunate, a wealthy white or passing gentleman would choose to be their "protector". In return for companionship and sexual favors, the protector would support the chosen one financially, keep her safe from the worst of the racialist degradations, sponsor the chosen one's education in literature, arts, and social graces, and, sometimes, acknowledge and shelter any offspring. Marriage, however, was out of the question; it was illegal for coloured people to marry whites.

Henriette met an immigrant French sister, Sister Marthe, and learned more about the faith from her as well as followed her in the performance of the works of mercy. And Henriette was very much impressed. When the time came for her to go to the ball and be chosen, she refused. She would be a nun. Her family was very displeased; her refusal endangered the future of the family, who would protect her if she were not chosen?

Once they got used to the idea that she wasn't going to let herself be chosen, her family proposed, for her own future, that she move to another city and, passing, work as a teacher. After all, her brother was already determined to improve his life by passing. But she refused to pass; she saw no reason to be ashamed of being coloured.

In 1836, she and some friends formed a community, dedicated to the works of mercy among the poor of the city, regardless of color or condition of servitude. This community fell afoul of the law and had to be disbanded, because the law said that white people were not allowed to live in the same household as coloured people. The sisters who were white emigrated to France, where they joined other religious communities. Some of the sisters who were coloured gave up the idea of being sisters. But Henriette still had the dream.

In 1842, Henriette and her companion Juliette tried again, establishing the Sisters of the Holy Family, and kept themselves out of trouble with the law by only accepting coloured sisters. Her attempts were successful, but only just so. The sisters were subject to ridicule, hard work, and extreme poverty. At times, the sisters had so little food that they drank sweetened water at night to dull their hunger. But they were happy, because they were making these sacrifices for God and were sharing in the Passion of Jesus Christ, to whom they had consecrated their lives.

Within a few years, Henriette had opened a home for the aged, the sick, and the poor who had nowhere else to go. She was later able to purchase a home, which she used as a community center where slaves and free black people came to socialize and learn the Christian faith. The religious community found creative ways to keep money coming in. That the Sisters of the Holy Family accomplished so much in a time of tremendous obstacles is even more impressive when one considers that for the first seven years there were only three of them.

Even though Henriette's health was never very good, she refused to slow down so long as there were people who needed her. Worn out by her work, Henriette died on November 17, 1862. In her obituary it was written, "The crowd gathered for her funeral testified by its sorrow how keenly felt was the loss of her who for the love of Christ had made herself the humble servant of slaves."

Henriette, holy helper of the poor, pray for us.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Template News

So far so good on the template tampering. I couldn't find another purple blog but I did find this one that's at least a little orange! Reference Links and blogroll H-Z are up, after I get some supper, or in the morning, I'll finish A-G. Have not yet found a way to restore the webrings, the sitemeter, or the button-style links that were below Mater Ecclesiae in the sidebar, but I'll keep trying.


Update, Tuesday 2:20 am cst: Hooray! Blogroll A-G is in and it is now complete. I also found the proper template html spell to load the webrings, badges and buttons, and they are all transferred also!
Now off to bed, I think.......


About Altars

Terrence and I were in a combox the other day, and he asked me, whether Catholics would ever remember altars, and it took me aback, since every single Catholic church and very nearly every Catholic chapel, shrine, and space for common prayer has one, and they have become much more prominent and central since the most recent Ecumenical Council. He asked, "Document it. please?" But I'll need your help, my dear commentariat.

The importance and centrality of the altar of God I learned as a small child, back at that tiny rural parish the Church of the Guardian Angels, Copley Township OH. About thirty years ago, back in graduate school, I studied some about altars. But I don't remember my sources any more...... so feel free to supply some in the combox or in the email (there's links in the sidebar, and please use a clear subject line so it doesn't get lost in the mass spam deletions)

Altars began as flat-topped rock formations, or flat-topped piles of rocks left just the way God made them (using tools on them was illicit), large enough to lay out a slaughtered full-grown bull. The Lord's Temple had several altars of various sizes for various sacrifices --- holocausts, sin offerings, thanksgiving offerings, offerings of incense and of cereal grains, and so on, and the rules for them are set out in the book of Leviticus.

When the Church was formed, it also had its own thanksgiving offering, established by Christ at His last supper, and its own altars. The "breaking of the bread", the re-presentation of the Lord's one only sacrifice, was the core of Christian worship. The altar of sacrifice and the table of the Lord's thanksgiving feast are one and the same.

The first generations of Christians gathered on the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, in various places, including the living rooms of St. Lydia and the Chosen Lady to whom the Johannine epistles are written, and the burial places of St Polycarp and other martyred saints, where the grave marker was itself the altar. In the vision of the Apocalypse, we see the great square altar in heaven, beneath which the glorified martyred saints praise the Lord and the Lamb and offer up the prayers of the saints on earth. Still to this very day, we place relics of the saints underneath or inside every consecrated altar.

Eventually, Christianity became legal, and then favored by the governing powers, and the Church took over the pagan temples, exorcised them and consecrated them to the worship of the true only God. And it needed more space to accomodate all the new converts, so began building large public churches, taking over the basilica floor plan used for the emperor's assemblies, but where the pagans would have the emperor's throne or the emperor's idol, the Christians placed the altar of the Lord.

Now, here's where I'm not entirely clear when it started or how or why, but it did --- the altar began shrinking and moving further and further away, until it became just a shelf or ledge in the far wall with a symbolic piece of stone in it (the "altar stone"), oftentimes dwarfed into utter insignificance by a huge and beautiful reredos. Now, don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a huge and beautiful reredos, especially one with many images of the glorified saints in heaven who worship with us --- except when it usurps the place and honor of the altar. It's just like gazing on the Lord in adoration, it is wonderful up until it supercedes and becomes more important than the actual reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

And then, starting early in the 20th century, predating the Council but I suspect about the same time as St Pius X's urging of frequent Communion and the beginnings of what was called the Liturgical Renewal Movement, altars began to become as architecturally central as they are central to our true worship. Solid, substantial, standing on their own, not a vestige or an afterthought.

So, my wise readers who get out to libraries or studied more recently than I did and still remember --- when did the shrinking of the altars start, and why?

Moved to BloggerBeta

and will be attempting a few minor template ajustments in the next day or so, in hopes of being able to use "comments in popup window" and other features not possible on my beloved, but very ancient, template. Wish me luck, that I don't foul things up entirely.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Offering up and dealing with pain

Mema commented a few days ago:

When I was little, the sisters used to say "offer it up". Now that I am grown, that doesn't work anymore. How do you handle chronic, unceasing pain.

It's a fair question. So, now that the pain is down to a low roar and the percocet is down to only 3-4 a day, I'll make a poor attempt at an answer.

I do truly hate pain. Even though I realize that pain has a purpose and is necessary to human survival and we'd be in really bad shape without it. Pain signals us that something's wrong, so we can take care of it; people with problems that cause lack of pain (like paraplegia and some forms of diabetes) have to inspect themselves carefully every day to be sure they haven't stubbed their toe or scraped their shin or got a blister, because otherwise they wouldn't know until they were infected and systemically sick.

But, when you've done everything you can do to take care of the problem, and the pain's still there, or the problem's something chronic and not particularly amenable to treatment, or some nerve's been damaged and is putting off untrustworthy sensations, making pain where there's no injury...... then you just have to deal with it. Doing what needs doing because it needs to be done, and there isn't much choice in the matter.

In my experience, there are four ways of dealing, and all four of them are useful together, and don't work very well just one at a time. Different kinds of pain and different situations call for different combinations. The four ways are:
1) behaviour modifications
2) distraction
3) medication
4) offering up

By behavour modifications, I mean any way one changes one's life to decrease pain, improve the underlying problems, or enhance coping. Elevating swollen legs, not walking more than absolutely necessary on the sprained ankle, doing one's physical therapy exercises to stay strong, using paper plates and plasticware instead of washing lots of dishes, hiring someone else to shovel the snow........

Distraction is having other things to do, to think about, instead of thinking about how much one hurts. reading, writing, hanging out with friends, crafts, puzzles, even television can be useful to take one's attention elsewhere. The hardest time for me with pain is at bedtime, bacause there's no distractions there once I'm tucked in with the lights out; if the pain's keeping me from falling asleep, there's little to be done about it.

Medication is a gift from God, and there's nothing wrong with it, used properly. It isn't always totally effective all by itself, not every kind of pain med works on every kind of problem or with every individual, and they do have side effects and can cause their own problems. But, when you need pain medications, you need them. The right medication can bring intractable pain to a managable level, even when it can't get rid of the pain completely. With the help of a good physician, one can find the kind and dosage of pain meds that alleviate some of the pain while avoiding the worst of the side effects. One has to decide how much drowsiness, alteration of consciousness, constipation, etc., one is willing to put up with to get rid of how much pain. I generally do not use pain medications with my chronic problems, but in the latest acute problems related to the torn ligament, the judicious use of a prescription pain medication has made it possible for me to get from bed to chair to bathroom without scaring the neighborhood with blood-curdling screams, which has been very good indeed.

And then, there's offering up. It's good to know that our trials, pain, and sufferings are not solely meaningless torture. We are invited --- nay, commanded --- to die with Christ. What else can "take up one's cross" mean, since crosses are for dying on? And St. Paul teaches us that we can make up in our own sufferings what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. By offering our pain to Jesus as a gift, he can use it with his own offering in the redemption of the world.

That's not to say that offering up is easy. It's like a puppy that has been taught to walk on the back legs only --- it's not a wonder that it is done badly, it is a wonder that it is done at all. Offering up doesn't come naturally; it's bitching and moaning and making other people as miserable as one's self that comes naturally. I'm supposed to offer God my pain as a gift, not throw it in His face. As the years go by, I get a little better at it, since I get more practice. Sometimes I have the grace to do it, other times I flop.

There's no need to always be strong and perfect. Don't be afraid to tell God exactly what you think. I've screamed and yelled at God enough times. He can take it, and it isn't as though He's going to be fooled by one's attempts to be polite --- He already knows, in any case; hiding from Him is futile. Honesty with God, and with one's self, is a conduit of grace and the strength to carry on.