Sunday, January 07, 2007

Epiphany, observed

Traditionally the feast of Epiphany falls on January 6, the ‘twelfth day of Christmas,’ but in the United States, the celebration is moved to the closest Sunday. In some cultures, presents are not exchanged until Epiphany in remembrance of the gifts the magi (or kings or wise men) brought to Jesus. They didn’t bring Him clothes or toys or gift certificates, but instead offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts have great symbolic weight: gold for a King, frankincense for God (incense was burned to worship God, the rising smoke represented prayers and offerings rising up to Heaven), and myrrh for the man who would give his life as a sacrifice (myrrh was used in embalming corpses).

Epiphany also has another particular importance for us. Before the magi arrived, everyone else in the Christmas story (Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the shepherds) was Jewish. The Messiah was expected by Jews to save and restore the Hebrew nation. The magi were Gentiles (non-Jews) and thus showed that Jesus was born, died, and rose for all people (including us).

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Because nothing says New Year's Day like pickled herring...

I welcomed in the new year with pickled herring on pumpernickel bread (and washed it down with hot chocolate) at 12:10 a.m. Many cultures have New Year's traditions involving eating or doing something at midnight that symbolizes what (they hope) will come to them in the new year. I think that it's safe to say that, since I was awake at midnight, the coming year will bring me many late nights. Ah well, there are many worse things in life.

Anyway, I wish a happy, blessed, and holy new year to all (and to all a good night)!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006


As our society has commercialized Christmas to the point of nausea, Advent is a welcome antidote. In fact, it can intensify the experience of Christmas. Like Lent (although, of course, not exactly the same), Advent is a time of penance, a time to clear out the spiritual junk we’ve accumulated throughout the last year and start again. It is one of my favorite times of the Church year. It has an austere beauty and is one of the wonderful rhythms of the Church that helps me to anchor my life more firmly in Christ. I usually attend the 5:15pm Saturday Mass, which at this time of year begins when the daylight has already vanished. The light inside the church flares valiantly against the darkness outside that presses palpably at the windows. I find this a powerful reminder of both the One we are waiting for and the people we are called to be. Just as Jesus is the Light of the World who “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NAB, John 1:5), so, too, are we called to shine amid the darkness of this world’s sin and suffering.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Crown Him with Many Crowns

Today is the feast of Christ the King. This is the last Sunday of the Church year. As the year winds down, we are called to be mindful of things we often aren’t comfortable with--death, the end of the world, Heaven and Hell, and accounting for the things we have (and haven’t) done. It can be all too easy to try to ignore these unpleasant things, or put them off until some nebulous time in the future. However, it is of the utmost importance that we do take time to earnestly contemplate these things. In the gospels of the last few weeks, Jesus has been reminding us that we do not know when He will return to judge us. It is all too easy to slip into the comfortable rut of complacency, telling ourselves that we will be good Christians tomorrow--a tomorrow that ever eludes us. Jesus calls us to leap out of our ruts and follow Him today.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's been a while since I've said this, but "I'm proud to be a Wisconsin Catholic!" (AKA Bishop Morlino takes the name of a sandwich meat in vain!)

On November 7, we Wisconsinites will vote on 2 important referenda: a constitutional amendment to specify marriage as being between one man and one woman, and a request to reinstitute the death penalty (after a 153-year hiatus, vaunted as the longest period a state has been capital-punishment-free).

Thankfully, there are Catholics (both laity and clergy) who are speaking out on these issues. The Diocese of Madison even set up a website to address the Catholic positions. They also produced a pamphlet titled "Marriage Matters," (with "Vote Yes" written on the bottom) explaining what the proposed amendment is, why it's important, and why Catholics should get involved. [Click to enlarge.]

Inevitably, some people were upset. First there were the cafeteria Catholics who become incensed at the idea that the Church would advise them what to do in their personal lives. Then there were the "separation of church and state" advocates who are riled by any mention of "Catholic" and "vote" in the same paragraph. Finally, there was the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which is complaining to the State Elections Board because the Diocese didn't register as an organization attempting to influence the vote. (Here is the WDC's charge, and here is the Diocese's refutation in pdf format.)

Anyway, Bishop Molino has stood firm, asserting that it is the right and duty of every Catholic to know and proclaim the truth. In this week's Catholic Herald there is an article with a great quote from the bishop. It is his reaction to those who want to prevent priests from talking about Catholic beliefs and how they should affect one's voting:

"As I've said many times: baloney. Better to obey God than man. Especially when men are wrong."


This semester has been rather much for me. I have had a short reprieve, so expect a post shortly.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

St. Francis converted . . . .

Saints are often portrayed with items or symbols of their lives or--if they were martyrs--their deaths.

There's St. Lucy offering her eyeballs like tasty hors d'oeuvres.

There's St. Agatha calmly contemplating her severed breast.

Well, when St. Francis had a little accident, I found that he could double as John the Baptist.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Prayer to St. Anthony, Patron of Lost Items

My mother was taught this prayer by a nun (Sr. Anthony of Padua) when she lost her grandmother's rosary. After finding the rosary, she's been saying it ever since. I've picked it up through much repetition (we're a rather forgetful lot).

Tony, Tony,
look around.
Something's lost
and must be found!

You can also substitute the name of the article you're looking for (e.g., my rosary, my car keys, my student) for the word 'Something.'

God and the saints do not 'wheel and deal' with us for favors, but it is a good practice to do something to thank St. Anthony for his intercession (such as saying a rosary or donating money to your church or a charity). After all, if a friend does something for you, it is only natural to thank him or her.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

St. Augustine's Night Prayer

This is one of my favourite night prayers, attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo. It has a wonderful cadence that lifts my mind from the cares of the day to prayer.

Night Prayer

Watch, O Lord,
with those who wake,
or watch or weep tonight,
and give your angels charge
over those who sleep.

Tend your sick ones,
O Lord Jesus Christ;
rest your weary ones;
bless your dying ones;
soothe your suffering ones;
pity your afflicted ones;
shield your joyous ones;
and all for your love's sake.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Watch Your Language! (Part 1)

This is rather an ongoing mulling-it-over process for me, but one of the things that really bugs me about many modern prayers is the language in which they're written. It's not the English that gets my goat, but the academic buzzwords (and there's a whole other rant there about academics who hijack perfectly good words for their own nefarious agendas). I can (and am forced to) read this sort of writing in my courses at the university--I'd rather it not be thrust into my prayers. These words are simultaneously politically charged and devoid of true meaning. And to top it all off, they lack beauty and impact. This, I think, is one of the reasons why many modern prayers and hymns ring hollow and leave me thinking, "What on earth did we just say?"

I don't want to pray to God, my Heavenly Father, that I wish Him to 'empower' me to become an 'agent of social change.' I don't want to 'engage in meaningful dialogue' with the saints. I don't want to sing about 'embracing diversity' in our one sappy 'community' (although I suppose I might deserve that one for going to a 'worship space' rather than a church). The intent of these phrases is often laudable (though all too often highly agenda-ized), but the expression of that intent is gag-worthy.

Give me the Our Father or Hail Mary (or Memorare, or prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, or Eternal Rest, etc.) any day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I'm glad that semester's over--writing 50-page papers and answering lists of redundant questions is really not to my taste. Now all I have left is to make it through the last week of my intersession course (which, luckily, is not horribly onerous, although some of the readings and discussions make me despair for the future of education in America).

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Don't mind me--I'm just playing around with the tools!

(Bonus points for anyone who recognizes this place)

Er. . . hi?

Just a quick post. Once my papers are finished in a few weeks I'll get around to posting a proper introduction. For now, I'll give you the bare bones: I'm Catholic (of the faithful-to-the-magisterium persuasion), a college student, eclectic, opinionated, introverted, a teacher, a traveller, and tired.