Thursday, April 30, 2009

On the New York Way

My paternal grandfather is launching into the story of his shopping expedition for a particularly memorable gift.

"For her second wedding anniversary, all she wants is a Jewish windbreaker..."

He continues talking, but I miss the next few words as I try to figure out what on earth is signified by the term "Jewish windbreaker".  Finally, after a few seconds, my mom asks for clarification.  My grandma, laughing, pipes up:

"A mink stole."

I love my family.  :)

On Surprises

Hello to any new readers who may have navigated over here from Journeys of a Catholic Nerd Writer's unexpected link to me!

Her link has provided the impetus for a long-overdue post about the mantilla, the chapel veil.  I promise to write such a post in the coming days.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Music

You may recall that I blogged about music a few months ago. This is not intended to be a continuation of that post, though I'm sure there are repeated themes.

Last week, I attended a violin recital. There were a maximum of three people on stage: the violinist, the pianist, and his page turner. While I often appreciate classical music for its artistic beauty, I also appreciate it as a conducive backdrop for thinking. So as I watched the violinist and pianist playing together, I couldn't help but notice their artistic precision. For over an hour, they played in perfect sync, neither one leaning on the other, both trusting the other to come in exactly at the right time with precisely the right pitch. And neither failed the other at any point. I could not help but wonder at the deep intimacy that must be shared by two people who can make such complex music seem so beautifully effortless together.

I've been a bit of a musician all my life. From the age of ten (when the opportunity was first presented to me), I have been singing in liturgical choirs (sometimes more than one at the same time), with no more than the occasional summer's break. In the early years, it was always choral singing; beginning in high school, more complex choral groups have alternated with simpler guitar-led, individually-miked music groups. I have always sung in my house, to the radio, at dances, and yes, even in the shower. I've not shied away from singing for performances, even a capella.

My favorite thing about singing has always been harmonies. I've never formally learned any music theory, but I've sung enough written harmonies that I've learned the basic patterns for choral soprano, alto, and tenor parts, and can add a new harmony to just about anything. M asked me once why it is that I'm "so obsessed with harmonies." I was caught off guard, and had to think about this for a day, but eventually I realized that what draws me to harmonies is beauty. It's taking one line of music and overlaying another line to more deeply reveal the beauty of the whole, a realization which only draws my heart deeper into love of music.

But I am not an instrumentalist. Sure, I took some piano lessons when I was young, but some lessons do not a musician make (talent and dedication are good starting points instead). I'd been coming to see that more and more, as I spent time with musician friends and watched them jam together, improvising with their instruments. Since I've never quite gotten the hang of the old jazz scat, I've always been obliged to sit on the sidelines and watch. After all, unless there's a melody to play off of, a harmony doesn't have anywhere to go.

Switching gears. During Easter Vigil practice, A shared with us the economic principle of diminishing returns: that is, the more you practice, the less you improve (because the more you practice, the more you need to practice to remain at your present level, and the less improvement there is for you to make in the grand scheme of things). This struck me as relevant to my own situation as a vocal musician. I can sing just about anything very confidently so long as I'm given notes on a treble clef or neums, and those notes are being sung or played by someone else there (and am pretty okay with just one of the two), which makes me a great addition to a small or last-minute choral ensemble. Too, I can make up a harmony to just about anything, even music I don't know. Consequently, I know I'm no professional, but I can fake it with the best of them, waltzing in and adding beauty and complexity to an otherwise perfectly fine sound.

Further reflection upon this principle has made me realize that I often remain separate from those around me when I sing harmonies. I am but the beautiful icing on their delicious, already frosted cake; we enrich each other when put together, and my skills do little alone, but we're really not tied to each other in any way.

Too, these are natural talents, and I've become accustomed to working with others with equal or less musical skill (even when my director or music leader was brilliant, those vocalists around me have needed more help). Which means that making music is so easy, it's almost boring at times. Two notable exceptions, however, are turning that around and deepening my skills in ways I never would have expected.

D, on guitar and voice, was in charge of a pianist/male vocalist and three female vocalists. He easily doled out jobs according to our skills, which he saw clearly: melody for you, alto for you, tenor for you. To me he gave the task of singing a low harmony not like the two others that still sounds good. This was not a skill I'd been aware of having at the time, yet as I honed it week after week, it quickly became my favorite musical skill. I learned to accept feedback on specific parts, and my bond with those musicians is stronger because of D's strong leadership.

In the meantime, I have sung under several leaders who have not been able to see and apply the full talents of my vocal gifts, and have acutely missed the challenge of singing in D's group. Even when I started singing under I a few months ago, it was more of the same. But time has gone on, and we've begun frequent practices, because A & M, our new musicians, are less comfortable faking it every week (and really, if we're going to play weekly, we should be practicing at least monthly). I is a songwriter of incredible talent, and has learned my strengths and weaknesses enough that he can suggest to me new ways to use my voice, akin to how he might suggest a particular pattern for our bassist. At first this was strange, but I quickly came to love it: Not only do I revel in being known in this special way, but vast new worlds of musical possibility are being opened before me just by virtue of his saying, "Here, try this." Too, practices turn to bonding time turn to jam sessions, and I have amazingly discovered that, with these musicians, I can jam along on voice!

Let me try to explain for my non-musician readers. In jamming, you're playing your musical instrument (which is itself an extension of your person) for sheer love of playing, and the people around you are doing the same, and the result is often that you are intuitively on the same page, weaving beauties around each others' musical patterns and creating a joyful, beautiful, and irrepeatable noise unto the Lord (whether you intend it to Him or not, I am firmly convinced that good music always glorifies God). It is one of the greatest and most intense natural highs I have ever experienced.

And I suppose that's what has brought me here, to this rambling and probably too-long post (I haven't dubbed this my starter blog for nothing!): making beautiful music is truly a soulful way to glory in the Lord, and I am blown away by the Lord's sudden deepening of my sharing in this gift. Now I finally understand how someone might want to leave everything behind and live for the music. I suppose I'll just have to live for the Lord and let Him provide the tunes.

PS - Check out some of I's music. The particular song that occasioned this post is not up there yet, but I stand by my assertion that if I know anyone who has what it takes to make a living as a musician, it's him. (My favorite of his posted songs is Dreams.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Notre Shame

If you've somehow been living in a bubble and missed all of the crazy news reportings on the Notre Dame Commencement scandal, head on over to the Papist and catch up.  I'm too short on time to recap.

But two things have struck me that seem to be glossed over, the latter even more than the former, by the Catholic media that are covering this story:

1) The objection to Obama receiving the degree has at least as much to do with Catholic identity than it does with  abortion politics (more so, in my opinion).  The fact that so many people at Notre Dame don't seem to realize or understand the great rift this places between the university and its bishop (not to mention the Church at large) is sad indeed.

2) What about the graduates?  Their commencement is no place for such an intellectual battle to take place!  Their day should be about them!  I commend Mary Ann Glendon for seeming to remember them in her letter (7th paragraph).

The offer to President Obama will not be rescinded.  Even in the best of circumstances (which this is not) it would have been nearly (if not outright) impossible to have cancelled the honor once the word went public and scandal erupted.

But the truth does need to be spoken.  Still, let's be careful to remember the graduates, who have no control over this big media event and how it colors their big day.  May they and their families, at least, be able to celebrate their achievements and an education well-pursued.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

On < /Transition>*

My apologies for my recent blog silence. I've been exceptionally busy with a raging social life, finally finishing and mailing my application for grad school, and some intellectual concerns (including giving a talk for Spirit and Truth, which was a phenomenal hit). Neither the social nor the intellectual stimulation in my life is likely to slow down any time soon, so my posts will most likely decline in frequency.

But all this business has made me realize something: I like being busy again.

Let me backtrack. I've always been the type of girl who did lost of things. In school, there were extracurriculars on top of classes (from the age of six), and not because they looked good for college but because I genuinely wanted to do them. This continued straight through to the end of college; the reason I never worked during school (high school or college) was admittedly partly because I wasn't desperate for the money, but primarily it was because I had no time to spare for work!

And I've always loved it that way. When I came home from college the first two summers, I was always overwhelmed with the sheer number of people to catch up with! It never ceased to amaze me that, though four months of summer always seemed like such a long time, rarely did I manage to meet with the same person twice in that span. It was delightful, to remain constantly in contact with people, but it did become tiring.

The summer after my junior year of college, I finally got it through my thick skull that I really didn't have to hang out with every single person I'd ever been close to, no matter how much I'd liked them, and that it was okay to just relax at home. The same summer, I began to discover group hangout times outside of our regularly scheduled Spirit and Truth Fridays, and really threw myself into the community, looking forward to spending more than just a summer here, after one last year at college.

Well, when I came back after graduation I had a lot of busy Fridays, and I wasn't into the swing of things with the S&T crowd. Some nearby college friends (ok, mostly R) would put events on my social calendar, but that was as much an extension of college as were my weekends away visiting college friends and my frequent phone calls to college friends. It just seemed like a long summer until I actually visited my college in October - at which point I was bowled over with a physical reminder of all the fun and good times I was missing by being away at home.

So, in the throes of transition, I resolved to hold on to the primary lifeline I had (aside from the Lord, of course. He alone kept me sane through this. Ok, Him and my two weekly accountability partners, who were gifts from Him anyway) and insert myself into the S&T community, since it was clearly the college community I'd been missing. But most of my longstanding friends from S&T were now married with children (no pun intended - notice the lack of link), and forging relationships with new people was more difficult, though possible. The bigger problem, however, is that I was waking up at 6am every weekday to work a 10hr shift answering phones at a nearby engineering firm. That may not seem like a problem until you realize that S&T Standard Time means things almost never start before 8pm, and seldom end before 2am. And I've always been a person who needs a full night's sleep to function well.

I had this blog during these times of transition, and longer readers may remember some posts that address such issues. I hate to use the clothing example, because it is so clichéd for me, but it is generally emblematic of my interior, so I shall. In October I found a pair of jeans that fit me comfortably, for the first time in my life, and in subsequent months I took great comfort and relief in the ability to just wear jeans and some shirt when I was going out places.

I think it was February, however, when the tide really began to turn. Suddenly, throwing together awesome, crazy outfits was no longer a burden but an exciting privilege. I was going out of my way to see people, even at the expense of time and gas. Others even remarked that something seemed to have changed about me in a positive way, though they couldn't quite put their finger on it.

It was Easter, however, that's really put me back on the map. Since the beginning of the feast of our Lord's resurrection from the dead, I truly do feel like a new woman. I kid you not: every single day since the Triduum began, I have been blessed with some sort of group hangout or cantaloupe** or intellectual feast or... I've been out of my house every single night since Easter. And I already only have one free night in the next two weeks. And this is on top of the long-distance phone calls upon which I've been keeping up just as much as when I did nothing with my social life. (Admittedly, I am getting less sleep, but I've been functioning well even without a controlled substance to stimulate my poor body.)

In short: Claire is back, in all her crazy glory! I'm done hiding in my little cave; I'm going out all the time! No longer do I need to just sit quietly in the light and be filled with the Lord's presence; now I am so full of His love and His joy that I can't help but pass it along to others in concrete ways while still receiving it from Him!

Happy Easter, folks. Enjoy it while it lasts.

*Apologies to those who don't get the HTML markup in my title bar. It approximately translates to "On an End to Transition."

**Term stolen from Agape household. Refers to two women (or two men) on what might otherwise be called a date, save for the utter lack of romantic implications.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Adoration and Benediction: Feedback, Please!

Hello, readers! I know a lot of you out there have theology degrees (or the research-on-your-own equivalent), so I wanted to get your input on a talk I'm giving the day after tomorrow. I feel woefully underprepared timewise, and tonight is my last chance to work on it. I'm sure this outline will change some after I chat with Dr Bergsma, but here's what I've got:

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to effectively paste or embed the document on the page, so you've got to follow this link to access it. Thanks!

Monday, April 20, 2009

On Juggling Life, and a Question for You

My apologies for neglect of the blog this past week. I haven't yet figured out how to balance meetings and social outings with blogging. But it's not for lack of topics like my last (much longer) hiatus. There are at least three posts in my head just waiting to be poured out.

A note to my readers who have their own blogs/websites: In the future, when I mention you here, I'd like to link to your blog/site. Is this okay by you (I'll take no response as a yes)? If you have more than one such site, to which one should I link (i.e., which is primary)?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On the Triduum: Part Two

My memory has already faded significantly as regards the details of these liturgies. My apologies.

Good Friday

Father came out in simply a black stole over his cassock and surplice. It was dramatic in its utter simplicity. The altar was, as you remember from Thursday, completely bare, though the servers set it very simply (just a cloth, and /maybe/ two candles). Before the Veneration of the Cross, he changed into a black cope, which was just stunning. I've never seen a black cope before, but the wide expanse of black fabric seemed so right for a day of great mourning. He changed into a purple chasuble before he retrieved the Blessed Sacrament, which should provide interesting food for thought because the chasuble is a vestment for Mass, and the Good Friday Liturgy is definitively not a Mass.

It's not that the vestments were the only thing I paid attention to. They just really caught my eye because the changes were noticeable and significant, and I couldn't catch every detail because of paying attention to the music I was half-sightsinging, so they're one of the things I recall best.

Anyway, the Veneration of the Cross took forever but was pretty sweet (also the fact that we finished our hymn in time to run downstairs and venerate the cross ourselves was a nice gift). Father made a triple genuflection before veneration, then the servers did the same (or so I've been told. Singing and all that.), then the servers came and held the cross over the Prie-Dieu, after which the congregants processed up individually, genuflected, and kissed (usually the feet) of the crucifix, on their knees.

There was just so much silence. At many moments there was no prescribed chant; we were to be simply silent despite the fact that all it left the congregation to do was watch the priest (and possibly to wonder what he would do next). There were just so many moments of watchful silence. Watch and pray, I suppose.

Easter Vigil
Remember what I said in the last post about mine being a small parish with almost a provincial feel? I have never before been in a church at which the entire congregation assembled outside in the dark (and cold) around the Easter fire. It was so cool! We were just standing there, crowded around the fire, waiting. Waiting. Finally, Father (in violet cope) came from around the side, preceded by the servers, and blessed the fire. I couldn't hear (nor, of course, could I see) what exactly he was saying, but it seemed pretty much like what I'm used to in the novus ordo. I had a distinct feeling as he was praying whatever mysterious words that it was as if time had begun anew that very night, and he was blessing and consecrating the coming year to the Lord.

The servers had trouble lighting the Paschal Candle from the Easter fire (like, it took probably three minutes, including a trip inside back to the sacristy for a new candle by which to bring the flame to the Paschal Candle!), which gave me a lot of time to reflect upon it. I considered that, even if it be rubrically perfect, our earthly liturgy will never be quite perfect. It's a taste of heaven, the best we can get down here, but it's okay for things like this to go wrong. It shows us that the Lord still comes, still does things as He wills, no matter how much we screw things up. What a change from our "We have to do everything we can to make this as flawless as possible!" mindset on Liturgy Committee! (Not that that was bad - I'm just at a different place, and in a different position.)

We all knelt for the Lumen Christi, which was cool. I did, however, miss the congregational candles of the novus ordo and the gradual lighting of the Fieldhouse - after the third Lumen Christi, the lights just kind of all came on, at which point I chuckled to myself.

Then Father proclaimed the Exsultet at the ambo, facing North. It sounded like the familiar tone that's lasted to the novus ordo, which I found comforting. The ability to read a prosaic translation of this beautiful poem and to meditate upon it while it was being sung felt like such a luxury! I mean, the Exsultet is such a beautiful prayer, and you don't want to miss a word of it - and I really feel like I didn't this year! My favorite moment during the chanting of the Exsultet (take a guess!) was when Father stepped back from the ambo and I realized he was wearing not a white chasuble but a white dalmatic - the Mass garment of the deacon! I just love the fact that different clergy have specific roles to play, and those roles are clearly filled in that way (instead of just "Oh, here you can do this now").

Then he changed back into the violet cope and chanted the four prophecies. In a way, it was strange, because I've become accustomed to having so many more readings at the Vigil, but in another way it was enough, particularly since each Prophecy was significantly longer than a regular Lesson is, and there were four of them to the usual one Lesson. Perhaps I was just absorbed in praying those Scriptures, but it was enough. (You must understand, this was the part about which I feared I'd be terribly upset, but it was okay.) It's also just darn awesome that the second and fourth Prophecies flowed right into the tracts that followed them (i.e., "and they sang:" "Cantemus Domino..."). :)

Then we sang half of the Litany of the Saints (stopping at "Omnes sanctes", the catch-all for the saints not mentioned), after which came the Renewal of Baptismal Promises. (Unfortunately, we had no catechumens, so the baptismal font was neither blessed nor exorcized, and the aforementioned renewal was all we got along those lines.) It's generally done in the vernacular, but the Institute is awesome and they still do it in Latin, which I enjoyed. I love the continuity with the creed.
(Interesting tangent: In the present English translation of the novus ordo, the Credo is rendered "We believe", but the Abrenuntiamus and Credimus of the Renewal of Baptismal Promises is rendered "I do." What's going on with our pronouns?)

After that, we finished the Litany, then went into the Kyrie and Gloria. (At some point around here, Father changed into a full set of white Mass vestments.) During the Gloria, the servers redressed the altar with candles and flowers, and unveiled the statues and images that'd been covered throughout the church. It was really beautiful to see that, particularly after they'd been hidden for two weeks! It's funny in comparison to Steubenville (and I remember the debates well), because there it seemed so showy, and perhaps part of that was stylistic in the manner of redressing the altar, and perhaps part of the major difference was that it was laypeople, not servers, who brought up the flowers and whatnot. But I think the biggest factors are: 1) The flowers at Steubenville principally decorated the area around the altar, whereas those in West Orange decorated the altar itself (the higher levels of the high altar and such, which isn't an option out there), and 2) The images being uncovered is such an integral part of that bit of the rite, and the Fieldhouse isn't a chapel, so there really aren't images to cover! (Yes, I remember unveiling the cross and all that. But even that is hardly the same.)

From there Mass proceeded pretty much as usual until after Communion, at which point we chanted an abbreviated form of Lauds - which was really cool especially in light of how the prophecies and the vigil nature of the early bits of the Liturgy were totally based on the Divine Office as well. It was just a very nice way to round things out.

Overall Response
I liked my first traditional Triduum very much, and cannot imagine a better place to have been following two years on Liturgy Committee in Steubenville. But on the whole, it really wasn't as different as one might expect. Admittedly, I'm coming at this with a much greater knowledge of the Triduum liturgies than the average Catholic, but even so I would make the analogy as follows:
'62 Triduum : '70 Triduum :: '62 Sunday Mass : '70 Sunday Mass

It was lovely, and I am glad they asked me to sing in the choir. Too, I was so blessed to have wonderful friends visit me and the parish, who seem to have loved things just about as much as I did. And we got to celebrate the season with a midnight diner run! Woot!

* * *

Wesołego Alleluja, my friends (literally, blessed alleluia). Thank you for reading, and know that you were in my prayers during these beautiful aforementioned liturgies. Christ is arisen!

On Cherished Friends

A joy-filled thank you to each of the four gentlemen with whom I conversed yesterday evening (you know who you are). Any one of those conversations would have been enough to make my day; having four successive (and successively longer) conversations with gentlemen so dear to my heart was an unspeakably great gift from the Lord. It truly is Easter Day!

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

On the Triduum: Part One

(Translation: If you're pressed for time / lazy you can probably skip this part and miss little.  I just want to write it.)

I have attended Triduum liturgies at four places in my life:
1) St. Joseph Parish, Carteret, NJ - My home parish (i.e., I grew up there).  Have attended Triduum there for about as long as I can remember through freshman year of college, inclusive.  Sang in the choir for three Triduums (including freshman year of college).
2) Christ the King Parish, Ann Arbor, MI - Home parish of many of my good friends from college.  The Catholic parish that grew out of the incredible ecumenical charismatic community in A2.  Just one Triduum.
3) Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, OH - Liturgy Committee.  For two Triduums I was part of the crew that ran everything behind the scenes.  We learned those liturgies inside and out; I exaggerate not when I say we were quizzed on details such as "What happens immediately following  the baptism of the catechumen at the Easter Vigil?"
4) St. Anthony of Padua Oratory, West Orange, NJ - My present parish.  Run by the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.  Traditional Latin Mass only.  This year was my first Triduum there (and yes, I was in the choir loft).

On My Parish
St. Anthony's, though canonically an Oratory (thank you Archbishop Myers!), is just a small parish chapel.  In recent years (i.e., during college) I became used to large, specialized places of worship - the campus chapel in Steubenville, the Pittsburgh Latin Mass Community, Christ the King in Ann Arbor.  I knew that I'd kind of outgrown my home parish (a topic for another time), but after being accustomed to such large-scale Ecclesial moments, in which it's easy to pull out all the stops for special occasions and be selective enough to do things perfectly, it was a bit of a switch to find my home at a place where there are about five choir members, and the altar servers are pretty much the same every week (give or take one or two), and not everything is as perfect as it could possibly be.  I guess it's analogous to moving to a small town after loving living in a big city: it's not exactly where I imagined myself being, but I am home here, and I've grown to love it.  Besides, this is more typical than the big city anyway.  I can be a normal person for a change.

Holy Thursday
We finished choir rehearsal early, and as I was sitting in a back pew reading about the day's liturgy in Pius Parsch's Year of Grace, I noticed a cassocked leg walk past me.  Wondering whether it was one of our two priests or a server, I glanced up - and was shocked to discover Msgr. Schmitz, Vicar General of the Institute and Provincial for the US!  You must understand, this man is one of my favorite priests ever, and it was a shock and a delight to discover him there.  Because that meant two things: 1) A Schmitz homily and 2) Solemn Mass.

I'm unaccustomed to Solemn Mass, as we only have two priests (I've probably only been to half a dozen Solemn Masses), which is a shame because Solemn Mass is the way the Liturgy is supposed to be, the proverbial yardstick by which one measures the Liturgy.  High Mass and Low Mass are what you do when Solemn Mass isn't a reasonable option.  Anyway: what this means is that I got to experience Holy Thursday in all its glory.  I don't recall much that stood out to me as particular or different any more so than any Sunday Mass (save that the Mandatum, or Washing of the Feet, is optional), until the very end.

After the procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose, the clergy (priest, deacon, and subdeacon) processed to the sacristy (in silence.  The Triduum has a lot of silence.) and returned a moment later in different vestments (the Triduum has a lot of costume changes, too): where they had been fully vested in white, now they were vested in violet - stoles for the priest and deacon, and maniple for the subdeacon.  The three of them (assisted a bit by the servers, but they mostly only moved flowers) stripped the altar.

When I say they stripped the altar, I mean that it had looked like a pretty normal feast day altar, but by the time they were done with it, gone were the flowers, the altar cloths, the candles - even the tabernacle veil!  There was just the stark wood of the altar, with the unveiled open tabernacle.  Such a difference!  And so powerful, to watch the priests do this before our very eyes.  There was a prescribed hymn for the schola to chant (Ps 21/22, I believe), and when the clergy were done, they sang the closing antiphon again and processed out in silence (and then there was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the altar of repose 'till midnight).  It was really a stunning end to things.

* * *

Unfortunately, it's time for bed, so I won't get to fill you in on the rest just yet.  I look forward to writing the rest of my observations, and to some dialogue.  To my knowledge, none of my readers have experienced a traditional Triduum, but most of you have been to traditional Masses.  I hope my observations are helpful / interesting to you.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On the Institution of the Eucharist

(I'm glad this is my last rosary post. I'm looking forward to shedding my felt need to catch up before I can speak what's on my mind. There are at least two less-theological topics mulling around in my brain!)

For a lover of the Eucharistic Liturgy like myself, meditating upon this mystery has the potential to be a very long post indeed. But I don't think it will be.

At last night's Mass of the Lord's Supper, I was meditating upon the priesthood and the Eucharist. And I realized how very inextricable they are. The priesthood is to the Eucharist as the proverbial chicken is to the egg: Which comes first? How can you separate them? They absolutely depend upon one another!

It was pointed out to me once that Jesus' washing of His apostles' feet was a ritual action, one that was done by the servants, but also a practical one (with open-toed shoes in those deserts? Their feet must have been filthy!). When Jesus comes to Peter, he objects at first, but then says "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" (Jn 13:9). Missing puzzle piece: The feet, hands, and head were all ceremonially washed at the Jewish ordination liturgy. Though Our Lord moved on, because that was not the focus of the evening's events, Peter understood that they were truly priests then.

I love being Catholic. St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, pray for us.

On the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

I really do love our Blessed Mother, but here again I feel I have little to say. Surely her Assumption was necessary for her Coronation. She does show forth the Lord's glory quite well - daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, spouse of the Spirit. And, as in the Wedding at Cana, she is pleased to request of her Son what the people need, and He is inclined to grant her desires, even if they were not His original plan (though her will must be so conformed to His own... mysteries are so difficult to make completely transparent!).

But the fact that she is Queen tells us something about our own heavenly glory. We will be glorified, strange as that may seem, and while that may have some connection to our earthly lives, the principal reason for our glorification is because Jesus wants to. What an honor!

Too, the Queen of Heaven and Earth takes over from the Mother of All the Living and leads her children in the right path, the path to heaven - just as her Son died on the cross so that "he who overcame by a tree might be overcome by a tree" (Preface of the Holy Cross).

How beautiful.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Addendum: On the Crucifixion

As I was praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Altar of Repose tonight, I meditated upon the sorrowful mysteries. The concept of unrequited love came to mind, and I considered (in what small degree I can) how terrible it must have been for Our Lord to endure all that suffering for people who He knew would eternally reject Him! This, then, put into perspective something which had confused me for some time: the idea that we can offer consolation to Christ on the cross. But it does seem to make sense now. After all, difficult as it is to give something up for my own merit, it becomes possible and even joyful to give up the same thing for another person whom I love very much. What once was a terrible chore becomes a labor of love.

What a gift: to offer myself in love to my Savior such that His bitter Passion contains elements of joy! With renewed fervor I return to my pursuit of holiness. It is, after all, the most intense season of the Liturgical Year.

On the Crucifixion

I used to love to meditate on Christ's Passion (including, of course, His crucifixion). As I've grown older, however, I've realized that part of that excitement about reflection was because I knew my peers didn't get it. I knew they had little idea how much actual pain Our Lord suffered on our behalf. There was almost a shock value to the gory details.

I do wish I'd been able to attend a Seven Last Words service during my time at Franciscan (I was always either away for the weekend or in Easter Vigil Practice). It seems that would be a profitable thing on which to meditate.

I simply feel my complete inadequacy in meditating upon Our Lord's suffering and death, let alone leading others in meditation. I leave it to tomorrow's Liturgy to draw us in. You will all be in my prayers this weekend.

May reflecting on His Passion lead us to a greater appreciation for how easy our lives are, and a decrease in our own complaining (among other, more important things).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

Another adventure in Moments in the Life of Jesus That Used to Bewilder Claire But Are Now Her Favorites! (Perhaps I should work on another title before the next installment.)

If you buy the Bergsma-ism that the holy family never offered to sacrifice to "redeem" Jesus from His firstborn duties in the Temple, then it's very sensible that He should stay behind at the Temple - after all, He was then twelve years old, and nearly a man by Hebrew law! How cool would it have been to be bar mitzvah'd at the Temple? (Seems about on par with being ordained in Rome by the Pope.)

But His family returns to collect Him, even though He clearly would be content remaining in the Temple and discussing theology with the Temple scholars, who were impressed by Him.

"Your father and I have been looking for you," Mary says. Jesus, Who is perfect man and God, submits to the will of His mother, who is perfect in her humanity but less perfect than He is. When they return to Nazareth, we can surmise, both submitted to the direction of Joseph, who isn't even perfect! This seems so backwards - the most fallible one in the family making all the decisions?

But even conventional wisdom tells us that the Lord works in mysterious ways. He has chosen to make woman very capable, and has asked her to submit to her husband, even though he's not perfect. (Similarly, children to their parents, but this is far less scary, especially since parents generally do know more than children. With spouses, it's often fairly equivalent.)

Being the submissive wife the Lord asks me to be without throwing aside the gifts of my personality will be a struggle for me, when that time comes. But in the meantime, I simply marvel at the backwards-seeming beauty of moments like this.

St. Joseph, foster-father of us all, pray for us.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

On the Transfiguration

I really want to play around with having a more casual style, in which I can throw comments out here just 'cuz I feel like it, but then I fear this will become like the xangas I kept in high school. No offense to anyone who keeps that kind of blog; that's just not at all what I want for this. But because half my point on this thing is to experiment, here I am. Hopefully next week I'll even be able to keep to my schedule (since I am nearly done with my Lenten rosary meditations)!

So: the Transfiguration. This one is pretty cool, particularly in light of how Moses asked to sort of see God's glory, and all he was able to actually look at was a passing glimpse of God's backside - and yet here the Three are able to see Jesus in His glory! Perhaps it wasn't quite the same divine splendor, but that's still pretty cool. Naturally, conversing with Moses and Elijah about His coming passion is also awesome because He literally fulfills the Law (given to us through Moses) and the Prophets (exemplified by Elijah). Which reminds me: Anyone heard of any tradition that Moses might be bodily in heaven? I know he was buried and all, but since he did appear bodily in glory with Elijah... just a thought.

Here's something about which I don't usually remember to think: What a comfort it must have been to Christ to speak with men who were (in a certain sense) His equals about this thing that must have weighed heavily on His mind (evidenced by His frequent mentions of it to His clueless apostles)! It's always such a load off my shoulders when I can discuss an idea (whether philosophical, theological, liturgical, psychological, or even grammatical) with a loved one who is of the same mind.

I like to think I'm not recreating the God-Man in my own image. But I do love seeing reflections of my own feelings and desires in His life (and His mothers').

Thursday, April 2, 2009

On the Assumption

This one puzzles me at present. But since the last mystery that puzzled me so much has become my new favorite, I have great hopes here. I encourage you leave me enlightening comments! :)

Naturally, Our Lord wanted His Mother, who was preserved from the evil of original sin, to be preserved from the evil of physical corruption, in a way even more intense than what He's done for many incorruptible saints. Too, it seems that He wanted His mother up in heaven with Him. It would seem that the assumption is a necessary precursor for the coronation, too.
But that's all I've got. Help!
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