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Catholic Life | Category Archive | Holy Days
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Novena to Saint Patrick

The novena to Saint Patrick starts today. I’m late with posting this, but oh well, maybe my Irish friends will forgive me.

I arise today
through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial,
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today
through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today
through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to secure me:
against snares of devils,
against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature,
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics,
against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ.
May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Saint Patrick, pray for us.

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Let’s Fight About “Obligation”

I was sad that today was not a Holy Day of Obligation only because I LOVE vigils and parishes don’t have vigils for non-obligatory holy days. Except, of course, that the reason today was not a Holy Day of Obligation was that yesterday was a Sunday, so evening masses would have been Sunday masses in any case.

I understand why others were bothered, but I did not really care. After all, the holy day is still equaly holy, even if it is not a day of obligation this year.

And then I arrived at mass today two minutes late… and there were no seats.

Apparently the archbishop was so busy thinking about cardinal-designate things that he forgot to send out the memo to the faithful telling them that they should only care about mass when obligated to attend.

And so the faithful celebrated today for some reason other than obligation. And it was good.

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Joseph, Husband of Mary

One of the things I love most about religion is its unending ability to astonish. Such is the case with the feast which is celebrated today by traditional Western Christians. It is the Solemnity of Joseph, Husband of Mary. Saint Joseph is known as the last patriarch 1. In the words of Saint Bernadine of Siena: “in him the Old Testament finds its fitting close. He brought the noble line of patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfillment.”

You are not astonished? The last patriarch, the greatest non-divine human example of what it means to be a man, is revered for his role as spouse. Saint Joseph is venerated because he was the perfect husband, because he accepted the vocation of guardian and protector of a child who was not his own, because he supported his wife in her divine mission.

It is hardly surprising that Saint Joseph was overlooked for years. After all, we have long ignored women whose identity came from being a spouse and parent, so why should a man be honored for taking on that role?

This is nothing short of uncomfortable for those of us who love traditional Christianity. We are accustomed to the fact that achieving perfection as a supportive spouse and parent is not enough to make one venerated as a Saint. And, more importantly, we know that men are responsible to do great deeds, while women derive their value from helping men. The idea that a man should derive his greatest value from supporting his wife in her vocation is laughable.

It is also the truth of the life of the Saint we honor second only to the Virgin Mother herself.

In recent years the Church has gained renewed appreciation for the “other” lives of those who were previously valued only for their supporting role as spouse to one who achieved the life of inherent value. Women have been urged to share their gifts outside the limits of the home and convent, and Saint Joseph has also been honored for his role as the model for all workers.

While I greatly appreciate this development of understanding, I still find myself especially loving Saint Joseph for his role of supportive spouse and father. I run to him for help finding employment, but I also ask him to intercede for me for the grace to be a supportive wife and to put the needs of my spouse above my own.

1. The term “patriarch” has two main meanings in traditional Christianity: the great fathers of the Hebrew Bible, and the super-bishops of post New Testament Christianity through the current day. “Patriarch” has also taken on additional meanings in modern Christianity, but that is a topic for another day.

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Ash Wednesday and Unfaithfulness

At today’s Mass, after hearing the Gospel, we all line up to do not what Jesus commands, but the opposite. Unlike Holy Thursday, when we act out the command of Christ as literally as we can, today we do just what Jesus says not to do. He tells us to wash our faces, and then we all scramble to have someone put dirt on our heads. It is a kind of ritualization of our failure to live the Gospel, a common confession that we have not done what the Lord commands, a plain and public admission of our unfaithfulness.

Please read the rest of Brother Charles’ thoughts on Ash Wednesday here.

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Happy Mardi Gras!

I have to admit that I do not really “get” Mardi Gras. Is the idea to party so hard that you are asleep for all of Lent (or at least Ash Wednesday)? I used to think of Mardi Gras as Saint Patrick’s Day for French people. But businesses, libraries, and schools stay open in Boston on Saint Patrick’s Day, and I am not aware of people skipping Mass on the Sunday before Saint Patrick’s Day due to parties.

Hopefully I will understand Mardi Gras eventually, but in the meantime I am admitting that I am probably more English than French and going for more of a Shrove Tuesday approach. Does any else ever feel that “English” tends to mean understated and boring?

Also, I do not know anyone else who actually gives up dairy products for Lent, so how does the whole pancakes and doughnuts thing would work in reality? In any case, I think that I will be partying it up tonight with strawberries on our pancakes. Yum, right?

How are you celebrating this day before Ash Wednesday?

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Why I Love Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas is one of my favorite Saints. This was not always the case. At first I struggled with the fact that Thomas devalued women, was a bit boring, and was over-cited by the sort of Catholics who disliked Pope John Paul II for being too progressive.

It did not help matters that my first real introduction consisted of Kreeft’s A Shorter Summa. I found the book significantly less than engaging and did not take further interest in the Summa Theologica until I found myself exploring it online after searching various topics. Suddenly Thomas was nothing if not interesting. A few years later I read more of Thomas in another class and was finally able to appreciate a bit of his genius for bringing together the Christian faith and classical reason. Turns out that Saint Augustine had not really covered everything.

Suddenly Saint Thomas was my hero. While he had his share of odd views, Thomas was a master at working out competing claims to truth. It also helped me to remember that, by the time of his death, Thomas was quite aware of the inadequacy of his work compared to the overwhelming beauty of mystical Truth. It seems likely that Thomas would be happy to look over my shoulder as I struggled with a part of the Summa and remind me that this was meant to be an introductory work for beginners with the best knowledge of his time. He did not offer it as the final word on anything.

And so Thomas became one of my models for working to learn from both Christian Tradition and the emerging philosophy of my time. I do not need to worry much about Aristotle, that has been worked out for me and bishops have long ago given up on condemning Thomas. But I do have to deal with feminist philosophy and the contemporary secular wisdom which forces me to wrap my mind around new truths in an attempt to understand how best to re-understand Truth.

And then, of course, there are Thomas’ prayers. I kept a copy of Thomas’ prayer before study over my desk:

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
has established three hierarchies of angels,
has arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and has marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.

And it was only natural for me to love “O Salutaris Hostia”

O saving Victim, open wide
The gate of heaven to us below,
Our foes press on from every side;
Your aid supply, your strength bestow.

To your great name be endless praise,
Immortal Godhead, One in Three;
O grant us endless length of days
In our true native land with thee. Amen.

In fact, it is one of the few things that I will say seems far better to me in Latin. Too bad Thomas is not around to translate for himself!

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Merry Christmas!

Today I am filled with the joy of Christmas, and most thankful that Christmas will last for 11 more days.   I will have enough time to rest in Church and really enjoy the season of celebration.  Today held very little of what I associate with Christmas, but that is alright.

I do not need to participate in the astoundingly beautiful Midnight Mass with my siblings while my parents sleep. I do not need to hear my niece & nephews recite the Christmas story. I do not need the smell of spices, the glow of fire, or even traditional Christmas hymns. Because I am human I do need these things in some sense, but I do not need them today. There is yet time for Christmas beauty, and there is quite enough beauty in even the starkest of liturgy celebrated by a man who says that he would not go to Church if he were not a priest.

There are still 11 more days to sneak away from the clamor of daily life and find an open Church or monastery in which to ponder the great Joy which I have been given. The pictures below are from a day filled with some of my best Christmas memories, and they are from December 30, 2007.

Dark Christmas



Merry Christmas! I hope that your Christmas season is off to a wonderful start, and that you are able to enjoy the blessing of the entire season!

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Saint John of the Cross & Mean Christians

When I woke up this morning I ran into Josh’s office and after wishing him a blessed feast of John of the Cross began to wail “it is the feast of John of the Cross, and I could not even suffer enough to get up early enough to go to mass. I just had to stay sleeping longer on my cozy floor!”


Self-indulgent criticism of self aside, I am entirely thankful for this day to celebrate a Saint who turned all suffering to the glory of God. For those of you of a more traditional Christian persuasion I highly recommend the novena to Saint John of the Cross put into podcast form by the Carmelites of St. Louis. For those more skeptical of the value of suffering and its role in the Christian life, I suggest Teresa Benedicta’s thoughts on the Feast of John of the Cross.

In seeking to emulate Saint John of the Cross it is not as though Catholics just happen to like suffering or imagine that we must earn our salvation. Teresa Benedicta writes that

when someone desires to suffer, it is not merely a pious reminder of the suffering of the Lord. Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately. When it arises, it comes from an already existing relationship with Christ. For, by nature, a person flees from suffering.

And there is something particularly valuable about remembering the source of John’s suffering: it came from the Church itself. Due to religious infighting amongst the Carmelites, a group of monks broke into John’s room one night and kidnapped him. When John refused to abandon the Reform he was imprisoned in a 10′ x 6′ room for nine months. In The Science of the Cross, Teresa Benedicta describes John’s suffering:

At first every evening, later three times a week and finally, only sometimes on Fridays, the prisoner wsa brought to the refectory where, seated on the floor, he ate his meal–bread and water. He was also given the discipline in the refectory. He knelt, naked to the waist with bowed head; all the friars passed by him and struck him with the switch. And since he bore everything “with patience and love” he was dubbed “the coward.” Throughout, he was “immovable as a rock” when they commanded him to abandon the Reform, attempting to bribe him by offering to make him a prior. Then he would open his silent lips and assure them that eh refuse d to turn back “no mater if it cost him his life.”

The youthful novices who were witness to the humiliations and mistreatment wept out of compassion and said “this is a saint” when they saw his silent patience. His tunic was drenched with blood at the scourgings; he had to put it back on as it was and was not changed during the nine months he was a prisoner. One can imagine what suffering it caused him in the glowing heat of those summer months.

She continues to say that this was the least of John’s suffering as he was deprived of his ability to not only celebrate mass, but to receive the sacraments, and that this in turn was nothing compared to the spiritual darkness of God’s withdrawal.  John’s life is not only a shining example of embracing God through suffering, it is a stern warning about the way we treat other Christians.

I sometimes wonder what the difference is between the friars who tormented John and those of us who scream about how this group should not be allowed to receive Communion and that person should be excommunicated and this other person silenced. We do not have the power to do anything other than talk, but how much would we hurt others if we did have the power?

I am inclined to think that the bishops know better than a random twenty-something woman. And if at times the bishops are wrong? Then there is much more saintly precedence for writing a letter to correct the bishop rather than posting vitriol online.

Today I will start reading the Dark Night of the Soul in hopes of learning something from the spiritual depth of Saint John of the Cross. But even if I never get beyond the shallow details of his life, I am thankful for the grace of understanding that I have received from Saint John’s story in the most basic way: if you are nasty you risk beating a Saint.

And someday, maybe, I will be closer to the ideal of Christian life described by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:

To suffer and to be happy although suffering, to have one’s feet on the earth, to walk on the dirty and rough paths of this earth and yet to be enthroned with Christ at the Father’s right hand, to laugh and cry with the children of this world and ceaselessly to sing the praises of God with the choirs of angels, this is the life of the Christian until the morning of eternity breaks forth.

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