Know it or not, we all have patron saints. It may be the saint whose feast day we were born on, or a saint we especially admire. Countries, dioceses, and professions each have their own patron saint. It is claimed that in certain cases a saint will choose you. This is what happened to me with Our Lady of Czestochowa, whose feast day is tomorrow (August 26th).
Our Lady of Czestochowa is the patroness of Poland. Not being Polish, I knew nothing about her growing up. I’d seen the icon of the Black Madonna, but in all honesty, I always felt a bit repelled. It looked so foreign. Our Lady looks so sad and…angry. Not a hint of a smile can be seen, at least not in the original.
Other more benevolent-looking versions have been created, but they aren’t the same. As in most other icons of the Madonna, she is holding the Infant Jesus, who is similarly dark (the dark color of the icon is supposedly due to being exposed to the elements at various times in addition to incense and candle smoke.) She holds her hand over her heart, as if to say it is broken. A dark streak runs down beneath her eye as though she has been weeping. Even more distressing, her face has two long slash marks across it.
Saint of My Oblation
I was clothed as a novice oblate of Clear Creek Abbey in 2014. Later that year, my roommate decided to move out of state. Trying to reduce the amount of stuff she had to transport to her new home, she handed me an unframed holy card of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and asked me if I’d like to have it. I said sure. I peered at the solemn face of Our Lady, stuck it in a book somewhere, and forgot about it.
Earlier that year, I had been clothed as a novice oblate. After the requisite year of novitiate, I could ask to make my final promises, but I didn’t follow through. Despite my regularly attending Mass at a Benedictine Abbey, I had never really wanted to be a Benedictine, and I wasn’t finding life at Clear Creek particularly comfortable (ticks, chiggers, heat, humidity, tornadoes, skunks, potholes, flat tires—you get the idea.) I still had hopes of entering religious life, preferably as a Carmelite. But God, as He often does, had other plans.
The years went by and I struggled along, trying to learn the Office and trying to pray it when I could. Before I knew it, three years had gone by, and I was still just a novice. If I didn’t make my promises soon, I could re-apply to become an oblate, but I’d have to do my novice year all over again. I didn’t want to do that, so I made my promises on August 26, 2017. Despite my initial lack of enthusiasm, I’ve never regretted it. The graces I have received, not to mention the feeling of connection with the monks and the other oblates, has gradually grown over the years into something I truly cherish and am thankful for beyond telling.
After my oblation, I looked at August 26th on the calendar, but I didn’t see anything remarkable in terms of saints I could have selected as a special patron of my oblation. But Our Lady of Czestochowa isn’t on the universal calendar. I didn’t realize I had made my promises on her feast day until later. When I did, I began reading up on the story of the icon and the pivotal role she played in Polish military history—and it’s extraordinary. I won’t recount the whole thing here, but I encourage you to read it for yourself. It’s amazing. The resilient Catholicity of the Polish people today speaks volumes. Remember Jakob Baryla?
I used to shop at a second-hand store about a half hour from my home until they stopped opening on Saturdays. Living in a mostly Protestant area, I never came across many Catholic items there. One day, I was amazed to find, you guessed it, a large poster of Our Lady of Czestochowa. But it wasn’t framed, and again, I didn’t want to look at that angry expression, so I left it there. [Slaps forehead] What was I thinking? I went back to search for it a few weeks later, but it wasn't there.
In the course of my spiritual journey I, like many others, have benefitted greatly from Father Chad Ripperger’s books on spiritual warfare for the laity. These books contain numerous prayers one can say to assist in reducing and eliminating demonic influences, including prayers to Our Lady under the title of “Virgo Potens,” or “Virgin Most Powerful.” I had never prayed to her under this title before except occasionally when I prayed the Litany of Loreto. I had trouble trying to imagine gentle, humble Mary as the Virgo Potens, but after reading the story of the icon, I began to see her in a different light.
Cardinal Burke Leads the Way
Despite all this, I still hadn’t developed a strong devotion to Mary under this title. The image was just too depressing. Then one day something remarkable happened that made me reconsider my reluctance. I had signed up to receive notifications from Cardinal Raymond Burke’s website a few years back. Somehow I got an email letting me know that His Eminence would be celebrating Mass and praying the Rosary at Jasna Gora, the location of the Shrine housing the Miraculous Icon in Poland. I didn’t have a lot of spare time, so I didn’t open the email for a couple of days. I thought it would be nice to watch the recording, even though it was obviously going to be going on in the middle of the night due to the time difference between the US and Poland.
I opened the email, and to my shock and amazement, the Rosary led by Cardinal Burke at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa was starting at that very moment! I clicked on the link and there he was, and there she was. It was an incredible feeling to know that somehow, Our Lady of Czestochowa wanted me to wake up and pay attention to her.
Archbishop Vigano Drops the Bomb
One year after my Oblation, August 26, 2018, I opened my email before going to Sunday Mass only to discover the damning letter from Archbishop Vigano of the day before, spilling the beans on Theodore McCarrick and how deep that corrupt connection ran in the Vatican and beyond. Naively I was convinced that Pope Francis would be forced to resign. I was wrong, of course. Still, a major volley had been fired by Vigano’s willingness to risk his reputation (and possibly his life) for the sake of revealing the truth.
It felt strange to be marking my first anniversary of oblation with this shocking revelation. But somehow the image of Our Lady looking sad and angry finally seemed to fit. I began to realize we were at war, and I had been conscripted. Our Lady was showing me how to take a hit and keep going. It was going to be a long haul, and I needed to toughen up.
Terrible as an Army in Battle Array
In the traditional Office, I learned to pray the following verse from the Canticle of Canticles, Chapter 6, in honor of Our Blessed Mother:
 Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?
This description of Our Lady (or the Church) as a formidable military leader appears twice, not only at verse 9, but just above it at verse 3:
 Thou art beautiful, O my love, sweet and comely as Jerusalem: terrible as an army set in array.
In other words, Mary is much more powerful than she is given credit for in some circles. We have this image of Our Lady as a sort of pious, simple maiden who was pure and humble and good. She is all those things, of course. But she is also the Woman Clothed with the Sun (see Apoc. Ch. 12). She is the Woman Who Will Crush the Head of the Serpent. She is the Virgo Potens, and we desperately need her intercession in these troubled times. She is fighting for the Church. Are you feeling wounded lately? Turn to her. Give your sufferings to her. She will fight for you as well.
My Immaculate Heart Will Triumph
Triumph. Triumph is a quasi-military term. As in winning the war. As in defeating the enemy. In Heaven, the Church is Triumphant.
I thought of Our Lady of Czestochowa again a few weeks ago when I read the announcement in the Boston Globe that Theodore McCarrick is about to be arraigned in court in Massachusetts for crimes committed while holding a position of trusted authority in the Catholic Church. He will finally have to face the judge. He can no longer hide.
The date of his arraignment? August 26th. What a coincidence. But I no longer believe in coincidences.
So as we come to that date in the calendar this year, I invite you to meditate on the face of Our Lady as represented in the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. I urge you to contemplate the wounded face and neck, the steely gaze, the resolute chin. In her loving heart pierced by a sword so that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed, the heart whose blood flowed to the Heart of Jesus growing in her womb and which was shattered by grief on Good Friday, she holds the Church and the world in a mother’s embrace and vows to defend us, and her Son’s honor, with a mother’s fiercely protective love. Every time one of her children is wounded, she is wounded as well. And how many are those wounds? Scandals, divisions, and sacrilege are rife. And yet, she doesn’t dissolve into tears of self-pity. She doesn’t run and hide in the background until it’s all over. Rather, she leads us boldly into battle, and she promises the victory—the Triumph—to all those who love and serve Her Son. They tried to destroy her at Jasna Gora, and they are trying to destroy her today. But they will fail.
Hail, Full of Grace. Hail, Holy Queen. Oh Virgin Most Powerful, Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
*Theodore McCarrick's arraignment date has been moved back to September 3.
We are at war. We fight against the blatantly satanic culture, an eerily unpredictable virus, and criminally corrupt religious and political potentates. And now the various factions of Catholicism, like the various factions of American government—liberals, conservatives, and trads—are fighting each other. Not with bombs and bullets, but with words. How does one cope with an endless war of comments, memes, and clicks? Fact checkers and Facebook jail? Not to mention the ever-present specter of The Virus from Hell and attempts to eradicate it and/or profit from its eradication, which are almost as bad, if not worse, than the illness itself. Where is the Peace of Christ is all of this chaos?
The Benedictine Way
Personally I hate conflict, but I’ve always been something of a zealot. Perhaps that’s why I always wanted to become a Carmelite. Besides wanting to be like Teresa and Therese, the seal and motto of the Carmelite order greatly appealed to me: “With Zeal I Have Been Zealous for the Lord God of Hosts”; the arm of Elijah raised high, sword in hand, ready to chop off the heads of the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel.
God, however, as He often does, had other plans, and I found myself a Benedictine oblate. As such, I am duty-bound to “seek peace and pursue it,” in the words of St. Benedict, who got it straight from none other than St. Peter (1 Peter 3:11) and from Psalm 33. So we have an unbroken directive from God going back all the way to King David by way of the first pope.
Might be worth considering, even if you’re not a Benedictine.
Even the Medal of Saint Benedict—you know, the one justly famous for warding off demonic influences— has the word “PAX” in all caps at the top: “peace.” And not just any peace, but the peace that “surpasseth all understanding”, in the words of St. Paul: the Peace of Jesus Christ. It surpasses the understanding because who can be peaceful when everything is falling apart and you’re getting blamed for it, you judgmental trad, you? Who can be peaceful when very your way of life is under attack from leftists and liberals and COVID, oh my?
You can, dear fellow Catholic. That’s who.
Advice from a Priest
I had been thinking about writing an essay on the topic of peace for some time. Then on Tuesday, I received a group email from Father Paul N. Check, Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin, regarding Cardinal Burke’s serious medical condition. If you’re like me, the sad news of His Eminence’s being ill to the point of being on a respirator due to the infernal virus, especially coming so close on the heels of Traditionis Custodes, followed last week by the Haiti earthquake and now the fall of Kabul, God help us, was a real gut-punch.
Father Check eloquently and encouragingly describes the attitude that should be adopted by the faithful in this and other stressful situations in the Church and the world. Having confidence in God and frequenting the sacraments is a sure pathway to the peace of Christ, our only hope in times of trouble (and these are troubled times, as I am sure anyone would wholeheartedly agree.) I hope he won’t mind if I borrow from his letter:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (Jn 14:27)
“Nothing falls outside of God’s providence. Nothing falls outside the reach of His grace. These are spiritual truths we know and that the Cardinal has taught us by his own example of fidelity in trust and surrender to the Good God. Confidence in these truths opens us to the peace the world cannot give or take. Were he able to speak with us now, he would tell what he has always taught us: that Our Father in Heaven is good, merciful, just, provident and sovereign; that we are His beloved children and that He will never leave us orphans; that we should not be afraid of the Cross as the way to eternal life; that the Sacraments are the most direct channels of grace and that we do the soul the greatest good by receiving Holy Communion often and by going to Confession regularly; that we should say our daily prayers; and that we should love one another as Jesus Christ has loved us: generously, even to the point of heroic sacrifice.
“And one more thing so important and so dear to His Eminence: that we should pray the Rosary frequently and fervently, and so place ourselves under the mantle of Our Lady, confident in her maternal love and intercession.”
Father Check is one-hundred-percent correct.
God Wills It for Us
The Holy Mass offers prayers for peace numerous times. Someone has probably counted the exact number, although I do not know what that number is. Let’s just say it’s a prayer of priority, asking Our Lord to grant us His peace. Dona nobis pacem. After the Resurrection, when he appeared to His apostles, He stood in their midst and said, “Peace to you. It is I, fear not.” (Luke 24:36) Some may say that this was just the standard Jewish greeting, “Shalom,” like the Arab version, “Salaam.” But I don’t think so. I think Jesus wants His children to be peaceful and trusting, like gentle lambs, like docile sheep, not like the quarreling, head-butting goats we so often resemble.
God Grant Me the Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change
I get it. Most of the things one reads or hears online anymore can inflame the passions to the point we start lashing out in mean tweets, sarcastic comments, and other non-Christian behavior. We feel it’s all outside our control, and we want to be heard. Or we turn the anger inward, and find ourselves sad, anxious, and depressed.
That’s when our unhealthy addictions kick in. Satan is more than happy to assist.
One more won’t hurt.
You need this to relax so you can get your rest.
You deserve a break.
And the worst one of all: No one will know.
This is deadly poison, not only for our own mental and physical health and that of our loved ones, but for our relationship with the Lord, who desires our trusting confidence and growth in holiness. If the blogs and the videos and the news reports make you crazy, maybe it’s time to turn them off, or greatly reduce the time spent on them. If you’ve tried and tried and are still struggling, consider contacting a counselor or other mental health professional. There are good Catholic counselors in many areas, and if there aren’t any where you live, look for those who are willing to see patients online or by telephone. If you can’t afford a counselor, you might have luck joining a 12-step group (are there 12-step groups for internet addiction, I wonder? If there aren’t, there should be.). Sometimes just knowing you aren’t the only one fighting an addiction works wonders. Don’t give up.
Seek Peace and Pursue It
For the rest of us, when it all gets to be too much, rather than indulge our irascible appetites, we must bite our tongues, turn off our phones, walk away from our blistering keyboards, tell the negative chattering demons in our heads to shut the hell up, and offer up our suffering. And as a very wise monk told me in Confession recently, when someone angers and annoys you, pray for the grace to see that person (and ourselves) as Our Lady does. I’m guessing she looks on us with love, even though we make her weep.
Love your enemies. Oh Lord, even that one? How many times must I forgive? Seven times? If we spent as much time praying for our erring brothers and sisters as we do vilifying them online, things could change. Speak softly and carry your Cross. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matt 5:9).
In Verdant Pastures He Gives Me Repose
Then after you’ve unplugged the internet demons, do something that has been calming to you in the past. Make a holy hour. Take a shower, take a walk. Listen to some Gregorian chant, watch a silly old movie, call a friend. Pet your dog and hug your children. Tell your spouse you love him or her. (They might be stressed out, too.) Go easy on the caffeine. Be sure to keep the Sabbath day of REST. And remember to thank God for all the good things in your life. If you can’t think of anything, start with the basics. Are you breathing? That’s something to be thankful for.
The Holy Trinity is not going to dwell for long in a heart filled with anger and resentment. It behooves us, therefore, to pray diligently for the peace of Christ, for ourselves and for others, even when it’s hard—especially when it’s hard. Offer it up for the restoration of the Church and for the recovery of our beloved Cardinal Burke. And not only for him, but for all the other cardinals, bishops, priests, and religious who so desperately need our prayers and sacrifices—both the erring and the devout. A peaceful mind thinks more clearly and rationally, and a peaceful heart loves more readily. Then we will have the victory in this hellish war against Christ and His holy Church—a war that has already been won by the Prince of Peace.
“Pray ye for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and abundance for them that love thee.
Let peace be in thy strength: and abundance in thy towers.
For the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbors, I spoke peace of thee.
Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.”– Psalm 121:6-9
Official updates on Cardinal Burke’s condition can be obtained here:
In honor of Saint Bonaventure, whose feast is today (yesterday in the traditional calendar), I wanted to offer this magnificent prayer which he composed. It can be found in the Roman Missal under Prayers after Holy Communion.
Prayer of St. Bonaventure
Pierce, O my sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of your love, with true serene and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with love and longing for you, that it may yearn for you and faint for your courts, and long to be dissolved and to be with you. Grant that my soul may hunger after you, the bread of angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supernatural bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delight of taste; let my heart hunger after and feed upon you, upon whom the angels desire to look, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of your savor; may it ever thirst after you, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the richness of the house of God; may it ever compass you, seek you, find you, run to you, attain you, meditate upon you, speak of you and do all things to the praise and glory of your name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, and with perseverance unto the end; may you alone be ever my hope, my entire assistance, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my fragrance, my sweet savor, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession and my treasure, in whom may my mind and my heart be fixed and firm and rooted immovably, henceforth and forever. Amen.
"Oh Beauty, ever ancient, ever new!" Thus Saint Augustine eloquently wrote, addressing Our Lord upon his conversion from paganism. "Late have I loved thee!" Late, meaning he was in his thirties, and a good twenty-five years of sins were weighing heavily upon his soul when finally, through the unceasing, heroic prayers of his saintly mother, Monica, and the spiritual paternity of Saint Ambrose, he saw the truth for what it was, and more importantly, for Who it was: Jesus Christ.
Most people have an innate appreciation for beauty, particularly when it's discovered unexpectedly, especially when it's both ancient and new, as Saint Augustine proclaimed. The Grand Canyon is undeniably a very old formation, but if you haven't seen it before, it's new to you. Even old-timers who've seen it several times will declare that the Canyon looks different, varying in shades and hues with the time of day, time of year, and the way the sun happens to be shining on that particular day. Ever ancient, ever new.
Since the 1960s Church experts have been debating the value of towering vaulted Gothic cathedrals with capacious stained-glass windows versus homey, carpeted octagonal-shaped buildings with comfortable chairs that look more like Holiday Inns than Catholic churches. Here at Clear Creek Abbey, where the above photo was taken, the monks are taking the classical view that goodness, truth, and beauty lead souls to Christ, the source and perfect personification of goodness, truth, and beauty and the perfect fulfillment of the ultimate desires of man, even though he may not consciously be aware of it.
And let's face it. Most of us are on auto-pilot most of the time and aren't consciously aware of much of anything except maybe our general surroundings and where our cell phones are.
A Surprising Appearance
But then, one day, a surprisingly beautiful thing appears. Even here in the northeast corner of Oklahoma, where nothing but rock and scrub oak has stood for countless generations, one may come upon a striking limestone carving depicting the history of salvation beginning with Adam and Eve and traveling all the way through the Apocalypse, and over it all the Lord of History, the King of the Universe, ruling benignantly from his holy throne. One cannot help but stand and stare. And hopefully, pray.
The Abbey itself is still a work in progress. The construction workers are building another dormitory to house the endless procession of devout, self-sacrificing young men who are drawn here like bees to heavenly honey. While the construction workers toil, the Abbey bell will be ringing at the appointed hours all the blessed day long, calling the monks and the faithful to prayer. And Christ the King atop the Grand Portal will be over it all. Right across from the long construction trailer, just yards from the church entrance, they will see the Abbey Grand Portal that took George Carpenter seven years to carve, laboring in the steamy, dusty heat, not just to create something that looks pretty or dramatic or artistic, but to create real, lasting beauty--beauty that draws the mind and heart of a man, beauty to open his eyes to the God who is "ever ancient, ever new," beauty to touch his weary spirit and, most importantly, to save his immortal soul.
The Essential Things
And I thank God that he did. Because at the end of the day, Facebook memes and YouTube videos and Netflix movies, entertaining though they may be, aren't going to save the world. They will not inspire us to acts of heroic virtue or compel us to change our bad habits. They will not forcefully remind us of the invisible realm of grace from which we came and to which we may one day return if we are fortunate enough to succeed in disentangling ourselves from the powerful snares of the devil, through the forgiveness of sins obtained by Christ on the Cross and dispensed to us poor sinners through the seven sacraments in His holy Catholic Church. All they will do is divert and monopolize our attention and keep us from doing the one thing, the only thing that will achieve all of the truly essential things mentioned above: praying.
That is the role of sacred art and architecture--to remind us of the essential things. To remind us that God is real and that no matter how late the hour may be, He eagerly awaits our love and invites us to pray.
I'd like to think that's what the man in the photo is doing.
There is quite possibly no other subject of vast import so mysterious and all-encompassing, elusive yet indefinable, and essential but often disregarded, as the holy Love of God. And yet, that is what the Church presents to us this weekend with the Vigil on Saturday and the Feast of Pentecost on Sunday, continuing for eight days (an octave). As we come to the end of the Easter cycle, the Church in her wisdom (i.e., Christ), knows we need more than just one day to contemplate the third Person of the Holy Trinity, whose name is Love.
[If you'd like a little musical inspiration while you read, go here to listen to a gorgeous recording of the sublime hymn of Pentecost: Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) sung in traditional Gregorian chant. There are English versions, but I prefer the Latin. The musical notations are shown, along with the Latin verses. An English translation is given in the notes.]
On this, the third most holy feast of the Catholic liturgical year (Easter being first, and Christmas second), the long-awaited culmination of the mission given by Jesus Christ to the twelve apostles returns again to fire our hearts anew with "tongues of flame" in that most spectacular manifestation of the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus and God the Father nine days after Christ's Ascension into Heaven. It is the birthday of the Church. Fittingly preceded by nine days spent in desperate yet trusting prayer by the twelve, accompanied by Our Lady, spouse of the Holy Spirit, they awaited the promise of the Father, given by Jesus as recorded by Saint Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, 2.1-11 (cf. Gospel of Saint John 14, 16) that He would send another Paraclete, and that in fact it was good for them that He leave them so that He could do so.
Many devout Catholics have been praying these past nine days since Ascension Thursday, some in formal novenas to the Holy Spirit (formerly known as the Holy Ghost, a perhaps more apt term given His mysterious tendency to appear and disappear or, rather, to descend without warning) asking for His seven gifts and His twelve fruits, or for specific gifts or charisms; e.g., truth, joy, fortitude, preaching, etc. --whatever one might feel most in need of. Others may be praying in a general way for the Church itself, threatened by schism and heresy from within and indifference and hostility from without. As in times past, we remain in great need of Divine intervention. But He forces Himself on no one. We have to ask. Let us open our hearts to Him and beg for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in souls who are disposed to receive Him.
"Come, Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth."
I invite you to peruse Father Abbot Philip Anderson's homily from Pentecost (also known as Whitsunday) 2020. Given just as the pandemic was exploding, it is still relevant today.
To learn more about the painting above, see this Catholic Digest article from May 2018 by Geoffrey LaForce.
May the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, remain in our souls forever, and may we always return Them love for Love. Amen.
"The Rabbula Gospels, or Rabula Gospels, an illuminated Syriac Gospel Book, was completed in [A.D.] 586 at Monastery of St. John of Zagba, which, although traditionally thought to have been in Northern Mesopotamia, is now thought to have been in the hinterland between Antioch and Apamea. It was signed by its scribe, Rabbula, about whom nothing else is known." HistoryofInformation.com
Photo by Dsmdgold, Public Domain. RabulaGospelsFol13vAscension.jpg
Created: 4 January 2005
Psallite Domino, qui ascendit super coelos coelorum ad Orientem, alleluia.
Sing ye to the Lord, who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the East, alleluia.
(Ps. 67:33-34) 1962 Roman Missal, Communion verse for The Ascension of Our Lord.
Here at Clear Creek, we are blessed to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, a holy day of obligation, as it traditionally was for hundreds of years: on the fortieth day after the Resurrection (Easter). It is truly impoverishing that in most dioceses, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord is now delayed until Sunday so as not to inconvenience the faithful, who apparently, so they believe, have better things to do than commemorate the rising of Our Lord into His Heavenly Kingdom on a Thursday. (Whether or not the faithful, given the chance to keep the feast in its rightful place or not, would choose to do so, is another question.) Suffice it to say that in the opinion of traditional-minded Catholics, it destroys the true timeline of events when instead of spending nine days in prayer in the Upper Room (from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost Sunday), the Church celebrates feast of the Holy Spirit just seven days later. But here at Clear Creek, all is well in the liturgical world, for which I am extremely thankful.
Traditional Catholic parishes and monasteries enthusiastically celebrate all of Eastertide, meaning for us the Easter bunny doesn't come and go on Sunday morning and that is the end of it. No. We have been celebrating, to a greater or lesser extent, since April 4th, singing "alleluias" in the Divine Office and nibbling chocolate eggs for the past forty days (a sacred number for Biblical people). In the Liturgy, Jesus has been appearing all over the place to His, shall we say, skeptical disciples, starting with Saint Thomas, who had to place his finger in the Holy Wounds in order to believe. Even today, at the last possible moment, just as Jesus is about to depart from Earth, Jesus verbally chastises them for their "incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen Him after He was risen again." (Mark 16:14) My missal says "He upbraided them." Perhaps a more modern word would be "scold."
Poor, dear apostles. It makes me love them all the more, knowing they were ordinary men, hardworking, level-headed, blue-collar types, not religious fanatics that believed every report of the latest apparition or prophecy that oozed over the Temple grapevine. But Our Lord set them straight. And then to seal the deal, so to speak, to make sure they really believed He was who He said He was, He performed one more miracle, rising dramatically before their unbelieving eyes. Their mouths agape, their hearts pounding excitedly, they watched Him go higher and higher, until "a cloud received Him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9)
Before He did so, though, they got their marching orders. "Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature." And they did. The previously doubtful Saint Thomas, it is said, went all the way to India, where the Church today is thriving to the point that they are sending surplus priests and nuns to America. And that is why, if you believe in Jesus Christ, and you make it to Heaven one fine day, you should seek them out, bow profoundly and say "thank you!!" Thank the Apostles for loving Jesus so much they would sacrifice their livelihoods, their families, and ultimately their own lives, just so that people like you and me can receive Our Lord's Body and Blood at Holy Mass on Sundays. And sometimes even on Thursdays.
If you are presently among those suffering Catholics who are unable to go to Holy Mass frequently (or at all) due to Covid restrictions, pray to the Holy Apostles and beg them to intercede for you that the bishops and pastors will have the courage to open up the churches once again. And of course, remember you always have recourse to Our Lady, who Tradition teaches was there at the Ascension as well (see artwork above.) That's another person you should thank, by the way. And take great comfort from the fact that like her, one day we too will follow Christ into Heaven, spiritually at first, but then corporally at the Resurrection, body and soul. If this seems too good to be true, remember this is an article of our Faith. We say it every time we pray the Creed.
On Ascension Day, A.D. 33, Jesus gave us a glorious preview of our future destiny. On Easter Sunday, 2021, Father Abbot Philip Anderson, OSB did something similar. With his characteristic hope and conviction born of a deep faith, he sums up the Paschal mystery, of which this day is a part, far more eloquently than anyone else possibly could.
When all is said and done, when the story of our lives has run its wild and winding course, when all the dramas have been lived out and all the consequences of our acts told and every debt paid, when history shall have played itself out to the end through the seasons of the heart and mind of man, with all the wreckage and ruin, when every Apocalypse shall have spent its fury and its mystery, the enemy having been definitively trodden underfoot, what will remain is—very simply—life, Divine life, eternal life, the very being of one God in Three Persons, shared with those who will be saved, all of us here as we hope, through the Incarnation, Passion, and Paschal victory of Our Lord, the Prince of Life. And then there will be nothing left to say but “Alleluia.” Amen.
If you would like to read all of Father Abbot's Easter homily, click here.
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that we, who believe Thine only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, to have ascended on this day into heaven, may also ourselves dwell in mind amid heavenly things.
1962 Roman Missal, Collect for The Ascension of Our Lord
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If I have erred in any statement, whether directly or by implication, in any matter pertaining to faith or morals, I humbly invite fraternal correction.