I had just posted this clever caption under this up close and personal photo of Big Ben, the ginormous clock atop the tower in London that famously tolls every fifteen minutes with regal, penetrating tones. And out leaped the word "Domine" from an inscription just below the clock's white face. It leaped out at me because I see this word several times a day in my breviary and missal. ("Domine" means "God" in Latin.) In this instance, however, it's a prayer for Queen Victoria, evidently the reigning monarch when the iconic clock was constructed at Westminster in 1844. The inscription reads "Domine salvum fac Reginam nostram Victoriam Primum," -- "Lord, keep safe our queen Victoria the First."
The purpose of this post is not to save the queen, but to present a somewhat scholarly essay I wrote for The Wanderer newspaper six years ago. We are once again at the end of the liturgical year and about to embark on another. For pious Catholics, the beginning of the new year in the Church occurs on the first Sunday of Advent, about a month and a half before the secular version on January 1. While the New Year's Eve party crowd is waiting for the stroke of midnight so they can crack open another bottle of champagne, Catholics are celebrating the Octave of Christmas and/or the Feast of Mary, Mother of God and waiting for the Three Wise Men to complete their gift-laden journey to the Christ Child on the Feast of Epiphany. Ours is a vastly different and holier goal (and doesn't leave us with a hangover on January 2.) Like the face of an old-fashioned clock, our days and hours are numbered. Let us use them wisely—for the glory of God and for souls, because "You know not the hour nor the day." (Matt. 25:13)
The Sanctification of Time
by Julie Ash
The classic poem “If”, Rudyard Kipling’s optimistic ode to growing up, makes the unlikely promise that “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it—and which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!” While this frenzied definition of success may accurately depict modern life in ways Mr. Kipling couldn’t possibly have imagined, we Catholics must take a radically different approach to time management. We must order our days by the careful, prayerful use of the time that has been given to us. But how? Obviously, it is beyond the scope of this short essay to enumerate the myriad intersections of time and eternity in the Church. Fortunately, the book of Genesis offers us an important clue about how God regards time. In The Shabbat as Sanctuary in Time, Rabbi Abraham Heschel notes that the very first thing declared holy by God wasn’t a place or a person, but a day—the Sabbath. Clearly, time is holy; it is a precious gift from God that should not be wasted.
The ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos, or chronological time, and kairos, or the optimum time. Because God created and sanctified time to structure and order the life of man, we would be seriously remiss if we failed to accord to Him a certain portion of that time—a tithe of time. And not just any time, but the most acceptable time: the intersection of chronos and kairos.
For he saith: In an accepted time have I heard thee; and in the day of salvation have I helped thee. Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
2 Cor. 6:2
Christ’s act of redemption is the center of history and eternally present in all times. We must, therefore, make its weekly (and even daily) commemoration the center of our lives, rather than social or business interests. But this is just the beginning. Once we have begun to sanctify our week through the proper observance of Sunday—attendance at Mass, spending time with family, and rest—we can begin the process of sanctifying the entire year, and even the hours of our daily life, in accordance with the sacred liturgy.
We are now at the beginning of a new liturgical year. At a homily given at Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey for the first Sunday in Advent, one of the monks offered the following reflection on time:
“Time has a center, and this is Christ: ‘When came the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman…’ (Gal. 4:4) … Thus the liturgical year springs from the Christian outlook on time. It is a yearly cycle, based radically upon a natural cycle, but entirely transformed and elevated by faith.”
Quoting Sacrosanctum Concilium from the Catechism, he went on to explain that
“In the course of the year . . . [the Church] unfolds the whole mystery of Christ. . . Thus recalling the mysteries of the redemption, she opens up to the faithful the riches of her Lord’s powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present in every age; the faithful lay hold of them and are filled with saving grace.” (SC 102, no. 1163).
By reminding us of the treasures contained in the liturgical year, the Benedictines at Clear Creek are simply following in the footsteps of their renowned founder, Dom Prosper Guéranger. Writing of Advent in his monumental work, The Liturgical Year, Dom Guéranger encourages us to begin anew:
He repeats His visit of this year with an untiring tenderness; He has forgotten your past slights; He would ‘that all things be new.’ [Apoc. 21:5]. Make room for the divine Infant, for He desires to grow within your soul. The time of His coming is close at hand: let your heart, then, be on the watch; and lest you should slumber when He arrives, watch and pray, yea, sing. (Ch. 3, “Practice During Advent”)
Nevertheless, the sanctification of created time mandated by God and effected by His redeeming presence in history can only come to full fruition through our active union with the Church in liturgical prayer. Saint Paul exhorted us to pray without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17) What better time (kairos) to renew our prayer life than during the holy season of Advent?
Significantly, the Catechism devotes an entire section to the subject of prayer. Despite what we may have conditioned ourselves to believe, or been led to believe by our spiritually bankrupt culture, it is always possible to pray; prayer is a vital necessity; and prayer and Christian life are inseparable (CCC 2743-2745). In the liturgy, all Christian prayer finds its source and goal (CCC 1073). The Church has been blessed with a comprehensive, all-encompassing framework for prayer in the Divine Office. As Father John Hardon beautifully explained, “The Liturgy of the Hours is no merely human form of prayer. It is nothing less than Jesus Christ praying through us, and we through Him.”
Each year contains the entire Catholic cosmogony, from the penultimate drama of Holy Week down to the feast of the poor souls in Purgatory. Remarkably, each week also contains the highlights of the year in microcosm: we commemorate the Passion and Death of Our Lord on Fridays; Our Lady and all of her graces, virtues, and sufferings on Saturdays; and, of course, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sundays. Probing one step deeper, each hour’s recitation of the Divine Office contains within it complex polyvalent meanings, which provide an endless source for fruitful meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ and divine revelation.
The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the psalms into the age of the Church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day, the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. Moreover, the reading from the Word of God at each Hour with the subsequent responses and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters at certain Hours, reveal the deeper meanings of the mystery being celebrated, assist in understanding the psalms, and help one prepare for silent prayer. The lectio divina, where the Word of God is so read and meditated that it becomes prayer, is thus rooted in the liturgical celebration. (CCC 1177)
Because the Liturgy is thus imbued with multi-layered sacred meanings derived from the combination of divine paradigms and a vast array of historical religious artifacts, the Divine Office is not restricted to any particular language. Traditionally prayed in Latin prior to the Second Vatican Council—a practice retained by the Congregation of Solesmes of which Clear Creek Abbey is a part—it is not necessary to be a Latin scholar in order to derive great spiritual benefit from praying in this beautiful language. Mysteriously, the intention of offering one’s prayers united with the Church in the worship of God is much more important than actually understanding the words that are being said. God knows what you are saying, and why you are saying it. That is enough. Possibly, it is even better, because it allows us to focus on the intention of our actions—worshiping God as His Bride and interceding for mankind through the Body of Christ—more than the actual words themselves.
While remaining faithful to the duties of our state in life, the ancient prayers of the Church contained in the Mass and Divine Office (along with the private devotional prayers that flow from them, such as the Rosary), provide us with ample means to sanctify our days. For those with hectic schedules, even one Gloria, when said with devotion in union with the Church, is of inestimable value, traveling as it does into the past, the present and the future--in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Naturally, the spirit of the world is violently opposed to this exalted use of our temporal resources and will do everything in its power to distract, dissuade and deter us from our goal. But we must not surrender. If we conform to the spirit of the age, our faith will stagnate and may even die. We can no longer just “go with the flow”; we must exert heroic effort to reclaim liturgically-ordered time in our own lives through persevering in love (CCC 2742) and recognizing the perfect plan of God in the annual, weekly and daily cycle of prayer in the Church. As Dom Guéranger so poignantly wrote,
[P]rayer said in union with the Church is the light of the understanding, it is the fire of divine love for the heart. Prayer is man’s richest boon. It is his light, his nourishment, and his very life… Be wise, then, ye children of the Catholic Church, and obtain that largeness of heart which will make you pray the prayer of your mother. Come, and by your share in it fill up that harmony which is so sweet to the ear of God.
May all of us respond with open hearts to Dom Guéranger’s excellent advice, advancing along the pathways of love through the sanctification of time.
 It is the laudable custom at Clear Creek Abbey, for the sake of humility, not to personally identify the work of individual monks.
 The Liturgical Year, Preface.
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.
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.
"For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3.
My blog sidebar announces mine is "[a]n eclectic blog about everything." Recently, however, I am coming to the realization that in blogging or commenting about everything, I will ultimately say very little worth remembering. I have been a "Jack of all trades, and a master of none." I have decided it's time for a change.
Originally, my goal was simply to construct a website designed to promote my novel, In the Palace of the Great King, along with Catholic religious life. As time went on, and the divisions in the Church deepened and crises and scandals erupted, it became more and more difficult for me to separate the diverse threads of trad versus conservative versus liberal communities of nuns. Moreover, as a layperson I felt inadequate to the task. To make matters worse, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Cleveland, whose fabulous monastery and admirable charism of adoration served as the inspiration for many of my novel's scenes, seemed not to be interested in the finished product after I sent it to them for a final review in 2019. I still don't know the reason why.
As the months dragged on, I struggled to reorient the website, the book, and the blog. A page I had dedicated to the nuns had to be taken down, and all references to them in the novel had to be changed. While I worked on the novel, I started doing a few blog posts here and there because I knew as an author it would be expected. At the same time and for the same reason, I became more active on Facebook. As as introvert, it was hard for me to be in the "public eye," but I felt I had to. So I plodded along.
After years of tinkering, I finally got the hang of the Weebly software and began to enjoy the process of creating blog posts. I added a webpage for my photo book, Wild Grace, which was published in November 2020. It felt great to finally have something in print! And I kept submitting my novel to Catholic publishers and asking friends for their input.
But the past twelve months have been beyond challenging for all of us, and the tensions many feel over the pandemic, the election, and the widening gulf between liberals and conservatives in this country have turned the formerly lighthearted Facebook into a mud-smearing, name-calling battleground over everything from the outrageous censoring of Dr. Seuss books in March to guilting people who choose not to wear facemasks. Trump-bashing has given way to Biden-bashing. Conservatives like me are freaking out over the Democrats' headlong rush over the cliff of promoting transgenderism even among the young, abortion on demand, immigration on demand, and now gun control. The memes are relentlessly cynical and sarcastic.
Day after day, I go to Facebook seeking a few minutes of entertainment and to see what's going on with my friends and former schoolmates. There are still some good things there, but the feel-good things are getting drowned out in a tidal wave of negativity. I see so much that makes me righteously indignant, and even outraged. But as a peace-loving introvert, I am afraid to speak up too loudly for fear of alienating my friends or getting into endless comment-box debates. I end up with all this bottled up anger, and it's starting to affect me emotionally. I feel like a coward. I feel completely at the mercy of Big Tech, Big Government, and Big Lies. And there really isn't much I can do about it, except pray.
It doesn't help that the negative memes are randomly interspersed with everything and anything else one of my chosen friends (chosen by Facebook--FB users know what I mean by this) may happen to post, whether it be pictures of flowers, sunsets, babies, weddings, prayers, new cars, old jokes, or disgusting food. All this is getting mixed up in our brains, and I have a very strong sense as I madly scroll at lightning speed trying to avert my eyes from anything disturbing that this is really, really bad for us.
Facebook isn't the only place where things are getting ugly. More about that next week.
For now, I am going to reduce, not eliminate, but greatly reduce my time on Facebook. My blog is going to take a decidedly more peaceful turn. I choose to write lighted candles of blessing rather than endlessly post pithy memes about the rabid, fearsome darkness. I hope you will join me.
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Pontmain, France, known more popularly as Our Lady of Hope. Appearing to six children on January 17, 1871, the Blessed Virgin encouraged them to persevere in prayer in order to obtain Heaven's help against an army of invaders.
In August 1870, less than six months before, the Prussian Army under Kaiser Wilhelm I had begun its military expansion into France and was closing in on Pontmain, having already invaded Paris just two days after Christmas. The villagers feared for their lives. Father Guerin, the parish priest, had instructed the children to pray to Our Lady for help.
About 5:00 p.m., young Eugene Barbadette was outside helping to feed the animals when he spotted a lady in the sky. He stood entranced by the vision of a tall lady wearing a long blue robe with gold stars, a black veil, and a gold crown. Later in the evening, he would see her holding a red Crucifix with the words "JESUS CHRIST." Soon his 10-year-old brother Joseph and their father joined him, but only Joseph could see the apparition. (This is common in nearly all approved apparitions of Our Lady, who most often chooses to appear to poor, country children who are pure in mind and body. Even the local teaching sisters could not see her.)
As the evening of January 17th deepened into night, the villagers prayed and sang hymns, even though they could not see anything out of the ordinary. As they did so, the children reported that a written scroll with gold letters was unfolding at Our Lady's feet with the following words, one sentence at a time:
"Mais priez mes enfants, Dieu vous exaucera dans peu de temps. mon Fils se laisse toucher."
"But pray, my children. God will hear you in a little while. My Son allows Himself to be moved."
And He did. While the people prayed, unbeknownst to them the Prussian general was receiving orders at that hour to withdraw. Thankfully, ten days later an armistice was signed officially ending the Franco-Prussian War. Some might say this is just a coincidence, but this isn't the first time the Blessed Virgin has obtained military victories for her children.
To read the full story of Our Lady of Pontmain, go here to Catholic Straight Answers.
Let us ask Our Lord in these very difficult times to give us the grace to grow in the saving virtue of hope and to remember that ultimately the best weapon we possess against evil in all its forms is prayer. Let us also remember that one of the greatest gifts we have received from God is His sweet mother as our heavenly advocate.
"But pray, my children.
God will hear you in a little while.
My Son allows Himself to be moved."
The opinions expressed on this website are my own personal views and do not necessarily represent those of the Catholic Church.
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.