My Favorite Lines from the Liturgy

I see my friend Mister Hans Moleman has posted some of his favorite lines from the canon of Marxism. OK, Groucho Marx-ism.  Along with a favorite bit of Monty Python-ism, from a movie that even he describes as “arguably pretty sacrilegious, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic, but inarguably funny.” Hmm.

Anyway, it reminded me to write my own list of favorites…from the Catholic Liturgy of the Mass. I have been thinking of calling this “Hidden Gems from the Liturgy. But that sounded like I was a treasure hunter finding unrecognized beauties where no one else thought to look. So I simply acknowledge these as my favorites, as words that never fail to ring a bell in my mind when I hear the priest pronounce them.

“…Fruit of the earth and work of human hands…”

At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest blesses the Lord for the offering:

…Fruit of the earth and work of human hands…

What a beautiful, poetic description of the bread we offer, as well as any other vegetable, food, wood, or even ornamental landscape. How simply these words describe the relationship of the farmer (or landscaper or backyard gardener) with the processes and products of agriculture (or silviculture or …).    (And, of course, the wine we offer God: “fruit of the vine and work of human hands…”  When I work in my own garden, these words come to me often.

In the Preface dialogue, the priest asks us to “Lift up your hearts.” We reply: “We lift them up to the Lord.”

This is just beautiful, in English or in the Latin “Sursum corda. (see below)

But for me the highlight comes next. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”  We reply that “It is truly right and just.”

The priest continues: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord…”  Can you spot the hidden gem?  This one is not only a gem but also kind of hidden.

ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE!”    

“Always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord.”  When is the right time to pray? On Sunday? Before bed? And where is the right place to pray?  In church?  By my bedside? And what should be my prayer (in addition to the easy part, the asking for things)?

“Thank you, Lord.”  There it is, the simplest, shortest, most appropriate of all possible prayers. Objects for gratitude are always and everywhere in evidence, though I sometimes need a moment to focus on them.  But they are all around me, the beauty of nature, the love of family and friends, the mere fact of my existence.

And it only takes a second to say it.  The Sacred Second, as I called it some time ago.

__________________________________________________________________________

On “Sursum Corda”

When I get a moment I will write about the concise, often terse beauty of poetic Latin, and compare it with English. “Sursum corda”: 2 words, 4 syllables. “Lift up your hearts”: 4 words, 4 syllables.  Both lovely and grand and memorable.  Both magnificent (and a perfemantra for a slow learner like myself, who took almost 70 years to notice God’s beauty and love).

Or consider this line from St. Augustine’s Confessions(10:27): “Sero te amavi…” 3 words, 6 syllables.  The English, “Late have I loved Thee…” is 5 words, 5 syllables.  Both examples of simple concise poetic.  But the next words in the English version are “O Beauty, so ancient and so new.” 7 words, 9 syllables. The Latin version reads “Pulchritudo, tam antiqua et tam nova.” 6 words, but 12 syllables!  Both magnificent (and a perfect mantra for a slow learner like myself, who took almost 70 years to notice God’s beauty and love).

A conjugated and declined language, Latin, versus a simple Anglo-Saxon language (except when it uses Latin words like “pulchritude”).

Well, never mind. I think I’ve said all I have to say on this subject.

**I wrote more about “The Sacred Second” here.

The Moleman is Back!

To my great surprise, i see that my long-absent friend Mister Hans Moleman has popped up from his burrow. (I had begun to wonder if he was still alive.)

The occasion for his reappearance is the outrageous, unscientific cruel “transgenderism” movement.

It is worth a look, here. If you agree (or intelligently disagree), leave him (and/or me) a COMMENT. It’s easy and safe; unlike some folks, we do not share information with the Chinese Communist Party (or anyone else, for that matter.)

[UPDATED] Sorry, Hallmark; Men are forgetting to be Fathers!

“Men have forgotten God!”  Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously thundered this verdict in a 1983 speech after his exile from Soviet Russia.

He was speaking of both Western and Communist civilizations, and he clearly referred to “men” in the generic sense of all humanity, of both (or, as we might say today, all) genders.  It is hard to argue against his conclusion.

But today, on the eve of what the Hallmark Corporation has dubbed “Fathers’ Day”, another aspect of our amnesia is also evident.  Men have forgotten to be Fathers!  Our civilizational collapse is a clear result of both these plagues of memory loss.  (Of course, the two are pretty obviously linked.  One might identify the first forgetting as the ultimate cause, and the second forgetting as the proximate cause. Or vice versa.)

An overly-sweeping generalization, you say? Yes, of course it is. But it is a widespread and growing phenomenon. The statistics are hardly debatable, or even debated.  More than a quarter of the 121 million men in the United States (that is, over 30 million men) are biological fathers of at least one child under the age of 18.  Of those children, 17 million live in fatherless homes. The reasons are many: divorce, abandonment, incarceration, etc. But except for the death or overseas service of a father, they shed no credit on the modern father.

Children from fatherless homes account for:

Suicide: 63 percent of youth suicides

Runaways: 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths

Behavioral Disorders: 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders

High School Dropouts: 71 percent of all high school dropouts

Juvenile Detention Rates: 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions

Substance Abuse: 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers

Aggression: 75 percent of rapists motivated by displaced anger

And now SCHOOL SHOOTINGS:  82% are boys from fatherless homes!

(These statistics even understate the damage, as some so-called “stepfathers” all too often turn abusive against “their children”.)

As I wrote a while back in “Suffer the Little Children”, “the importance of this issue cannot be exaggerated. The social pathologies that plague western society today may be traced to many causes (“we have forgotten God”), but one of the most obvious is the weakening of families.  Poverty in America is largely traceable to single-parent households, as violent crime is largely traceable to boys raised in fatherless households.

Too many men have forgotten everything about fatherhood. They have forgotten the “how” of it (except the biological inception part at the beginning). And the “why” of it is a blank, unasked and unanswered.  The presumption is that it is an unwanted side effect, an accidental result to be avoided or evaded at all costs. 

The “how”, after the first fun part, is the support of the mother as she nurtures the child they have created together.  After the birth, fatherhood means the building of the family to support both the mother and child as the child grows into adulthood.  It means being a role model of love and strength and maturity and responsibility.  It is a heavy thing, but men are built to carry heavy things.

As I said above, this is a sweeping generalization. There are many, probably most, fathers who are good supportive parents doing the best they can to raise and protect their children in this increasingly child-unfriendly environment. But the “other” fathers are helping to create and exacerbate the problems that are imperiling us all.

On the other hand, maybe I am worrying too much about this. We have now officially decided that women can be fathers at least as well as men can.  (Indeed, women can do anything as well as men except, apparently, most athletic events and sports.)  Men are increasingly regarded as superfluous. And they know it.

Ray Davies of the (aptly named ?) Kinks predicted this way back in 1970:

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, 

It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world…”  [except for Lola, of course.]

What can we do about it?

1. Raise our children to understand the nobility and importance of being a good father.  Show him how it is done.  (Show our grandchildren too.)

2. Pray for a rebirth of appreciation of fatherhood in our society.  (If you are Catholic, direct a prayer to St. Joseph, the patron and model of fatherhood.)

3. And celebrate your own father every day. Pray for him, whether he is living, dead, or unknown.

BEAUTY and DIGNITY of Flowers

The above photos show two flowers I found recently in our garden.  They are both white hibiscus flowers, which blossom pretty much year-round in Florida.

The first one is in full bloom.  The second is a post-bloom that I found on the ground under the bush.  I picked it up because I thought it was a piece of wadded-up waste paper. 

When I looked closer, I saw that it had curled up on itself before falling from the bush. It looked like it was in a shroud of its own petals, with only the top (the stigma?) and a little of its golden pollen visible, but mostly bald.

The flower is of course indescribably beautiful. But I was surprised to see the beauty that it evolved into in its death.

What makes something beautiful?  Why is something, anything, beautiful?  Conventional wisdom has it that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, hinting that different people can see different things as beautiful (or ugly).  No doubt true to some extent, though I have trouble believing that anyone can find a hibiscus flower ugly. 

The Christian view is that beauty is a creation of God, one of the three things that show God to us (Truth, Beauty, and Love).  That leads to the question of whether God makes his creation intrinsically beautiful, or God instead gives us the capacity to see and appreciate beauty around us. Or both.

When I look at the hibiscus blossom, I see beauty.  And when I see the wilted flower in its petal-shroud, I see a dignity of faded beauty lost. And either way, I thank God for letting me see them.

“It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, O Lord.”

Always and everywhere.

.

Letter to My Listening Bishop

[As you probably know, the Catholic Church has directed all bishops to hold “listening sessions” with parishioners, to inquire how well the Church is “accompanying” Catholics through their faith journeys. I sent the following letter to my bishop since I could not attend the session near me. Whether you attend or not, please consider sending a similar letter.]

Dear Bishop Dewane,

The Listening Sessions present a great opportunity for laity to express our thoughts and concerns, for which I am grateful.  I may have difficulty getting to any of the sessions, so I want to express in written form what I would say to you if I were present in person.  (I also look forward to a possible Virtual Session, if it occurs.)

I am an adult convert and a parishioner of St. Raphael’s in Englewood, attending mass weekly. I also serve as an Extraordinary Lay Minister of the Eucharist, bringing communion to shut-ins. I participate in the Cornerstone Catholic Bible Study group.

The Church has accompanied me well in the brief years since my conversion, through good priests, good churches, and good friends.

But many things that I see in the wider Church are deeply disturbing to me. 

I see “Gay Pride” rainbow flags adorning churches, where humility should be preached and homosexual acts identified as sins.

I see the Holy Father cause pain to many faithful Catholic hearts by papal remarks mocking fruitful Catholic families “breeding like rabbits”.  My closest Catholic friends have four beautiful children, and I saw the hurt in their eyes when they heard this.

I see confusion sweeping the Church over issues like divorce and re-marriage.

I see blessings of same-sex “marriages”.

I see the false ecumenical pandering that calls the existence of false religions “God’s will” and reveres pagan idols like “Pachamama”

And while I personally prefer the New Mass, I have friends who love the TLM.  Neither they nor I understand the insulting and needless ghettoization of these deeply reverent individuals.

Overall, I see what looks like a near-total embrace of modernism and a rejection of all the warnings past popes have issued over this tendency.

As I rejoice at the grace that has brought me to this moment in my life, I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will purge His Church of the error and confusion that are tearing it apart. 

And I thank you for asking.

Yours in Christ,

David Smith

My Brother – an Update

My brother Dick died recently. He had suffered through many years and several incurable diseases. And in his last months he was often hospitalized to stabilize his various conditions and medications. The last month was spent in an ICU bed, every day filled with hoping and praying to get him released to rehab and home. Much of that time he was delirious, and violently so. When he was responsive, he was overwhelmed by both exhaustion and impatience to be released. His ever-loving wife Lynda suffered by his side throughout, scarcely sleeping for over a month. (I don’t know how she did it! She is a strong and wonderful woman, and a blessing to my family.)

A grim story. Prayers seemed to go unanswered. But then one day, he snapped out of it! Still exhausted (and impatient), he had little memory of his delirium and suffering. We had great visits, and high hopes that he might be released soon. His friends stopped by for visits.

And then he died. Suddenly, without any warning, his heart gave out. He was mourned by a large group of men he had helped for years through Alcoholics Anonymous.

Were my prayers answered? Only when I stopped praying for specific medical miracles, and simply prayed “Lord, help my brother.” And finally, “Lord, bring him back to us.” And that He did.

Now my prayer is one of thanksgiving, and for the soul of my departed brother.

UPDATE: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.

Meet the Great Anthony Esolen

I’m back from a long posting delay. I apologize, but I have excuses (who doesn’t). I have been busy with the Cornerstone Catholic Scripture Study program, among other things. (If your church does not have it or another Bible study group for adults, it should. Cornerstone is one of many.)

And it’s the holiday season, and what not. End of excuses.

But I have been reading some other excellent online magazine essays by great writers, which I strongly recommend to you, dear reader.

Anthony Esolen may be the greatest writer in Christendom today. He publishes in many places, including the monthly Magnificat daily missal, as well as Crisis online and monthly on The Catholic Thing. Also from time to time on The Imaginative Conservative and First Things and who knows where else. OK, here’s who knows: while writing this I just discovered a website called Muck Rack (?), which has a profile and list of his published articles here. Some are unavailable without a subscription, but many or most are not. (The ones I have linked above are all free.)

His latest Crisis piece is entitled “Answering Anti-Christians”, and we should each memorize it (or carry a copy around in our wallets).

If you already read Esolen and any or all of these magazines and are reading my poor blog, I am overwhelmed with humility for even mentioning this. But if Esolen and any of these free sites are new to you, fix some coffee and start reading. Then let me know what you think, at “post a comment” below.

Check Out “Squirrely”

I see my good friend Mr. Moleman has posted a link to my Reminiscence about Mr. B (see below).

In appreciation of his kind gesture, I would suggest you take a look at his post “Squirrely”, a short story about the radical politics of the squirrels around us. You will enjoy it.

WILLIS A. BOUGHTON – A Reminiscence

In my misspent youth I was helped along by a remarkable man.  In the 1960’s, he was a youth group counselor for the MYF (Methodist Youth Group) at St. Andrews, a neighborhood church in a working class area of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Willis A. Boughton was born in 1885, so when I met him he was already in his 70’s; quite a contrast from the millennial hipsters so common in today’s church youth ministries (see babylonbee.com for more info on the type.)

THE CRUCIFIXION NEVER ENDS

AN EASTER THOUGHT

In church today for the Easter service, I found myself swept up in the joyous spirit.  The music, the liturgy, the homily, al so spirit-lifting! But I had one disturbing thought as I looked at the crucifix: it seemed out of place, jarring and untimely.  We were celebrating the risen Lord, but the unavoidable centerpiece of the church was the crucifix, graphically displaying the dying Lord.  Didn’t the crucifixion end? Hasn’t Christ risen?  Then why, on this most joyous day, are we faced with death – His death? His gruesome, ugly, pathetic, painful death?

On Holy Saturday, commemorating the day when Jesus was in the tomb, the crucifix was covered, removed from sight, signifying His terrible absence from us.  But on Easter Sunday morning, He is back. We welcome Him home…but He is still dying!

As a recent convert (and long-lapsed Protestant), I have thought much about crucifixes. These depictions of our Savior dying on the cross adorn most (sadly not all) Catholic churches.  In this, we are (as far as I know) unique. Protestant churches usually have crosses behind the altar, but rarely are the crosses occupied.  Protestants tend to see the crucifix as needlessly maudlin. (Perhaps an appropriate word, if we remember its origin in the person of Mary Magdalene.)

The empty Protestant crosses are analogous to the empty tomb. The crucifixion, the death, the burial, all are in the past.  We move on.

But Catholics present the cross complete with the body of Jesus. The “corpus” may be symbolical or impressionistic, often bloodless, all in consideration of modern sensibilities about bloody, tortured bodies. But they are still painful to see.

Theologically, I don’t know why Catholics embrace the crucifix rather than the cross. But I have always found the crucifix a useful reminder that now, as in the past, every sin hurts God. Every sin requires an atonement.  Sin is not just an internal, private or inter-personal matter between me and anyone I injured with my sin. Every sin hurts God.

And so, the crucifixion never ends. It continues as long as sin does – that is, as long as I sin. And it is a great blessing to be reminded of that fact every time I step into a church.  Even on Easter.