Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Journeying through Lent

Today marks the beginning of a tremendous journey.  A journey that, as Catholics, should hold profound significance to us.  Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning point, is associated with the ashes placed upon our foreheads at the end of Holy Mass, signifying that we are dust. They are also symbolic of our need for repentance from sin.

As we process forward to receive our ashes, we will hear these or similar words:  "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19) or "Repent, and believe in the Gospel." (Mark 1:15)

Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence as mandated by the Church.  We refrain from eating to draw closer to God.  We offer up our fasting as a sacrifice for sins; our sins and the "sins of the whole world" as we remember during the prayer of Divine Mercy.

Ashes were used to express sorrow or deep mourning in Scripture.  When Jonah preached repentance to the Ninevites, Scripture tells us that the King of Ninevah, "rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes." -  Jonah 3:6

Daniel, striving to understand the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, says, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes." - Daniel 9:3

The Psalmist, crying out to the Lord, prayed "I eat ashes like bread, mingle my drink with tears." - Psalm 102:10

Fortunately, the Church does not require us to wear sackcloth, but we are asked to fast, pray and repent.

Lent is a somber time; a time of quiet reflection and amendment of purpose.  We must all strive to make the most of these 40 days as 'wilderness' time: we are seeking the Promised Land.  We will arrive, blessed and refreshed, at the Easter Vigil, where with the whole Church, the Communion of Saints, and in the presence of the seraphim and cherubim gathered round,  we will all joyfully proclaim Christ's Resurrection.

May you have a Blessed Lent.  May your meditations, prayers, fasting, and amendment of purpose, be united with the prayers of our Blessed Mother, as she brings us closer and closer to her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

When I was first a Catholic, I found this prayer in the Book of Job which spoke deeply to my heart and does so today.  May it speak also to your heart:

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.
I have dealt with great things that I do not understand;
things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.
I had heard of you by word of mouth,
but now my eye has seen you.
Therefore, I disown what I have said, 
and repent in dust and ashes.
- Job 42:1-6


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 Message to Mirjana from our Blessed Mother

"Dear children, with motherly love, today I call you to be a lighthouse to all souls who wander in the darkness of ignorance of God’s love. That you may shine all the brighter and draw all the more souls, do not permit the untruths which come out of your mouth to silence your conscience. Be perfect. I am leading you with my motherly hand – a hand of love. Thank you."

St. Blaise and the Blessings of the Throat

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Blaise, patron saint of throats and other ailments of the head and neck.  Each year in my parish, we process forward to the alter after Holy Mass to receive the "blessing of the throat" in the name of St. Blaise.   I decided to check a little further into the story of this saint and discovered that, much to my delight, he is very much like St. Francis or the Celtic saint, St. Kevin.  Like them, he was honored by the animals in the surrounding area near the cave where St. Blaise lived during the time of Diocletian's persecution of Christians during the 3rd century A.D.  Animals and birds would come to feed from his hand and offered him protection in times of trouble.  Blaise lived as a hermit for many years and then was made Bishop of the Church during the Diocletian persecution. 

Many legends grew up around the figure of St. Blaise, mostly pertaining to persecutions he suffered at the hands of a government prefect who chained St. Blaise in jail for not worshipping the gods of the region (Cappadocia). One story tells of St. Blaise being thrown into a pond which immediately became firm ground under his feet.  He beckoned those who were jeering on the shore to come and walk on the water if they were able.  All jumped in and were immediately drowned.

Perhaps the best known legend of St. Blaise and the one that gives rise to the "blessings of the throat" comes from the story of a woman who son was choking on a fish bone.  She summoned Bishop Blaise and asked him to heal her son.  Bishop Blaise laid hands on the boy, prayed that he would be healed and he immediately was. Thereafter, his name has been invoked for throat troubles.  Ironically, I suppose, St. Blaise was beheaded in or around the year 283.

As a person who suffers from asthma and other respiratory issues, I guess I have a fondness for St. Blaise. I look forward to the "blessings of the throat" each February and pray that by his intercession, I will find comfort and relief from my asthma.  It is so good to know that the Lord has given us saints to intercede for us in all manner of problems and difficulties; some with such specific intentions as St. Blaise.

If you have a chance to receive a "blessing of the throat" this weekend at your parish, remember these stories and ask St. Blaise for a special intercession for someone you may know who needs healing and deliverance.

If you want to know more about St. Blaise or any other Saint, you can find much in the two volume work of Jacobus de Voragine entitled The Golden Legend, published by Princeton University Press.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

What I'll Be Reading for Lent

With Ash Wednesday just over two weeks away, I have been thinking about what I will be using as my Lenten meditation reading material. I have sent for Esther De Waal's newest addition to her corpus of work on the Rule of St. Benedict, "Seeking Life: The Baptismal Invitation of the Rule of St. Benedict". Esther De Waal has long been a favorite spiritual writer of mine and her books on the Rule of St. Benedict always bring me new insights and wisdom.

In this book, she compares the on-going spiritual development that begins in each believer's life at Baptism with the Gospel truths present in the Rule's famous Prologue.

Christian catechesis for neophytes coming into the Church has traditionally been a long, involved process taking much time and effort on the part of the 'candidate' seeking communion with the Church. Over the centuries, our catechesis has become somewhat simpler, less time consuming and I am left to wonder if we should not return to the older ways of catechizing in order to insure that those entering into full communion totally understand what they are vowing to uphold in their spiritual lives. I'm not sure I totally understood when I renewed my baptismal vows in my own right during adult confirmation.

So I am anxious to read De Waal's thoughts and I promise to post more about this new book as soon as I have finished absorbing it all...

For those looking for new Lenten meditation material, I would recommend the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' "Death on A Friday Afternoon". I was deeply moved by this book and it strengthened my already vast respect and admiration for this great man of God. Neuhaus takes the Seven Last Words of our Lord on the Cross and brings them into focus with amazing precision and profound insight.

Anne Catherine Emmerich's "The Dolorous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ" is a book that awed and inspired me to grow closer to our Lord by meditating on His Passion. These looks into Christ's Passion were given to Emmerich during ecstatic visions in which Our Lord revealed to Anne Catherine unknown details of the hours leading up to and concluding with our Lord's death on the Cross. These visions were recorded in written form by Clemens Bretano, a friend and associate of Emmerich's at the time of her visions. This book contains both a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur for those who may be somewhat cautious in reading and believing ecstatic visions. At least you will be comforted that nothing in her words are outside of accepted doctrine or teachings of the Catholic Church. By the way, this book was the source material that Mel Gibson used in researching and writing The Passion of the Christ.

Lastly, I would recommend Edward Hay's "The Lenten Labyrinth" as another great choice for Lenten meditations. Hay discusses the journeys of life and the journeys of Lent as paths much like a labyrinth, twisting this way and that before reaching the goal. Hay's writings always challenge, amuse and cause me to look at ideas and preconceived notions just a little bit differently than I may have in the past. He has a 'quirky' way of getting to his point but the end result is clear and pure. This book is divided up into daily reflections for ease of use.

Whether you choose to read any of these books or pick up something of your own choosing, meditate well this Lent on our Lord's Passion and continue to grow in faith and love. Blessed reading! (and let me know what great books you might find in your own search...)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cause for Canonization

In recent months I have been watching the progression of the process towards beatification and ultimately, canonization of several "saints in waiting". These are people, who for various reasons, have caught my attention over the years and to whom I have looked for wisdom and inspiration. So in no particular order, here's my list:

Damien de Veuster, SSCC, Leper Priest of Moloki. I read Fr. Damien's story many, many years ago and was amazed by his faithfulness and courage. Fr. Damien's mission was to the lepers of Hawaii during the late 19th century. He died of leprosy in 1889. You can read about Fr. Damien on Fr. Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009.

Pope John Paul II. John Paul the Great is currently on the "fast track" towards beatification. In December, Pope Benedict signed a decree on the virtues of Pope John Paul II, which means that he can be beatified as soon as the Vatican certifies that a miracle attributed to his intercession has occurred.

The late, great Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Archbishop Sheen returned home to Glory on December 9, 1979. His cause for beatification and canonization was opened in 2002 by the Diocese of Peoria, IL, where Fulton Sheen had been an altar boy at St. Mary's Cathedral. Archbishop Sheen is perhaps best known for his television program, "Life is Worth Living" which aired back in the 1950's & can still be seen on EWTN. His best known writing is perhaps, Life of Christ, a book to which I often turn for study, reflection, and the joy of reading about our Lord's life. Read more about Archbishop Sheen at

And this weekend, January 31, 2010, the cause for beatification and canonization of Maria Esperanza of Venezuela will be officially opened by the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.  Usually known as Maria Esperanza of Betania, Maria received apparitions of our Blessed Mother at Finca, Betania where Mary referred to herself as "Mary, Virgin and Mother, Reconciler of all Peoples and Nations." The apparitions were approved by Bishop Pio Bello Ricardo on November 21, 1987. You can learn more at

Let us pray that all may be found worthy of sainthood and may their prayers join with ours in the Communion of Saints.

If you have a favorite "saint in waiting", I'd love to hear their story. Please feel free to post your comments and favorites here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Medjugorje & the OT Prophets

This is Monday's message from Our Lady to the world:
"Dear children! May this time be a time of personal prayer for you, so that the seed of faith may grow in your hearts; and may it grow into a joyful witness to others. I am with you and I desire to inspire you all: grow and rejoice in the Lord Who has created you. Thank you for having responded to my call."
We were just talking last night in Bible study about the messages that Our Lady brings to us through the visionaries in Medjugorje. We were comparing the content of her messages with the word of the OT prophets who spoke to Israel concerning returning to God with their whole hearts and forsaking the ways of foreign gods.

We discussed the idea that we are not that different from our OT forebears. We, too, turn to foreign gods in the misguided belief that life will be better, easier, more comfortable. If I only had.... a bigger house, better car, etc... We want to 'have it all' but find our lives lacking in joy and peace. We talk about peace, we pray for peace but we do not feel peaceful. I am as guilty as the next person.

I continually rant and rave over drivers on the road but fail to remember that they too may be having a difficult day; that they too just want to get out of traffic and find some peace.

Mary's messages are being given to us for a time. Jesus spoke to St. Faustina about people being given extra time before His justice falls because of His love for us and His Divine Mercy.

Perhaps it would be good for all of us to review the OT prophets including Elijah and Elisha and hear again their words of warning and repentance. Perhaps we should listen more closely to Our Lady's messages given each month, especially when they seem repetitive. She is trying to get our attention!

We are being given extra time. Time to pray, time to repent, time to make amends and time to turn to the Lord as our only source of true peace and joy. It is a new year. Perhaps this is the best time to make a new beginning of prayer and reconciliation. I know I have to. Before time runs out.


Greetings to all readers and followers! I have been away for several months on a hiatus from writing due mostly to a dryness in my spirituality. We have all experienced the 'dark night of the soul' and it can sometimes be life changing. It certainly has changed mine.

I am sure that in the weeks to come, I will be able to share some of my insights and perspectives on this 'dark night' and the resulting life changes for all those who would care to continue reading..

Thanks to my few faithful followers who have continued to occasionally post comments to previous blog entries and to those who have checked back every once in a while to see if I had returned. I am grateful for your continued interest.

I have also changed the name of my blog from Celtic Soul to Celtic Catholic Soul to more thoroughly express what this blog is about and where my perspectives come from..

During this period of absence, many things have happened in my life that will probably become fodder for writing over the next few weeks. In May, I "retired" from a company where I had worked for 30 years. This was a huge decision. To walk away from the one thing that I had always seen as the 'stable' part of my life was difficult but necessary. Stagnation is soul killing and I had come to a point where the mere thought of yet another day in a cubicle was beyond anything I was willing to endure..

On the other hand, this translated into a whole new way of 'being' in the world. I am still, 8 months later, learning how to live this new life. Everything has to be re-thought and re-adjusted to accommodate this new life. All aspects of my day, from 'what time is good to get up?' (now that I don't punch a clock) to how much time do I devote to recreation vs. working vs. family time, have to be looked at and evaluated.

My lifestyle is certainly changing and as I struggle to find my way in this new life, I'm sure many thoughts and reflections will find their way into the writing on this blog. If they can help anyone else to maneuver through new and sometimes difficult waters, then it will be my prayer that we can find our new ways together.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Absent but not gone...

Sometimes in this life, we have moments (days, weeks, ....) that we feel like we have nothing to offer. We are like Ezekiel's valley of dry bones... We are wandering in the wilderness, seeking the Promised Land, but finding that we are only circling around, wandering in circles, lost and alone.

This is where I have been the past week or so... sometime around the middle of Holy Week, it happened. I was going along cheerfully, trying to not let my problems overwhelm me, but at some point, I succumbed...

Easter Vigil was wonderful, as always, but I was there mostly in body; my spirit was elsewhere..
Easter morning Holy Mass was a blessing, but again I was not entirely there.

St. John of the Cross describes this wilderness journey as the Dark Night of the Soul. I know that, in part, I was under spiritual attack; in part, God was silent to my despairing cries.

I could relate to Our Lord's words from the Cross: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

My problems are nothing in the grand scheme of things. To take a phrase from 12 step programs, 'This too will pass.."

But when you are in the smack middle of a dark night, it does not seem like it will pass; it feels that God has abandoned you utterly.

I am struggling still to walk this dark journey yet I know there is a light just ahead.

My weapons accompany me: the Holy Rosary, Confession, Eucharist. I am praying the Fifteen Prayers of St. Bridget and have found consolation in all these tools of the spiritual life.  I know that at some point I will find again the Promised Land and return to tell you all about my journeyings..

Till then, my Celtic friends....Godspeed.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Holy Week of our Lord's Passion

Sunday - Passion or Palm Sunday

"Jesus enters into Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. He is hailed "son of David" by those who days later will cry out "Crucify Him!" Would we have done the same?

Monday - Watching "The Passion of the Christ" with fellow parishioners tonight.. Every year after seeing this movie, I realize that little else in life really matters compared to this most Holy Sacrifice...

"See I make all things new!" - Revelation 21:5

Tuesday - Chrism Mass

This is the Holy Mass where all the catechumens and candidates of the Diocese who are being Baptized and received into full communion with the Catholic Church get to meet in one place with the Bishop presiding.

The 'holy oils ' are brought back to the parish for use during the following year: the oils of baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick.

It is a chance to see most of the priests of the Diocese all together; the procession to the altar, led by the Knights of Columbus in dress regalia, is wonderful to see.

I remember when I was a candidate, I was so excited to be finally 'accepted' by the Diocese and to know that within a few days, I too would be a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

A very exciting time right in the middle of a very holy week.

Let us pray for our catechumens and candidates that they will feel the grace of the Lord during this very special time in their lives.

Wednesday - Tenebrae

We are having a Tenebrae service in our Parish tonight.

In a Tenebrae service, the church is lit only with candlelight, including one larger Christ candle on the altar. The word Tenebrae comes from the Latin, meaning ‘shadows’.

The purpose of Tenebrae is to recreate the emotions of Christ’s Passion: His betrayal by Judas, the disciples’ abandonment and the beginnings of His Agony.

During the Tenebrae service, there will be Scripture readings and Gospel narratives. At the end of each reading, a candle is extinguished… so that by the end of the numerous readings, all the candles are out, leaving the nave in darkness.

The last reading will be Psalm 22, which Christ quoted from the Cross:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

When this Psalm reading is completed, the Christ Candle is extinguished. All is now darkness.

We have reached our most despairing moment: Christ has asked to be spared from drinking this bitter Cup but surrenders Himself to God’s Will. God seems not to answer: Christ will endure His Passion. The darkness of our sins prevails…

There is no benediction, no final blessing. The participants leave the Church in silence.

We wait…. in silence, in darkness…in grief…