In due time, you can expect that I will wax rhapsodic. But until then, I share a bit of photographic quizzery, for fun.
Yesterday we (along with Fr. A) piled into the Megavan, hitched up the new travel trailer, and drove north for almost 500 miles in order to place ourselves within the narrow band in which the shadow of the moon will fall upon our Earth. After five hours sleep, we were up, cooking pancakes and sipping coffee and thanking our hosts for letting us camp in their front yard. Until about 48 hours ago, this wasn’t the plan, but, the unforgettable is rarely planned.
This photo, although pretty cool, doesn’t really show what it was like. This is too much like a sun with a dot in the middle. Actually the black of the moon was so intense and in contrast surrounded by a most vibrant WHITE ring with wisps of misty light emanating from the ring.
St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe is most keenly associated with where he met his end, as a martyr imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz, who ultimately gave his life in exchange for the life of another man. But, if you happened to be on a pilgrimage to Rome rather than Poland, you could nevertheless bring your intentions to St. Maximilian.
Near the Spanish Steps, is the basilica of Sant’Andrea della Fratte (St. Andrew “of the bushes”). St. Maximilian said his first Mass there in the side chapel known as the “Chapel of the Miracle” or the “Chapel of the Miraculous Madonna” on April 29, 1918. The pews in the basilica are normally oriented in the direction of this Chapel, in honor of the miracle (story in greater detail found here) that occurred there.
A French Jew named Alphonse Ratisbonne was visiting a Roman nobleman (a Catholic), and in the midst of a conversation with this Baron, Ratisbonne became very critical of the “superstitions” of Catholics. The Baron challenged Ratisbonne to wear the Miraculous Medal and recite one Memorare each day, and Ratisbonne agreed, reasoning that even if it did him no good, it would do him no harm either. Meanwhile, the Baron and his aristocratic friends began praying for Ratisbonne’s conversion.
On January 20, 1842, Ratisbonne encountered the Baron on the way to arrange the funeral of a friend who suddenly died at Sant’Andrea della Fratte, and asked Ratisbonne to accompany him into the church while the Baron went to the sacristy to make the arrangements. As Ratisbonne stood before the side altar dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him.
According to this account:
Standing over the altar, Our Lady appeared wearing a crown and a simple long white tunic with a jeweled belt around her waist and blue-green mantle draped over her left shoulder. She gazed at him affably; her hands were open spreading rays of graces. Her bearing was quite regal, not just because of the crown she was wearing. Rather, her height and elegance gave the impression of a great lady, fully conscious of her own dignity. She transmitted both grandeur and mercy in an atmosphere of great peace. She had some of the characteristics of Our Lady of Graces. Alphonse Ratisbonne saw this figure and understood that he was before an apparition of the Mother of God. He knelt down before her and converted.
Returning from the sacristy, the Baron was surprised to see the Jew fervently praying on his knees before the altar of St. Michael the Archangel. He helped his friend to his feet, and Ratisbonne immediately asked to go to a confessor so he could receive Baptism. Eleven days later, on January 31, he received Baptism, Confirmation and his First Communion from the hands of Cardinal Patrizi, the Vicar of the Pope.
Following his conversion, Ratisbonne went on to become a Jesuit priest, and the Catholic world learned of the miracle associated with his conversion and was “impressed by it”.
It’s interesting to ponder that 99 years after Our Lady’s miraculous appearance and Fr. Ratisbonne’s conversion at the same altar where St. Maximilian said his first Mass in 1918, St. Maximilian was martyred.
Fr. Ratisbonne, pray for us!
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!
Our Lady of the Miracle, pray for us!
For a pilgrimage earlier this year, I made arrangements to visit the cell in the Tower of London where St. Thomas More was imprisoned as he underwent trial for refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy imposed by King Henry VIII.
St. Thomas is my patron saint in Confirmation, and today (June 22) is his optional memorial.
Although the Tower of London was used to detain the King’s prisoners from time to time, it is not a prison per se. Rather, it was (and is) a secure location belonging to the Monarch, which, in addition to quarters for guards and officers, also provides cells for certain “special” prisoners. Usually, such prisoners would be brought in upon a boat from the Thames through the “Prisoner’s Gate”, and then marched from there to their cell within the Tower complex.
St. Thomas, due to his status and rank, qualified to be imprisoned there, in relative “comfort” compared to the prison of the time for commoners of the realm.
As he first arrived at the Tower in April 1534, he had some privileges which his guards and examiners slowly stripped away. For example, he was permitted a writing table and chair, sufficient light and supplies for writing, books (in particular his breviary), as well as reasonably warm clothing.
Within the cell itself, not atop a “tower” but actually quite close to ground level, which had open windows overlooking a moat ringing the Tower, there was a cavernous arched roof, and lack of heat and exposure to the elements would have been a tremendous discomfort, particularly in the damp London winter.
The rest of the time, if it were more temperate, the open cistern the served as the cell’s “bathroom” would emit noxious fumes and gases back into the cell from the collecting sewage below.
Over time, as St. Thomas remained obstinate and his handlers grew impatient and frustrated, “privileges” were removed; no more books for reading, no more paper and ink for writing, the spartan furnishings were taken away, food become less frequent and plentiful, and finally, the very clothes warming his body were stripped from him.
Meanwhile, St. Thomas would sometimes catch a glimpse of his daughter Margaret from outside the window. No doubt, he was aware that he was not the only one of his family sacrificing to defend what was true. Positions for sons and sons-in-law evaporated as St. Thomas had lost the king’s favor, his “friends”, and became a political pariah. No more prestige for anyone connected to the More family, but rather the opposite — infamy. The
Crown would take possession of his land holdings and turn his wife Alice out of their home. All of St. Thomas’ income was lost as well.
Despite his rhetorical prowess, St. Thomas is most impressive (to me) because he withheld from making any public statements about the situation of the King’s marriage. He avoided the controversy, and deftly navigated — deflected — from taking a position. Ultimately, even his silence caught up with him, until his silence became a source of condemnation.
St. Thomas is perhaps too frequently cited as the outspoken herald for religious liberty, when the opposite was really true. He was inchoate prudence and restraint when it came to stating his convictions. How often do we (somewhat impetuously) “jump the gun” in “taking a stand”? Here, in our particularly troubled times where freedom of religion is assailed, St. Thomas serves as a fitting guide and witness. He managed to do more for much longer because he let himself be guided in prayer to the Lord regarding when and how to act and speak.
It was only once the jury (after just fifteen minutes) found him guilty upon hearsay that he put to rest the question of his “guilt”. Only then did he once for all make known that the king could not become head of any “church of England” and that the king’s marriage to Queen Catherine was true and binding upon him.
Shortly thereafter he was taken from his cell to Tower Hill (nearby) and beheaded. He said to the crowd that he “died the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” Also, retaining his (sometimes ribald) sense of humor to the end, and having become rather hirsute from his time locked up in the Tower, St. Thomas swept his profuse beard away from the path of the ax — saying, “This [my beard] has not offended the king!” — lest it fall the way of his head.
Surprisingly, throughout his imprisonment, and despite his high station, St. Thomas’ enjoyed a popularity among the people. He was respected — perhaps he developed a reputation for fairness over a long and distinguished legal career, or shrewdness, or managed to avoid giving offense unnecessarily, but he was beloved. His bodily remains came to be venerated very shortly after his execution, though he was not canonized until 1935 by Pope Pius XI.
In today’s Office of Readings, we find part of a letter written to St. Thomas’ daughter, Margaret, while he was imprisoned in the Tower (from the English Works of Sir Thomas More, London, 1557, p. 1454):
Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he had taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.
By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.
I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.
And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.
And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.
And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.
Father, you confirm the true faith
with the crown of martyrdom.
May the prayers of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
give us the courage to proclaim our faith
by the witness of our lives.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
When it comes to true, honest barbecue, the surest sign (and only advertising required) that it is the “real deal” is the smoke that announces itself. In culinary terms, the white smoke of barbecue is the “Habemus papam” of carnivores. If you stand outside “Joe Bob’s World Famous Texabamalina BBQ” and do not smell delicious vapors wafting forth somewhere overhead, you have arrived at a den of thieves and house of liars and you should quickly run, run away.
Since such places are few and far between, and since I live in a state that produces a passable tri-tip but pork not so much, I am my own pit master. But, let’s be fair. There’s the way it has always been done (TM) and then there’s the way to cheat and pretend.
I’ve written of this beast before. I make pizza in it. It’s a mess. I bought it for $200 five years ago and can’t find another one. When it finally falls apart I’ll search for the rough equivalent or move on to a cut open metal barrel.
There’s two sides for cooking. Doors on the front for adding fuel. No gas, no pellets, no electricity. You start a fire on one side, you tend it, you can fit 4 shoulders on the other side, or 6 racks of ribs.
Yesterday (Saturday) I started it around 1pm and smoked three racks of ribs for 6 hours. At 8:00pm I put on four pork shoulders, an checked the coals and wood every 90 minutes through the night (well, I check it at three-hour intervals overnight). Twenty hours later (with temps on the meat side ranging 200-225) the shoulders are done.
A reader of this blog submitted the following in response to my post “RCIA and Prior Marriages: Waiting for the Sacraments“:
My husband and I converted to the catholic faith twenty years ago. We were not asked if we’d been married before. We’ve been very devoted and active in our church. However, upon our daughter’S decision to convert, annulment came to the forefront. She was married before. Total fear has gripped me as I realized my husband and I were married to others. We have been married for over thirty years. I was married once to an abusive alcoholic who physically beat me and my children. I eventually left him. My husband was married three times before. The first lasting eleven years the second two lasting less than a year. He was mixed up. His first wife is now dead. We have no idea where any of these people are and the pain and effort to try to find them would be horrendous. So, now what. We leave the church? This is scary and upsetting. My husband and I are very much in love and both feel very, very blessed to have found each other after the pain we went through.
First, I want to urge you not to even THINK of “leaving the church” as you and your husband belong to the Church and she belongs to you.
However, all the same, this is a serious situation. Since you say you’ve been very devoted and active in your parish, a good starting point would be for both of you to go and visit your current pastor and explain what has come to light. Make sure he understands that when you were going through RCIA (or the equivalent) you were never asked about prior marriages, and had you been asked (or had you understood the significance of a prior marriage) you would have given forthright and truthful answers (Jesus knows this already).
As I wrote in my post, we ask about prior marriages before people come into the Church exactly so that this does not happen, but I do not know the correct approach twenty years after the fact. It will depend — to a large extent — on your pastor and what he counsels is prudent for you to do. I know that’s not a very excellent “Canon Law” sort of answer, but for us laypeople it is important to listen to our pastors, who are responsible for our spiritual well being, and rely upon their judgments and decisions. When we do this (give obedience to the Church’s lawful ministers) it becomes the pastor’s issue if he’s off the mark, not ours (see Luke 17:2). Only when we know that our pastor is flat out wrong is it appropriate to “go over Father’s head”.
I am not the right person to answer all the marital “ins and outs” — as in whether this marriage or that marriage was actually valid. The facts aren’t complete enough anyway. Most likely, your husband’s first marriage is a non-issue because his first wife has died. If his first wife was living when he married his second and third wives, those marriages may never have been valid either. The fact of your first husband’s abuse and alcoholism is very sad and I’m very sorry, but may not have much to do with whether that marriage was valid or not; more facts are needed to answer that question.
Do not despair, as you are Home and no one has a right to ask you to leave. The hardest part will be to approach your pastor and begin the discussion, but it will not be nearly as painful or impossible as you have come to fear. Remember that Our Lord is already walking this path with you, and has you and your husband safely in His Most Sacred Heart.
Please be assured of my prayers during this time, and let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
Should you have a moment within this most holy time of the year, please check out:
And, have a blessed Triduum and Easter!
From a commenter to my post, Vasectomy and the Catholic Church: Search Engine Q&A:
My wife has had repeated miscarriages since she has gotten older (seven so far). We have been abstaining to avoid another miscarriage. I believe it would be acceptable in God’s eyes for one of us to have a procedure that would make it impossible for her to become pregnant, but she does not. What does The Church say?
I’d suggest that you first go to a priest who you know and trust and talk to him about this situation. Since you earnestly asked the question, I assume you want to find answers that are authentic reflections of what the Church actually teaches. On occasion priests can be found who will put a “rubber stamp” on things that are pretty questionable. Such priests actually make things worse. If you don’t have a “go-to” priest, maybe begin by asking a trusted friend who he or she would see about this concern.
Please understand that *I* am not an authority on official Church teaching. But I can tell you that my *understanding* is that the Church’s view on “having a procedure that would make it impossible” for your wife to become pregnant would not be favorable.
This is because, first, there are other NON-PERMANENT things that you and your wife can do that don’t affect either your or your wife’s reproductive capacity. For example, many Catholic couples, for a variety of reasons, practice Natural Family Planning, which allows the couple to observe the wife’s cycle and determine which days she might be fertile or ovulating. The rest of the times during the cycle the couple need not abstain. There may also be other options that could be discussed further with a trustworthy priest.
There is also a second serious problem that would arise with a permanent procedure, which is that sexual union between spouses is intended by God to reflect the “unitive, procreative, and donative” elements of marriage. “Unitive” is essentially what Jesus talks about in the Gospel when he refers to the two becoming “one flesh”. “Donative” is the free giving of self to one’s spouse, which isn’t entirely possible once one intentionally interrupts the part of oneself that leads to procreation. “Procreative” is the part that brings about children.
When we talk about these elements, we can’t give what we don’t possess, and sometimes that’s not our fault. If a person is born sterile, it doesn’t mean they can’t marry. But we aren’t free intentionally remove our own “faculties” either. Doing so is essentially a rejection of a gift from God. We are, in the moment, returning the thing that God gave us for our own good and happiness and choosing something else that God did not intend.
When we turn one or more of these elements “off” within marriage, we run the risk of harming the marriage itself.
We are now a household of eight. Suddenly there are multiple coffee drinkers. As such, behold:
The Bialetti Moka Express 12-cup stovetop espresso machine. Still made in Italy. The Moka comes in an array of sizes. This largest size borders on absurd. It is massive.
I have one big cup of coffee each morning. It’s about 4 shots of espresso with an equal volume of milk. With the 12-cup, it’s possible to make at least three of those.
Usually the daily pot of coffee is gone or nearly gone the same day. But, I won’t deny that I sometimes allow a day to pass and then I drink what’s left the next morning. It’s not bad.
Admittedly, I am not the sort of connoisseur of coffee as, say, Beer. Day old beer left on the counter isn’t good in Antarctica.
So I drink the stale coffee from this thing and I don’t really wash it either, with soap or in the dishwasher. The water that passes through the machine is blistering hot and the aluminum takes up the heat from the stove.
I rinse it really well between each use and I periodically wipe out the upper part of the pot with a damp cloth. I would be especially concerned about running it through the dishwasher, with the possibility of parts getting warped and the detergent anodizing and pitting the metal.
A Moka is a great prepper item. With a few of these on hand, provided you have beans, water, and heat, you’ll make coffee for a decade or longer. Great for camping too.
Speaking of stocking up, one can never have too much Juan Ana coffee on hand, particularly when buying in bulk is key to getting a great deal on shipping.
Extra coffee from San Lucas Atitlan in your pantry supports a Catholic mission in Guatemala that helps families grow coffee on little one or two-acre plots. The mission supplies the plants to the families, buys the beans back at harvest time, roasts the beans and packages them for sale. The farmers receive more than fair trade prices.
…is not superior to the “American” date system (month day), because, inter alia, “Pi Day” is not possible.