Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud the might King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lighting of his glory,
let this building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
– from The Easter Proclamation–
The death of God in Jesus Christ is at the same time the expression of his radical solidarity with us. The most obscure mystery of the faith is at the same time the clearest sign of a hope without end. And what is more: only through the failure of Holy Friday, only through the silence of death of Holy Saturday, were the disciples able to be led to an understanding of all that Jesus truly was and all that his message truly meant. God had to die for them so that he could truly live in them. The image they had formed of God, within which they had tried to hold him down, had to be destroyed so that through the rubble of the ruined house they might see the sky, him himself who remains, always, the infinitely greater. We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness and the chasm of our nothingness which would grow wider and wider without him.
There is a Gospel scene which in an extraordinary way anticipates the silence of Holy Saturday and which again, therefore, seems to be a profile of the moment in history we are living now. Christ is asleep on a boat which, buffeted by a storm, is about to sink. The prophet Elijah had once made fun of the priests of Baal who were futilely invoking their god to send down fire on their sacrifice. He urged them to cry out louder in case their god was asleep. But is it true that God does not sleep? Does not the prophet’s scorn also fall upon the heads of the faithful of the God of Israel who are sailing with him in a boat about to sink? God sleeps while his very own are about to drown – is not this the experience of our lives? Don’t the Church, the faith, resemble a small boat about to sink, struggling futilely against the waves and the wind, and all the time God is absent? The disciples cry out in dire desperation and they shake the Lord to wake him but he is surprised at this and rebukes them for their small faith. But are things any different for us?
When the storm passes we will realize just how much this small faith of ours was charged with stupidity. And yet, O Lord, we cannot help shaking you, God, you who persist in keeping your silence, in sleeping, and we cannot help crying to you: Wake up, can’t you see we are sinking? Stir yourself, don’t let the darkness of Holy Saturday last for ever, let a ray of Easter fall, even on these times of ours, accompany us when we set out in our desperation towards Emmaus so that our hearts may be enflamed by the warmth of your nearness. You who, hidden, charted the paths of Israel only to become a man in the end with men – don’t leave us in the dark, don’t let your word be lost in these days of great squandering of words.
Lord, grant us your help, because without you we will sink. Amen .
“The Anguish of an Absence (Three Meditations on Holy Saturday)”
by Joseph Ratzinger
(later Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)
Lord Jesus Christ, in the darkness of death You made a light shine; in the abyss of the deepest solitude the powerful protection of Your love now lives for ever; in the throes of Your concealment we now can sing the hallelujah of the saved. Grant us the humble simplicity of faith, which does not let us stray when You call us in the hours of darkness, of abandonment, when all seems difficult; grant us, at this time when a mortal struggle is being waged around You, light enough that we will not lose You; light enough for us to give to all those who still have need of it. Make the mystery of Your Easter joy shine, like the aurora of the dawn, on these days of ours; grant that we may truly be men of Easter in the midst of history’s Holy Saturday. Grant that in the course of the days of light and dark of this age we may always with happy hearts find ourselves on the pathway to Your future glory. Amen.
Meditationen zur Karwoche,
Kyrios-Verlag, Freising 1969
A while back I came across this stunning prayer by St Francis de Sales. It’s a prayer about one’s death, and the grace to die a holy death that leads to union with Christ. It is a perfect prayer, I thought, for our own meditation before the Cross of Christ on Good Friday.
“O Jesus, agonizing on the Cross, be my model at the hour of death. Although You are the Creator and Restorer of life, You willed to undergo death and accepted it willingly in order to expiate my sins. Death had no claim on You; You are the fountain of life and immortality, in whom and by whom all creatures have life; yet You willed to subject Yourself to death in order to resemble me and to sanctify my death.
“O death, who will henceforth fear you, since the Author of life bears you in His bosom, and without doubt, everything in Him is life-giving. I embrace you, I clasp you in my divine Savior’s heart; there, like a chick under the wing of the mother hen, I shall peacefully await your coming, secure in the knowledge that my most merciful Jesus will sweeten your bitterness and defend me against your rigors.
“O Jesus, from this moment I wish to employ all my powers in accepting all the circumstances and pains of my death; from this moment I desire to accept death in the place, hour, and manner in which it may please You to send it. I know very well that I must suffer and be ground by the teeth of tribulations, sorrows, privations, desolations, and sufferings in order to become bread worthy to serve at Your celestial banquet, O Christ, on the day of the general resurrection. I well know that if the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it brings forth no fruit; therefore, with all my heart, I accept the annihilation of death in order to become a new man, no longer mortal and corruptible, but immortal and glorious.” (St. Francis de Sales).
This quote is from Divine Intimacy by Fr Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdelen, OCD.
Note: I did try to find this quote within the writings of St Francis de Sales but I could not come up with its original source. I’d be obliged that if you know where the original text is from that you let me know in the comments box or send me an email.
In the course of that pilgrimage of faith which was his life, Joseph, like Mary, remained faithful to God’s call until the end. While Mary’s life was the bringing to fullness of that fiat first spoken at the Annunciation, at the moment of Joseph’s own “annunciation” he said nothing; instead he simply “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt 1:24). And this first “doing” became the beginning of “Joseph’s way.” The Gospels do not record any word ever spoken by Joseph along that way. But the silence of Joseph has its own special eloquence, for thanks to that silence we can understand the truth of the Gospel’s judgment that he was “a just man” (Mt 1:19).
One must come to understand this truth, for it contains one of the most important testimonies concerning man and his vocation. Through many generations the Church has read this testimony with ever greater attention and with deeper understanding, drawing, as it were, “what is new and what is old” (Mt 13:52) from the storehouse of the noble figure of Joseph.
Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”) by Bl. John Paul II.
Joseph’s Way – my reflections on St Joseph from 2011 at Patheos.
Salute to a Silent Saint – from the Marians at the Shrine of Divine Mercy
AW 160: In this Among Women podcast from the archives, I describe the obedience and faith of Joseph as it impacts the marriage of Joseph and Mary, drawing on the writings Blessed John Paul II in Redemptoris Custos, above.
Finally, a video tour of St Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.
Today I’m sharing a little recipe for St Patrick Cheddar Soup, along with some of my musings about the my favorite prayer of St Patrick, at The Practicing Catholic blog. It’s Soup and Stories: a clever idea that combines favorite soup recipes with the penitential season of Lent. Here’s a taste…
I was born in New York to a mother of Irish descent. I arrived just a few days shy of Saint Patrick’s Day. Thus I am named both for himself and my Godmother.
Some of young Patty’s fondest Catholic memories are childhood visits to the towering Cathedral of St Patrick on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. It always left a powerful impression on me, when compared to our rather plain suburban church.
St Patrick’s Day was also parade day – so it was pretty cool to be named for a saint that was recognized both by the church and the culture at large.
So why not a soup to celebrate the day?
When I had a family of my own, I was happy to have this soup to vary our menu and to call attention to my patron sake, and to tell his story. Since March 17th usually falls within the Lenten season, I found this to be a tasty soup that was somewhat penitential, since it was meatless, yet very nourishing.
This year I was feeling a bit overwhelmed facing down the Lenten season. It felt like one more thing on my to-do list. But after praying about that I realized that some of the difficult things in the family (lots of illness and joblessness for many loved ones), and in the world (you name it, just watch the news channels and you will have an instant call to prayer), and elsewhere (lots of deadlines and pending work) were weighing heavy.
Lent was not coming to weigh me down — it was coming to lighten my load through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. So all the more reason to GO BIG. Make a splash by calling on ALL the GRACES.
So I went to confession this past weekend. I made a fasting plan. I made a schedule. I’m engaging Lent, embracing it. And it requires some disengagement from other distractions that I’ve been having.
In the end, it’s not about how I feel, its about how I respond. If I do the right things I’m called to, my heart will follow.
OK Jesus – here we go!
Let us pray for one another, shall we?
I’ve compiled good stuff that might help inspire you along the way.
Learn how to pray the Rosary.
Learn how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Join an online retreat with Authors Vinita Hampton Wright and Kerry Weber
If you live in the Archdiocese of Boston, there’s confession everywhere… many places around the country are doing the same.
READ and USE these Resources:
Get a printable Lenten calendar from the USCCB, with great suggestions for living every day.
Why Do Catholics Practice Fasting and Abstinence? by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff
5 Reasons to Love Fasting by Matthew Warner (I love #4!)
Fasting suggestions from Life Teen
Get daily Lenten reflections from the late great Fr Henri Nouwen in your email.
Watch The Power and Purpose of Confession, a video with Johnnette Benkovic and Fr Mitch Pacwa. (an oldie from 2008)
Catholic Vote has 40 Things You Should Give Up for Lent
40 Ways to Give during Lent, from the gals at Sound Mind and Spirit blog
Simcha Fisher recommends quality spiritual reading at her Register blog.
Find great soups and inspiration for Lent from The Practicing Catholic’s series “Soup and Stories.“
100 Things to Do for Lent by Meg Hunter-Kilmer
The award for the most-comprehensive-Lenten-Mega-Post goes to Aggie Catholics for the most resources in one place - you’ll find something there that you like, for sure!
The Social Media Scene:
If you are not fasting from social media, make your social media count!
Follow Pope Francis on Twitter. Oh, and there’s this:
Will you help us trend #ashtag tomorrow? Take a forehead selfie after Mass, and post it to social media to tell the world it’s Lent!
— Matt Swaim (@mattswaim) March 4, 2014
Finally, some Podcasts:
Of course, there’s Among Women…
AW 175: The newest episode is “An Appointment with God”. This features a chat with Allison Gingras about her story of growing in relationship with Christ. It also profiles Mary Clopas, friend of Jesus and Mary, and mother to James the apostle, bishop, and writer of an Epistle.
From the archives: AW 126: Special Editon for Lent — AW listeners share their favorite Lenten practices
iPadre Podcast: Fr Jay Finelli has been podcasting for years!
About the Photo above– that’s a photo I took at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. Take a virtual tour.
My Among Women conversation with Joanne McPortland about her trip to Lourdes and other shrines in Europe.
A link to add your petitions to Our Lady of Lourdes in France.
Learn more about the Lourdes shrine in France.
Visit the Grotto at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, MD.
May God, the source and origin of all blessing,
grant you grace,
pour out his blessing in abundance,
and keep you safe from harm throughout the year. Amen.
May he give you integrity of faith,
endurance in hope,
and perseverance in charity
with holy patience to the end. Amen.
May he order you days and your deeds in his peace,
grant your prayers in this and in every place,
and lead you happily to eternal life. Amen.
And may the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
come down on you and remain with you for ever. Amen.
-Roman Missal, Solemn Blessings, “The Beginning of the Year”-
As the Christmas season continues and the new calendar year opens, I was particularly struck by the solemn blessing that our priest prayed over us at today’s Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.