Monday, March 31, 2008

Feast of the Annunciation- Cyclical and Linear Time

Christmas is nine months away! Well, sort of. The feast of the Annunciation was moved this year from March 25, to today, March 31, since the solemn week of Easter takes precedence over other feasts. So you can go ahead and start the countdown! Less than nine months from now, Jesus will be born! It goes to show how as Catholics we live in cyclical time, not merely linear time. Cyclical time emphasizes the ebb and flow of the seasons, rebirth and death, the constant renewal of the the earth even as our souls and our spiritual lives are undergoing constant renewal. The death of sin and the our rebirth through grace of the sacraments and the continual opportunities the Lord gives us to repent and have the proverbial second chance that is really 77 times 7 chances (as seven is the biblical eternal number, 77 x 7 means no end to forgiveness.
Our Catholic time is not solely linear. It is not the inexorable march of time that leaves no room for backward glances and no room for the past to intrude into our future. Cyclical time emphasizes our history, our traditions, and our present existence. The pagan civilizations of the past lived in purely cyclical time, with attention paid carefully to the cycles of the sun and moon, of the flooding of the Nile, and seasonal changes. Linear time is the time of the progressive scientist. The past is not important, nor is the present. Right now, there is no perfection, only disease and suffering, and in the past there is only ignorance and superstition, but the future holds our salvation. One day, we will find the cure for AIDS, cancer, and heart disease. In the future man will have happiness on earth, free from the blot of suffering. Man is perfectible... in the future. This thinking has lead to the genocidal tendencies of our modern world. Marx saw a Golden Age of utopic living, once the current class systems (and those people enforcing them) were done away with, including members of the middle class, anyone opposing the communists, and Christians. Hitler saw the great Aryan race rising to dominate the world and bring about the Third Age, once the Jews and Poles and Christians were annihilated and wiped off the face of the earth. Those who look for the perfectibility of man and a glorious future in linear time, love humanity but hate man.
Our Catholic faith teaches us to live both linearly and cyclically. The pagan religions valued tradition and ritual, but they also did not see the value of history. Their world was continual dying and being reborn, as the sun rose and set every day. Their world was not pointed towards an end, leading at times to a dullness and lack of initiative. The modernistic view is an eternal progression without a care for past and present. But the Church combines these. We live liturgically, renewing our souls by the repitition of feasts and celebrations, by living in the present and understanding our past. But we also know that the world will come to an end. We know that we are created for another world, and that time is moving closer to that end. Does this mean we live in spiral time? Perhaps.
Think about it.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Did you know:
That Divine Mercy Sunday has only been a feast celebrated by the Universal Church for seven years? Sr. Faustina was canonized by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000, making her the first saint of the new millennium. On that day, the pope also instituted the Sunday following Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, effective the following year. So, the first universal feast day of Divine Mercy was on April 22, 2001.
That Jesus said to Sr Faustina about this feast day: "On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity." (Diary of Saint Faustina, 699)
That in 2002, Pope John Paul consecrated the world to Divine Mercy.
That Jesus said: "I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart." (Diary 1588)
That Pope John Paul II died during the vigil of the Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005. He said: "Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter's See in Rome, I considered this message (of Divine Mercy) my special task."
That public veneration of Divine Mercy began on April 28, 1935 and that in 1937, holy cards with the Divine Mercy image were printed for first time.
That the Divine Mercy devotions were banned for 19 years, starting in 1959, when the Holy Office reviewed faulty translations and declared them unworthy of public consumption.
That in 1965 the future Pope john Paul II, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, as Archbishop of Krakow, opens an investigation into Sr Faustina and the Divine Mercy devotions.
That on April 15, 1978 Prefect of Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declares the ban no longer binding.
That Sr. Faustina was born on August 25, 1905 as Helena Kowalska ; the third of ten children
That her first vision was in 1924 of the scourged Christ, and on Good Friday 1928, she was engulfed by the flame of Divine Love, and that in 1931, Jesus tells her to paint His image.
That in 1934 the now famous painting of Divine Mercy was completed, but Sr. Faustina didn’t like it.
Check out


Hello to all the people we met on our tours! I have been thinking of each of you, and little stories from the time we spent with you keep popping into my head and they make me laugh! I wish I could start getting in touch with y'all.
Life on tour can be tough. You spend hours in stuffy airports, cramped on planes, stiff in rental cars, groggy for early morning retreats and flights, exhausted for late night drives... feeling unhealthy for eating fast food late at night, longing for a home-cooked meal as you stop at the tenth Panera or Ruby Tuesdays. But then you arrive at your destination and the bright smile of your host greets you. You settle on some stranger's home, not feeling strange at all, but secure and wanted. They give you chocolates on your pillow, show you the shower that you have been aching for, give you cold medicine as you sniffle sadly, invite you to Dante reading groups and give you tea. You sit with them and learn about their bishop, their priests, their parish. Your eyes are opened to so many different ways of serving the Lord and answering His call for laborers in His vineyard.
Life on Tour can feel like a hit-and run. We arrive one day, stay for the night, give a retreat or perform that day, and then leave the next morning. We come in to a situation where you don't know us, and we don't know you. And yet everywhere we experience Christ's words in action: "Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless." Talking about clothe the naked, I really must tell one story. So we arrive in OH to 13 degree weather, an inch of ice, and one hundred feet of snow, from Florida, sunny and 85 (slight exaggeration on the snow, perhaps, but none on the FL description). And I realize that I am in no way prepared for such cold. I brought a sweatshirt, yes, but what are so few fibers against so much snow and wind? Solution? Our hostess goes to her closet, pulls out a brand new winter jacket and insists that I borrow it. Fearing the loss of a few digits to frostbite, I eagerly accept the sky-blue down jacket. I wear it for the next week, then, on our way to the airport from Steubenville, we pull over to a post office. I march in, remove the jacket and ask the clerks what the best way to mail it is. Quite a stir followed, and much laughter. Who walks into a PO and wants to mail the coat that they are wearing? Well, those-who-want-to-return-a-coat-because-they-were-so-foolish-as-not-to-bring-their-own do, that's who. There are so many stories like that from our tours. The generosity shown to us wherever we went taught me a good many lessons. So, are tours really hit-and-runs? Sure we spend little time with our hosts, and little time with the kids we perform for, but I have learned that we are all one in the Church. We are all present in front of the Tabernacle, unified by our common goal. We may never see anyone we perform for again, but we have formed a bond that will never be broken.
So, my thoughts and prayers go out to all of you! Thank you for your kindness to us, thank you for labouring in His vineyard, for staying in the place you are put to work with the souls we can only touch for a day and an evening! God reward you!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Solemnities Rule!

Does anyone realize that we are in the middle of 9 straight days of solemnities?
All of Easter week, starting with Sunday, of course, is a solemnity in the Church. Each day this week is a day of full splendour and glory, trumping even the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25, 9 months before Christmas). This major feast has been moved to Mon, March 31. And the Sunday following Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday (which you all should know since you are now saying the seventh day of the Divine Mercy novena which began on Good Friday, right?) So nine days of solemn feasting! Easter Sunday straight on through Divine Mercy Sunday and the Annunciation on Monday! Nine days of joy-filled partying to spring us off into Easter Season, during which the priest wears white, before we all settle down into the green of ordinary time.
Solemnity, feast, holy day, ordinary time... such terminology we all rattle off of our tongues with ease, but as I stop to think about them, I wonder what it all means. A feast day? Ordinary time? We don't eat lots of food and have a big party every time a major feast day like the Annunciation comes up, and really every day seems ordinary. Why celebrate ordinary time?
Well, such terms come from the tradition (trado= 'hand over' in Latin, so tradition literally means what is handed down to us through generations past) in the Church of living around a liturgical calender, a calender not based on secular days off from work or school breaks, but on major events and people in Church History, like the Resurrection of Our Lord, or the Assumption of Mary. On these major days, the Church celebrates the graces and gifts God has given the world through such events or people. We all remember what God has done for us and we are filled with joy and gratitude. We desire to show this joy and gratitude by sharing food with our brothers and sisters, going to mass, dancing and playing music. Its part of the great gift of life that we have all received and that we are glad to receive. In the Middle Ages, these special days were not just celebrated by individual feasts within each family, but by the whole town. All the people would flock to the town centers outside of the church and watch street performers, jugglers, and bands; they would attend a mass that was filled with more music and incense and candles than usual. Famous people like kings, queens, or learned men would be invited to preside over a banquet that everyone would attend. Think of St Patrick's day, a feast day that just passed a few weeks ago. Did your town have a parade, with everyone claiming to be Irish, feasting and frolicking all day wearing green? Perhaps many people forgot what they were really celebrating, the life of the great English missionary to pagan Ireland Saint Patrick, and thought they were celebrating being Irish, but you can still get the picture of a feast day. And solemnity is even great than a feast day! Not only has the Church declared these days so that we can remember to praise and thank God, but God also uses these special days to give extra graces and gifts to the world! During this whole week, the graces won for us by Our Lord during His life and Passion and Death are being distributed to all who ask for them! Have you asked God for a present this week? Because He is waiting for you to ask so that He may shower you with graces in abundance! Happy Solemnity this Easter Wednesday! Tell everyone!

Sequence for Easter Sunday

Come, Holy Ghost, send down those beams,
which sweetly flow in silent streams
from Thy bright throne above.

O come, Thou Father of the poor;
O come, Thou source of all our store,
come, fill our hearts with love.

O Thou, of comforters the best,
O Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
the pilgrim's sweet relief.

Rest art Thou in our toil, most sweet
refreshment in the noonday heat;
and solace in our grief.

O blessed Light of life Thou art;
fill with Thy light the inmost heart
of those who hope in Thee.

Without Thy Godhead nothing can,
have any price or worth in man,
nothing can harmless be.

Lord, wash our sinful stains away,
refresh from heaven our barren clay,
our wounds and bruises heal.

To Thy sweet yoke our stiff necks bow,
warm with Thy fire our hearts of snow,
our wandering feet recall.

Grant to Thy faithful, dearest Lord,
whose only hope is Thy sure word,
the sevenfold gifts of grace.

Grant us in life Thy grace that we,
in peace may die and ever be,
in joy before Thy face. Amen. Alleluia


Do you ever wonder what energy is? A physicist defines it as the ability to do work ('work' being any sort of change, basically). A modern dictionary adds the words 'vigor' and 'power' to the stricter scientific definition. I think of energy as a force, one hard to describe, but one plainly present in some people and things. Constant movement, a sense of life, nay, a sense of joy and purpose in life, a desire to make the most of a situation, to raise the spark of love in the room, to see all things in God's light, is energy for me. There is no stagnation, but a vigor and power. I can recognize a distorted energy too, in the workaholics of our day, in an abused vigor twisted from the pursuit of happiness to a crazed and almost violent search for stuff. Energy is no longer joy in life but a certain satisfaction with efficiently completing duties. This energetic person has no time for reflection, only time for action; no time for grasping truth, only time for grasping.
Well, at this last retreat, I was wondering not only how energy is defined, but also how to get it, and what it looked like. I can tell you that as I surveyed the small group of 52 kids that Saturday morning, I was not going to have my curiosity sated. They were forced to be there, perhaps, or maybe they were better actors than I (which is saying a lot :P) and were just hiding the fact that they had energy, waiting to release it into the room at some secret sign agreed to amongst themselves. Or maybe they were just as unsure of us as I was starting to be of them. Maybe they were waiting for us to give the sign.
The sign.
The sign that the apostles waited for in that upper room. The sign Jesus promised: "And I will ask the Father: and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever: The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him. But you shall know him; because he shall abide with you and shall be in you." A Paraclete is a helper, a comforter, and Jesus promised His followers that this Spirit would come and dwell with them forever. As the Apostles waited, afraid and lonely, in that upper room, there was no energy. Then came the Spirit: "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming: and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire: and it sat upon every one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost: and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak." Then they went forth and preached so mightily that three thousand (3000!) people were baptized that day. The apostles were filled with energy, an energy so vigorous and powerful that from that point on, the apostles never rested from their mission of spreading the good news and fighting the forces of evil.
So this sign the kids wait for on this bright sunny hot winter morning (yes, hot, yes, winter), is the Spirit that so soon will be theirs! That is what is needed to transform their souls and my soul into a tongue of fire, flickering, more than flickering, burning! with energy!
O Comforter, to Thee we cry,
To Thee, the Gift of God Most High,
The Fount of life, the Fire of love,
The soul's Anointing from above.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Our Lady of Lourdes


Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

We were at Our Lady of Lourdes this past weekend for a Confirmation Retreat. About 25 8th graders accompanied us on an intense spiritual retreat and reflection of who we are and Who God Is. Talks on Confession, the Eucharist, making good decisions, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, saints, adoration, games... I think it was a good experience for all of us. I always learn a lot from these days - I who am supposed to be the one teaching. But, we fall back out of the spiritual battle only long enough to be healed, be restored, receive our nourishment and support and new orders, and we are back out again, in the midst of the battle. But we are fighting for God, living for God, dying for God, so it all makes sense, and it is all at once worth the fight. God is so good to us. He is so generous and faithful. All He asks is our love in return.

We've been allowed to travel and perform and meet so many people - so many souls that we otherwise could never have known. I really hope that one day, I might see all these souls again, as we fight and work and pray and love - all the way to Heaven. Future saints of America, I pray we meet again. God bless, Mary

Seton Catholic


Nothing sounds quite so nice to a student as "Early Dismissal!" "Class cancelled!"

HOORRAAAYYY!!! Goodness, those kids were happy! We arrived at the High School about 7:30 so we could set up for two half-day retreats. We made it half way through the first one and in the middle of my talk to the guys, Father called out the news... looming ice storms were closing down everybody. So we finished quickly, spent some time with the younger kids then off to lunch and off to - home! This was one of the best high school shows we've had, I think. The audience was made up of really smart, sharp, good kids, and the teachers and Priest was great. There was a beautiful all-school Mass in the morning, and the whole gym lit up with the light of Christ in every person. God is so good, and always gives enough time! So, we made it through most of what we needed to cover, and we leave the rest to God. He has better more beautiful plans for each of us - than we could ever imagine! God is so good. Go Seton Catholic! Go Saints!

New York Youth Rally


I didn't know airplanes could land in freezing windy scary snow storms. And I forgot that people actually drive in blizzards. And I was shocked when I realized there were going to be over 500 teenagers at the FX Youth Rally in Syracuse. It was awesome! So many young people, so many incredible leaders and talks! I loved it. I really did. It was so amazing to walk into this huge auditorium filled with young Catholics and learn along side them. To know that other youth share my same love for God and faith in His church. The faith is alive and well! Another thing is just how much we actually learned while we were there: mostly, that there is so much to learn. The faith is so deep, so full, so many treasures - there is so much to understand! So much more faith to be had! I loved it.

We performed Rachel at the workshops in the gym, then gave a talk to the ladies about what it means to be a woman, witnessing the power of Christ. We looked back on the examples of the Apostles and the examples of the first women who followed Christ: their faith, their strength, their love, their fidelity. Then we met the Bishop after the youth Mass for his blessing.

So many awesome people, so much beautiful faith! God, please reward their faith! Take us all to Heaven to be Your Saints! We want YOU!

God bless you, you future saint of America... Mary

South Dakota


I really love South Dakota. I really love the people there - their spirituality, their generosity, their faithfulness to God, their love of where they are and what they do. We performed a pro-life show in Wagner for the youth groups of the area on by far the best stage we've ever performed on - sound and lights and tech man and everything. We had a follow-up of some really amazing thought provoking questions too. The Q&A lasted for about 30 minutes. They were great. These are the people who almost banned abortion from their entire state by a vote from the people. Last year the bill lost by only a few percentage points. Imagine if this state could do it? Imagine what a statement to the rest of us? Keep striving, South Dakota! Please! We need your leadership and strength! We need someone among us to step out and hold back this crashing wave. It was a really beautiful experience. The faith is alive and well, I tell you!

We also visited an Indian Reservation while we were there, and got to meet some nuns who's order was founded by St. Katherine Drexel. The average time spent at that convent by these nuns was over 50 years each. One of them was there was St. Katherine Drexel was visiting and made her rolls! It was awesome! These women were models of determination, perseverance, and faith that God will hear their cries and see their work and conversion and faith will be greater. Gosh. They sure had a positive influence on me - to not give up. To not get discouraged. To see God's hand in all things, especially the little things. And to love each other. To really love enough to know that life is worth living, and it is worth living well.

I learned a lot over those few days. And definitely had much to meditate on after I left. Thank you to our family in South Dakota - God is so good for letting us know you, and be inspired by you! God bless, Mary