Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

To begin with, today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which commemorates the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary was born without sin. To paraphrase St. John Chrysostom, we shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about this, as it defies nature and logic, and is obviously a supernatural gift from the Lord God Himself.

Rather, it is a fact which should bring us to quietness, pondering the mystery. Preserved from the stain of sin from the moment of her conception, Mary has been described at times as being pure as the driven snow.

Which brings us to today, which was one of those very rare snowy days in Louisiana.

snowy day

We are about as geared to snow as New York is geared to hurricanes.

And so many people have said – we never see snow like this!

This is kinda nuts for here.

 

But it happens, and it’s beautiful.

Just like the Immaculate Conception happened, and it’s much more beautiful.

I know. But it’s been a long day.

And so, from our little town, a glimpse into our Feast Day here – filled with Masses, Holy Hours, beautiful meals with friends, smoked turkeys, French Onion soup, fires, Rosaries…   Blessed Feast Day.

St. Joan of Arc

From the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913:

Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc), Blessed, by her contemporaries commonly known as la Pucelle (the Maid); b. at Domremy in Champagne, probably on 6 January, 1412; d. at Rouen, 30 May, 1431. The village of Domremy lay upon the confines of territory which recognized the suzerainty of the Duke of Burgundy, but in the protracted conflict between the Armagnacs (the party of Charles VII, King of France), on the one hand, and the Burgundians in alliance with the English, on the other, Domremy had always remained loyal to Charles.

Jacques d’Arc, Joan’s father, was a small peasant farmer, poor but not needy. Joan seems to have been the youngest of a family of five. She never learned to read or write but was skilled in sewing and spinning, and the popular idea that she spent the days of her childhood in the pastures, alone with the sheep and cattle, is quite unfounded. All the witnesses in the process of rehabilitation spoke of her as a singularly pious child, grave beyond her years, who often knelt in the church absorbed in prayer, and loved the poor tenderly. Great attempts were made at Joan’s trial to connect her with some superstitious practices supposed to have been performed round a certain tree, popularly known as the “Fairy Tree” (l’Arbre des Dames), but the sincerity of her answers baffled her judges. She had sung and danced there with the other children, and had woven wreaths for Our Lady’s statue, but since she was twelve years old she had held aloof from such diversions.

It was at the age of thirteen and a half, in the summer of 1425, that Joan first became conscious of that manifestation, whose supernatural character it would now be rash to question, which she afterwards came to call her “voices” or her “counsel.” It was at first simply a voice, as if someone had spoken quite close to her, but it seems also clear that a blaze of light accompanied it, and that later on she clearly discerned in some way the appearance of those who spoke to her, recognizing them individually as St. Michael (who was accompanied by other angels), St. Margaret, St. Catherine, and others. Joan was always reluctant to speak of her voices. She said nothing about them to her confessor, and constantly refused, at her trial, to be inveigled into descriptions of the appearance of the saints and to explain how she recognized them. None the less, she told her judges: “I saw them with these very eyes, as well as I see you.”

“… Joan, either to defend her modesty from outrage, or because her women’s garments were taken from her, or, perhaps, simply because she was weary of the struggle and was convinced that her enemies were determined to have her blood upon some pretext, once more put on the man’s dress which had been purposely left in her way. The end now came soon. On 29 May a court of thirty-seven judges decided unanimously that the Maid must be treated as a relapsed heretic, and this sentence was actually carried out the next day (30 May, 1431) amid circumstances of intense pathos. She is said, when the judges visited her early in the morning, first to have charged Cauchon with the responsibility of her death, solemnly appealing from him to God, and afterwards to have declared that “her voices had deceived her.” About this last speech a doubt must always be felt. We cannot be sure whether such words were ever used, and, even if they were, the meaning is not plain. She was, however, allowed to make her confession and to receive Communion. Her demeanour at the stake was such as to move even her bitter enemies to tears. She asked for a cross, which, after she had embraced it, was held up before her while she called continuously upon the name of Jesus. “Until the last,” said Manchon, the recorder at the trial, “she declared that her voices came from God and had not deceived her.” After death her ashes were thrown into the Seine.”

Ste. Jeanne D’Arc, priez pour nous.

Good Grief

Is there any such thing as grief which is good? Grief is horrible. Terrible. Life-altering.

Last month I was calmly working through the piles of paper on my desk, so happy that I finally had a chance to get all of this work done, when the phone buzzed in. It was a hospital chaplain asking me to call my sister-in-law immediately.

I was worried her mother had died, or even that my brother had died. I was absolutely floored when I learned that my dear niece had died.

It’s not that it’s not my story to tell, although it isn’t really. But there’s not much of a story. She had stomach pains and digestive issues and was admitted into the hospital. In the morning she wanted to shower so they left her alone, and when they returned she had died.

More info will pan out, but having only one niece and a small family, I’ve felt the loss acutely. And her beloved daughters are being well looked after, and prayed for to no end.

Still, it’s a difficult time. As much as I deal with death, dying, those bereaved – and have dealt with it all in my own life – this has struck me in a profound way. I never anticipated this happening, and it’s been a cause for great reflection.

And the painful reality is, that life goes on. Life goes on in all of it’s fullness and beauty, and a new generation needs the strength of those left behind to witness. If you may, please pray for the repose of the soul of my niece, and for the consolation and welfare of her two daughters.

But life goes on. Life is changed, not ended, and life is for the living.

Cassie and daughter

I’m thankful for the years I had to spend with her, and the many lessons that she helped me to learn in life. I miss her, and will always pray for her.

O God, Who have brightened this most holy night with the splendor of the true light, grant, we beseech You, that we may know in heaven the joy of that light which we have known mystically on earth.

Sometimes I realize I have no business keeping a weblog.   Though I do get a fair amount of visitors, I’m a very self conscious blogger.   While on Facebook or Twitter I usually just say what I want to say (with appropriate filters,) when I blog I tend to be like, “Here’s a picture from of my daily life. Um… buh bye!”

With that being said, here are a few things on my minds the last week, month, year…

  1. Questions about Pope Francis.   People will often ask me what the Holy Father means when he says things like, “And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, it can do great harm.”

    I don’t know.   Coprophagia sounds completely disgusting to me, I have zero tendency towards it, and as much as some people have said this expression is commonly used in South America,  I’ve never heard it used there despite my 6 visits, and being taught all the dirty words (to the great hilarity of my teachers,) on my first visit of 2.5 months.

    I honestly don’t know, but it’s obviously in the realm of the bizarre.

  2. What about the dubia?

    Cardinal Burke is the voice of those presenting the dubia to the Holy Father.   It’s a normalized, though rarely used part of Church practice.   Since Pope Francis has not answered the dubia, one can only look to what Cardinal Burke has to say about them.   He’s pretty concise in this interview from EWTN:

  3. “Father, what about your family?”

    I had a great time with my family this Christmas Season. I tend to stay busy, and realized I haven’t spent a lot of time at all with my niece and her children. In fact, the picture up top of is of Alyssa the Lovely, my great niece.  While it a long story the point of it is, we all got together Monday, the day after Christmas Day, and had a grand time. I’m always preaching about families, and realized I needed to get back to my own. Time flies when you stay busy.

  4. “Father, we’re so worried about you being transferred.”

     

    Yes, well, I don’t see that happening anytime in the near future.    I don’t know why there are rumors circulating about that I will be transferred,  but they are completely without foundation.   While it’s vaguely possible that the Archdiocese may decide that my charmingly eccentric personality and brilliant management skills (work with me here, people….) may be direly needed somewhere else, the fact is that there are many truly wonderful Priests who could fill any need the Archdiocese needs; and I feel they are entirely happy with my being out here in the hill country.   As am I.  It’s one of the best places on Earth to be

  5. “Father, what do you do with all the photo you take?”

    I often post them on Facebook, Twitter, or here.   The photos on the Parish website are from my cameras. A lot them are sitting on hard drives waiting to be turned into books to leave in the Parish archives for future use.

With all of that being said…   Merry Christmas!

Nativity

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