In the middle of winter, when the sky is dark and the rain is falling all around so that it feels like you’re in the middle of an ocean – life is perfect. I am just nuts about winter weather here in Louisiana. If I lived in Wisconsin I doubt I could take it, though. I mean, I have my limits. And we have oranges.

True, winter has only just started.

Rain is a good thing and you’ll never – well, rarely – hear me complain about it. If it never rained, the place wouldn’t be so green.

That being said, I’m not quite sure why I’m not cozy in bed with a good book on this rainy morning, and am instead jittery with caffeine posting pictures of oranges – unedited at that because photoshop is not responding to my promptings – on my strange little website.

It has to do with prayer. Because in the last few weeks I’ve become aware of the need to reorient my life ever more towards Jesus Christ. And it has to do with Faith, because I’ve come to consider that the Church is very confused right now. For a time I’ve let that confusion cloud my mind. But, in respect to the integrity of my state in life, and my station here, there can be no confusion.

We (the clergy of the Archdiocese,) took a workshop awhile ago which focussed on the differences amongst the various generations of clergy. Which are huge. It’s obvious to any observer that the differences are huge between someone ordained to the Priesthood in, say, 2004, and someone ordained to the Priesthood in, say, 1978. So, we have one priest saying one thing, one saying another – one bishop saying one thing, one saying something completely different – one Pope saying one thing and one saying something another.

Priests here have said that a reason Deacons were so avidly introduced back in the day was to pave the way for married clergy. Some have said “We’re not going back! If you don’t like what we’re doing you’ll just have to wait until we die!”

I mean, this is crazy talk. No one can dwell seriously on it. Except for the fact that they’re deadly serious when they say it and it affects all of us.

So. I do what I can out here on the peripheries at our sprawling ruralish parish, filled with the full breadth of human experience on any given day. And I’m filled with wonder when considering the scriptures, the sacraments, the promises of life itself.

I’m certainly not waiting for anyone to die. That’s crazy talk.

I’m off to listen to the rain, though. And to give thanks for so many blessing in this life.

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.

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