Thus far I’ve been recommending books written by saints of the past. Lest one get the idea that there are no books being written by saintly men in and for our times, let me urge you to read The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, by Robert Cardinal Sarah, with Nicolas Diat, (Ignatius Press, 2017). Cardinal Sarah, originally from Guinea, currently serves as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The book was inspired by his friendship with a saintly monk who had lost his voice to an illness that eventually took his life. This spiritual friendship was conducted, then, in almost complete silence. The book’s Introduction relates this friendship with Brother Vincent, explaining the inspiration of the book, and then moves into a description of the Cardinal’s arrival with Mr. Diat, a French journalist, at the Grande Chartreuse, the ancient monastery of the Carthusians, where holy silence reigns, broken only by the monks’ chanting of the hours. In the first chapters, with minimal promptings from Mr. Diat, Cardinal Sarah expounds on the power of silence to bring us closer to God, using his own words and excerpts from scripture and other writings, as well as cataloguing all the ways different kinds of noise (external and internal) separate us from Him. In everything that Cardinal Sarah says echoes his own tendency to practice and cultivate silence, his deep prayer, his fruitful relationship with our Lord. In the later chapters some of the monks, who normally do not speak except to pray, sit around a table with Mr. Diat and Cardinal Sarah taking turns sharing the wisdom that such silence has taught them. It’s a book that will prove a most helpful antidote to whatever kind of noise oppresses you, whether it’s the 24-hour news cycle, excessive engagement with social media, or children screaming in your kitchen. Pope Francis has recently recommended that we incorporate more silence into our liturgy, and this book makes clear why such a move would be salutary for our souls as well as pleasing to God. I hope you’ll read it and encourage your loved ones to do the same. May you be blessed with the gift of silence in which God makes Himself known.
Our priest is encouraging us, as he should, to increased devotion to Our Holy Mother. A treasure of the Church to aid us in this worthy endeavor is the classic The Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus de Liguori (Bishop, d. 1787). He begins with an “Introduction: Which Ought To Be Read,” then a prayer to the Blessed Virgin, and then dives into a close reading of the prayer “Hail, Holy Queen” (and I do mean close: the phrase “Hail, queen, Mother of mercy” is treated to its own chapter, with four sections). As he goes through the prayer, riffing on each phrase, we’re treated to a course in Mariology served up by one who’s both a connoisseur and a true lover. He ends Part I with a list of prayers to Mary from various saints. Part II treats us to discourses on the seven principle feasts of Mary and her dolors. A devotion particularly pleasing to the Holy Mother is the Seven Hail Mary’s for her seven sorrows. Reading this last one will enrich those meditations. At the end of each chapter and throughout the book we’re given prayers to deepen our relationship with Mother Mary, as we learn of her many virtues and excellences, her closeness to her Divine Son, the power of her intercession, and her deep and abiding love for us.
In June we honor The Sacred Heart of Jesus, so it seems appropriate to recommend a book that will deepen a reader’s devotion to that blessed furnace of divine charity. The Way of Divine Love is a narrative, arranged and edited by her Mother Superior, and taken from her diaries kept under obedience, of the visions and experiences of a shy Spanish nun in France, at a convent of the Society of The Sacred Heart, at the beginning of the last century. Sr. Josefa Mendendez’s extraordinary encounters with the Holy Mother, Our Lord Jesus, saints and demons, and her intense sufferings (wearing His crown of thorns, carrying His cross, spending time in Hell), make a gripping and moving tale. And one gets a picture not only of the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and how our lack of reverence for Our Sacramental Lord offends both He and Our Lady, but also of how hard both Christ and His Holy Mother continue to work for the sanctification and salvation of souls. How sin matters, as do penance and sacrifice. How precious and loved by God is each and every eternal human soul. How His Heart is an abyss of both love and mercy. In addition to these blessings, the book also gifts the reader with prayers dictated to their faithful scribe, the humble nun Josefa, and teaches us how we can offer our suffering to console Christ’s Sacred Heart and assist in the sanctification of souls.
No one can accuse me of exaggerating when I say that the over-culture, centered in Hollywood and Washington, is a moral cesspool in dire need of Jesus, and with absolutely no justification for trying to lecture the rest of the country about what we should be doing with our bodies, our treasure, or our minds. Every day there are new revelations about very bad behaviors of people in the entertainment industry and the Washington elites, which have conspired to manipulate the culture into a level of degradation that makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like lightweights in the depravity arena. I cannot say that I haven’t experienced these revelations with a certain amount of satisfaction. Not Schadenfreude, an emotion that does not come naturally to me, but with relief. When you have smelled the stink of death long enough, it’s a relief when the rotting corpse is finally unearthed. The revelations are just beginning, and they’re going to get worse, it’s clear. The next down the pike involves a pervert at Nickelodean, and I’m not talking about the man being accused of sexual harassment of adults.
The level of sexual perversion that has been propagated in our culture in just the last decade, while I have been unplugged (almost nothing in the way of TV or movies), really rather boggles my mind. Y’all, they have made an idol of the sex act. Sex is worshiped in this culture to such a degree that among the enlightened “sex-positive” set, it’s pretty much a sin not to pursue the satisfaction of your sexual desires, no matter how illicit they might be. To suggest that it would be better to sublimate desire for the sake of pleasing God or conforming to natural law gets you labeled as a hater. The times are just that upside down. So we are expected to tolerate the victimization of children at the altar of revolutionary progress, rather than make anyone feel bad for their urges. The Sexual Revolution has been an unmitigated disaster, and millions of broken people are the proof. And then there are those many millions of aborted babies.
That chastity is a Christian virtue much in need of cultivation even for material reasons is evidenced by the surging prevalence of untreatable gonorrhea. And yet even in the Church there is evidence that this attitude, the elevation of sexual desire to an essential kernel of one’s identity rather than a natural urge to procreate or temptation to be resisted, has crept in and poisoned the thinking of people like James Martin, SJ. Then again, any priest who is so eager for worldly approval that he’ll go on Saturday Night Live and make Satanic hand gestures while introducing Metallica has little chance of teaching truth. Or even recognizing it. (Pray for him, and for all the souls he’s leading astray.)
So as Christ’s Heart is Sacred, and Mother Mary’s Immaculate, the hallmark of St. Joseph’s is that it is Most Chaste. God graced him with perfection in this virtue to make him a fit guardian of Our Lady and Our Lord as a child. Devotion to the Most Chaste Heart of Joseph has been encouraged, but has yet to catch on. Though the fact that the blog post of mine that most often brings people here from a search engine is this one gives hope. There you will find prayers you can use in your devotions.
Most Chaste Heart of Joseph, pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.
In the days following the Descent of the Holy Spirit, celebrated as Pentecost, Our Mother spent many hours in prayer, prostrate on the ground in the shape of a cross, weeping, begging her Divine Son and the Almighty Father for the salvation of the members of the Church He’d planted with His Sacred Blood, those in her presence at its beginnings and forward into its history.
Do not despair: she continues to intercede for us. This crisis of faith in the Church is a supernatural event and will require supernatural intervention. Don’t disparage your fellow Catholics for their lack of faith, but recognize them as wounded, and offer the help available to you, which is prayer.
Faith is a gift of that same Holy Spirit, the Divine Spouse of Our Lady. If you have been graced with it, praise God and thank Him for such an invaluable gift. But pray for those without it, that they be graced with it. Don’t mock them. Pray for those poor bored souls in the pews who fail to recognize the drama of the immense mystery of the Eucharist taking place. Pray for the writers and editors at America Magazine and other such outlets that everyday pump out demonstrable heresies that betray their lack of faith. Pray for Cardinal Paglia and the rest of that pack, who openly display their perversion, which they would not do if they still believed in God, and the judgement. They want to disbelieve in Hell because they hurtle themselves into it with their unrepentance.
Pray for Pope Francis, whose eternal fate is going to surprise him, and not pleasantly, if he fails to feed Christ’s sheep, as is his sacred duty.
Mother of the Church, pray for us.
Anyone working in mental health probably knows that Trump Derangement Syndrome isn’t just a snide quip used by conservative keyboard warriors to put down hysterical liberals for whom our president is Literally Hitler. It’s a thing. A diagnosis, though it’s not in the DSM-V, and God willing will have passed as a phenomena of mental pathology by the time the DSM-VI comes out years from now. But it’s something that is happening: people are watching the news and becoming sickened by the fear-mongering. They’re having terrifying hallucinations engendered by the scenarios painted by these irresponsible pundits. The latest is NBC falsely reporting that President Trump had requested a ten-fold increase in our nuclear arsenal. It’s bullocks. How many people saw these reports and won’t see the corrections? How much anxiety can people take? And when are our media outlets going to stop seeing politics as a game that they are out to win? People’s lives are being deeply negatively affected by this Fake News, and it’s got to stop.
I stopped watching TV news half-way through the evacuation of New Orleans after Katrina. I was watching all day, trying hard to spot someone I cared about deeply (Hi Chad! Glad you made it.) in the crowd at the Superdome, and noticing the female newscaster’s patriotic getup and emotive coverage, I was struck by how my already taut heartstrings were being intentionally plucked. And I turned it off. Thank God, though I didn’t even believe He was real at the time.
God’s like that. He loves us even when we don’t acknowledge that He exists, and supports us and cares for us and gives us our very being, helping us to make choices that are good for us. Meanwhile we act like snots, angry that evil exists rather than thankful to be alive and free, and surrounded by beauty. There is always love enough to counter the evil. Sometimes evil things, like earthquakes or hurricanes or disease, even help us remember how much we love each other. I’m hoping and praying our country will remember that we’re all Americans, left, right, and center. Stop being so angry, and so afraid. But then the news guys wouldn’t be making such a killing, would they?
October is devoted to the Holy Rosary (a sacramental and devotion that has been called the spiritual weapon of our times by saints and popes). Last year at this time our priest asked me to write something for the bulletin (the front page of our bulletin usually has a letter or short essay from our deacon, priest, or some other leader of ministry…none of which describes me, but okay) about the rosary, knowing that I pray it daily, and that I write. Gentle reader, you can be sure that I was quite happy to comply, since promoting this devotion pleases Our Lady, the Queen of the Rosary. This year, I’d like to share that little essay here:
Surely you’ve seen them, hanging at Mother Mary’s waist, or from her hand, stretched out in a giving gesture: those beads, so precious to some Catholics: the rosary. It’s been described by many a Catholic Knight as the weapon of our time, and indeed it is. But if you’re not the type to see yourself wielding a sword, let me suggest that this great gift from the Holy Mother can be seen also as a spade, a tool with which to work. There’s no sacramental with which one can more efficiently contribute to the economy of grace. After she’s used it to muck out her own depths, a soul’s supererogatory grace will overflow to the benefit of others. And if we say the Fatima prayer after each decade, then with each chaplet we perform five acts of a much neglected spiritual work of mercy, that of praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Who knows how many of our relatives languish in those flames, longing for God’s face, because praying the rosary fell out of fashion? Let us get to work.
Some people (especially if they’ve been harassed out of the practice by their Protestant companions or coworkers) hesitate to say the rosary because scripture admonishes us to avoid “vain repetitions” in prayer. But that referred to a practice of the pagans, chanting a short phrase or “divine” name to the point of distraction. And there is nothing vain about the Our Father, given to us by Christ Himself, or the Hail Mary, combining words spoken by Gabriel to the Holy Mother at the Annunciation and those addressed to her by Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Ghost, at the Visitation, when the Blessed Virgin carried our unborn Lord to visit her so that He could sanctify John the Baptist in the womb. No wonder he lept for joy!
If you already pray the rosary, Glory be to God! And his Holy Mother. Consider making your intention during the Prayer for Life campaign the end of abortion, or that any woman faced with that “choice” choose life, and that the abortionists’ hearts be softened and their eyes opened to the reality of what it is that they do. If you have not been saying the rosary, now’s a great time to start, and that’s a great reason. There are guides online, or you can pick up a brochure with instructions at the parish office. Because meditating on the mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, or Glorious, depending on the day of the week) is an important aspect of how to pray it, your knowledge of the lives of Jesus and Mary will deepen, and their stories, in a mysterious fashion, will perform their wondrous work: the transformation of ourselves and the world. There’s much more I’d like to say. Each mystery deserves its own essay. Let this suffice, and may the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of God’s grace, shower you with mercy, through the rosary or whatever avenue you open to her.