Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bless You, Dear Bishop Sheen, For These Words At This Time

“He permits mental crosses, like worries, fear, anxieties, to make us feel His absence. If our love of goodness does not draw us to Him, at least our weariness will throw us back to Him. He permits physical crosses like sufferings to make us feel His Presence. Sickness forcibly draws us away from the world and its pleasures, and makes us realize that His scarred Hands cannot touch us without leaving wounds.” Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen (About Crosses)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Rare Performance ....

JMJ    I was thrilled to find this rare kinescope of the Ed Sullivan show from the 50's.  It features a breathtaking oratorio by  the original Broadway singers who played the nuns in "The Sound of Music," as well as a magnificent performance by the great opera contralto Patricia Neway, as the Mother Abbess singing "Climb Every Mountain."  I hope you like it as much as I do.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Remembering Oscar Wilde ... Poet, Wit, Playwright, Bon Vivant, Struggling Soul - Catholic

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde
With a name like that, he just had to be different...

JMJ    Today is not his birthday or the anniversary of his death.  It is not any significant date in his life which would trigger a desire to remember him -- I simply read something that he said about saints and sinners, and it rang true with me.  Oscar Wilde was a man of great intelligence and wonderfully keen and caustic sense of humor.  He was a great poet and playwright.  He was also a Catholic who deeply loved his wife and children, yet was innately homosexual.  He lived with demons as we all do, yet was able to disguise the inner struggles of life better than most because of his intellectual talents.  And, as most of us do, he found himself with an ever-deepening sense of spirituality, looking for closeness with God at the worst time of his life. Oscar had made the decision to sue in open court a man who had insulted him about his homosexuality, and ended up being prosecuted and convicted because of his homosexuality.  He was cruelly betrayed by loved ones and friends, was imprisoned at hard labor, found himself getting older and beginning to deal with illness.  But through the grace of God and Oscar's own searching, he topped his lifelong love for the Church with a true desire to practice Catholicism completely.

Too often, Oscar is remembered for the unhappy and ugly period of his life.  But I prefer to remember his poems and plays, and incredibly funny observations of the world, as well as words of depth and wisdom.  Beginning with keen wit and moving into spiritual contemplation, here are some of my favorites:

*  "I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying."

*  "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them more."

*  "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."

*  "To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early,
     or be respectable."

*  "Be  yourself.  Everyone else is already taken."

*  "Keep love in your heart.  A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead."

*  "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

*  "We are each our own devil, and we make the world our hell."

*  "Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground."

This is what Oscar said that struck me when I saw it:, and made me want to write this little tribute:

That is such a beautifully-spoken Catholic belief, and one that should give hope to all of us. After all, Jesus said to us, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone ... Go and sin no more."  That is our opportunity and salvation, no matter what we may have been before.

At the end of his life, Oscar had been abandoned by his rich society friends, who turned their backs on him when he was no longer of any use to them.  The life of beautiful surroundings and fine clothes that he loved had ended with his trial and imprisonment.  Only a Catholic priest who had become his friend, as well as Catholic friends he came to know, stuck by him in his need.  He was living in poverty in a badly-decorated, ratty little room.  He lay on his bed dying at the age of 46, and at one point he woke up and said to a friend who was there with him:

Wouldn't you love to have the time and the wit to be able to leave this earthly plane with such words?  Well, it is really true, Oscar did say that -- he had the last word, which would have pleased him immensely.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bishop Sheen on Lent ......

“Lent is the penitential season, a time when men once put on hair shirts, sacrificing any hope of bodily ease for 40 days. G.K. Chesterton once said that St. Thomas Becket wore a hair shirt under his purple, so that people might have the benefit of his purple and he might have the benefit of penance.” 

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Finished Picture

I read a little analogy today that spoke to me so strongly and clearly.  At this point, life is just wearing me out with troubles, and the face of Christ gets as blurred as the page of a book when I can't find my glasses.  I feel myopic about what goes on around me, and prayer feels hollow.  I know that it will pass, but it's awful while it's happening.  It is the dark night of the soul of St. John of the Cross.

I've been following a website called Women of Grace, an organization that celebrates the spiritual nature of women and their relationship with God and the world.  People discuss all kinds of topics, and today there was one woman who asked for prayers because she was experiencing the same thing I am.  One of the coordinators joined the conversation and shared with us an image in words that I will remember always:

In this world we are looking at the back of a tapestry - nothing but threads and chaos - but when we go to Heaven, God will turn the tapestry around and we will see the beautiful picture.

As I always tend to do when I see or hear something beautiful, I started to cry.  It is so perfect, and so female in origin.  It makes me proud to know that a woman would think of that - women have done the sewing throughout the centuries.  In the spiritual sense, we stitch together our lives as we go along, struggling with tangled thread and knots that get in our way and stop us for a while. But we go on, and this one sentence reminded me that someday it will all come together in Heaven's beauty.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Catholic and Jew -- Different Paths, Same Destination

It is my belief, indeed an opinion I heard many times growing up Catholic, that the Jewish faith is elder brother to the Catholic faith.  This only makes sense, as Jesus was a Jew.  We share so many attributes regarding the meaning of life, morality, even the old joke, guilt.  Of course we separate sharply at the most important point, the arrival of the Messiah.  Still, the similarities in life outlook are there, and a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust reminds us in his writings of what is a basic attitude toward earthly life for both faiths.  The author of Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, is highlighted in the Atlantic Monthly article, "There's More To Life Than Being Happy."   (Click on title for full article.)

A priest once told my brother that it is our natural desire to be happy, but happiness is not the ultimate goal of life, and we may not get it.  Our life's purpose is oneness with God, and the way we must live is not always a recipe for earthly happiness -- but it is all that really counts.  It's a hard thing to hear, as most truths are.  Most of the time, as Catholics say, we have to walk the Way of the Cross along with Christ.  That brings great joy, but joy is not the same as the cultural human idea of happiness.   Joy is a lasting experience of great depth; happiness is a temporary feeling which, after it fades, searches again for more.  It is a difficult concept to comprehend.  However, it is a basic Christian truth.

In an excerpt from the article, Frankl describes his idea of the meaning and ultimate attitude toward life:

In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished -- but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, "Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation." Frankl jumped out of his chair and responded, "Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?"

As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing," Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

For myself, I plan to find a copy of Man's Search for Meaning.  The wisdom displayed just in this short excerpt is  a promise of greater things to come.