The Lourdes Grotto

22 October 08 | Posted in Global Catholic, Saints, Spirituality

“According to Bernadette, the apparition asked for a church to be built, and today a vast basilica rises above the shrine, visible testimony to the wealth and power of the institutional Church.”

“Yet the spiritual life of Lourdes is focused on the grotto and its surroundings beneath the basilica, and this topography acts as a metaphor for the relationship between the religious institution and the powerful undercurrent of faith that it can never fully control.” grotte-lourdes-b.jpg

“The rocks around the grotto have been worn smooth by the touch of millions of hands, and there is a sense of something visceral, pagan even, about the way in which Catholic devotions and prayers melt and mingle with the…mystery of a God both veiled and revealed in earth, wind and fire, in rocky wildernesses and the untameable persistence of nature in the face of all our civilizing and controlling impulses.”

“Surely, an incarnational faith is one which situates itself in such a space of encounter between the sublime and the ridiculous – between the inscrutable majesty of God, and the often foolish muddle of our human emotions.” lourdes-boy.jpg

From “An Immense Maternal Presence,” an article by Tina Beattie in the September 13, 2008 edition of The Tablet.

Blessing of Pets and Animals

4 October 08 | Posted in Animals, Events, Saints, Spirituality

Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. It is a day when old and young bring their pets to church to be blessed. pg-bless.jpg

My old parish in Brooklyn got the usual (dogs, cats, hamsters, parakeets) and also the unusual. Someone once brought a wounded toad they found on their street.  Someone else brought their boa constrictor. A boy came with his pet tarantula. A toddler brought his teddy bear. The best was a praying mantis–very appropriate for a Catholic event.

“St. Francis was a lover of nature and animals,” said Fr. Moses Campo, a priest at the Immaculate Conception Church in Queens, New York. “The blessing of the animals has been a practice of the Catholic Church for hundreds of years.”

This rite can sometimes provided unintended comedy. “When I went to bless the horse with holy water, he jumped up and got scared,” said NYPD chaplain Msgr. David Cassato. “He thought I was going to hit him. Some of the police dogs start barking at the other dogs. It’s always funny.”

The Blessing of Pets usually goes like this: “Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth the fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”

Roman Triptych: The Stream

24 September 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Spirituality, Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI may go down in history as the greatest papal advocate for the environment, but Pope John Paul II started things off. He made statements in support of creation, but his major contribution is his example–he loved nature, and found God there.

My favorite image of Pope John Paul II is a snapshot during a camping trip. A vigorous and robust man, he liked camping, hiking and relaxing outdoors. roman-trip.jpg

His nature experiences found their way into his poems. The Poetry of John Paul II: Roman Triptych: Medications begins with “The Stream.”

I. The Stream

Ruah

The Spirit of God hovered about the waters

1. Wonderment

The undulating wood slopes down to the rhythm of mountain streams.

To me this rhythm is revealing You, the Primordial Word.

How remarkable is Your silence

in everything, in all that on every side unveils the created world around us..all that, like the undulating wood, runs down every slope…all that is carried away by the stream’s silvery cascade, rhythmically falling from the mountain, carried by its own current–carried where?

What are you saying to me, mountain stream? Where, in which place do we meet? Do you meet me who is also passing–just like you.

Read the poem here.

Picking Up Litter

16 September 08 | Posted in Spirituality, Stewardship

One spiritual task I perform every weekend is to walk up and down my block and pick up litter. litter.jpg

Discarded cigarette packs, Arizona Ice Tea and beer bottles, Vitamin Water empties, junk food wrappers, styrofoam clam containers, candy wrappers, nickel and dime bags, ripped out school notes and assignments, half-eaten apples, broken Bic lighters, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cups, gum wrappers – I collect it all.

Most of the trash is from high school kids–boys and girls–black, Hispanic, and white, that are too lazy to put it in the trash can by their school.  They just drop it when they finish it.  Most of the crumbled up cigarette packs are from one Newport smoker.

I pick up trash to keep my block clean.  The dirtier it is, the more people feel free to throw stuff on the ground.  When the ground is litter-free, at least some people think twice before dropping an empty cup.

A few months after I started picking up, I noticed that some other people were taking care of the street, too.  My next-door neighbor has started picking up trash, and so has a woman down at the end of our street. 

Picking up litter is a small but tangible way to respect the land and neighborhood, and keep it a beautiful place.

Becoming Fully Ourselves

10 September 08 | Posted in Animals, Arts and Letters, Global Catholic, Spirituality

In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes of a great journey through Heaven and Hell in a manner similar to Dante’s Inferno.  As they enter heaven, the visitor observes a woman enfolded in the glory of the divine energies surrounded by animals. The visitor is awed–thinking this is the BVM.

When he finally gets up his courage to ask the bus driver about the woman, the driver responds that no, this isn’t the BVM, but some humble woman who had rescued all of these creatures of God, and in her care, they became fully themselves. I would take Lewis a step further, in relationship with these animals, the woman also became more fully herself as well. They were her companions in prayer and life.

– From the blog, Bending the Rule

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