Month: October 2017

The New Country

Yester-eve I left the quiet plain,
The path washed out by a night of rain;
Now past the mountains, a dawn bursts clean,
Glowing in glory, golden and green.
I know not what hides in the trees and grass
Spread below me now, where I soon will pass,
But with springing step now I run to meet
Moss and roots and thorns all beneath my feet.
For inside my soul burns a pure white star,
Summons, strength, and joy, kindled from afar,
Promising me sure that my home is there,
Of which I hear whispers in sky and air.
So now whether pathways be rough or smooth,
I run on in strength of a singing truth:
That the rush of wind, and the burbling stream,
And the glow of leaves in a stray sunbeam,
And the clouds above and the stones below,
And all things wheresoe’er I may go,
Are my Love’s unceasing pledge and call,
And His word is joy, for He is my all.

Purgatory is Not an Insult

As All Souls’ Day approaches, homilists may find themselves tiptoeing around discussion of Purgatory. Advising people to pray for their deceased family or friends can be difficult. Many perceive this as an insult to the departed, contending that their loved ones are surely in Heaven already and need no prayers.

Much of this mindset is based on emotions rather than intellectual decisions, and so calls for a tactful, gentle response. Part of the problem, however, arises from misunderstandings about Purgatory. Those unfamiliar with Catholic theology often seem to confuse Purgatory with Hell. Even in Catholic circles, popular assumptions imply that genuinely good people always go straight to Heaven, while Purgatory is for the mediocre souls not quite bad enough for Hell. Another phrasing of this idea is that, to compare these states to school grades, Heaven is an A, Purgatory a C, and Hell an F.

None of this is even remotely true.

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Solomon, Aquinas, and Lilies

A reflection on 1 Kings 3:5-15

 

What do a king, a friar, and a flower have to do with each other? The question sounds like a very strange riddle. I unexpectedly discovered the answer while rereading 1 Kings 3:5-15, coming upon a sequence of thoughts that initially seemed both familiar and sobering, but ended on a fresh and deeply joyful note.

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The White and Black Bouquet

To Thee I bring, dear Savior,

An offering tonight,

And pray it may find favor

By Thy grace in Thy sight;

No show of noble powers—

Such grandeur small souls lack—

A humble bunch of flowers,

A mix of white and black.

 

White blooms, star-shaped, sweet-smelling,

Their stalks all smooth and green,

Their snowy glow is telling

Of triumph’s happy sheen;

All this day’s little glories,

Sweet joy and bright success,

I offer Thee these stories,

With hymn of thankfulness.

 

The black blooms, shaped like crosses,

Less sweet and sharp with thorns,

These are the stings and losses

For which man’s nature mourns;

Pain, disappointment, folly,

The times when foes prevailed,

The springless melancholy,

The times I tried and failed.

 

I bring Thee these small prizes;

Thou only know’st the worth

Of any gift that rises

From human hands on earth;

So I pray that Thy splendor

May wash these in its rays,

Their fragrance of surrender

Rise pleasing to Thy praise.

 

And I’ll thank Thee, my Dearest,

For this day’s white and black;

Faith’s eye sees Thy love clearest;

My small heart gives love back.

For everything is beauty

When seen with love of Thee,

And e’en the humblest duty

Is joyous then, and free.

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