As I write this, it’s still the Octave of Christmas where I live. I have a Christmas story to share, one that spans several generations of a family. It’s a story about a Nativity set.
My family was friends with an elderly Catholic lady who passed away a few years ago. My mother drove this lady to Mass every weekend. She had two daughters, one who remained Catholic and one who became a Jehovah’s Witness. The Jehovah’s Witnesses famously reject Christmas as a pagan invention. The JW daughter had a daughter and a son, who was my best friend in high school.
On Christmas Day this year, I attended Mass at my home parish. The priest celebrant was a native son of the parish who was visiting home. He mentioned how happy he was to see the parish’s Nativity scene again. After Mass I saw the daughter of our deceased family friend, the daughter who remained Catholic. I asked her what became of her mother’s Nativity set, which occupied half a room when set up. And I am very happy I asked. Continue reading
I have a problem. My father died when I was 18, leaving my mother a widow. My mother’s next-door neighbor harasses her in ways I won’t go into. It’s fair to say that he is attempting to drive her out of her home by these acts of terrorism. It’s a game to him, and the police are useless (useless). It doesn’t help that, in addition to being a widow, my mother is also a cripple; she is bound to a wheelchair. I live 90 miles from my mother and am not in a position to help her redress the recurring acts of harassment. And I am my mother’s only child.
As we know from multiple passages of the Bible that I don’t need to cite here, God has prepared a special place in Hell for people who molest widows. When my mother tells me of the latest harassment, I want revenge. Not merely justice restored or peaceful reconciliation, but sinful retaliation in kind. And I want it *now.* I commit the sin of hatred when instead I am called to love and pray for and forgive my mother’s persecutor. For a Christian, this is a fundamental rejection of a core commandment of the Gospel. It is a repudiation of the Sermon on the Mount, and hence a repudiation of Christ Himself.
Here is the quandary. I go to Confession once every few weeks, and Holy Communion more often, yet every time I hear about my mother’s suffering at the hands of her neighbor, I am very strongly tempted in this way, and I often succumb to the sin of wrath. Why do the Sacraments not provide me sufficient grace to meet each new provocation with grace, patience, and benignity? Continue reading
Protestants and Catholics profess different beliefs about how justification works. Let’s go with three realistic examples:
1a) An “evangelical” (sic) has a “born again” experience at the age of thirteen. He professes that he is saved for all time. The Catholic Church denies that this is how justification works.
2a) The evangelical is later baptized with water in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Catholic Church acknowledges that this Baptism *might* be valid, but it’s unclear whether it actually justifies a believer who remains enmeshed in culpable heresy or credulity. So the question of whether this Baptism justifies is, from the Catholic perspective, an open question to be assessed on an individual level (I guess). According to the evangelical, Baptism has no objective effect on his salvation. Continue reading
Blogging is taking away time from far more important pursuits in my life, notably prayer and a book project I’m working on. I plan to post once more tomorrow, on the Feast of the Transfiguration. Then I’m going to take an indefinite hiatus. If and when I come back, I hope I will have struck more of a balance.
Thank you to everyone who has been reading, following, and responding to my posts. Please pray for me, and I will (try to) remember to pray for you.
The photo above shows the altar of St. Olaf in Rome. He is shown with his battle axe, triumphantly crushing under foot the dragon of paganism (or maybe, in the artist’s mind, Lutheran heresy?). My blog pseudonym is the Latin form of “Olaf from Wisconsin.” My family is from Wisconsin (though I wasn’t born or raised here), and I’m one-eighth Norwegian. When I was a child, my late father (who was insanely proud of his one-quarter Norwegianity—may he rest in peace) used to call me “Ole,” which is short for Olaf.
St. Olaf was the King of Norway who spearheaded the conversion of that country to the Roman Catholic Faith. For his efforts at converting the pagan Vikings, St. Olaf was martyred during the Battle of Stiklestad on July 29, 1030, which is why today is his feast day. St. Olaf is honored as the “eternal king” (Rex Perpetuus) of Norway. Unfortunately, Norway was annexed by Denmark during the Protestant Revolt, and the Danes imposed Lutheranism on the country.
When I was studying under Fr. Reginald Foster in Rome ten years ago, I visited many of the so-called National Churches in the city. These are the churches that each nation claims as “its church” in Rome. I figured that Norway, despite its official Lutheranism, must have at least a chapel somewhere. Catholics—good ones, anyway—are always trying to reclaim the lost sheep among the nations. One day by accident, I stumbled upon the Norwegian national chapel in the Basilica of San Carlo al Corso* (which is the National Church of the Lombards). That’s where I took the photo above. The Latin inscriptions on the edge of the painting read in part, “Norvegia Catholica; S. Olaus Martyr, Norvegiae Rex et Patronus.” Translated, that’s, “Catholic Norway; St. Olaf, Martyr, King and Patron of Norway.” Continue reading
I’m a day late in posting this, but yesterday (July 25) was the feast day of St. James the Greater. Along with St. John the Evangelist (St. James’ brother) and St. Peter, St. James was one of Our Lord’s inner circle, being present at the Transfiguration and during Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden. Here are some one-off notes in appreciation of St. James:
St. James’ Iconography: Apostle, Pilgrim, Moor-Killer, and Martyr
Over at the New Liturgical Movement, David Clayton has posted an article about St. James’ iconography.* One of the commenters, Thom Ryng, notes that St. James appears in art in three different ways: as Apostle, as pilgrim, and as the Moor-Killer (Santiago Matamoros).**
I’ve seen the apostle, pilgrim, and Moor-Killer (or martyr?) identities combined in iconography. Once upon a time, I used to attend Mass at St. James Parish in Trumansburg, New York. The canopy/reredos at St. James shows a bishop’s crosier and sword laid across each other. The crosier obviously shows that St. James was an Apostle, and hence a bishop. The sword likely refers to his martyrdom by beheading, but also possibly to his status as Santiago Matamoros, the scourge of the Moors during Spain’s Reconquista. I believe the canopy also shows the pilgrim’s scallop shell, which points to Santiago de Compostela and the Way of St. James. Continue reading
If you performed at work as poorly as you perform as a self-professed Catholic, would your boss keep you around? Yet you call Christ your Lord.
If you expended as little effort at mastering your school subjects as you expend at mastering yourself, would your teachers and professors give you a passing grade? Yet you call Christ your Master.
If you disregarded your parents the way you disregard God, would your parents admit that you were their son? Yet you call God your Father.
Seems like I haven’t been able to get in any decent writing recently, not even on this, my summer vacation. Lest I forget, here are some jottings that I hope to develop into posts later:
–the meaning of perfidis in the traditional Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; how this term relates to 1.) a covenantal understanding of Christ’s Passion, 2.) the spiritual blindness mentioned in the same prayer, and 3.) our own identity as the Chosen People of the New Testament
–how to integrate our understanding of Christ’s Passion as both a martyrdom undertaken in defense of truth and as a propitiatory sacrifice; “the medium is the message”
–Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli as apostle of the Driftless Area; missions to the Indians, Frenchmen, Irish immigrants, and Anglo-American converts; temperance movement
–God’s “inscrutable will” (per Fr. Mazzuchelli), Pope Francis on the “God of Surprises,” and Fr. Feeney on divine surprises
–thoughts on the so-called debitum peccati, which is the speculative account of how exactly Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception relates to the Adam’s sin, if at all; the role of Christ’s Cross and the Immaculate Conception as the ultimate victory of the Cross; debitum Redemptoris or debitum Crucis as an alternative explanation; we inherit Original Sin for lack of the application of redemptive grace Continue reading
I write to provide a personal story of struggle and redemption. Consider my purpose one of thanksgiving and of praise to God, Who is merciful to me. First, allow me to say that I am a liturgical traditionalist, but a very unmotivated one. I could go to the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday, a Mass offered by a very well-known (as these things go) priest-blogger. It is the most liturgically informed, if you will, Mass that you could attend, short of attending a parish or oratory staffed by a traditionalist order. If I could motivate myself to get up ca. 6:15 on Sunday mornings to get to Mass at 7:30.
Which I am not motivated to do. I often end up going to a parish in the next town over, where the priest offers a very traditional Novus Ordo. The Mass is offered ad orientem, with no altar girls, no extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and with good music (organ, chant, traditional hymns, etc.). You have the ready option to receive Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. The priest is very manful, and promotes masculine devotion. If I provided his name, you could easily find him at blogs for manly, hair-on-their-chest Catholic-with-a-capital-C Catholics. That Mass is at 10:30 (formerly at 11:00), and I am often late for it.
Then there is the actual Mass in the town where I live, offered at 11:00 A.M. Continue reading
Here in the Driftless Area, it’s still Dec. 24, so a Christmas Eve post is in order. Prior to the calendar reforms of Pope Pius XII (I think; maybe St. John XXIII?), the Christmas Vigil was a day of abstinence from meat, just like Fridays and Lenten weekdays. In America at least, it became traditional to eat oyster stew on Christmas Eve. Just like Friday fish fries, Christmas Eve oyster stew seems to have spread beyond Catholic circles to the culture at large. I remember eating oyster stew on Christmas Eve when I was a child. My mother and I had oyster stew tonight.