Fiat: Feast of the Annunciation

The Angel Gabriel comes to Mary.


Georges Bernanos: “The ancient world of sorrow, the world before the access of grace, cradled her to its heavy heart for many centuries, dimly awaiting a virgo genetrix (Virgin mother).”


The writer Flannery O’Connor was born Mary Flannery O’Connor on March 25, 1925, in Savannah, Ga. She was named Mary because she was born on the feast of the Annunciation.

Charles Péguy, from La Porche de mystère de la deuxième Vertu:

L’Esperance est une petite fille de rien du tout,
Qui est venue au monde le jour de
Noël de l’année dernière.

C’est elle, cette petite qui entraine tout.
Car la foi ne voit que ce qui est.
Et elle elle voit ce qui sera.
La charit?n’aime que ce qui est.
Et elle elle aime ce qui sera.

(Hope is a little girl of no importance,
Who came into the world on Christmas Day last year.
It is she, this little one who carries along all.
Because faith sees only what is.
And she sees what will be.
Charity loves only what is.
And she loves what will be.’)


The  art by Duccio di Buoninsegna



Into Passiontide

Preparing for Holy Week, the last two weeks of Lent here so soon. Traditionally this  Sunday is called First Passion Sunday or First Sunday of the Passion, hence Passiontide, a term no longer formally used but familiar enough to those of us  from an older generation.

It is also known as Iudica Sunday, from the first word of the Introit of Mass (from Ps 42/41), and sometimes Repus (from repositus analogous to absconditus, “hidden”) because crosses and other images in churches are to be veiled in violet or purple cloth, not transparent or ornamented. “Jesus autem abscondebat se.”  These veils will remain until the stripping of the altars on Good Friday.  From this Sunday on, in the Extraordinary Form the “Iudica” psalm is no longer said during the prayers at the foot of the altar and the Gloria Patri at the end of certain prayers is not said.


The season of the Seven Doulours of Mary, the season of the Stabat Mater anticipated.


Pope Francis and the mercy of Christ

Third Sunday of Lent, reading excerpts from John  L Allen’s new book The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church:


Mercy is a traditional virtue, not just in Christianity but most human cultures. It has always been on the books in official Christian teaching and is understood to be the natural complement to judgment. As a minister of the Christian gospel, Francis understands that he has to pronounce both God’s judgment and God’s mercy on a fallen world, because one without the other would be a falsification. His calculation, however, appears to be that the world has heard the Church’s judgment with crystal clarity, so now it’s time to witness its mercy.

Francis’s commitment to mercy is found in his papal motto, translated loosely as “choosing through the eyes of mercy.” In his first Sunday homily as pope, delivered at the Vatican’s parish church of St. Anne, he said that “in my opinion, the strongest message of the Lord is mercy.”

In all the ways that matter, mercy is the spiritual bedrock of this papacy. It lies underneath Francis’s moderation and his insistence that laws are made for people, not the other way around. It’s the basis for his missionary drive, especially the conviction that people at the periphery should be special objects of the Church’s concern. Mercy is even the core of his reform campaign — the idea that good government is about making an institution serve its people.

It’s not empirically obvious that Pope Francis has created a more merciful Catholic Church, or that mercy has taken hold to any greater degree in the wider world because of his example. There’s legitimate ground for skepticism that mercy can serve as the basis of a complex multinational religious organization. The drama of the Francis era, however, is surely contained in the effort to make mercy the key — and whether Francis will prove tough enough to make that message stick.

Ember Friday in Lent

The lovely old name for this Friday in the first week of Lent. Reading GK Chesterton:

“We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.”

Blessed John Henry Newman

Does the sea blossom? Are green leaves budding on its waters, and is the scent of spring in its waves? Do birds begin to sing under its shadow, and to build their nests on its branches? Ah! mighty sea! Thou art a tree whose spring never yet came, for thou art an evergreen.

Letters, 1827


Born on 21 February, 1801, John Henry Cardinal Newman, now beatified, who is one of England’s most famous converts from Anglicanism and the Oxford Movement. From his Apologia pro vita sua:



All this time I was hard at my essay on Doctrinal Development. As I advanced, my view so cleared that instead of speaking any more of “the Roman Catholics,” I boldly called them Catholics. Before I got to the end, I resolved to be received, and the book remains in the state in which it was then, unfinished.

On October 8th I wrote to a number of friends the following letter:—

“Littlemore, October 8, 1845. I am this night expecting Father Dominic, the Passionist, who, from his youth, has been led to have distinct and direct thoughts, first of the countries of the North, then of England. After thirty years’ (almost) waiting, he was without his own act sent here. But he has had little to do with conversions. I saw him here for a few minutes on St. John Baptist’s day last year. He does not know of my intention; but I mean to ask of him admission into the one Fold of Christ….

“I have so many letters to write, that this must do for all who choose to ask about me. With my best love to dear Charles Marriott, who is over your head, etc., etc.

“P.S. This will not go till all is over. Of course it requires no answer.”


Poems for Lent

Written in a time of despair after being diagnosed with incurable cancer, Christian Wiman’s From a Window

Incurable and unbelieving
in any truth but the truth of grieving,

I saw a tree inside a tree
rise kaleidoscopically

as if the leaves had livelier ghosts.
I pressed my face as close

to the pane as I could get
to watch that fitful, fluent spirit

that seemed a single being undefined
or countless beings of one mind

haul its strange cohesion
beyond the limits of my vision

over the house heavenwards.
Of course I knew those leaves were birds.

Of course that old tree stood
exactly as it had and would

(but why should it seem fuller now?)
and though a man’s mind might endow

even a tree with some excess
of life to which a man seems witness,

that life is not the life of men.
And that is where the joy came in.

From the Lenten message of Pope Francis

Aligning one’s thinking to follow that of the Church. From the Lenten message of Pope Francis:


“Make your hearts firm!” (James 5:8) – Individual Christians
As individuals too, we are tempted by indifference. Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness? First, we can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer! The 24 Hours for the Lord initiative, which I hope will be observed on 13-14 March throughout the Church, also at the diocesan level, is meant to be a sign of this need for prayer. Second, we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favourable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family. Third, the suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.