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.

Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel

Ash Wednesday, 2015. Woke up recalling how I would dash out to Mass at lunchtime when I worked in the city, come back and wash  the ashen cross off my forehead before going back to my desk. It was not a faith-friendly workplace and I chose my battles carefully.

 

Now therefore saith the Lord: “Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning. And rend your hearts and not your garments. (Joel 2:12-13)

 

The shriven heart, the inward fasting and penance of a contrite spirit. When Peter becomes aware of who Christ is, he falls on his knees and exclaims, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). The touch of a burning coal, the mortification and recognition of unworthiness, that we are loved despite this.

“Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, ‘sackcloth and ashes,’ fasting and mortification, but at conversion of heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1420).

 

Create a pure heart for me, O God, and renew in me a steadfast spirit. (Psalm 50:12)

 

From TS Eliot’s Ash Wednesday:

 

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

 

 

Ash Wed

 

The cardinals from the margins and the marginalised

So moving to watch the red-hatted cardinals from the Cape Verde and Tonga installed — a new generation of church leaders brought in from the far corners of the Catholic world where faith is still alive and struggling.

 

And as always, Pope Francis concerned primarily for the poor as  he sets about not just reforming but transforming the  Roman curia. From yesterday’s sermon:

 

“Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean”… Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said: “I do choose. Be made clean!” (Mk 1:40-41). The compassion of Jesus! That com-passion [Ed.: etym. “suffering-with”] which made him draw near to every person in pain! Jesus does not hold back; instead, he gets involved in people’s pain and their need… for the simple reason that he knows and wants to show com-passion, because he has a heart unashamed to have “compassion”.

“Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed in the country; and people came to him from every quarter” (Mk 1:45). This means that Jesus not only healed the leper but also took upon himself the marginalization enjoined by the law of Moses (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46). Jesus is unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others; he pays the price of it in full (cf. Is 53:4).

Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized! These are the three key concepts that the Church proposes in today’s liturgy of the word: the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalization and his desire to reinstate.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Lady of Lourdes

 

 

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

On 11 February 1858, Bernadette Soubirous went with her sisters Toinette and Jeanne Abadie to collect some firewood near the Grotto of Massabielle.

“I came back towards the grotto and started taking off my stockings. I had hardly taken off the first stocking when I heard a sound like a gust of wind. Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still: I went on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head to look at the grotto, I saw a lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white….From the niche, or rather the dark alcove behind it, came a dazzling light.”