Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov'd imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod's jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

~John Donne

Friday, November 16, 2007

Random thoughts from a tired mind

....Deer season...On my way home from a meeting in another town last night, I was made more aware of my guardian angel hard at work....The route wound around in the back roads, quickest route, but this time of the year, fraught with dangers of deer encounters of the close kind. "Deer-in-headlights" is an appropriate expression, not only for the fear that is reflected in Bambi-type beings, but for the paralysis that momentarily takes over said creature and human driver as well. Thank you, St. Michael and all angels for the extra hard work last night in keeping me safe. Three deer was plenty to keep me awake

....Incongruities...I drive past this Tae Kwon Do studio everyday which advertises on its marquee board all sorts of specials. This week it's: Get rid of the holiday fat, sign up for classes! God is Love. You see, no matter what the special or ad, always at the bottom is this reminder that God is Love. Sometimes it's comical and other times, in the midst of bumper-to-bumper traffic, the little reminder burrows into my consciousness and helps me bear the exigencies of living in a city with ever-expanding population stresses.

....Worst job in my book...also daily, I drive past a person in a smiling giant mobile phone costume waving at traffic. I am sure the person is a he by the vigor of the wave. There is a specific rhythm to his wave, a flinging from the wrist of quick, slow, slow, slow. Throughout the dreadfully hot summer season he was out there waving at cars passing by. I wonder how much business he has actually garnered, and what logic his boss might have used to rationalize such an excruciating torture. There are some days where I will wave back at him and he raises his arm to break that monotonous waving rhythm in acknowledgment. I hope that he is paid well for the effort. If not, then perhaps some day he'll remember the arduous work and appreciate all of life's gifts.

....Autumn colors....how they're more brilliant on grey days. And when you look up as wind sweeps down, the falling leaves almost remind you of falling snow. When it's rainy, and a wet sweet gum leaf falls on your face, it's almost like a hand caressing your face. Yesterday, it was wet, overcast, and cold. Today, it's windy, sunny, and loud with rustling. I love autumn.

....Angels among us...the youngest son of one of my closest friends loves the Mass. He is quite young and yet knows in his heart that he wants to be a priest. The day revolves around "playing Mass" with most prized possession, a child-sized Mass kit. For all his love of the liturgy, during the Canon, he becomes excruciatingly agitated and has to be taken out to be comforted. Finally, last week, my friend asked him why and he said, "Well, I see Jesus and the angels behind Father during the Prayer." It's easy to dismiss this statement as "precious" or "cute". But I wonder...Unless you become as a child...

....Still, small voice...sometimes, in the midst of life's crises, when one comes to the point of wondering how to manage the weight, God breaks through in the most exquisite stillness and quiet. There is an elegant simplicity to God's answer that makes you stop and breathe again, to make you realize that you have been holding your breath too long with the strength of your own efforts. "Come away, my love," he says. "Oh, but the field needs plowing," you say. "And who will bake the cakes if I don't." "Take my yoke upon you...." Yes, Lord.

....May your Friday devotions lead you to a greater love for the Cross of Christ and the Eucharist that makes Christ present.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Elegy Podcast

I haven't forgetten the poetry podcast. In honor of November being Holy Souls month, the next one will be Rainer Maria Rilke's First Elegy from the Duino Elegies. Here's an excerpt.

The First Elegy from The Duino Elegies

It is truly strange to no longer inhabit the earth,
to no longer practice customs barely acquired,
not to give a meaning of human futurity
to roses, and other expressly promising things:
no longer to be what one was in endlessly anxious hands,
and to set aside even one’s own
proper name like a broken plaything.
Strange: not to go on wishing one’s wishes. Strange
to see all that was once in place, floating
so loosely in space. And it’s hard being dead,
and full of retrieval, before one gradually feels
a little eternity. Though the living
all make the error of drawing too sharp a distinction.
Angels (they say) would often not know whether
they moved among living or dead. The eternal current
sweeps all the ages, within it, through both the spheres,
forever, and resounds above them in both.

Relics of St. Andrew at Sant'Andrea, Amalfi, Italy

Monday, November 5, 2007

Why did I leave?

It never fails that when a person continually rubs you the wrong way and challenges your ability to love, one day, out of the blue, they'll surprise you with the most piercing statement. And all the animosity which, you know you must for Christ's sake hold at bay, melts away like ice on a hot day.

She hobbled through the door last spring a half hour into class time. She made such an entrance that I knew here was Christ disguised. She was a fallen-away Catholic having spent decades dabbling, first with the Pentecostals, and then with the Mormons. She was trouble spelled out with capital letters.

Every question she asked was just this side of insane, but it was my duty to answer with as much charity and intelligence as I could muster. Eyes were upon me and I prayed constantly for patience. The times she was absent were times that I was relieved and the class seemed to be relieved as well. There was no pattern to her attendance, absent for weeks and then suddenly making an appearance, my heart sinking when she struggled into her seat. Then lifting bright eyes toward me, I would think that she looked suspiciously manic.

Incomprehensibly, she has an affection for me and treats me with warmth and respect. Guilt would wash over me whenever annoyance toward her would rise up. She would smile and say, "Hey, sweetie! How've you been?"

One of the more infamous discussions we had occurred when she wanted to know what little thing she needed to do to get the "prayer machine" to give what she wanted. It took all my self-control to not answer with sarcasm. My husband keeps reminding me that God brought her to this place and to this time and that I was "standing in the gap" for her. I am reminded of Isaiah: "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."

She is that for me, that tender bruised reed trampled upon by life's vicissitudes. But desire for God smolders within her and though people tell me she doesn't belong in RCIA, I know my husband is right, that she is here now for a purpose.

I have spent the last three weeks teaching the catechumens about Real Presence and Eucharistic Adoration. I invited them to come to Holy Hour to learn about adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. My Bruised Reed objected and demanded to know why she had never heard of Eucharistic Adoration before. She peppered me with questions as to how to go about making a Holy Hour. "How can you just stare at it for an hour? Isn't that like wasting time?" she asked. Silently, I gave thanks to Romano Guardini and said, "Yes, it is an hour of wasting time for God's sake." I gave her the simple Jesus Prayer to try doubting that she would come.

I should know better than to doubt, because last week, she came. And all throughout the hour her head was bowed in concentrated effort. After the Benediction, she hobbled toward me, embraced me and clung to me. She said, "That was the most beautiful thing I'd ever experienced. I just kept telling Jesus that I love him. Was that alright?"

Emotion caught in my throat. Yes, indeed, telling Jesus over and over about her love was adoration in its simplest and humblest form. She put me to shame with my stack of devotional books and purposeful Holy Hour. "Unless you become like a child..." I thought to myself. And here was my Bruised Reed with that simplicity of heart.

Yesterday at class she stunned me when she said, "Why did I leave the Faith? It's so beautiful. How could I not know how beautiful it is? Where was I all these years? I had it all along but didn't know it."

I caught my breath knowing it was a moment of transcendent encounter. I smiled at her and said, "Welcome back." Tears were running down her cheeks.

I knew then that we were there for each other's salvation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I'm having a long-running e-mail conversation with one of the Inquirers. He has an exacting mind, having been in military intelligence, and now is a trial lawyer. Whenever I receive a question from him, there's always a sense of exhilaration and trepidation at the same time. One of the things that I'm learning to exercise is the "listening" part to the questions. There's listening...hearing or reading the sequence of words and finding a corresponding answer from the knowledge base...and then there's perceiving what the real question is. This is where relying on and listening to the Holy Spirit comes in. Invariably, I'll ask him a question to make him clarify what he's asking. Which leads to more questions and eventually, we'll arrive at the heart of his question. I think he enjoys that I always answer him with a question and not a direct answer. I don't think he's trying to bait me because he's too intent on learning the Catholic faith.

For example, the "Why-does-God-allow-evil-to-exist" question which I thought he threw out in a casual manner and which I challenged him on, two exchanges later ended at "What's the real meaning of my life? Where am I going?" I answered him with the theology of the Mass. It was an unexpected answer for him, but one he cogitated over.

During class times, he'll surprise me when, in the usual round-table discussions, he'll answer a classmate's question with something that we had discussed in the e-mail letters, all the while looking me straight in the eyes with that trial-lawyer intensity making sure that what he was saying was on the right path. I'll answer him with a slight smile, then he'll lean back into his chair, put his steepled forefingers to his lips, and continue to stare at me. It's as though he's trying to will all that I know out of me. Most disconcerting at the beginning, but now it just amuses me.

Whenever he misses class, he'll make arrangements to make up that session, not wanting to miss anything, not even one crumb of class material. I'm humbled by his focus. His wife is a skeptic and so our conversations have changed to how to live the Catholic life with a spouse who doesn't believe. It's a subtle change, but a revolutionary one, from the casual inquirer to his Yes. On the other hand, there's nothing casual about him. The nonchalance is an opening gambit, putting out the feelers, so to speak.

Now, he has questions about St. Thomas More, discerning whether to ask him to be his patron saint. And he also wants to put his children in CCD. Last year, I may have greeted that with hesitation, but our new CCD director has changed focus with a return to the Baltimore Catechism.

I'm glad I said Yes to this job.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In Full Swing

RCIA season is in full swing, and because we have a year-round program, I am teaching multiple tracks at the same time. Someone asked me once if I ever felt burned out by the sometimes fever-pitch of the teaching pace. It seemed an odd question then as it does now. Because if one were doing the will of God, then the grace to accomplish the task is infused into the doer of the task.

And certainly, being the unexpected catechist that I am, there is a greater reliance on my part on the grace of God for me to even begin to imagine how to go from day-to-day with the mounting responsibilities.

There is the legitimate question, however, of how does one nourish one's soul so that the teaching, an act of giving, doesn't become burdensome? Pope Benedict XVI's catechesis today on St. Ambrose, a saint whom I love and admire, had this to say about Ambrose and in it had a message for all catechists:

There was always a long line of people waiting to speak to Ambrose hoping to get comfort and hope. When Ambrose was not with these people (and these were only for short periods of time), it was only because he had to eat ['restore his body with the necessary food'] or feed his soul by reading.

In this respect, Augustine expressed wonder because Ambrose read Scriptures silently, only with his eyes (cfr Confess. 6,3). Indeed, in the early centuries of Christianity, reading Scriptures was thought of strictly in terms of being proclaimed, and reading aloud facilitated understanding even for the one who was reading it.

That Ambrose could read through the pages with his eyes only indicated to Augustine not just a singular manner of reading but a familiarity with Scriptures.

So, reading 'in a whisper'- where the heart is involved and achieves a knowledge of the Word of God - is the icon I referred to, in which one can see the method of Ambrosian catechesis: it is Scriptures itself, intimately assimilated, that suggests the content of what one must announce in order to achieve conversion of hearts.

Thus, going by the magisterium of Ambrose and Augustine, catechesis is inseparable from the testimony of one's life. The catechist may also avail of what I wrote in Introduction to Christianity about theologians: He who wishes to educate others in the faith cannot risk appearing like some sort of clown, who recites his lines by rote. Rather, to use an image dear to Origen, a writer who was particularly appreciated by Ambrose, he should be the like the beloved disciple, who rested his head on the Master's heart and there learned how to think, speak and act.

In the end, the true disciple is he who proclaims the Gospel in the most credible and effective way.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

God's Grandeur Podcast

Brodick Bay, Arran, Scotland

Click here to play

The Windhover
To Christ our Lord

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

    No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
       For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
       And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
       With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
          Praise him.

God's Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Little Gidding Podcast

Click here to listen

From Little Gidding in T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets


The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Cloister, San Paolo fuori le mura, Rome

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fern Hill Podcast

Summer's heat has finally abated and autumn is in the air. So, here's a farewell to the waning days of summer. Our guests in this podcast are Romano Guardini and Dylan Thomas.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


...for the lack of posts. I am in intense rehearsal time ahead of Summorum Pontificum inaugural Mass tomorrow. The whole diocese is attending. So needless to say, I am in my organ shoes and practicing hard.

I promise to return this weekend with a couple of podcasts. Promise!

UPDATE: 16 September, 2007 20:10 EDT
I'm in production with those podcasts.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Summer's Day

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

~William Shakespeare

If you want to listen to me read the sonnet:

Stopping by the side of the road whilst traveling through Tuscany one brilliant morning in May

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

~by Dylan Thomas

Teepee made by children as a birthday gift to me.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Call

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life!
Such a Way as gives us breath,
Such a Truth as ends all strife.
Such a Life as killeth Death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength!
Such a Light as shows a feast,
Such a Feast as mends in length,
Such a Strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart!
Such a Joy as none can move.
Such a Love as none can part,
Such a Heart as joyes in love.

~George Herbert

Apse mosaic of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC

Friday, August 24, 2007

On Via Appia Antica

The Roman Road

The Roman Road runs straight and bare
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath. And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare;

Visioning on the vacant air
Helmeted legionnaires, who proudly rear
The Eagle, as they pace again
The Roman Road.

But no tall brass-helmeted legionnaire
Haunts it for me. Uprises there
A mother’s form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare,
The Roman Road.

~by Thomas Hardy

Via Appia Antica on a perfect late spring morning

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Summer Rain

Before Summer Rain

Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something-you don't know what-has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone's Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren't supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now;
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, August 16, 2007

King and Saint

Monarchists, arise. Today is the feast day of St. Stephen of Hungary, Christian King and Saint exemplar.

Stephen divided Hungary into forty to fifty counties and continued the work of his father Géza by applying the decimal organizational system of his ancestors. He set up ten dioceses in Hungary, ordering every ten villages to erect a church and maintain a priest. He founded the cathedrals of Székesfehérvár and Esztergom, the Nunnery of Veszprém, the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma, and the Monastery of Saint Peter and Paul in Óbuda. In the abbeys and monasteries, schools were established, and they became important centers of culture. Saint Astricus served as Stephen's advisor, and Stephen also had Saint Gerard Sagredo as the tutor for his son Imre.

Stephen discouraged pagan customs and strengthened Christianity with various laws, including ending the use of the old Hungarian runic alphabet and making Latin the official language of the royal court. Stephen donated generously to the churches, visited them often, and supervised their construction. He often disguised himself as a peasant whenever he traveled and freely gave money to any poor people he met (in one account, Stephen was beaten and robbed by a group of beggars to whom he was giving alms, but he forgave them and spared their lives).

St. Stephen's Holy Crown

The upper part of the crown, called Latin crown, which is cross-shaped and overarches the Greek crown in an angle of 90 degrees, indicates more modern and less exquisite workmanship, mediaeval implementing. Its denomination is due to the Latin inscriptions surrounding the figures. The four gold plates were fit to the sides of the middle square, which depicts Christ Pantokrator and is obviously part of the Greek crown though the symbols of the sun and the moon are present on it. The polychrome enamelled images of the standing figures of eighth apostles Peter, Paul, John, James, Bartholomew, Philip, Thomas and Andrew were set onto the cross-connecting bands. The pictures are lined with pearls and almandine and their sides are decorated with zoomorphic motifs. It is difficult to determine the place and age of the making of this crown, it may have been fashioned somewhere in Hungarian territory in the late 12th century.

The uniting of the two crown took place in a rather simple fashion, without any modification of the adjoining parts, using rivets whose points can still be seen on the smooth surface of the gold plate. This assemblage was probably done during the reign of Béla III (1171-1196), perhaps the Latin crown was meant for him. The cross on the top came into being later, presumably in the middle of the 16th century, replacing an earlier one, made in the time of Béla III or on the occasion of the coronation of Endre III in 1290, but this is still disputed. It is also uncertain exactly when the cross was damaged, which is now bent into an angle of 12 degrees, it might have happened between 1613 and 1793 .

St. Stephen's Right Hand

The king's right hand, known as "The Holy Right", is kept as a relic. His body was mummified after his death, but the tomb was opened and his hand was separated some years later. Except for this, only some bone fragments remained (which are kept in churches throughout Hungary). Catholics honour the first king of their country on annual processions, where the Holy Right is exhibited.

Stephen was also canonised by the Eastern Orthodox Church in 2000, thus became the first saint recognised both by Orthodoxy and Catholicism since the Great Schism.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Assumption

Its flowers are too stainless to remain
Concealed in the dark caverns of the earth,
But must be lifted up by God again
To know a second spring - a glad rebirth!
How could Christ leave her body in the tomb
Who was above all other women blest,
Who gave Him refuge in her virgin womb,
And fed Him on the lilies of her breast?
Is she not fairer far than any flower?
What bloom could ever boast her loveliness?
What fragrance rose in its sequestered bower
Has ever vied with her in spotlessness?
Truly the Lord, her God, the Holy One,
Has placed His tabernacle in the sun.

~Thomas E. Burke

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On the Eve of the Assumption

Announcement of Death to the Virgin

Parting from St. John

Parting from the Apostles

Death of Mary

Panels from the Maestà, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11

~An excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke's, Of Mary's Death from Life of Mary

They came with heavy hearts and entered fearfully.
There lay, in a narrow bed, the one, enigmatically
steeped in being chosen and vanishing,
unharmed, as if never used, and paid attention
to angelic chant. Now that she saw them all,
waiting behind their candles, she tore herself
from the excess of the voices and gave,
from her heart, the two dresses she still owned,
raising her face to one and another...
(O fount of nameless tear-brooks).

She however laid down into her weakness and
pulled the heavens so close to Jerusalem
that her soul, leaving, only had to stretch a little:
already he, who know everything about her,
nudged her into her divine nature.

~Translation by Gerald Augustinus Naus

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Sacred Streets

The corn has turned from grey to red,
Since first my spirit wandered forth
From the drear cities of the north,
And to Italia's mountains fled.

And here I set my face towards home,
For all my pilgrimage is done,
Although, methinks, yon blood-red sun
Marshals the way to Holy Rome.

O Blessed Lady, who dost hold
Upon the seven hills thy reign!
O Mother without blot or stain,
Crowned with bright crowns of triple gold!

O Roma, Roma, at thy feet
I lay this barren gift of song!
For, ah! the way is steep and long
That leads unto thy sacred street.


And yet what joy it were for me
To turn my feet unto the south,
And journeying towards the Tiber mouth
To kneel again at Fiesole!

And wandering through the tangled pines
That break the gold of Arno's stream,
To see the purple mist and gleam
Of morning on the Apennines

By many a vineyard-hidden home,
Orchard and olive-garden grey,
Till from the drear Campagna's way
The seven hills bear up the dome!


A pilgrim from the northern seas--
What joy for me to seek alone
The wondrous temple and the throne
Of him who holds the awful keys!

When, bright with purple and with gold
Come priest and holy cardinal,
And borne above the heads of all
The gentle Shepherd of the Fold.

O joy to see before I die
The only God-anointed king,
And hear the silver trumpets ring
A triumph as he passes by!

Or at the brazen-pillared shrine
Holds high the mystic sacrifice,
And shows his God to human eyes
Beneath the veil of bread and wine.

~Oscar Wilde, from Rome Unvisited

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tu es Petrus

Today's Gospel (Matthew 16:16-19) in Latin:

Respondens Simon Petrus dixit: Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi.

Respondens autem Jesus, dixit ei: Beatus es Simon Bar Jona: quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus, qui in cælis est. Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cælis.

Monday, August 6, 2007


I live my life in growing rings
which move out over the things around me.
Perhaps I'll never complete the last,
but that's what I mean to try.

I'm circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I've been circling thousands years;
and I still don't know: am I a falcon, a storm
or a great song.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of the Hours

Goldfish found in the fountain pool of Santi Quattro Coronati, Rome (click on image for larger resolution). The cloister in Santi Quattro was simply enchanting...not necessarily for orderly perfection, but for the surprising serenity that one finds there. The fountain is from the 12th century and has whimsical lions' faces carved on the stone.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran, Scotland

Listen to Capercaillie's I Will Set my Ship in Order

One of my favorite places in the world...it's Scotland in miniature, from the Highlands in the north to the rolling hills of the south of the Isle of Arran. I love its solitude, the windswept hills, the heather-covered mountains, the weathered ancient stones whose writings have faded, and the silly sheep grazing without care. I wish I could describe for you the brilliant sapphire blue skies. There's a loneliness there that gives one room to breathe.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Unremembered Gate

Gate to Traquair House, near Peebles, Scotland

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

~T. S. Eliot, from Little Gidding

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Monte Cassino

Please forgive the dearth...famine...lack of posts here in this lions 'blog. I'm going through gigabytes of photos that I took and am finding myself overwhelmed. A friend sent this picture that he took while on retreat at Montecassino (what is that like to go on retreat where St. Benedict and St. Scholastica trod?). Thanks, B.

Take a virtual tour of the Abbey of Montecassino

Friday, June 1, 2007

Lions everywhere

Here's one at the Cipro Metro stop that is part of a sarcophagus.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lions at St. Peter's

The spiral stairs at the Vatican Museum

I don't mean to overuse the lions theme here. But I just can't resist. So please indulge me. These are lion finds at the Vatican Museum

Monday, May 28, 2007

Lions in Siena

Oh, so what did you expect me to look for in Siena but more lions.

Guarding the door of the Cathedral

Found at the library in the Cathedral

Floor lions

Lucca Lions

We visited the medieval city of Lucca on the way to Florence. We found lots of lions everywhere.

A lion guarding the path atop the city wall

A lion at the cathedral door

A sentinel lion with a feathered friend

A lion who refuses to be trampled over

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

To quote the Walrus, "The time has come...to talk of many things, of saints and popes and flying ships....of pilgrimages and kings..." Well, something like that. I'm off to Italy for three weeks.

I'll try to post pictures here and there. Especially in Caput Mundi, Città Eterna, Bella Roma.

God bless.