September 6, 2019

Salami & Zeal

After morning Mass at our neighbor, the basilica of St. Teresa of Ávila, I returned to the house and entered the refectory. There I saw everything set up for the brothers' breakfast like any other day, except for one extraordinary thing: there was some salami. On a Friday.

In my seven years here, I have observed that Friday abstinence is one of the most invariable rules of Capuchin Italy. It is more unassailable than the Capuchin beard or the strict following of Franciscan poverty.  It is even more durable than liturgical law that, when disregarded, results in what the Church warns is grave abuse. Capuchin Italy observes Friday abstinence on solemnities that fall on a Friday as well as on Easter Friday, which some might call incorrect or even impious. The only exception I have ever witnessed is when Christmas falls on a Friday, and that, of course, at the expressed wish of the founder.*

All that is to say that I was quite shocked to see the salami. I thought to myself that the Capuchin General Curia could not have descended to such a level of laxity over just one month of my absence for vacation. So I began to wonder: how long will it take, once the friars start to trickle in from their conventual Mass, for some friar, in his loving concern for the souls of the brothers, to remove the salami to a back refrigerator or some other hiding place?

So I timed it: six minutes and twenty-five seconds, which is a longer time than I would have guessed.

*When there was a discussion about not eating meat, because [Christmas] was on Friday, [St. Francis] replied to Brother Morico: "You sin, brother, when you call 'Friday' the day when unto us a child is born. I want even the walls to eat meat on that day, and if they cannot, at least on the outside they be rubbed with grease!" 
He wanted the poor and hungry to be filled by the rich, and oxen and asses to be spoiled with extra feed and hay. "If I ever speak with the Emperor," he would say, "I will beg him to issue a general decree that all who can should throw wheat and grain along the roads, so that on the day of such a great solemnity, the birds may have an abundance, especially our sisters the larks." 
(Thomas of Celano, 2nd Life of St. Francis, Chapter 151, FA:ED II, 374-375)

June 27, 2019

Sacred Heart

Understood in the light of the Scriptures, the term "Sacred Heart of Jesus" denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being, and his person considered in its most intimate essential: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite charity, principal of the salvation and sanctification of mankind. The "Sacred Heart" is Christ, the Word Incarnate, Savior, intrinsically containing, in the Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and for his brothers.  
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a wonderful historical expression of the Church's piety for Christ, her Spouse and Lord: it calls for a fundamental attitude of conversion and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to Christ and his saving work.
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines, (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 2001) nn. 166, 172

June 9, 2019

Whit Monday and Tuesday

Every year at this time there are the usual lamentations about the loss of the Pentecost Octave and the renewal of certain legends thereon.

For myself, I remain without a strong opinion. On the one hand, I think an octave is a good, solid, traditional practice that could put Pentecost (rightly) up there with Easter and Christmas. On the other hand, Pentecost is preceded by a novena, the original and primal novena even, and maybe this holds that function and should be privileged as such.

In any case, somewhat à propos of the question, there's an interesting note in my Italian ordo:
In the places where, according to custom, the faithful participate in the Mass on the Monday and Tuesday after Pentecost, the readings of Pentecost Sunday are used again, or those proposed in the Rite of Confirmation are proclaimed.
(Without prejudice, of course, to the Monday now being the obligatory memorial (with the power to displace any other obligatory memorial) of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.)

Personally, I don't have any experience of the Pentecost Monday and Tuesday that the Italian ordo mentions. Maybe folks who do can share about them in a comment.

April 20, 2019

The Easter Itinerancy

(An old post updated)

Every year on this holy night I reflect on the grace of itinerancy that the Holy Spirit has given me; only twice in my whole baptism have I been in the same place for the Easter Vigil for more than two years in a row. When I think about the places I've been for the Vigil, it puts me in awe of God and in a state of gratitude for my journey.

April 18, 2019

The Brown Scapular Dubium

Years ago, during the period in between my two times in religious life, I was enrolled in the Brown Scapular at some kind of youth event. If memory serves, it was animated by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Hamden, Connecticut. Given certain Carmelite tendencies, such as my gratefulness for John of the Cross and Edith Stein, I was always happy to have this special association with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Carmelite family.

April 13, 2019

Deacon Ron

Deacon Ron baptized me:

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Quaker Hill, Connecticut. Summer 1992.

A few days ago I heard that Deacon Ron was nearing the end of his journey in this life, and since then the friars and I have been praying for him and his family. Today I see that he passed away on Thursday.

My initiation into the Catholic faith was rather irregular; I dare to say that I was born out of order like St. Paul. (cf. 1 Cor 15:8)

I was a dumb kid. I thought I was very smart, as young people often do after they have learned a little bit of this or that. But I was quite innocent, and, as the saying goes on the worst kind of ignorance, I didn't know what I didn't know.

But nevertheless, God was at work and I knew I wanted to become a Catholic, even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into -- and this is divine mercy; if it was all revealed to us, we might be overcome with fear. I have told my conversion story elsewhere -- light version here -- and how I came to be in the pastoral care of Deacon Ron.

He and his wife received me into their home with great kindness over that summer of 1992 when I stayed at school in New London and was employed by the reference department in the library. I must have seemed on odd figure to them, with my good old 8-hole ox blood Docs and I shudder to think what t-shirts ill-suited to the occasion, with a lot of book-learning about the faith (or so I thought) but quite short on any practical sense of such a Church being made up of actual people.

Nevertheless, Deacon Ron and his wife were extraordinarily gentle and welcoming, and from their example I learned more than I realized at the time. Deacon Ron was the first person I met who had a real personal devotion to a saint -- St. John Vianney -- and I observed how that fit into someone's ministry and prayer.

After Deacon Ron baptized me, while I was straightening up from leaning over the font, I heard him say, quietly but audibly,


It has always stayed with me; I think because I could understand, even somewhat at the time, that he wasn't exactly saying that it was beautiful that this random kid from up-at-the-college had been baptized, but that in this he was able to see through to divine beauty.

That is to say, in theological terms, that a sacrament had happened.

When Deacon Ron let out about the divine beauty he glimpsed in that moment, I learned something -- even if in such a way as to not be very aware of it at the time -- about the spirituality of the sacred ministry, the ministry which, some fifteen years later, the Order would assist me in discerning as my own path in religious life.

It was a very special joy for me when, still a very new priest, I had a chance to return to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where Deacon Ron had baptized me, and celebrate the Sunday Mass with Deacon Ron's assistance. And not to forget the particular service of being the wife of a permanent deacon, Ron's wife helped me out with the particular 'volunteer from the audience' shtick that I used in my homily that day.

You have passed away from us for now, Deacon Ron, but the fruits of your ministry and your good example remain. May St. John Vianney welcome you to your service at the Heavenly Altar.

Requiescat in pace.

Obituary here.

March 30, 2019

Theses on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

(Luke 15: 11-32)

Those who deny, ignore, or hate God are still happy to make use of the good things he has given them. In fact, we have all done this because we have all used or sought gratification in ourselves, from other people, and in other created things apart from the proper identity and purpose with which God creates these persons and things. And this is what we call sin.

We tend to think of repentance as a returning to God, but it is more properly a 'coming to our senses,' a 'coming back to ourselves' that puts us back in touch with our most real and best selves, the true selves that God created and that recognize that this God is always arriving in order to meet us.

Sin is a sort of death. Repentance is a participation in the Resurrection.

The confession of the sins that have separated us from God's embrace is only of interest to him insofar as it is the means by which we accept that embrace anew.

It is just as easy for 'religious' people to lose their sense of God's goodness as it is for 'sinners.' Perhaps even easier. This is because righteous people easily forget that they are just as much sinners as are the 'sinners,' first, because all sin is overwhelmingly offensive before the infinite loving-kindness of God, and second, because people who ought to know better are that much more guilty. It is also because righteous people sometimes don't recognize--and confess--that the righteousness of their religion (as it is for everyone) is mixed with some elements of the flesh, such as fear, vainglory, or pride.

Helpfully, however, this latter condition is revealed by the emotion of resentment that arises at the gifts God gives to another, and in this it can be recognized and perhaps mortified.

March 17, 2019


Today the friars of the Capuchin General Curia are off to Assisi for their annual esercizi spirituali, which is what, in the USA anyway, we would call guided retreat. I will be grateful for the charity of your prayer, as I will also pray for you.

Cat, Via San Francesco, Assisi

February 15, 2019

The Dream of Innocent III

On the following day, therefore, the man of God was presented by that cardinal to the pope, to whom he revealed his entire holy proposal.