Might turn my brain on later and post something a little more profound (for certain generous values of ‘profound’), but for now, here’s a picture of rain-soaked California taken on my noon walk:
You know it’s winter because of the leafless trees and the water in the creek. Should have worked some joggers in shorts into the picture. California: brown in the summer and fall, green in the winter and spring.
It is supposed to rain some more next week, and it does get below 40F some nights. But we out here are holding up OK, thanks for asking.
On a more serious note: last night, my Aunt Verna, 92, the last of the 7 Polansky siblings that included my mother, died. Her daughter my cousin Christine was with here. She had been recovering from a brief illness and preparing for her 93 birthday next week when she became ill, was taken to the hospital and died the next day.
Mary and Adolph Polansky had 7 children, 4 boys and 3 girls, who they raised in East Texas among the other children and grandchildren of Czech immigrants there. In the late 1930s, they began a migration west and all (I think) moved to California at some point, and most stayed. My mom, Mary Magdalene, was the oldest girl, with little sisters Bea and Verna. All ended up in Los Angeles County, Bea and Verna and their families next-door neighbors in Hollywood on the tail end – literally, the last houses – of Mulholland Drive, the non-ritzy part that overlooks the 101 Freeway. (Celebrities did drive by – Uncle Art once got to help out Jay Leno, when his car – some collector vehicle – broke down and he rolled it into Art’s driveway. That’s another story).
We lived 20 minutes away (1960s traffic version of the distance – it’s much farther now) in Whittier, and would get together with the relatives often. Verna’s kids were all older than me, so I didn’t get to know her as well as Bea, who had a couple boys nearer my age.
The brothers, my uncles, all died first, mostly in their 70s. Mom held out to age 86, I think Bea made it to 90, and now Verna almost made it to 93. She was a sweet woman, devote in her Catholic faith, and yet had a hard life, outliving her two sons and divorced years ago by their father. Now Our Lord has dismissed her in peace, according to His word. Eternal rest, grant to her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her!
Thus also ends any direct living connection the Moore family had with Texas, which almost qualifies in Modern America as ‘the Old Country’.
Here’s what my life looked at 7:30 on Thanksgiving morning:
It doesn’t get much more civilized than that! I’d say fine coffee, a tasty pastry and a good book – and a nice hat (1)- represent an apex of culture just below a Latin High Mass in a great cathedral.
Well, maybe not that good, but pretty good.
Son-back-from-college signed up to run in a 5K that started at 8:00 a.m. Thanksgiving day morning; I went with to drop him off early to register. Had some time to kill, Peet’s was open, and thus I found myself in the geek Nirvana pictured above.
Thank you, Lord, for my children, who are finer human beings than I had any right to hope for;
for my beloved wife;
for life in a land of plenty in a time of peace;
for life, health, and an abundant sufficiency of all material things;
for my Czech ancestors, who brought the faith from Moravia to East Texas to California and to me.
Accept our thanks, O Lord, and have mercy on our many failings.
Nearly had the Full Briggs going: I’d put on a tie, grabbed a jacket and a hat, because the next thing I’d be doing after the race was gathering up the rest of the family and heading off to Mass, and I need the hat to keep my bald head warm. The Full Briggs, as I understand it (and, being a Californian, I may be incapable of truly appreciating it) is for grown men to wear a suit, tie and hat as default clothing, only deigning to dress otherwise for specific purposes, such as if one were a professional wrestler or astronaut or something. As a native Californian who grew up amidst surfers and welders, my reaction to this could be summed as: Whoa. Dude. Those noir shamuses do look pretty natty, I must confess.
Fast and pray. Had all kinds of polemical and possibly amusing things to say about this election, but – nah. My heart wasn’t in it. It has come to this.
Tomorrow after work, my wife and I will take out 12 year old to practice, then head on over to the polls, then head on over to a perpetual Adoration chapel nearby to plead for mercy for a while, recognizing and admitting that my sins alone are enough to have allowed the evil we see creep into the world.
This past Saturday I found myself, at the end of an industry conference, in Bloomington, Minnesota. Since this was about as close to La Crosse, Wisconsin and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe located there as I thought myself ever likely to be, I rented a car and drove the two and a half hours on down through the lovely fall countryside of those two states.
Very glad I did. It was a profound spiritual experience. First, some pictures and descriptions.
The church is located on a hillside overlooking a forested valley with farms on the flats. The picture above is about what it looked like the day I arrived – fall has begun to color the trees.
It’s a 15 minute walk from the parking lot up the hill to the church, through the visitor center. Here are some pictures of what that looks like:
On the path
Overlooking the valley
Up the hill view of the Votive Candle Chapel
Votive Candle Chapel coming down the hill
Down the hill to the Votive Candle Chapel
St. Kateri up close
St. Kateri pathside devotional
St. Joseph the Workman
At the top of the path:
St. Juan Diego opens his tilma
Opposite the church, a statue of Mary holding the aborted
The walk was very peaceful and settling and beautiful. When I went inside, Adoration was being held, and a Franciscan priest was leading a rosary while another heard confessions.
I was not comfortable taking pictures under those circumstances, as you can well imagine. (Generally don’t like taking pictures in churches unless I can do it very unobtrusively, which means an empty or near empty building). It seems the shrine must guard their pictures well, as searching the web turns up no decent pictures of the art on the side altars. Several of the paintings brought me to tears. Here is a description from their website, although the reproductions are tiny and one cannot enlarge them.
There are 6 side altars, 5 with recent saints – Sts. Faustina, Maria Goretti, Gianna Molla, Miguel Pro, Therese of Lisieux and Theophane Venard (a vietnamese martyr) – and one dedicated to St. Peregrine Laziosi, a patron of those suffering from cancer.
On Saturday, I had maybe an hour and a half before closing, and half of that was taken with a visit to the gift shop and the walk up the hill. I knew that on Sunday, I’d need to leave promptly after the 9:30 EF Mass to catch my plane home, so I spent my time Saturday looking around. That’s when I looked at the paintings and broke down.
This is the ultimate ‘you had to be there’ moment, as I can’t even show you good pictures, but here goes: when we have gone down to Mexico to build houses for the families in La Marita, we have mass in a chapel dedicated to Bl. Miguel Pro. He was martyred by the Mexican government 1927 for being a priest (they’d trumped up other charges that nobody took seriously) only 2 years after being ordained. When they lead him before the firing squad, he threw out his arms and declared ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’ – long live Christ the King! – and they shot him.
The painting shows him the moment before being shot, with two Mexican children at his side, dressed in white with red sashes around their waists, a boy holding a red martyr’s crown of thorns and a girl with a laurel wreath of victory. Above, he is seen from behind saying Mass in heaven, at the point of the Elevation,wearing a vestment with the Guadalupana on the back, as Mary looks down from above.
That just got me – a handsome young man, knowing he’d likely end up dead, saying Mass in Mexico under the evil government (which still runs the place, BTW) that had strung up, shot or otherwise disposed of many other priests and the faithful who tried to protect them. All within living memory!
The St. Gianna Molla painting was also moving. She stands in a lab coat (she was a pediatrician) surrounded by children and holding a baby. She chose her own death so that her child could live.
After those two paintings, I had to pause to get something out of my eyes for several minutes.
St. Maria Goretti was portrayed in the vision of the man who killed her, handing him 14 white lilies, one each for each time he stabbed her. He is shown chained at the ankles in a circle of light, while Maria is at Our Lady’s side above. Side note: it seems people don’t get that Maria died trying to prevent her murderer from sinning – preserving her own virginity was not what she was saying when he killed her. She did not want him to sin – “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” – she died trying to save his soul. Then she saved it anyway through his vision.
On Sunday, managed to go to Confession, receive Communion and exit through the Mercy Doors. Yea, plenary indulgences. Also got to light a candle at the altar of St. Peregrine for my sister Catherine, who is battling cancer now. Please say a prayer for her and her family, that they all be comforted and healed in mind, body and soul.
Had to leave after Communion – hated to, I always stay through the end of Mass, but had a plane to catch and 2 1/2 hours to drive to get to it.
The Shrine is highly reccommended. Very beautiful and moving. I hardly got to see the stuff outside – there’s a Rosary walk and (I think) a way of the Cross, but I didn’t get to see them.
I would love to go back. Don’t have any customers or relatives out that away, so I made need to make a special trip again – I longe to go on pilgrimages.
When reading the lives of the saints, it’s common to see both a relentless practical disposition and utter spontaneity side by side in the same person. This is that whole Catholic both/and thing Chesterton among others likes to go on about. Thus, great saints will typically devote themselves to a rigorous, no excuses life of prayer and discipline AND run off to convert the Saracens at the drop of a biretta. Or kiss the leper, give somebody the clothes off their backs, take a condemned man’s place – that sort of thing.
A certain tiny rash act on my part, not remotely in the league of anything an actual saint would do reflects, I hope, a tiny bit of the spirit of the thing: I will, it seems, be in charge of a bit of continuing Catholic education at our parish. Because the director said I could do a class, and so I submitted an outline and that was that.
Here’s what I’ll be trying to do. First note my abiding hatred of the graded classroom model, so imagine this as being done in a way to defeat that model (which lurks, after 12+ years of Pavlovian training, in our minds despite our dislike of it and despite even efforts to root it out) so as to allow actual personal relationships to be formed – which is by far my most obvious weakness as a ‘teacher’. People are just so much more demanding than living in my own head! Anyway:
I have things to say, but not today. Today, we should pray. Not, or not just, for miracles of healing, not, or not just, for justice and peace. We pray always first of all to know the mind and love of God, to become more like Him and closer to Him. By seeking God first, we open those fissures through which He can act in us and in our world through us. That’s the way the miracles happen.
No judgements today.
May God have mercy on the souls of the dead, and on those who killed them for whatever reason, good or bad.
May He comfort and sustain all who love them.
May He touch the hearts of all, especially those who do not want to let go of their anger.
May He sustain and bless the efforts of all who seek peace and provide comfort to the afflicted.
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!
Holy Mother Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!
St. Peter Clavier, pray for us!
St. Martin de Porres, pray for us!
Closer to home, I ask your prayers for the repose of the soul of a Chris, husband of Cathy, a friend of ours, who died yesterday after a long and difficult battle with cancer, and for comfort to Cathy, their 3 children and two grandchildren.
Also, prayers for my sister who is battling cancer. She is in the hospital now. A few days ago she underwent 6 hours of surgery to remove tumors, and is awaiting test results to see what the next steps will be. She has consciously separated herself from God and His church, so please pray also for her heart to be softened so Our Lord may touch her.
Finally, today marks the 1st anniversary of my sister Annette’s death. Please pray for the repose of her soul, as she, too, pushed God away from her at the end of her life.
This morning at Mass, we sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic as an anticipatory 4th of July recessional. Go, and submit to tyrants no more!
I have loved this song since I was kid (1). What’s not to love? Catchy tune, rousing anthem, colorful and evocative lyrics. It’s even easy to sing.
It is the anthem of the Abolitionists. We forget, if we ever knew, that the North was torn before the Civil War between those who preached that the righteous should be willing to pay any price to end slavery, even to the destruction of the Republic and their own lives, while others, keeping in mind the horrors of war and observing how slavery had been ended without much bloodshed in much of the New World already(2), sought desperately to avoid it (3).
Right up until Fort Sumter, many Northerners who opposed slavery were looking hard for ways to avoid war. But all that changed once the South demanded the surrender of, and then attacked, an American fort. The attitude of the North shifted in the direction of the Abolitionists.
When Julia Ward Howe wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic, it expressed the sense that the North was doing God’s work in attacking the South, and that dying (and, by the inescapable logic of war, killing) for the cause was the only right and holy thing to do.
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.
The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
2 thoughts for this Fourth:
First, Lincoln is of course right: God’s purposes cannot ever be reduced to what men want, even when men want a good thing – the end of slavery. To get that end, men chose war. With war came blood and misery; a million lives destroyed and the families they were a part of horribly damaged. The bitterness of the South over what they view, not without reason, as the excesses and revenge taking of the North has still to this day not been healed. Slavery has ended, a very good thing to be sure, but healing has not.
As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, in most non-trivial cases we humans can only choose means, not ends, properly speaking: we choose to do or allow whatever the next step is in the *hope* that the desired ends will be achieved. Our choices result in actions now that *may* achieve the desired end eventually, but may not. Thus, our choices of means are real and immediate in a sense that our desired ends will never be. (Outside trivial cases, where there are no steps involved: pick the chocolate or the vanilla ice cream.)
Only God makes things real by the simple act of willing them. Our wills are weak; our intellects clouded; our desires impure. Even, perhaps especially, when we think we’re doing God’s work.
Second, if Lincoln is right about Divine Justice, what will come of the millions aborted, what will that Divine Justice demand and allow? If 250 years of slavery needed a million deaths, what are we facing as the cost to end this horror?
My Lord and my God, have mercy on me, a sinner!
Especially, the ‘teacher hit me with a ruler’ version, which would get a kid suspended, the police called and his parent thrown in jail these days. We sang it with gusto in 3rd grade at St. Mary’s Whittier back in the 60s. Good times.
See, for example, this list. It was all fits and starts, to be sure, and Brazil still had slaves into the 1880s, but the anti-slavery yet non-Abolitionists Northerners weren’t just blowing smoke.
In the early parts of The Metaphysical Club, Menand portrays at least some of the Boston upper crust as viewing Abolitionists as rubes of a sort, their fervor getting the best of their reason.