Tassel of the Cloak

The Art of War Against Sin

 

"Every battle is won or lost before it is fought," says Sun Tzu in The Art of War.  It is the preparation prior to the commencement of the action, as well as the condition of the military-industrial complex of the nation, that will determine the overall outcome of the war.  This is why Horatio Nelson, as the Battle of Trafalgar was about to commence on October 21, 1805, did not send detailed instructions to his fleet, but the simple reminder: "England expects that every man will do his duty."  He knew the tactical work had already taken place.

Read more...

The Probiscus Monkey

A parishioner recently showed me pictures from a trip to Southeast Asia, one of which included a proboscis monkey.  I had never before seen or heard of this animal endemic to Indonesia.  I almost thought the picture was joke, like this was man dressed as a mascot, so funny and unique looking the animal was with its height, potbelly and long nose.  I wondered if instead of bananas the species eats bratwursts and drinks Coors Lights.

Read more...

Reverence God on Labor Day?

One of the ways we reverence God is by properly celebrating holidays. 

When we reverence someone or something the most fundamental thing we do is pause and acknowledge.  If we are before a revered object and continue checking our phone, we are unconsciously stating the object before us is not that significant.  We fill ourselves with what we think is necessary, and we continue on the path—more a rut—of self-absorption. 

Read more...

Luigi and Marie Beltrame Quattrocchi

Retreat is a term we do not like. We think of it as failing or quitting, with an accompanying sense of shame. Surrender, which of course is linked to retreat, is also very difficult.

But it is to the ideal of surrender that we are called in the spiritual life. We are called to retreat. We are not to be like Ulysses S. Grant, who famously wrote in May 1864 to the War Department of his plans to do anything but retreat against Lee's army. "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," he said. Christ surrender on the cross. So too are we.

Read more...

Angel of Auschwitz

It is in the midst of terrible suffering that God brings forth tremendous graces.  It was seen in the year 261, when a plague broke out in Alexandria and a group of Christians tended to the sick and dying when no one else would.  They were executed for this heroic deed and later canonized.  The Martyrs of the Plague of Alexandria, as they are called, have been praying for us.

Read more...

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison, the greatest American inventor, was skeptical of the existence of the soul and its immortality.  He compared it to the reproduction of sound. "Yet no one," he said, "thinks of claiming immortality for the cylinders or the phonograph. Then why claim it for the brain mechanism or the power that drives it? Because we don't know what this power is, shall we call it immortal?"  Edison went on to say, on another occasion, "I have not reached my conclusions through study of tradition; I have reached them through the study of hard fact.  Proof! Proof! That is what I have always been after; that is what my mind requires before it can accept a theory as a fact."

Read more...

The Pentecost

In praying with artwork on this monumental feast day, I particularly like Jean II Restout's Pentecost (Louvre: Paris, France, 1732). First and foremost is because of the prominence of Mary. She stands in the center atop the altar of the upper room, which is here pictured as a Romanesque courtyard. Interestingly, the scene resembles Raphael's School of Athens. The Church, with Mary beside her son in the instructor's chair, is the new school.

Read more...

Frankenstein

Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is actually a fitting Easter season novel. Victor Frankenstein is a doctor, scientist, philosopher and inventor. His creation has no name. It is just called 'the monster.' While the creature may look hideous, its brain is actually quite advanced. It appreciates beauty in nature and the love among family members. It reads significant texts like Paradise Lost, knows the Bible, and speaks eloquently. A far cry from the Hollywood ogre grunting for brains.

Read more...

The Power and the Glory

Graham Green's 1941 novel, The Power and the Glory, centers on an outlaw Catholic priest in 1930s rural Mexico. It received the Hawthornden Prize in British literature and was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century. Today, men studying for the priesthood read the story and priests, like me, reread it throughout their lives.

Read more...

The Tower of David

After an initial victory on the plains of Emmaus, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers set out to attack Jerusalem, which had become an enemy stronghold and from which the whole land was controlled.  This is where we hear mention of "the citadel."  Ah, the citadel of Jerusalem! "The sanctuary was trampled on, and foreigners were in the citadel" (1 Maccabees 3:45).

Read more...

Francisco de Zurbarán's Agnus Dei

 

The simplicity of Francisco de Zurbarán's Agnus Dei (Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain, 1640) draws out intense emotion from the heart of the onlooker.  The 12-month old lamb is laid out on the sacrificial altar, feet corded together and neck graciously offered.  "Like a lamb led to the slaughter, or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). 

Read more...

Francois de Montmorency Laval

 

Francois de Montmorency Laval was born to an aristocratic French family in 1623.  Renouncing his family title and estate, Laval became a Catholic priest.  After spending time in prayer and study under the incredible tutelage of Jean-Jacques Olier and future saints Vincent de Paul and John Eudes, Laval was made bishop at age 35 of New France, becoming the first bishop of Canada. 

Read more...

Springtime in the Heart

Easter, an old-English word, derives from estre, which was the name of the pagan springtime God.  In German, ‘Easter’ comes from ‘east’—the point being to emphasize hope, as the sun rises in the east at dawn.  Hopefully we can make an opportunity in this ebullient season to experience a “springtime” in our faith.  If we desire it, God will grant it.  “It is always springtime in the heart that loves God,” said Saint John Vianney, the curé of Ars.

Read more...