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Tassel of the Cloak

The White Dawn

Watching the movie Red Dawn will leave you wanting for more.  We are best served watching and gazing, instead, upon the White Dawn: Mary.  Yes, Mary is sometimes referred to as "The White Dawn," the one who heralds in the new morning, the advent of the Messiah.  She is also the Morning Star, which in the sky is literally the planet Venus.  She reflects the light of the sun and ushers in the sunrise.  

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Our Lady of the Redwoods

There is a monastery of Cistercian nuns in Northern California called "Our Lady of the Redwoods," and what a fitting title indeed for our Blessed Mother.  The Redwood, known as the Sequoia sempervirens (sounds similar to semper virgo, or ever-virgin), is the tallest tree on the planet, growing up to 300 feet and beyond.  It is also the oldest species of tree, dating back to 240 million years. 

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Father William Doyle, SJ

Father William Doyle, SJ was a well-known preacher and spiritual director in the early 20th Century.  He traveled the world giving missions and retreats, helping bring people closer to Jesus.  And yet he wrote these words in his journal while making the Spiritual Exercises on his 30-Day retreat in 1907:

Each fresh meditation of the life of our Lord impressed on me more and more the necessity of conforming my life to His in every detail, if I wish to please Him and to become holy. To do something great and heroic may never come to me, but I can make my life heroic by faithfully and daily putting my best effort into each duty as it comes around.

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The Angel's Share

Occasionally I will have a sip of something when I read scripture, either coffee in the morning or a beer in the evening, but often not grappa.  I felt inclined to have that digestivo, however, when I read this line from the prophet Isaiah: "Thus says the Lord: When the juice is pressed from grapes, men say 'Do not discard them, for there is still good in them'; Thus will I do with my servants; I will not discard them all" (Isaiah 65:8).

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Blessed Frederic Ozanam

Most of the "O" streets in Chicago come from either Native American tribes or chiefs, like Osceola and Ottawa, or from real estate developers, like Olcott and Odell.  But one street name in Edison Park is different: Ozanam.  The 7800W to 7600N section of the city is named after Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the founder of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

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Catholicism Transcends All Divides

Lieutenant Joseph Dutton of the Union Army crawled out into the night during a Civil War battle and dragged a wounded soldier back to camp.  When the light was shone upon the rescuee, a comrade remarked, "The joke's on you, Dutton, this man is a rebel." Dutton did not flinch, but simply responded, "that I knew."

When the War ended, the talented Dutton ventured into a variety of careers, but none would satisfy his restlessness.  He converted to Catholicism and after spending some time in prayer at Gethsemani Monastery in Kentucky, where Thomas Merton would enter sixty years later, Dutton discovered his calling.  At 43, he traveled to San Francisco and from there set sail.

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Spiritual Desolation

"Magnificent Desolation."  Those were the first words spoken by the second man on the moon as he stood on the new terrain.  And more striking than the first man's words they are. True progress for mankind is ultimately in the spiritual and moral realm, and sometimes we advance through desolation and darkness.

Desolation, or desolatio, has the Latin word for sun, solis, in its root.  The sun is darkened or declined in this style of prayer. We do not feel the warmth of God.  Prayer is, instead, flat, dry, and difficult.

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The Virgin of Macarena

I was reading recently through my old political science notes from college and came across this quote by the comedian Jon Stewart about public opinion. “You have to remember one thing about the will of the people," he wrote, "it wasn't that long ago that we were swept away by the Macarena.”

Macarena, of course, was the 1993 song by the Spanish group Los del Rios that remained on Billboard's top spot for fourteen weeks and the top 100 chart for sixty weeks.  It was named "the most successful song of 1996," achieved number 7 on Billboard's All Time Top 100, and was called by VH1 "the number 1 Greatest One-Hit Wonder of All Time."

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Free of Worldly Possessions

I was horrified when we watched a YouTube video during the pandemic on how to make a facemask.  The individual cut and destroyed a tee-shirt.  Other than books, my one material attachment is to tee-shirts.  Chicago Blackhawks championship shirts, a Saint Juliana Men's Club Golf Outing shirt, a Mark Grace Chicago Cubs shirt (he's the real 17), a Grateful Dead tie-dyed shirt, an Archdiocese of Chicago shirt, and so on.  I don't collect knickknacks and I really don't take pictures. The tee-shirt under my Roman Collar that I wear every day is the one way to "express myself," so the prospect of destroying one is abhorrent to me.  Cutting up an old pillow-case would have been more sensitive.

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Remakes of the Soul

Red Red Wine by UB40 came on Spotify recently, prompting a discussion amongst a group of us of what constitutes a good music remake.  The song, of course, was originally written by Neil Diamond.  The UB40 version is totally different and enjoyable in its own way, making it, in my opinion, a successful remake.  The Joe Cocker remake of the Beatles' classic With a Little Help from My Friends, is another example.  All Along the Watchtower, first by Bob Dylan and then Jimi Hendrix, is great as well. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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