St. John Eudes and the Sacred Heart

Photo blatantly stolen from catholicsaints.info

The memorial of St John Eudes, which I’ve heard pronounced from the comical, like Joe Pesci trying to say “youths” in My Cousin Vinny” to Sean Combs answering the phone “Who dis?”

Well, our Saint is from France, so with all respect to my fellow Muricans, it’s not John, it’s Jean, though both are pronounced like the Jean in Jean Claude Van Damme. 

And the last name isn’t hard, either, Frenchie. In fact, let’s just run the two words together like our Francophile brethren tend to do. Eudes is pronounced as Ood like in food. The result? Jaw Nude. Sorry, it’s true. But it’s also a slippery, beautiful name that rolls off the tongue. Jawnude.

Say it with me. Saint. John Eudes. You’re welcome. 

_ _ _

Sitting on the back porch this morning as the sun came up, I was enjoying the nip in the air. It’s getting cooler at night as we get closer to Autumn, and 52 degrees is just about right for me. It’s hiking weather. I could sit there forever just watching the leaves on the black walnut trees sway in the wind. But I didn’t.

O Lord, how great are your works!
How deep are your designs.
– Ps. 92

I was thinking about brotherly love, because that’s what Divine Intimacy is covering this week. I couldn’t have come up with something like that myself. The world is in desperate need of a little fraternal charity these days. 

We have to adapt ourselves to others instead of whining that nobody understands my needs, and my sensibilities. It has to do with overcoming our selfishness and sacrificing our ego on the altar of love for God. Tough words. Self-love is touted as the cure all for the world’s problems. That’s all well and good, but if you’re a Christian, you’re called to love everyone else, not just as much as you love yourself, but to the extent that Jesus loves you. We’re to put others before ourselves. So that sort of short-circuits the whole self-love thing, no?

Nothing wrong with healthy self-esteem. But even that for a believer is a bit different than the spin the world puts on it. I’d call it God-esteem. God has loved you from all eternity. Completely loved you. Even from before He created you. He knew you because you were already on His mind. He has loved you eternally. So as bad as we can be at times, no matter how down we get on ourselves for our sins and failings…

We are of infinite worth, and are absolutely and completely loved by God. Even when we’re icky. There’s your self-esteem.

We were all created out of love, and with love, so we might enjoy you, O God, Who are love. – St. Thérèse

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Surely God is with us

Tuesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time

From “Hymnal for the Hours” by Weber 2014

The geese are starting to migrate. According to Black Mountain News, they’re taking their time, molting and fattening themselves up for the journey south. Their honking filled my morning sky as the sun lit the undersides of their wings orange and yellow. Not a bad way to start the day.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise!

Thoughts from the Liturgy of the Hours

You, O Lord, established the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. But how often I take it for granted, hiding my eyes from the book of nature that presents your greatness to my eyes as clearly as the words of Scripture. The world wakes, and I wake with it. In silence. Mystery. Poetry and song.

Dawn finds me watching, crying out for you

From today’s Mass

Turn your eyes O God our shield, and look on the face of your anointed one; one day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere – Entrance antiphon. And from the Collect: Fill our hearts with the warmth of your love.

From the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord reminds us how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Like a camel trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle.

Someone told me years ago that there was a minor gate into Jerusalem that was so small that a man could only fit through it unburdened of his possessions. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. But as Stephen King once said, “if it isn’t, it should be.” In any case, we can agree with Job that “naked I came from my mother’s womb; naked I shall depart.” We tend to focus on all of these things that we can’t take with us instead of those we can: Faith. Hope. Love.

From Divine Intimacy #268

You have loved me from all eternity. How unfathomable! When I think of eternity sometimes I get this numinous feeling of its vastness opposed to my nothingness, and I’m overwhelmed. But God has thought of us and loved us…forever. Before we actually came to exist. He knew us. Loved us. Always.

Lord, teach me to love others with that love, without counting the cost.

We love counting the cost too much. But to live the Gospel is to live in contradiction to this calculating human logic. We’re blind to the fact that we’re often more like the serf who was forgiven a lost fortune by his lord, then went out and had one of his friends thrown in jail for not repaying some measly sum.

Forgive us our trespasses in exactly the same way we forgive those who trespass against us, Lord. That’s how it’s going to work. It’s tragically funny that we pray that prayer at times when we haven’t forgiven our brother from the heart, leaving our gift at the altar, and in truth we’re praying for God to, as my drill sergeant in basic training used to say, “give us what we damn need.”

How inconvenient that we’re called by our Beloved, not just to throw money at problems of justice (which are always the problems of real people), whether it’s a five or a fifty…but to throw ourselves at them. Our hearts naturally reject the command to see God in everyone.

EV. REE. WUN.

Especially those hardest to love.

O my selfish, demanding nature! Cast off this demand from me for personal justice, respect and consideration, Lord. If I’m judged as I so often judge, I’ll never see your face. Teach me instead to love others as you have loved me. When I was far from you. When I was unloveable.

Wherefore should any set thee love apart? Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said), “And human love needs human meriting: How hast thou merited — of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot? Alack, thou knowest not how little worthy of any love thou art! Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, Save Me, save only Me?” (Hopkins, Hound of Heaven)

Jesus, you loved me when I was far from you, even when I didn’t love you, and even now when my love can be so fickle and weak. Help me to love others as you have loved me. As Rich Mullins wrote in his song Hard to Get:

You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that’s not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then
.

Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don’t see the blood that’s running in Your sweat

Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You’re up there just playing hard to get?

They won’t if we love Him in them.

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Dirty Undies

man in blue shirt near assorted color apparels
Photo by Zuarav on Pexels.com

Today’s first Mass reading goes to prove that the Old Testament isn’t some dry historical record. It also shows that God has an ironic sense of humor. Don’t @ me if I take some editorial liberties with the text.

Jeremiah 13: 1-11 opens with God telling Jeremiah to go buy a new pair of underwear, put them on and wear them, but not to wash them.

Okay, God? Um… right. I’m headed there now. Might have to pick up some jock itch spray while I’m at it. But I trust you.

. . .

God? It’s Jeremiah. I’ve been wearing these crusty Underoos for about a month now, and I have to say that the experience hasn’t been pleasant. My friends are avoiding me. The restaurants are making me eat in the far corner of the patio. My next door neighbor has been making veiled threats about throwing a shower party for me. I don’t know what that means, but I don’t want to find out.

Jeremiah? It’s God. Okay, it’s been long enough. Head on down to Pareth. You know that old wall where the chinking is crumbling away from the stones? Change your shorts there and stuff the stinky ones into a crack in the wall.

Thank you, God! Should I put a biohazard sign over the crack?

That won’t be necessary, Jeremiah.

Time went by, Jeremiah had a successful round of appointments with his dermatologist, and everything had gotten back to normal. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah again.

Jeremiah? It’s God again. Hey, you remember those crusty undies I made you stuff in that crack in the wall down in Pareth? Yeah… I need you to go back and get them for me.

God? Seriously.

Seriously, Jeremiah. It’s important.

So Jeremiah headed back down to Pareth to retrieve the underwear that God had commanded him to stuff in the wall crack there, and Jeremiah was not happy at the reunion. He pulled them out of the crack with a long stick.

Oh, my! God? There isn’t much left of them. They’re falling apart, and they’re… still pretty ripe!

Aha! Just as I suspected.

Is there a moral to this story, God?

Yes! You know what those rotten undies are like? They’re like Judah’s pride! Judah is wicked, and stubborn, and won’t obey me. They worship strange “gods” and adore them in my place. So I’m going to make them like that pair of grundy undies that I made you stuff in the crack in the wall.

God? I feel your pain.

That’s all I wanted, Jeremiah. I wanted to make an impression on your mind. You may find this a bit weird, but Judah and Israel used to cling to me about as closely as a man’s underwear clings to his skin.

That’s… that’s touching, God.

I know. But now? They won’t even listen to me.

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This is My Father’s Shire

Have you ever heard a snippet of a song, and it instantly reminds you of a different song, but you’ve forgotten the name of one or the other? That was bothering me this morning at the Communion hymn at Mass.

Mike was up in the loft beginning a hymn on the organ as people began to social distance their way up to the altar, and in my slightly reflective but mostly  bewildered state, I asked myself, “why is he playing that song from the Lord of the Rings movies, you know, the one about the Shire?”

After the first two bars of the hymn, I was in Hobbiton. It’s a wonderful hymn, but the title escaped me. I approached Mike after Mass to ask him what the name of the Communion hymn was that he played, but he said “I don’t remember,” hustled into his car and drove off.

I didn’t think much about it the rest of the day, but when I got a free moment this evening, it popped back into my head and I had to research it. After scrolling my thumb raw through Google page after page, I finally got a hit.

First, the tune from LOTR is Howard Shore’s “Concerning Hobbits.” It recurs throughout all three movies.

But what was the name of the hymn? It eluded me. Then after scrolling through Google search pages until my thumbs were sore, I found out that I wasn’t crazy.

Way back in 2003, a fan on a Lord of the Rings fan forum noticed the same thing I did, and stated up front that only nerds such as himself would even notice the similarity, or care whether there was some backstory connection. My soulmate!

The hymn is an 18th Century English creation named “This is My Father’s World.” It praises the beauty of creation, something Vladymir (from 2003) thought Tolkien might have loved. I’ll bet he at least heard it at some point.

Just to satisfy your curiosity, here are both tunes:

The Howard Shore work from the LOTR movies is an instrumental, but the background of the hymn is interesting. The melody was written by Franklin L. Sheppard and named Terra Beata. He adapted it from a traditional English tune his mother used to hum to him as a child.  Sheppard wrote it specifically to accompany the Maltbie Davenport Babcock poem “This is My Father’s World.” The two were friends.

Babcock was a minister in upstate New York, and the poem was inspired by walks he’d take around Lake Ontario and Niagra Falls. Sadly, he died in his early forties, but his wife had his writings published posthumously, including “This is My Father’s World.” Sheppard wrote terra beata and published it in 1915. It was quickly picked up by hymnal publishers.

Here are the words:

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world,
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad

So in the end, my friends, the sustaining line throughout Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, the one that keeps coming back around and sustaining the story line, is but a riff on terra beata, which has its roots in traditional English music. It was probably a well known pub song, as many English hymns were based on such well known and loved songs.

I think Tolkien would have liked that.

 

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Rethinking Priorities

I’m dabbling once again in John Senior’s modern classic “The Restoration of Christian Culture.” Not even to the first chapter, this reflection on Our Lord’s Parable of the Sower sunk deep into me:

…the work of music in the wide sense, including as well [the] tunes that are sung, art, literature, games, architecture–all so many instruments in the orchestra which plays day and night the music of lovers […] if it is disordered, then the love of Christ will not grow.

I disagree in part. Allow me. I’ve reflected on this book for years…

I would that he might have said, “then it is much more difficult for the love of Christ to grow.” More difficult because we’re always busy, busy, busy. Much of the time needlessly so, I think. We’re distracted. Divided. Disoriented. We’re dreadfully afraid to be alone with our thoughts, or the possibility we might be confronted with an I/Thou encounter that might break us out of our spiritual timidity. And so we are unable to approach anything that resembles peace. At least not the peace which passes all understanding. We’re stuck in the amber of a diabolically conceived dictatorship of noise. We can’t hear our own hearts beating, let along the stars singing.

John said we must rethink priorities. Throughout the book, he gives numerous examples of the priorities we might rethink. At the center of them all is silence, but a pregnant silence, a burgeoning silence. A silence that is present.

Andrew Senior, John’s son, says in the foreword to the 2007 edition, that “silence and prayer will do more to restore Christian culture than noise and action.” He’s feeding us a tidbit of the thought that his father fleshes out in the first chapter, from which this blog takes its name. It is the core of my apostolate called Cellarium. Here is the quote, in full, with my dull ramblings interspersed:

The Blessed Virgin said of her Bridegroom at the instant of the Incarnation, ‘He brought me into the cellar of wine.’ The saints who comment on this passage tell us that each of our souls, like hers, must descend with him into that cellar where he will say, ‘Eat, O my friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved.’

Wine is usually taken at the table, not in the cellar. Eat, O my friends, and drink, and be inebriated. Not in the common room. Not even in moderation. Inebriated. This is the language of desirous love. Of courtship, if you will. The bride and bridegroom imagery which is but a taste of the spiritual reality of the Beloved’s desire for souls. For your soul. For mine. He feels that way about us all of the time, but do we reciprocate? How many minutes per day do we spend with Him, inebriated in the wine cellar?

The saints refer to this as a definite, necessary stage in the spiritual life. Without it, there is no progress toward the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the only goal of the Catholic life, whose only language is music–the etymological root of which means ‘silence,’ as in ‘mute’ and ‘mystery.’

We can’t think of this as simply a duty to be performed. It’s a disposition of the heart. I’d go so far as to say that when we speak of practicing or placing ourselves in the presence of God, it shouldn’t be a simple acknowledgment of fact. Be inebriated. Like lovers are inebriated by each other’s presence.

Music is the voice of silence, and so it follows that to enter with Our Beloved Lord into that prayer of quiet and to pray to Our Blessed Lady that He might lead us there, we must learn to speak that language, too. That is, we must know music and especially the music of words which is poetry. No matter what our expertise, no matter what we are by vocation or trade, we are all lovers. Everyone must be a poet in the ordinary way of salvation.

I can’t make you a poet, or even to understand the importance of the goodness, truth and beauty of the language of love. I can tell you, but you probably already know from experience, that falling in love woke something deep within you that sang, that searched for words to give life to that which is inexpressible. That is music. That is silence. That is poetry.

If you’d like to delve deeper into this line of thinking, I can recommend Anthony Esolen’s brilliant forty page introduction to his recent work, “The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord.” And then, the songs themselves.

Until then, dear friends, remember the Beloved’s desire for you, and sneak off to the cellar of wine to wait for Him there. He won’t tarry long.

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