The past and present thoughts of a Catholic husband, father, and fledgling faith formation director at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minnesota

Saturday, April 4, 2015

O Death, Where Is Your Sting?

At long last, we celebrate Easter, and the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Perhaps you've been steadfast in prayer, heartbroken and sincere in penance, and generous in alms-giving. Or perhaps you feel you've done too little, too late, for our Lord -- perhaps you've slipped in your Lenten commitments or find that Easter has crept up on you almost unawares.

Either way, take comfort in the Easter homily below from St. John Chrysotom. Drawing on the gospel of Matthew, chapter 20, he reminds us that we never come too late to God and always receive full payment!

Easter Homily by St. John Chrysostom
Let all pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort. 
Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh. 
When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: "O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world." Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.
O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. 
He is risen, indeed -- let us feast and rejoice this day like no other! Alleluia!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Break: Holy Week by Jerzy Andrzejewski

Somewhere along the line these past few years I picked up an English translation of the short novel Holy Week by Polish author Jerzy Andrzejewski. I bought it knowing almost nothing about the book or the author, because I used to study Polish in college, as a tribute to my maternal roots, and because Polish literature can be hard to come by. Andrzejewski is perhaps best know for his novel Ashes and Diamonds, which was turned into a well-known Polish film of the same name by Andrzej Wajda, who has also made a film version of Holy Week. I saw the movie version of Ashes and Diamonds in college and liked it, so I took a chance on the book.

The novel tells the story on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the tragic burning of the ghetto and elimination of Warsaw's Jews during the days leading up to Easter of 1943 -- from the perspective of a handful of Poles whose lives are variously entangled with each other's and with a young Jewish woman trying to evade the Nazis and their Polish informers.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Book Break: Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves

This past Christmas, our church gave to all parish and visiting families a copy of Jason Evert's book Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. I finished it this past week while recuperating, and it seems only right that on this tenth anniversary of the great man's passing, I offer a brief review and encourage family and friends to read it.

First, let me encourage you to read the Foreword and Introduction, as both share personal anecdotes that share what sort of man Pope John Paul II was, The first half of the book, then, is a condensed and easy-to-follow biography of Karol Wojytla from his boyhood in Poland to his death at the Vatican at age 85. Some years ago, on a long solo road trip, I had the pleasure of listening to an audiobook version of George Weigel's JPII biography, Witness to Hope -- Evert's book uses Weigel as one of several sources, and provides a great overview of the events and circumstances that shaped young Karol into Father Wotyla, then bishop, archbishop, pope, and saint. When I hear these stories, I can't help but be proud to be (half) Polish and Catholic.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Undset, or Three Things to Love
About the Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy

Blogger's Note: Several years ago, I agreed to my friend Jacqui's challenge to read 15 Classics in 15 Weeks. I continue to press forward, this being number 12 of 15, and at this point 15 Classics in 15 Years seems quite doable...

Last week I finally finished Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. This series came highly recommended by two trusted friends; the author, Sigrid Undset, was the daughter of Norwegian atheists, a Catholic convert, and a Nobel Prize winner. The books are tremendous, insightful, and often achingly beautiful.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Break: Story of a Soul

One of the great blessings of surgery has been time to read; as a result, I've now finished three books that lay on my nightstand, long overdue. The first was the the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul. The Little Flower had been much on my mind and had shown up time and again in my prayers and study this past winter, so much so that I decided she must be trying to tell me something. I found her biography in our parish lending library, and finished in late last week.

Autobiographies, especially those that weren't expressly written for publication, can be challenging to read, and this is no exception. St. Therese is writing out of obedience, fulfilling requests of three different prioresses to record the memories of her life. Her style is emotional, sentimental, somewhat meandering, and acutely self-aware -- in fact, she acknowledges throughout the book, with good humor, that she has drifted far from the main point, but that she is writing because she was asked to, and if her work is found lacking and destroyed, it will be of no great loss to her.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Full of Grace

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis (1712)
Yesterday was a rare treat: a three-sacrament day. I went to work, then to Confession at lunch time, received a pre-surgery Anointing of the Sick late in the afternoon, then went to evening Mass to receive the Eucharist. Never have I felt so full of grace -- and today is the Feast of the Annunciation. Providential?

Then I came home -- late, because I was tying up loose ends to be out of the office for awhile. The family had already eaten supper, but we still managed to spend some quality time together before bed. They've got Dad's back with prayers today, as do countless other friends and family members, and a few acquaintances I just barely know. I'm a little embarrassed by the support, but I will never refuse prayers. We are blessed to have such love in our home, in our parish, and in our extended families.