Art Friday

Lord gave me the golden opportunity to tour the permanent collections of the North Carolina Museum of Art before the mid-day crowds descended. A charmingly functional edifice.

I think probably the most famous objet d’art in the building is:

Boticelli Adoration of the Child

Lovely for the Christmas cards, but not exactly my personal cup of tea.

I have put some hate on Andrew Wyeth before. My own mom called him a ‘poseur’ on this very website. “Christina’s World,” as I noted, leaves me utterly cold. But NCMA has a Wyeth that knocked me, rocked me:

Winter 1946

I will let you investigate the occasion of this painting, if you so choose. IMHO, it stands on its own as a dizzying exposition.

The most fascinating thing I learned in the Kanof Judaic Art Gallery, which is, in itself, worth driving to Raleigh to see.

Esther scroll

Apparently, Jewish fathers living under the Ottomans customarily gave these to their daughters’ suitors as gifts. Great message: No one should mess with the Almighty God of Israel, to whom my daughter devoutly prays. So walk the straight and narrow, buddy–and, please God, we can look forward to many happy Purims together.

Embassy to the Capuchin Crypt

Capuchin Crypt in Rome
Capuchin Crypt in Rome

Some of the brethren seem to regret the decision to move the offices of our American embassy to the Holy See from the current location near Circus Maximus to the Via Veneto.

I know very little about it. But I do know this much:

The new location is a five-minute walk to the famous “Capuchin Crypt” church.

I would think:

The more frequently our diplomats can visit these chapels, the better.

Sicut transit gloria mundi.

10 Celibacy Pluses

wedding ringsI congratulate my dear brother Ben, who was married today to lovely Jenna. I wish them every happiness. But the occasion moves me to recount some reasons why I love my celibate life…

1. Considerably more time for reading.

2. I can sing as loud as I want in the car, and no one minds.

3. Every time a baby has vomited sputum on my shoulder, or gone to the bathroom in my arms, I have gotten huge credit for being a stand-up guy. Absolutely every time.

4. No chance that any child of mine will ever go to Duke or UConn, or grow up and marry a Cowboys fan.

5. Whenever I go to a meeting in the principal’s office, it’s the principal who’s in trouble.

6. Considerably more time for reading.

7. The people who get disappointed in me because I’m a goofball rarely have an opportunity to let me know.

8. Whenever someone in the house yells at the dishes in the sink, I am never in the dark as to what happened to cause this.

9. No father-in-law gives me weird looks while I read a Jane Austen novel during commercial breaks in Thanksgiving football.

10. Sure, I have a hundred times more people who expect me to read their minds on a daily basis. But I don’t have to share a bathroom with any of them.


Happy Thanksgiving! May the good Lord bless us all, in our particular states of life.

The Mud-Digger Cometh

In the ancient near East, if you heard the phrase “mud-digger,” it did not mean a souped-up pickup or jeep with monster tires for going muddin’. ‘Mud-digger’ meant: common thief, or criminal, or low-life.

Most people built their little houses out of mud bricks. In the hot summer, you usually slept in a tent on the roof. In the dark of night, a thief could dig through the mud wall of your home while you slept above. Then the mud-digger would make off with your valuables. In the morning, you would wake up and go down inside to make breakfast—only to discover that the low-life mud-digger had stolen your pots!

MudDiggerCoverTicked! Ticked off! If only I had known, I would have waited up for him. I would have crouched in the shadows in the house. When the mud-digger came crawling in, ready to grab my stuff, I would have thwapped that punk! Thwapped him cold and took him to the magistrate!

So, with His little parable, the Lord Jesus appealed to sentiments like these. If the master had known at what hour of night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake. Darn right I would have! Rather than have some mud-digger make off with my lamps and blankets and camel harness. Daggone right I would have stayed awake! Then I would still have my wine and my figs.

Continue reading “The Mud-Digger Cometh”

Truly Triumphant King

Tissot Title on the Cross

At Holy Mass for the Solemnity of Christ the King, the first reading and the gospel reading give us two pictures of the King of the Jews. Stunningly different.

First we read from II Samuel about the moment when the prophet anointed David king of all Israel. This moment was the culmination of a thoroughgoing military and political triumph. The Lord had chosen David from humble beginnings. Samuel had discovered a little shepherd boy, who then went on to distinguish himself as a valiant warrior, skilled general, and noble statesman. David successfully united all of the tribes of Israel; he defeated the Philistines; and he conquered the pagan city of Jerusalem to be the capital city of the Jews. David transformed the chosen people from a loose affiliation of beleaguered tribes into a powerful nation.

Then we read about the King of the Jews in the gospel. The renowned teacher and miracle-worker from Nazareth had come to Jerusalem in triumph, arriving to the cheers of throngs of followers. Jesus’ Apostles thought that He was poised to lay claim to the throne of David, to galvanize a revolution against the Roman overlords. But, as we read, that is not what happened.

Continue reading “Truly Triumphant King”

Sweet Nov. 22

St. Cecilia statue
One finger. Two fingers… Yes! Christ: One Person, two natures (human and divine). Thank you, St. Cecilia, for teaching the faith even in death.

What an amazingly wonderful day today is! At Holy Mass, we read about the 25th day of Chislev. The 25th day of Chislev will arrive next week! This year our friends will light their menorahs while the turkey’s in the oven. And in church we read all about it today!

Not being a rabbi, I will offer no Hanukkah exhortations. But the festival certainly has to do with the altar—and during Hanukkah this year, we will have our first Mass in Martinsville, Va., with our tabernacle re-positioned at the altar! Too good!

They belong together of course: The altar of Christ’s Body and Christ’s Body. The altar and the sacrament of the altar—they belong together.

We read in Maccabees how, when the sanctuary had been purified, the Israelites prostrated themselves and adored and praised heaven!

But we’re not done recounting the wonders of today. According to the official history of the martyrs,

Today, November 22, at Rome, St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr, died, who brought to the faith of Christ her betrothed Valerian and his brother Tiburtius, and encouraged them to martyrdom. After their death, being arrested by order of Almachius, prefect of the city, and exposed to the fire, from which she came out uninjured, she terminated her glorious sufferings by the sword, in the time of the emperor Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander.

Our prayer for the day is:

Grant that what has been devoutly handed down concerning St. Cecilia may offer us examples to imitate and proclaim the wonders worked in his servants by Christ your Son.

Cecilia heard the music of heaven by an interior sense, which makes her the patroness of musicians. May President Kennedy rest in peace. May we play the song of a holy life for the glory of God in Christ.

Jerusalem, Presentation of our Lady, Wings

The Lord longed to gather the city to Himself like a hen gathers her young under her wings. Christ the great king, the universal king, the omnipotent king—He rules the world like a mother hen, with a feathery embrace, rank with the smell of warm love.

bl-virg-detailThe Lord wept over the city, because the chicks just wanted to zig and zag their own way, cheep-cheep-cheeping after whatever caught their fleeting fancy. The mother hen knows and laments: little chicks cannot long survive alone in this strange, cold world without the canopy of warm wings.

In this very same city, Saints Joachim and Ann had taken their young daughter to the Temple, so that she could learn the ways of God. She opened her heart and mind altogether to the truth, never swerving from the path of learning.

Truth is, the wings of God always cover us. The hen has an infinite wingspan: the sway of divine wisdom reaches everywhere, forming and guiding everything according to the magnificent provident plan.

Isn’t that the great truth that our Lady learned and took to her immaculate heart? Namely, that this whole cosmos is a great, warm nest?

Sure, I can’t always feel the warm wings, because I am a goofy little chick, just getting used to using my senses. But the one thing I always know, the one thing I do not doubt: the Hen will take care of me.

The Lord wept because the chicks zigged and zagged, and soon destruction would befall the city made of stone. They killed the Messiah, and then the Romans leveled the whole town to the ground.

But the birds had taken flight by then. Mary our Queen reigns over the indestructible Jerusalem above. The day had long since come for her to fly, when the angel beckoned her to test her own wings: ‘See, you will bear the Messiah as your only son.’

Mary couldn’t see over the edge; she had no idea what was coming. But she leapt out, because she knew how big the mother hen’s wings are. Infinitely big.

Understanding the Force of Pork

Alexander the Great

At the end of the church year, we read from the end of the history of the Old Covenant, the books of the Maccabees.*

Not easy to read. To imagine the suffering of so many innocent people, especially a gentle old man and an aging mother.

Anybody remember how it all came to pass? Who took over the Holy Land when he conquered the Persian empire? Alexander the Great, who came from…Greece.

Alexander left his empire to his generals. The great-great-great-grandson of one of his generals demanded that the Jewish people abandon the religion.

The Greek authorities tried to break the peoples’ spirit by forcing them to eat unclean meat. Everybody in the world knew that the Jews did not eat pork, because the Law of Moses prohibited it. So the authorities ordered the most prominent Jews to eat pork, on pain of death.

spider_rollNow, we might reasonably ask: Why would anyone try to force someone to eat anything in particular? (other than your parents, trying to get you to eat your vegetables) If I force you to eat pork, or sushi, or cheese whiz, or any food, what good does that do me? Doesn’t make any sense.

Except: There is one way that we can understand it, one way that we can even relate. When people do wrong, as a group, and they want everyone to accept their wrongdoing as if it were normal, they will do violence just to force people to go along with it. They will do violence even to the people quietly minding their own business, trying to do the right thing, trying to do God’s will.

The faithful Jewish martyrs we read about at Holy Mass never picked a fight. They sought the Lord, hoping in the promises of the prophets. When the new Greek rules came along, they simply refused to do something they knew was wrong.

The faithful Jews willingly paid the ultimate price, rather than commit a sin. May the Lord give us clarity and strength like that.

I Maccabees stands in relation to II Maccabees not as I Kings stands in relation to II Kings, but rather as I Kings stands in relation to I Chronicles. 🙂

Also: Happy 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address!