Saturday, 24 February 2007

Our Lady of Guadalupe

I brought one of my TAN acquisitions with me to read while at Ampleforth... trying to keep my luggage to a minimum meant that I didn't want to bring the Sermons of St. Alphonsus (too big) and so I picked out the slim volume on the apparitions at Guadalupe.

"The Wonder of Guadalupe" by Francis Johnston is a fascinating book, and it is extremely readable. It starts from the arrival of the Spanish forces in Mexico in 1519, which helps to give some background within which to understand the apparitions. In particular, Johnston describes some of the practices of the Aztecs in their worship of gods and godesses.

It is fairly common knowledge that Aztecs had human sacrifices where a person's heart was ripped out while the victim was still alive. Because it's usually glossed over by those who extol the culture of the Aztec society (and castigate Christian - mostly Catholic - missionaries who dared to interfere with native traditions and "impose" Western values), it is less well known that these victims were not usually willing participants who rejoiced at being "chosen" as the sacrifice - I have heard them described this way, and even compared to the Catholic martyrs! In fact, these victims were usually prisoners of war or slaves... and 20,000 of them might be sacrificed at the dedication of a single temple. Not only that, but having your heart ripped out was considered to be the most merciful of options: the Aztecs also went in for flaying their victims or eating their victims alive.

The mightiest of the Aztec gods was Quetzelcoatl (the feathered or stone serpent); the great Mother god, Tonantzin, whose head was a mass of writhing snakes, had formerly had a temple at Tepeyac, the site of the apparitions. Our Lady called herself "te coatlaxopeuh" using the native language, which translates as "she who will stamp out the stone serpent" but which was mistaken by the Spaniards who listened to the accounts of Juan Diego and his uncle Juan Bernardino for "de Guadalupe" since the Spanish shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe was well known.

Juan Diego, a simple Mexican peasant, had been baptised at the age of 51. Our Lady appeared to him in 1531 when he was 57. He was told to go to the Bishop of Mexico City and tell him that she wished for a shrine to be built at Tepeyac. As noted in the apparitions at Lourdes, Mary spoke to her chosen messenger in his own language, and with the utmost love and courtesy.

Juan Diego was not believed at first, and, during a fourth apparition, Our Lady caused roses and other flowers to bloom in the frozen soil. Juan Diego gathered them up in his tilma (a cloak made of plant fibre) and Mary arranged them, instructing him to show them to no-one until he saw the Bishop again.

When Juan Diego was finally admitted to the Bishop's presence, he opened his arms to release the flowers from the tilma, and as the flowers fell to the floor, the image of Our Lady appeared on the cloak.

The natural life of the plant fibre which makes up the tilma is about 20 years. Despite having been handled by thousands, being exposed to damp air and smoke from innumerable candles, having nitric acid spilled over it, and even having a bomb explode directly beneath it, the image has survived in pristine condition for nearly 5 centuries.

The miraculous aspects of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe are only really becoming clear with the developments in scientific knowledge which have happened since the start of the twentieth century. Infra-red radiation photography has shown that there are no brush-strokes on the image, and no underlying preliminary drawing, indicating that the image has not been painted. In 1936, fibres of the tilma were subjected to chemical analysis by the Nobel prize winner in Chemistry, Richard Kuhn. He concluded that there was no colouring of any kind in the fibres, and the materials used to produce the colours in the image were unknown to science, being neither animal, vegetable or mineral dyes.

In 1951, an image was noted in the eyes of the Virgin. Examination of the image revealed it to be that of Juan Diego (by comparison with an early painting of him) Further examination of the eyes of the Virgin Mary in 1955 revealed that there were actually three faces reflected in the eyes. By enlarging the image, the two other faces can be seen to resemble those of the translator Juan Gonzales and the newly appointed general administrator of Mexico, Bishop Fuenleal. Experimentation with photography and optometry suggest that Our Lady was standing directly behind Bishop Zumárraga while he was facing the other three men (whose images would therefore be reflected in her eyes) and it has been postulated that the tilma acted as some sort of colour film which photographed the Virgin (who was invisible to the human eye) !

There have, I believe, been more recent investigations into the image, but I haven't had a chance to look them up - the one problem with the book is that it only goes up to 1981!

Exploring the web a little, I came across this website of the Mexican Shrine (at least, I think it's the Mexican one... my grasp of Mexican/Spanish is pretty much non-existent!) And for the slightly more adventurous, I think there is a multimedia download about the apparitions available here.

A more sinister issue struck me as I explored the web for suitable images for this post. It appears that there is a resurgence of interest in the Aztec Mother-goddess Tonantzin, presenting her as nothing more than the embodiment of the "feminine"... whatever that might be. I don't think it's pure coincidence that this goddess who required human sacrifice has made her reappearance at a time when thousands of babies are killed by abortion under the guise of "a woman's right to choose."

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for the unborn, pray for us.
St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

Friday, 23 February 2007

But What About Sundays...?

Ok, now I'm confused. I found Jimmy Akin's blog and his posts on Lent, and in particular what constitutes fasting and abstinence...

If Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, and lasts until the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday, then there are clearly more than 40 days. Someone, somewhere, at some time told me that Sundays and Solemnities are supposed to be "feast days" and if they occur during Lent then those days are considered to be days "off" from whatever penance one has undertaken.

Now, I like this idea...

...I like this idea a lot...

...but I'm beginning to notice that this view is not universally accepted. I've been happily assuring my friends that we can, with a clear conscience, feast on Sundays, (in fact, one year I saved all my Sundays up and celebrated them in one week so that I could enjoy a pilgrimage to Lourdes) but I am now a little confused...

Anyone care to comment?

And Another New Arrival...

...this time in the form of a new blog! Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ has been putting up comments on other blogs for a while now, and she has finally succumbed to the blogging bug... her own blog proudly proclaims her vocation: "Catholic Mom of 10"

Pay a visit and say hallo... it's terrifying when you start a blog because you assume that no-one can possibly be interested in what you have to say...

...after a while, of course, you don't really mind, and just blog it anyway!

Stations of the Cross

The traditional devotion associated with Lent, particularly on Fridays, is the Stations of the Cross. Every Catholic Church has the Stations somewhere around the walls, though the form which they take can vary from simple crosses on the wall to elaborate carvings.

The Stations at Lourdes are really stunning: I've done them a few times in the past but alas, my knees can't cope with the very steep incline and gravelly ground any more - the way down at the end is actually more hazardous than the way up!!

The Lourdes Magazine describes the new Stations which have been erected opposite the Grotto for those with mobility problems... I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, but look forward to seeing them on the pilgrimage in May.

You can pray the Stations yourself at home, meditating on each one, but there is something special about joining a group to pray them. Just in case there is anyone stumbling across my blog who is unfamiliar with this devotion, there are traditionally 14 Stations (with a possible 15th if you include the Resurrection!)

I Jesus is condemned to death
II Jesus receives the cross
III Jesus falls the first time
IV Jesus meets his Blessed Mother
V Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene
VI Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
VII Jesus falls the second time
VIII Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
IX Jesus falls the third time
X Jesus is stripped of his garments
XI Jesus is nailed to the cross
XII Jesus dies on the cross
XIII Jesus is taken down from the cross
XIV Jesus is laid in the sepulchre

Pastor in Valle is putting up pictures of carvings of the Stations which he has at his church... they're not quite my cup of tea, though I do find something intriguing and attractive about them...

Catholic Online has some meditations suitable for use when praying the Stations.

I love thee, Jesus, my love above all things. I repent with my whole heart for having offended thee. Never let me separate myself from thee again; grant that I may love thee always, and then do with me what thou wilt.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Time To Call A Spade A Shovel...

Today's SPUC email newsletter highlighted the awful case of a young teenage girl who was forced to have an abortion by her mother (reported in LifeSite). The girl herself is now in a psychiatric ward because she wants to kill herself as a result of the "choice" her mother made on her behalf.

The author of the article points out that, in a clear case of the young girl wanting to choose, feminist "pro-choice" groups were deafeningly silent on the matter.

People who call themselves "pro-choice" and declare that they are in favour of a woman's "right to choose" need to get real: they are not any more pro-choice than the rest of us, what they are is "pro-abortion."

Aggie Catholic has an excellent article on this - read it HERE.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Ash Wednesday

Surprise, surprise! Lent begins here. It doesn't matter how "well" I prepare for it, it always seems to sneak up on me.

Those of you who know me personally will understand that chocolate and I have a love-hate relationship... I love chocolate, but I hate what it does to my hips. Unfortunately, I only remember what it does to my hips when I go clothes shopping, and then I get so depressed at the lack of anything suitable to wear that I eat some chocolate in order to cheer myself up...

Before Advent, on being encouraged to do something penitential by my SD as preparation for Christmas, I did ask about giving up alcohol - he wisely pointed out that, since I don't tend to drink that much on a regular basis (I will not drink at all if I am driving anywhere, and I nearly always drive), giving up alcohol alone wasn't actually much of a sacrifice. Before I stopped to think, I blurted out "Oh, if it's something I'll really miss, it has to be chocolate then..." and then sat there wishing that I'd kept my mouth shut! But, the promptings of the Spirit and all that...

So, it seems obvious that chocolate is one of the things to go during Lent. And only on Ash Wednesday do I wake up dreaming of chocolate... Blogging has made things much, much worse. I have lost count of the pictures of chocolates I have drooled over today! Nearly every Catholic blog refers in some way to what the blogger is going to do for Lent: however, this is also really encouraging, because out there in the big, bad, secular world, if you say that you have given something up for Lent, you often encounter pitying glances (from atheists and agnostics) or downright hostility (from liberal Catholics, who say things like "Oh, how very hard-line... Lent isn't about giving things up, it's about doing something positive...")

I have to confess to a certain lack of charity when presented with that view... yes, Lent isn't just about giving something up, but it is about observing all three areas of penance, prayer and almsgiving. And penance is meant to be a sacrifice, for the love of God. That is positive. It also forms part of our training for "spiritual warfare" where we exercise mastery over our physical passions. Also positive. Since I can't find a hairshirt in my size, penance will, by necessity, involve cutting out the treats I enjoy. Giving up Brussels sprouts isn't really an option, since sprouts, in my humble opinion, rank just above cockroaches in the order of creation...

Anyone else who has a smidgeon of faith (Muslims, Jews, Anglicans etc.) will accord you silent respect for observing some sort of sacrifice. Other Traddies will, of course, eagerly compare notes about what, exactly, you are doing, and how many times you've slipped up, and whether Sunday counts...

So to all of you out there contemplating the start of your Lenten penance: Good luck, and God bless!

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Not Quite The Maker's Instruction Manual...

Mantilla-twitch in the direction of Cally's Kitchen.

More To Be Thankful For...

Just for a change, today appears to be a really good news day.

I posted a prayer request for Sophie, a 7-year-old girl who was due to have major surgery to remove a brain tumour. Checking Dominican Idaho for an update, it seems that:

Yesterday the results from the MRI came back. This was the follow up test that would tell if the tumor was completely gone, and thanks to our loving God, there’s nothing left ! Everything else looked also normal. Sophia is going to be in anti-seizure medication for a couple of days.

Not quite out of the woods yet - and the question of damage to her eyesight still isn't certain - but it looks encouraging... keep up the prayers for Sophie and her family.

Just In Time For Lent !

Mary Elizabeth has finally arrived. Ma Beck left it to Pa Beck to make the announcement.

Baby Beck looks cute as a button (and may turn out to be a mousey-blonde, so I shall have to be careful with the blonde jokes from now on...)

Congratulations to the whole family are in order, I think!

Cat Quote

Checking out cats and all things catolick, I discovered the following quotes, which I feel I would do well to heed:

"Do not meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will pee on your computer."

"In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods. They have never forgotten this."

And finally, "Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want."

Something to Celebrate!

The 10th Baroness Howard de Walden, a Roman Catholic, decided this week that abortion clinics would not be allowed in Harley Street, her private property. The list of procedures which cannot be carried out in Harley Street clinics will also include cloning and euthanasia.

There aren't any direct abortion clinics in Harley Street at the moment, so nothing is being "closed down" but I think that this quote from Anne Quesney, director of pro-choice group Abortion Rights indicates that it is very good news indeed:

"This decision is reminiscent of the US, where abortion clinics are being driven underground, closed down or attacked.

"There, the anti-choice lobby's tactics have severely impacted on women's access to abortion - driving them to desperate measures.

"Forty years after abortion was legalised in Britain, women's rights continue to be under threat from those who oppose abortion and want to impose their personal beliefs across the country."

Nothing personal about wanting to stop murder...

You can read the full article HERE. Mantilla-twitch to Sir Jack.


There seems to be a new film coming out... I'm intrigued, because I hadn't heard anything at all until I spotted a description on American Papist.

In his review, Thomas says that the producer, Leo Severino, told of leaving a prosperous career as Latin American business mangaer at Fox studios to begin Metanoia Films (Greek for conversion). "I wanted to make films that if the Virgin Mary sat next to me during the screening, I wouldn't have to cover her eyes." Now that's what grabbed my attention... I'm tired of having to judge how much sex, nudity and bad language I'm likely to have to tolerate when choosing a film to watch.

For me, one of the best quotes in the trailer has got to be the last line: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." Sooo true!

You can see the trailer for the film HERE - but be warned... it doesn't exactly explain anything!!

I hope it finds its way to the UK...

Monday, 19 February 2007

More Cat Stuff

I am very fond of this poem... I used to know it off by heart, but alas, no more! However, I think, given the profusion of cat posts popping up everywhere (Northern Cleric started it, Simon Peter joined the fray and Stephen Wikner made up an unholy trinity), that it is time to resurrect Eliot's classic...

The naming of cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm mad as a hatter
When I tell you a cat must have three
different names.

First of all, there's the name
that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor, or Jonathan,
George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names
if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen,
some for the dames;
Such as Plato, Admetus,
Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.

But I tell you,
a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that is peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he
keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers,
or cherish his pride?

Of names of this kind,
I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum--
Names that never belong
to more than one cat.

But above and beyond
there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name
that no human research can discover--
But The Cat Himself Knows,
and will never confess.

When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought,
of the thought of his name:
His ineffable, effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

UPDATE: Histor has been Wise enough to jump on the cat-bandwagon, and has posted another great cat poem (though I respectfully disagree that it is the greatest of all cat poems, obviously, else why would I have posted the above?)

FURTHER UPDATE: The Roving Medievalist has contributed another cat poem written by a 9th Century Irish Monk...

The Battle of Wills

Looks like Northern Cleric has been misguided enough to try and take on Presbytery Cat in a battle of wills...
...foolish, foolish man. I told him he didn't stand a chance, not when the issue is food... Or comfortable sleeping places...

...or anything, in fact! Sure enough, he lost.

Tony Blair's Bioethical Legacy

On Friday, ZENIT reported an excellent interview with John Smeaton, Director of SPUC, in which he details the truly dreadful state of affairs in Britain with regard to pro-life issues. If anyone needed proof that hell will freeze over before Tony Blair becomes a Catholic, they could find it here...

...Damascus-Road conversion excepted, naturally... (God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform) - but it would have to be a pretty public conversion in order to avoid giving scandal to a great number of faithful Catholics.

And yes, giving scandal is a serious sin... Check out Matthew 18:6-7. (Need I point out that the Douay-Rheims translation appears to be the only one using the verb "to scandalise"?... other versions have the more boring "causing to sin" or "causing to fall"... which is probably why people forget that causing scandal is a sin in the first place!)

I can't link directly to the interview, but go to the Archives from the ZENIT Main Page - dated 16th February 2007, one of the two interviews on that day: "Tony Blair's Bioethical Legacy."

Oh, and yes, before you ask, I am the "Miss McLernon" John Smeaton refers to! Heheheh... I've made it on to ZENIT !

UPDATE: The direct link to the interview can be found HERE.

Prayer Request

While checking out Simon-Peter's blog, I came across a reference to Sophia which mentioned that she was having surgery. On further exploration, it appears that Sophia has a brain tumour. She is very small for her age (7 years) - the tumour was discovered a couple of weeks ago by doctors who were trying to figure out a cause for her small stature. The tumor is wrapped around her pituitary gland and her optical nerves. They expect that it will take three operations to remove the tumour, and she is probably going to lose some or all of her eyesight. The first operation was scheduled for Tuesday, 13th February. From what I gather, Sophia appears to be making good progress, though there have been one or two scares along the way.

There was a request to pass this on to anyone who is willing to join in prayer for her. Pray for a miracle for Sophia. Pray for her team of surgeons.

Updates also seem to be being posted HERE.


Stephen Swikner over at CSSML asked to see Sylvester...

...and I'm happy to oblige:

Stephen's blog is worth a visit - I particularly liked his beautiful shot of Ely Cathedral (of which he is the Bursar) in the snow - and although his profile proclaims that he's had a presence on Blogger since November 2006, his earliest post is actually one on the Ely Madonna. At the risk of souring ecumenical blogging relations, I have to confess that I find the statue to be hideous...

Simon-Peter has outed a Sylvester imposter who is also doing weird things to computers... You can find them HERE. The music is a little trying (after a while).... oh, for some Gregorian Chant!

Sunday, 18 February 2007

DIY Escapades

My old computer used dial-up, and I had a separate phone line in the spare room just for internet access. My new broadband connection, however, is in the sitting room, and so I've had my new computer perched on top of a small table so that I can blog and email to my heart's content, albeit by balancing the keyboard on my lap. I'd intended to get an extension for the cable, and move the computer into the study where it belongs, but hadn't quite managed to get myself organised...

However, the table on which I have been perching my new computer did not react well to the extra load, not helped by the fact that Sylvester cannot see a horizontal surface without wanting to jump on it. One of the castors came off. I need some more shelf space anyway, and there are some rather good computer workstations in Argos. So, yesterday, I went along with a friend to see what they had available.

I was very pleased Angela had come along with me - the instructions inside the flatpack boxes warned that help might be needed (practically the only written information given... the rest is in picture form... and far from idiot-proof!) We spent most of the evening trying to figure out what bits went where... losing several screws in the intricacies of the carpet design didn't help!!

Sylvester approves of the new shelving... he has spent a fair amount of time weaving in and out of all the little sections. Now all I have to do is transfer the computer to its resting place...

UPDATE: I haven't transferred very much stuff yet... this is a temporary spot... but I'm happy to say that it's an improvement on the small-table-and-lap arrangement !

Comment Moderation

I seem to be getting a number of nuisance anonymous comments, and sitemeter tells me that they're from the same ISP... I'm looking into what to do about them, but in the meantime I've decided to change the comments options so that you have to register with Blogger before you can comment.

Apologies for any inconvenience for my genuine "anonymous" contributors.
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