Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Calendar's Entrance Hymn

"Out with the old; in with the new."  The promise of January 1 lies before us; the memories made the past 365 days we can use to our advantage.  The familiar words of Robert Burns will ring in the evening sky:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

May our triune God, Who sees past, present, and future, guide us along this time upon earth.  May He Who knows eternity grant us the grace to know Him better every day of our lives.  May He Who has no beginning or end bless us infinitely.

Happy New Year!


I honestly don't know what to make of 2013.

It was not, for the most part, "a very good year" for me personally.  Only the last six weeks have seen any improvement in my overall mood.  And that's because of maybe the only good news the calendar year saw.

I haven't mentioned it yet, lest I feared it would be another lost economic opportunity.  But, at last, I have regained some kind of foothold in the job market.  I have a part-time position with a company that provides people who demonstrate products in a members-only warehouse. Right now it's only one, maybe two days a week, but at least I am working.  The numbers on the paychecks are not big, but they are paychecks.  It's the psychological payoff that has more value:

  1. I am regaining some lost dignity after having been out of work for as long as I have.  At least I have a feeling of being productive.
  2. I am getting back some self-confidence in my abilities to relate to the public at large.  Whatever marketable skill sets I have are being strengthened.
  3. I am hoping this is "the job which gets me a job."  Now that I am employed, the perception I want to project is that I am more employable.
My motto for the past few years has been "Go Forward."  It seems I have taken a surer step in the right direction. I need to have the courage to take another.

That's the material side of my life. It has tried the spiritual side sorely not only the past twelve months, but the six prior to that.  That time span has been perhaps the darkest, most depressing part of my life.  Hope has been as elusive as a rare butterfly.  I just wondered at times if I would ever come out of the shell I created.

Robert Browning's line, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for" now has a glimmer of truth to it for me.  My reaching in faith is not in vain. The goal of 2014 will be to grasp something more substantial.

So in a few hours the promise of a new year will be welcomed.

The words of Robert Frost echo in my mind:
"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep."
Turn the page.  Charge ahead prayerfully and thoughtfully.  Go Forward.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

2013 Christmas Card

May Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate today, through His Father and in the Holy Spirit, grant you every grace and blessing.  As "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God," may he fill you with peace, joy, hope, and love.  As "King of Kings and Lord of Lords," may He rule with justice and mercy as we bend the knee in adoration and servitude.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Christmas Eve Reflection

For the past three years I have used the Propers for the Masses of the Feast of the Incarnation as my inspiration for this annual post.  In 2010, the focus was on the Propers for the Mass During the Night (commonly known as the "Midnight" Mass); 2011 saw comments on the Propers for the Vigil Mass; 2012 brought forth thoughts from the Propers for the Mass at Dawn.  Tonight I complete the cycle as we meditate on the Propers for the Mass During the Day.

A purpose of the Propers is to accompany a liturgical action within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Four of the five actions are processional in nature:  the ministers going to the altar at the beginning of Mass (the Introit), the presentation of the Book of the Gospels before its proclamation (the Alleluia/Tract), the bringing of the gifts (the Offertory), and the reception of Holy Communion (the Communion); the fifth is meditational, as the Gradual should allow the congregation a change to reflect on the reading just proclaimed.  In their own way, they allow for the full, conscious active participation of those who gather in worship.

From Eve to Night to Dawn to Daylight, the Light of the World has slowly arrived via the Scripture readings used at each Mass.  In this Mass we can now behold Him as He Is--the King in pauper's clothing, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel. In the light of day we find the Savior laying upon a wooden structure, extending His arms in an embrace of love, prefiguring His embrace of the Cross.  Our salvation is at hand; for that, we rejoice.

(Note: The translations used are once again from the 1990 Gregorian Missal, published by the monks of Solesmens, France.)
Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Dominion is on his shoulder and his name shall be called the Angel of Great Counsel. Sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has accomplished wondrous deeds. 
Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 97:1a

For those of us who are awake enough to be at this Mass after assisting in the Midnight Mass, the echo of that First Reading is found in this Introit.  The days of Mary's confinement are now complete and she has delivered what God has promised:  His own beloved Son.  This most wondrous deed, this great mystery, this act full of awe, this seemingly miraculous accomplishment--how can our hearts and souls not sing of its glorious might? "The King of Glory comes; the nation rejoices."
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation which comes from our God; sing joyfully to God all the earth. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 
Psalm 97:3cd-4; 2
The Gradual makes it clear what has been hidden from the sight of man because of Original Sin, the glory of God, is now on display for the whole world to see.  What the Law heralded and the Prophets foretold has now been fulfilled.  All the witness and witnesses of the Old Testament has borne its fruit in the first born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the blessed fruit of which Elizabeth spoke.  Salvation is within our reach.
A holy day has dawned upon us; come all ye nations and adore the Lord. For today a great light has descended upon the earth.
Here is another of those rare cases where the words for a Proper are not taken from Scripture, yet this Alleluia verse beautifully prepare the congregation for what is about to be proclaimed--the arrival of the Light of the World. This verse precedes one of the most elegant and eloquent passages in all of the Bible, used as the "Last Gospel" in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass:  the Prologue of the Gospel according to St. John (1:1-18).  As the birth of the world in Genesis was announced with the phrase "In the beginning", so it is with the birth of Jesus Christ.  As the world was created with a word, so is it also re-created with the Word.  As light was begotten on the first day, so is the Light also begotten on this "first day".  Grace and truth filled the world the first time before Original Sin; now it is truly in the world again.

Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.
Yours are the heavens, yours is the earth, the world and the fullness thereof have been founded by you. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. 
Psalm 88:12 and 15a
How fitting these words for Offertory.  All belong to Christ because He made all.  He who created all things visible and invisible claims His rightful spot among us.  The King of Kings takes His earthly throne so as to prepare to take His Heavenly one.  We are only giving to Him what He has given to us, but in that giving we acknowledge the Giver.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation which comes from our God. 
Psalm 97:3cd
The opening clause of the Gradual returns as the Communion.  But here it has new meaning.  The words of consecration have been spoken.  In another very real sense Christ has come down again from Heaven.  The Bread of Life Who was born in the House of Bread, our spiritual food Who was placed in a feeding trough, has now appeared as the new manna for the new Chosen People.  The Word made flesh is now given to us so we may fulfill His command, "Take this, all of you (the ends of the earth), and eat of it."  In the Real Presence we see the very salvation coming from God and "his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth."

The Propers for this Mass allow us to fully rejoice about "this thing which has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."  We can do this because the Nativity has been brought into the light over the Masses of this feast.  In the final Mass of the day full illumination allow us to see clearly what has happened.

Hodie Christus natus est.

The dear Christ Child has entered the world.

Let us rejoice and be glad.


My other reflections not found above:

A Plea On The Eve

The words are from Abbé Simon J. Pellegrin (1663-1745) and are an English translation of the French carol "Venez Divin Messie" by Sister Mary of St. Philip, SND (1825-1904).

It is our hope this day:


1. O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

2. Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show your face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.

3. O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

4. O Christ, whom nations sigh for,
Whom priest and prophet long foretold,
Come break the captive fetters;
Redeem the long-lost fold.

5. Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show your face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.

6. O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

7. You come in peace and meekness,
And lowly will your cradle be;
All clothed in human weakness
Shall we your Godhead see.

8. Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show your face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.

9. O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.


Ero cras.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dog, Gone Again

It is said bad things happen in threes.

When it comes to canines associated with this house, the trilogy has now been completed.

Last Friday morning, the other German Shepherd, Josephine, died.

Between the hustle and bustle of work and holiday preparation, this has been the only chance I've had to say a few words about this. I can report the cause of death was old age.  She was 12 years old.  While Catherine Garcia, her owner, and I were hoping to see her live past Christmas, we also were expecting her demise.  Having outlasted her running mate, Eugene, by over a year and a half, the sadness at her passing was tempered by the knowledge of the good life she had.

Her life wasn't without its troubles.  She came from a person who seemed to be running a bit of a puppy mill and was separated from her mom at four weeks.  Catherine had also told me some relatives of her late husband were rather over the edge when it came to disciplining the dog.  It all added up to Jo (her nickname) being a bit neurotic.

There was no mistaking who the alpha of the pack was, however.  She was large and in charge, but it was all a show.  The other dogs in the house were always afraid of getting past her for whatever reason; many a time I had to escort both Gene and Boston (the boxer who is still with us) past Jo just so they could get to where they wanted to go.  Her favorite stunt was to lay in front of the food and water dishes so nobody could get to them.

However, she would obey the sound of my voice.  For her, I was one of the greatest things on two legs she ever met.  And there were times where her maternal instincts would emerge.  She was very protective of the cats we have, even to the point of somewhat successfully herding them.  There were times she would groom Willow, the large tom we have.  You just wonder what kind of mother she would have been, as evidenced by this photo of her with Samantha.

I am told German Shepherds need to be around their breed to be happy.  She did OK after Gene's death, perhaps because Boston was here as well as both Samantha and Chloe (a new lab mix Catherine's youngest got a week after Samantha met her demise).  But the last few months were not easy.  In the last 6-8 months she has noticeably lost a lot of weight.  Then for the past 2-3 months, hip displacia, a common ailment in this breed, developed.  It was hard to see her drag herself around the homestead, but as long as she wasn't in pain. having her euthanized was not an option.  Catherine was even considering having some kind of wheelchair built for her.

But you could tell she was going.  Accidents in the house were a bit more frequent.  She was noticeably tired this past week.  And then she stopped eating and drinking.  When this past Friday came, she barely had the strength to drag herself around the dining room.

Catherine was in her home office/sewing room in the middle of that morning.  I had just stepped into my office to start my computer.  When I came back to the dining room about 10:35,  I found Josephine lying in front of the food and water dishes.  She wasn't breathing.  I called Catherine.  She came out, looked at Jo, and started to sob.  I came to give Catherine a hug; she cried out in a voice that almost sounded like a child.

"My doggie's gone."

Like Eugene, Josephine will also be cremated.  Thanks to a neighbor who loaned us the money, we were able to pay to have this done at a local veterinary clinic.  Her remains are expected sometime after Christmas.

In life and death, they will be together.

As it should be.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

7th. Time Seven "O"s

Once again we are nearing the end of Advent.  The rose candle in our Advent wreaths has been lit, signaling we are at least half-way through the season.  We notice daylight becoming less and less as we near the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere.  And perhaps we are busier in our material preparations for Christmas.

Starting today, however, it is in the recitation of Vespers where we get the sense of not only Advent coming to a close but also the Christ Child drawing near.  For the next seven nights the antiphons used prior to the recitation of the Magnificat lead us to recall the prophecies of the Savior to come, each a title which underscores and points toward December 25.  From the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
...They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative "Come!" embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
As is custom this time of year, this infinitesimal corner of the universe presents its series of meditations on the "O" Antiphons for your edification.  The reflections of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB, as well as my own widow's mite, are once again offered.  Also included is a copy of the music of the antiphon and a link to it being intoned.  (Fedora doff to Fr. Jim Tucker of the defunct 'blog "Dappled Things" via the the 'blog "Fisheaters" for the recordings.)

The traffic numbers suggest these are my most popular posts.  Perhaps because their message is timeless as well as timely is why I repeat them every year.  The Word still speaks.

Enjoy as we come toward the day of fulfillment.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

While We Wait

And now, a word from my bishop regarding this Advent season, as found in the diocesan newspaper, the Intermountain Catholic:

With Advent, we are starting a new liturgical year. The liturgical year is at the core of our lives as Catholics, because our ability to mark time in any way is part of God’s love and God’s gift. 
I remember as a young seminarian going to see the musical Godspell, and being mesmerized by the beautiful themes and the wonderful message that was put in a very modern and realistic way. I remember that clarion call of John the Baptist, "Prepare the way of the Lord." 
This is the message of Advent. It is a time of preparation, a time to prepare the way of the Lord even as we await the Lord. 
But a very dear friend of mine, Father Gene Konkel, SS, always used to ask, "Who is waiting for whom?" 
We are certainly, on a very real level, waiting for the Lord at Christmas, but really it’s God who waits for us. The way that we prepare is our lives. We look forward to accepting God in our lives, so Advent is a time of preparation, to prepare our souls, our hearts and our lives to receive Christ at Christmas. 
Advent is a time to ask ourselves what are the crooked ways in our lives. Each of us might ask: What are the crooked ways on which I sometimes get lost, or I take a detour? What are the crooked ways that need to be made straight in my life? What are those mountains that are blocking my spiritual path? What are the obstacles to finding Christ more fully in my life? What are the obstacles to me leading a more faith-filled life, a more trusting life? 
Advent is a time for us to consider these questions of how each of us, in our own way, can prepare to receive Christ at Christmas. So, yes, prepare the way of the Lord. We are awaiting Christ this Christmas, and so beautifully he is waiting for us. 
Yours in Christ,
+ The Most Rev. John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City

December 2013 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering::
General:  Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need. 
Mission: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.