The Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael ~ Have you been touched by an angel?

 The Feast of the Archangel

Michael, Gabriel and  Raphael

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Nearly everyone is fascinated by angels, whether they are into religion or not. You may recall the popular TV series Touched by an Angel, starring Della Reese, Roma Downey, Toby Keith that ran from 1994- 2003.

Angels have a big role in the Bible and in our history. They are a part of our dogmatic Catholic tradition. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith.”

The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition. For Jews, it is impossible to not believe in the literal beings known as the angels. The Old Testament makes numerous references to them. For them it’s an article of faith that cannot be ignored if you want to be a sincere and devout Jew. Witness the angel that led Israel’s camp and protected them from Pharaoh.

The same is especially true of Christians. In addition to what is given to us in the Old Testament, almost every book of the New Testament shows us that the angels are a real and active force in our lives. And since in the life of Jesus as man and his eternal existence as God consists of numerous encounters with the angels, you cannot believe in Jesus as Christ without encountering angels.

So what are angels?

St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.'” With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word”.

IAs purely spiritual creatures, angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness. (330)

  The Catechism of the Catholic Church in Paragraphs 329-330:

Christian doctrine thus teaches that the angels are spiritual beings who were created by God to serve him. Some say they can appear in human form and interact with us, but those bodies are only temporary illusions and pass away when their interaction with certain humans ends. As purely spiritual beings, angels thus do not have DNA and those bodies may feel tangible but are not part of the angelic nature and thus vanish after the encounter because they have no use for physical bodies as we do.

What is the purpose of the angels?

The purpose of all of the angels is to serve, and praise God, worship, and pray to God. In the process of serving God, they also protect us, pray for us, inspire us, encourage us, and guide us during our journey on Earth. Some early Christian traditions indicate that even after our death, the angels continue to guide us in our journey to our final place, whether it is to Heaven or to Hell. It is speculative that those who have to go through the final state of purification on the way to Heaven known as Purgatory might also have their guardian angels (Psalm 91:9-12; Matthew 18:1-4,10) with them during their time of purification of sin.

And yes, everyone has a guardian angel.

Our Guardian Angels love us and do everything within God’s Will to protect us from harm. Sometimes though we reject God’s protection, and by consequence their protection too, we have to deal with the consequences of our sins when we do not repent. (From Paragraph 336 of the  Church’s Catechism .)

Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

   Cf. Catholic 365.com for the above information.

St. Gregory the Great notes that angels do not have names unless and until they are given a mission from God to announce a message. There are untold millions of angels in heaven, all created as pure spirits, in continual praise and adoration of our God.  Scripture also makes clear that at great events of salvation history, God sends an “archangel” to proclaim a message.

The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are three of the seven archangels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.

Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.

Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass. (I’ll include that prayer at the bottom of this blog, though it was suppressed with the Vatican II changes in the liturgy.)

Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to guard or rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call us away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.

Gabriel is, he who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)

Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two appearances in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and at Incarnation of the Word when he announces to Mary that she will be the Mother of the Most High . He again appeared to Joseph in a dream and guided them on their way to Egypt to flee from Herod’s clutches.

Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tobit 12:15)

Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit.  Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.

Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.

And let’s not forget our unnamed guardian angels. I’ve dubbed my own guardian angel Claretia— after the famous guardian angel Clarence—in the old movie with Jimmy Stewart it’s a Wonderful Life. All I know is she’s gotten me out of a helluva a lot of scrapes—near car accidents and falls and all. That’s what guardian angels do for us, ya know. They just watch over us Their Feast Day for our guardian angels is October 2nd. Do you remember the prayer your mother taught you? (I don’t know whether young parents still teach their children this little prayer or not.) But you can teach it to them now.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,

to whom God’s love commits me here;

ever this day be at my side; to light, to guard, to rule, to guide. Amen

 And here’s Psalm 91 that speaks of the protection of the angels . . . .

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

I have always recommended this psalm to people who were experiencing any kind of trauma, no matter what the kind, for them to pray often. It reflects what soldiers on the battlefield have often known: bullets whizzing by them and not harming them. Their angel protecting them!

And here’s this psalm set to music. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

And here’s the old prayer to St. Michael.

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Triumph of the Cross of Jesus ~ and our crosses too!

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ~ September 14, 2021

 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John12:24.)

Jesus had said this to his disciples shortly after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I’m thinking about the issue of Dying to Self these September days because we’re celebrating a favorite feast day of mine because I have had a along association with the Cistercian  (Trappist) Abbey of the Holy Cross in Berryville, Virginia, nestled on the Western side of the first ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the shore of the Shenandoah River. I’m also thinking of the issue of Dying to Self these September days as I prepare to return to my Diocese of Orlando and do more priestly work again.

Before the pandemic many of us would have shuddered and quaked in our sneakers at the thought of Dying to Self, but then it was forced on us, wasn’t it?

It goes against everything our American culture tells us we should do—Look Out For No. 1.  A psychologist some time ago did a study that showed that there has been a distinct rise in more individualistic words such as “choose,” “get,” “feel,” “unique,” “individual” and “self” and a decrease in community-focused words such as “obliged,” “give,” “act,” “obedience,” “authority,” “pray” and “belong.” No sign of Dying to Self here, it seems. Let alone the Cross.

If you name the trauma(s) that have altered your life over the years  or just over the duration of this pandemic. . . how did you deal with them? How did they affect you? What about Dying to Self?  Can you ~ do you ~ do that?

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John12:24.)

In another place, Jesus says to his disciples . . .

If any wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Luke 9:24-26 ~ NRSV)

Obviously, this is not the wisdom of the world with its emphasis on Power Prestige and Possessions. A priest-friend sent me a Christmas card a couple of years ago that I framed and placed on my dining room table —a quote of St. Paul’s:

My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection. And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Can you get it?

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

I / Unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.

II / Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. I

II / When I am powerless, then I am strong.

What is a koan, you might ask? A koan is a Zen saying often used by Buddhist monks to teach their novices: “To meditate on a koan is to engage in an active process, like that we engage in when we try to solve a mathematical problem. As in mathematics, the solution is supposed to come suddenly.”

So, rather than giving all your energy to the three P’s of the world, why not write these three Christian Scriptures on index cards and pull them out when you’re idle waiting for something else to happen? Try it! You just might be enlightened, as I somehow receive the gift of some in wisdom, as I have from time to time when I have been attentive to my prayer-life.

Jesus, of course, shows us the way.  Let’s look at the famous “Kenosis” passage of Philippians Chapter 2:6-11 “Kenosis”—meaning here Jesus’ self-emptying . . .

Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

There it is, dear friends! Jesus gave his life for us. The movement was downward. Earthward. Earth-bound. Into the muck. Humility comes from the word humus, meaning muck. So, that’s what Dying to Self involves—getting down into the nitty-gritty of our lives and those of our loved ones and those we are called to serve. Being obedient to what life demands of us.  And beckons us to, whether we might like it not. Real Life elicits from our inner depths our best resources. Then . . .

Then . . . God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And so, too, with us! We will be lifted up! I have experienced this several times. My longtime readers know that I’ve struggled with manic-depressive (bipolar) illness, and other issues with it, and later Parkinson’s disease, from which I received some sort of a miraculous release, according to my neurologist and very often financial struggles,like many of you.

But Jesus is faithful! Dying and rising is a continual process in nature and in our lives as well. We are taken down in some burden or crisis but, through faith, we are lifted up again! This is the Paschal Mystery. The Pasch ~ Passover ~ Passage ~Transition ~Transformation ~ Change. The Dying and Rising of Jesus in our lives is celebrated for us Catholics throughout the liturgical year and in every Mass.

Think about how you have experienced—and continue to experience the Paschal Mystery ~ this dying and rising ~ in your own life. And so, dear friends, I will bring this missive to a close by returning to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and conclude with the wonderful words of the hymn Lift High the Cross. I remember when I first heard it. Trumpets and timpani sent shivers down my spine and goose bumps all over!

Lift high the cross The love of Christ proclaim,

Till all the world Adore His sacred name

Led on their way By this triumphant sign,

The hosts of God In conquering ranks combine. Refrain:

Each newborn servant Of the Crucified

Bears on the brow The seal of Him who died. Refrain

O Lord, once lifted On the glorious tree,

As Thou hast promised Draw the world to Thee. Refrain.

So shall our song Of triumph ever be:

Praise to the Crucified For victory. Refrain:

Now here is the hymn for your listening pleasure. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them.  Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven ~ The Exaltation of Womanhood

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THE FEAST OF ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

AUGUST 15th, 2021

I rejoice heartily in the Lord,

In my God is the joy of my soul;

for he has clothed me with the robe of salvation,

like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,

  like a bride bedecked with her jewels. (Canticle of Isaiah) 

Through the power of his Resurrection,

Christ has adorned Mary with the robe of his own glory and majesty.

In years past, the image I’ve chosen for Mary on this post was a strong one following her title from Revelations, ” A Woman Clothed with the Sun”, but this year, I’ve selected a softer one that connotes the Eastern Rites’ emphasis on the “Dormition” of our Lady or her “falling asleep”, and then being taken up into heaven.

Here’s a bit about this Feast (or Solemnity, as we call it in the liturgy.)

First of all, it’s a celebration of the body and an exaltation of womanhood.

In 1950 Pope Pius XII declared as a dogma of the church something that we Catholics have believed throughout the church’s history ~ that Mary was taken up into heaven, body and soul,  to sit at her Son’s side for all eternity.

The Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven makes clear to us that there is room for our humanity in heaven. Mary’s Assumption assures us that what Jesus accomplished in rising from the dead was not limited to his own Person—even though we are not divine, we too are meant to be in heaven with the Incarnate Son, in his home with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Blessed Mother’s birth into heaven generates in us “ an ever new capacity to await God’s future.” (Saint John Paul II). Just as grace does not destroy but perfects our nature, so the glory of heaven will include our whole humanity, body and soul! “That transformation of our mortal bodies to which we look forward one day has been accomplished—we know it for certain—in her” (Msgr. Ronald Knox).  ~ From the Magnificat liturgical magazine / August 2019 – p. 202.

Everyone was quite startled when the distinguished psychiatrist Carl Jung, who was not a Catholic,  said that this declaration about Mary was “the greatest religious event since the reformation.”  And by the way, Martin Luther believed in the Assumption of the Virgin.

Here’s the entire text of what he had to say.  You ought to read this; what he says is truly amazing coming from a psychiatrist and a non-Catholic!

The promulgation of the new dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary could, in itself, have been sufficient reason for examining the psychological background. It is interesting to note that, among the many articles published in the Catholic and Protestant press on the declaration of the dogma, there was not one, so far as I could see, which laid anything like proper emphasis on what was undoubtedly the most powerful motive: namely the popular movement and  the psychological need behind it. Essentially, the writers of the articles were satisfied with learned considerations, dogmatic and historical, which have no bearing on the living religious process. But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work …One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the ‘Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.’ For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.

The dogmatizing of the Assumption does not, however, according to the dogmatic view, mean that Mary has attained the status of goddess, although, as mistress of heaven and mediatrix, she is functionally on a par with Christ, the king and mediator. At any rate her position satisfies a renewed hope for the fulfillment of that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest, the more so the less he sees any possibility of getting rid of it by rational means. It is no wonder, therefore, that the hope, indeed the expectation of divine intervention arises in the collective unconscious and at the same time in the masses. The papal declaration has given comforting expression to that yearning. How could Protestantism so completely miss the point?

I was amazed and thrilled when I discovered this text and again when I’ve just now re-read it.

And I’ve always loved to pray and sing these words from the preface of the Mass of the day:

Today the virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven

as the beginning  and the image

of your Church’s coming to perfection

and a sign of sure of hope and comfort for your people

on their pilgrim way.

Mary is the first disciple of her Son.

She is the one who said Yes!  “Be it done unto me according to Your word.”

Each of us who bear witness to Christ give birth to him in our own way.

May we honor Mary on this wonderful feast day and enjoy this late summer day and exalt the women in our life as well!

On August 22nd, the octave of the Assumption we celebrate a minor feast ~ the Queenship of Mary.  I honor her as my queen.  Now this may sound a bit odd, my friends, but I take her shopping with me.  I thanked her for finding my lovely condo.  I signed the documents for the condo on August 15th, 2008 ~ my home for eleven years as of today.

Now, from ~ and in honor of ~Notre Dame de Paris ~ (may she rise again from her ashes,) here is a the Magnificat sung led by a choir boy with congregation responding.  Click here. And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative writer

The Courage of the Signers ~ where is our courage?

Dear Friends,

On  July 4, 1776, the men, and their families supporting them
published the sacred document, the Declaration of Independence,
that created this country.  At its conclusion, they said:

FOR THE SUPPORT OF THIS DECLARATION
WITH A FIRM RELIANCE ON THE PROTECTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
WE MUTUALLY PLEDGE OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES AND OUR SACRED HONOR.

Imagine the risks they undertook and the courage that they needed
to bring the ideal of freedom and equality that existed in their minds and hearts into external reality.
They had to be willing to sacrifice everything dear to them — their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
Their signatures, bound to their lives, fortunes and honor, created the United States of America.

We need to return again and again to that moment.
We need to re-birth America in our hearts in this time and place.

We honor the sacrifices of the women and men and their families
who have served in Iraq and in Afghanistan  in the service of our country.
Many of these men and women had been compelled to serve tour after tour,
sacrificing their physical and emotional lives and those of their families.
But the rest of us American people have been asked to sacrifice very little.

We need to ask same courage and the leadership in our President and in our Congress and vote for leaders who show it.

I received an email some time ago from a friend that showed what happened to many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence:

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife; she died shortly after.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

We go on with our complacent lives, untouched by the swirl of politics and the even the plight of the immigrant children on our Southern border.

May we not take for granted what we have here in America for we could lose what we have. 

May we not let some try to divide us for we are one people under one flag and a God who respects all people.

May this Fourth of July be a time for us to take stock of ourselves.

John Kennedy said:

“Ask not what our country can do for you;                                                                                                              Ask what you can do for your country.”

I have pleaded for years that we need to be willing to enter a path of personal transformation
for the sake of transformation of our country.

And so again today, I invite us to pray for God’s help in that transformation.

Good and gracious God of our understanding,                                                                                                         we thank You for the courage and vision of our founding fathers and mothers,
May each of us be willing to transform


our hate to respect for all people,
our reliance on material things to reliance on You,
our greed and selfishness to self-giving and compassion
May we always be willing to respond to the grace You give us
to transform our lives and our country to serve the good of all.
Let the lessons of hardship that many of us have been experiencing
bring us to You, God of our understanding,
for You, are the Source of all that is good in our lives.                                                                          Ma
y all our actions show Your wisdom and love.                  

For we declare that we are:                                                                                                                                               “ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE, WITH FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”
Amen.

Now, before you go, here’s the Star Spangled Banner like you’ve never heard it before. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers,  Click here.

And if you’d like, here’s Celine Dion singing God Bless America with a wonderful slide show that just might give you some goosebumps! Click here.  And again, be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

Freedom isn’t Free! Don’t take them for Granted! We could lose them!

Yesterday, I published the first two of Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” that were inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to Congress in 1941, eleven months before Pearl Harbor and America’s entra,nce into World War II. They were reimagined for our time by “Freedom of Speech.” Today, in our third of four Fourth of July blogs, we’ll look at the remaining two–namely–“Freedom from Fear” and “Freedom from Want.” As we’ll note these take on a more social justice /social action role than the first two–as is also noted by the song I’ve chosen for this blog, Arlo Guththrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Freedom from Fear is by talented graphic artist Edel Rodriguez , who brings an immigrant’s perspective to Rockwell’s classic. “This is where people come for refuge,” he says. “When you see a family at a detention center maybe you will ask, ‘Why do I have a dislike of immigrants?”

And finally, photographer Ryan Schude recreated Freedom from Want in his sister’s dining room with members of his own family. “Rockwell’s paintings were idyllic,” says Schude. “That’s his style, but it was also his time. That was the kind of image that people wanted. I took a more realistic approach. There’s a little bit of tension.”

In these last two Freedoms, we see a distinctly social justice issue. In the one above with the migrant family, the issue of fear for the parents for their children and themselves would be something they would feel in their gut and indeed in every pore of their bodies constantly. Only people with strong faith and hope would survive such conditions.

And so we come to the song, Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, that had become one of the great protest songs for the Sixties and Seventies. He wrote two verses that were left out of the recorded versions that were too controversial. Here’s the song. sung by Bruce Springsteen Click here

And the lyrics of the entire song:

This land is your land, and this land is my land
From the California to the Staten New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

According to Joe Klein,[6] after Guthrie composed it “he completely forgot about the song, and didn’t do anything with it for another five years.” (Since there is a March 1944 recording of the song, Klein should have said “four years”.)

Original 1944 lyrics[edit]

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Note that this version drops the two verses that are critical of America from the original: Verse four, about private property, and verse six, about hunger. In 1940, Guthrie was in the anti-war phase he entered after the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact, during which he wrote songs praising the Soviet invasion of Poland, attacking President Roosevelt’s loans to Finland in defense against the Soviets, and ridiculing lend-lease aid to the United Kingdom. By 1944, after Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Guthrie returned to vigorous support for U.S. involvement in Europe and a more nationalist tone.[7]

Confirmation of two other verses[edit]

After we built the Coolee Dam we had to sell the people out there a lot of bonds to get the money to buy the copper wire and high lines and pay a whole big bunch of people at work and I don’t know what all. We called them Public Utility Bonds, just about like a War Bond, same thing. (And a lot of politicians told the folks not to buy them but we sold them anyhow). The main idea about this song is, you think about these Eight words all the rest of your life and they’ll come a bubbling up into Eighty Jillion all Union. Try it and see. THIS LAND IS MADE FOR YOU AND ME.

– Woody Guthrie, from 10 Songs of Woody Guthrie, 1945

A March 1944 recording in the possession of the Smithsonian, the earliest known recording of the song, has the “private property” verse included. This version was recorded the same day as 75 other songs. This was confirmed by several archivists for Smithsonian who were interviewed as part of the History Channel program Save Our History – Save our Sounds. The 1944 recording with this fourth verse can be found on Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Volume 1, where it is track 14.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.[8]

Woodyguthrie.org has a variant:[9]

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

It also has a verse:[9]

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

Reimagining Rockwell’s Four Freedoms for our day

This Fourth of July, I’d like to reflect on the Norman Rockwell paintings “The Four Freedoms that were inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in eleven months before Pearl Harbor.’

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses Congress in an effort to move the nation away from a policy of neutrality. The president had watched with increasing anxiety as European nations struggled and fell to Hitler’s fascist regime and was intent on rallying public support for the United States to take a stronger interventionist role. In his address to the 77th Congress, Roosevelt stated that the need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily–almost exclusively–to meeting the foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency.

Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans’ entitlement to four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

After Roosevelt’s death and the end of World War II, his widow Eleanor often referred to the four freedoms when advocating for passage of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt participated in the drafting of that declaration, which was adopted by the United Nations 1948. 

Article Titled: Franklin D. Roosevelt speaks of Four Freedom

November 16, 2009 by History.com Editors   The original Freedom of Worship, the five figures on the left are all white. The people of color,” the author says. “That’s what institutional racism is, when you fail to notice things like that.”

Democracy is a fragile thing; we could easily lose it, if we do not carefully safeguard it

Now below you see the second of the Four Freedoms–Freedom o Speech.

Melinda Beck illustrated Freedom of Speech with a strong, embellished silhouette style. “I believe in speaking truth to power. That’s why I got into this business,” says Beck. “I create a lot of political illustrations, and thanks to the freedom of speech, I can do that in this country and not be jailed.

Rockwel.We know that’s not quite true. Jamal Khashoggi was killed by the Saudis; Ellsberg was imprisoned because he released the Pentagon Papers as was Chelsea Manning.

There will be a Fourth blog on Monday, which is the legal observance of Independence Day, so you’ll have a long weekend–that one will be on the personal cost of the thirteen original signers of the Declaration of Independence.

And now before you go, here’s a great patriotic song for you– Click he

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ~ What wondrous love is this?

THE FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS ~ Friday, June 11, 2021

The church tells us “the term ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being and his person. . . . Devotion to the Sacred Heart calls for a fundamental conversion and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to Christ and his saving work.”

Reflecting on the Love that flows continually from the heart of Jesus has been a devotion of mine since childhood.

I wrote the article below in 1981 at a difficult time in my life and then preached it as a Good Friday homily in 1992.

I hope you enjoy it; I think it can have some practical value for you in managing the suffering in your own life ~ and in America and our whole world today.

* * * * * *

The Heart of Jesus

(Jesus the Tremendous Lover)

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

Jesus is the one who is our tremendous Lover.
He came to live among us to reveal to us, his sisters and brothers, that we have a Father/God who loves us with a Love that is once a passionate, unconditional love and yet gentle, always inviting, never coercing.  Jesus came among us to be our Love, to show the human race how to use the supreme power which God could give us:  the intimate, infinite Love which is ours, if only we would claim it and model our lives after Jesus, who is Love itself.

Jesus was to be for us the model of Love because he was willing to experience in his heart the depths of human emotion.  He risked time and again to embrace the sorrow, the agony, the unfreedom, the need of those who came  to him to be healed.  He risked being burdened by the needs of others.  He risked being disheartened by those who would take from him and not even say thanks.  He risked being misunderstood and rejected  by the authorities of the day and even his neighbors in his home town.  He risked the pain of realizing that even his closest disciples and friends had narrow vision and missed the main point of his message.

He risked all, and realized that, in spite of the pain and sorrow, in his heart, the soft Voice of the Father within him was asking him to keep going, to risk even more.  To go deeper into his heart and to carve out still more and more places for those he would touch and heal, until one day there would be room in his heart for the whole world.

I doubt that Jesus ever forgot a single individual that he encountered, not even those who oppressed him.  He kept them all in his great heart, remembering them, praying for them, hoping that they would open their hearts to the One who Loved them with a passionate Love — the Father/God of all.  He must have realized how important it was to see and feel the tragedy of the corruption he witnessed among the religious and political leaders of the day, to keep even these things in his heart.   As painful as it was, he hoped that by keeping them there some of the great evil he saw would be disarmed and tamed.

That’s all he could do, after all — absorb the tragedy, the struggle, the sin, the failures in Love of the human race in his great, great heart.  Yes, he healed a few sick and gave the gift of sight to some, but most of all he Loved:  He let people into his heart (that’s the definition of Love, after all:  to let someone into one’s heart)  there to be comforted, if just for a moment. For one brief moment in the heart of the Lord Jesus is enough for any of us.

He had room for young John and impetuous Peter.  And for Judas.  He had room for the outcasts of his day, Zacchaeus and Matthew and Mary Magdalen.  And he brought the outcasts in and seated them at his table  He had room for beggars and lepers and blind people.  And he had room for the Pharisees who broke his heart by their refusal to see and understand.

We remember that he was capable of deep emotion.  He wept profoundly when he saw in prophecy what would happen to Jerusalem because of the hardness of the people’s hearts.  And yet, even the gift of his tears and the greatness of his Love would not stop the destruction that would come because of Israel’s hardness of heart and lack of vigilance.

In the end, he wept in the garden.  I like to believe that his agony was not focused on the trauma he personally was about to endure but because the Father permitted him, in that moment, to experience to the depths the reality of evil and tragedy in the world.  He must have experienced some of the pain and loss that many of us feel when we encounter hardness of heart and misunderstanding.

Jesus embodied the compassion of God — the mercy, the tenderness, the Hesed of God  (to use the wonderful Hebrew word).  God wanted to be known as the Merciful One.  And we, likewise, are instructed to “Be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate.”

Jesus became for us the “Man of Sorrows”, familiar with suffering”  — the suffering Servant of Yahweh.  He bore the weight of the world’s refusal to Love and even worse its refusal to be Loved  by the God of Love.  He allowed that evil, that senseless tragedy of the human race, to be absorbed, and thereby redeemed and purified, with his own blood.  In his own bloodstream the cosmic battle between the forces of Love and Hate was waged.  And “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.”   In him the great cosmic battle was focused.  Our great compassionate God sent his Son to bear within his soul the brunt of that cosmic storm.

We are filled with awe at such overwhelming Love.  And so we honor this evening his great, great heart.  But most importantly we should realize that he has become for us Love itself so that we will also might become Love.

The one essential ingredient of the Christian religion is to Love as Jesus has Loved us.  We are to become compassionate as Jesus is compassionate.  We, like Jesus, are called not to be afraid to embrace the suffering, the tragedy, the sin of the world, so that in Love we will join our hearts to his and, as St. Paul says, “to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

Perhaps we can say, therefore, that there are two kinds of people in the world — those who are willing to accept their own share of suffering in the world (and a bit more for Jesus’ sake) and those who cannot or will not bear even the suffering caused by their own failures and sins.  The compassionate ones do what they do out of Love, a seemingly foolish Love.  Some Love because they have been opened up to a mystical awareness that they, like Jesus, are making their own soul and body available as an arena for the cosmic drama of interaction between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

I do not pity those who suffer.  I rather pity those who are afraid to suffer.  Out of suffering comes understanding — a larger perspective of the world and with it a practical wisdom that tempers Law and Life with Mercy.  Out of suffering comes the ability to see the face of Christ in even a hardened criminal or a seemingly pitiful alcoholic.

The ability to see, to understand, the inner workings of people’s lives is a gift far greater than the suffering one must endure to attain it.  To-suffer-unto-understanding (a definition of compassion) is to be able to look upon the world as Jesus does and as he invites us to do in the Beatitudes.3 (Of course, a person can suffer without  understanding — especially when we are angry about  and refuse to accept our lot of suffering.  But if we pray faithfully while we suffer, God will most assuredly gift us with  his own very special kind of understanding.)

Understanding is the goal of suffering for those who have eyes to see.  Understanding which sees through the eyes of Jesus.  Understanding allows us the courage to be with Jesus hanging on the Cross and to see what he saw from that perspective.  Understanding allows us the courage to go with Jesus into the bowels of the earth and descend into hell and to see what Jesus saw.  Then, too, understanding allows us to feel what Jesus felt when he was lifted from the grave.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have always had an inner sense that the fastest, most efficient way to handle a crisis was to face it head on — not to avoid it.  And so, I invite you to “go with” the suffering.  Explore it.  Allow yourself to experience the feelings, as painful and confused and frightening as they may be.  The more you fight it, the more you will suffer.  Ask Jesus the Light to lead you through the darkness.  Then have faith and confidence that he will.  (After all, the worst you will experience is what Jesus experienced, as long as you follow the will of God.  (Other persons have suffered more cruel deaths than crucifixion.)  And if you truly want  to follow the will of God and are praying daily, then be assured that God is  leading you.  Take his hand in the darkness and follow — even if you can barely see the ground in front of you!

The pain may feel unbearable for a while, and the temptation is to avoid it as long as we can, and, of course, to worry about it.  (I have always found worry most bothersome, like walking around with a pebble in my shoe.  Far easier to bend down and take it out than to walk around with it for years!)  So, too, with suffering.  Even in one of my earlier bouts with emotional and mental suffering, I somehow found myself diving into it to seek its cause.

From what I can see there is always a cause of suffering.  Discovering the cause can often lead to alleviating the suffering.  In fact, the pain oftentimes will be transformed the moment the cause is recognized and diagnosed, so it is to the person’s advantage to stay with it and find out who or what the “bugger” is.  (Perhaps there is an analogy to the oyster who “suffers” an irritation that will eventually through which it may become a pearl of great price.)  If we see the larger picture of reality, seen through the eyes of Christ, some joy and satisfaction and relief will enter our soul.  We will thus be on our way to recovery and new life.

The easiest way through suffering is to stretch out our arms and allow ourselves to be nailed to our cross.  Don’t fight it.  Surrender to the will of God.  Jesus in his agony on Thursday night saw through the nails in his hands and the crown of thorns on his head to the Resurrection.  He didn’t ignore the Cross; he saw it and the horizon beyond it.

Jesus didn’t focus on the pain.  The pain of the Cross was only a brief moment (which he knew he had the strength to endure) in the history of his lordship presiding over the business of the universe.  So you, too, should not focus on the painful aspects of our life.  Look instead for the cause of the pain.  Look for the reality — the truth!  And remember that Jesus said “the truth shall make you free!”   See as Jesus sees; that is, see and accept the truth.  And leap from your cross as a butterfly leaps from the cocoon and as Jesus leapt from the grave.

“Impossible!” you may say, especially if you have been suffering for years.

“Not so!” says Jesus and the whole company of prophets and martyrs and confessors and virgins.

Ask for strength and you will receive strength.

Ask for guidance and you will be led through the darkness to a point you will recognize.

Ask to understand and Jesus will let you see yourself through his eyes.

But remember! Don’t focus on the pain.  All those gory pictures of Jesus in agony and bloody crucifixes of the past generation, hopefully, are, hopefully, gone for good.

The Cross is the focal point in that we realize the great Love which Jesus has for us and what he personally has done for us.  But one must not forget to look at the horizon beyond the Cross.  The sky on that first Good Friday afternoon undoubtedly was an awesome sight to behold.  The cross, the pain that is our lot in life to endure, is there only to be transformed and transcended.  The cross is but a moment.

Suffering in life is only a means to greater life.   It is not our final lot.  Resurrection is.  Glory is.  Triumph is.  Though the paradox is that we must accept our cross totally to be through with it.  We are invited to surrender to our Father in complete abandonment as Jesus did, as if we were to leap off a cliff and know that we will land in the Loving arms of our great God.

A further delusion of spirituality of the past generation is that our reward will not come until the next life.  What is delusional about that is that we fail to realize the kingdom is already inaugurated by Jesus in history by his triumph on the Cross.  Our lives are already illumined  by the light of the resurrection.  And there is no reason that we cannot triumph here and now — if we accept our cross.  And, in fact, I am convinced that it will be Christians bold enough to take up in their hand and in their minds the Cross of Jesus who will lead us in XXI and XXII Centuries, just as this has been true in every age of the Church.

And so, the question that we ponder this feast day is, once again:
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

And the answer is:  “The great, great Love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who Loved us so much that he stretched out his arms in the most loving, indeed, the most-nonviolent act, the world has ever seen.  He stretched out his arms in the face of his enemies and said from his Cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Come, then adore the Lord who wants to be for us all our Beloved.  Come, then, adore the Lord, the tremendous Lover.  Renew your Love for him and know even more than ever before that it is by the holy Cross that we have been redeemed.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this?

And now, before you go, here’s that wonderful hymn, What w.ondrous love is this? Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the Mass readings for tomorrow’s feast. Click here

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of Corpus Christi ~ Bread-broken and Blood-poured out for you and me!

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ)

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Dear Friends,

This Sunday is our Roman Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in which we pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.

I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe this wonderful sacrament.

We believe in the Real Presence of Jesus –that the bread and wine are transformed into his Body and Blood. Thus, for us communion is a sharing in divine life, not just as a symbol.

It is stumbling block for many – not only for many Protestants but many a Catholic who never really gets it because they don’t let it transform their life into common-union or a deeper union with Christ.

And, unfortunately, I know some priests who don’t get it or live it either.

I’d like to rely on men who have taught me a lot to help us here. The first is Bishop Robert Barron whom you may have seen quote from time to time.  I enjoyed his article in the Magnificat Liturgical magazine that I use for my daily prayer  (in 2017). . . .

“How strange and wonderful is the Catholic faith! The Buddha offers wise teaching to his followers. Muhammad presents to his devotees a revelation that was once given to him. Confucius passes on to his adepts in an intricate moral system that he has developed. Moses comes down the mountain bearing a Law he received from on high.

But Jesus presents, offers, bears, and passes on . . . his very self. On the night before he suffered at the Passover table, he gathered with his Twelve Apostles. Taking bread in his hands, he said, This is my body, and lifting up the cup, said, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

He gave them, not a teaching, a discipline, or a spiritual insight, but his substance—his very own flesh and blood. And this is why the Christian Faith is not a matter of learning or walking a religious path, but of eating and drinking Jesus’ Body and Blood.

From this Eucharistic fact, the Church Fathers derived the splendid teaching of theiosos or deification. We disciples do not just follow Jesus, we become Jesus; we become adopted sons and daughters of the Father in the Son.  And this is the object of our bedazzled contemplation on the Feast of the Lord’s Body and Blood.

And now to William Barclay’s commentary on the holy Gospel according to St. Mark today, that of course is a description of what took place at the Last Supper, which is the gospel reading for today’s Mass. Barclay provides a detailed description for all of the preparation for a Jewish Passover meal at the time and what would have probably preceded the actual words we now know as the holy Eucharist.

He begins by saying that more than once the prophets of Israel resorted to symbolic, dramatic actions when they felt that words were not enough. That’s what Ahijah did when he rent his robe into twelve pieces and gave it to Jeroboam in token that ten tribes would make him king. (1 Kings 11: 28-32) That’s what Jeremiah did when he made bonds and yokes and wore them in token of the coming servitude. (Jeremiah 7).

That is what Jesus did.  And he allied this dramatic action with the ancient Passover feast of his people so that it would be the more imprinted on the minds of his men. He said, “Look! Just as this bread is broken my body is broken for you! Just as this cup of red wine is poured out my blood is shed for you.”

What did he mean when he said that the cup stood for a new covenant? The word covenant is a common word in the Jewish religion. The basis of that religion was that God had entered into a covenant with Israel. The word means something like an arrangement, a bargain, a relationship. The acceptance of the old covenant is set in Exodus 24:3-8; and the passage it is noted that the covenant was entirely dependent on Israel keeping the Law. If the Law was broken, the covenant was shattered. It was a relationship entirely based on law and obedience to law. God was judge. And since no man can keep the law, the people were ever in default.

But Jesus says, “I am introducing and ratifying a New Covenant—a new relationship between God and humankind. And it is not dependent on law, it is dependent solely on love. In other words Jesus says, I am doing what I am doing to show you how much God loves you.” People are no longer under the law of God. Because of what Jesus did, they are forever within the love of God. And today at Mass and wherever there are Processions of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the world, we have an opportunity to express our Eucharistic affection and give thanks for so great a sacrament in our lives!

But Barclay notes one thing more, In the last sentence of the gospel, we note two things we have so often seen– two things Jesus was sure of: He knew he was going to die, and he knew his Kingdom would come. He was certain of the Cross, but just as certain of the glory. And the reason was that was he was just as certain of the love of God as he was of the sin of humankind; and he knew that love would conquer that sin.

For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness and also profound joy, and  also at times, a deep affection for my Jesus.

When I receive our Lord in holy communion I  like to pray:

Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken

and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.

As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist

may I become Your body

and Your body become mine.

May Your blood course through my own blood stream.

I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.

Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies

into common-union.

Let me become Your Body-broken

and Your Blood-poured-out

into a world that needs You

now more than ever.

To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise

this day and forever!

So be it!  Amen!

Now, before you go, here’s a hymn to go with it for your reflection. It is the custom to have a procession with the Blessed Sacrament (at least in Catholic countries after Mass on Corpus Christi Sunday. That’s what you’ll witness in this video along with the wonderful chant melody composed by St. Thomas Aquinas “Adoro Te Devote”  Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings  Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of the Holy Trinity ~ Caught up in the Circle of God’s Love ~ On the edge of mystery!

The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity ~ Sunday, May 30, 2021

This is the Sunday when we give praise to God as we Christians understand and know God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

For me, it’s all about being caught up in ~ getting lost in ~ finding my true self in the awesome dynamic relationship with our God as we come to know that God is love.

The Christian religion is different from the other world religions in that we see God is  relational in God’s self. Other world religions see God in relationship with creation and of course, with humanity.  As the Bette Midler song suggests, there’s no personal relationship there: “God is watching us—from a distance.”

The all-embracing love of the Father and the Son and the Spirit sustains us each one of us in existence.  We are drawn into the dynamism, exuberance and power of that love.

In God, as Richard Rohr shows us “Everything belongs.” God splashes God’S love on us all with such abundance and exuberance that we’ve discovered that within one galaxy there are billions of suns! You and me included! (Today’s Gospel is from Matthew 28: 16- 20 ~ “I am with you always . . . that includes you and me! )

The Holy Trinity ought to be for a Christian the foundation for a whole new way of being!  But we have made the Holy Trinity into a dry, boring doctrine that we dismiss as beyond our comprehension and therefore, irrelevant to our lives.

William Young’s book The Shack brings the doctrine of the Trinity—the very foundation of Christianity—to life in a clever, imaginative description of how three persons in one God might interact with each other and with us.  It reveals a God who is so easy, relaxed and delightful in God’s self that we are eager to be caught up and sustained in that delight and love.  The image above is the famous Rublev ikon. When I was out west a few years ago, the refectory of the Benedictine Monastery in Abiqui, NW had a painting of this ikon that filled the whole wall behind the Abbot’s place.

Sadly, however, so many of us Christians—Catholic or Protestant—relate to God as if he is eager to trip us up and send us to hell!  If that is what we believe, we’re not going to be very interested in relating to him, are we? We’ll want to stay away as far as possible; to relegate God to the periphery of our lives.

The revolutionary notion of Christianity is that we are the “Thou” to whom God relates!  We are not just part of God as Eastern religions view the divine. We are co-creators of our world.  For me the Father, my elder Brother Jesus and the Holy Spirit are even more real and involved with me than my neighbor Loreto whom my dog Shoney and I used to visit when we walked in the evening as I watched the sun setting.

Here is a story I loved to tell when I’ve preached on Trinity Sunday.

I hope you enjoy it, even if you’ve heard me tell it before.

My first assignment as  a young priest was to Holy Name of Jesus Parish across the street from the Atlantic Ocean.  I have fond memories of that place, not only of the whole parish but also of its geographical and ecological setting.   Today I see it as one of the finest parishes in the continental United States in the wonderful ways in that hundreds of parishioners are involved in 85 ministries.

And so, that first year of priesthood rendered a story that I’ve told on Trinity Sunday almost every year of my priesthood.  It’s about some sea turtles.  You’ll probably be wondering as you read what turtles have to do with the Trinity.  But I’ll save that for the end.  It is a powerful connection.

Indialantic, Florida, summer 1969.  I had just arrived in the parish and was meeting my new parishioners.  Several asked, “Have you seen the turtles yet?”  I assumed they were talking about turtles who came to our beach but I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.  So I accepted Tony’s invitation, a teen from the youth group I had just met:  “Meet me on the beach at 9:00 tonight; bring a small flashlight.”

I was a little early, so I sat on the steps watching the 2-foot waves lap the shore.  It soon learned what a joy it was to live across the street from the ocean!  I lived there the first three years of my priesthood.  That night was a quiet, dark night; there was no moon.  I took off my shoes and put them beside a small-sized dune.  I could see the light of flashlights bouncing across the sand towards the south  but the beach  was dark to the north.  Apparently, prize turtle-watching happened on the south stretch of beach.  Indeed, the most active area for loggerhead turtle nesting is south of Cape Kennedy.

Tony came along and we walked south and the waves washed further up the shore.  He quietly explained that loggerhead turtles grew to about 38 inches and had huge loggerhead_emily_mannionheads with short necks and powerful beaks that can break open mollusk shells.  He said they weigh from 200 – 350 pounds.

We were silent for a while.  I noticed that the flashlights were all turned off; apparently the sea creatures are spooked by light.  A dark night is best.

“What will we see?” I asked.

“The huge creature will lumber slowly up the beach to reach an area above the high water line. The tracks she makes resemble caterpillar or loggerhead-turtle-4331tank tracks.  She will then turn around facing the ocean and use her rear flippers to dig a hole. Sometimes she will not leave any eggs and fill in the hole again to fool us turtle-watchers.  There are sometimes egg poachers around. But if she does lay eggs there will be about 100-126 white-colored eggs about 2 inches in diameter.”

We soon saw some turtle tracks, leading out of the surf up the beach.  None of us used our flashlights, keeping some distance and, interestingly, even the children kept silent,  as if there were a spell over us.

That was my first experience of turtle watching.  I had many more.  But there was one night I will long remember.  It is that night that I have told in my Trinity Sunday homilies all these years.

I was alone that night — no companion, no other turtle-watchers. The moment opened up for me to be a profound mystical awareness, a moment I still remember vividly.  I watched the giant turtle lay her eggs and slowly make her way back toward the surf.    I moved  a little closer as she came to the edge of the water.  It was really dark.

I felt drawn to her by some compelling or impelling force.  I wanted to follow the turtle! As it disappeared beneath the waves, I was drawn to follow her, to enter  the unknown world beneath the sea.

But I hesitated.  I pulled back.

I was on the edge of mystery.

The turtle has its own mystery; the turtle is at home in two worlds — land and sea.  We also live in two worlds — the physical and the spiritual, the seen and the unseen.  For a brief  moment, I was drawn to follow the turtle down beneath the waves. But actually  I was drawn into the mystery of the life of God which the feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates for us.  And there, too, I hesitate.  I pull  back.  I prefer to get close, but not too close.  I prefer to stand upon the shore, to walk along with my toes only in the water, not to plunge in.

The shoreline is  highly symbolic.  It is the liminal space (the margin) between land and sea.  As such, it is a powerful space, a place of mystery in its own right,  as any liminal space can be.  I have stood on several of the shores of the world and it’s always a powerful experience.  Perhaps the shoreline runs down the middle of my soul.

So, what do we make of this feast of the Holy Trinity? 

In having this feast the church is telling us we live on the edge of mystery.  We live on the edge of God’s wonderful life — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is not to be solved like a Perry Mason or Agatha Christie mystery.  In religious experience, a mystery is to be lived and to be unfolded as we uncover its multifaceted dimensions, as we allow it to envelop  and sometimes enrapture us.

The immensity of God’s love is a mystery for us, for sure.  But we should not be afraid of mystery.  We should not be afraid to immerse ourselves in the mystery of God as the turtle immersed herself in the mystery of the ocean.

The day will come, sooner or later, for me and for you to let go of our hesitancy and fear and to fall into the ocean of God’s love.  To no longer live on the edge of mystery but to be immersed fully in  the mystery of God’s love — Father,  Son and Holy Spirit.

I had the experience a couple of years ago when I got off the shore and onto a dive boat. After three years, I finally got my Scuba certification, and like the turtles went below the surface of the Atlantic ocean for the first time and entered a brand new astonishingly beautiful, silent world!

There’s a similar story told about the great St. Augustine who lived in the Fourth Century. The story or legend goes that he was walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity when he saw a boy in front of him who had dug a hole in the sand and was going out to the sea again and again and bringing some water to pour into the hole. St. Augustine asked him, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit in the hole you have made” said St. Augustine. The boy replied, “And you cannot fit the Trinity in your tiny little brain.” The saint was instantly confronted with the mystery of God.

And so, dear friends . . . .

Follow a turtle!

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Before we sign off, let’s ask, what about the baby turtles?

They hatch in sixty days and are completely on their own.  The hundreds of condominiums on the Florida shoreline are in themselves a threat to the newborn because the little ones are drawn to the light and away from the ocean where they should be.  There are laws that only a few lights are to be on the sea-side of roads and these are to be covered.  Like so many other little babies they are endangered.  May we protect them all!

Now, before you go, here’s a cute music video about “Caretta, the Sea Turtle.” Click Here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full Screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings Click here.

And to complete our feast day celebration, here’s a lovely rendition of Holy God We Praise Thy Name.  Click here

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

About Presidents and security and . . . You never know . . .

62ddd5c1-1dd8-b71b-0bf70c23a3528536I usually publish a blog for CARNIVAL! at this point as we are two days away from Ash Wednesday. But this is a sobering year with the coronavirus and it has taken all the fun out of CARNIVAL in both Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. No parades allowed. No alcohol on Bourbon Street!

But today is Presidents’ Day.  It’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, but it originally was meant to mark George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. It’s come to honor all presidents, past and present.

We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.

We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.

But our present times are difficult ones, with Covid 19 and trying to build back the economy. We’ve just had a transfer of power of two very different presidents and that didn’t go very smoothly. In fact there was violence involved with the attack on our beloved, sacred Capitol building on January 6th that we still have not recovered from.

Some of us, however, find some level of security in the midst of insecurity. Some of us roll with the punches better than others. We plod along not sure what will happen next. The ones who will be OK are those who are prepared. Who are always ready for life to change on a dime.

“To be at ease is to be unsafe.”

             ~ John Henry Cardinal Newman

Back in the fall of 2008, I had been getting to know some homeless people. I admire and respect the ones I have met because they look out for each other.   My whole perspective on my own worries has completely changed as a result. It has led me to profound gratitude and real compassion. I thought long and hard what it would be like to be homeless. And then I realized there are going to be many more.

 Our economy is based on the premise that we should buy, buy, buy – sell, sell, sell. It is not a godly economy.   In my opinion, our present American society is not a healthy one. In order for our economy to work we are constantly prodded to buy stuff. And the more we buy, the deeper in debt we get.  It’s foolish. Insane, actually. But this pandemic has taught many of us a different way. We’ve had to stay home and find our entertainments in simpler ways.

It could be a great grace; some will find God and turn to the one only God and away from the false idols of a material way and turn to a more spiritual way of life. They will have the opportunity perhaps for the first time to find meaning and love and authentic relationships. They will come to understand what life is for. Many will find Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.   Hopefully the uncertainty we’ve been through this past year will bring us and our nation to our senses.

What will happen next? To you? To your job? To your family?

We need to look for certainty and security on a deeper level.

It would seem that having a sense of the presence of God in our life will give us a foundation that is not so easily shaken by uncertainty. The scriptures present Jesus as the one who can quiet the storms of life (Matthew 8:23-27); He can be the Rock, the foundation on which our life is built.

Failing to accept life on life’s terms can cause anxiety and depression whereas hope takes the bite out of uncertainty. Through thirty years of learning to cope with bipolar illness I have learned to keep going . . . no matter what. I call you, my reader, to the same faith and hope and love in every moment of your life. Only God can provide the security we need in uncertain times.

Jesus taught his disciples to accept uncertainty as something valuable. He told them “Take nothing on your journey but a walking stick — no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in purse” (Mark 6: 8-9). He wants his disciples to not place ultimate security in things (a warm tunic or some coins in your purse) but to find security in a well-lived, lifelong, open and trusting relationship with God.

For years now I have been calling us to repent of our sins of complacency and greed and idolatry and lust for power and preoccupation with hate and fear and violence that permeates our society. Every day I pray that God restore our beloved country to shining beacon on a hill we once was. I just invite you, I implore you: Let us pray  and restore our nation’s relationship with God and justice for all races and peoples in our land of immigrants and indigenous people.

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the sea. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (Ps 46)

And now, my prayer . . . .

Good and gracious God,

we come before you today to ask your blessing

upon this vast and great land of ours.

We are grateful that our republic has stood safe for 241 years now.

And so, we  ask your continued blessing upon us.

Please bless President Biden and all elected and government officials

that they would have the best interests of all of the people in mind and heart.

Let there be peace at home and peace throughout the world.  

For Yours, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.  

Amen!  

And now, before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and a Chorus singing “This Land is Your Land on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer