Saturday, December 26, 2015

Today is Boxing Day

Cats love boxes.

So anyway...

Boxing Day means other things of course - for Canadians and UK-dians, but I never got into it.  I do like it - but mostly because it is the Second Day of Christmas.  I'm still adding lights to my weird little Christmas trees and settings.  I love Christmas!  I love the holiday spirit which leads up to it.

Now it is Christmas.  

Santa's gone home, and it is actually Christmas.  I might pick up some Christmas cookies at the store tonight.  Single men do not usually get such things - delicious cookies and candy - specialties of the season.  I maybe will go to a fine store, with a fine bakery, and pick up sugar cookies with icing, Russian Tea Cakes, Mozarts, maybe.  Gabby and I will finally have some Christmas treats ... on Boxing Day.

I put out walnuts and peanuts for Christmas Eve - and today we have snow - so the rabbits and the squirrels and gophers are well stocked.

A few of my favorite things ...

Sugar cookies preferred over gingerbread.



Liqueur filled chocolates.

The Protomartyr St. Stephen

Oh how I love you Stephen,
I love the precious stones
which ornamented your
I venerate the blood
which flowed from your
wounds ...
Pray for me ...
pray for us ...
and be
with us
at the hour 
of our death,
when God's mercy
allows us 
to see
the heavens opened
and the Son of Man
at the 
right hand of

The grace of martyrdom.

One may desire it,
pray for it,
prepare for it,
desire it with all one's heart ...
perhaps even seek it out.
if it be God's will ...

It isn't a passive desire for suicide.
Nor an escape from a difficult life.
It is a call.
A vocation.

It is a grace ...

Everything is a grace.

It is the unitive way ...

Friday, December 25, 2015

Blessed Christmas

Where God is born, mercy flourishes. Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us. May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.
Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation. As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: “for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you” (Ps 121[122]:8). - Pope Francis

Christmas Mass was beautiful.

The priest at the church I went to, welcomed those who only go to Mass on Christmas and told us these folks give him great joy, every single Christmas.  I was so happy.

After Mass the organ resounded and everyone broke into conversation so loud, so joyous - I wondered if the townsfolk of Bethlehem would have acted just like that, after hearing the news of angels appearing to shepherds in the fields.  I smiled and my heart seemed to swell.

Blessed Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Unpredictability of Christmas.

Abbey Regina Laudis

I often think of the 'Christmas conversion' of St. Therese ...

When she 'grew up' as it were.  It maybe sounds trivial to us, but St. Therese was convinced of its significance for her 'little way'.  That one Christmas, little Therese sacrificed her sorrow so as not to disappoint her dad.  She heard his exasperated tone when he expressed surprise that she expected her shoes to be filled with goodies from St. Nicholas upon returning home from midnight Mass.  She normally would have 'burst into tears' upon hearing such a disappointed tone from her father.
"It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion . . . I felt charity enter into my soul, the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I've been happy!"   
Thérèse calls this "my complete conversion" because a dramatic change happened, she says, "in an instant." The permanent change in direction is from being a girl who "was really unbearable because of [her] extreme touchiness" to a "strong and courageous" young woman whose "source of tears was dried up and has since reopened rarely and with great difficulty." She who "wasn't accustomed to doing things for [herself)" now experienced "the need to forget [herself] and to please others." She now had a great desire to work for "the conversion of sinners". - Source
Christmas is very often a time of conversion and extraordinary graces.

Even for the 'unlovable'.

Christmas Catholics.

Pay no attention to that label - or the people who use it.  Some people use it like the Pharisee who thanked God he wasn't like the rest of sinful humanity.

The mystery of Christmas - the mystery of the Nativity extends through time.  Just as the shepherds were invited to Bethlehem by angels, so are the lapsed and fallen away called at Christmas.  This night is perhaps similar to the Gospel invitation:  The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.' [Luke 14]

I believe the grace of Christmas is an irresistible attraction from the Infant Jesus himself.

Especially for those who no longer feel Christmassy, or who are disappointed that the holidays are not what they used to be, or who are just far away and maybe don't care to, or even know how to pray.

The reason for the void, for the darkness of this night.

Looking out, looking around, everything might be sad ... or just another day to get through.  Yet that emptiness can free us - detach us.  It can free us to notice something else moving within our heart, grabbing our attention, wherein we can discover the authentic, primitive meaning of the holy day.  Maybe it's just a momentary glimpse of a tacky looking creche that awakens, or rather, ignites a spark in our hearts.  Christmas really is about the birth of Christ - who came to save humanity and atone for sins - to make reparation, to repair, as it were.  It is the little holy child who asks for our confidence and trust - but even more deeply - our love.  If we feel no love, have no love, or have been disappointed in love, that may be the call which compels us to respond:  "In this is love: not that we have (first) loved God, but that he (first) loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins." [1 John 4:10]

So don't look down on anyone - no matter who.  If they are at church, if they are at Mass - God called them there.  If they are at your table on Christmas day - love them.  Even if they are unlovable - love them, and keep on loving them.  Never give up - because God never gives up on us.

Having said all of that, people don't need to hear or read this stuff from a hypocrite like me.  Non-religious people tune out the Bible thumpers and moralizers and sermonizers.  Ironically, that may be why they sneak into the back of the church for Midnight Mass on Christmas in the first place.

So maybe let's mind our own business in order to allow others to have a Happy Christmas too!  Then we'll maybe be just like little St. Therese ... and receive a deeper conversion of our own.

Merry Christmas again and again and again!

Christmas Memories ...

Mrs. Davis, Connie, and Minerva the cat, 
and the best Christmas tree ever.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pope Benedict Receives Christmas Visit From Bavarians.

Pope Emeritus Makes Rare Public Appearance to Thank Visiting Bavarians ...

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has made a rare public appearance 
to thank civil and ecclesiastical authorities from Bavaria 
for donating this year’s Vatican Christmas tree. - Full story

After formal greetings, they broke open the
He was then told that the Christmas tree has two tips, 
one dedicated to the reigning Pope Francis 
and an extra one for emeritus Benedict.

Folk dancing ensued, and ...

Cases of Papst were distributed
for those fired from the curia...

They pulled out all the stops for the Bavarian Pope.*

Fröhliche Weihnachten

*Trivia: Pull out all the stops - this saying originates with the organ, pulling out all the stops to play as loudly and boisterously as possible.

NB: This post has been edited for holiday cheer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Maybe don't go home for Christmas after all ...

What to give the Infant Jesus for Christmas ...

“Offering everything, pure and impure, is the best and quickest way to develop spiritually.
If you offer everything to the Divine, the Divine will accept and change it, even the worst things.
It is not what you offer but that you offer which is important.”  - Mother Meera*

Pope Francis said something like that recently - that Christ wants us to give him our sins.  He was citing the mystical experience of St. Jerome, the penitent.

I think it's right.  

Thinking of the sentimental song 'Little Altar Boy', even 'Little Drummer Boy', or the story of the 'Juggler of Notre Dame' - some of us have nothing to give to the Infant Jesus except our sins, our faults, our failings - in other words, our greatest 'talents' - sorta.  After all, he came to set prisoners free... the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life...  He tells us to come to him, the weary, the burdened.  You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!  You who have no merits - Come.

*h/t Jeron

Monday, December 21, 2015

Before I forget: A very special Christmas greeting for all of my 'satisfied customers' here at Abbey Towers, and elsewhere in the universe ...

I love this episode - so Christmassy!  (It probably should have been posted for my "I unfriend you" post instead of this one.  Joking, of course.) 

I had to send a 'bio' to the very kind shopkeepers who took me in, - it's for their website.  I write 'about me' all of the time on the blog, but I'm not very good at writing a biography.  (I read somewhere a successful art blog needs more than the photos of your work - people want to know who the artist is.)

Anyway - I wrote the following:

About me: 
Terry Nelson. Minneapolis, Minnesota. A man of indeterminable age.
I usually tell people I'm a painter. I like saying that better than artist - although I consider myself an independent painter, outsider artist.
I don't like doing commissions - though I have very often done so in the past.
I began work in art and design as a very young man at Dayton's in Visual Merchandising. My expertise was windows and cases in the fashion area.
I was in management towards the end of that part of my career - but wasn't very good at it. I don't like to be managed, nor do I like to manage people.  I began painting in the late 1970's - concentrating on the making of icons - Orthodox iconographers seem to prefer saying they 'write' icons, but I prefer to say I paint icons. After being told non-Orthodox people can't paint 'real' icons, I evolved and began to paint western saints in the icon style. I have works in convents, monasteries, and churches throughout the Midwest.
I've also worked with interior designers and applied my skills to murals, painted furniture, faux finishes and decorative objects.  I've sold many such things in fine stores locally and around the United States. Although I have done very little of that in the last 10 years. 
My love is Spanish Colonial style retablo, relicarios, and santos - the Catholic religious art of Latin America and Southwest US.  I have shown my work in two galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico - both are now closed. I also have small pieces in the collection of the Cathedral there, as well as a monastery and a couple of mission chapels. 
For the past several years I've devoted my time to what I call a sort of neo-magic realism, inspired very much by the work of George Tooker, Jared French, and Paul Cadmus. My paintings are also influenced by the surrealists and a few contemporary Latin American artists. My compositions, though obviously representational and therefore readable, are a sort of pastiche or painted collage of figures and settings which I pull together to form the narrative. I consider my work as a sort of visual documentation of events and their effect upon me. I find this type of painting cathartic. 


Attrition and contrition...

Come back as often as you need to.

One more comment.

Attrition, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia comes from the Latin attero, "to wear away by rubbing"; p. part. attritus.  The Council of Trent stated very clearly:
Wherefore attrition, the council in Canon v, Sess. XIV, declares: "If any man assert that attrition . . . is not a true and a profitable sorrow; that it does not prepare the soul for grace, but that it makes a man a hypocrite, yea, even a greater sinner, let him be anathema". - New Advent
I just mention that because the grace of the sacrament of penance, the merits of Jesus Christ, 'perfects' our contrition.

This is also why frequent confession is so necessary in breaking free of habitual sins - that occurred to me the other day when reading the root meaning of attrition - the Latin attero - 'to wear away by rubbing'.

Have confidence...

1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father5 from whom one has strayed by sin.
It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction. 
1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgment and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace."6It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the live of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God."7 He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother."8
1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.52 

Everything is grace and mercy.

It's all good.

Christmas Scene

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last minute Christmas gift ideas for the religiously-inclined pop-culture addicts in your family ... or the office worker who is seriously Orvis Dei

... or just those little-nippers at the Oglethorpe Orphanage outside Savannah:

I actually like these.  
I think it works as contemporary religious art.

The St. Joseph is cool.  So is St. Sebastian.
They don't move me to devotion, but
they might someone else.

Have a Merry little Christmas - and don't forget the little-nippers!

Song for this post here.  What?

This is fascinating: The Sufi mystic who spoke about Medjugorje.

Islamic Virgin Mary and Jesus.

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent ...

Days before Christmas.

This morning.

I came across an interesting article on Hasan Shushud, a Sufi mystic.  I don't know a lot about Sufism, but I know it is the mystical dimension of Islam, and of great interest to Christian contemplatives.  I've read a few stories and met religious people who are attracted to aspects of the spirituality, but I've never been attracted to such 'ways'.

What is so interesting in this story is how closely it echoes the events at Medjugorje.  I'm just taking it at face value.  With all the troubles in the world and the Church - the message of peace is so needed in our time.

Today's Gospel of the Visitation, as well as the Collect - which is in fact the Rosary prayer - we glimpse the meaning of the whole, as it were - we glimpse the meaning of Christmas.  Providentially, the announcement that Bl. Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized next year fits right in with what I've been trying to articulate.  It fits in with the purported messages of Our Lady at Medjugorje.

Mother Teresa's holiness - her contemplative union with God - seems to me to be perfectly suited to our times.  In fact, much is being made of her 'dark night' and doing so much for God without any consolation, without any spiritual experiences or sensible experience of faith.  That is a trait so much in keeping with the greatest saint of modern times, St. Therese of the Child Jesus.  Little Therese was Mother Teresa's patron - and she did pretty much what Therese said she would do if she hadn't been called to Carmel.  She would sit at the table of sinners and unbelievers, go into the brothels to demonstrate and tell of God's mercy.  Catholic theologians do a disservice to Christians in acting as if this 'living on faith alone' is somehow not THE WAY of perfection.  It animated Teresa as perfectly as it animated the Blessed Virgin who journeyed 'today' to visit Elizabeth.  Teresa of Calcutta lived the mystery of the Visitation, anticipating the changes in the Church and religious life, as well as the spirituality flowing from the phenomenon of Medjugore.

And she was poor - and her daughters remain poor, detached - never fundraising, renouncing private ownership - sharing the life of the poor ... praying the rosary as they go.

The purported messages from Medjugorje emphasize a similar way of prayer in ordinary, daily life.  It emphasizes the way of peace and accompanying one another, no matter our religion, no matter our station in life, or our 'worthiness', in seeking the Kingdom of Heaven.  I'm not a Medjugorje devotee, but the essential message seems to me to be played out right now - especially during the pontificate of Pope Francis who calls us to go out to the peripheries - as Our Lady did in her journey to Elizabeth, and her journey to Bethlehem, and her journey to Egypt and back again to Nazareth - until finally, she climbed Golgatha, to accompany her son unto death.

Long introduction to the story that caught my attention today - the Fourth Sunday in Advent.  

Click the source after the section I've reprinted below.  It doesn't mean I am promoting the apparitions or that anyone has to believe it.  I was simply impressed by this particular story - which coincided with a few things I've been thinking about - as noted above.  Otherwise, I await the decision of the Church.  That said, I don't think the contempt, scorn or condemnations coming from lay people against those involved in Medjugorje is pleasing to God, and is probably something that repels most people may be searching for God.
A long and decisive apparition predicted
With Medjugorje celebrating the 30th anniversary of the apparitions this year, Hasan Shushud’s prediction of a long apparition has also come true. So has his prediction that peace would be a main topic of the apparition:
“You will see that Mary will suffer, wait, hope and continue to call for a long time, as she is inviting to the way of peace. During this period Satan will get the opportunity for his plans of godlessness, chaos, suffering, death”, Hasan Shushud told Inger Jensen.
In recent years, the Virgin Mary’s suffering and waiting have been particularly expressed in messages passed on by visionary Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo.
“Mary needs a firm, truthful “yes!” to her plan, and this will not be given at the beginning. Therefore, Mary will be forced to take up a stand-by position. During the period when Mary suffers rejection, earthquakes the like of which have never been seen before will occur. Storms more violent than ever. Thunderstorms. Flooding. Fatal, contagious diseases. And egoism, materialism and violence will pervert societies”, Hasan Shushud continued.
“If Mary and her plans are accepted quickly, the suffering will be short-lived. If, however, Rome does not meet Mary with the needed firm, truthful acceptance when God grants to Rome the time and freedom to choose, then God once more will have offered peace, joy and love in vain, and mankind will feel the consequences of Satan’s plans”, Inger Jensen recounts Hasan Shushud’s words from 1980. - Source