Dominicans pray for the dead – a lot. Every day before the main meal, we pray the De Profundis (Psalm 130) for our deceased friars and benefactors. In our Province of St. Joseph, we also name the American friars who died on the following day, allowing our prayers for all the deceased to be linked with the remembrance of particular individuals. Our constitutions require each community to celebrate one Mass per week for the deceased brothers, sisters, parents of those brothers and sisters, familiars, and benefactors of the Order. Each brother is likewise required to pray the rosary once a week for the same intention. In our Dominican House of Studies, we close Compline each night with the prayer, “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
If you lived in D.C., New York, or any number of large cities in the United States in 2011, you probably remember the strange month or two when The End of the World became an advertising sensation. Judgment Day, May 21, declared passing buses. THE END 2011, opined passing cars. WeCanKnow.com, insisted billboards, against all evidence.
I can’t say I was sad about all that. Not for any reason you might be thinking—i.e., awareness of the end times, the salutary effects of thoughts about judgment, the benefit of people unwontedly discussing hell (and how to avoid it)—but rather because I’ve always had a tremendous love of failed end times prophecies.
Chris Kyle preferred the common good to his own individual good. If you’ve seen American Sniper, you’ll recall that his preference is displayed poignantly in an argument with his wife, Taya, before his fourth tour in Iraq. She asks him why he’s thinking about going back “over there.” She’s raising the kids by herself. She knows these extra tours are not strictly necessary. Other husbands have done fewer, and she demands to know why he wants more. What about her and the kids?
Ever tried to do something completely original? Give up on traditions? Do something brand new, entirely of your own doing? It’s really not possible. Sure, you can act uniquely, but only accidentally. We rely on traditions to do anything of substance, such as the languages we use to communicate and the customs that dictate effective interaction. Just about everything we use has an origin outside of us. The same is true for our existence and the existence of the world around us. We simply can’t be entirely original. Only One has ever been completely original, and He is the origin of all things. This is a comforting, and humbling, truth.
In today’s Gospel at Mass, Jesus describes the righteousness one needs in order to reach the kingdom of heaven, noting that it must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. He discusses the relationship one should have with one’s brother, saying that there is much more to it than simply observing the Old Testament commandment not to kill. It is wrong even to be angry with one’s brother or to call him a fool. Furthermore, Jesus advises us that if we are not at peace with our brother we should make peace with him before offering gifts to God.
In this teaching, Christ describes both justice and the interior dispositions that go even further in making one righteous. The cardinal virtue of justice, as St. Thomas Aquinas defines it, is the “habit whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual will.”
We bless Thee for every comfort of our past and present existence, for our health of body and of mind and for every other source of happiness which Thou has bountifully bestowed on us and with which we close this day, imploring their continuance from Thy Fatherly goodness, with a more grateful sense of them, than they have hitherto excited.
—from Jane Austen’s Prayers
Nobody likes a spoiled child; except, perhaps, the one who does the spoiling. But seriously, how could anyone else care for someone with “the power of having rather too much her own way” and, even worse, “a disposition to think a little too well of herself”? That’s simply asking too much for any normal human being.
Take a pagan city, throw in a reluctant preacher, and give him three days to spread the word. Nineveh, a city long accustomed to despoiling others, is herself threatened with ruin. The king does not wait out the forty days; instead, he leaps into action. By his order, all subjects—even the animals—will forego food. We can’t explain how, but the king could see that something was afoot. There may have been no natural indication—had there been, would the Lord have fished out Jonah for the task? The irony of the account is palpable: the pagan king recognized the gravity of the message more deeply, and more quickly, than had Jonah the Israelite.
This just in: “4 Cities Set All-Time Record Lows”… “DC hasn’t seen this since 1885 — or ever?!”… “5-story ‘ice volcano’ forms at NY geyser”… “Great Lakes most ice since recorded time… AND ANOTHER BLAST NEXT WEEK”…
Wowzers, it’s cold. My Yahoo weather app thing read 7 degrees this morning. Of course winters are always cold. This one just seems exceptionally so, at least here on the East Coast. This persistent chill is reminding me of the movie Groundhog Day. Remember the immortal words of D.J. #1, right after Bob Dylan starts singing and the clock strikes (or clicks, as it were) 6:00 a.m.: “Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today!”
Let’s begin with one of the biggest buzzwords in Catholic circles: discernment. What vocation is God calling me to in life? A healthy way of looking at how to discern starts with another healthy buzzword: organic.
Vocation grows out of everyday Christian living. We can often make it a project of its own, taking it as the “theme” of our prayer life or our social life, bringing it into every conversation. But looking for God in some far-off plan can mean that we miss Him speaking in our given circumstances—as it is God, after all, who gives us our circumstances.
In the first of the Sherlock Holmes stories, A Study in Scarlet, Dr. John Watson makes a startling discovery about his new friend: Sherlock Holmes is blithely unaware that the earth revolves around the sun. When Watson expresses shock at Sherlock’s ignorance, the consulting detective is nonplussed:
“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”