Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Prayer of St. Bernard to the Blessed Virgin Mary

No, not the Memorare. The one at the beginning of Canto XXXIII in Dante's Paradiso. This is a gorgeous prayer no matter the translation. I'm going to provide two translations, then the original italian.  HT Digital Dante from Columbia University.

“Virgin mother, daughter of your Son,
more humble and sublime than any creature,
fixed goal decreed from all eternity,

you are the one who gave to human nature
so much nobility that its Creator
did not disdain His being made its creature.

That love whose warmth allowed this flower to bloom
within the everlasting peace—was love
rekindled in your womb; for us above,

you are the noonday torch of charity,
and there below, on earth, among the mortals,
you are a living spring of hope. Lady,

you are so high, you can so intercede,
that he who would have grace but does not seek
your aid, may long to fly but has no wings.

Your loving—kindness does not only answer
the one who asks, but it is often ready
to answer freely long before the asking.

In you compassion is, in you is pity,
in you is generosity, in you
is every goodness found in any creature.

This man—who from the deepest hollow in
the universe, up to this height, has seen
the lives of spirits, one by one—now pleads

with you, through grace, to grant him so much virtue
that he may lift his vision higher still—

may lift it toward the ultimate salvation.
THOU Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son
Humble and high beyond all other creature,
The limit fixed of the eternal counsel, 
Thou art the one who such nobility
To human nature gave, that its Creator
Did not disdain to make himself its creature.
 Within thy womb rekindled was the love,
By heat of which in the eternal peace
After such wise this flower has germinated.
Here unto us thou art a noonday torch
Of charity, and below there among mortals
Thou art the living fountain—head of hope.
Lady thou art so great, and so prevailing,
That he who wishes grace, nor runs to thee
His aspirations without wings would fly.
Not only thy benignity gives succour
To him who asketh it, but oftentimes
Forerunneth of its own accord the asking
In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,
In thee magnificence, in thee unites
Whate’er of goodness is in any creature.
Now doth this man, who from the lowest depth
Of the universe as far as here has seen
One after one the spiritual lives,
Supplicate thee through grace for so much power
That with his eyes he may uplift himself
Higher towards the uttermost salvation.


Vergine Madre, figlia del tuo figlio,
umile e alta più che creatura,
termine fisso d’etterno consiglio,

tu se’ colei che l’umana natura
nobilitasti sì, che ’l suo fattore
non disdegnò di farsi sua fattura.

Nel ventre tuo si raccese l’amore,
per lo cui caldo ne l’etterna pace
così è germinato questo fiore.

Qui se’ a noi meridïana face
di caritate, e giuso, intra ’ mortali,
se’ di speranza fontana vivace.

Donna, se’ tanto grande e tanto vali,
che qual vuol grazia e a te non ricorre,
sua disïanza vuol volar sanz’ ali.

La tua benignità non pur soccorre
a chi domanda, ma molte fïate
liberamente al dimandar precorre.

In te misericordia, in te pietate,
in te magnificenza, in te s’aduna
quantunque in creatura è di bontate.

Or questi, che da l’infima lacuna
de l’universo infin qui ha vedute
le vite spiritali ad una ad una,

supplica a te, per grazia, di virtute
tanto, che possa con li occhi levarsi
più alto verso l’ultima salute.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Here is an insightful essay by Fr. Dwight Longnecker about the distinction between faith and ideology. "Faith Walks on the waves--Ideology stays in the boat."

I think his analogy about the relationship of sheet music to a musical perforance is very good. It makes me think of those composing software programs. If you enter a piece into one of them, it always plays it back exactly as written and very mechanically (although you can still appreciate the beauty). But there is a world of difference between a computer playback and a live performance of the same piece. Personal interpretation is the key--on the part of the composer and, to a certain extent, the players. Like when my son plays one of his compositions on the computer. You know that when you hear it life it will make all the difference. It is like one of my favorite analogies: the first few minutes of The Wizard of Oz vs the rest of the movie in color.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The name of demons

Since C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape letters, there are many writers who seek to imitate Lewis's insights using a similar conceit. One thing I've noticed about these efforts is that they most often use names for the demons that are two syllables long and end in a percussive consonant (voiced or unvoiced). I wonder why? It seems to make sensse, though.

Monday, December 03, 2018

When bad things happen to good people

This generation seeks a sign. The only sign it will receive is the sign of Jonah.

Faith in Christ is not a quid pro quo. God knows what we need to be holy. All that happens in our lives, in our families, in our country, in our Church, and in the world, no matter how seemingly bad, is an opportunity to cultivate and exercise virtue, natural and supernatural. This is why we need to pray perseveringly for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As Archbishop Martinez says, we need the gifts in order to exercise the virtues, because we are too weak to do so without them.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Intellectual Humility according to St. Francis

Three attitudes towards the letter of the Law. One for lay people to avoid, one for religious to avoid, and one to be emulated.  Of course, all applies to all.
The Apostle says: "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6). Those have died by the letter who desire to know only the words, so as to be esteemed as wiser among others and be able to acquire great riches to be given to relatives and friends. And those religious have died by the letter, who do not want to follow the spirit of Divine, but rather desire only to know the words and to explain them to others.  And those have been vivified by the Divine Letter, who do not attribute every letter, which they know and desire to know, to the body, but in word and example render them to the Most High Lord God, of whom every good belongs. Admonition of St. Francis VII

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Who can we trust?

I am thoroughly convinced that in these troubled times in the Church it is more important than ever for us to be fed by the Word of God and by the wisdom of the saints. Modern thinkers are fine, but the real depth is in the holy ones. I have in the past not often posted links to other sources, but I think I will begin to do that as I see sources that are helpful. Some, of course, are both--like St. John Paul II and soon-to-be Saint Paul VI.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Doctrine is not an obstacle to pastoral care.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Culture in the Church

Today at work we were asked to come up with an answer to the question, "What is culture in the Church?"

Here is my answer:
The social and communal effort, open to the influence of other cultures past and present, to symbolically express the Apostolic Faith in the intellectual and concrete material, life, activity and practice of the people of God. 
What do you think?

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Other people's devotions

The Imitation of Christ warns the monk not to let his personal devotions be kept to yourself. Of course, if you have a devotion that you engage in in chapel, how can others not see it? Are you supposed to hide your scapular?

In our day that has been taken to new heights. No personal acts of devotion should ever be seen by anyone ever, nor should you ever promote a devotion. Everyone has their own way of relating to the Lord.

What I've notice, though, is that some people who have one form of devotion that they consider "adult" (as in "We need to have an adult faith") look down on others who have a different form as childish, superstitions, or overly sentimental. It seems to me that this attitude has two sources: an over-spiritualization of the faith and spiritual pride. For some, a relationship with faith is purely interior. Those who engage their body during devotions are "carnal" (although they may not use that word). I think the theology of the body has addressed that.

As for pride, what if some people approach Our Lord and the saints like a child?  What if they are devoted to images that don't have the greatest artistic value and that seem to us to be overly sentimental. I'd rather think, "I'm glad they have a relationship with the Lord; it is undoubtedly deeper and richer than my own."