My wife’s birthday gift to me last August. She heard me once say it was my favorite icon.
This will be my last post for a little bit. It has been a great gift to share my thoughts these days. Thank you for reading. I never take that for granted.
A few scattered thoughts.
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Our New Orleans Archbishop has asked all Catholics in our diocese today to join together for a day of prayer and fasting in response to the pandemic, seeking God’s mercy on our community, nation and world. Our Archbishop:
I have received word that all faithful are invited to participate in a special prayer of our Holy Father Pope Francis on Friday, March 27 at 12 noon local time [CDT]. During the Statio orbis, which will be streamed from the Vatican website at www.vaticannews.va, Pope Francis will grant to all participants the Plenary Indulgence before imparting the Urbi et Orbi Blessing. This will be a historic moment for our church and coincides with our local Day of Prayer and Fasting to bring an end to the Coronavirus pandemic and healing to all who are sick. I encourage you to participate in this special prayer.
Archbishop Aymond also invited his Staff to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3:00 p.m. As he himself is infected by the coronavirus, kindly keep him in your prayers.
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As a Lenten Friday, today may also be a good day to recommit to your Lenten practices. It might be wise to reassess smartphone, internet or TV use, which stress, quarantine or other practicalities may have greatly intensified. Maybe plan some substantial dedicated screen-free time to be silent, go outdoors, read, exercise, clean, organize, purge your closet or attic, paint, draw, garden, write some letters, plan your summer, surprise a neighbor with a good deed. But most of all, risk a supremely human experience — being bored.
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The last week and a half, my oldest son and I have been going every evening to the cemetery where my mom, who died last September, was buried. We visit her grave and seek her intercession for all our intentions and the intentions we have been given. The sacredness of a burial ground is immensely powerful, a thin place between heaven and earth.
The cemetery has been completely deserted every time we have gone, which has made it a great space to walk through quietly in peace. I highly recommend frequently visiting the graves of loved ones if possible, and both praying for them and seeking their intercession. The bonds of love are only intensified in death, and even if they are in Purgatory they can intercede for you — and greatly appreciate when you do for them.
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Our parish leaves the church open during the day, and when I go in now, the smells and sights fill me with joy. God’s house! And the Tabernacle, His tenting nearness is a rush of spirit. “I am with you always.” You can sense it so. Others come in, kneel quietly, and leave quietly. Such reverence. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord God of hosts.
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I was outside last night late, looking at the stars and listening to the cricket chorale. We never had frost this winter, so they are out in abundance!
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The local NOLA band Bag of Donuts, that gave our daughter Maria and her friend Ashley their first opps for public performances, made an awesomely creative music video that brought great cheer to our family and to all those I shared it with. Take a look here.
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People are outside in the neighborhood all the time now. Unprecedented. Life! Children laughing, music playing, picnics on the front lawn, people saying hello to each other.
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Living in close home bound proximity 24/7 has made me yet again tweak St. John of the Cross’ epic advice to new novices getting used to monastic quarantine:
…you must engrave this truth on your heart. And it is that you have not entered into [quarantine] for any other reason than to be worked and tried in virtue.
You are like the stone that must be chiseled and fashioned before being set in the building. Thus you should understand that those who are in [your home] are craftsmen placed there by God to mortify you by working and chiseling at you. Some will chisel with words, telling you what you would rather not hear; others by deed, doing against you what you would rather not endure; others by their temperament, being in their person and in their actions a bother and annoyance to you; and others by their thoughts, neither esteeming nor feeling love for you.
You ought to suffer these mortifications and annoyances with inner patience, being silent for love of God and understanding that you did not enter [quarantine] for any other reason than for others to work you in this way, and so you become worthy of heaven. If this was not your reason for entering [quarantine], you should not have done so, but should have remained in the world to seek your comfort, honor, reputation, and ease.
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While there is great need for love and solidarity, sacrifice and support, mercy and kindness these days of pandemic, once it’s over the needs will undoubtedly be vast. May we use this Lent to beg for the grace of magnanimity, to cultivate in grace a “great-soul” and so be empowered in Eastertide to join the Samaritan God in His endless pilgrimage of hope toward Jericho.