Archive for the ‘Sacramentals’ Category

The stations of the cross are a particularly suitable meditation for today. The Internet has a plethora of good online opportunities to meditate the stations. This one is very simple and moving.

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St Francis at San Damiano

Do you remember the story of St Francis, praying before a crucifix when he heard a voice; the Lord telling him ‘rebuild my Church’?

That crucifix – the San Damiano Crucifix – is still cherished by Franciscans today. On Catholicism Pure & Simple, poster Frere Rabit has written a very moving post about the letters written by St Clare of Assisi to St Agnes of Prague, and about his researches which took him to the convent at Assisi where the letters were written.

She refers to the Crucified as the Mirror and the San Damiano Crucifix is foremost in her mind in all these letters, for this was the extraordinary focus of spiritual life in her convent: that very Crucifix that played a transforming role in the conversion of Saint Francis; the painted Crucifix that spoke to him and said, “Francis rebuild my church”.  This Crucifix of the San Damiano church is the image we must have before us when reading Saint Clare’s letters.  She writes to Agnes:

Look into this mirror every day,
O queen, spouse of Jesus Christ,
And continually examine your face in it,
So that in this way you may adorn yourself completely,
Inwardly and outwardly,
Clothed and covered in multicolored apparel,
Adorned in the same manner with flowers and garments
Made of all the virtues as is proper,
Dearest daughter and spouse of the most high King.
Moreover, in this mirror shine blessed poverty,
holy humility, and charity beyond words,
as you will be able, with God’s grace,
to contemplate throughout the entire mirror.

Frere Rabit’s article is illustrated with an incredible photograph of the San Damiano Crucifix – published for the first time today on his post.

The cross is called an icon cross because it contains images of people who have a part in the meaning of the icon. The purpose of an icon cross was to teach the meaning of the event depicted and thereby strengthen the faith of the people.

Here is a summary of the meaning of the icon, but I look forward to Frere Rabit’s next post, in which he promises to tell us the history of the icon and to give us a ‘tour’ of the characters.

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I arrived home this evening to a treat – the Scott Hahn book we’ve had on back order. It’s called Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and their biblical roots.  I can’t allow myself to read it yet – I really have to finish Why I became an atheist by John Loftus so that I can return it to KiwiAtheist. But I couldn’t resist taking a sneak peak at the table of contents and the first chapter – and I want to share a taste with you:

Sometimes, we find that we’ve arrived at a wall. Sometimes we find that we’ve just hit the wall, at high speed – and we’ve left our crash helmet at home. When that happens, something in our nature cries out to us: ‘Don’t just stand there. Do something! God created us that way. He created us with bodies built for action, and he set us to work in a world full of things to do.

All through history, he has acknowledged this natural tendency and given us things to do. When the people were thirsty, God instructed Moses to strike a rock so that water would gush forth. Why did he do that? Not because he needed to. He could have dropped canteens from the clouds, or installed a great lake in the middle of the desert, or even had angels serve up pitchers of margaritas. Yet he knew human nature, and he knew our need to do something. So he gave Moses something to do.

From the time of Moses to the time of Jesus, nothing about human nature changed. Jesus could have cured the blind with a simple nod or a word, but he didn’t. He made a paste of mud and spit, and then he sent the blind man off to wash in a nearby pond…

The Catholic life – the great Christian tradition – is a tremendous inheritance from two millennia of saints in many lands and circumstances. Being Catholic means never having to say we have nothing left to do. Our prayer is enriched by sacred images and incense, votive candles and rosary beads, waters and oils, gestures and postures, blessings and medals, customs and ceremonies.

Because I was learning to live a Catholic life, I was able to say that even alone at three o-clock in the morning in my study, even in the midst of a professional crisis – even when there was nothing more to do – I could do something.

I could leave immediately and make a pilgrimage.

I could prostrate myself in prayer.

I could venerate the holy cross.

I could invoke the Scriptures.

In fact, I could do all those things, and no one was awake to stop me. So I did.

Gleeful expectation! I figure if I set my mind to it, I can finish Loftus by the middle of next week, then savour Hahn for a fortnight or so, and I’ll then be book free when Jesus of Nazareth finally arrives in July!

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