Lincoln and Mary

Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to Mary the Mother of God. He once told the story during a Cabinet meeting of an Italian captain whose ship was punctured when it struck a rock. The captain set his men bailing water while he said a prayer to a statue of the Virgin Mary in the bowel of the ship. The water continued to pour in and it appeared the vessel would be lost. The captain, in a fit of rage at not having his prayers answered, seized the statute of Mary and threw it overboard. Suddenly the leak stopped and the ship was able to sail safely into port. When docked for repairs, the Virgin Mary statue was found stuck head-first in the hole.

Find Your Meaning

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who spent three years in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau. He survived the war and went on to write, among other books, Man's Search for Meaning. In this classic text, Frankl argues that finding meaning in one's life is the cure for many neuroses.

Logotherapy, the form of treatment that Frankl founded, focuses on the patient's future. Whereas psychoanalysis is retrospective and introspective—trying to discover the cause of a patient's neurosis—logotherapy attempts to help the patient find meaning in his life, for someone who has something or someone to live for lives well.

Silent Night

A new title for Mary, and one that is quite expedient, is "The Silent Mother."

Striking in the Gospels is the silence of Mary. After several significant scenes, we find the Blessed Mother rather reserved. When the Angel Gabriel announces to her that she will conceive and bear a son, she simply says, “Be it done unto me.” The angel departs and there are no more words we hear spoken by Mary. Nothing is recorded of her during the birth at Bethlehem, and when Simeon prophesies during the Presentation of the Temple that a sword of sorrow will pierce her heart, Mary does not respond. Likewise in the face of suffering, the Blessed Mother walks silently alongside her son through Jerusalem to Calvary. Nor did Mary ever respond and take offense at her son’s sayings. There is no rebuttal from the Blessed Mother after the finding in the temple when Jesus says, “Did you not know I must be at my father’s house?” At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry during the wedding feast of Cana, Mary ignores the quip, “Woman, what is it to me? My hour has not yet come.” Nor does she retort when, asking to see her son, Jesus responds, “Who is my mother? Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother.”

On Being Useless

Henri Nouwen provided this parable from Chuang Tzu. It's called, “The Useless Tree”:

A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together though a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old beautiful tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said: “No...why?”

“Well,” the carpenter said, “because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut down long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax.”

Elemental

Molecules and compounds were the topic of discussion when I popped into our school's science lab one day. A molecule is two or more atoms of an element chemically joined together. A compound, conversely, is when the two or more conjoined atoms are of different elements. Sodium chloride (NaCl), for example, would be a compound. Sodium and chloride combined form salt, salt being the whole or end result. Complementarity, two different elements fitting to complete a whole, is the spiritual principle at hand.

Burr and the Final Judgment

I read recently Burr by Gore Vidal, a 1974 novel that centers on the infamous early American figure, Aaron Burr. Burr is known to history as a scoundrel. He shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, was tried for treason when his plot to become king of the west was uncovered, and was removed as Vice President of the United States. If murder and treason were not enough, he was also an adulterer.

The Naming of Cats

There is a unique and special and secret identity to each of us, and this is what will remain in heaven. T.S. Eliot's poem, The Naming of Cats, captures it well:

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

This is the end, my only friend.

Dear Parishioners,

I've had stuck in my head this past week "The End" by the Doors. This is the end. My only friend, the end.

Saint Paul writes about "the end" to the Thessalonians. He wants them to be aware of the end; to be as knowledgable as possible about where all those who have died currently are. “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13).

Looks can be deceiving.

Dear Parishioners,

Do you care how others perceive you? Are you hyper-sensitive to how you come across and, if so, do you try to appear better than you think you are? If so, then our Lord's message in today's Gospel is intended for you. Read it, pray over it, and allow it to pierce your mind and heart so that it can help you in this area.

The Pharisees, says Jesus, focus too much on their appearances. “All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi’” (Matt 23:5-7).

Men must not shave...

Dear Parishioners,

I don't know about you, but I'm a neat freak. I'm very organized and I look to declutter and simplify whenever and wherever I can.

The Gospel this week thus resonates with me. There were over 600 laws in the Torah. Some laws were good and necessary, like “Do not oppress the weak” (Law 18). Some laws were not so essential, like “Do not bow down before a smooth stone” (Law 51). Some I wish were still laws, like “Men must not shave their beards with a razor” (Law 69).