Will It

I am not much of a sports fan, outside of high-school and intercollegiate wrestling (and even then, I’m not a superfan). I watch professional sports from time to time, not out of a love for any particular sport or loyalty to a particular team, but because I was never much of an athlete myself, so great physical performances are amazing to me.

This also helps to explain why I have so often been a fan of the greatest players and moments in sports. For example, I was a Detroit Pistons fan as a teen, but loved to watch Michael Jordan do his thing, and I still rewatch Gibson’s homer and Jeter’s flip anytime I want to shake my head and grin in disbelief. The ability to anticipate the action, to slow down the speed of the game, to perceive the field clearly, and most importantly, to will your body to respond, is beautiful and incredible to me—especially when I remember my own athletic career. As a young baseball player, I was lucky to make contact with the bat and struggled to stay focused in the field. As a tween basketball player, the pressure to move my body and the ball on offense (or worse yet, shoot) caused the ball to bounced off me and my fumble-fingered hands. As a high-school football player, I finally settled in as a backup noseguard…the one position simple enough for me.  And as a wrestler? I loved the sport, but could rarely make my body respond quickly enough to my opponent’s moves and counters.

So I watch athletes in any sport, willing their bodies to do the beautiful, the amazing, the impossible, and it captures me.

* * * * *

Something changed in me as I approached (and since then, entered fully into) middle age. Whether I’ve grown more accepting of and accustomed to my own strengths and weaknesses, or no longer feel pressured to perform, I can do things I never could before (although I still can’t hit a baseball for any money).  Continue reading

Book Break: The Little Flowers of St. Francis

LittleFlowersStFrancisCoverSometime in the past week or two, I finished The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of stories about St. Francis of Assisi and his earliest brothers, compiled in the 14th century. The book is a delightful mixture of familiar legends (St. Francis and the Wolf, St. Francis Preaching to the Birds), a thorough account of his receiving the stigmata (the wounds of Christ), stories of less well-known miracles, and sage spiritual advice that still applies to souls like mine, several centuries later. It also includes the same sort of stories and wisdom from a few of his contemporaries recognized by the saint and others for their holiness, humility, and simplicity.

My edition is a newer reprint of a 1915 translation by H.E. Cardinal Manning, and includes a handful of beautiful color prints of paintings by F. Cayley-Robinson. The book (pictured) does have a few mistakes in the copy—for the purposes of reading out loud, it might be helpful to pre-read first!

The style is somewhat old-fashioned and poetic, but readable even for youngsters—I can imagine it being a good volume to read out loud to your family. (And a few of the stories, like that of Brother Juniper cutting the foot from a pig that did not belong to him to cook and feed to a sick brother, are hilarious!)

If you are  looking for an enjoyable and edifying introduction to this popular saint and his spirituality, look no further!

Angelic Relic?

Blogger’s Note: This post is in no way authoritative or serious. It’s meant only to spark the imagination, as mine was sparked. Have an opinion and laugh a little!

We observed our parish’s feast day—the Feast of St. Michael and the Archangels—this weekend.  The actual feast was Friday; Fr. Richards celebrated the school Mass that day and delivered the same homily, which included a prop: a beautiful, barred wing feather.

“I got a relic,” he said, brandishing the feather, “of St. Michael the Archangel.”

Laughter rippled through the church.

He then told us that he had the idea of using a feather as a prop for the school Mass, but then had no idea where to find one and forgot about it. When Friday morning rolled around, a parishioner came before Mass to ask Father to bless some religious items, before Mass, not after, because she was on a tight schedule. He agreed and opened the bag to find the items to be blessed—and a single feather.

He asked if he could use it. She gave it to him, unsure why or how it happened to be there.

“I think maybe St. Michael has the same sense of humor as me,” Father said.

Which raised a question in my mind: We’ve often joked that our parish does not have a relic of our patron because angels tend not to leave much behind. But if St. Michael provided a feather for Father—even if it were not his own*—would that not be a second-class relic: an object used or touched by a saint?

The teens I spoke with, including my own, felt strongly that because angels do not have bodies, they could not touch an object, so it could not be a relic. I argue that it’s worth considering the possibility from two standpoints: first, because Scripture suggests angels can, in fact, touch and be touched at times (e.g., when Jacob wrestles the angel and is injured by his opponent) and second, because the fact that angels can interact with and affect the physical world suggests to me that we humans may have a limited conception of touch.

What say you? I say Father should hang onto that feather, just in case.

_____

*Another thought: We usually see angels portrayed with white wings, but what if St. Michael has colorfully barred wings, like a hawk? How cool would that be?

 

 

 

 

 

Pinkie-Toe Problems

This is not the post I intended to write today, but something struck me in a new way at Mass this morning, and I wanted to share it.

Sometimes I become so self-focused that I fail to see the joys and sorrows of those around me—even those close to me. I get so wrapped up in my own little sufferings, injuries, and humiliations that I lose perspective and wallow in woe-is-me.

I do not suffer well, even in small ways. Continue reading

Memento Mori, Revisited

Back in April I shared a post entitled “Memento Mori, or Don’t Get Comfortable.” It was inspired by the sense of urgency I saw in the saints highlighted in Fr. Gaitley’s guide to Marian consecration, 33 Days to Morning Glory. In my reading this summer—particularly Praying With Padre Pio and The Little Flowers of St. Francis (which I’m reading now )—I continue to see this urgency. No sooner is a sin perceived than repentance and penance are undertaken; no sooner does an opportunity arise to serve or suffer than it is pursued to the full; no sooner is a prayer answered than praise and thanksgiving erupt.

LittleFlowersStFrancisCoverThis urgency is particularly edifying to me. Not only do I have a marked tendency to overestimate what I can achieve in the time I have, but I am also tempted more to presumption than despair. In other words, I’m inclined to coast and hope for the best—which is fine for a thing with wheels, but on two legs, usually turns into a long tumble downhill. Continue reading