Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Flowers

Encourage & Teach: The Sacramental Seal

Small_Red_RoseAre you familiar with the phrase sub rosa or “under the rose?” Beginning in the sixteenth century, the rose was occasionally placed over the entrance to a confessional to symbolize the sacramental seal and its obligation of permanent silence concerning what is revealed.[1] (Read more…)

Encourage & Teach: Finding Mary In Your Garden

sunflowerThe best memories my grandmother formed with me all revolved around working with her in her gardens. In fact, the majority of her backyard was a garden. It is probably for this reason why I love working in gardens (even though I have little time to do so lately) and have developed a great appreciation for so many different flowers – all of which my wife appreciates every two weeks. I also do not find it a coincidence that I was given a lifelong penance during my sophomore year of college to meditate on John 15 (Vine and the branches) every time I work in my yard or garden. (Read more…)

Laetare Sunday: Pink or Rose?

It’s that time again, Sunday of the Rose. Another explanation for the colors Fr. Z explains:

As WDTPRS has explained before, the custom of rose vestments is tied to the Station churches in Rome.  The Station for Laetare Sunday is the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem where the relics of Cross and Passion brought from the Holy Land by St. Helena (+c. 329), mother of the Emperor Constantine (+337), were deposited.  It was the custom on this day for Popes to bless roses made of gold, some amazingly elaborate and bejeweled, which were to be sent to Catholic kings, queens and other notables. The biblical reference is Christ as the “flower” sprung forth from the root of Jesse (Is 11:1 – in the Vulgate flos “flower” and RSV “branch”).  Thus Laetare was also called Dominica de rosa…. Sunday of the Rose.  It didn’t take a lot of imagination to develop rose colored vestments from this. Remember, the color of the vestments is called rosacea, not pink.  This Roman custom spread by means of the Roman Missal to the whole of the world.

Oh, by the way, my Pastor’s vestments: Definitely pink. Sorry Father!

Trustful Surrender: A Father’s Love

Father, let this cup pass before me. Not my will but yours be done.

I think that it is easy for us to chalk up our Lord’s submission to the Passion by appealing to the logic of His divinity or inability not to do the Father’s will. It has always been a struggle in the field of Christology to keep a balance between the humanity and divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus…but that is a subject for another day.

Today, I would like to consider what could have happened in the Garden as His humanity struggled with balancing the fear and potential pain with the desire to do the Father’s will. I believe that during that moment of prayer the Father was encouraging and rooting Him on. I believe that in some way, during this holy abandon of the cross, the Father in a special way, made Himself present which kept the Son pressing forward to our salvation. Why the insight? If you would permit me, let me share a portion of my meditation yesterday while I am vacationing with my family here in Kitty Hawk, NC.

Observing the Pipeline

None of my kids are swimmers. Not that they don’t want to swim but we have never been able to afford the massive pool rates and, mom cannot swim. Anyway, they all love to surf with their Boogie boards. The particular beach we are at has a three-foot drop two feet in and then various sandbars as you wade out into the ocean.  About 50 feet out, the sandbar is high enough that you can stand with  the water a little above the knees. My oldest teenager has no problem getting out to the bar (while making jokes about my height). My younger two are a different story though (Noah is still small enough to be surf bait). My youngest girl, who is 9, lacks prudential judgment (caution) but makes up for it in living the joy of the present moment – although after being tossed by a wave or two suddenly discovers prudence.  My oldest girl (13) has a keen sense of prudential wisdom. She stands back analyzes the situation and makes a decision towards caution- sometimes she appropriately pushes beyond that wisdom and experiences the exhilaration of something new. Neither is better and frankly both are needed for a healthy life.

I observed yesterday something unexpected and unique that was a neat fatherly experience. All the family members (except for the wife that doesn’t do waves which is probably result of me accidentally causing her to be tumbled by a 9-footer on our honeymoon in Hawai’i) continued to encourage the girls to wade out to no avail. Nothing anyone could say could coax them out. Then I entered the surf.


I invited the girls (at separate times) to come out with me. With reckless abandon they came. Of particular interest was my oldest. She looked around and told me that the surf was rough and she was not going to be able to stand up.  She was partially correct. I ignored her concerns, told her to keep looking, listening and following me from sandbar to sandbar. And she did. It took a few minutes but with a smile and excitement in her eyes, she came forth. She took a couple shots of waves to the face but nonetheless she enjoyed it. I left the water and suddenly all courage disappeared. What was her return on investment, she was able to hang-ten on several swells (on the East Coast – I guess the four footers is the Pacific equivalent) for some exhilarating rides. And my youngest, she ran into the surf  took a beating from the waves and loved it. She learned to negotiate the rip tides and learned how to get in when you are pulled out.


I did nothing in particular except look at them, encourage them and tell them they could do it. When they were knocked down, I did not pick them up. I did stand in front of  a wave or two so they could quickly recover after-which I asked how they were. Even with a negative reaction from them I smiled and told them – not asked – to press forward. And they did with great joy. It turned out that no one else in the family could inspire this in them, just dad.  I think that it is the same in all children, we need to see dad before us and regardless of the hits we take, we want – maybe even need, to hear the encouragement that can only come from a father figure after a beating in order to continue on.

Where the Cross meets the Beach

I think the Paschal mystery is the same. The Son chose to experience all the human joys and limitations that are inherent with our nature. Even when it came to the Passion He was all in. Not because being stripped of His flesh was a good idea or the crucifixion was a walk in the park but because the Father was ever-present before Him in the Beatific vision. I can conceive that the Father kept encouraging Him and smiled at all the right moments. Pope Benedict XVI in his first volume of Jesus of Nazareth says that when we look to see when God chose to reveal His face, the evidence in Scripture is overwhelmingly bent to those who suffer.  There is nothing that conquers pain like a Father’s presence (or a fatherly presence) in our life. He doesn’t take the pain away but His presence is a balm that intuitively tells us that their is something beyond the pain and it is going to be okay.

For those who do not have a father in their life or a father that is spiritually absent in our life, take courage. Scripture speaks of our fathers and mothers in the Lord who, while not being our genetic parents, serve to be that healing and encouraging; disciplining and training; and physical and spiritual presence in our lives. The Lord always provides!

So, next time we meditate on the Passion maybe we should bring the Father more into the reflection. Or, next time life sends a wave that knocks us down, let’s look for the face of the Father encouraging us to get up and come forth out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Postscript: The fractured self-image

Today in society many suffer from a poor self-image. That challenge is actually not with the self-image but with a father’s attention and love. Father’s, especially for the ladies, provide the stability for the development of a healthy self-image. Without his presence and personal attention, the individual becomes narcissistic and self-deprecating at the same time. In fact, in grasping to allow themselves to be a unified person (we all intuitively know what that is supposed to look like) we focus on ourselves – particularly the looks, career or skills, in an effort to compensate.

What does this mean? Fathers, invest in your kids. The ramifications can be devastating. And presence does not mean you are “around”. It means being personally interested and present in their lives. Children of absent fathers (physically, emotionally and spiritually) – cut them a break. Many times they had no clue the effects of their own woundedness and self-interest would have upon you. At the same time, recognize the limitations that they have and find a family (who is older and has experience) to assist you. Healing and redemption is always a family affair (whether it is your own or one that has adopted you) it can never be done alone.

For those who are looking for healing, the Lord provides. Maybe there is a family that will assist you in the razing and then building up of who you are – as God intended you to be. Be patient. If you want healing, then you must be in for the long-haul. Also, encouragement is not the only thing you need. Encouragement by itself only supports a narcissistic or selfish personality. You cannot heal a faulty foundation, a new one must be poured.

May you find the healing that is yours in Christ in order to hang-ten on the waves of life! God Bless from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Spy Wednesday

Kiss of Judas by Caravaggio

Sacred ScriptureHoly Wednesday biblically starts off with Jesus being anointed with an expensive jar of alabaster by the woman at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper (Matt 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-19).  Indignant with the waste of money, Judas Iscariot hurries off to the Sanhedrin to make a bargain with the high priest to betray Jesus for 30 silver pieces (Matt 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:1-6).  Thus, Holy Wednesday is also called Spy Wednesday.


There are a number of…interesting…traditions around the world on this day.  Young people in Poland throw an effigy of Judas from the top of a church steeple. Then it is dragged through the village amidst hurling sticks and stones. What remains of the effigy is drowned in a nearby stream or pond.  In the Czech , today is traditionally called Ugly Wednesday, Soot-Sweeping Wednesday or Black Wednesday, because chimneys used to be swept on this day, to be clean for Easter.  To the Maltese this day is known as L-Erbgħa tat-Tnieber (Drums’ Wednesday).  In the past, children went to the parish church and drummed on the chairs to make the sound of thunderstorms, as their version of the “strepitus” sound at Tenebræ.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Hill of Slane

Hill of Slane

The Hill of Slane

It had long been known as sacred ground when St. Patrick visited the hill on the eve of Easter in 433 A.D. He lit a Paschal or Easter fire which could be seen from the nearby hill of Tara, the royal seat of power. There, a fire also burned to clebrate the pagan feast of Beltane. Since it was against the law to light any fire in the area while this was taking place, Laoghaire, the king at that time, was furious and rode off with his retinue to arrest the mystery rebel. Miraculously – some say through an earthquake, others by holding up a shamrock- St. Patrick convinced the king of his belief in Christianity and the power of the Holy Trinity. It was a power that St. Patrick thought would be useful to the king who only wished that his soldiers could be as brave as St. Patrick and his followers. He took the group prisoner and marched them back to the Hill of Tara. The next day, they were spared and were allowed to preach Christianity to the pagan army. Today, at the top of the hill are the ruins of a Franciscan Monastery built in 1512.[1]

Slemish Mountain

Slemish Mountain

Slemish Mountain
Situated in the Braid Valley near Ballymena,Co. Antrim, Slemish Mountain is approximately 1,500 ft above sea level.  Ireland’s patron saint is thought to have walked these slopes for six years after being taken into slavery at the age of 16. He worked for a master named Miliucc, herding swine and sheep. And according to his writings, it was here that St Patrick turned to prayer as his only consolation. He escaped, became a priest and began his mission to convert the Irish to Christianity.  Wild flowers, some rare, grow on the grassy slopes. From the top, if you look north, you will see the ruins of Skerry Church on a hilltop where Miluicc’s fort once stood. This was the ancient burying place of the O’Neill’s of Clandeboye.  Slemish is still a place of pilgrimage in memory of Saint Patrick on his feast day – 17 March.

[1] Copied from Irish Customs and Culture:

Devotions: Five Wounds

Detail from St Marie's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Our Lord’s Passion has inspired some of the greatest and most popular devotions known to the clergy, religious and lay faithful alike.  His Passion evokes some of the most basic emotions in us because suffering is part of the human condition.  Every person, eventually experiences suffering.

One of the great Passion devotions is the devotion of the Five Wounds.  These wounds are the five principle wounds that our Lord received during the crucifixion. They include the piercing of both hands and feet and the wound in the His side by St. Longinus’ lance.

When a altar is consecrated a number of the Rites anoint the altars in five place recalling the Passion and our Lord’s unbloody sacrifice that will take place upon that altar.  Many of the Eastern churches will have five domes upon them to illustrate architecturally the double symbolism of the five wounds and the four evangelist surrounding the Christ.

Devotion to the five wounds was encouraged by great mystics such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis of Assisi and more recently in the twentieth century by Venerable Sister Mary Martha Chambon of the Monastery of the Visitation Order in Chambéry, France.  Indirectly associated with this devotion is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Rosary of the Holy Wounds.

Traditionally, there are also natural symbols that have been associated with the five wounds including:

  • Passion Flower stamens
  • Five points of the star of the cross-section of the apple
  • Sand Dollar

Liturgically, even as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Resurrection, the Five Wounds are revealed in the five grains of incense inserted into the Paschal candle.

The prayers of the Devotion to the Five Wounds include:

Prayer in Honor of the Five Wounds

Act of Contrition

As I kneel before Thee on the cross, most loving Saviour of my soul, my conscience reproaches me with having nailed Thee to that cross with these hands of mine, as often as I have fallen into mortal sin, wearying Thee with my base ingratitude. My God, my chief and perfect good, worthy of all my love, because Thou hast loaded me with blessings; I cannot now undo my misdeeds, as I would most willingly; but I loathe them, grieving sincerely for having offended Thee, Who art infinite goodness. And now, kneeling at Thy feet, I try, at least, to compassionate Thee, to give Thee thanks, to ask Thee pardon and contrition; wherefore with my heart and lips, I say:

To the Wound of the Left Foot

Holy wound of the left foot of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for the love whereby Thou laboured to overtake me on the way to ruin, and didst bleed amid the thorns and brambles of my sins. I offer to the Eternal Father the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity, in atonement for my sins, all of which I detest with sincere and bitter contrition.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Right Foot

Holy wound of the right foot of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for that love which pierced Thee with such torture and shedding of blood, in order to punish my wanderings and the guilty pleasures I have granted to my unbridled passions. I offer the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity, and I pray Thee for grace to weep over my sins with hot tears, and to enable me to persevere in the good which I have begun, without ever swerving again from my obedience to the divine commands.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Left Hand

Holy wound of the left hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for having in Thy love spared me the scourges and eternal damnation which my sins have merited. I offer to the Eternal Father the pain and love of They most holy humanity: and I pray Thee to teach me how to turn to good account my span of life, and bring forth in it worthy fruits of penance, and to disarm the justice of God, which I have provoked.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Right Hand

Holy wound of the right hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for Thy graces lavished on me with such love, in spite of all my most perverse obstinacy. I offer to the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity; and I pray Thee to change my heart and its affections, and make me do all my actions in accordance with the will of God.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Sacred Side

Holy wound in the side of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the cruel insult Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee, my Jesus, for the love which suffered Thy side and Heart to be pierced, so that the last drops of blood and water might issue forth, making my redemption to overflow. I offer to the Eternal Father this outrage, and the love of Thy most holy humanity, that my soul may enter once for all into that most loving Heart, eager and ready to receive the greatest sinners, and never more depart.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Mothering Sunday and the Golden Rose

Rejoice, O Jerusalem!

Most of us know that tomorrow is Latarae Sunday, the fourth week of Lent.  It takes its name from the Introit which, quoting Isaiah 66:10, says Latarae, Jerusalem (Rejoice, O Jerusalem).  This is considered a joyful day in Lent because it observes the ancient practice of “handing over” the Apostles’ Creed to the catechumens, the last step before Baptism.[1]

Mothering Sunday

But what about Mothering Sunday?  Long before Anna Jarvis held her memorial and started her campaign for Mothers Day on May 12, 1907[2], long before President Woodrow Wilson nationalized Mothers Day in 1914, there was the Catholic Church.  In the early church, there was a deep sense of gratitude to the sponsoring church or Cathedral that birthed the Christian into a life of grace.  As a result, an ancient and indulgenced tradition developed of visiting ones mother church or cathedral on Latarae Sunday where one was baptized.[3]

As a natural outgrow, the children would return home to visit and spend the day with their parents.  As part of the celebration, “mother cakes” or simnel cakes were prepared.  As you might imagine, roses were used in the Churches because the flower matched the vestments of the day.  After Mass it became tradition to take the flowers home to your mother.[4]

“One tradition presents Mothering Sunday as an honor to St. Anne , the Blessed Mother’s mother, when children would ‘go a’mothering’ and bring flowers , gifts and sweets to their mother.”[5]

Rose Sunday

In Rome, Latarae Sunday is also known as Rose Sunday.  Not because of the rose vestment but because a golden rose received a papal blessing from the Pope and was then given to some notable person or institution to acknowledge and their above and beyond the call of duty service and loyalty.[6]

So, what did you get for your mother tomorrow – on our Mother’s Day?

[1] Alston, G.C. (1910). Laetare Sunday. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 12, 2010 from New Advent:

[2] Kendall, Norman F. (1937), Mothers Day, A History of its Founding and its Founder

[3] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 336

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 337

[6] Rock, P.M.J. (1909). Golden Rose. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 12, 2010 from New Advent:

A Rose by any other Name

Sub rosa

Did you ever hear the term sub rosa or “under the rose”?  Beginning in the sixteenth century, the rose was occasionally placed over the confessional to symbolize the sacramental seal of silence.[1]

The origin of this tradition is very mysterious.  Some attribute it to the myth of Cupid bribing Harpocrates (the god of secrecy and silence) with a rose in order to keep amorous activities of Venus (goddess of sensuality and love) a secret.[2] As we entered into the twentieth century, a rose on a dining room table meant that everything said around the table is to remain in the room.

I dare someone to bring a rose to their confessor the next time they go just to see (and for us, hear) the reaction.  I can think of four other ways the Rose has entered into our Catholic traditions, can you?

[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 304

[2] Homer, The Illiad (Trans by W H D Rouse) (nd) Bk xxiii.