Saturday, December 14, 2019


They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.  (Is. 35:10)

At last we come to that Sunday in Advent known as Gaudete (Joy). On this Sunday, pink as a symbol of our joy, is worn at Mass and the candle in the Advent wreath that is pink, is lit as well.  We read in the Old and New Testaments about the joy of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

The peoples of the Old Testament had joy because they anticipated a time when the promised Messiah would come and “those who have been ransomed by the Lord...will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness”. 

Today, our joy is anchored in the knowledge that God fulfilled His promise of a Savior- the One who came to free us from the shackles of  original sin.

At this time of year, in the depth of deep darkness- it is dark here by 4:30 P.M.-  we will celebrate the winter Solstice- the longest day of the year. It can be a reminder  of the joy that seems to be lacking in our world at large. There is no room for hope, no possible way to feel anything but misery.  But this is not the thinking of one who understands the true meaning of Advent- of why the Child is born in us, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, and will continue to be born until the end of time.

We as Christians  should be a people full of joy, and Catholics more so because the “cause of our joy” is ever with us in the Eucharist.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


ANGEL ZARRAGA  was born  in 1886 the son of the physician Dr. Fernando Zárraga and his wife Guadalupe Argüelles in the Barrio de Analco of Durango, Mexico. While attending the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria in Mexico City, he made his first contacts with the prevailing artistic and intellectual scene, and later studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Following his studies and with the support of his family he left for France where he would remain for over thirty years. While in France he painted murals in the Castle of Vert Coeur and, in 1927, decorated the Mexican Legation in Paris.

He visited and exhibited in  Spain, France and Italy.  He also visited courses at the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium.

In 1906 he exhibited some of his pictures in the Museo del Prado, and in 1907 in an exhibition of the ENBA. He participated in the 1909 Biennale di Venezia and exhibited in the Salon at the Piazzale Donatello, Florence. In 1911 he moved to France for good, and he only returned to Mexico once at the outbreak of World War II for a short time.


From 1914 Zárraga painted in a Cubist style but after 1921 his work was influenced by Cézanne and Giotto.  Zárraga breaks from representational painting by identifying spheres and cones of light rather than two dimensional planes. The formal composition is further enhanced by the use of bright blues, greens, yellows, and reds. Each field of color thus represents a separate plane. 

As a result of the collapse of the international art market he lost his sponsors and became depressed. During World War II he returned to his home country in 1941, where he painted murals at the Club de Banqueros and in Monterrey Cathedral.

Assumption  of the  Virgin Mary
He died of pneumonia in 1946. A museum of contemporary art in Durango is named after him. One of his paintings sold for almost a million dollars in 1998.   I could find nothing about his personal life, his family, or his religious practices, but from the art works I would say he new a bit Advent.

Saturday, December 7, 2019


Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing.   (Is. 35:5-6)

Laughter and shouts of joy are signs of coming restoration, so sings the Psalmist. It is an important reminder in the Advent season as we prepare for the Birth of our Savior. He is the cause of our joy. If we are excited about Christ, that excitement is contagious, it will spread. 

Joy has all but disappeared from modern society, and so often people, especially our youth, try to find what they think will being them joy or relief from boredom, from delusion, or suffering.  Yet any sane person knows that drug or alcohol use, a dissipation of one's gifts, and  taking refuge in all sorts of sinful pursuits          does not bring joy, but rather takes one further away from that true cause of joy leading to despair.

As we are overwhelmed with the demands of the season to buy gifts, send cards, attend too many parties, we may feel conflicted by the need to pause and evaluate what this season is all about.

A long time ago I read sorrow can take care of itself but joy must be shared!
Joy  (Christ) is meant to be shared. Let  our gratitude  for His coming extend to family, friends, neighbors, all whom we come in contact with. Hopefully our gratitude can multiply bringing joy (Christ) to our world so in need, especially those nearest to us suffering from spiritual maladies of all sorts.

Pope Francis reminds us of this in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) that “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus… With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


During the weeks of Advent I thought it might be fun to check out some Catholic artists who were well known in their day and perhaps not so much today, but who knew the spirit of Advent - of expectation.

Sketch for Annunciation

The first is a favorite of Mother Dilecta, having discovered him through "Magnificat" magazine. At  the age of 15 MAURICE DENIS wrote in his journal: “I have to be a Christian painter and celebrate all the miracles of Christianity, I feel that it has to be so.”

In 1890 he declared that painting is “basically a flat surface covered with colors disposed in a certain order,” a credo taken up by later Modernists. Maurice would later adopt a more “classical” style after a sojourn in Italy, always believing art should “express the mysteries of the Faith clearly in the play of forms and colors.”

The Annunciation  at Fiesole

 A devout Roman Catholic, he was single-minded in his effort to renew French church art, which had degenerated in the 19th century into what was dismissively called the “Saint-Sulpice style,” after the Paris quarter, specializing in kitsch plaster saints and devotional items. 

Together with Painter Georges Desvallieres, he founded Ateliers d’Art Sacre in 1919 to teach young artists to create works “that serve God, the teachings of the truth and the decoration of places of worship.” Maurice himself, made canvas paintings and wall murals for over 15 churches across France.

The  Catholic Sacrament

A devoted husband and father, the artist often used his beloved first wife, Marthe, and their six children as models, placing sacred figures in settings from his daily life in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Breton seacoast, where the family spent their summers, or an Italian villa they had visited in Fiesole, near Florence. Maurice was especially drawn to maternal images of the Virgin Mary, making paintings and prints of the Annunciation and the Madonna and Child in multiple variations.

French Dominican Friar Marie-Alain Couturier, a onetime Ateliers student and leading proponent of Modernist sacred art, said that Maurice  was the painter of “the sweet presence of God in our life.”

Saturday, November 30, 2019


California "Super bloom"

I remember the first time I saw the desert in bloom. I was about 4 years old and we were on the way through the Mojave desert to see my grandmother in Colorado. For those who have not seen a cactus flower, it is hard to imagine the translucent beauty of the petals. And rarely do you find a patch here or there, but rather huge carpets- masses- of flowers carpeting the sand. This stunning beauty is not just because of its visual splendor, but also because it is so unexpected. For most of the year there is no color in the desert. Yet when conditions are right, when the rains come, color explodes into vibrant hues that can look psychedelic.

At times our living in this world is like that desert where we know pain, loneliness dryness, suffering. Knowing this, Holy Mother Church pierces our souls, heals our woundedness, with joyful reminders of why we are here and what are goal should be.  Advent is one of these times.

The season of Advent is known as one of “Joyful expectation.” In the Church we know the third Sunday of Advent is as Gaudete (Joyful) Sunday  in anticipation of the birth of Our Savor which is close at hand. Yet how many in our modern society really know this joy?  I am not speaking of that happiness bought by material goods, but a deep joy which only can be given to us as gift by the Lord Himself.

The lessons we sing at Christmas Matins are all from Isaiah (35). So each week I will present a verse from this great prophet in speaking to us, through the Church today, about the joy of the Lord, ever present to us, especially in His coming.

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.”

While we see disorder in our world, our hope is that one day the Messiah will bring restoration to His creation. The desert wilderness will blossom. We will find joy where we had forgotten hope. There will be rejoicing, abundance, and exquisite beauty. No more will life wither in the chaos of drought and want, but the Living Water, which is our Savior Himself, will pour forth His bounty watering our weak and weary souls with new graces, bringing us to Himself in glory.

Now is the time, now is the hour, to slow down, look for the hidden flowers in our life and prepare for His coming!

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Yousuf Karsh

Great news for those of us who grew up in the early days of TV. ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN  will be beatified Dec. 21 at 10 a.m. local time at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria. This is the same cathedral where Archbishop Sheen was ordained a priest 100 years ago on Sept. 20, 1919.

The cathedral also is the current resting place for the archbishop, who is entombed in a marble vault next to the altar where he was ordained.

In July, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of the new blessed, leading the way to his beatification.

The miracle concerns the healing of James Fulton Engstrom of Washington, Illinois, who was considered stillborn when he was delivered during a planned home birth Sept. 16, 2010. His parents immediately invoked the prayers of  Bishop Sheen and encouraged others to seek his intercession after the baby was taken to the ER.

Just as doctors were preparing to declare that he was dead, James Fulton’s tiny heart started to beat at a normal rate for a healthy newborn. He had been without a pulse for 61 minutes.

Despite dire prognoses for his future, including that he would probably be blind and never walk, talk or be able to feed himself, the child has thrived. Now a healthy 8-year-old, he likes chicken nuggets, “Star Wars” and riding his bicycle.

The decree of the miracle came about a week after Archbishop Sheen’s remains were transferred from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to Peoria’s cathedral.

In 2002, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky launched a campaign for Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood. However, the effort languished for years over legal objections by the New York Archdiocese. The Peoria Diocese said the progression to beatification and sainthood would get the Vatican’s blessing only after his remains were authenticated in the diocese of the origin of the process. Though New York repeatedly tried to block the moving of the remains to Peoria, the Diocese finally got court approval in June.

In 1952, he premiered “Life Is Worth Living,” a weekly half-hour series on the DuMont Television Network. At one point, it was rated the most popular TV program in AmericaHe will be the first American bishop to be beatified. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019


An ex-public schoolboy who fought in WW2 and cared for lepers in Zimbabwe before he was executed by Mugabe is set to become the first British martyr since the martyrs of the 16th century. (In 1970 Pope Paul VI canonized Cuthbert Mayne and 39 British companions -The 40 Martyrs of England and Wales -, who were executed for treason between 1535 and 1679, and the Scottish Catholic martyr John Ogilvie, canonized in 1976.)

JOHN BRADBURNE didn't just look like Jesus, with his long hair, beard and simple, austere clothes. He also gave his life for others.  

In September 1979, the English-born missionary, poet and warden of Mutemwa leper colony in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, was caught up in the country's civil war, the Rhodesian Bush War.

His friends told him to flee the imminent arrival of the bloodthirsty ZANU-PF guerillas who thought he was an informer. But he insisted on remaining with the lepers.

 When the guerillas came, they bound John's hands, took him on a forced march and humiliated him. They made him dance and sing, got him to eat excrement and dangled young women in front of him, before interrogating him and subjecting him to a rigged trial.

They offered him the chance to escape so long as he left the country and abandoned his beloved flock. He refused and, when he knelt down to pray, they shot the 58-year-old in the back, leaving him half-naked by the side of the road.

He was buried in a Franciscan habit, as he had requested, in a cemetery 11 miles outside the capital city, Salisbury, now Harare.

Born in Westmorland in 1921, he was the son of an Anglican rector and amazingly enough a relation of Lord Soames, last Governor of Southern Rhodesia, who oversaw the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, soon after John's death.

After private schooling at Gresham's in Norfolk, he fought in World War II with the 9th Gurkha Rifles, heroically escaping Singapore when it was invaded by the Japanese in 1942.

After the war, in 1947, he converted to Catholicism after staying with the Benedictines of Buckfast Abbey.  His desire was to become a Benedictine monk,  but the Order would not accept him because he had not been in the Church for two years. (a common practice for new Catholics). He opted to travel instead, wandering the world for 16 years, trying his hand at teaching and forestry, and toiling as a stoker on a steam ship. His only worldly belonging was a single Gladstone bag.

On trips home, John stayed with Carthusian monks in England, and with other religious orders in Israel and Belgium. At one stage, he walked hundreds of miles to Rome and lived for a year in the organ loft of a church in an Italian mountain village.

Throughout this period, he wrote over 6,000 poems, covering a wide range of spiritual, natural, elegiac and narrative subject matter. As he wrote his domestic letters largely in verse, new poems from the recipients are still occasionally found.

In Rodesia in 1969, he found his calling in the rundown leper colony of Mutemwa. John had asked a Jesuit friend,  John Dove,  if he knew of any African caves where he might pray. Father Dove took him to the Mutemwa leper colony at Mutoko, 90 miles east of Salisbury.

Where others had rejected the 80 cruelly maimed lepers, John embraced them and made his home among them, eventually becoming the warden of the colony. Before he arrived, the lepers were treated as outcasts, forced to wear bags on their heads to hide their disfigurement whenever an able-bodied visitor arrived.

In contrast, John prayed with them, drank with them and slept alongside them. He bathed their wounds, cut their nails, shooed away the rats that hounded the colony and, when they died, buried them with dignity.

He built them a small church, and wrote each leper a poem. With his fine voice and classical education, he even taught them to sing Gregorian plainchant in Latin.

Before he died, John said that he had only three wishes: to help lepers, to die a martyr and to be buried in a habit of the Franciscan Order. He achieved all three.

A service is held in John’s memory at Mutemwa every year, drawing as many as 25,000 people each time. In 2009 a Mass commemorating the 30th anniversary of his death was held at Westminster Cathedral in London, England. This year in 2019, marks the 40th Anniversary of John's assassination. This was marked both in Zimbabwe at Mutemwa with the pilgrimage and then an exhibition and talks at Westminster Cathedral on 21 September 2019, where John's relics were showcased for the first time.