Living with Christ inside

Lately I’ve been meditating on our Blessed Mother, and especially on the Incarnation and her Fiat.

Mary was living the divine life, the life of love. When the Angel said to her “Hail, full of grace” it’s a comment on her holy life, which can be measured by the proportion of grace that is given.
Her response to the Angel, who announced that she would give birth to a child who is God, indicates complete humility: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.”
And then she says, “may it be done to me according to your word.”  These are words of a willingness to receive, a willingness to be submissive to the love of God.
When we are at Mass, after the priest consecrates the Precious Body and Blood of our Savior, we also say words of submission and a willingness to receive His love.  We say “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.  But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  After this we participate in the Divine Sacrament and eat Christ’s Precious Flesh and Blood.
I wonder whether Mary, our Blessed Mother, was the very first “receiver” of the Eucharist.  In her Fiat she submits and then receives Christ: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  And not only that, but his Humanity as well.
Mary lived with Christ inside of her for nine months.  Every heartbeat of hers, every breath, every morsel of food she ate, nourished the Divine Child within her.
When we partake of the Eucharist, the consecrated species (body/blood) lasts about an hour or two, until it is dissimilated by our body’s natural functions.  The Sacrament that we receive through Communion abides with us until we commit a mortal sin.
I think about what it would be like to be Mary, to have the real Presence inside of me for nine months.  Then I realize that every time I go to Mass, I have the incredible privilege to be like Mary, to have Christ inside of me.
For a little while.
Stephen Miller
-Member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, Long Prairie.
-Not a native Minnesotan.
-Not a cradle Catholic.
-Former Librarian.
-Likes kids, somewhat baffled by adults.
-Married to the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world with whom we have six astonishing children.

 

 

Hi-yo Silver, away!

The other day was my youngest daughter’s birthday. By happy coincidence it was also my birthday. She turned 5 years old, and so did I (except that there’s another number in front of my 5).

Due to the “busyness” factor of our family, our birthday celebrations were stretched out over three days. Today, five days after my birthday, my wife found a present that Gloria had made for me. It was in a gift bag, and I had the honor of opening yet another present in front of the family.

Inside the gift bag were a couple of wads of tissue paper, and inside one of the wads was something wrapped and taped in more tissue paper.  Opening this I found an aluminum foil packet about the size of the palm of my hand. I opened the packet and inside were little pieces of aluminum foil, some were rolled up like balls.

I said, “Wow, Gloria. What is it?”

She said, “Silver bullets.”

My heart just melted. My daughter thinks I’m the Lone Ranger! I really like the Lone Ranger, but didn’t think my fondness for the masked man had registered with her that deeply.

Do you know why the Lone Ranger used silver bullets?  The movies and TV show about the Lone Ranger are based on a series of books by Fran Striker Jr.  I’ve only read the first one, appropriately titled “The Lone Ranger.”  It’s a fictional origin story of the Lone Ranger, giving the back story to his name and “accoutrement” (that’s French for all the cool stuff he wore).  It explains that silver is a fairly soft metal, so that bullets made of silver won’t kill anyone, but is more like a punch. As the Lone Ranger puts it: “I don’t shoot to kill. I want a silver bullet to be a symbol of justice.”

Fran Striker also wrote a “Lone Ranger Creed,” part of which reads: “… God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.” Think of that the next time you gather around the old campfire. It’s fun to sit there and swap stories or jokes, perhaps trying to top the last whopper with something bigger and better.

Our mouths, like a six-shooter, are capable of shooting lead or silver. The Book of James, in Chapter 3 says: “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers.”

This Lent I’m going to gentle my words, to try hard to control my mouth.  To think before I talk.  Maybe I really don’t need to top the last whopper.

Stephen Miller
-Member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, Long Prairie.
-Not a native Minnesotan.
-Not a cradle Catholic.
-Former Librarian.
-Likes kids, somewhat baffled by adults.
-Married to the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world with whom we have six astonishing children.

“Have fun storming the castle!”

“Have fun storming the castle!”

And with those words my wife bade me adieu as I went to work.

It doesn’t help that I was listening to “The Lord of the Rings” on tape as I commute. Frodo and Sam were in Shelob’s lair, and the darkness and oppression of her cave are descriptive of the weather on leaving the house. Oh well, as Sam says: “Now for it.”

The days are warming up (in the 30s and 40s, *above* zero) and the nights are in the 20s. This can only mean two things: it’s Lent, and the sap is running in the trees!

For the last few years I have made modest amounts of maple syrup from our modest amounts of sugar maple trees. The first time I did it I honestly thought that I had witnessed a miracle. Some 10 hours of boiling gallons of sap yielded a couple of pints of amber looking fluid. One taste told part of the tale, and the faces on the kids who tasted it told the rest of the story: it was indescribably wonderful!

I was a Log Cabin man before this. What was good enough for my childhood was good enough for my adulthood. But it was time to put away childish things, and it was time to read the label on the bottle! Fercryinoutloud there’s no maple in the blasted thing!

I don’t have professional equipment. All I have is the kitchen stove, a big soup pot and some big sauce pans and some five gallon buckets. There are only about six or seven sap-producing maples on my land so if I get a 10 gallons of syrup I’m doing well. Start boiling early, and finish up late. The first 10 hours of boiling is boring. The evaporation rate on a stove is tedious. I’ve heard that boiling sap in the kitchen will take the wallpaper off the walls, but since my wife wants to replace the wallpaper in our kitchen I think I’m doing us a favor!

It’s that last hour of boiling, when the remaining sap is near the syrup point. The sap lingers at a point just before that for some time. Then BAM! It’s there and you’ve got to move fast! So in that long steamy day I get the bottles and lids ready for that BAM moment.

What, you may be asking yourself, has this got to do with Lent?  I’m reminded of John 15 when Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  We’re like trees waiting to be tapped, but not so that the sap flows out, but so that His sap, His love, flows in and abides in us.  During this Lent I feel myself like a dormant tree, slowly awakening from a wintry slumber and looking forward to the refreshment of Spring.  We are Easter people; recovering from His Passion and overflowing with his merciful love. I pray that our branches do not wither and die, but rather bear the fruit of His love to share with others.

But for now, I’m still waiting for the drip and trickle flow of sap from those spouts.

Stephen Miller
-Member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish, Long Prairie.
-Not a native Minnesotan.
-Not a cradle Catholic.
-Former Librarian.
-Likes kids, somewhat baffled by adults.
-Married to the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world with whom we have six astonishing children.

Summer, Winter or Anytime Reading

Every year, at one season or another, some well-intentioned soul comes up with a list of books that they think everyone should read.
Being a well-intentioned soul myself (and a former librarian), I couldn’t resist adding my own list to the pile.

Last spring my wife and I taught a literature class for the homeschool group we belong to, Regina Caeli.  The focus of our choices was the concept of divine mercy.

Jenna chose books in which divine mercy permeated the writing and fairly leapt off the page:  Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place,” an amazing true story about her horrifying experience in World War II, and A.J. Cronin’s “Keys of the Kingdom,” about a priest setting up a mission in China and learning tolerance and compassion.

My choices, a little more off-beat, challenged the reader to find the concept of divine mercy.  These, and a few other titles, are my recommendations for anytime reading.

Shane, by Jack Schaefer – The second-best western I’ve ever read.  Very little gunplay, but with incredible dramatic tension, especially between two men and a stump!  The teens in my group loved this book.  They were especially impressed by Shane’s compassion at a key moment in the book.

War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells – Everybody knows the story, but have you ever read it?  “Rule Britannia!” comes crashing down, saved in the end by…  If you don’t know, then you haven’t read the book, so I’m not going to spill the microbes here (oops!).

A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. – An oddly reassuring book that shows that the Catholic church will endure, regardless of the megatonage of nuclear weapons that obliterate civilization.  The smartest and most Catholic science fiction book ever written.

The Smiling Country, by Elmer Kelton – My own personal favorite work of fiction.  A little rough around the edges, but the best western I’ve ever read.  An aging cowboy in the prettiest part of Texas dealing with the intrusion of internal combustion machines.  An amazing cast of characters (his best friend’s name is Snort Yarnell), a touching and realistic romance, and no gunplay.  Guys: the end will make you cry, and that’s a good thing.  Wives: buy this book for your husband.

Yeah, I used to be a librarian.  But that didn’t keep me from liking good books.

Stephen Miller
-Member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel, Long Prairie.
-Not a native Minnesotan.
-Not a cradle Catholic.
-Former Librarian.
-Likes kids, somewhat baffled by adults.
-Married to the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world with whom we have six astonishing children.

John Henry Newman vs. Maisy

My weekend off. So I get up at my usual 6 a.m. I read a quote a long time ago that farmers, if they want to loaf, get up early to do it. I guess I’m in that league.

Both days I got up and made a cup of Earl Grey tea and sat on the couch in the kitchen and read more of a biography of John Henry Newman. I got the book through interlibrary loan (a little esoteric for my hometown library’s taste). I wanted the book for two reasons:

Reason 1 – John Henry Newman is an interesting guy. One of his best friends was Henry Wilberforce, without whom Hollywood would not have been able to create a movie about the song “Amazing Grace.”

Reason 2 – The book was written by Father Zeno, who sounds like either a minor part in a Star Trek episode or a character in the third sequel to “A Canticle for Leibowitz.”

Fortunately, Father Zeno is a good writer and the book has held my attention well enough that I now owe a fine on the book because I’ve kept it too long. I get about a half-hour each morning (if I’m lucky) to read through what is at the same time dense and enlightening.

So for the past two mornings I’ve gotten up, made tea and read. And each time shortly after I sit down Jasper (my 3-year old son) has come down, snuggled up to me and asked me to read him a story.

Do I say no to a 3-year old in order to increase my spiritual growth and the awareness of God’s grace around us?

Nope. Maisy it is.

First, “Maisy Goes Camping.” Then “Maisy Drives the Bus.” Then Maisy Goes Shopping.” We end up with the magnum opus, “Where Are You Going, Maisy?”

I’m not a bad storyteller. I’ve learned to do voices and encourage kids to read along, leaving moments in the book where they can say the words they think are on the page. This, of course, gives me time to try to synthesize the trials and tribulations of John Henry Newman into the Maisy books. So the questions in “Where are you going Maisy” become spiritually rhetorical. Newman’s persecution and perseverance are reflected in the simple words and pictures of a children’s book. And the joy of a 3-year old in the timeless moment with a father is Newman’s realization that we are at times given glimpses of heaven.

And certainly, at 6:30 in the morning, sitting in the kitchen with my 3-year old son, I have a similar feeling.

I owe 25 cents a day for keeping the book too long. I really want to finish the book. Is this the price of paradise?

Stephen Miller -Member of St. James Parish in Randall, MN. -Not a native Minnesotan. -Not a cradle Catholic. -Former Librarian. -Likes kids, somewhat baffled by adults. -Married to the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world with whom we have six astonishing children.
Stephen Miller
-Member of St. James Parish in Randall, MN.
-Not a native Minnesotan.
-Not a cradle Catholic.
-Former Librarian.
-Likes kids, somewhat baffled by adults.
-Married to the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world with whom we have six astonishing children.