Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Eve of St. Patrick’s Day

Guest post by husband:

“There was a pear-tree close to our vineyard, heavily laden with fruit…some of us wanton young fellows went late one night…and carried away great loads...My enjoyment was not in those pears, it was in the crime itself, which the company of my fellow-sinners produced.” (St. Augustine, Confessions, Book II)  
“I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance….That is why I cannot be silent…about such great blessings…the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings: praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.” (St. Patrick, Confessions, Paragraph 2-3) 

In Omaha, there are not so many pear trees and vineyards as there are beer and garages... However, there are plenty of sinful and ignorant youth as I used to be. Though still sinful and ignorant, I strive to repay God’s blessings of mercy on my youthful ignorance one beer at a time. 

The delivery of Guinness on the Eve of St. Patrick’s Day is a tradition stemming back to before I knew Cecily, but which now defines how we celebrate the Apostle of Ireland every year as a family. On that Eve, having decorated the beer with green ribbon and shamrocks:

a passage from St. Patrick’s Confessions,

and sometimes a holy card. We bless the beer with the following blessing from the Rituale Romanum (a beautiful blessing even if not efficacious in the same way as if a priest were to bless the beer): 
Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, which Thou hast deigned to produce from kernels of grain, that it may be a salutary remedy to mankind, and grant through the invocation of Thy holy name, that whoever shall drink it may gain health in body and peace in soul, through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

The Guinness is then delivered to the porches of houses in the neighborhood, the dwellers thereof being as unknown to us as we are to them. We go to sleep dreaming of their bewildered joy to be and musing that its origin will always be a mystery to them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lovers & Martyrs

 Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

In our home, Saint Valentine's Day is a highly anticipated feast. We love getting crafty, eating well, and basking in sweet words; this year was no different. Our celebration began on the Eve of Saint Valentine with a rose and poem (Eve of Saint Valentine by Tom Hood). But for me, true romance begins with strawberry cream cheese croissants, and to my delight, such was my surprise this morning!

 Croissant and roses; sweet gifts from my valentine.

On this great Feast of Saint Valentine, we celebrated by having Felicity and Cordelia send out homemade valentines to our family and friends.

In the evening, we dropped off the girls at grandma's and dined at Le Bouillon in Omaha's Old Market. 'Twas delicious and quite the culinary experience! But alas, we opted to be old fashioned and not take photos of our food.

We are so grateful for this beautiful feast. As good as our meal was, what makes this day so enjoyable is knowing that romance does not consist merely in the delights of life, but in the suffering as well. St. Valentine's Day is the feast of both lovers and martyrs, and the paradox of romance embraces them both.

This year, my husband composed a prayer to St. Valentine to be sent out with the valentines. Sancte Valentini, ora pro nobis!

Saint Valentine, patron of valiant love
St. Valentine is patron of valiant love, that particular love the pursuit of which is difficult but worthwhile.
Who, elevating husbands and wives
The marriages St. Valentine performed in secret were not natural marriages merely, but were elevated to the dignity of a sacrament by virtue of the couples’ baptisms.
To Cana’s sacramental wines,
Christian marriage is here referred to as Cana’s sacramental wines, wine being the quintessential sacramental element, and the new wine of Cana signifying the grace which Christ effects in the lives of those who experience the sacrament of holy matrimony.
Set the romance of martyrdom above
True romance is characterized by suffering, which any romantic would affirm, and yet is not suffering only, but a suffering that has as its end the love of another. Hence, both valiant love and martyrdom may easily be seen to be romantic. It is no wonder the word has as its namesake Rome, the place of both lovers and martyrs. 
Pomegranates and chocolate troves
These gifts from God are also archtypes of erotic love, and are set below romance, for though such may be included, they are not of the essence of romance.

Pray for us, that the light of Christ
This is a paraphrase from St. Valentine’s own prayer from the Golden Legend.
Illumine this house in such wise
In his prayer, St. Valentine prays for God not only to illumine the blind daughter of the judge in whose custody he finds himself, but also for the whole house to be made illumined spiritually.
That its dwellers may in their lives
Know Him to be God and not miss
In the Parliament of Foules, Scipio asks the way to heaven of his grandfather, who replies in essence, first know your eternal end, who is God, then work busily in light of that end in order not to miss the path (St. Valentine’s Via Flaminia) to the gate Christ opened and which leads to heavenly bliss.  
The path that leads to heavenly bliss.