Friday, February 24, 2023

Ash Wednesday & Lent 4Qs

1. "What's the point of wearing ashes?"

2. "What is Lent? Why is it called Lent?"

3. "Why abstain from meat when Jesus made all foods clean?"

4. "Why fast publicly when Jesus said not to draw attention to it?"



1. "What's the point of wearing ashes?"


Answer: Ashes have a two-fold symbolism signifying repentance and mortality. In the Old Testament, when expressing sorrow for sin or crying out to God for mercy, people would repent in "sackcloth and ashes" (e.g. Jonah 3: 5-6). The ashes signify our desire to turn back to God in Lent. Secondly, the ashes signify our mortality as all of our bodies will one day return to dust.


[This two-fold symbolism is confirmed with the two sayings one hears when receiving ashes. Some hear, "You are dust and to dust you shall return," which emphasizes our mortality.

(Ecclesiastes 3:20)

While this somber symbol may sound dismal, there's an upshot for every Christian. Although our bodies will one day be reduced to dust, Jesus Christ will raise us up again on the Last Day (John 6:44). Although we may have committed serious sins, the Good News is that Jesus has come to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).]


2. "What is Lent, and why is it called Lent?"


Answer: Lent is a 40-day season before Easter when we focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These spiritual practices allow us to make more room for God in our lives. The word "Lent" comes from an older word for Spring, since the season is supposed to be a time of spiritual renewal. 

Catholic Encyclopedia definition:


3. "Why abstain from meat when Jesus made all foods clean?"


Answer: We agree that Jesus made all foods clean (cf. Acts 10) and that meat is not ritually unclean like pork was under the Old Covenant. Nonetheless, Jesus acknowledges the value in fasting, and implies its continuation when he says, "The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day" (Mark 2:20).


During Lent, fasting is understood to mean a particular refraining from all food and drink. Abstinence is understood to mean a refraining from meat. Both are meant to be sacrifices that highlight our need for Christ. "Man does not live by bread alone" (Matthew 4:4) nor on meat alone. 


4.  "Why fast publicly when Jesus said not to draw attention to it?"


Answer: It's true that Jesus says, And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward" (Matthew 6:16). 


Jesus highlights that we must not fast publicly to flaunt our religiosity or to showcase how great we are. Our interior disposition should be one of humility, reverence, and repentance. This is generally true. But this is not the only kind of fast spoken of in the Bible. 


In a section describing repentance, the Old Testament prophet Joel says, "Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly!" (Joel 2:15). 


In Jonah, we read that the people of Ninevah repented and called for a public fast, "And the people of Ninevah believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them . . . By the decree of the kind and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God" (Jonah 3:5-8).

So, we find Old Testament warrant for a public fast signifying the need for a whole group of people to repent. Likewise, Lent is a season where the Church, i.e. the City of God on Earth, is called to fast and repent. 


This is no contradiction to Jesus's teaching in Matthew 6. All who partake in the fast can heed Jesus's teachings and avoid seeking outward praise and attention from the fast. 

source: John DeRosa

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Legend of St. Valentine


St. Valentine



2000 years ago, the most powerful army in the world belonged to the Romans. The Romans were so strong that they had conquered almost all of Europe, and parts of Asia and Africa. Under the rule of Claudius II, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor, also known as Claudius the Cruel,  needed to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Life in the army was harsh, and many of the soldiers wanted the comforts of home. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families. To get rid of the problem, Claudius the Cruel banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. 

By that time, many of the Romans were Christians - and one of the church leaders was a Bishop called Valentine. Bishop Valentine knew that this decree was not just. He believed that if a man and woman fell in love with each other, they should be allowed to get married. Bishop Valentine  defied Claudius  and performed marriages  in his church, even though it was against the law. The soldiers’ weddings were meant to be kept secret, but as you know, all secrets are hard to keep, and soon the word got out. Valentine was arrested and brought before the emperor who demanded that he stop helping soldiers to marry, and that he pray to the gods of Rome. 

When he refused, the emperor sentenced him to death. Claudius ordered Bishop Valentine to be beaten to death with clubs and then to have his head cut off. But first, Valentine was put into prison. 

While Valentine was in prison, the jailer’s daughter used to bring him his food. She was a young woman who unfortunately was blind. She and Valentine used to spend long hours talking to each other. One day, Valentine put his hand through the bars of his cell and touched the lids of her closed eyes. When she opened them again, she could see. It was a miracle.

Valentine’s execution was set for February the 14th.  He was a martyr or "witness" of the Christian faith. On his last night on earth, he wrote his final message to the girl. He signed his love letter, “From your Valentine.” This took place in the year 270, and ever since, lovers have sent each other messages on February the 14th with the same signature.

word count 412


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh

As we all know from our nativity sets, some very special guests attended the birth of the Jesus: wise men from the east, bearing gifts for the newborn king - gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 states: "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. "


As was customary for royal visits, the wise men came bearing treasured gifts intended to honor the newborn king. And as it is today, gold was a valued commodity in the ancient world. Among the types of assets listed in the Bible (e.g., precious metals, livestock, servants, gemstones, etc.), accumulation of gold was one of the chief measures of wealth (cf. Genesis 13:2, Ecclesiastes 2:8). Because of its scarcity and immense value, gold was particularly associated with royalty and nobility, as is seen in 1 Kings 10 when the Queen of Sheba visits King Solomon bearing great quantities of gold as a gift. By bringing a gift of gold, the wise men showed that they did indeed consider Jesus a king. 

In addition to underscoring the royalty of Jesus, some have noted that the wise men’s gift of gold may have foreshadowed another aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Under the Old Covenant, the Most Holy Place (also known as the Holy of Holies) was an inner sanctuary within the Temple where the priest would encounter the presence of God and offer a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Likewise, the incarnation of Jesus heralded the presence of God—Immanuel—and the sacrifice of atonement he would make on behalf of his people when he went to the cross. The wise men may have had this connection in mind because, as described in 1 Kings 6:20-22, the walls of the Most Holy Place and the altar within it were completely overlaid with—you guessed it—gold.


Frankincense is an aromatic gum resin that is still widely used in parts of the Middle East and Africa today. It is produced by scraping the bark of certain native species of trees and then harvesting the beads of resin after they have dried. When burned as incense, it creates a strong and beautiful aroma. In the ancient near east, the cost of frankincense precluded it from being used as a common household air freshener. Rather, the burning of frankincense was closely associated with ceremonial worship of a deity. In this way, the inclusion of frankincense as a gift for Jesus may have indicated that the wise men understood that the prophecy of the newborn king carried with it a claim of deity.

As with gold, frankincense may also have an implied connection with the Temple worship of the Old Covenant. Burning incense at the altar was a key part of the sacrificial system prescribed by God for use in the Tabernacle and, later, in the Temple itself. According to Exodus 30, however, not just any incense would do. A specific recipe of spices mixed with “pure frankincense” (v. 34) was to be consecrated as “pure and holy” (v.35) and was the only incense permitted at the altar. A speculative parallel can be drawn between this and Jesus’ life as a pure and holy offering to the Lord.


Myrrh is a fragrant spice derived from the sap of a tree native to the Near East. Like frankincense, it can be used as incense, but in the ancient world it also had wider usage as a perfume, anointing oil, and was even imbibed as a medicinal tonic. Most notable with regard to Jesus’ life, myrrh was a key ingredient in the mixture of spices that were used to prepare bodies for burial (e.g., John 19:39-40). Perhaps the wise men intended this gift as an indication of Jesus’ humanity and the manner in which he would save his people—namely, that he would die for them (cf. Isaiah 53:5).

Just like the first two gifts, there is a Temple connection with myrrh as well. Exodus 30 tells us that liquid myrrh was a main ingredient in the anointing oil used to ceremonially prepare the priests, the instruments, the altar, and the Temple itself before sacrifices could be made. Again, parallels to Jesus’ consecrated life and sacrificial death are immediately noticeable.

NOTES ON CONCLUSIONS (for assignment associated with this source text)
You should reiterate the important significance or rarity or value of each one.

By drawing out one really important significance of each one, you a stronger/better path to your clincher.
But you n=must make sure you have covered this in the body paragraphs (no new info in conclusions!)


IF you have this info in your body paragraphs, you can conclude with more strength (example of conclusion at the bottom)

Gold was symbolic of kingship. By bringing this gift to the Baby Jesus, Melchior, king of Persia/Arabia (modern Saudi Arabia), specifically acknowledged Christ as King.

Frankincense was used for worship in the Temple. By bestowing this gift, the magi Gaspar, king of Tarsus (Sheba?), land of merchants,  demonstrated that he recognized Christ as the High Priest. 
Myrrh was a prophetic symbolic of Jesus' death for the sake of truth. Gaspar (Caspar, Jasper), king of Tarsus (Sheba?) (India), land of merchants OR Balthazar, king of Egypt (Arabia)  acknowledged/confessed/claimed/ named/ recognized / professed /  acclaimed / exalted Christ as the High Prophet

(ANAPHORA) Each gift also has special significance to us, as Christians. Each one of these gifts tells us more about this wonderous Christ child.  Each gift reminds us of how to conduct our lives.

gold --> kingship 
we need obey him

frankincense --> worship 
we need worship him

myrrh --> death and mourning
we need to accept the saving grace he gave to us by dying on the cross for us.

The symbol "-->" could be replaced with: represents/represented
reminds us
's significance is/was
was associated with
was symbolic of

The Magi in the Bible came “from the east.” (Matthew 2:1) The East at the time of Christ’s birth meant Media, Persia, Assyria and Babylonia, countries now encompassed by Iran and Iraq. Justin Martyr in 160 said, “Magi from Arabia (modern Saudi Arabia) came to Herod.” Clement of Alexandria (c.150-215) in the Stromata says they came from Persia.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Hummel Figurines

From: The National Catholic Registry 

The Attack of the Hummel Figurine

I have friends of all sorts. Different ethnicities. Different religions. No religion at all. Men and women from different walks of life. I enjoy knowing people who see the world differently than I do. It's great training for the virtue of patience and it also rounds out one's education.

There are, however, limits to open-mindedness and liberality.

One such obstacle for me is Hummel figurines and those who appreciate them. (note from Soutenus: Why such an extension of your limit to "open-mindedness" to "those who appreciate them? I can't stand kombucha but that dislike does not extend to the PEOPLE who enjoy it.)

I'm unsure what drives me mad about them. I find their chubby cheeks, large doe-eyes and whimsical expressions, saccharine.

I also don't like the statues.

I've often wondered if I might be the only human being on the planet who can't stand the statues' cuteness and annoying schmaltziness. Their cloying sentimentality can only be best described as "nunnish."

I recall not too long ago being invited to the office of a Franciscan religious sister colleague. I stepped inside to find it was positively overrun with Hummels. Not a square inch of barren space was apparent from my vantage point (or even God's for that matter.) It was a veritable horror vacui sentimentalis, the likes of which reminded me of several nightmares I hadn't had for many years.

I felt my breath getting shorter as all of their large, watery eyes looked at me begging me to fawn over them. I felt the perspiration gathering on my forehead and neck. I was suddenly both hot and cold in this dizzying display of sappy, sentimental ceramics.

The good Sister noticed my apprehension. "Are you OK?"

Perhaps it was the tight quarters or the fact that Sister was a sister but I was overcome with the desire to tell her the truth which is generally contraindicated when dealing with religious sisters.

"What don't you like about them?!" she asked in that tone that Catholic children who've had the good fortune to be taught by the good sisters, know all too well.

"Well…Sister…I think they're…a bit…corny."

The look Sister gave me made me immediately fear she was going to call my mother and that was sure not to end well. She looked at me as if I had just blasphemed after having eaten pork on a Friday and then having dropped my rosary on the ground.

I was bit worried that Sister wanted to slap my hand for uttering such opprobrium but instead, her personal sanctity overtook her and she gently and generously explained to me why I was wrong.

"You should reconsider your opinion about these statues," she said sweetly…as sweet as the statues bearing down on me from around the room. "There's a long history of these figurines and the Church…and Hitler."

Imagine my surprise, and consternation, when the good Sister told me that Hummel figurines were based on the art of Sr. Maria Innocentia Hummel, a German Franciscan sister, artist and anti-Nazi crusader.

I sat down to listen to Sister as the glazed eyes of a thousand children frozen in the most perfectly adorable poses stared at me from around the room like so many taxidermied mountings. I figured that if Hitler disliked Sr. Hummel's figurines, I should at least give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, it promised to be a pretty good tale considering both Nazis and Franciscan nuns figured prominently in it—sort of a religious version of Raiders of the Lost Ark—or like The Sound of Music but with less synchronized dancing. I would have been content if some of the ceramics were destroyed in the storytelling but I'd be happier still if the story didn't end with these little ceramic gnomes coming to life and attacking me right in the good Sister's office.

Berta Hummel (May 21, 1909 - November 6, 1946) was born in Massing in Bavaria, Germany—one of Adolf and Victoria Hummel's six children. Even as a child, Berta showed great creativity and talent. Considering the expression on the figurines, she was, unsurprisingly, a cheerful, active girl, who loved the outdoors. Her family encouraged her art and, at the age of 12, they enrolled her in a boarding school of the Sisters of Loreto in Simbach am Inn not too far from their home where she continued to draw those infernal figures.

When Berta graduated in 1927, she entered the Academy of Applied Arts in Munich, a very prestigious German school for the arts. Instead of living in the standard student housing, which seemed to have been a bit wild for her tastes, she chose to live in a nearby residence run by religious sisters. There, she met women from the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen in Bad Saulgau who were also studying at the Academy. Their congregation focused on teaching with an emphasis on art education.

After Berta graduated in 1931, she decided to join the Franciscans. On becoming a novice, she took the name Sr. Maria Innocentia. A year later, Berta began teaching art in a nearby school run by the convent. In her spare time, she painted pictures of children at play. Her superior, duly impressed with her art, sent copies to Emil Fink, a publishing house in Stuttgart which specialized in religious art.

Emil Fink was so impressed with the novel depictions of chubby, gentle-eyed, ruddy-cheeked children, that the company, printed her paintings as postcards—a popular genre at the time. They were so wildly popular that in 1934, they published a collection of her drawings entitled Das Hummel-Buch.

Franz Goebel, the owner of a local porcelain company, came across Sr. Hummel's postcards in a shop in Munich. He had been considering a new line of artwork to help drum up business and approached Sr. Hummel's community with a deal of a lifetime—making 3-D figurines of Sr. Hummel's drawings. The figurines were an immediate smash hit. (Yes…I said "smash.") 

However, something as innocent and endearing as Sr. Hummel's figurines weren't without their detractors.

In 1937, after Berta made her final profession in her congregation, she released a painting entitled "The Volunteers," which, oddly enough, drew the vehement hatred of Adolf Hitler. The dictator denounced Sr. Hummel's art claiming it depicted German children as having "hydrocephalic heads." Although the Nazi authorities allowed Sr. Hummel to continue her art, they banned its distribution in Germany. The SA Man, a Nazi magazine, described her work saying that Sr. Hummell had no right to depict German children as “brainless sissies.” (The SA Man. March 23, 1937.)

Adding fuel to the Nazi anti-cuteness fire, Sr. Hummel also drew sketches of angels with Stars of Davids on their gowns. She also drew a series of Old and New Testament symbols for the convent chapel in 1938. She symbolized the connection between the Testaments with a cross before which rested a lit menorah.

When World War II broke out, the Nazis closed all religious schools in the country. In fact, they even seized Sr. Hummel's convent forcing most of the community out onto the streets. Of the 250 sisters who lived there, only 40 were allowed to remain. Confined to one small section of the convent, they lived with neither heat nor means to support themselves. Forced by her circumstances, Hummel returned to her family but, after three months, she begged her superior to be allowed to return to the convent.

Sr. Hummel was confined to a small cell which become both her sleeping quarters and studio. The Nazis confiscated half of the money generated by her work, which they had previously labeled "degenerate," but the remainder was sufficient to feed the sisters of the community.

Unfortunately, living in such poor conditions, Sr. Hummel succumbed to tuberculosis in 1944 and died two years later. She is buried in the convent cemetery.

Goebel and the Franciscan sisters carried on Sr. Hummel's legacy producing the figurines which were exclusively based on her artwork. Despite their popularity, Goebel Germany discontinued creating the figures on October 31, 2008. Hummel figurine aficionados have been up in arms ever since.

Thus, from precocious child and stalwart Catholic to Franciscan sister and anti-Nazi polemicist, Sr. Hummel is an inspiration to all—both who like her art and those who still find it annoying.

But, no matter how schmaltzy I find them, I'm glad to know that Hitler was greatly vexed by them. Perhaps it was the figurines' innocence and gentility that irked him.

All because of a tiny, little slip of a Franciscan nun.

After having had this tale recounted to me, I've somewhat changed my mind about Sr. Hummel's figurines. Only the most heartless individual could be angry at a nun. (I suspect such ire is contraindicated in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

And thus ends our tale, children. It was Sr. Maria Innocentia Hummel who we have to thank for the glut of these perfectly adorable statues filling up our grandmothers' curio cabinets. I no longer "hate" Hummel figurines though I still find them slightly annoying as I'm still an adult male. However, I've come to appreciate the little ways in which God makes Himself known to us. Even in maudlin sentimentality, God can show us His beauty, silence, strength and gentility.

This blog is my personal online notebook - no infringement of copy write intended. Just as I used to tear articles out of magazines and keep them in a scrapbook, I have done so here.. but with computer-saving tools. Original article - @ National Catholic Register

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Liturgical Calendar 2021 Year B








29  SUNDAY     FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT                                  violet 

Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7/1 Cor 1:3-9/Mk 13:33-37 (2) Pss I3 

30  MONDAY    Saint Andrew, Apostle                                                 red


Rom 10:9-18/Mt 4:18-22 (684) Pss Prop 

TUESDAY       Advent Weekday                                                          violet

Is 11:1-10/Lk 10:21-24 (176) 

WEDNESDAY    Advent Weekday                                                     violet

Is 25:6-10a/Mt 15:29-37 (177) 

THURSDAY     Saint Francis Xavier, Priest                                 white


Is 26:1-6/Mt 7:21, 24-27 (178) 

FRIDAY            Advent Weekday                                                    violet/white

[Saint John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church] 4

Is 29:17-24/Mt 9:27-31 (179) 

SATURDAY       Advent Weekday                                                          violet

Is 30:19-21, 23-26/Mt 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6-8 (180) 

SUNDAY    SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT                                   violet 

Is 40:1-5, 9-11/2 Pt 3:8-14/Mk 1:1-8 (5) Pss II 

MONDAY   Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

   Memorial                                                                                                               white

Is 35:1-10/Lk 5:17-26 (181) 


(Patronal Feastday of the United States of America)

Solemnity         [Holyday of Obligation]

Gn 3:9-15, 20/Eph 1:3-6, 11-12/Lk 1:26-38 (689) Pss Prop

WEDNESDAY    Advent Weekday                                                violet/white

[Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin]

Is 40:25-31/Mt 11:28-30 (183) 

10  THURSDAY     Advent Weekday                                                          violet/white

[Our Lady of Loreto]

Is 41:13-20/Mt 11:11-15 (184) 

11  FRIDAY             Advent Weekday                                                          violet/white

[Saint Damasus I, Pope]

Is 48:17-19/Mt 11:16-19 (185) 

12  SATURDAY      USA: Our Lady of Guadalupe                                         white


Zec 2:14-17 or Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab/Lk 1:26-38 or Lk 1:39-47 (690A),

or any readings from the Lectionary for Mass (vol. IV), the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, nos. 707-712 Pss Prop

13  SUNDAY   THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT                                   violet or rose 

Is 61:1-2a, 10-11/1 Thes 5:16-24/Jn 1:6-8, 19-28 (8) Pss III

14  MONDAY  Saint John of the Cross, Priest & Doctor of the Church

  Memorial                                                                                                               white

Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a/Mt 21:23-27 (187) 

15  TUESDAY    Advent Weekday                                                               violet

Zep 3:1-2, 9-13/Mt 21:28-32 (188) 

16  WEDNESDAY    Advent Weekday                                                 violet

Is 45:6b-8, 18, 21c-25/Lk 7:18b-23 (189) 

17  THURSDAY        Advent Weekday                                                violet

Gn 49:2, 8-10/Mt 1:1-17 (193) 

18  FRIDAY           Advent Weekday                                                 violet

Jer 23:5-8/Mt 1:18-25 (194) 

19  SATURDAY     Advent Weekday                                          violet

Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a/Lk 1:5-25 (195) 

20  SUNDAY    FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT                                 violet 

2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16/Rom 16:25-27/Lk 1:26-38 (11) Pss IV 

21  MONDAY     Advent Weekday                                                                    violet

[Saint Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church]

Sg 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a/Lk 1:39-45 (197)

22   TUESDAY    Advent Weekday                                                       violet

1 Sm 1:24-28/Lk 1:46-56 (198) 

23  WEDNESDAY     Advent Weekday                                                            violet

[Saint John of Kanty, Priest]

Mal 3:1-4, 23-24/Lk 1:57-66 (199) 

24  THURSDAY       Advent Weekday                                                         violet

Morning: 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16/Lk 1:67-79 (200) 

25  FRIDAY        THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD (Christmas)              White

Solemnity         [Holyday of Obligation]

Vigil: Is 62:1-5/Acts 13:16-17, 22-25/Mt 1:1-25 or 1:18-25 (13)

Night: Is 9:1-6/Ti 2:11-14/Lk 2:1-14 (14)

Dawn: Is 62:11-12/Ti 3:4-7/Lk 2:15-20 (15)

Day: Is 52:7-10/Heb 1:1-6/Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14 (16) Pss Prop

3 Citations indicating the proper week of the Psalter for the Liturgy of the Hours, or proper psalms, when applicable, designated by Pss I, Pss II, etc., or Pss Prop respectively, are included in this calendar.

4 Optional Memorials are indicated by the use of italics within brackets.


Dcn. Jim Miles

St. Thomas the Apostle Church

Diocese of Lansing Michigan



For those of you looking ahead to the next Liturgical Year. I am publishing my "Linked" Calendar for 20-21 in installments as I complete them. The links are, to the best of my knowledge, correct. 

I have taken material from past years that correspond to the Year B readings for Sundays and Cycle 1 readings for weekdays with the appropriate links to the Propers of Saints. 

Of course, I will be updating the commentary and reflections daily going forward as always, but for those of you in scripture study or doing homilies, this may be helpful.

Pax, Dcn. Jim Miles

Blog Widget by LinkWithin