Monthly Archives: February 2023

The Secret of Joy

Is knowing how to work and suffer… and why.

This will explain it to you. A truly great comic, in just a few pages.

St. Rafael Arnaiz Baron, pray for us!

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“I Ate Ashes like Bread.”

Sometimes it seems like everything in the Bible is talking about Christ, and that’s certainly true of the Psalms.

So here we are on Ash Wednesday, and Psalm 101:10/102:9 says, “For I ate my ashes like bread, and I mixed my drink with weeping.”

Usually we think of Christ’s Body and Blood as something we rejoice in, as a banquet, with Wisdom standing before her house and calling, “Come eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mixed for you.” (Prov. 9:5)

But first Wisdom “has sacrificed her victims.” (Prov. 9:2) There is no resurrection without the Crucifixion, and no banquet without the Lamb Who was slain.

And He was slain for our sins. There is a world of horrors and massacres out there; but even our little sins are enough to break a covenant and a world, because we were born to have the high position of being heads of Creation. We are no better than Adam or Eve, and we must turn to Him and admit it.

The ashes on our forehead are in the ancient sheepmarking form of the Hebrew letter Tav. They are there to mark us as His, a sheep belonging to the Lamb. But they also warn us of the kind of suffering we must carry, and perhaps the kind of death that we must die, to follow Him.

Whenever danger came in the Bible, or the people were warned that bad things were coming, the wise would spend time in prayer, mourning and putting ashes on their heads. Lent is hard, but the things the world wants to do to people are even nastier. It’s logical to realize that only God can save us, and to apologize for ignoring Him.

So our hearts eat ashes like we eat His Flesh, and we mix our tears with His Blood; and we pray for those who have not come to Him yet. Let us remember that His kindness was undeserved, and that we need Him, always.

But do not lose hope. Because when Jesus proclaimed His ministry, He quoted Isaiah 61:1-2 from the Septuagint —

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me. Therefore the Lord has anointed Me. He hath sent me to preach good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives… and sight to the blind… and to send forth with remission those who were broken, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

And then He sat down, because the rest would wait until His next Coming:

“And the day of recompense of our God: to comfort all who mourn, to extend it to the mourners of Zion; and to give them a crown instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of the spirit of grief. And they shall be called in it the mighty trees of righteousness, the Lord’s planting, to glorify Him.” (Is. 61:2-3)

(I got the ideas for this from skimming the first couple pages of this book.)

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Fun Fact about the Indian Name Nikki

Sikhs in India often call their youngest child a nickname starting with Nikk-, little in Punjabi. “Nikku” is for the youngest child who’s a boy, and “Nikki” for the youngest child who’s a girl.

Nimarata Nikki Randhawa Haley (the daughter of two Sikh Indian immigrants surnamed Randhawa, and the wife of Mr. Haley) was given the name Nikki at birth, as her middle name. Almost certainly, her parents chose it for both reasons of tradition, and in order to give her a name that the neighbors could pronounce and spell.

(I shouldn’t have to tell people this, but it is incredibly common for immigrants, or those with unusual ethnic names, to pick at least one name among their kids’ multiple given names which their neighbors can pronounce, or to give them a nickname that is easy to say. And why not?)

It’s even possible that the Randhawas had some helpful American friend or neighbor named Nikki or Nicole, and that they chose to honor such a friend by giving their daughter a similar name. But if that’s the case, they haven’t revealed it. (And why would they, in a time when that friend would be made to suffer for it?)

Nikki Haley’s rarely-used first name is “Nimarata,” the original form of a word often anglicized as “nimrata.” Nimarata means “humility”, but also roughly “benevolence.” It is associated with the custom of touching the feet of holy people, because humbly touching a humble person’s feet was seen as an act that helped purify the soul of pride and evil.

Nimarata or nimrata is one of the Sikh “Five Virtues”: Sat (truth), Santokh (contentment), Daya (compassion), Nimrata (humility), and Pyaar (love of God), which counter the Five Thieves (basically, five vices): lust, anger, greed, attachment, and pride.

Obviously this can be compared to Buddhist virtue systems, but also to the Christian one.

Anyway… it’s important to correct people if they misspell Nikki Haley’s name as “Nimrata” instead of “Nimarata,” because Nimarata is the legal, official spelling that her parents used on her birth certificate. (And misspelling someone’s first name in a news article is very bad form, and possibly a sign of prejudice.)

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Funeral Music NopeNopeNope

I ask this sincerely.

It is okay to have very standard funeral songs at Masses.

Please be sensible.

Please do not program “Here I Am, Lord” as the opening song at a funeral Mass. Maybe if the guy was an evangelist or apologist… But yeah, it implies weird things, at a funeral, and especially at the beginning.

Yes, I just happened to see this on YT. Many things at the Mass were done well, but most of them were what the family was doing.

There were also some weird/inadvisable things, but all pre-Mass, or in a permissible area. So… Could be better, but it is hard to resist fashion.

The same Mass had a very nice and solemn offertory hymn in Irish, so that wasn’t bad at all. Nice Communion songs too. (I might quibble with the song choices, but they came out well.)

The church was packed, which is always nice to see. It shows love and respect, and it means lots of people are praying for the person’s soul.

And then there was a recorded secular song played as a reflection. No. That is okay at a funeral home or at a reception, not at church.

Nobody sang the “Ad Paradisum,” as the priest just recited it prosily; and then the final song was secular again?! So strange! Again, a nice song, but better for outside church, surely!

I know, grief makes it hard to think. I have messed up planning/helping too, because experience only comes with attending a lot of funerals.

But appropriate religious music, especially sacred music of great solemnity and beauty, is what you need at a funeral Mass. You can play and sing the other stuff at other times during the funeral process.

So it is good if your parish has a standard format that is sensible and touching and lovely, so that you have an easier time doing it right.


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