Saturday, November 30, 2013

Behold, He is Coming

'Like a secret told by angels,
 getting known upon the earth,  
is the Mother's expectation
of Messiah's speedy birth.'
(F. Faber, "Our Lady's Expectations")  

Painting:  Arthur Joseph Gaskin, Annnciation

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Worship Alone

'Worship alone 
sets us
truly free.'

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Caravaggio painting (detail)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In All Things Give Him Thanks

'In all created things discern 
the providence and wisdom of God, 
and in all things give Him thanks.'

St. Teresa of Avila

Monet painting

Friday, November 22, 2013


'Each of our impulses,
when it takes control,
becomes the master
and we the slave.
Like a tyrant it seizes
the citadel of the soul,
and by means of its underlings
plays havoc with its subjects,
using our own thoughts
as the servants
of its good pleasure.'

St. Gregory of Nyssa

'And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.  Amen.'

Painting:  Rippl, Sorrow; in US public domain due to age

Thursday, November 21, 2013

And There Are Books

It's a time of year when minds of young men and old women lightly turn to thoughts of books. 

Yes, I made that sentence up all by myself.

Perhaps I could put it this way.  The air outside is chilling.  Darkness falls early.  There's frost on the punkin, snow in the forecast, a crackling fire beneath the mantel, and a cup of warm tea by my side. 

And of course, a book.

This is also a time when we're thinking about Christmas gifts. Dolls and scooters and toy airplanes (I bought one of each this morning; shhhh, don't tell..). And what better gift than a book?

But there are books, and there are books.  Some transport us to worlds of wonder, and we soar through their pages on words spun together like threads in fine tapestries.  Others read more like a string of sentences akin to the first one in this post.  Not likely to be on any bestseller lists, they. 

Of course, bestseller lists are not the best places to find good reading material.  I know such news is not a shock to anyone reading this, and there are certainly exceptions, but many highly popular offerings are not worth our time (at best) and can (at worst) be harmful to our lives of faith.

I think St. John Bosco gave us perfect guidance on the matter when he wrote "Never read books you aren't sure about... even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view.  Let me ask you this: would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" 

After my recent post on spiritual reading material, I’ve been thinking of writings that have struck me in some way.  Here are just a few, with links to more information about each. 

The Fulfillment of All Desire by Ralph Martin. An inspiring look at growth in holiness, using the works of seven Doctors of the Church.  One of my favorite books of all time.

Fire Within by Father Thomas Dubay SM. I love anything by Father Dubay, but this one is my favorite.  

Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, Letters of Spiritual Direction helped me know (and love) both of these saints as human beings. 

And then there are the following three titles, which had me burning the proverbial midnight oil.  I found them (the first in particular) as riveting as novels -  probably because the stories are true.  

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

Mother Angelica... by Raymond Arroyo

A Right to be Merry by Mother Mary Francis PCC.  I love Mother's humor! This was written in the (1950s?), but the life has changed little, and hey: a smile is still a smile.....

I want to feed my mind with things that will lead me toward God, never away from Him.  One of the most comprehensive helps I've found, for when I'm considering various topics and even (a few) authors, is a list of links on the Women of Grace Blog.  Even though it does not list specific titles, it does deal with subject matter we might run into when we're considering spiritual books.  I once heard it said that "lies are more believable when they're built on a foundation of half truths."  So I am grateful for the help that can be found by clicking here.

I write this as winds begin to stir outside.  I have a hard time adjusting to this season of early darkness.  My old clock keeps up a steady tick; it chimes on the hour, but never correctly (we decided to call this idiosyncrasy "charming").  I have chamomile tea, a soft afghan, and of course - a book.  

Long Sigh.

Painting:  St Cecilia (detail), John William Waterhouse 

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Linkup

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Looking for Something Good to Read?

Look no further!  To find a varied assortment of inspirational blog posts, we can click this line and hop over to Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network.  There, we'll find links to the twenty nominations for the first-ever Frankie Award.  "Frankie" refers, appropriately enough, to St. Francis de Sales - patron of Catholic writers.

We can even vote if we wish.  And there's an entry from right here on The Breadbox Letters... one entitled "Go Through the Motions."

Oh, but there is such marvelous variety among the entries!  I would suggest a few for your edification, but that would amount, pretty much, to suggesting all twenty. 

I'm sure St. Francis de Sales is praying for this adventure!

"Let us always belong to God, unreservedly and without interruption.  May He ever live and reign in our hearts.  Amen."  (St. Francis de Sales)

Painting attributed to Jacques Bizet

Monday, November 18, 2013

When all is Darkness

                         'O Jesus, when all is darkness
                         and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
                         give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength.
                         Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power,

                         so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see 
                         Your hand, Your purpose, 
                         Your will through all things.'

St. Ignatius Loyola  

Painting: Jean-Fran├žois Millet, The Sheepfold, Moonlight

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Little Peddler, Little Pack

'Let us go by land, since the high sea makes our head spin and makes us seasick.... let us practice those little virtues that are appropriate for our littleness.  Little peddler, little pack.  These are the virtues which are practiced more in going downhill than in going up, so they suit our legs better:  patience, bearing with our neighbor, submissiveness, humility, sweetness of temper, good-naturedness, tolerance of our imperfections, and other little virtues like these.  I do not say that we are not to climb by prayer, but that we should do so step by step.'

St. Francis de Sales

Painting:  Joaquin Sorolla, Paseo del faro (cropped)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I Have My Mission

'God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.  I have my mission - I may never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.'   
John Henry Cardinal Newman

Painting:  William Strang, Cynthia, 1917

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Learned to See, When Groping Through the Night

                     'Tonight I am remorseful, and I stand
                     a shame-faced mendicant before Your door,
                     humbly surrendering a world-scarred hand,
                     to pick the crumbs that fall upon the floor.
                     Forget the day I marched out proud and cold,
                     unmindful of the sacrifice You made;
                     and unabashed, I scorned the humble fold
                     and its mute harmony.  Still unafraid,
                     my spirit fled through dark that knew no dawn.
                     Oh, bid me stay where strife dare not intrude.
                     Dissolve the past into oblivion,
                     and let me rest once more in solitude.
                     No longer will I shun Your Guiding Light;
                     I learned to see, when groping through the night.'

           (from Fervorinos From the Lips of the Master, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1940, p. 244)

           Painting:  Leighton, The King and the Beggar-Maid 

           This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Linkup

Monday, November 11, 2013

Against These Feeble Assaults

'Little temptations to anger, suspicion, jealousy, envy, flirtation, vanity, frivolity, duplicity, affectation, deceit, unchaste thoughts - these are the trials that even the most devout and resolute must constantly face.  Therefore, Philothea, we have to prepare ourselves for this battle with great care and diligence.  Be sure that, for all our victories over these little enemies, as many precious stones will be set in the crown of glory which God prepares for us in heaven.  Because of this, I repeat, while being ready to fight against great temptations when they come, we must defend ourselves well and diligently against these little and feeble assaults.'  (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life)

Painting:  Womanhood, 1925, Thomas Edwin Mostyn

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The House at the Back of My House

I'm beginning to see it.  As leaves fall and trees turn into tall bare sticks, I'm beginning to see.

All through the summer, the neighbors' house was there.  Even though I couldn't catch so much as a glimpse of it out my back windows, I knew it remained.  Our trees were full and lush, shielding the house from view; but I knew that once autumn winds blew and tossed leaves about, I would see it again.

It's not that I'm particularly attached to that house.  Oh, I do enjoy the look of its gray roof against a winter sky, and I find the sight of smoke billowing from its chimney downright neighborly.  But what caught my attention in a moment of prayer was the realization that, whether I see it or not, the building remains.  The presence of the house is an objective fact.

Whether or not I "see" Him, God remains.  Things may come along and block my view, but that makes no difference.  God's presence is an objective fact.  Nothing that obscures my view of Him changes that.  Always, no matter what, He is there. 

Sometimes things wedge themselves between me and God.  Often I plant these things myself.  But always God is there, and unlike the house at the back of my house, He is actively waiting.

He waits for me to turn to Him, push aside whatever blocks our union, and come to Him anew.

'In all our thoughts and actions we ought to remember the presence of God, and to count as lost any time in which we do not think of Him.'  (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)

Painting:  Vitus Staudacher Sommertag im bl├╝henden Bauerngarten; in US public domain due to age

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Linkup

Friday, November 8, 2013

No Heart to Fly

'I cannot sing and soar, my Lord and Love,
nor eagle's wings have I,
no power to rise and greet my King and Love,
no heart to fly.
Creative Lord Incarnate, let me lean
my heavy self on Thee:
nor let my utter weakness come between
Thy strength and me....

'I cannot love, my heart is turned within,
and locked within (ah, me!
How shivering in self-love I sit) for sin
has lost the key.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus!  Flame divine,
ardent with great desire,
my hope is set upon that love of Thine
deep well of Fire!'

(from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1936, pp. 252-253)

Painting: Pained at Heart, A Hughes

This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Linkup

Thursday, November 7, 2013

From the Depths of Vice to the Summit of Love

              'There are many examples of sinners who, having embraced a life of self-denial,
              became saints.....
              St. Augustine, St. Camillus, St. Mary Magdalen,
              St. Margaret of Cortona, St. Mary of Egypt and many others
              have raised themselves from the depths of vice to the summit of love.
              It is good for us to witness these sublime victories of grace.
              Nothing is more consoling nor illustrates more clearly
              the marvelous effects of correspondence with the grace of God.
              The Holy Spirit acts progressively.
              He gives first a glimmering
              and asks in return some small act of virtue.
              Fidelity to these first inspirations strengthens us to receive greater light
              and gives us a more powerful impetus.
              Grace then becomes not only more and more exacting,
              but also more powerful.'

(from Fervorinos From the Lips of the Master, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1940, pp.144-145)

                 Painting: Simon Vouet, Magdalene

Monday, November 4, 2013

When the Road Runs Through Rough Places

              'Often... the road of life runs through rough places,
              and trials fall crushingly upon us,
              our path becomes steep,
              and the music that was in our hearts is quite hushed.
              It is then that the tendency is strong to sink slowly back into
              the abandoned valley of half-hearted service,
              or at least to stand and make no effort to cling to Him
              and love Him more and more.
              Let us then pause upon the roadside of our daily lives
              to gain new strength and vigour from Him Who has weighed each load.
              Let us take our hearts, ragged and torn and bleeding,
              and place them close to His, that they may be transformed,
              that their every beat may be an act of adoration and of love.'

                   (from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1936, p. 252)

Painting:  Johan Edvard Bergh, Skogslandskap, 1853

Friday, November 1, 2013

Saints Anonymous

This is the day for celebrating saints most of us don't know, but ones in whose presence we will hopefully spend eternity.

Imagine the stories they could tell about their spans of time on earth!

I love that the Church sets aside today to honor these holy ones, these men and women who overcame all sorts of obstacles to give their hearts to Christ and to be forever with God.

May they pray for us today, and always. 

'Teach us, O Lord, and enable us to live the lives of saints...!'  (John Henry Cardinal Newman)