DAILY LITURGY

 SUNDAY, JANUARY 14, 2018            SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 Lectionary 65: 1) 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; 2) Ps 40:2,4,7-10;  3) 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20;                              4) John 1:35-42.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011418.cfm

FOCUS:          The Lord continually calls us – do we have ears to hear? Samuel does not recognize God’s voice, but he is alert and obedient, listening and ready for action. We hear that he ran when called, and another time he rose. Eli gives Samuel the correct response: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. We live in a world of noise and distraction. Are we ready to answer? Can we even hear? Through baptism we have been joined to the Lord (2) who calls us to be his disciples (3). How well do we listen to his voice (1)? How willing are we to do his will (Ps)?

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, Samuel does not recognize God calling his name; Eli instructs him to respond, Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul declares the body is to be used, not for sin, but to glorify God as a temple of the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Andrew and Simon Peter begin to follow Jesus.

PN The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins Thursday, 18 Jan­uary (USA). Specific intentions may be inserted in the general intercessions at Mass and the Hours. From the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, the Mass for the Unity of Christians (#17), For the Evangelization of Peoples (#18), and For Persecuted Christians (#19) would be appropriate. Prayer Services with other groups of Christians would also be fitting. See BB, nos. 553-573 or HB, 133.

 

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Monday, January 15, 2018                 MONDAY OF SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 311: 1) 1 Samuel 15:16-23; 2) Ps 50:8-9,16-17,21,23; 3) Mark 2:18-22.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011518.cfm

FOCUS:          Are we attentive to the ways in which the Lord speaks to us? Today’s readings challenge us to look beyond that which we know, and to be open to how the Lord is at work in our lives. Most of the Pharisees were rigid in their beliefs and expected everyone to be the same. There was no room for God to surprise them in unexpected ways. Are our hearts open for God’s surprises? Saul disobeys the Lord (1) by offering unacceptable sacrifices (Ps). Jesus’ disciples are accused of not observing the fast (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, Saul is blind to the ways in which he did not follow God’s instruction in the overthrow of the Amalekites. As he rejected the commands of the Lord, so the Lord rejects him as ruler of the people. In the Gospel, Jesus is questioned as to why he and his disciples do not fast as the disciples of the Pharisees and John did. Jesus answers them with an analogy to a bridegroom at a wedding feast and new wine in fresh wineskins.

PN Today the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated (USA). Prayers for the end of racial discrimination may fittingly be inserted into intercessory prayer this day. At Mass, the prayers For Promoting Harmony, #15 alt, would be most fitting. Today’s table blessing may recall his birth (see HB, 381).

 

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018               TUESDAY OF SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 312: 1) 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 2) Ps 89:20-22, 27-28; 3) Mark 2:23-28.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011618.cfm

FOCUS:          God cares for us. It may sound rather trite to say that “God cares for us,” but history is full of individuals and people who have either not understood what that meant, or have refused to believe it. We have been shown, time and again, from the Exodus to the Resurrection, that we are God’s chosen people and he cares for us. Let us believe, and trust in that message. David, anointed (1) “highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps) prefigures the Son of Man who is Lord of the Sabbath (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, Samuel is called by the Lord to anoint a new king over Israel, and the one chosen is Jesse’s youngest son, David. In the Gospel, Jesus’ disciples are criticized for picking grain on the Sabbath, but Jesus reminds the Pharisees that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

 

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018             WEDNESDAY OF SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

OBLIGATORY MEMORIAL: Saint Anthony, Abbot.

Lectionary 313: 1) 1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51; 2) Ps 144:1-2,9-10; 3) Mark 3:1-6.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011718.cfm

FOCUS:          God works in his own way and in his own time. God works according to his own plans. David was small, and just a youth, when he fought Goliath who was larger, and had many years of experience as a warrior. But the Lord protected David, and gave him the victory by means of a small stone and a sling. The Lord can do great things in our lives, when we allow him to be in charge. Trusting in the Lord (Ps), David overcomes the Philistine (1); trusting in Jesus, the man with the shriveled hand is healed (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading David, carrying only a slingshot, goes into battle against the heavily armed Philistine warrior, Goliath. The Lord delivers Goliath into his hands because of David’s faith. In the Gospel, Jesus cures a man with a withered hand, and the Pharisees are outraged because the healing took place on the Sabbath.

Anthony or Antony, † 356 at age 105; born in upper Egypt; hermit and early founder of religious life; called the “Patriarch of Monks”; aided St. Athanasius of Alexandria (2 May) in combating Arianism.

 

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Thursday, January 18, 2018       THURSDAY OF SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 314: 1) 1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7; 2) Ps 56:2-3, 9-14; 3) Mark 3:7-12.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011818.cfm

FOCUS:          We are called to make Jesus known to others. Unlike the unclean spirits in the Gospel, we who have come to recognize and love Jesus as the Son of God are free to share our knowledge with the world. By our baptism, we are commissioned to ministry – to do the work of God. David is spared death (Ps) when Saul repents of his evil intentions (1). Evil spirits recognize the messianic mission of Jesus (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In today’s reading from the First Book of Samuel, King Saul is moved to a murderous rage because the people are not giving him as much praise as they are giving David, his servant. Saul’s son, Jonathan, brokers peace between them. In today’s Gospel from Saint Mark, we hear of Jesus’ ministry making him more and more widely known. He warns the unclean spirits not to make him known.

 

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Friday, January 19, 2018    FRIDAY OF SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 315: 1) 1 Samuel 24:3-21; 2) Ps 57:2-4, 6, 11; 3) Mark 3:13-19.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011918.cfm

FOCUS:          We are called to use our God-given gifts to help build up the kingdom of God on earth. Jesus spent much of his time on earth teaching his Apostles and other followers how to live out their faith in God once he returned to the Father. As his present-day followers, we are called to pass on our beliefs and faith traditions to those who will carry on when we are gone. It is part of our obligation as Christians.

God has mercy (Ps) on Saul whose life is spared by David (1). Jesus calls the Twelve for mission (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

The first reading tells how David refused to harm Saul, even though they were enemies. In the Gospel, Jesus prays on a mountain and then appoints the Twelve Apostles whom he would send forth to preach and heal in his name.

 

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Saturday, January 20, 2018           SATURDAY OF SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIMEOptional Memorial: Saint Fabian, Pope and Martyr; Saint Sebastian, Martyr;                                                                     Saturday in honor of BVM

Lectionary 316: 2 Samuel 1:1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27; 2) Ps 80:2-3, 5-7; 3) Mark 3:20-21.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012018.cfm

FOCUS:          Trust in the Lord’s plan. God’s plan isn’t always apparent to us. We face suffering and uncertainty in our lives, yet faith allows us to trust that these difficult times will eventually lead to a greater good. In today’s readings, we witness the sorrow of David and the concern of Jesus’ family. Both play parts in our Lord’s plan for salvation. David weeps for Saul and Jonathan (1), and all Israel with him (Ps). Jesus is ridiculed by his own kindred (2).

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In today’s reading, David and his men mourn the deaths of Jonathan and Saul. He sings an elegy lamenting the loss of his beloved friend and the fallen king. The Gospel recounts a point in Jesus’ ministry when such a large crowd gathers around him that he and his disciples cannot eat. His relatives think he is out of his mind.

Fabian, † 250 under Decius; layman elected bishop of Rome in 236; an “incomparable man, the glory of whose death corresponded with the holiness of his life” (St. Cyprian to Pope St. Cornelius [16 Sept.]; his body came to be transferred from the catacombs of Callistus (14 Oct.) to the basilica of St. Sebastian.

Sebastian, † 288? at Rome under Diocletian; chief of the Praetorian cohort whose acta tell of his being pierced by arrows, later being clubbed to death; patron of archers, soldiers, and police associations.

 

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SUNDAY, JANUARY 21, 2018           THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Lectionary 68: 1) Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 2) ; 3) 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 4) Mark 1:14-20.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012118.cfm

FOCUS:          Let us heed God’s call. How many times do we have to stumble and fall before we realize that following God’s ways, and not our own, leads to happiness and salvation? Let us not resist the Lord, but answer his call.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

In the first reading, the reluctant prophet Jonah gets a quick response today from the people of Nineveh. Saint Paul speaks with urgency, telling the Corinthians that time is running out. Jesus begins his ministry by calling four Apostles – changing the direction of their lives.

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Reflection – Sunday, January 14, 2018 Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis attributes a shortage in some places of priestly and religious vocations to “a lack of contagious apostolic fervor in communities.” Commitments of any kind—religious, marital, specific careers —cannot endure without the individu­al’s belief in the good they represent. John the Baptist reveals a contagious enthusiasm when he tells his disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Two are moved to follow and lodge with Jesus. The next day one of them, Andrew, seeks out his brother Simon. Surely this band of brothers did not come together through sadness. Following Jesus cre­ates an infectious joy.      Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 43.

 

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 Reflection – Monday, January 15, 2018          Weekday                  

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that, used properly, can deepen one’s prayer. Jews had only one obligatory day of fast, but people such as the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist fasted regularly. Apparently, Jesus’ crit­ics felt that an authentic prophet would be more ascetical. Early documents such as the Didache indicate fasting as a regular practice of the Church. This Gospel passage was probably intended to justify the disparity of custom between Christians and their Master. Asceticism is good for body and soul as long as it is not abused through self-hatred, spiri­tual pride, or ostentation. Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 44.

 

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Reflection – Tuesday, January 16, 2018         Weekday

The story of the anointing of David cap­tures a key point of human and spiritual wisdom: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” God’s will can emerge anywhere. Perhaps more often than not, the most fruitful decision has an unexpected source. For this reason, St. Benedict’s Rule advises that counsel be sought not only from the mainstream of the community, but from the youngest as well as the oldest mem­bers. Isn’t this useful guidance for our personal lives and our families also? Dare to listen to those who might be overlooked or excluded.           Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 45.

 

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Reflection – Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot

 Scholars have no consensus about the origins of monasticism. Since the birth of Anthony of Egypt (256) predates the Edict of Milan (312) which gave legal status to Christianity, some think Chris­tians sought refuge in the desert at times of persecution. Because of his heroic holiness and the publicity St. Athanasius gave Anthony in his Life of Anthony, this desert ascetic is regarded as the founder of monastic life. A constant theme in monastic life is “battle,” a spir­itual warfare against sin and selfishness. Like the match between David and Goliath in our reading, spiritual combat does not always appear fair. Yet, anyone who trusts in God will have the victory.   Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 46.

 

 

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 Reflection – Thursday, January 18, 2018            Weekday

In Othello, Shakespeare describes jeal­ousy as “the green-eyed monster that mocks the meat it feeds on.” The image is that of a cat which torments the mouse before it devours it. As King Saul watched David repeatedly defeat the Philistines and gain in national adula­tion, jealousy took over his reason: Saul sought David’s life. Jealousy is a sin against love of neighbor because it does not rejoice in the other’s good, but rather resents it. Jealousy is an expression of emotional insecurity. It is one of the seven deadly sins because it potentially generates other sins. Only God can be rightfully jealous because any good we idolize in ourselves truly belongs to God alone.    Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 47.

 

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Reflection – Friday, January 19, 2018 Weekday

The Twelve do not seem to share an obvious common profile; the Gospel accounts reveal little as to background. A few were fishermen, one was a tax collector. Some are identified by their father and others by their town of origin. Perhaps this bare-boned introduction of Jesus’ disciples underlines the commu­nal importance of discipleship. While following Christ does not wipe out our personal identity altogether, it creates a new identity associated with him. Chris­tian discipleship involves abiding with Jesus, relating to others in love, spread­ing the Good News, and deflating the power of evil.                        Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 48.

 

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Reflection – Saturday, January 20, 2018          Weekday          

How many families have members they are ashamed to acknowledge! Perhaps a child suffers Down Syndrome, a men­tal illness, an extreme physical defor­mity, or comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. Many strong families learn to love and accept their own, but others cannot or will not. Jesus had been stirring up demons through his exorcisms. Unidentified relatives came “to seize him.” They said, “He is out of his mind.” But was this an accu­sation as usually interpreted, or was it a cover to protect him and justify his practices? We should always be sup­portive as families engage in the issues and challenges they face.            Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page 49.

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Reflection – Sunday, January 21, 2018 Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Gospel of Mark, the Greek equiv­alent of the word immediately appears many times. It seems the evangelist wants to convey a sense of urgency about discipleship. The first four Apos­tles were fishers. Simon and Andrew immediately abandoned their nets. The sons of Zebedee abandoned their father in the boat. Some things in life require thoughtful reflection and time. Obedi­ence to God’s call should be at once. St. Benedict regards instant response as the first step of humility. When God’s will is manifested, we must not hesitate.           Daily Prayer 2018, LTP, page  50.

 

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                                      Faith Catholic (Online), January 2018                                                                                                         Give Us This Day, Liturgical Press, January 2018
    Magnificat, January 2018
                         Paulist Ordo

 

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Ordinary Time

Wasted time is not a prized commodity in American society. We are a people ruled by the clock. Time is money because time is to be filled with purposeful controlled activity which is productive of things which can be sold. We are convinced that we must be in control of time. The last thing the productive American would want to do is waste time playing around with realities that do not produce a saleable commodity.

But the Creator of heaven and earth is described by the scriptures as the original and the best of players. Creative activity is playful, and creative people do not feel that what they do is a job. Creative people also have a sense that their creativity and all that they fashion in the creative spirit are gifts they have received. The Christian can speak of this and the contemplative vision which sees all reality as gift or grace. Our thankful response we call worship or Eucharist.

We cannot speak of Ordinary Time without speaking of Sunday. The every seven-day celebration of the Lord’s Day is the basic struc­ture upon which the Church Year is built. The great liturgical seasons of Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter are more expansive celebrations of particular aspects of the one paschal mystery which we celebrate every Lord’s Day. These special seasons focus our attention upon crit­ical dimensions of one mystery, a mystery so overwhelming that we are compelled to separate out its various elements for particular attention. These seasons in no way minimize the critical importance of the Sunday celebration throughout the rest of the year. Ordinary Time is not very ordinary at all. Ordinary Time, the celebration of Sunday, is the identifying mark of the Christian community which comes together, remembering that on this first day of the week the Lord of Life was raised up and creation came at last to completion.

All nations are invited to sing the Lord’s praises (1, Ps) for they have been called to hear the good news (2) and worship the long-awaited Messiah and King (3) with the gift of their lives.

ORDINARY TIME

“Besides the times of the year that have their own distinctive character, there remains in the yearly cycle thirty-three or thirty-four weeks in which no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ himself is honored in its fullness, especially on Sundays. This period is known as Ordinary Time” (Universal Norms, 43).

  • Ordinary Time begins on Tuesday, 9 January, and continues through Tuesday, 13 February, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. It will resume when the Easter season ends, that is, on Monday, 21 May, the day following Pentecost.
  • Vol. III of the Liturgy of the Hours is used until Ash Wednesday.
  • In the weekday Lectionary, the first reading is chosen from Cycle II.
  • Six forms of the solemn blessing (nos. 9-14) are provided in the Roman Missal (after the Order of Mass) for optional use during Ordinary Time, especially on Sundays.

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The Prophecy Fulfilled before Our Eyes  —         Pierre-Marie Dumont, Who still reads the great French prophets of the 201h century? Who still reads Peguy, Claudel, Bernanos, Saint-Exupery? Each, from his viewpoint, railed against the coming of the same abomi­nation: “their” civilization was dying. While this civilization ought to have been perfected, so that the Kingdom of God on earth could truly grow, all that had constituted its genius was soon to vanish. Materialism, hedonism, self-preoccupation (today it would be called “personal development”) was about to submerge beauty, goodness, and truth, along with the true Faith and the ancient virtues. The sign of the coming of the end of this world was that terrifying metropolises were already reducing rural, pastoral civili­zation to objects fit to fill their museums. Since then, this prophecy has been fulfilled. The fertile ground that nurtured our civilization has gone. Villages have been deserted. Human relationships have been virtualized. Faith and devotion are fading. The moral com­pass that, far from constraining free men, once guided them, has been distorted. The poor, humble and proud, with that magnificent nobility celebrated by Thornton Wilder, have disappeared from the social landscape.. . . .the Word of God would no longer immediately touch hearts and minds. He who, directly or indirectly, has never worked the good earth by the sweat of his brow, never experienced seedtimes and harvests, never tended sheep or saved a stray lamb, finds himself de facto distanced from the Gospel and its parables. Let us not be saddened: we find ourselves spurred on to deepen our understanding of the Word of God, to improve our prayerful reading of it—and let us not forget that our Lord Jesus Christ remains present to the world even until his return in glory. But why not take advantage of our vacations in the countryside to rediscover, with a touch of nostalgia, a drop of the sap that nourished the fervor of our fathers in faith?    Magnificat, July 2016, page 432. PurpleConeFlower_7(24)2009_IMG_0985

 

 

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An Independence Day Prayer     We pray you, 0 God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to your people, over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.We pray for the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare,that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, all our fellow citizens throughout the United States, that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; that we may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.Grant this, we beseech you, 0 Lord of mercy, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.ARCHBISHOP JOHN CARROLLArchbishop Carroll (†1815) was a priest for the Society of Jesus, and the first bishop of the United States.Magnificat, July 2016, pages 62-63.

 

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What can I do to fast in communion with others?       Prayer is always joined to fasting. Fasting triggers in this season a remembrance to pray for those being brought to the font, to full communion or to reconciliation. Only after we have shared the absence can we come with full hearts to the paschal banquet.Nine things that Pope Francis called upon Vatican Employees to do:They apply to us all…

  • “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
  • “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention, and love.”
  • “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
  • “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity, and worldly decadence.”
  • “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
  • “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
  • “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred, and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.
  • “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
  • “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker… the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”

It is a good list: It’s clearly rooted in Catholic teaching, but presented in a way that other Christian denominations can embrace as well. I am reasonably sure that all of us can find on this list at least one or two resolutions that speak to areas in which we really need to grow during this Lent.Have a good week and I’ll see you in church!Monsignor Jack 1-3-5


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  HOW THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED THE WORLD              Speaking the Painful Truth  —       Anthony Esolen     HOW THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED THE WORLD       Speaking the Painful Truth  —       Anthony Esolen         THE TWO WOMEN WERE FINALLY ALONE. The room was Spartan, with a single wooden bed, a desk, some schoolbooks, fishing tackle kept in a corner, and a couple of skiing poles. A photograph was mounted on the wall, of two tanned young men in a skiff, with the spires of Stockholm in the background. It was a boy’s room, but the boy had left home to join the Swedish army. It was May, 1940.”Sigrid,” said her friend Alice, “I have bad news for you.” She had given Sigrid a day to rest from her journey across the mountains from Norway, in a truck packed so tight with soldiers and refugees, Sigrid—a middle-aged woman with some heft to her, and a countenance that looked as if she would brook no foolishness—had to sit on the lap of one of the men. The atmosphere in the truck had been tense, with Swedish boys expressing their eagerness to fight along­side the Norwegians against the Nazi invaders, and elder men telling them to shut up. News from the war front was also unrelievedly bad. Hitler had overrun Belgium and the Netherlands, and the German armies were pushing on to­ward Paris, the jeweled queen of European civilization.”Please, tell me quickly,” said Sigrid. She had had three children. One, a daughter, had died as a very young woman. Her sons Anders and Hans were still in Norway. The elder, Anders, had a commission as captain in the Norwegian army.”Your son Anders fell in the fighting at Segelstad bridge. He was brave, Sigrid, so brave,” said Alice, trembling. Sigrid, however, set her face like flint. Of Hans, they still knew noth­ing. A few days later they received a visit from a soldier who had been under Anders’ command. The Norwegians had tried to make the Nazi advance northward as costly as pos­sible, taking positions near bridges and mountain passes, and holding off hundreds of Germans with handfuls of men and a few machine guns here and there. Had Norway been made ready for the assault—had there not been Nazi toadies like Quisling in the highest positions in government—Hitler would have regretted sending Germans into that nation of strong, self-reliant, upright, and brave men and women.”And Anders, you know,” said the soldier, “was so incom­parably kind.” The word he used was snill. Sigrid Undset said that the word was untranslatable. It named a virtue—kind­ness—but with a quiet manner, undemonstrative, reserved; not burdening your victim with your goodness.Hans arrived shortly after, and he and his mother con­tinued on their flight to freedom, from Sweden to Moscow, from Moscow by a nine-day train ride to Vladivostok, from there to Korea and imperial Japan, from Japan via the Grover S. Cleveland to San Francisco.♦ WHO SUE WAS ♦Sigrid Undset, for my money, is the greatest woman nov­elist who ever lived. Unlike George Eliot, one of her two chief competitors for that distinction, she does not rely upon the structure of Christian morality without the Christian Faith. In her stories set in modern times, Undset shows how frail that morality must be, unless we recognize our personal frailty and our desperate need for the grace of Christ. Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) had lost the Methodist faith she was brought up in; Undset had gained the Catholic Faith she was not brought up in. Unlike Jane Austen, her other competitor, she was not the comfortably stationed daughter of an Anglican clergy­man, who could therefore take faith for granted and write about Christian morals and manners in the England of her time. Undset, when she entered the Catholic Church, knew she was entering into two thousand years of history, and so her greatest works, the trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter and the tetralogy The Master of Hestviken, are set in medieval Norway, Catholic but still with remnants of the old pagan ways. They are national in the best sense: they celebrate the difficult virtues of her people and the beauty of a forbidding land, with its summer so wondrous yet so heart-breakingly short, its wildflowers, its mountains and fjords and ravines, its lonely lichen-topped outcrops of rock, its sudden green valleys, and its brave men wresting the means of life from the rich and cold and dangerous seas.The contrast between Sigrid Undset’s love of country and the pranked-up nationalism of Hitler and his blustering warmongers could not be greater. She despised the Nazis. Other people, not nearly enough, saw their evil; Undset saw also their stupidity and their cowardly ingratitude. For among the invading German soldiers, the Norwegians recognized quite a few whom they had taken into their homes as little boys, back in the famine years after the First World War. She was outspoken about it, and so she, like Dietrich von Hildebrand in Austria, was on the first page of the Nazi list of people to be murdered.Wherever she went, Sigrid Undset tried to find what vir­tues she could in the peoples she encountered. Germans, alas, were the exception. She had to fight her hardest to treat that people with forbearance. For her, the essence of the German spirit was expressed in the terrifying fable of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The “hero” took his vengeance against the ungrateful people of Hamelin by turning their children essentially into rats, marching off to their death. I forgive the mother of a fallen son her anger.Undset held out hope for the great successor of European civilization, the United States. Even if Europe should fall (she was writing in 1941), the United States would carry the torch of that civilization’s commitment to brotherhood, equality, and democracy, understood as the natural flower­ing of the Christian Faith.♦ RETURN TO THE FUTURE ♦That’s the name of the book that describes her trek from Norway to the United States. It also describes her hope for the world. The future must be a return: a recovery of the Christian Faith in nations that had lost it, and a flourishing of the human good that man experiences as one of the blessings of that faith.Should Germany be defeated, the victors must resist with all their might the temptations of hatred and vengeance. How hard that would be, Undset shows us in her own per­son. But, she says, “hatred and thirst for revenge are sterile passions.” They engender nothing. They only destroy. “The most miserable poverty, the most unthinkable filth and squa­lor, the indescribable stench of refuse and decomposition which I saw and smelled everywhere in Soviet Russia are surely the fruit of the acceptance by Russia’s revolutionary heroes of a hate-consumed old German Jewish writer named Karl Marx and their identification of their future goals with his dreams of revenge against everything that happened to awaken his enmity.”Undset was no sentimentalist. It is true, she was a woman with a woman’s eye for the delicate and the beautiful; she is fond of describing flowers, handsome dress, lovely hair; the fine straw-roofed houses of even the poor in Japan; the tasteful Japanese temples; the reverent ceremonies of prayer she witnessed from the worshipers of Shinto. She has a woman’s scorn for the garish, grubby, slipshod, and gross: nine days on a Russian train with no running water and no flush toilets; Soviet stores with nothing to sell; water that had to be boiled before you could drink it; Soviet offi­cials content to bury themselves and their petitioners under a mountain of paper. Totalitarian systems fail on their own miserable terms: they deliver poverty instead of wealth, con­fusion instead of order, misery instead of happiness, family dissolution rather than strength, dependence rather than self-reliance, cowardice rather than courage.So much the more should the West return to its roots in the Christian Faith. That Faith is not an ideology, but the antidote to ideology. It tells the truth about God and man.Nowadays we construct social policies as if God were irrelevant, and as if everything that the wisest pagans had to say about man, and likewise the Christian Gospels that soar beyond the pagans, could be dispensed with. Yet we pretend that, if we were alive in Germany during the time of Hitler, we would not have gone along with the popular wave of the future, as the Nazis styled themselves. No, we’d have seen through it. Quisling did not. Knut Hamsen, like Undset a Nobel laureate, did not. Undset did. The Faith—un­compromised, uncontaminated with the current prevailing ideologies—gave Sigrid Undset eyes, and heart, and a pen to write words as if etched in stone by fire.(Anthony Esolen is professor and writer-in-residence at Thomas More College in N.H., translator and editor of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House), and author of The Beauty of the Word: A Running Commentary on the Roman Missal (MAGNIFICAT).   Magnificat, October 2017, pages 211-115.

 

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