Entertaining Angels

angel“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2

What does it mean to entertain angels? Despite the title of this post, I cannot guarantee a satisfactory answer to this question. These next few paragraphs simply seek to provide a brief glance into what can come about when one is open to the whisperings of the non-corporeal finite pure spirits which God in His infinite goodness has specifically assigned to His children as guardians, protectors, and guides from the very beginning. In short, where does an angel take you when it comes to visit?

Angels, though beyond the comprehension of our minds, are very real beings. As Catholics we believe this on faith. Nevertheless, many have some form of experience on which to base this as well. Be it a car accident narrowly avoided, the feeling of being protected by a heavenly power, or a simple star that gives comfort in the face of loneliness, many are not limited to depictions of chubby cherubim when considering their heavenly protector and guide. Yet, such moments are like road signs, they let you know you are on the right path and give you a marker to remember, but the final map will not be laid out until you and your angel stand in God’s Throne room together in eternal life.

What does this have to do with hospitality, you might be asking? If our angels are road signs, what need is there for companions – particularly companions we have never met before and likely will never meet again – on the journey? Here perhaps a short story will help. A few days ago I was rushing around at work with my head in the clouds and my feet barely touching the floor. No, I was not floating away on a song or some poetry, I was attempting to serve the pilgrims at the local Basilica, counting down the minutes until lunch time, and meditating on what a crazy idea it had been to wear high heels. In the thick of this all a man appeared at my side – I say appeared only because there were so many people bustling around it was impossible to see across the room – and with him was a weeping child. From what I gathered in twelve seconds the child was lost. Through his tears I discovered what group he belonged to, and recalling that his pilgrimage was to begin their celebration of the Divine Liturgy at any moment, I quickly hustled him up to the Church. Side by side we pressed to the elevators, ascended to the top floor, rushed across the platform, and entered the church just in time for the deacon to start swinging the censer and the choir to begin. The boy quickly found his parents and I rushed down to my job. When my lunch finally came I walked back up to the basilica church and sat in on the Divine Liturgy to do some good hard thinking (after all the homily was in Ukrainian), thinking I have not quite finished. Who was the little boy? No one in particular. He did not vanish into thin air back to the heavenly courts. I saw him changing pews during the Offertory so he could sit with his young friends. Yet, like the angels, he lead me on a journey, one that began in my footsore selfish self and ended in the presence of God at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. From there it was my choice whether to go back or to stay and rest awhile.

When entertaining angels it does not matter who they are but where you let them lead you.

  • Grace Marie Urlakis

 

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Rome: Pilgrimage Update!

I wrote this last night, but wifi would not permit me to post it. So, here it is this morning:

“Today marks one full week of being in Rome. I could not be more grateful for the time I have been able to spend here. In the past few days I have been privileged to tour some breathtaking sights. These have, to me, been true pilgrimage days. Three days ago (Thursday) I had the privilege of walking through the Vatican Museum. Last time I was there I was with a tour that practically ran through the museum. I still loved what I saw, but I did not know how much I was missing. This time, I took my leisurely time examining Tuscan vases, ancient marble, and vivid frescos. Yet, above all of these, the Hall of Maps still remains my absolute favorite place to be in the entirety of the City of Rome. I have one picture right below this, but I am afraid it does not do it credit.

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Yesterday (Friday), I took a cab out to the Saint Calixtus Catacombs. They are the largest catacombs in Rome, and well preserved. While it was my second time visiting them (I visited them last time I was in Rome), my guide was outstanding and really made present the essence of the Christian catacombs; a celebration not of death, but of Eternal Life. There I prayed in the crypt of the popes and Saint Cecilia’s original tomb. From there I took the metro bus to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, walked to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and finally made my way back to Saint Peter’s (near which is my hotel). Below is a picture of the crypt of the Nativity (I do not know if that is its official name, where I prayed for all of you before the ACTUAL MANGER OF BABY JESUS!

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Finally, today I took a day trip through the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer estate in the charming little village of Gandolfo. I toured the papal apartments and papal gardens, all of which are cooled by the breeze coming off a stunning volcano lake. Everything was so naturally beautiful that nothing was overwhelming. I rode the train back completely content! On that note, if you are ever in Rome and want to do something other than (or in addition to) the Colosseum, Roman Forum, or Pantheon, please consider booking the Castel Gandolfo tour through the Vatican Museum website. You will not be disappointed! For proof, please see the pictures of my tour that I posted on Roman Catholic Reflection’s facebook page: www.facebook.com/RomanCatholicReflections.

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Update from Rome!

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I am rushing out the door to catch a cab, but I wanted to first provide an update from Rome. The past 4 days here have been beyond words. Rome is captivating. I have been to Saint Peter’s tomb beneath the Vatican, I have thrown a coin in Trevi Fountain, and I have rested in the Piazza Navona. Today, besides attending Pope Francis’ general audience I also had passion fruit gelato!

Below is a link to a short video I took in Piazza Navona. I will have another video up on the facebook page soon from today’s general audience.

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The Sculptor and the Boy

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“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). In a few moments I will land in Rome and begin fully a pilgrimage which has in so many ways been planned, guided, and illumined by God. While I wrote this poem a while back, it came to mind a few days ago as a representation not only of the historical majesty which awaits me when I step off that plane, but also of the journey upon which I have been lead to arrive even at this point. Without further adieu I present:

The Sculptor and the Boy

 

In dusty shadows, sharp and soft

Crouches a quite child.

His darting eyes peering, searching

His child’s mind, beguiled.

 

Before him stands the master at work,

The marble, smooth and fair,

Tools for breaking, then creating,

And against the wall an empty chair.

 

Days pass as closer he creeps

Watching every blow

The block sheds its perfection

In the dim lit studio.

 

Down the marble the master works

His grim face in silence set

His strong arms, steadily pounding,

In fading light – a silhouette.

 

Closer, nearer, the young boy steals,

Enchanted and unaware,

Shifting, gliding, crawling, sliding

Towards the empty chair.

 

Behind a barrel he swiftly hides,

As marble strikes the wall.

The block towers in the lonely room

And under it the child feels small.

 

Thundering hammer meets pounding heart

Tapping chisel – tottering feet

The sigh of the master sounds –

The child’s task is now complete.

 

From the chair in the corner, seated,

He beholds the final blow.

With tears the master drops his hammer

And gazes up from below.

 

Brawny arms frame an eager face;

No detail did he forget.

Then overwhelmed with exhaustion

In its shadow the master slept.

 

Silent marble guards weary flesh

As still the boy looks on

Listening to the master’s breathing,

Waiting for the dawn.

 

When with relief the master rises

So too does the boy, lost in shock.

“Tell me” he pleads “How did you know

There was David in that rock?”

 

-©Grace Marie Urlakis; August 30, 2017

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Going to ROME!

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Roman Catholic Reflections is excited to announce that it will be going on pilgrimage to Rome!

First of all, please know that you and your intentions will be remembered at Masses, before the relics of countless saints, and in daily prayer! “Roming” Catholic Reflections hopes that this pilgrimage will not only be a time of grace for those who are physically traveling, but also for all of those united as pilgrims in the spirit.

In preparation for this pilgrimage we ask you to please join us in a novena to Saint Christopher for safe travels which will begin this Wednesday, September 5th, and will end the day before take off, September 13th. The novena, as well as posts, pictures, and short videos (wifi permitting) will be uploaded to this blog’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/RomanCatholicReflections. Keep your eye out for daily (again, wifi permitting) windows  into the Eternal City!

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“Gossiping = Demonstrating Your Own Stupidity,” by Cameron Daly

Though I can’t say for sure that this is accepted as definitive Church teaching,* St. Ignatius of Loyola gave us a very helpful way to consider the act of gossiping—i.e., one that may strongly discourage us from it:

“Nothing should be said to lessen the good name of another, or to complain about him. For if I reveal the hidden mortal sin of another, I sin mortally; if I reveal a hidden venial sin, I sin venially; if his defect, I manifest my own” (“General Examination of Conscience: Words,” q. in Hardon, S. J., The Treasury of Catholic Wisdom, Kindle edition).

In other words, if I were to say that someone else has such and such defect or has committed such and such sin, I simultaneously demonstrate myself being defective or sinful by engaging in one of those things right before the eyes of whomever I’m addressing. Rather than just saying “look how bad or stupid so-&-so is,” I’m doing significantly more to show (and prove) “look how bad and stupid I am!” For while I’m saying that someone else supposedly did something wrong, I myself am doing something wrong and am injuring my soul for it—right in front of the person I’m talking to.

This isn’t to say that there is never “objectively valid reason” for revealing the faults of another (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2477—see this source also for the last sentence of the preceding paragraph). Sometimes there is valid reason to do so. Ignatius (q. from the same source as above) lists a couple of these reasons:

“If, however, my intention is good, there are two ways in which it is permissible to speak of the sin or fault of another:

“1. When a sin is public, as in the case of a woman openly leading a shameless life, or of a sentence passed in court, or of a commonly known error that infests the minds of those with whom we live.

“2. When a hidden sin is revealed to someone with the intention that he help the one who is in sin to rise from his state. But then there must be some grounds or probable reasons for believing that he will be able to help him.”

Though the implication is that this is an exhaustive list, I would beg to differ. For instance, it would seem to me that revealing the sins of another would be permissible in instances where shared knowledge of these sins could save others from future and/or continued harm from those sins or sinful tendencies, or where the one whose sins were revealed was given sufficient anonymity.

*In saying this, I’m referring especially to where Ignatius says that it is a mortal sin to reveal the hidden mortal sin of another. It’s definitely sinful to reveal such a thing, I just do not know if/where it’s held to be mortally sinful by the Church. Perhaps it is and I just haven’t come across it. Regardless, this seems like a valuable way to think of it: even if it’s not mortally sinful to reveal the hidden mortal sin of another, if we treat it as if it were, we’ll be that much less likely to do it.

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“Mary, O Mary,” by Grace Marie

Happy Feast (at least it would be if today was not Sunday) of Saint Mary Magdalene!

via “Mary, O Mary,” by Grace Marie

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