There isn’t any unifying theme for this week’s Quick Takes, just stories and links that I found interesting this week.
Lent is right around the corner, so now is a great time for us to plan and prepare ourselves for a fruitful Lent. Here’s a terrific blog post by Tara a young woman who is discerning a call as a contemplative Dominican nun: "Preparing for Lent":
Lent is a unique season that invites us to deepen our relationship with God by following His Son into the desert. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying before being tempted by Satan, temptations He resisted. Afterward, the angels came and ministered to Him. From the earliest times of the Church, Christians have been drawn to life in the desert as a means of growing closer to God and following in Christ’s footsteps. In the silent desolation, we come face to face with our own frailties and weaknesses, and we are better able to hear the voice of God.
Today, most of us cannot leave our jobs, our families, and other daily responsibilities for a 40-day desert retreat. On the other hand, it is easy to use this as an excuse to avoid “desert experiences” that would help us detach from those things that keep us from God and true happiness. The Church gives us three tools to help us grow in our spiritual life: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Like three legs on a stool, when used properly and in balance, they work together in our lives to help us grow in virtue and holiness.
Check out Tara’s whole post, especially her recommended Lenten reading.
If you are looking for a worthy recipient of some Lenten alms-giving, the Laboure Society raises money so that Tara and other aspirants can pay off their student loans (a prerequisite before entering religious life.) Here’s a link to Tara’s fundraising page.
reconstruction of Richard III based on his skeleton - source
For several months now we’ve been talking about that skeleton found by an archaeological team in a parking lot in Leicester, England, and waiting for the results of DNA and other testing. Well the news came out on Monday that it has been positively identified as the remains of King Richard III.
The investigators had two different maternal lines of DNA from Ann of York, sister of Richard III, and the samples matched each other and both matched the skeleton.
Here are some of the photos that were released:
The grave as found: http://ow.ly/i/1t0ej (you can see the curvature of the spine)
The skeleton: http://ow.ly/i/1t0qO
read more about the find and the identification:
The official plan is that Richard’s remains will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral, which is now an Anglican church. There are those who argue for a Catholic burial, seeing as Richard III was Catholic when he died and originally buried at Greyfriars abbey church, such as this story in The Tablet, a British Catholic newspaper:
Given that Richard was first buried at the church of the Greyfriars in Leicester it would make perfect sense to place his tomb in the nearest Franciscan friary. This turns out to be the Franciscan parish of Our Lady and St Edward in Nottingham, a small modern friary with a brick church built in the 1950s. It’s the last place once might expect to find a royal tomb but then, maybe that’s a good reason for Richard to be there.
For a good discussion of the historical importance and the Catholic aspect of the Richard III story, see the blog post “SomeThoughts on Richard III” at God and the Machine blog
If you’ve ever had to deal with an overdue library book, this story might make you feel better: a biography of St. Francis Xavier was returned to a library in Washington heights, New York. 55 years past its due date!
read the story on the Why I am Catholic blog.
17th century graffiti in Norwich Cathedral - source
A team of archaeologists and volunteers has been studying Norwich Cathedral, a Norman building, and cataloging the grafitti carved into the walls using modern digital technology:
“The initial results have been very encouraging”, continues [project director]Matthew Champion, “and we have made a number of superb discoveries. The walls are covered in everything you can think of. Medieval ships, names, animals, windmills, figures and prayers. Just about everything that would have been important to the citizens of Norwich during the middle ages”.
Although today graffiti is regarded as something undesirable and destructive this doesn’t appear to have been the case during the past. Many of the inscriptions found by the survey members appear to be ritual protection marks or prayers, and the fact that they have been deeply etched into the stonework suggests to scholars that they were created with the full knowledge of the cathedral authorities – perhaps even with their blessing. “I think we have to understand that our modern view of the cathedral is very different from the way in which it was viewed by the local people during the middle ages”, continues Champion, “particularly the ways in which it was used. Although it was a place of spirituality it appears that their views of prayer and religion were much more hands-on. They saw nothing wrong with carving their prayers into the very stones of the building”. - source
read more: Norwich Cathedral Yields its Medieval Secrets, the Medievalists blog
Here’s the video trailer for Fr. Robert Barron's new series, “Catholicism - The New Evangelization”:
I loved Fr. Barron’s “Catholicism” series, and can’t wait for this new series to be released later in 2013.
Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column on the first day of this year describes an experience she had in the confessional at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York:
And then suddenly in the silence, through the screen, I saw a light. It grew and glowed in the darkness, it moved. A miracle? I cleared my throat.
“Father, did you just open up an iPad?”
Yes, he said, and we started to laugh. He keeps particular readings there that might be helpful with certain specific questions. He’d like me to read some verses when I get home.
I’m sorry, I said, I don’t have a pen and paper, I may not remember what you say. Wait—I’ve got my BlackBerry. “Tell me chapters and verse and I’ll email them to myself.”
And so he scrolled down and called out readings—the letters of St. Peter the fisherman, of St Paul—and I thumbed away sending emails to myself.
It was so modern and wonderful. Genius technology enters the confessional in a great cathedral in 2012.
Read the whole column, "The Miracle of Technology"
This week I stumbled across "Catholic Barcelona" a wonderful blog featuring the churches and other Catholic features of Barcelona, Spain