Scripture for the Sick or Dying: Isaiah 38

In his day, Hezekiah was a household name in Judah. Indeed, those familiar with the Bible will recognize him as one of the more godly rulers, and Matthew cites his name when giving us the genealogy of Joseph.

Toward the end of the first section (chapters 1-39) of Isaiah, the king is brought low by an unnamed illness. In the ancient world, many illnesses were fatal that Ezechias-Hezekiah.jpgcause us no worry today. Regardless, Hezekiah was brought to confront his mortality. After his cure, this psalm of lament (38:10-20) is cited by the prophet and attributed to the king.

Roman Catholics pray this lyric every fourth Tuesday at morning prayer. It is listed as a “canticle,” possibly a semantic point. The style places it well within the genre of lament as we often read in the Psalms.

The given antiphon is suggested by verse 17:

You have held back my life, O Lord, from the pit of doom.

The entire piece is not utilized in liturgy by-the-book. The Liturgy of the Hours omits verses 15-17a from prayer. Scripture scholars are unsure of this section, but I read it as a positive interjection. According to the larger context of Isaiah 38-39, this song was composed after Hezekiah’s illness and recovery.

The version suggested for the Pastoral Care of the Sick is more brief–just verses 10-12 and 16. Here’s how they look:

In the noontime of life I said,
I must depart!
To the gates of Sheol I have been consigned
for the rest of my years.

I said, I shall see the LORD no more
in the land of the living.
Nor look on any mortals
among those who dwell in the world.

My dwelling, like a shepherd’s tent,
is struck down and borne away from me;
You have folded up my life, like a weaver
who severs me from the last thread.
From morning to night you make an end of me;

Those live whom the LORD protects;
yours is the life of my spirit.
You have given me health and restored my life!

At least those who assembled the pastoral care rites kept that inevitable bit of confidence that appends every Scriptural lament. If singing this at a communal liturgy, I’m aware of settings. But none really stand out. It’s a good text for some future composer to give the Church a brilliant offering.

For an individual celebration of anointing, Isaiah 38 might be appropriate for a younger person suffering from cancer. Those images in verse 12: striking a tent, folding up a weaver’s work–what would we say today? Shutting down a computer. Consigning a car to the scrapyard. While the given refrain for this text is good enough, perhaps that acclamation that leads verse 17, “Peace in place of bitterness!” may be a more honest and heartfelt antiphon.

Any thoughts?

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Movie Challenge Day 2


James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, and Peter Ronson in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)Continuing on the challenge of significant film-watching experiences, I offer a “simulcast” with my fb page. There, without commentary, but here, a brief text.

Space has its allure. But so did exploring the interior of the Earth. I was so struck by this movie as a boy I was able to convince a few neighborhood friends, including my sister, to “play” we were descending deep underground. The sky was the cavern overhead. And dark garages, basements, and well-shaded trees helped with the imagination part.

I had to resolve two things as I grew older. As an eighth-grader I read the book, which was sadly different from the film–no women. So I learned that books can be adapted and changed for the big and small screen. And sometimes not well. Two, I finally had to resign myself to the fact that the Earth’s interior is hot, hot, hot–and there are no passages to walls of gems or to giant mushrooms.

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OCM 6: Christ Fulfills A New Covenant

We continue our occasional examination of the Order of Celebrating Matrimony (1991/2016), an update of the former Rite of Marriage (1969). Continuing with the introduction–the praenotanda in the professional lingo–it will give us important insight as to why Catholics celebrate weddings the way we do. Or should do.

Paragraph six reminds us of the agency of Christ. A simple suggestion from a helpful mother leads to a generosity, gentle and extravagant. Isn’t that just like our God?

6. By his presence, Christ brought blessing and joy to the wedding at Cana, where he changed water into wine and so foreshadowed the hour of the new and eternal covenant: “For just as of old God made himself present to his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so now the Savior of the human race” (Gaudium et Spes 48) offers himself to the Church as Spouse, fulfilling his covenant with her in his Paschal Mystery.


The text cited in blue is from the English translation of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony © 2013, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Movie Challenge Day 1


Paul Mantee and The Woolly Monkey in Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)A friend didn’t tag me, so I thought I’d respond. I’m doing this on fb without commentary, but the blogging medium beckons a few words.

Like many boys, I liked adventure and science fiction. Preferably both in the same flick. I watched, but didn’t thrill to, the shooting up aliens movies. About once in ten films I would find a quieter, thoughtful experience like this astronaut’s experience in isolation on Mars. Human ingenuity putting pieces together–still like it today.

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The Winter of 2019

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We’ve had a significant run of snow in the Pacific Northwest the past several days. It actually feels like a Midwest or Eastern experience: school called off, structures collapsing from the weight of wet snow, shelters opening wide, and alas, even a person in Seattle dying of exposure. My parish also cancelled the weekend Mass schedule–only the second time I’ve ever experienced that.

Despite the wet snow shutting everything down tonight, and the mayor of nearby Bremerton declaring no lay drivers on the roads tomorrow, we seem to have dodged a bullet with snow shifting to rain and sparing us another foot of white stuff. Maybe I’ll get out on Wednesday. Trying to get back up the driveway Saturday, I slammed into a snowbank and tore out the right front wheel well on my car.

Elsewhere on the winter front, I managed to slip on ice twice while “sledding” in laundry baskets with the young miss. Snowfall might appeal to the child in us, but I’m feeling too old for winter sports. I walked the young miss 1.3 miles to work this morning, and added a third fall on the way home. I might have landed on my padded end, but my left shoulder and hand weren’t edified by the fall.

Even the cat snuggled under the blankets with me earlier today.

On the home front, we’re keeping warm and well-fed. The fridge is full of leftovers tonight: squash soup, baked beans, stuffing, hard-boiled eggs, iced tea, and some vegan things I couldn’t identify without the young miss’s label.

Time for bed, and I expect I will be sleeping well tonight.

At some later time, we can all look back on the “Winter of 2019” with memories fond and otherwise.


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OCM 5: A New Creation

The former Rite of Marriage (1969) has been significantly revised and updated into the Order of Celebrating Matrimony (1991/2016). We’ll continue to look at the introduction–the praenotanda in the professional lingo. It will give us important insight as to why Catholics celebrate weddings the way we do. Or should do.

Jesus initiates a return to marriage before the Fall. As the Church interprets, even better, an elevation to a sacrament, an encounter with the Lord himself:

5. Indeed Christ the Lord, making a new creation and making all things new,(Cf. 2  Corinthians 5:17) has willed that Marriage be restored to its primordial form and holiness in such a way that what God has joined together, no one may put asunder,(Cf. Matthew 19:6) and raised this indissoluble conjugal contract to the dignity of a Sacrament so that it might signify more clearly and represent more easily the model of his own nuptial covenant with the Church.(Cf. Gaudium et Spes 48)

The sacramentality is part of the foundation for the indissolubility. That quality is also part of the relationship of God with believers. Human beings might struggle in their marriages. And non doubt, we also can find our faith life more difficult, and at times, even absent from our intention. But the permanence of marriage reflects the persistent love of God for everyone who seeks him.


The text cited in blue is from the English translation of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony © 2013, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Wedding Lectionary: Philippians 2:1-5

In the new Order of Christian Matrimony, the Church has added an official ritual for Blessing an Engaged Couple. (OCM 218-236) Thoughtful pastoral ministers here and there have been doing this for some years. Would that it were more universally observed. I can speak from experience–and my wife would agree–we needed all the prayer we could get when we were engaged.

One of the readings suggested does not appear in the Lectionary for the Wedding Mass. But it strikes me a great checklist for couples. In his letter to the early Christians in Philippi, Saint Paul is not mainly concerned about married couples. He wants to unite a baby church. But his appeal for unity and selflessness is quite apt for lovers. Let’s read:

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind,
with the same love,
united in heart,
thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for (your) own interests,
but also for those of others.
Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus.

These verses are quite lyrical. Notice the five aspirations that lead off: encouragement, solace, participation in the Spirit, compassion, and mercy. This is a wonderful checklist for any relationship. Do I encourage my beloved in her or his faith? Do I offer solace for difficulties? Do I pray with my beloved? Am I compassionate and merciful? In these virtues, Jesus takes joy in us. Which one do I do the best? Which one needs the most work?

At one wedding I attended, the couple had the unity sand. It’s not a tradition that appeals to me. Their gold and purple sand looked more mixed up than layered. And they forgot to retrieve it from the church–it waited in our sacristy till the three-week honeymoon was over. I was thinking that if some future child found it and shook it up, it would just be a vase of tannish-violet silicon dioxide. If a couple aspired to Saint Paul’s suggestion, one partner would polish the gold sand grain by grain until it sparkled. The other would ensure every purple particle stayed vivid and bright.

In being of one mind, we do not lose our individuality to a partner. Rather, we build up the person we think as better than us. Ideally, every married person has someone not only in their corner, but living as a cornerstone of their partner’s life. It’s a mutual thing. When two people trust, it happens.

Many years ago, one of my young friends pined to meet his life’s love. He commented he was looking for a woman to build him up, attend to his needs, make him a better person. He was sincere. Really. But young and not yet mature.

The true dynamic of fruitful married love is that a spouse has a number one–someone more important, someone whose interests are primary. Marriage becomes a mutual self-sacrificing project.

I remind myself of this when my wife and I encounter difficulty. This reading struck me as a needful reminder the next time I slide into arguing or resenting or drifting. I’m sure an engaged couple can get an early start in self-examination on these points listed by Saint Paul. It wouldn’t be a bad reading for a wedding either. What do you think?

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