Saint James, ambition, and giant thuribles


Laudetur Iesus Christus!
Nunc et in aeternum! Amen.

Saint James Major

Saint James the Greater, pray for us!
Click for his hagiography.

Feast of Saint James the Greater, Apostle

I am just sayin’ but all these prayers and such that I have been offering (I started a smorgasbord of novenas on Monday) for the intention of getting all my grad school stuff done seems to be working.  Today, my pastor informs me that he completed the form that would get me 30 percent off my tuition and that he sent in my recommendation form.  Now, recommendation-wise, all I need to get is that last form but that will be done soon.  After that, just a few more things and then I need to pass my driving test and I should be all set.  Gotta keep praying and trusting in the providential will of God. Estoy determinado y yo espero en la providencia de Dios.

At Mass today, I was particularly struck by the mother of James and John in the Gospel.

Here’s the entire text of the Gospel of the day:

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” [So much for “asking,” right?  She “commanded” that the Lord do that.  Talk about moxie.]
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking. [‘Cause she didn’t.]
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.” [I don’t think they understood either, at least at that point.]
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers. [Can you blame them?]
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:20-28)

God love this mother, she is asking for something she doesn’t really understand. But, she’s a mom, of course she wants what she thinks is best for her sons. To her, the best for her sons would be for them to be seated in places of honor in Christ’s kingdom. But she was thinking with the mind of the world. She is a mother with ambitious dreams for her sons.

Not that all ambitions are bad in themselves.  It depends on to what they are directed and their intentions.

You could just hear James and John saying, “Mommmmmmm …” because here is their mother commanding the Lord do such a lofty thing in front of the other Apostles, much to their chagrin.

The best part: the Lord listens to her intently and grants her very comand after asking the two if they could “drink the chalice that [He is] going to drink” and they respond in the affirmative.

Of course, the “chalice” of which the Lord is speaking is the same “chalice” (or one similar to it) that He asked the Father to take away from Him in His Agony in the Garden preceding His Passion and Death but “not My will, but Thy will be done.”

Their mother (Salome) most probably had no idea what she was asking for her sons but she got it: Her son James was the first of the Apostles to witness to Christ with a martyr’s death at the hands of Herod Agrippa and John survived an attempted martyrdom.

One of the Theology blogs I follow, The New Theological Movement, has a post about why James and John are called the “sons of thunder” for today’s feast.  The author of the blog (a young priest) talks about how though the two brothers started out with eyes fixed on temporal glory and renown, their faith was soon purified and strengthened with a genuine zeal for the spread of the Gospel and the coming of the Kingdom of God.

But aren’t we like James and John’s mother sometimes?  We ask (or even command) the Lord  to do this, that, or another thing for us thinking that it is what we need or what is for our own good.  “Please, Lord, help me pass this blasted test or at least don’t let my gray matter dribble out of my ears too much.”  “Please, Lord, I really want this to happen.  I know it’s what You would want for me.”

Sometime we even try to bribe God with sweet pious talk or we try to bargain with him.  “If You do this for me, You wonderful Lord You, I will go to more TLMs and I will be more faithful to my prayer life.”

He just looks at us and says, “I don’t need you to do anything for Me to do something for you.  I do it because I love you.  Not because I am dependent on you.”  Remember, we’re contingent on God for everything (including existence).  Not vice versa.

I confess, I am that way more times than I ought to be.  Look at my present situation: I am working on getting in grad school so I can get my wizard sleeves (the grad gown looks like something out of Harry Potter) and MA in Theology.  I have a whole list of things that I need to and I have been plowing through it.  I have hit a bit of a sizable (understatement) roadblock that could preclude me from starting grad school (this Fall, at least).  You have no idea how much that vexes the scapular off me.  Hence the NINE novenas I am praying for that intention.

I am treating this whole thing as a huge “You gotta trust in God completely, Allie” exercise.  It’s not like those redonkulous “trust building” exercises that include balls of yarn and falling backwards into someone’s arms while thinking happy thoughts (don’t ask about my experiences with those blessed things).  That’s all well and good but it’s also very hard for a testa dura (hard head) like me who is very stubborn and determined to do what she wants.  It’s a part of being Calabrese and human.

I have to trust that God knows me better than I know myself (because He does) so therefore it follows that He would know truly and fully what is best for me even if I may not necessarily think it such or understand at the time.

It takes humility.  It takes knowing and believing that God will take care of us.  It takes knowing and believing that God is in control (not us) and that He is in charge.  That with Him in charge, things will be just fine.

Of course, that does not exclude some degree of suffering.  It almost includes some degree of suffering because it requires something that man is not necessarily used to nor does he like to do: Dying to self.

For all I know, it may not be the will of God that I start grad school this Fall.  Maybe it won’t be until winter term.  I mean, at least I will have all the recommendations and such on file so I won’t have as much to worry about and it would give me more time to gain confidence in driving and it would give me a chance to find a job (maybe … God willing) so I can at least start building all that back up again (living is expensive and I am not high maintenance).

Though I really really really really really really really really want to start this Fall because I want to start on my education ASAP.  I want to advance my theological studies so I can better serve God and the Church (srsly.  I mean it.).  Though I want to be a real true-blue (for Our Lady) Church Lady (isn’t that special?).

I also think this time spent in study will help me work on my discernment.

Did I mention I need to go on retreat?  No?  Well, I do.  I do.  I do.  I do-ooooooo!

Just trust, Ms. Allie.  Deus providebit.

I would be remiss if I were to not include a clip of this piece of epic Catholicky-ness on this Feast of Saint James: the ginormous thurible (the Botafumiero) at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of Saint James Major (the Great) are entombed.

I mean, I lurve incense.  When I worked at the parish, my pastor and I would make a whole meeting of picking out what incense he should order.  When he got the sampler from Monastery Incense Company, it was like Christmas.  We would be standing in the sacristy, passing off the little bags of incense-y goodness to one another after taking sniffs off them to determine which ones to get.  Remember, it’s smells, bells, Latin, and lace, people!

This clip has our dear Papa Bene at the Cathedral, putting incense in the Botafumeiro, observing the epic swinging of said giant thurible, and giving his blessing at the end.  The men you see carrying and swinging it are called tiraboleiros,  which is the Galician derivative of the Latin term turifer (“thurifer” in English), which is “incense-bearer.”

I guess it would not have been appropriate to have the Pope shovel incense in so he goes the typical “boat and spoon” way albeit it’s a bit larger than the one that a typical parish has.  Also, wouldn’t you love to be one of the guys pulling the rope or (even better) the guy who has to do the first swing (one bad swing and he would take a whole section of people out).  Pilgrims would know you as “that guy who totally messed up the swing of the incense thing and took out a whole section of nuns!”  Not necessarily a good thing.

It’s also fun to watch the Pope and all the clerics around him intently watch the thing swing back and forth, moving their heads left and right or just watching it fly (it reaches about 40mph).  The Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, makes my heart smile.  He has this amusing smirk on his face and one of the cardinals behind him knows the song they are singing.

I can only imagine how hot that thing is after having been swung that much and with as much charcoal and incense it must have in it.  I burned myself once on the side of our thurible at the parish when assisting at Benediction (the same Benedictions where I had to sing Tantum Ergo a cappella because the priest who was from India couldn’t sing it “right” (his words, not mine.)) and it hurt.  I had a scar on the side of my hand (I absentmindedly reached for the boat and my hand touched the hot thurible … *sizzle* … *stifled oww!*) for a while … it was a badge of (idiotic) honor.  I remember the other altar servers looking at me askance with a “Did she totally just do that?” look.

I think every parish should have one of these.  It can enhance the liturgical life of any parish!

All right, I have to get ready for supper.

Have a nice evening!



About Ms. Allie

I am a Catholic young woman who works as a Theology teacher at a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of the Detroit. In Spring of 2015, I graduated with an MA in Theology with a concentration in Systematic Theology. My MA thesis was titled: "Mary as Woman of the Eucharist in the Theology of Pope Saint John Paul II." I also hold a BA in Theology (with a dabbling in Philosophy) and is a member of Theta Alpha Kappa (θΑΚ), the National Theology/Religious Studies Honor Society. Prayers are appreciated.
This entry was posted in Church Lady Stuff, Contemplations, Musings, Papism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Saint James, ambition, and giant thuribles

  1. from Now, THAT, is a lot of incense. The tiraboleiros are certainly getting their upper body workout although maybe they should get a few younger men to do the deed? As for trust, it usually sounds better and looks better on paper. Actually living it…… that’s something we can only do with the grace of God.

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