Rosary Found in Mystery Tunnel

One for the Just Plain Weird files:

Police want to know who built an underground chamber near York University campus and why.

The underground structure was discovered by a Toronto and Region Conservation Officer on January 14 who came upon a large amount of excavated earth near the fence line of the Rexall Centre Sports and Entertainment Complex.

“We’re trying to find and establish who built it, why they built it and what were their intentions,” Deputy Chief Mark Saunders said, of the find in the heavily wooded Black Creek parkland 82 feet from the fenceline of tennis courts at the Rexall Centre.

“There is nothing to suggest criminality,” said Saunders, noting that digging the tunnel may break provincial statutes or bylaws but there is no criminal intent. “I don’t have a working theory. We’re open. We go with the evidence.”

Police responded and found the chamber, which lay 10 feet underground and spanned 33 feet, was over 6 feet high and nearly three-feet wide supported by lumber. There is no evidence of machinery used in the excavation of the tunnel.

“This was built with a considerable amount of sophistication,” said Saunders, of the structure built with 2 x 8 wood framing and plywood walls. “The individuals responsible for building it clearly had some expertise in structural integrity.”

Police found a gas can, food and beverage containers, work gloves, a wheel barrow, as well as moisture-resistant light bulbs, a gas generator and a sump pump to remove ground water.

The only personal item found at the scene?



Five Catholic Things to Listen to on Spotify

Spotify has a pretty deep archive, but its poor tagging and search features make it difficult to burrow into the more obscure corners and find the weird stuff hidden below pop songs and other junk. Here are five things that may be of interest to Catholics.


Pope John Paul II: Mass in English is not a whole mass, but the Liturgy of the Eucharist, with oddly mislabeled tracks suggesting this is side two and side one is missing.


Alec Guinness Reads Spiritual and Religious Poetry and Prose has the Catholic convert reading from Julian of Norwich, T.S. Eliot, Hilaire Belloc and others in that magnificent voice.


Ensemble Unicorn: The Black Madonna is an album from one of my favorite early music groups. This one is a collection of early 15th century pilgrim songs from the Monastery of Montserrat, and it’s the kind of alternately vigorous  and pious music I associate with medieval Catholicism.


Fr. Benedict Groeschel & Simonetta: The Rosary is a Place alternates prayers and meditations by Fr. Benedict with songs by Simonetta. The songs aren’t to my taste, but your mileage may vary. You can create a playlist that leaves them out and just have Fr. Benedict’s portions.


G.K. Chesterton: Four Father Brown Stories has “The Absence of Mr. Glass,” “The Blue Cross,” “The Resurrection of Fr. Brown,” and “The Honor of Israel Gow” read by Bill Wallis.

Here’s a bit of Ensemble Unicorn to get you  going.

The 54-Day Rosary Novena

If you just want the text of the devotion without my commentary, go here.

I have little patience for “never-fail” devotions. In fact, I think they’re superstitious and presumptuous, and thus deeply offensive. God is not a gumball machine and prayer is not the coin you turn in the slot to make your desire come true. Prayer doesn’t work that way.

Madonna in Prayer by Sassoferrato, c.1640

On the other hand, a deep and consistent devotion is a pleasure to God, because the practice means you have made a commitment and are using many of His gifts–faith, hope, charity, patience, temperance, etc–to fight off many temptations in order to complete the devotion. A novena, for example, is a spiritual exercise regime in which you commit to doing something every day for a set number of days. That commitment requires grace, and grace is its fruit as well.

A little over a year ago we were up against the wall and it looked like our financial world was going to collapse. I stumbled upon a devotion called “The 54-Day Rosary Novena.” There were all kinds of miraculous promises attached to it, and it was couched in the kind of cloying language and imagery that developed in the 19th century and clings to the faith like a dank funk. I prayed it anyway.

Was my intention fulfilled in a miraculous way? I would say so, yes. Quite amazingly and suddenly, actually.

Does that mean this is a “never-fail novena”?

No! But it is a powerful devotion, and for people who are in dire straits and need to reach for the big guns, 54 days straight of a rosary offered for a single intention–27 days in petition, 27 in thanksgiving–is good medicine.

The problem is that the original novena that’s floating around out there appears to have been written by a teenage girl a hundred years ago in the sickly sweet manner of Marian devotions from days gone by. It includes lines like, “At thy feet I kneel to offer thee a — Crown of Roses! — snow-white buds to remind the of thy joys” &c &c, you get the gist.

I’m sorry, but I have a hard time believing the Blessed Mother–the Queen of Heaven, the Theotokos, the New Eve–demands that we speak to her in the voice of Madeline Bassett. A lot of this is just twee French piety that seeped into the culture a couple hundred years ago and rendered the bold and vigorous lines of the faith as limp and fuzzy as a Precious Moments figure.

To heck with that. I’ve decided to start saying a new 54 Day Rosary Novena for a new intention, but can’t bring myself to use the standard text.

There’s nothing “magical” about the traditional text. It’s not inspired or revealed. The devotion itself derives from the Marian vision known as Our Lady of Pompeii. A young girl, Fortuna Agrelli, had a vision of the Virgin in which the Blessed Mother said “Whoever desires to obtain favors from Me should make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary, and three novenas in thanksgiving.”

That was it. No mention of, “And make sure you add a lot of sugary text as well as every prayer you know.”

So, I’ve retained the form and simplified the text for those who like a guideline. Honestly, though: create your own 54-Day Rosary Novena if you like. Devotions aren’t doctrinal or dogmatic: they arise from the faithful.

The 54-Day Rosary Novena

The 54-Day Rosary Novena was developed before the addition of the Luminous Mysteries, but you can do it either with or without them.

Whatever the case, ignore the normal schedule of mysteries and start with the Joyful Mysteries, then proceed through Luminous, Sorrowful, Glorious, and repeat for 27 days of Petition and 27 days of Thanksgiving. Say a Rosary the way you normally say a Rosary, with any addition prayers or meditations you like: just add the Petition and Thanksgiving prayers.

It does not matter if your petition has not been granted within the first 27 days: proceed to the Thanksgiving cycle anyway.

How to pray:

Sign of the Cross

Apostles Creed

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen

Our Father 

Hail Mary (x3)

Announce the First Mystery





Our Father

Hail Mary (x10)

Glory Be

Continue to Mysteries 2-5

Hail Holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Fatima Prayer

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.

Petition Prayer (27 Days): Blessed Mother, hear my plea and bring it before the throne of your Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ. Please look with favor on this devotion, and grant me [say your intention here.] I ask these things of you, my Mother, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thanksgiving Prayer (27 Days): Blessed Mother, thank you for hearing my prayer and interceding on my behalf. Mary, Mother of my Soul, be with me all my days, and accept my humble thanks for your many gifts, which I accept in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tanner’s Annunciation

Today is the 153rd birthday of Henry Ossawa Tanner, the great American artist who painted my favorite depiction of the annunciation:

Mary is depicted as a young, humble Jewish girl encountering the Holy Spirit as light. Her expression is a mixture of fear, wisdom, understanding, and resignation. I don’t see joy in Tanner’s Mary: I see girl understanding that the gift she is about to accept comes with a terrible price. She knows that, indeed, a sword shall piece her heart, and she accepts anyway. That’s the moment Tanner captures here, and that’s the power of our Mother: that even in her youth, even knowing what lay ahead, she said yes. The acceptance of a gift this is also a burden–a cross, if you will–is what defines the Christian story, and it has its birth in this very moment.