Tuesday, June 30, 2009

First Martyrs of Rome ... and a new series the family can enjoy together

I want to give this a longer and better review, however as I'm working on a large-ish project for the rest of the week I didn't want to miss directing your attention to a very good series that is a natural tie-in with the Church's remembrance today of the first martyrs of Rome.

Suffice it to say that I was surprised by the quality of story-telling in this animated tale of St. Perpetua (and yes Felicity is there too). I meant to watch a couple of minutes and wound up engrossed in watching almost all of it ... until pulled away by two young Boxers chewing up sticks in the living room.

The animation is similar to that which I remember from the long-ago Gargoyles series (and I don't know why I keep thinking of that in comparison to this; I just do).

You can see more here about the Perpetua dvd I sampled.

Here is what the series is about in a nutshell:
Catholic Heroes of the Faith - dvd series

“Catholic Heroes of the Faith” is a new, animated DVD series which presents true stories of people who have made a lasting impression on others by their example of service to Christ and His Church.

These heroes have lived truly great lives—lives marked by moral depth, strength of character, physical courage, and an unswerving commitment to Christ and His Church.

By seeing how they struggled to serve Christ and his Church, and how they succeeded so gloriously, we are all challenged to live lives like theirs. Pope Benedict XVI has said of the saints, that we look to their “shining example to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God's friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all.”

Geared primarily to children ages 8-12, each episode uses traditional animation to entertain and inspire children and their parents and anyone who wants to know about the great Catholics of the past.

Each DVD also features:

* Activity guide for church, school or home use
* Parent’s and teacher’s guide for church, school or home use

This animated series is an excellent resource for parochial schools, CCD classes and home schooling.

And don’t forget to check out our documentary section! A great resource for Catholic high school religion classes and RCIA programs.

Catholic New Media Awards

I have just been reminded by The Curt Jester:
By the way this is the last day of voting in the Catholic New Media Awards, so vote for your favorite blog, website, podcast.
Sheez. That means I've got to pay bill and do the payroll too! Deadlines, deeadlines, deadlines ...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ancient illusions and hokey philosophies are no match for a barbarian horde at the gate, kid.

I already have part 1 of the BBC's The Last Days of Shandakor on my iPod (thanks to Radio Downloader ... love it!).

But that cleverness from Free SF Reader made me both laugh and move it to the top of my queue.

Worth a Thousand Words

On the way out the door, I also met the director of the little choir that could ...

We are the little choir that COULD! From three members who stood up once a month at Mass, in vestments, singing in two parts, to traveling America with this great group of young adults, it's been a journey of hope and inspiration...Cantate Domino! ...

The St. Richard Youth Choir was founded in 2003 by three seventh-grade girls, and has since grown to fifteen members. While traveling to Pueri Cantores Festival Masses across the Unites States, the choir serves as ambassadors for Jackson, Miss. on the national stage. Known for hard work and raising their own operating budget every year, the members put in countless hours in the pursuit of excellence in service and music.
I heard an inspirational story of kids from Mississipi with no resources but enormous talent and dedication. They're fund raising to try to attend the International Congress of Pueri Cantores in Rome to sing with 6,000 children from all over the world at a special Papal Mass with Benedict XVI.

If you're in Chicago, they'll be there July 3-7 to sing at the invitation-only Pueri Cantores Evening Prayer Festival at the beginning of the National Pastoral Musicians Conference.

You can hear samples at their website here and also find out how to contribute to their effort if you are moved to do so.

Are You Catholic? There's an App for That.

This was shown at the convention. That Paul Camarata ... what a creative guy!

The Public Sinner

This is a repost from 2006, but the subject is timeless. It came up in conversation at the meet-and-greet on Friday night at the conference (that being the sort of crowd that we were). I remembered this post and thought y'all might appreciate it as well. (If there were any comments from the original post they will show up as well.)
Women in the Bible For Dummies has a very interesting theory discussing the speculation about the identity of the mysterious female whose story begins in Luke 7:37. She washed Jesus' feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and then anointed them with costly perfume. The women is never named. Then why would tradition name her as Mary Magdalene?

Frankly, I always thought that Mary Magdalene got a raw deal when she was never named as a harlot but that label was put on her anyway. I was fascinated to see that when the various Gospel stories of this event are compared there actually was another Mary who fits the bill and is actually named in one of the stories.

This is a Mary I never would have thought it of but, you know, it kinda makes sense.

This is a lengthy excerpt but I was so interested that I thought maybe some of you might like it as well.
John's Gospel (12:3) relates another account of a woman anointing Jesus' feet with expensive aromatic ointment and drying them with her hair. John identifies this woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. (Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, tell similar stories about a woman anointing the feet of Jesus from costly perfume in an alabaster jar, but again this woman remains nameless.) Only John identifies the woman as Mary, the sister of Martha, but only Luke classifies the woman as a public sinner. (In addition, Luke 7:37-50, which outlines the story of the public sinner and washing of feet, later mentions Mary Magdalene by name in the very chapter along with Joanna, Susanna, and Chuza.

Could more than one woman have anointed the feet of Christ? Possible, but somewhat improbable. The humble act of drying someone's feet with one's own hair and then anointing those same feet with costly oil isn't a common practice. In fact, it's so rare, uncommon, and unusual that all four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) mention it. The mystery of why the woman is nameless in three Gospels and called Mary only in John remains. Washing feet was a humble act in itself, but having a woman touch a man, especially a rabbi, and having her dry his feet with her hair and then anoint them with expensive perfume is so extraordinary that it is improbably (but not impossible) that his happened more than once.

If all the stories involve one particular woman, the next question is, could this other Mary, the sister of Martha, also be the same unidentified public sinner that Luke mentions? If so, the latter Mary had been a very naughty girl, at least at one time. If she were the forgiven sinner, it would explain why she was so attentive and entranced when Jesus came to visit their home, even to the extent of annoying her sister, Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Ahh, yet another theory to ponder.

Because John's Gospel names the woman who washes the feet of Jesus as being Mary and this act takes place in the home of Martha and Lazarus, one could assume it was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus and not another Mary who did it. the nameless woman in Luke's Gospel is identified as a "public sinner." So either there were two women who separately anointed the feet of Jesus in the same unusual and unique way, or the public sinner and Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus are one and the same.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Back from the Catholic New Media Conference in San Antonio. It figures that summer really hit its stride this weekend. Temperatures were always hovering around 105 and then let's throw in some of that humidity that San Antonio does so well. Which meant that no matter where one went there was extreme heat or frigid cold as Texans set air conditioners low, low, low to offset outside conditions. However, that's pretty much the norm around here.

For me the weekend was more about community and putting faces with names than anything else. That was definitely the most satisfying aspect as it turned out. So many email or blogging voices turned into real people ... imagine that! One of the most delightful was a person who I had filled out a survey for in preparation for her presentation ... Lisa Hendey who blogs at Catholic Mom and also podcasts at Catholic Moments. Such a gracious, charming person who is so warm and welcoming. Also a complete surprise to meet, but a delight, was Heidi Saxton whose books I have seen but never expected to meet in person. We clicked right away.

Naturally, there were too many people for me to properly acknowledge but who were so enjoyable to speak with: Sister Anne from nunblog, Danielle Bean, Pat Gohn from Among Women podcast, Catholic Matriarch (fresh from her time at A&M so we had that to talk about for sure!), Chris from The Catholic Company, Ian from Aquinas and More ... as well as those from my favorite Catholic podcasts: Jeff from Catholic Foodie, Father Seraphim from Catholic Under the Hood, Paul Camatara from Saintcast.

Then there is Patrick Madrid who thought he was simply taking the elevator to his car and found himself in the elevator with Tom and me. It was my chance to thank him for three books that I have found extremely helpful over the years, Why is That in Tradition, Where is That in the Bible, and Search and Rescue. His talk was excellent and I especially appreciated the fact that he took it to heart enough to not simply do a regular talk but to specifically warn us as Catholics and techies about the danger of letting technological toys becoming a false god. A surprise to hear him speaking about it but definitely something that I think it is good to keep in mind during a conference that is chock full of technology lovers. This reminded me also of his three-day conference coming up, Answering Atheism. Three days, name speakers and a very reasonable price. My schedule doesn't allow it or I would definitely go. Maybe next year ... and I can get the audio tapes of this year's conference (so he assured me).

Naturally there were many others ... for one thing, I was surprised to meet so many people who were just thinking about getting into blogging or podcasting. Although I would say this to those who said they had a blog or wanted to podcast, "but I don't know about what." Those things are simply tools. If you don't have a passion to share some writing or spoken subject with people then your ministry might follow a different path. It is better to passionately blog about the soccer team you play on than to be casting around for something to say about your faith. Your faith will shine through in your passion, no matter what it is that you are talking about, as those who listen to my Forgotten Classics podcast have found, possibly to their dismay.

I also enjoyed Father Dave Dwyer's talk which opened the conference. As the Pauline year was ending, he did a good comparison of St. Paul to today's Catholic podcasters and bloggers. As well, to anyone who has ever heard the Busted Halo podcast, which I also enjoy a lot, you know he mixed in a good deal of entertainment with the serious conversation.

I would say that the most problematic area for me was the seminars. Although I enjoyed Father Roderick's audio talk and Lisa Hendey's blogging talk, there seemed to be too little time alloted for people to properly cover their topics. As well, since there was a time problem the socialization times were cut short. I completely understand this dilemma since we run into it routinely ourselves in the Beyond Cana Marriage Retreats we do semi-annually. However, as many of the talks were somewhat unfocussed, not seeming sure whether to address complete newbies or go for the more advanced listener or, indeed, to go off topic altogether (Catholic Cloud guy, I'm lookin' at you ... I actually wanted to hear Twitter discussed not dropped to talk about the next big thing), this was a problem for speakers who were having to trim time. Perhaps next time they'll have fewer talks but let them be covered more thoroughly. As well, although I realize that SQPN is a mostly audio group, there was only one talk given about blogging. Though we are all looking forward, it is a mistake to not give blogs more attention as that is what a lot of the public is just beginning to become aware of. It doesn't seem like it from our vantagepoint of being at the cutting edge of technology, but it is all too true if you talk to your friends or fellow parishioners. Believe me, I know. If one was only a blogger and not a podcaster, this left many possibly floundering in a technology that didn't apply.

Don't think that I didn't get a great deal out of the conference. These are intended as constructive criticisms only. I think that a great many people may have gotten more from the talks than Tom and I did. As well, I valued a great deal the community gathering.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the weekend, was the relatively impromptu add-on of stopping in Austin on the way home to join the Darwins and the Fulwilers (Jen/Conversion Diary) for Mass and lunch afterward. For one thing, St. William is a really gorgeous church. I wouldn't have believed a new church would have been built with such care, beauty and attention. The photo on their main page simply does not do it justice. Built in Spanish style on the outside, the inside is graced with beautiful old German stained glass rescued from an orphanage, German or Czech style ornamental stenciled designs, a painting behind the crucifix that invites reflection and prayer, and many other features that you really should stop to see if you are ever near Round Rock (just north of Austin). Best of all though was getting to see the Darwins again after spending time with them several years ago. I'd forgotten just how much fun they are in person. As well, it was a pure pleasure meeting Jen and her family. I am a big admirer of Jen's blog. She's a writer that I simply can't equal and that reflects her thoughtful spiritual life and sparkling personality (its not all spiritual, after all ... just think of her scorpion stories!). Two hours was just not long enough to even begin to enjoy all the conversation. We had to literally tear ourselves away from the Darwin homestead (nice garden in back, too) and face the drive home.

It was an extra pleasant homecoming, as Hannah had thought about how to make it welcoming by vacuuming, sweeping, and having pizza ready for us eat. What a kid!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"One had always read. Only these days one is reading more."

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Queen Elizabeth II chases after her runaway corgis and happens upon the library book-mobile that comes to the palace every Wednesday. Originally selecting a book merely to be polite, she soon finds herself drawn into fascination with books. It is a fascination that causes no end of problems for Her Majesty's staff as they have trouble keeping her on time for appointments and no longer know exactly how to prep members of the public for likely questions when they meet the queen. And what to do when she runs into a Dickens' lover and goes over the scheduled time because of their animated conversation?

On another level, this book looks at the joys of reading and allowing one's mind to expand. Soon the way that the world is viewed becomes colored with the literature one has read and that can lead to its own kind of trouble. The kind of trouble that comes with becoming a writer as well as a reader.

I found Bennett to be kind to both those expanding their minds and the queen. He acknowledges that much of her personality has had to express itself within the perimeters of her job which leaves no time for hobbies such as reading.

This is a short novella, easy to read, and highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Miyazaki ... Ponyo ... August 14 ...

... our family will be there. Here's the trailer. Though admittedly it's usually difficult to get a feel for a Miyazaki film from a trailer.

A Movie With a Great Priest

In this, the year of the priest, we have seen several lists being passed around that feature priests we can admire. Check B Movie Catechism for lists and links and other suggestions.

I can heartily recommend On the Waterfront for one of the most vigorous, hold-the-line presentations of a priest ever given or written.

Also I am extremely pleased to see that The American Catholic didn't forget one of my favorites with Spencer Tracy playing a no-holds-barred priest, San Francisco. (Also starring Clark Gable being a very bad boy, ladies, so don't miss this one.)

I am going to add The Quiet Man to the list. Although the priest isn't a main character, he is instrumental in several places. His reaction to Maureen O'Hara's whispered confession in Gaelic is both hilarious and telling that he knows plenty about married life. Also I love his ecumenism in supporting his Anglican counterpart when the bishop comes to town.

Thanks to Our Heroine for bringing to mind that I hadn't yet mentioned these movie lists.

Seductions of Rice

Clearly I'm on a food books review craze. Here's the last of the bunch for now ... a review of Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Though really you can't go wrong with anything they write.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I always wondered what liquid smoke was ...

... and now, whether we want to know or not, here is the answer.
What is liquid smoke?
Liquid smoke is very simply smoke in water. Smoke usually comes as a vapor, but there are ways to condense it and turn it into liquid and that liquid can then be carried in water.

How is it different from regular smoke?
Regular smoke is a vapor, and it is difficult to store.
SlashFood has all the scoop on liquid smoke.

A Taste of Heaven ... While Still on Earth

A fantastic book that is part travel guide, part spiritual inspiration, part cookbook, and ... wait for it ... part guide to a delightful assortment of foods made by religious orders that you can purchase.

Read all about A Taste of Heaven at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I never thought about it until now ... but I also have no goals.

... the truth is that I have no goals and I’m annoyed by conversations about them. Does this shock you?

“Goal,” in my experience, is a favorite word of people who talk and dream and dream and talk. And then they get together to “network” with other talkers. There’s always a lot of noise in these meetings but it’s unlikely than anything of consequence is going to happen. People who chatter about goals are rarely willing to die on that mountain.

I have no goals. But I do have plans. ...
Read it all in Roy H. Williams' Monday Morning Memo.

The Food of a Younger Land: Food, History and the Great Depression

Reviewed over at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Celebrate Dr. Boli's Anniversary With Him

In honor of the forthcoming second anniversary of Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine on the World-Wide Web, Dr. Boli will be reprinting a number of his own favorite articles from the past two years. Such as the above advertisement, which is not an article but nonetheless is a favorite.

If you have not yet been lured over to Dr. Boli's by my sharing of numerous features*, please do swing by. Dr. Boli is absolutely hilarious and I make sure I read his celebrated magazine every day.

*In fact, a different fact from Dr. Boli's Encyclopedia of Misinformation is featured in our sidebar every weekday for your entertainment and education.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Top 10 list of books Catholics should read

I was asked a while back by someone beginning a book review site to give this list. They never used the list but I am going to give it to y'all here since I found it an interesting exercise. Need I mention that I was howling with frustration at what I could not cover? Of course not. You knew that already!

Keep in mind that this list may fluctuate but essentially I see that it reflects my belief that you can see echoes of Truth in many places, including fiction. Here you go, in no particular order, always assuming that the Bible and the Catechism are givens (links are to my previous reviews, excerpts, or commentary):
  1. In This House of Brede - Rumer Godden. One of the finest authors of our time, largely forgotten, but who always wrote from a deep background of faith.

  2. The Interior Castle - St. Teresa of Avila. A spiritual classic for good reason. Written for her sisters in the convent and much easier to read and understand than you may have been led to believe.

  3. Catholic Christianity - Peter Kreeft. Puts the muscle on the "skeleton" of the Catechism, so to speak. This is the book that I read after converting and which brought my understanding fully into line with the teachings of the Church. Eminently logical.

  4. Pardon and Peace - Father Francis Randolph. Fantastic book about the sacrament of reconciliation (or confession as I still like to call it). He takes interesting side trips in the discussion but they are always to the point and add depth.

  5. Inferno - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Science fiction authors update Dante's Inferno. This is somewhat like Dante "Lite" and is a wonderful introduction to the concepts Dante wrote about. It is the book that made me take a new look at self examination and then go on to read John Ciardi's translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Not intended as such by the authors, it is a "gateway" book to Dante.

  6. A Still Small Voice - Father Benedict Groeschel. Common sense, psychology, and faith as applied to discernment when it comes to apparitions. Highly recommended.

  7. Angels of God - Mike Aquilina. Wonderful primer about angels and their relationship to us.

  8. Captain from Castile - Samuel Shellabarger. The classic story of a young Spanish nobleman, Pedro de Vargas, who goes with Cortes to conquer Mexico. Rereading it, Washington Post critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Yardley says in his introduction he "was astonished at how well it has survived. . . . It is accurate, meticulously researched history, and it is a sympathetic, nuanced account of a young man's moral education..." Precisely. Such is also the same of Shellabarger's other books. A prime example of how an excellent piece of fiction can communicate "Truth." (Excerpts are here and here.) Also a favorite, more than this book to be truthful, is Prince of Foxes by this author.

  9. Fr. McBride's Guide to the Bible - Alfred McBride. There are several excellent guides to the Bible, among them "You Can Understand the Bible" by Peter Kreeft and "A Catholic Guide to the Bible" by Father Oscar Lukefahr. I chose this above those because it looks at all the books of the Bible in light of salvation history. An excellent guide to looking at scripture on several levels and keeping the big picture in mind.

  10. Through a Screen Darkly - Jeffrey Overstreet. A masterful work by a noted film critic about bringing a spirit of discernment to the world of film. Overstreet invites us to consider how film as an art form affects one's soul and ultimately can be a work of God, even when it may go against what many define as "Christian." An excellent work that helps us learn discernment in our daily lives toward any sort of story telling.
Honorable Mention

Friday, June 19, 2009

Honor Your Favorite Servant of God by Giving Him a Trip to Rome

The Catholic Company is showing their appreciation for incredible priests in a very tangible way.
We are giving away over $6,000 in prizes, including a trip to Rome to one lucky priest. All you have to do is make a video about an incredible priest in your life, and you could win a $500 shopping spree....and he could be on his way for an 8 day get-a-way in Rome. There are also 20 $100 shopping sprees for the runners up, so there are lots of opportunities to win.

What better way to say thank you to your favorite servant of God?... please pass on the news through your blogs, twitter, and facebook pages. If you are not into doing video, then spread the word around your parish, Knights group, homeschool group, bible study, or any other group at your parish. You could even set up a camera and let everyone in your group record a video to nominate your priest. Only one video per person, but a priest can be nominated many times by different fans.
Just go to Incredible Priests for details or to upload your video.

The Year of the Priest

Pope Benedict XVI has declared a “Year for Priests” beginning with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 19, 2009. The year will conclude in Rome with an international gathering of priests with the Holy Father on June 19, 2010.

With the announcement of this Year for Priests, the Pope has declared St. John Vianney the Universal Patron of Priests on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the CurĂ© d’Ars.
USCCB website where you will find many great resources
including prayer card pdfs with icon
From Pope Benedict XVI's letter to clergy, which I found both touching and inspirational:
I still treasure the memory of the first parish priest at whose side I exercised my ministry as a young priest: he left me an example of unreserved devotion to his pastoral duties, even to meeting death in the act of bringing viaticum to a gravely ill person. I also recall the countless confreres whom I have met and continue to meet, not least in my pastoral visits to different countries: men generously dedicated to the daily exercise of their priestly ministry. Yet the expression of Saint John Mary also makes us think of Christ’s pierced Heart and the crown of thorns which surrounds it. I am also led to think, therefore, of the countless situations of suffering endured by many priests, either because they themselves share in the manifold human experience of pain or because they encounter misunderstanding from the very persons to whom they minister. How can we not also think of all those priests who are offended in their dignity, obstructed in their mission and persecuted, even at times to offering the supreme testimony of their own blood?

There are also, sad to say, situations which can never be sufficiently deplored where the Church herself suffers as a consequence of infidelity on the part of some of her ministers. Then it is the world which finds grounds for scandal and rejection. What is most helpful to the Church in such cases is not only a frank and complete acknowledgment of the weaknesses of her ministers, but also a joyful and renewed realization of the greatness of God’s gift, embodied in the splendid example of generous pastors, religious afire with love for God and for souls, and insightful, patient spiritual guides. ...
It was, perhaps, timely, that this morning after Mass I wound up in conversation with our priest. We conversed upon many subjects but the one foremost in my mind was about a very sad situation and funeral in our parish. It makes one reflect deeply upon the Book of Job. When I think of how many times Fr. L. must help families through situations about which we know nothing, in our protected innocence, then I thank God that he has sent good men among us.

Fr. L. would remind us that he also gets to see many moments of joy and also of people being good to each other which we never witness. That makes me think of the young men who are discerning if this is the path God has for them ... to be shepherds for us, to be there for comfort in bad times, and to celebrate with us in good times.

These things are good to reflect upon and the Year of the Priest that is beginning is a wonderful way to keep them in mind. It will help me to remember to always pray for our priests and for vocations.

Come, Let Us Adore Him

The words to a Christmas song ... in July.

Yet, they speak to a reality that we would do well to consider all the year round. The Real Presence of Jesus is waiting in the church, at Mass, in the tabernacle, and if we are very fortunate Jesus is exposed in the Monstrance for us to come to Him.

All of this presupposes that one understands that Christ's Real Presence means Jesus' body and blood, soul and divinity, are contained completely in the Eucharist. Now, I don't know about you, but if Jesus appeared before me physically, I'd likely fall on my face in worship and adoration, blown away by His Presence. So if we would do it under those circumstances then why wouldn't we do it for his very real presence in the Eucharist?

A very big reason is that poor teaching can leave even our priests not understanding this elemental foundation of our Catholic faith. This is witnessed to by the explanation given at a local church (handily typed up and ready to pass around) about why they do not have Adoration. Think of it. So many people ask about Adoration that they must have a handout ready as to why they deny it. The essence of the handout says these reasons that that particular church does not offer Adoration:
The basic reason is that it takes away from the true meaning of the Eucharist - the eating and drinking of the Lord as a Community during Mass. Adoration takes the Eucharist out of its true context - a dynamic action of the Community, and turns it into a thing, the Body of Christ. All other sacraments are actions; we anoint, we lay on hands, we pour water. The instructions of Jesus are clear - take and eat, take and drink. There is nothing in scriptures that supports adoration. Every mention is in terms of the eating and drinking. As the apostles remarked after encountering the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday .... "We knew him in the breaking of the bread".

Another important factor is that when we practice adoration, we are localizing Jesus. When we focus on the host in the monstrance as the real presence of Jesus, we tend to forget that Jesus is not confined to a host, but is really present in us when we leave the chapel and, most especially, he is present in other people as we encounter them in our daily life.

The historical roots of the practice of adoration are in the breakdown of the Eucharist as covenant meal. Very few were eating and drinking during an extended period of the Church's history. We had to do something with it, so we blessed people with it (benediction), carried it in processions, and prayed in front of it (adoration). But now that we have recovered the meaning of the Eucharist as covenant meal, we should not do anything to take our attention from it.
Now, this is so wrong it just plain hurts.

Before we mention anything else, it begs the question, why can't we do both Adoration and taking Christ into the world? Which would be the obvious and first answer to the overall objection raised above.

Let me toss out there a few things in refutation of the very wrong teachings contained above. I will go with my instinctive reactions, though there will be much more that could be said, I know.

First I must comment about the statement, "There is nothing in scriptures that supports adoration." This would only be true if one does not really believe it is Christ Himself present in the Eucharist. Which is heretical. The doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has been the constant belief of the Church from the time of the Apostles.

We are presented with myriad forms of adoration of Christ throughout the Gospels. I will just mention the most obvious one which would spring to mind for most people. The news of Christ's birth saw angels and shepherds adoring him as he was laid in a manger (from which animals eat grain) in the town of Bethlehem (one translation of the word Bethlehem: city of bread).

If I didn't know better, I'd think Someone was making a point.

I can't resist pointing out here that Jesus is not "active." His presence is enough to inspire worship and adoration for all that He simply is. Period.

Several modern popes point us squarely toward Adoration and do not seem to think it is better left in the past or "takes our attention" away from the true meaning of the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II, who was a great believer in the power of Adoration of the Eucharist spoke about it on numerous occasions. A few excerpts:
"I hope that this form of perpetual adoration, with permanent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, will continue into the future."
International Eucharistic Congress in Seville, Spain June 1993

"Public and private devotion to the Holy Eucharist outside Mass is highly recommended: for the presence of Christ, who is adored by the faithful in the Sacrament, derives from the sacrifice and is directed towards sacramental and spiritual communion."
Inaestimabile Donum, #20, 1980

"The Church and the world have great need of Eucharistic adoration. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and contemplation full of faith. And let us be ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease."
Dominicae Cenae: Letter to Priests, Holy Thursday, 1980

"Closeness to the Eucharistic Christ in silence and contemplation does not distance us from our contemporaries but, on the contrary, makes us open to human joy and distress, broadening our hearts on a global scale. Through adoration the Christian mysteriously contributes to the radical transformation of the world and to the sowing of the gospel. Anyone who prays to the Eucharistic Savior draws the whole world with him and raises it to God."
Letter to the Bishop of Liege, Reported in L'Osserv. Romano, 1996
Finally, as a quick commentary, the 11th General Synod of Bishops called by Pope Benedict XVI was about the Eucharist. You can see the summary document of the meeting (issued by the Vatican) here.

Strikingly, this excerpt speaks directly to the handout's points:

It is widely held that Christ’s presence is a result of the community and not Christ himself, who is the font and centre of our communion and head of his Body, the Church.

Neglect of prayer, contemplation and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery has weakened the sense of the sacred in relation to this great Sacrament.

This situation can lead to compromising the truth of Catholic teaching concerning the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, traditionally called transubstantiation. It can also threaten faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a belief which suffers from ideas which intend to explain the Eucharistic mystery not so much in itself but rather from a subjective point of view, for example, in the use of terms like “trans-finalization” and “trans-signification.”
Specifically pointing out Adoration, the document says:
40. Furthermore, it must not to be forgotten that faith in the Real Presence of the dead and risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament has a culminating point in Eucharistic adoration, a firmly grounded tradition in the Latin Church. Such a practice—rightly highlighted in many Lineamenta responses—should not be presented as something apart from the Eucharistic celebration but as its natural continuation. The responses also indicate that some particular Churches are experiencing a reawakening in Eucharistic adoration, which, in each case, is to be done in a dignified and solemn manner.
There are books that can be written and, of course, have been written on this subject. I am not clever enough to cover every point and, in any case, that would take more time than I have now. However, I did want to give a few basics on this very precious privilege that should be made available to Catholics whenever the possibility exists.

I know that this local church is far from being the only one perpetuating wrong teachings. I pray for the priests and I pray for the parishioners who are being thus denied.

Note: Heather has some very good thoughts about the Eucharist as center and all of our Catholic faith and as the True Presence of Jesus.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life is an Adventure ... Even If You Have to Have a Real Adventure to Realize It

Russell: I remember the boring things better."
Reactions to Pixar's UP fall into two camps. They found it disappointing or boring on some level or really liked it.

Tom and I saw it last night and fell into the latter camp. I am not saying UP is equivalent to Wall-E or The Incredibles but it is an engaging and likable film with a lot of good messages for today.

For those who, like me, have been avoiding any plot points other than those revealed in the trailer, I will keep the synopsis brief. Carl Frederickson is a house-bound widower who wants to honor past dreams by traveling to the wilderness in South America. Russell is a small boy who ascribes to the high goals of being a Senior Wilderness Explorer but has one more badge to get to achieve his goal. Why Carl floats his house with balloons and just how Russell winds up on his porch, I will leave for you to discover. Those who enjoy 1930's style adventure such as that found in serial books or films of the time will readily recognize the impetus that launches Carl and the type of situation our two heroes find themselves immersed in once they land the house. The jungle setting, the heroine in peril, the good hearted native who helps with indepth knowledge of the environment, the mad scientist hidden away from civilization a la Dr. Moreau ... these are all beautifully realized and translated for us in UP.

Underlying the story is a deeper look at modern issues. Is it the small things in life that make it an adventure worth living or must one have a recognizable "Adventure?" Those who are "marginalized by society" are not always those that spring to mind when we hear the phrase. It can also be a very normal old man or little boy whose basic needs are being ignored. Likewise, we see that it is the very sense of community and subsequent responsibility, even when it seems forced upon us, that completes us most and makes us the most free. Some issues are given a shorter shrift but are still there for reflection. For your personal discovery, I merely point to Russell's comment about "wilderness" and the sorts of badges that are being won by the Wilderness Explorers.

Hannah found the movie very sad and, having heard this comment from others, I was braced for something quite tragic. I found no such thing. Not wanting spoilers I will say that what others found sad, I actually found to be inspirational.

For Rose, the movie was ruined by the talking dogs. Keeping in mind the mad scientist/Dr. Moreau-ish theme, this really didn't bother me until a sequence toward the end. Perhaps this is because I found what the dogs were saying to be so authentically the way that we would imagine them thinking. She also found the dog jokes to be repetitive. Perhaps they were. If so, I didn't feel it when watching the movie.

My advice with UP is to come at it with as few preconceptions as possible. If possible, watch it in an audience filled with children, for full impact. And enjoy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Wallet Giveaway ...

A contest to give away a wallet to the person with the best story and photo.

I have really enjoyed seeing the photos and reading the comments of all the entries. The bribery (#22) made me smile. A lot.

However, I will put in a plug for #23 who is a friend of mine and her daddy is a friend of mine too ... no photo but a really great explanation of why he should win the wallet.

The voting is today only in the comments box here. Be sure to put the number of the entry you are voting for.

Virtuality ... Looking Interesting

What to do for an encore after co-creating the much-loved Battlestar Galactica? For Ronald D. Moore, one answer comes in the form of Virtuality, a two-hour movie airing June 26 on Fox.

The show follows 12 crew members of Earth’s first starship, the Phaeton, as they embark on a 10-year journey through space. To pass the time, each earthling gets a customized virtual reality module that lets them participate in the Civil War, hang out at rock concerts or visit pastoral settings — in their heads.

Meanwhile, the quarrelsome crew’s internal feuds are being beamed back to the States on reality TV show The Edge of Never, where viewers watch the dozen astronauts — including Rika (played by Sienna Guillory), Manny (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Val (Gene Farber) pictured above.
Read the whole article at Wired

Let's see ... are the skin-tight suits part of their mission? Or is that just reality TV talkin'?

Here's a clip I found at Ain't It Cool.

I almost made this my midweek joke ...

... but I realize that not everyone would think it is funny.

You have been warned.

Top editorial at the WSJ this morning reports President Obama saying:
"I think the irony … is that I actually would like to see a relatively light touch when it comes to the government," he said Tuesday in a White House interview.
I actually laughed out loud. I think that maybe he thinks if he says it enough everyone will believe it.

The editorial continued ...
It is a counterintuitive case to make when his government is a majority shareholder of General Motors, and when he will propose Wednesday new oversight of big financial institutions, new capital requirements for banks and a new consumer-protection agency for small investors.
Not to mention that gazonga national health care plan he wants to foist on us.

Ok. 'Nuff with the political chat. But that just made me laugh.

Worth a Thousand Words

Dinosaur Eats Pirates
taken by one of the Darwins at Darwin Catholic

Something about this dino's seeming glee and triumph just makes me laugh.

It's All Downhill from Here

For today, a highly amusing bit of pop culture from Japan (sorry Mom, you need to be able to stream video for this ...). Via Elizabeth at A Quiet Corner.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vocations Video from the Archdiocese of Paris

Surprisingly moving...

I happened across it at Roman Catholic Vocations.

Meanwhile, in real life ...

Bookish stuff
The Economist Book of Obituaries: Finished this and it took me a while because it is just over 400 pages of 2-page obituaries, densely packed with fascinating info. Obituaries of the famous and obscure as only the British can write them: dryly witty and with an eye to the seeming contradictions within each person that make us all interesting.

Inferno: no, not Dante's Inferno but Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno. As I've mentioned before, it is Dante "lite" but as the book club agreed last night it is amazingly faithful to the original upon which it was modeled. In fact, one person said it was so outlandishly science fiction-ish that it was hard to read. Turns out, so is Dante's. In fact, many claim that Dante's Inferno is the first science fiction novel. Anyway, it was very thought provoking for us all on many levels, recommended, and is going to lead several people to investigate the real thing, a la John Ciardi's translation (which I, personally, can recommend).

Old Man's War by John Scalzi: An amusing military sci-fi novel based on the idea that when you become 75 you are then eligible to enlist in the Colonial Defense Force. The CDF fights off-planet threats (a.k.a. aliens) to the Earth colonies. How can a 75 year old fight a war? Oh, they've got lots of tricks up their sleeves. Fine enough in its way but nothing that's gonna knock March Upcountry or Basilisk Station off their pedestals as my favorite military sci-fi books. Scalzi is a light and usually interesting read but not very deep. Perfect summer reading actually.

Library Love: No, not a book but a realization that this means I'm down to about one real book that isn't a daily devotional sort of thing. Quelle dommage! Then I checked my library account. Ooooo, look at what will be in for me in a day or so.
  • Who the hell is Pansy O''Hara? : the fascinating stories behind 50 of the world''s best-loved books
  • The sons of heaven by Baker, Kage
  • The uncommon reader by Bennett, Alan
  • Revolutionary Chinese cookbook : recipes from Hunan Province by Dunlop, Fuchsia
  • Kolymsky Heights by Davidson, Lionel
  • Waiter rant : thanks for the tip--confessions of a cynical waiter by Dublanica, Steve
  • Gilead by Robinson, Marilynne (for the book club)
Not that this means I'll love and read all of these. But that is the great thing about the library. I can sample and discover (and discard, if necessary) tons of interesting books that catch my fancy.

Pepper, our old black Lab/Great Dane mix took a turn for the worse last Friday, necessitating a stay at the vet over the weekend on an IV drip. Like a lot of big, old male dogs, his kidneys are acting up some and that causes problems with digestion, appetite, dehydration and more. However, he's back home and acting quite normal, hanging out with the family, looking upon puppy antics with a benevolent twinkle ... unless the puppy encroaches on his personal space, in which case, ferocious growls ensue. Puppy retreats. All are happy. Now, if only 11-month-old Zoe would respond to those growls. She seems to think that the warning means she just isn't being pushy enough!

Daily Mass
Making it back more or less daily now. As before, there aren't those "knocked down" moments of insight but many small things that add up to me staying on track a little bit better than I would have otherwise. Which is what makes me drag myself there (again more or less) when I am not in the mood.

Pretty in Pink ... Ice Cream
Rose suddenly became interested in ice cream recipes and that is nothing but delicious for us. She whipped up a quick little number featuring raspberries, cream, a pinch of salt ... and maybe a bit of milk? I'll have to get that recipe up for everyone. It was simple and the essence of summer on the tongue. Not to mention that glorious, natural, almost-glow-in-the-dark pink!

Is There a Chef in the House? Why, Yes There Is.
Hannah's boyfriend was in the mood to cook this weekend and on Saturday made us smothered steaks, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and fruit with yogurt-lime dip for dessert. Mmmm, that boy is a good cook, I have to say. Not sure which brand of can the biscuits were from but the rest of it was all fresh and made from scratch. The smothered steaks weren't what I usually see recipes for. This was a steak, seasoned and pan-seared, "smothered" with stir fried vegetables (red and green bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms) and grated mozzarella. Delicious. The red potatoes were mashed with sour cream and the skins left on. Again, not what I usually would think of, but delicious.

Yes, We Have No A-C.
In our office. Still. Though the management has those big air-cooling units in everyone's offices. They are supposed to reinstall the main unit tomorrow. After which we will be freezing again. I know. I know. There is no pleasing some people!

Spreading the (Catholic) Love
So, it turns out that the Darwins can't make it to San Antonio for the gathering of the blogging/podcasting/vidcasting Catholics. Luckily for us, Austin is right on the way and we'll be meeting them and Jen from Conversion Diary (for the first time! exciting!) on Sunday morning on the way home for Mass (we did say Catholic gathering, right?) and then lunch.

Rose has decided to go with us. She's got a college pal from San Antonio that she might be able to hang out with. Otherwise ... well ... I'm not sure what she'll be doing. I am sure what she won't be doing (much of, anyway) which is hanging at the Catholic conference. Because we remember our youth also and we've got a heart.

A Treasure Chest of Ancient Wisdom

Praying the Psalms with the Early Christians
Ancient Songs for Modern Hearts
All the books of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, are inspired by God and useful for instruction, as the apostle says (see 2 Timothy 3:16); but to those who really study it, the Psalter yields special treasure. ... for I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man. For no matter what you seek, whether it be repentance and confession, or help in trouble and temptation or under persecution, whether you have been set free from plots and snares or, on the contrary, are sad for any reason, or whether, seeing yourself progressing and your enemy cast down, you want to praise and thank and bless the Lord, each of these things the divine psalms show you how to do, and in every case the words you want are written down for you, and you can say them as your own.
St. Athanasius, Letter to Marcellinus
The Book of Psalms has been the prayer book and hymnal of God's people for three thousand years. Christians came to see the psalms as the prayers of Christ, to Christ, and about Christ. Mike Aquilina and Chris Bailey remind us of this. They also have a plan to help us replace the latest meaningless jingle running around our brains with the psalms.

Thirty-four psalms have been chosen as examples to help us learn how to pray, learn, and understand these ancient prayers anew as Christ's voice speaking to us. As always with these two authors, who I admit are among my favorites, the writing speaks simply and directly to our lives, our faith, and to giving us a tool to improve our relationship with God. They are masters at helping us see how the Church Fathers' wisdom still applies to our modern lives. Combining the Fathers with the psalms is a master stroke toward helping us better understand and use these timeless prayers daily.

My one quibble with this book is that I do not agree that there isn't room to include all the psalms. I tend to believe this is a restriction that was set by the publisher. This book is either the good beginning point for a series of books or a brief volume that should have been larger to contain all the psalms. Yes, it shows us how to begin to examine the psalms better. No, it doesn't suffice for our needs as very few people are going to take the trouble to see how Church Fathers have commented on psalms not included for our use. However, that said, this is an excellent resource and you shouldn't let the lack of all the psalms stop you from getting it.

I am going to begin using this as a morning devotional and as a starting point to begin fulfilling a long-held goal to try to memorize parts of my favorite psalms. I'd describe more about the book but think that you will get the flavor better from seeing how they treat a psalm. Here is an excerpt of this highly recommended book. Enjoy!
Psalm 131

David reminds us that humility—even in a king—is the proper attitude before God.

[For this psalm we use Challoner’s revision of the Douay-Rheims Bible, because St. Hilary’s exposition depends on a slightly different translation from the one found in the Revised Standard Version.]

A gradual canticle of David.
Lord, my heart is not exalted:
nor are my eyes lofty.
Neither have I walked in great matters,
nor in wonderful things above me.
If I was not humbly minded, but exalted my soul:
As a child that is weaned is toward his mother,
so reward in my soul.

Let Israel hope in the Lord,
from henceforth now and for ever.

Words to Remember
Lord, my heart is not exalted:
nor are my eyes lofty.

“Strike a Middle Course”
From this short psalm, St. Hilary of Poitiers, a bishop who came from a noble and wealthy family, spins a lesson in humility. Humility by itself is not enough: though we are humble, we must dare to let our souls reach up to what is most exalted.

“O Lord, my heart is not exalted, neither have my eyes been lifted up.”

This psalm, a short one, teaches us the lesson of humility and meekness. . . . Of course we are bound to bear in mind in how great need our faith stands of humility when we hear the prophet thus speaking of it as equivalent to the performance of the highest works: “O Lord, my heart is not exalted.” For a troubled heart is the noblest sacrifice in the eyes of God. The heart, therefore, must not be lifted up by prosperity, but humbly kept within the bounds of meekness through the fear of God.

“Neither have my eyes been lifted up.” The strict sense of the Greek here conveys a different meaning: “have not been lifted up” from one object to look on another. Yet the eyes must be lifted up in obedience to the prophet’s words: “Lift up your eyes and see who has displayed all these things” (see Isaiah 40:26). And the Lord says in the gospel, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white unto harvest” (see John 4:35). The eyes, then, are to be lifted up: not, however, to transfer their gaze elsewhere, but to remain fixed once for all upon that to which they have been raised.

Then follows: “Neither have I walked amid great things, nor amid wonderful things that are above me.” It is most dangerous to walk amid mean things and not to linger amid wonderful things. God’s utterances are great; he himself is wonderful in the highest: how then can the psalmist pride himself as on a good work for not walking amid great and wonderful things?

It is the addition of the words “that are above me” that shows that the walking is not amid those things which men commonly regard as great and wonderful. For David, prophet and king as he was, once was humble and despised and unworthy to sit at his father’s table; but he found favor with God, he was anointed to be king, he was inspired to prophesy. His kingdom did not make him haughty; he was not moved by hatreds: he loved those that persecuted him, he paid honor to his dead enemies, he spared his incestuous and murderous children. In his capacity of sovereign, he was despised; in that of father he was wounded; in that of prophet he was afflicted; yet he did not call for vengeance as a prophet might, nor exact punishment as a father, nor requite insults as a sovereign. And so he did not walk amid things great and wonderful which were above him.

Let us see what comes next: “If I was not humbly minded but have lifted up my soul.”

What inconsistency on the prophet’s part! He does not lift up his heart: he does lift up his soul. He does not walk amid things great and wonderful that are above him, yet his thoughts are not mean. He is exalted in mind and cast down in heart. He is humble in his own affairs, but he is not humble in his thought.

For his thought reaches to heaven; his soul is lifted up on high. But his heart, out of which proceed, according to the gospel, evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and railings (see Matthew 15:19), is humble, pressed down beneath the gentle yoke of meekness.

We must strike a middle course, then, between humility and exaltation, so that we may be humble in heart but lifted up in soul and thought.

Then he goes on: “Like a weaned child upon his mother’s breast, so will you reward my soul.”

We are told that when Isaac was weaned, Abraham made a feast because, now that he was weaned, he was on the verge of boyhood and was passing beyond milk food. The apostle feeds all that are imperfect in the faith and still babes in the things of God with the milk of knowledge. Thus, to cease to need milk marks the greatest possible advance. Abraham proclaimed by a joyful feast that his son had come to stronger meat, and the apostle refuses bread to the carnal minded and those that are babes in Christ.

And so the prophet prays that God, because he has not lifted up his heart, nor walked amid things great and wonderful that are above him, because he has not been humble minded but did lift up his soul, may reward his soul, lying like a weaned child upon his mother: that is to say, that he may be deemed worthy of the reward of the perfect, heavenly, and living bread, on the grounds that by reason of his works already recorded, he has now passed beyond the stage of milk.

But he does not demand this living bread from heaven for himself alone; he encourages all mankind to hope for it by saying, “Let Israel hope in the Lord, from henceforth and forevermore.” He sets no temporal limit to our hope; he bids our faithful expectation stretch out into infinity. We are to hope forever and ever, winning the hope of future life through the hope of our present life which we have in Christ Jesus our Lord, who is blessed forever and ever. Amen.

—St. Hilary of Poitiers, Homilies on the Psalms

Questions to Think About
  1. Am I ever tempted to look down on anyone else? How would the truth of who I am before God help me to overcome this temptation?

  2. How can I better remember to focus my attention on heaven rather than on earthly glories?

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Exciting, Enthralling and Unusual Thriller

It is not often that I receive a book around 1:00 in the afternoon and finish it by 10:00 the next morning. This thriller was compelling enough to keep me reading at every opportunity so that I did precisely that.

Juan Uriarte, a former priest known for his compassion for the marginalized in third world countries, is on trial in London for terrorist activities. The trial is covered by reporter Kate Ramsay who is worried about her career and decides to cover Uriarte and his work in Africa among AIDs victims.

The story moves from London to Rome, Rome to Africa, Africa to Egypt, and onward. As it does, the cost in suffering and lives that is perceived as the result of practicing the Church's policies is hotly debated. Set during Pope John Paul II's last days and during the uncertain times of the papal enclave that followed his death, we also see the unease of conservative and liberal priests as they wonder where the future of the Catholic Church lies. This is not as forced as it might seem since practically all the characters have had something to do with the Catholic Church at some point in their lives. Practically every hot button issue of modern times in the Church is touched upon. More importantly, it is necessary to the plot that the reader has some understanding of these issues.

Gradually, the seemingly disparate threads are brought together by a terrorist plot involving blackmail, subterfuge, and mass murder. The result is a fast paced book that pulls the reader into a world where terrorists are willing to do anything to support their cause.

Although I personally enjoyed it when theological issues were raised, at one point I had to pause and ask myself if this was limiting the book's appeal to a more general audience. It took only a brief reflection to decide that the answer was "no." Indeed, switch the religion from Catholicism to Islam and I'd have been eager to get such an impartial view of both sides for issues in that faith. Likewise, thinking of the many spy thrillers I've read, up to and including the first ever spy novel The Riddle of the Sands, I realized that authors must always educate the audience with special insider knowledge germane to the plot, ranging from yachting to cold war Berlin to the politics of the Catholic Church.

The book is interesting because it works on several levels. At the surface it is a good spy thriller. On a deeper level it presents arguments for both conservative and liberal Catholic social thinking. Most interestingly, the author presents rounded out characters in these discussions so that there usually is no "good" or "bad" guy, but simply people who all have the best motives in mind and who are trying to act truly on those motives to do good. Of course, not everyone has such pure motivations but then again this is a spy thriller.

On a still deeper level, the reader has plenty of food for thought in the basics of good versus evil, on how easy it is to twist facts to serve one's own purposes without even realizing it, on trusting God versus trying to force events, and much more. At the base, one finds the most basic issue of all for contemplation: when does one move from discernment and a relationship with God as a person to thinking about religion and our own agendas as a goal. One realizes that one of the most likable and successful people in the book is a Secret Service agent who doesn't give a flip about faith. However, by being true to his calling and honestly adhering to the truth as he knows it, he is being more faithful to God's will in a very real sense than someone who has agonized about it for a long time.

The book is not perfect. It is written in present tense which annoyed me every time I picked up the book. Luckily I was soon able to ignore that oddity because the story was so compelling that I would forget about it. However, I happen to agree with Orson Scott Card's assessment of such a quirk when he says (not about this book), "This does nothing but add a needless layer of falseness to the story -- when we want to tell something important and true, we always tell it in past tense. That's how English works..." I sincerely hope that this is not a habit of Read's as I plan on seeking out more of his books.

Another imperfection arose when there was a particular conversation between two characters about halfway through which essentially laid out the raison d'etre for all following actions of the suspect. Although I felt proud to have spotted it, it only took a moment's reflection to realize that I am not really clever enough to spot such things until after all is revealed at the end. At that point I am usually resignedly retracing the storyline to see where I was led down a false trail and where the real clues were subtly dropped. I readily admit that this actually may have been due to my too thorough reading of the book jacket which hints of where the action will lead. Such hints on jackets should be banned. However, I also feel that as we are on "high alert" mentally by that part of the book there is a good chance that the conversation is dropped in with a topic that is offbeat enough to draw the reader's notice unnecessarily. That is not to say that such advance certainty of the overall plot ruined the book for me but it did lead to a lessening of suspense somewhat on that point.

Those are minor quibbles as I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can highly recommend it. Take it to the beach, escape from reality a while with it, or add some excitement to your life. Just don't miss it.

This book was provided through The Catholic Company review program. You may purchase The Death of a Pope at The Catholic Company here. Normally I'd say that other reviews may be read at The Catholic Company, but I'm the first as far as I can see ... so check back to see what other opinions come in. Don't forget that The Catholic Company offers many fine Catholic products so check out their website.

Friday, June 12, 2009

All This For the King

Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles with Jesus
by Father Dave Pivonka, T.O.R.

Father Dave loves being a priest so much that he wanted to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his ordination by doing something big. He decided to hike the Camino — the ancient pilgrim path to the tomb of Saint James the Apostle in Santiago, Spain. It goes through the Pyrenees and takes a month. This was his chance to focus entirely on God. As we see in this book, as happens on such occasions, God paid him back in a measure overflowing with lessons and blessings.

This is a simply written, accessible volume in which Father Dave shares the revelations that God brought him through the simplest things. Even a lost sock could be an opportunity to learn. Along the way, we not only see what such a pilgrimage entails, but Father Dave also reminds us of some of the basic tenets of Catholicism and how to keep a lookout for God’s hand in all we experience, both good and bad. I especially appreciated his reminder that Christ is our king and we serve him. That has rung through my mind since I finished the book.
“All this for the King. All this for the King. All this for the King. ...”

As I was lying in my bed, I recalled what I had written in my journal the night before in my plush hotel. It was about sharing in the sufferings of Christ. I had felt that I was not doing that very well. I had written, “Jesus, I accept whatever comes and pray that I may rejoice in the ways that I may share in your suffering (see 1 Peter 4:13). May I be given the grace to share in your suffering with joy.”

I know, I know, what was I thinking? Father Joe stated that he would like to edit my journal each evening in order to delete unnecessary passages. But this grace really was what I needed.

So there I was lying on my bed praying. I asked God if this really was what he had for me. I then heard him clearly say to me, “Yes.”

Wow. I hadn’t seen that coming. In that moment I had complete confidence that my being sick really was part of what God had for me. He gave me the tremendous grace of acceptance.

The only way I can really explain what was going on was that my experience was holy. I know that may sound crazy, but lying on the bed, sick with a fever, nauseated, with my body aching had become sacred. There was an intense communion with God that I never will forget. It was one of the more profound experiences of my Camino.

I know that accepting suffering is a place where I need greater transformation. So often when I am hurting, I bear it all by myself. This is tragic because it does not have to be that way.

First, I always have the option of uniting my sufferings with those of Christ. To the degree that I am able to do this, my suffering can actually help make my holy. My suffering is not meaningless.

A friend of mine was experiencing great suffering and was somewhat frustrated with God. While praying one day she heard God say, “When are you going to make pain your companion instead of your enemy?” She went on to consider the fact that a companion goes somewhere with you, even accompanies you on a journey. If we allow suffering to be our companion, it will ultimately lead us home to the Father. ...

We can also offer our suffering for others, and there is a tremendous splendor in this. Be it a family member who is sick or has wandered away from God or a coworker in the middle of a divorce, we an offer our pain and suffering for someone. Only in heaven will we fully know the benefit the individual received, but even now we can have peace knowing that our suffering is not in vain.
This review was written as part of The Catholic Company review program. You may buy the book here, find other reviews of Hiking the Camino here and explore more about The Catholic Company at their website.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Daily Reflections

The USCCB has a spot where you can see video reflections on the day's readings.

Various people from all over the country have been chosen to present the reflections. Evidently, a few weeks ago, several priests from our Diocese, including our Bishop, came to our church to tape reflections for the upcoming couple or three months.

If you click on June 23, you can see our priest with his reflection for the day. It's like a mini-homily and I enjoyed it. I've included it below... although I see it rather annoyingly begins playing without waiting for you to click it. (Update ... it annoyed me so much by insisting upon downloading and playing without permission that I figured it was probably driving everyone else nuts and removed it ... click through and play it at the USCCB site.)

Much thanks to Deacon Ken for the heads up on this!

Ain't No Mountain High Enough to Keep Him from the Church

No Price Too High
A Pentecostal Preacher Becomes Catholic
Then I read 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Paul tells his followers to be careful to observe all the paradosis he had delivered to them. And the word paradosis means traditions. Whether written (as in the Bible) or oral.

Well, that knocked Sola Scriptura (the "Bible alone" theology) right out of the water. The Church has never ever adopted the position that the Bible is our only teaching authority. That's why we realize that Martin Luther didn't attempt to reform the Church; he reinterpreted it. He tried to make changes without authority and didn't go back to the beginning, to what was handed down from the apostles.

In the early days of the Church, Christians weren't running around with Bibles in their hands. All that were available were the Old Testament Scriptures and very few of those. Plus, most people couldn't read anyway. The teachings of the Old Testament had already been interpreted by Jesus and the apostles, and those teachings were handed down orally. The Christian faith was handed down through the traditions of the Church. This only made sense.


By the end of 1998, I had come to understand that the Catholic Church was, indeed, the Church of Jesus Christ. The traditions of the Church were authentic. This was how the Church had evolved, not the way we thought it had evolved. I decided we needed to identify with the Church, but I thought we could do that without becoming a part of the Catholic Church. I wanted to replicate it. I wanted to become like them, not be them. Heck, I didn't want to just throw my church away! Although this was authentic Christian worship, I decided I didn't need to be Catholic in order to worship that way.
All minister Alex Jones wanted to do was to take his Pentecostal flock closer to the authentic roots of Christianity, back to the time when Jesus walked among us. He turned to the Church Fathers’ writing and found himself being inexorably led to the Roman Catholic Church. Time after time he would admit that the Catholic Church got it right and see how he could adapt his own church’s services to serve the new truth he’d discovered. Eventually, he wound up converting, as did his wife, and 55 others of his congregation.

This is an impressive story that takes us inside the Pentecostal movement as we learn Jones’ history. I particularly enjoyed the story as he began researching Church history and was led to realize that conversion was inevitable if he was going to follow God’s will. We also hear what Jones’ wife, Donna, was going through during this time as she was an intelligent, faithful Christian who was anything but ready to become Catholic. In telling his story, Jones also speaks for other Catholic converts, including me, when he says:
I wanted to know why he would call me to his Church so late in life. Why? Why did this happen to me now? Why didn't I see the truth of the Catholic Church when I was in my twenties or thirties? I could have given my entire life to it. And why was I able to see this truth when other Protestant ministers, far more intelligent, far more gifted, far more educated, and far more holy than I am, didn't see it? How had I stumbled upon this -- a man who is very ordinary in every sense of the word? It was so plain to me -- as though it had just peeled back and was revealed to me. I saw the truth so clearly. Why couldn't these intelligent, gifted Protestant pastors see this?


I began to see the breadth and the dimension of those who are converts and those coming into the Church. I began to meet those -- hundreds of them -- who had come into the Church pretty much the same way I did. I began to realize that my conversion was not unique. It was a typical conversion, maybe a bit more public, but it was a typical conversion.

People become Catholic because they have discovered the authenticity of the Catholic faith, generally through three different avenues: they recognize the authority of the Church; they have discovered the Blessed Mother; or they have studied the Church Fathers. The more I traveled, the more people I met, the more I began to realize that God is at work renewing his Church. He is stirring the cradle Catholics, and he is bringing in converts who have a relationship with him, a profound love of God, to build up the faith of the Church, to strengthen it.
Most enjoyable and highly recommended.

Phones are back on ... for a little while anyway ...

We've had a loooong string of thunderstorms booming through here since last night. Power is off in various neighborhoods all over the place. At work, the phone has been down until now so I am hastening to post this notice.

Hopefully, they'll stay up and I can get a few things stirring around here!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What do you say to someone whose salt has lost it's savor?

I had been doing a fair amount of musing about being the salt of the earth, lukewarmness, and making sure that my "yes" really means "yes" which came up in the readings the other day.

Not to mention, mulling over that whole idea about how to quickly get to the essence of an explanation of my faith.

I did not do a very good job the other day when I was asked, "What the heck is Pentecost?" by a blog reader who isn't Christian and had seen it mentioned repeatedly here as of late. Some of that, admittedly was due to the fact that the idea of God's spirit "coming upon" someone doesn't make any sense to someone who doesn't believe in God in the first place. At any rate, moving on ...

Lo and behold, I wound up hearing a tale from a friend yesterday which exemplified the reason we always need to be prepared. My friend was in a conversation with an old pal that suddenly morphed beyond a casual chat into a serious discussion of Old Pal's falling away from Catholicism into a view of God as "watchmaker" and a sincere admiration of nihilism.

At one point it dawned upon my friend that Old Pal is using the Church purely as a social club. Old Pal still attends Mass regularly, is a lector and ...
Friend: Do you still take communion?

Old Pal: Sure.

Friend: Even though you don't believe it is the real presence of Jesus?

Old Pal: Yep.

Friend: That's an insult to me and every Catholic who believes in the real presence!
I was in awe of my friend. This person is soft spoken and, although perfectly willing to answer questions, does not go around parading faith other than living it. My friend says it was an instinctive reaction, especially as there was a true effort made from the beginning to avoid confrontation about religion. That instinctive reaction is one that I probably would have quailed at expressing so forcefully. Would that I have such a definite, instinctive expression of my faith when someone else shows complete disrespect.

But wait, it gets more interesting. The conversation continued and soon was running along these lines.
Friend: If you don't believe what the Church believes then go find a church where you can believe.

Old Pal: There's no point. No church has the whole truth. Every single one is wrong about something.

Friend: I believe everything that the Catholic Church teaches is true.


Old Pal: Even the social teachings?

Friend: Yes. Everything. I believe all the teachings are true.

[pause ... which grows into silence]
These are simple truths but which among us ever states them to anyone so simply?

Notice the fact that these are put forward as statements, not as attacks.

A mutual friend of these two had come upon them in conversation about halfway through and silently listened. This newcomer was Catholic but became theist in her beliefs and left the Church. Newcomer later went up to my friend and murmured that Old Pal was wrong ... that if you don't believe then you should leave. Which, as we all should know, is exactly what St. Thomas Aquinas said also.

Not only did my friend love Old Pal enough to tell the truth, but Newcomer got a full dose of an authentic Catholic witness as well.

It is fairly obvious that my friend's old pal is in serious denial and also not thinking clearly by practically any definition. I pray for Old Pal.

Once again, I think about the questions I was turning over about being the salt of the earth.
Are we really living our faith? Offering a witness that flows from real love and relationship with God? Jesus did it through personal witness. The first Christians followed his example. They couldn't even vote but they showed their true love with their unflinching actions in daily life. They changed the world.
My friend has this quality. I hope that I do too, that we all do.
Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the evil one.
Matt. 5:37
Always be prepared to give an explanation to he who asks for a reason for your hope, yet do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.
Peter 3:15-17
The only honest reason to be a Christian is because you believe in Christ's claim to be God incarnate. The only honest reason to be a Catholic is because you believe the Church's claim to be the divinely authorized Body of this Christ.
Peter Kreeft, Catholic Christianity

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Welcome home, Father Jeffrey Steele and family!

What I became aware of was that it was almost impossible to say 'the Church teaching is' within the Anglican church because there are so many various opinions on matters of sacraments, liturgy, morality, scripture etc. What I did not want to experience anymore was proclaiming the teaching of the Church only to end up defending myself rather than the Anglican church defending me. This has become an ever-increasing impossibility that is no secret to the entire Anglican world. My preaching would always be seen as a matter of personal opinion rather than having the authority of the Magisterium that backs up what I teach publicly. Of course there is dissent in the Catholic Church but it is always that, dissent towards what Mother Church proclaims as authoritatively true. It is the truth of Mother Church that I embrace as my own deep personal faith.
A wonderful post by Anglican priest Jeffrey Steele who is converting to Roman Catholicism with his wife and their six children. I've been reading about this at Father Dwight Longenecker's blog, who is full of fellow feeling as he, too, converted from Anglicanism.

Do go and bid the Steeles welcome home and pray for their smooth passage to the Church. Grab hold and keep on swimmin' Steeles ... we're cheering alongside of you!
What I mean is, sometimes crossing the Tiber looks like an easier swim than it really is. I told my Catholic bishop that I sometimes feel like the Tiber has stretched as wide as the Atlantic and I've been cast into the middle and told to swim. He said, 'yes, Jeffrey but there are devices out there to keep you above water, grab onto them and do not fear.'

Have you been to the mountaintop? And can anyone tell?

Last week in scripture study, our priest pointed out that whenever Jesus is proclaiming the kingdom, Matthew has him on a mountain or on the plains at the bottom of a mountain. Part of this is Matthew pointing out to his Jewish audience that Moses prefigured Jesus. However, part of it is a greater symbolic message to all of us. God is on the mountain (where Moses met Him). Jesus descends to meet us and we must ascend to meet Him. Now whether Jesus has to come all the way to the plains to help us along ... well, what goes to the confessional, stays in the confessional, right?

I was thinking about this when I read the commentary this morning on today's Mass readings where Jesus says we are the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13). Then, disturbingly, he goes on to talk about salt that has lost its savor. I will let the commentary take it from there:
The first Christians were true salt of the earth, and they preserved people and institutions -- the whole of society -- from corruption. What can it be that has happened in so many nations? Why is it that Christians should now be giving the sad impression that they are unable to slow down and halt that wave of corruption that is bursting in on the family, no schools and on institutions ...? The Faith is still the same. And Christ lives among us now just as He did previously. His power is still infinite -- divine. Only the lukewarmness of so many thousands, indeed millions, of Christians, explains how we can offer to the world the spectacle of a Christianity that allows all kinds of heresies and stupidities to be propounded within itself. Lukewarmness destroys the strength and endurance of the Faith, and is the soulmate, in both a personal and a collective way, of compromise and of a spirit of comfort-seeking. (P. Rodriguez, Faith and Life of faith) It is difficult to explain many of the things that happen nowadays at a personal and at a public level, if we do not bear in mind that so many people should be awake, watchful and attentive have allowed their Faith to fall asleep; love has been snuffed out in so very many hearts. In many spheres, the "normal Christian" now generally means someone who is lukewarm and mediocre. Among the first Christians the "normal Christian" meant one who lived the heroism of each day, and when the occasion presented itself, accepted martyrdom itself: it could and did mean very often the surrender of one's very life in defense of the Faith. ...

Let us fervently ask God for the strength to react. We will be the true salt of the earth if we keep up our daily conversation with God and if we go with ever-greater faith and love to receive the Holy Eucharist. Love was, and is, the moving force in the life of the saints. It is the whole raison d'etre [reason for being] of every life dedicated to God. Love gives us wings with which to soar over any personal barriers to our advance, or any obstacles presented to us by our surroundings. Love makes us unyielding when confronted by setbacks. Lukewarmness gives up at the slightest difficulty (a letter we should write, a telephone call we should make, a visit, a conversation, the lack of some material means ...). It makes mountains out of molehills. Love for God, on the other hand, makes a molehill out of a mountain; it transforms the soul, gives it new lights and opens up new horizons for it; it makes the soul capable of achieving its highest desires and gives it capacities it had never as much as dreamed of possessing. Love does not make a fuss about the effort involved, and fills the soul with happiness as it surveys the results of its efforts.
In Conversation with God
Daily Meditations Volume Three: Ordinary Time: Weeks 1-12
by Francis Fernandez
Are we really living our faith? Offering a witness that flows from real love and relationship with God? Jesus did it through personal witness. The first Christians followed his example. They couldn't even vote but they showed their true love with their unflinching actions in daily life. They changed the world.

I pray that I, that we, all may be doing the same.