Saturday, January 2, 2010

Because of the Good News XI

Posted by Webster 
In his homily for New Year’s Day, the octave day of Christmas, Father Barnes said there is so much joy in Christmas that the Church calendar cannot contain it all in a single day. I’m not sure the same could be said of the Catholic blogosphere in the past week. There was less posting than usual. Many took vacations. But here are some pickin’s from the Good News pile.

I have written many times that I am a big fan of Pat McNamara’s blog about Catholic history. But I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I am also a big fan of Ulysses S. Grant (left), without question the greatest field general in American history. (OK, Frank—If Grant wasn’t the greatest, who was?) Grant was a failure before the Civil War and a terrible failure as a President and investor after the war. But put him in charge of an army and he just plain won. So I was fascinated to read Pat McNamara’s report on Grant’s West Point roommate, Fr. George Deshon, CSP. The Catholic connection doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always suspected that Grant was a deeply spiritual man who, like Lincoln, didn’t wear his religious thoughts on his sleeve.

I am also partial to all things Minnesota, so I was particularly touched by this photo album from Margaret of Minnesota showing the progression of her pregnancy and childbirth, beginning with one of those fuzzy ultrasounds and ending with several cute mug shots.

The thing about Margaret’s pics, of course, is that they show, with smiles, the continuity of life from womb to highchair (above). You may be in tears when you read Jan Collins’s story about the evolution of her views on abortion. (Jan’s blog is “Runs With Angels.”)

After writing a piece about the Church’s position on abortion himself this week, Frank came across this story on the advances being made by pro-life forces South of the Border. Now, that’s Good News!

And if you ever worry that the Church’s position, on abortion or any other issue, is going to make you less than popular or admired in the circles you frequent, just print out this quotation from Bishop Fulton Sheen, found this week at The Deacon’s Bench.

That, or read Msgr. George Pope’s piece about the Church as a sign of contradiction.You’ll find encouraging thoughts like this one:

That the world hates us is not necessarily due to the fact that we have done anything wrong. It is often a sign that we have done something precisely right for it is often our lot, as the Body of Christ, to be a “sign of contradiction.” That is to say that we must announce the Gospel to a world that is often and in increasing measure, stridently opposed to it.

A few Good News stories this week had Boston-area angles. Boston College has sent many football players to the NFL, including Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Mark Herzlich (left) was set to be the next BC star to make the jump—until he contracted a rare, malignant bone cancer last spring. But as this story from ESPN, relayed by New Advent, reported, Herzlich’s cancer is in remission, in part through the prayers and letters of a 75-year-old Indiana nun who had never met him. It’s an inspiring story of faith.

Meanwhile, readers in my own town of Beverly and those south of Boston in Providence could bust their buttons over this list of the “Five most positive developments in 2009.” Development #1, top of the list, was “American bishops find their public voice.” And who were those bishops? In Providence, of course, we had Bishop Thomas Tobin calling Congressman Patrick Kennedy to “conversion and repentance.” But what was the Beverly connection?

From 1957 to 1965, when my Katie was a child, a charismatic and very handsome young priest was an associate pastor at our church, St. Mary Star of the Sea. In 2009, that young priest was the outgoing Bishop of South Bend, Indiana, John M. D’Arcy (left), who was the first and loudest voice in the Church calling out Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to address its graduating class. (Eventually, seventy bishops joined the still-dashing man Katie remembers as “Father D’Arcy.”)

Boston’s cardinal archbishop, Seán O’Malley, has a fine weekly blog, and the entries for the past week, dated December 31, documented the Franciscan’s service to the poor during the Christmas season.

As the member of a superb, though largely amateur choir, I am partial to talented amateur artists who use their talents to praise God. How could I not love this YouTube clip from Singapore, of a parish orchestra playing “God We Praise You”—especially when the parish is dedicated as mine is in Beverly, to Our Lady Star of the Sea? (Thanks to “Whispers in the Loggia.”)

In the Further Smiles Dept., who but Randy Beeler of The Catholic Comedy could (or would) find a meaningful connection between sauerkraut and the Virgin Mary? Then again, I compared the Blessed Mother to Olive Oyl (left)—and I have yet to receive a reprimand from the Vatican.

Of course, the best news of the past week or so was the birth of Our Lord, which we Catholics celebrate for a whole “octave” of days because, as Father Barnes said, our joy is too great for one day to contain. We celebrate this birth in so many ways, including a perpetual fascination with Nativity scenes. I have written in the past about one collector of these. But, as the Crescat demonstrated this week, even this lovely tradition can be carried too far.

I’ll close with thanks and congratulations. The thanks are to Julie Davis at Happy Catholic, who kindly cited YIM Catholic as one of her discoveries of 2009. Praise from a leading Catholic blogger is Good News to Frank and me. Thanks, Julie!

The congratulations are to Brother Stephen, O. Cist., who documented his Simple Profession in his own blog, Sub Tuum, this week. There are many other men and women religious who document their monastic experience on line, and I discover new ones every week, but after my retreat at a Trappist monastery in November, I find this faithful account of life among the Cistercians especially warm reading.