Sunday, October 31, 2010

Because of Zacchaeus

Today's Gospel reading about how a reviled tax collector changed his heart when confronted with the presence of Christ is one of the stories about our Lord's time on earth that I love.

You see, one of the central themes of Christianity is that the values of this world are not the ones that matter. God has an entirely more merciful view of our lives than we humans often do.

Friday, October 29, 2010

For Fridays - Not!

In addition to teaching five classes a day, most public school teachers have duty periods. Some teachers monitor the cafeteria; others are asked to sign in tardy students. My duty is to guard a side entrance of the school during eighth period, the last of the day.

Friday afternoons, the mood in the high school visibly changes. Both students and teachers have more pep in their steps. Students, many of whom have felt cooped up all week in the high school, smile more. Teachers do too.

For All the Saints: The Martyrs of Douai College

-Feast of the Blessed Martyrs of Douai College
It's dangerous business being a Catholic. Dangerous, that is, if your idea of being thought well of is to be looked on with favor by such worldly paragons as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. If by becoming a Catholic you hope to curry favor with the world, here is a little news flash: that ain't a gonna happen. It never has, and never will. And in the end, it may cost you your life.

It is the Feast of the Blessed Martyrs of Douai College, and as All Hallows Eve rapidly approaches, what better way to celebrate then to read of some of the bravest souls ever to march in our ranks? Here is the snippet that the editors at Universalis give us,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rerum Creator optime (A Few Words For Wednesday)

From todays Office of Readings, this hymn attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great. I also found a little more information about this particular hymn at Thesaurus Precum Latinarum, a neat little website that you may want to bookmark. There, Michael Martin writes,

This traditional Matins hymn is used in the Liturgia Horarum for the Office of the Readings for Wednesdays of the 1st and 3rd weeks of the Psalter during Ordinary Time. Likewise it is found as the Matins hymn for Wednesdays in the Roman Breviary.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Because Blaise Pascal Tells it Like It Is

A friend of mine, who knows of my affinity for Blaise Pascal, sent me a link to an essay written by Peter Kreeft. It is very well written and from the foreword of Kreeft's book about Blaise entitled Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal's "Pensees."

The essay is quite good, and Kreeft argues that for the modern age, Blaise is one of the best Catholic apologists going. Below is a short chapter, an essay really, on the real you and me by Blaise himself. OK, maybe it's not the real you, but when I was reading the Pensées, I knew Blaise had me down cold. It was like hearing the tune Killing Me Softly, sung by Roberta Flack.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thanks to Steve Miller (Music for Mondays)

My wife and I recently celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. We both had this in common when we met: a love for the music of Steve Miller. So what follows are some of Steve's all-time greatest hits. My wife and I enjoy them and I bet you will too.

All of these are live performances and most are from a show Steve played in Chicago. Is Steve a Catholic? I have no idea. But I know "feel good," and loving music when I hear it. This is what Steve excels at. And sometimes I can hear Catholic social teaching here too, loud and clear. First up, some biographical information.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

For Thoughts Like This on a Sunday

Humanity is one in spite of the national boundaries and underneath the differences of color. The differences between races are skin-deep, but the unity of mankind lies in the innermost heart of hearts. -- John C.H. Wu, Beyond East and West

Friday, October 22, 2010

For All the Saints: Philip of Heraclea & Companions

There are many saints on the calendar for today, but I'd like to share with you this story about St. Philip, the Bishop of Heraclea, and his two companions, the priest Severus, and the good deacon Hermes (named after the Roman god of fleet feet).

People are still being martyred in the present day. Physically, believe it or not in many parts of the world, and mentally elsewhere. Prepare for it because it is likely to happen to you, and maybe it already has, in some way, shape or form.

The following account is from the work of another saint, Alphonsus de Liguori's Victories of the Martyr's. Does St. Al's name sound familiar to you? It should because I shared something else he wrote right before I went on vacation this past summer.

To Do My Duty

Duty, Honor, Country is the motto of the United States Military Academy. Honor, Courage, Commitment is a modern motto of the United States Marine Corps. The Marines official, and long standing motto of Semper Fidelis, means Always Faithful.

There are more poll results out showing that Catholics are really disgruntled with the Church. Again, as a recent convert, I'm struck by the disconnect between the average lay Catholic's opinions and the stark reality of being a Catholic Christian in the modern world.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

For Solid Food Like This (Hold the Milk)

Once I met up with Thomas Merton, it didn't take long for him to introduce me to St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Not exactly the founder of the Cistercian Order, as that distinction belongs to the trio of monks Robert of Molesme, Alberic, and Stephen Harding, all in the Communion of Saints now too, he nonetheless grew the Cistercian Order into a powerhouse of prayer.

Bernard, a Doctor of the Church, was indefatigable in his allegiance to Christ and to the Catholic Church. He was a contemplative, but was constantly being called into action, attending Church councils, while providing counsel to monarchs, and even preaching the Second Crusade. Repairing schisms and matching wits with Peter Abelard (and others constantly), it's a miracle he had time for prayer, or anything else for that matter.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Morality (A Few Words for Wednesday)

A poem by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888).  Not a Catholic, Arnold hung out with John Keble and others from the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church.  You may recall that many in that movement eventually converted to Catholicism, such as Blessed John Henry Newman and Frederick Faber.  Arnold even heard some of Blessed JHN's sermons, before JHN swam the Tiber.

As for me, I stumbled upon this poem in my favorite book about Ecclesiastes, written by another non-Catholic named Minos Devine.  John Wu once said (prior to his conversion) that as a Protestant,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thanks to Webster Bull and Godspeed!

It seems like a million years ago, but it was only back in February(!) when I wrote these words,

Like the officers I served under in the Marines, some of these priests are going to be exceptional. I have some advice for you. Prepare yourself now for the day they will be re-assigned to another post.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Wonders of Space (Music for Mondays)

Friday evening, the sky was clear and my daughter and I headed over to the university in our town to look at the stars. For her science class, see, extra credit is available and this was one way to take advantage of that opportunity.

The sky was clear, the night air was crisp and the moon was waxing just past half. So my daughter and I jumped in the car and headed to college. Sort of like a father - daughter date night under the stars.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

For All the Saints: Ignatius of Antioch

This post was originally written last year for the Feast of St. Ignatius. Now is a good time for a reprise of this post.

Two years ago I was reading and re-reading a book that brought me to the Catholic Church. As I wrote in my very first post, that book, My Life with the Saints by James Martin, S.J., reminded me of a central insight I first had in the fourth grade: The saints, revered by the Catholic Church and all but ignored by the Protestant churches of my youth, are a powerful witness for Christians today. But we have to pay attention to them.

So it occurred to me while out on a walk today, or what the Carthusians call my spatiamentum—where most of my best crackpot schemes occur—that I could do worse than devote a little time each day to learning more about the saints and, in particular, reflecting, as Fr. Jim does in his book, on how their stories are reflected in my life as a Catholic today.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Because Stuff Doesn't Last

Yesterday, the day after his 11th birthday, our youngest son came to me, saying he needed new shoes. Talk about an understatement. (See photo above) I bought him those sneakers last spring. He said he'd be willing to continue to wear his canvas and rubber Chuck Taylor Hi-Tops if I would please just buy him a new pair.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Because of Opinion Polls (Not!)

—Feast of St. Teresa of Avila  
The latest research numbers are out showing (once again) that the average Catholic in the pews in the United States, is morally sick, spiritually lame, and theologically lazy. How in the hell did I wind up surrounded by such a motley crew? How did I slip into this program? Why would I join this outfit?!

Well, I was called is all I can figure.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ave Maris Stella, A Poem and a Prayer

The poem below was written by a Scot by the name of John Leyden (1775 - 1811). From what I could find, Leyden was a medical doctor by trade and a Christian. He was even a minister, and according to Wikipedia,

Though he completed his divinity course, and in 1798 was licensed to preach from the presbytery of St Andrews, it soon became clear that the pulpit was not his vocation.

But he evidently had a soft spot in his heart for Our Lady as attested to by the following apologetic words of his publisher in the introduction to these verses,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Question: What are the Most Common Misconceptions about Catholicism?

I have not been a very faithful contributor to this blog in recent months. I have blown hot and cold. The fact is, I’ve had other writing assignments, including a big book project I just finished. Now I am writing something else, and I need your help!

This Saturday, I am participating in an interfaith symposium at a nearby college, and I have been asked to wave the Catholic banner. Representatives of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Protestantism will also be there, and each of us is to give a 20-minute talk about the core beliefs of our faith. This will be followed by a 90-minute Q&A free-for-all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

To Pray for Katy Perry and For Our Teenagers

How many generations of parents have worried about their teenagers? I know parents worried Elvis Presley would corrupt their youth. My own teenage tastes ran to Simon and Garfunkel. Nowadays, that seems so tame, but what exactly were Paul Simon and Cecilia doing anyway? Today I got my own jolt of reality on my predawn drive to work as a high-school Special Education teacher.

Salsa y Merengue Cristiano Católico (Music for Mondays)

Hola! The world is a mighty big place. I read recently that Catholics in the United States make up only 6% of the world wide population of Catholics. So for this edition of Music for Mondays (Música Lunes), we're going to venture out into the musical world of our Catholic brothers and sisters from Spain and Latin America.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Because I Need To Be Forgiven and Forgiving

One beautiful aspect of the Catholic Christian faith is that as we age, we begin to experience it from different perspectives and understand why it makes so much sense. Maybe this is the beginning of Wisdom.

This morning, I was blessed with an epiphany during Mass, thanks to my pastor's homily on Jesus' encounter in a village, where he healed 10 lepers. Luke tells us:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Because Christ is With Us When Two or More Gather

Measured one way, the family potluck I organized after the 5 p.m. Mass in my parish tonight was a bit of a bust. We thirteen took up three small tables in the large Parish Hall. Two sets of brothers showed up, along with our 14-year-old son. Three moms came, too. My own husband couldn't make it because our 10-year-old was playing a travel soccer game 30 miles away.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Because I’m Billy Jack (Not Francis of Assisi)

A while back, I wrote a post where I said that I became a Catholic because I discovered that Christ, and His Church, wanted 100% of me. My whole heart, soul, mind and strength. The full-spectrum of Frank, warts and all. I needed to change, but I didn't have to stop being a man.

I'm especially thankful for this, as I don't fit the mold of modern-day milquetoast Christian guy. Namby-pamby, pacifistic, always gentle and kind. The ancients counseled “Know thyself,” and I know this about myself: I'm more like Billy Jack than I am like St. Francis of Assisi.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

To Convert, like Thérèse

I have friends, good Catholic friends, who seem to relish nothing more, especially after a couple of beers or in the case of our men’s group while chomping coffee and donuts, than to bemoan the pitiful state of contemporary culture. You know the litany. A conservative Catholic cultural critique can be merciless. (A liberal Catholic cultural critique is an oxymoron.)

I’m pretty sure now, after nearly three years a Catholic, that all such criticism is worthless.

YIMCatholic Book Club Poll Results

Thanks to the 44 of you who voted for our next Book Club selections! The polls have closed and here are the results:

Flannery O'Conner's Wise Blood led the field with 15 votes. As such, this will be the first book we read to start the YIMCatholic Book Clubs fiscal (biblio?) year. Head to the book store, friends, so we can get started with the discussions, say by October 21st, which will continue for approximately once per week for four weeks.

Thanks for the Faith of Andrea Doria and the Rosary Prayers of Christiandom

—Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary  
When I was a kid, I really enjoyed reading history. Usually, I wasn't reading the history that I was supposed to be reading in the classroom.  I really didn't do that well in school until I served two hitches in the Marines and then decided to get out and go to college. Grade school and high school? Homework, schmomework!

When Christmas loomed in our house though, my mom knew what I was interested in and what presents to get me: military history books. Ships, planes, tanks, armies, navies and air forces were her sure-fire ticket to success for Frank. In one of those books I learned about the Andrea Doria

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For I Was Blind And Could Not See

—Feast of St. Faustina
My youngest son and I went camping with the Cub Scouts last weekend. The weather was spectacular and although the leaves in the forest haven't turned their brilliant Fall colors quite yet, the air was crisp and the sky was cloudless.

On Saturday afternoon, after a morning hike and a lunch of vienna sausages, trail mix, and other camping fare, the boys played organized games in a field next to our campsite. Several of these games included wearing blindfolds. One of them struck me particularly as an analogy for one of the reasons why I am Catholic.

Monday, October 4, 2010

To Listen to Stephen Foster (Music for Monday)

-Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
I’ve written about Pandora Radio before. Through Pandora, an internet service that allows you to create your own radio stations, I learned about Olabelle, now one of my All-Time Favorite Groups.

So, I was listening to an Ollabelle-heavy station on Pandora a few weeks back when I heard the unmistakable sound of Ollabelle singing a song I had never heard, “Gentle Annie,” by Stephen Foster (left). That set me on a hard search for the Ollabelle album containing that song. And there is no such thing.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

To Pray for Tyler Clementi and his Alleged Perpetrators

   -Feast of Saint Mother Théodore Guérin
Tyler Clementi's apparent suicide has become worldwide news. The 18-year-old's body was found in the Hudson River this week, after he jumped off the George Washington Bridge, which is several miles from his northern New Jersey home. The allegation is his Rutgers roomate had recorded the teenager's sexual encounter with a young man and transmitted it on the internet.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

My family lives a stone's throw from the Rutgers campus, where Tyler had begun his studies weeks before. This morning, my parish priest took the unusual step of talking about a topical issue. Generally, he hews closely to the Gospel reading and speaks in general terms about how the words apply to our lives.

Friday, October 1, 2010

For All the Saints: Thérèse of Lisieux

I have been wrestling with the angel named Vocation. In August, my wife and I sold our small publishing business, and just this week I completed all but the proofreading for the biggest writing project I’ve ever tackled. Meanwhile, Katie and both of our daughters are on the first steppingstones of new life paths. For our entire family, the future is an open book. The only thing I know is, I have to work.

Thérèse of Lisieux: the Mind of Lao Tzu, with the Heart of Confucius

—Feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus
Today we celebrate the feast of a Doctor of the Church, the little nun who could, the Little Flower, Thérèse of Lisieux. Responsible for countless conversions to the Faith, she bowled over Thomas Merton, pulled a fast one on Webster Bull, and sank, for all intents and purposes, John C.H. Wu's battleship, with a direct hit amidships.

Do you have friends that left the Church to follow the lights of Eastern Spirituality? Introduce them to the Little Flower. John was so impressed with her Story of a Soul, that he immediately resolved to become a Catholic as soon as possible.