Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For the Love of Saint Andrew: A Christmas Novena

Today both the Western and Eastern churches observe the Feast of St. Andrew, which commemorates the martyrdom of this Jewish fisherman.  In Scotland, where Saint Andrew is the patron saint, this is their national day. Saint Andrew was Saint Peter's younger brother and the first of Christ's apostles.

Saint Andrew's name, which is of Greek origin, means "manhood." How fitting that St. Andrew's Christmas Novena begins today and ends Christmas Eve. Normally a novena is prayed over a period of time nine days long.  But the term is also used for any prayer that is repeated over a series of days as well. That is the case for this traditional prayer.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Meet the Beatles! (Music for Mondays)

I'm not even going to try and squeeze all of the good out of the Beatles in this post. It simply can't be done. It's not even remotely possible. Sure, maybe Rolling Stone magazine (or these guys) could come up with the definitive Beatles play list, but why would you believe it? I mean, on what authority?

I'm just glad the Vatican gave them the big thumbs up sign! So forget all about picking the "best Beatles songs of all time" and let's just enjoy a selection of some of my favorites here. To top it off, I'll even include a few of my own thoughts, that granted, are completely, 100% guaranteed, private interpretations of their lyrics.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Because I Never Saw This Coming

Last Thanksgiving, let's see...yes that was on November 26, 2009,— I received an e-mail from Webster Bull asking me if I would consider sharing my conversion story with the readers of this blog.

I had been pointed towards YIMCatholic from either Patrick McNamara's blog, or Deacon Greg Kandra's blog (I don't really remember which one), and I enjoyed what I had found here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

For Thoughts Such As These For Advent

Before I became a Catholic, I had no idea what Advent meant. It was just another one of those weird, mysterious, Catholic words for a time in the year before Christmas. Nowadays, I appreciate it more for I understand that it commemorates the time when the people of Israel yearned for the Messiah.

I yearn for Him too. Especially this time of year when Madison Avenue kicks the Christmas shopping season into high gear. And when the radio stations start the post-Thanksgiving "Holiday music" songs playing 24/7 prior to Christmas. And the television hits us non-stop with must-have gift ideas.

Because "One Will Be Taken and One Left"

First Sunday of Advent 
Tonight, as darkness fell outside, I sat beside my husband of 17 years at the Vigil Mass for the First Sunday of Advent. Before Mass began, I thumbed through the readings. I usually do this. Sunday's Gospel reading from Matthew shook me up because it brought back a difficult chapter of my family's life. Christ, speaking to his disciples on the Mount of Olives, tells us: "Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into."

Because of the Spirit of the Season

Writer Julie Cragon runs the Saint Mary's Bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee. She shares with us this reflection from her blog.

Guest Post by Julie Cragon
Sister Sally, a Daughter of Charity, came by the store the day before Thanksgiving and was jumping out of her skin to tell us a story about the "Spirit of the Season."

She came to the register at the bookstore and I immediately tried to help and screwed up her order for 10 minutes. Finally we got on the same page that she was trying to get a purple globe with five insert candles for her Sanctuary lamp during the Advent Season. I thought she was going for three purple and a pink for a wreath. Oops. Anyway, helped her out a little on the price because she had mentioned knowing it would "cost her" but they have an electric lamp and she just wanted the "real thing" during such a special season. I thing she'd always prefer the "real thing" and I agree. So she smiled and thanked me and said how much she loved the "Spirit of the Season."

Friday, November 26, 2010

To Make My Christmas Shopping Reflect a Revolution of the Heart

As Christians prepare for the First Sunday of Advent, we also are heading into the Christmas shopping season. It's important we consider where our dollars are going. My friend Judy and I had the opportunity the other night to attend a Fair Trade Christmas Sale sponsored by the Diocese of Metuchen. The diocese didn't charge a dime to the fledgling entrepreneurs from the Intersect Fund who had set up tables at the fair. Judy and I were both delighted to buy handmade bracelets created by Zakiyia Forbes, (pictured here) the homeschooling mother of two young children. Buying local and supporting fair trade are trendy ideas. And these ideas also have a long, noble history in the Church.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks to Rod Serling's Twilight Zone

Tonight, after a scrumptious Thanksgiving meal my husband and our 14-year-old son prepared, we popped in a DVD of Twilight Zone's first season in 1959. For those of you too young to remember, Rod Serling hosted and narrated this Emmy-award winning TV show, which ran for five seasons. Both my husband and I were born too late to watch the original shows, but we fondly remember watching the Saturday night reruns on New York's WPIX as teenagers, and are enjoying sharing these episodes with our sons.

We watched an episode called "Escape Clause" about a Walter Bedeker, an embittered hypochondriac who sells his soul to Cadwallader, a.k.a. the Devil, in exchange for immortality. Here is the scene where the man encounters the Devil.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"A Thanksgiving" (A Few Words for Wednesday)

A Thanksgiving by Blessed John Henry Newman

"Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me."

Lord, in this dust thy sovereign voice
First quickened love divine;
I am all thine,—thy care and choice,
My very praise is thine.

Thanks For A Thanksgiving Lesson By A Redemptorist Father

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I really do not know much about many things. Even things that I have taken for granted my whole life. Like, would you believe the Thanksgiving Holiday even?

Last year, Webster served up President George Washington's prayer of Thanksgiving, dated November 1789. This year, I'll share with you a little history lesson on this All-American holiday that I was ignorant of.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

For All The Saints: Clement I

Feast of Pope St. Clement I
Today is the feast day of the third (or fourth?) pope of The Church. Clement left one of the first patristric writings when he wrote letters from his office in Rome to the church in Corinth. But what else is known about him?

The first source I saw, from the good folks over at Universalis, said that nothing certain is known of his life. Looking for a little bit more than the terse paragraph they had on him, I turned to the handy YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanks to Father Antonio Vivaldi, "the Red Priest"

Around this time of the year, my appreciation for classical music rises to the surface. I don't know if it is because of the change of seasons, or whether it is the "fall back" move on our clocks. Perhaps it's because the days are getting shorter and the nights longer now that "daylight savings time" is over.

I'm a simple man, and I would be quickly found a liar if I tried to buffalo you with the idea that I am a man who is a well-educated, and throughly cultured, connoisseur of classical music. No. I'm a poor hick who only knows what he likes. And I've always liked Vivaldi and his Four Seasons. I do know that his music came before Bach, Handel, and Beethoven, and that is about it.

But here is what prompted this post: yesterday morning, while preparing to head to Mass, I heard a snippet of a program on NPR where the announcer mentioned that Vivaldi had been "in the clergy."

To Pray the Rosary for Persecuted Christians in Iraq

Join Catholics worldwide on Tuesday, Nov. 23 as we pray the Rosary for the persecuted Christians in Iraq. This is yet another effort to strengthen our Iraqi brothers and sisters in Christ. My friend Dan told me about this proposal and referred me to a website promoting it.

How fitting these prayers will happen Tuesday, when we pray the Sorrowful Mysteries. Christians have been praying the Rosary for 800 years. They are powerful prayers.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Because of the King on the Cross

Today Catholic worshipers across the globe are commemorating the Solemnity of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI established this feast day in 1925 in the wake of what was supposed to be the "war to end all wars" as a way to combat secularism. We need this feast day now, more than ever.We end the liturgical year meditating on a King who died without a Kingdom in this world, a King assassinated by political authorities who found his message of love and redemption deeply threatening.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Because the "Father of Empiricism" Believed in God

Remember my affection for the Harvard Classics, the Five Foot Shelf of Books? Admittedly, I haven't looked them over much since I became a Catholic. Not because I've outgrown them, but because there have been far too many other books to occupy my time since the spring of 2008. Mostly stuff from authors whose names begin with "S",  as St. Philip Neri suggested when he counseled that reading the works of the saints is profitable.

Because the Church Helps Us Discern a Solution to the Immigration Question

Guest Post by James P. McCollum Jr.

Mr. McCollum is a Houston lawyer who mostly practices immigration law. He is a graduate of The University of Texas Law School and a graduate of Duke University. I grew up with him in suburban New York, where we called him "Jimmy." In recent months, we have reconnected in cyberspace and it has been wonderful to share thoughts about our  faith. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that prudence is the "charioteer" of the four "cardinal" virtues. Prudence is the virtue that enables a person to discern true good and the right way to achieve the true good.

Friday, November 19, 2010

For "Flannery O'Connor Nite" at the Movies

As I was reading Flannery O'Connor's first novel Wise Blood, I couldn't help thinking that this was almost tailor made for adaptation to the screen by the Coen Brothers. Then I found out that iconic film director John Huston had made the film version of Wise Blood in 1979.

Check out this cast: Brad Dourif plays "our hero" Hazel Motes, Harry Dean Stanton(!) plays the "blind" preacher Asa Hawks, Ned Beatty(!) plays Hazel's would-be partner Hoover Shoates, and Dan Shor plays the would-be sidekick Enoch Emory.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

To Send Supplies to the Christians in Iraq

Sending letters to the Nuncio was a great idea to let our embattled brothers and sisters in Iraq know we care. And with a little help from our friends (like the Anchoress and Father Robert Barron and many other bloggers—thanks!), the letter post  "read 'round the world" was shared by 384 people on Facebook and resulted in 2400+ people reading the post. We're not sure how many e-mails the Nuncio received, but we will let you know what we find out.

But many asked us about how to send relief in the form of food and supplies. Sending donations that can be turned into food, clothing, and shelter is an idea that many of us would like to put into action now.

For Thoughts Like These On Martyrdom By Archbishop Sheen

Martyrdom has been on our minds here at YIMCatholic lately. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote that "death is the affirmation of the purpose of life in an otherwise meaningless existence."

Our Lord led by example, was killed, and buried, by the well meaning and peace-keeping Proconsul named Pilate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Because the Saints Are Alive

Back in November of 2007, it never would have crossed my mind that I would stand in front of my parishes RCIA group giving a talk on the Communion of Saints. And yet three years later that is exactly where I found myself.

A few weeks ago I asked our readers here for pointers on what I should cover. Then, I put together a killer slide show and even planned to show a clip (or two) from the movie The Reluctant Saint.

For the Sacraments (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I just ran across these thoughts by Reverend Jesse Brett over at my favorite electronic library. Though on Wednesday ordinarily I try to feature a poem, after reading these few paragraphs on the Sacraments, I realized that I should share them with you.

Brett is a bit of a mystery too, though I found out that he was the chaplain at All Saints Hospital in Eastbourne in the U.K. (in the 1920's), I haven't been able to uncover anymore information about him. I'll keep digging.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Just Met Nickleback (Music for Mondays)

Feast of St. Albert the Great 
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Bass, and Drums.  This is the Golden Mean ratio of Rock 'n Roll, folks. It is like π, a constant that is both routine and mysterious.

Proven, like the four man fire-team of a Marine rifle squad. Robust, like the Ford V-8 engines, big-block or small, that spanked the whiz-bang V-12 Ferrari's (large and small) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans four consecutive times (1966-1969).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Because My Pope Loves Libraries!

Libraries have always been one of my favorite places on earth. Just ask anyone who knows me. I'm especially fond of public libraries. But  private ones are nice too.

Pope Benedict XVI is a gifted writer so it probably comes as no surprise that he loves books and libraries as well. But I still love it when my Pope says that "we are keeping the library!"

To Dedicate this Song to the Memory of the Martyrs of Baghdad

I remember listening to America's Top Forty with Casey Kasum while I was growing up, do you? While I was fooling around at You Tube preparing for the MfM music post, I replayed the beautiful Hail Mary prayer that is in Arabic that I posted on Friday. I soon realized that there is a ton of Christian music in Arabic posted over there.

So like the people who used to call in to Casey (who is of Lebanese Druze family heritage), and to Wolfman Jack (and other disc-jockeys too), I would like to dedicate this song to my brothers and sisters at Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad Iraq.

Because Christian Martyrdom Sheds No Innocent Blood

Originally posted back on September 16th, the Feast of St. Cyprian, I am breaking this post out of the archives again. The recent killings of parishioners at Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad bring the title of this post into stark relief with the events that transpired there on All Hallows Eve. St Cyprians words do not alleviate the pain, nor do they erase this tradgedy from our minds. But they do point to something larger than ourselves: the truth in the title of this post points to the Truth of the Word Incarnate.

—Feast of St. Cyprian
Today is the day we commemorate the fellow you see in the icon to your left. Cyprian was beheaded for refusing to worship the false gods of the Roman Empire.

There was no separation of church and state, see, so the state decided to make an example of Cyprian, and thousands of other Christian martyrs too. The state, the Empire, lost the war against Christianity, and collapsed like the house of cards that it was.

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Send Letters to the Christians of Baghdad

This morning, Maria Teresa Landi, friend of a friend, came up with an extraordinary  idea: send letters of encouragement to the Christians of Baghdad, who are suffering horrible persecution and killings. They are the Church's modern-day martyrs.

By day's end, the Nuncio at the United Nations was offering his diplomatic pouch (direct mail). He proposed to have all letters and messages sent to him by Tuesday night in a package and he will send the package to the Nunciature in Iraq on Wednesday morning.

To Ask Mary to Pray For Us— in Arabic

Asking for the intercession of Our Lady may be the best course of action each one of us can take to help bring about peace in the Middle East for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters. Our Lady is held in high esteem in the Islamic world, as well she should be, and our prayer requests to her are effective.

I spent some time in the Middle East and a friend of mine tipped me off to the Hail Mary in Arabic.

Because Vincent de Paul was Once a Muslim's Slave

Life got you down? Things perhaps haven't turned out as you planned? Do you think everyone else has got it so easy? Your neighbors, for example, or those fortunate people who come into a considerable sum of money?

And how about those saintly types? They are simply walking on air, those guys, living lives of complete and blessed beatitude, right? Hold up!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Martin of Tours" a Poem by Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C.

On this feast day of St. Martin of Tours, I came upon this delightful poem penned by Father Charles L. O'Donnell. It is an account of Martin's charitable act of giving a beggar half of his cloak. As it turned out, Martin would have a dream that the beggar was in fact Our Lord.

Because My Pope says "Read the Bible!"

I can remember the days when I just knew that Catholics were clueless about the Bible. My wife was, for example. Of course, that was before I bumped into Blaise Pascal, and Thomas à Kempis, St. Francis de Sales, et al.

But those guys are all high-powered super Catholics, you may be saying to yourself. Well my Pope just published
Verbum Domini, and a lot of converts like me are turning cartwheels over it. What follows are a few short paragraphs that will give you an idea why there is cause to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

To Pray for the Christians of Iraq

Post by Allison Salerno,
I drive New Jersey highways to work each morning, one uninspiring state road after another. Lately, I have found a scenic side road, right before I pull up to the large public high school where I work. The subdivision has large yards and ranch homes festooned for the season. Pumpkins, bales of hay and scarecrows dot the lawns. Some folks even have started to display Christmas wreaths even.

As I was navigating these hilly pretty suburban streets, a news report came on my car radio about more Christians killed in Iraq. Overnight, bomb attacks targeted Christian homes in the Baghdad neighborhoods of al-Mansour, al-Duarah and Sara Camp.

A Statement and a Prayer (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Today is a High Holy Day for Marines like me. On this day in 1775, the Continental Congress agreed to form two battalions of Marines. The committee that decided this met at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, over beers of course, and the Continental Marines were born.

So those of us who have earned the title Marine, have two birthdays, the second of which we all celebrate today. I'm thankful that I was blessed to be a Marine. But I also know that my time in the service, and those of my brother and sister Marines, has left me with an unsettled feeling about the wars we have been called on to fight of late. Coming up on 10 years in Afghanistan? Sheesh.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From the Time Capsule: The Making of a Chinese Nun, circa 1917.

Here is something I stumbled upon recently. It's from the year 1917, when even in the United States women didn't have the right to vote yet. I have been to many places in the world, and although as a culture we Americans like to think we have really come "a long way" and solved all the major problems, many of the women of the world still live in the way this young Chinese Catholic nun describes. Tell us a story Father Truarrizaga.

The Making Of A Chinese Nun by Rev. J. M. Truarrizaga, O.F.M.

The roads by which Chinese girls reach Christianity are often devious and full of danger. But not only do many of the rescued and converted children become fervent Catholics, but a few of them choose the religious life. Sad, indeed, is the early history of Shensi's native nun, but a special Providence protected her and she is now safe among the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.--J.M.T.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What to Teach the RCIA Class about the Saints?

This coming Sunday, (and the Monday evening following) I've been asked to teach the RCIA Catechumens and Candidates from my parish a class on the Communion of Saints. What should I tell them? What questions should I be prepared for? What do you think they want to know? What would you like to know if you were them?

Aside from the dry, formulaic, and dare I say it, boring (!) presentations on the saints that many have endured, what would you suggest?

Thanks to Cat Stevens (Music for Mondays)

One of my old "friends" from my teenage years was British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens. I spent hour upon hour listening to his music on my stereo. I loved his acoustic guitar and his hopeful, spirit-infused lyrics. His dark good looks didn't hurt either.

Now Cat Stevens is 62 years old. He famously converted to Islam in 1977 after he nearly died in a swimming accident off the California coast. He goes by the name Yusuf Islam and until 2006 largely abandoned a commercial singing career. I do not share his religious beliefs. But that in no way diminishes my love of the sweet, soul-searching music he made as performer Cat Stevens. Come, give a listen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Because of Catholics Like Vincent Liem of Vietnam (1732-1773)

November is the month that we Catholics remember the dead. Today, the United States fell back an hour on our clocks as we put Daylight Savings Time behind us.

So I had a little extra time on my hands and noted that today is the Feast of St. Vincent Liem, a priest martyred on this day in Hanoi in the year 1773. In case you were wondering, that is about 100 years before France arrived to colonize Indochina.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

YIMC Bookclub: Wise Blood

I've been having a rollicking good time reading Flannery O'Conner's Wise Blood. I've finished the first seven chapters and the cast of characters is setting us up for the the main event.

Did you know director John Huston, the voice of Gandalf the Grey in the animated The Hobbit, adapted this novel to film? That is where this photograph of Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif) comes from.

For Thoughts Like These from François Nepveu, S.J.

I love discovering devotional works that bring the Catholic perspective on Christianity directly onto the center stage. That's what this book by Jesuit Father François Nepveu does.

Translated from the French by Henry Coleridge, S.J. (poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge's brother), it is entitled Of the Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, And the Means of Acquiring It.

Father Nepveu presents us with the motives for loving Our Savior. What follows is the first motive he describes, which is pretty straight-forward and right on the mark.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Because the Sacrament of Reconciliation Can Happen Anywhere, At Any Time

It's not my intention to make my child look bad. Suffice it to say, one of our sons made a serious lapse in judgment the other day. He did something wrong and he knew it. My husband and I told him so and he was contrite. We've grounded him for a week. And then this morning, our son and I stopped by our parish after the 8 a.m. Mass so he could go to confession. I reminded him to lay it all out on the table, to leave no aspect of this unfortunate incident unsaid.

Because Life is Like an Epic Poem (Not a Report Card)

Report cards used to be a once every nine week event. Remember those halcyon days? Information technology being what it is, nowadays we can check our children's grades daily. Oh, the horror!

I say that because lately, the picture hasn't been pretty for several of my little darlings. Not that I ever hoped that my kids would make straight A's or anything like that. That would be a miracle, considering my part of their genetic make up.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thanks to Caravaggio's The Calling of St. Matthew

In Caravaggio's painting, Christ is gazing at Matthew, then a tax collector from Capernaum. Like Zacchaeus of Jericho, Matthew is despised by his community for collecting taxes for the Roman occupiers and pocketing the money of the poor for his own use. Have you noticed how many outcasts Christ chose to encounter? Within months of this encounter, Matthew is an apostle, witnessing Christ's Resurrection and Ascension.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Road Of Joy (A Few Words for Wednesday)

What follows is an excerpt from Kenelm Henry Digby's Compitum: or, The Meeting of the Ways at the Catholic Church, published in 1869. Reading books like this is why I haven't posted on O'Conner's Wise Blood yet. Forgive me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Because Kenelm Henry Digby Could Write Such A Poem

Are you interested in Christian chivalry? You could do worse than read the works of Kenelm Henry Digby. Author of The Broad-Stone of Honour or Rules for the Gentlemen of England(1822), he was a Romantic who yearned for the days when knights upheld the honor of kith and kin. And the honor of the Holy Catholic Church as well.

I don't know much, but I think he may have written the best poem for All Souls Day that I have ever read. Please allow me to share it with you.

It's a little long, so be warned. But it really helps to explain why the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of All Souls, and why we pray for the faithful departed.

It's simple, really. Because it is the right thing to do.

For Purgatory, Thank Heavens

—Feast of All Souls
When I was straddling the fence on whether or not I should become a Catholic, I never had a problem with Purgatory. It just makes the most sense to me, not that my personal opinion about this doctrine means anything.

I'll admit that I thought I would have a big problem with it at first. Because, you see, it isn't mentioned specifically in the Bible (along with many other details). But where did all the people who died go, for example from the Old Testament times? Assuming that all the people who had died before the Incarnation were just, ahem—out of luck, is ridiculous to me. And that was before I knew the doctrine of purgatory very well.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Feast of All Saints (Music for Mondays)

Today is the Feast of All Saints! As such, todays edition of MfM is dedicated to great music and prayers used to commemorate this day. I also found a short video tribute set to a contemporary song that you may enjoy as well. And to round it up, a modern classic.

Let's start this off with the great Latin chant version of the Litany of the Saints as composed by Pope St. Gregory the Great,

Because of Martin Luther, the Council of Trent and My Husband

When my husband and I were engaged 18 years ago, we had a conversation about where we would marry. Both of us had been raised Catholic and had become inconsistent in our practice of the faith. "What about the Lutheran Church?" I asked Greg. "It's exactly like Catholicism except women can be ministers and the ministers can marry."

 My husband, whose father was raised Lutheran, then explained to me that all Martin Luther's objections to the institutional problems in the Church had been answered. Besides which, he told me, only Catholics understand that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ.