Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thanks to “Parker’s Back” (I’m Back)

Today I had to laugh. A reader e-mailed to ask if I was dead. No, I am not dead. That e-mail was the match that lit this post, but Flannery O’Connor was the fuel. Her short story “Parker’s Back,” since I read it over the weekend, like an icon lit by freaky candles, has haunted me. It explains why “Why I Am Catholic” can never be answered satisfactorily. And “Why I Can’t Escape Being Catholic” is an even more compelling question.

To Become Fully Human (A Work In Progress)

—Feast of St. Jerome
A friend of mine asked me recently, "If you could be any animal, what animal would you choose to be?" I didn't think about my answer very long.

In the past, before I was a Catholic, I would probably have just lept to the first thing that popped into my head. An eagle, or a tiger, or some other fearsome predator, you know, one that is lethal and smart, such as these. 

It never occurred to me that I would be a donkey, for example, or a gerbil. Me killer, me strong! Velociraptor, man, not a duck-billed platypus. The dinosaur is extinct, you say? Bah!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

YIMC Book Club Selection Poll

It's time for another horse race folks. The four selections in the poll (see left side-bar) are all novels written by Catholics that I would like to read over the next twelve months. So,  I've put them together and I would like for you to help me choose in what order we will read them. One book per quarter, or at least that is my intention.

Head on over to Amazon and run a query on these selections and then put your vote in the ballot box. The selection with the most votes will be our next read, and we will read the runner-up second, and so on down the line.

We will start reading the winning selection on or around the 3rd week of October. Thanks for your support!

A Poem And A Prayer on Michaelmas

Today is the Feast of St. Michael and the Archangels, also known as Michaelmas. I like the calendar name Michaelmas and that this day used to be a huge festival marking the beginning of Autumn. I actually hope that this day is celebrated extravagantly still somewhere on the globe. Does anyone know?

What follows is a brief hymn penned by Blessed John Henry Newman to mark the occasion. Written in 1862, this was published in 1867 in a volume entitled Verses on Various Occasions.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

Four for the Day (Music for Mondays)

It's raining, it's Monday, and Summer is officially over. That about sums it up for me. The weekend was too short, it's starting to get chilly, and it would have been nice to sleep in on this rainy morning. I hope it's sunny where you are!

Now matter what the weather is like, try to make the best of it. Here's what I have on tap for you,

For Dom Lou's Thoughts on The Effects of Secularization in China

I just finished reading Lou Tseng-Tsiang's Ways of Confucius and of Christ.  In the latter pages of the book, he gives a seminar in Chinese history that I think you may find of interest. Secularization of a culture, the scrubbing away of their religious heritage, is not some new idea.

This new, new thing, is really nothing more than "been there, done that." Would it come as a shock to you to learn that the best laid plans of purifying Chinese culture of its religious roots simply opened the door to a foreign religion coming in to fill the void? Cultural relativism, and the dictatorship thereof, is something that Dom Lou explains happened in China long, long ago.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Because I Was a Stow-Away

—Feast of Sts. Cosmos and Damian
Noah built an ark, and Christ built His Church. Hope floats.

For a long time, I was a stow-away aboard His Majesty's ships. But a few years back, I stopped lurking in the shadows, approached the Captain of one of His frigates, and asked to be added to the rolls of His Majesty's Fleet.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thoughts on the LOTH for Today: Psalm 35

Today's gospel reading begins with these words,

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,...

Is it wrong for me to wonder to myself this question: What would Jesus pray? What would God, as the Son of Man, pray about? In the Office of Readings today, I prayed a Psalm of David that makes me believe a) perhaps this is how Our Lord prayed, and b) David "saw" this and again prophesied events that have been fulfilled.

Because of Thoughts Like These by Blaise Pascal

—Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham
About a month ago, Webster wrote a post about awaking from a long, bad, dream. Blaise Pascal woke me up from a long slumber. His was a shrill alarm too, much like the one on the clock by my nightstand right now. But unlike that one, Blaise's alarm didn't have a snooze button. That's because I had been snoozing for most of my adult life.

Before I bumped into Blaise, I had been sleeping in my shoes, so to speak. My conscience tried to arose my soul from its slumber from time to time, but mainly my ego just kept hitting the snooze button, ten minutes at a time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Sensitiveness" A Poem By Blessed John Henry Newman


Time was, I shrank from what was right,
    From fear of what was wrong;
I would not brave the sacred fight,
    Because the foe was strong.

But now I cast that finer sense
    And sorer shame aside;
Such dread of sin was indolence,
    Such aim at heaven was pride.

So, when my Saviour calls, I rise,
    And calmly do my best;
Leaving to Him, with silent eyes
    Of hope and fear, the rest.

I step, I mount where He has led;
    Men count my haltings o'er;—
I know them; yet, though self I dread,
    I love his precept more.

—Blessed John Henry Newman

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Because of the Roman Collar

On Sunday, I heard an interesting perspective on the Roman Collar. Monthly in our parish, we parents of CCD students are required to sit in on the class. This Sunday, the parish catechetical leader, in reviewing elements of the Mass, asked parents and their children why priests wear black clothes and a Roman collar.

One parent suggested priests were in mourning over Christ's death. A child said maybe priests wore black clothes because don't show dirt as easily. Another thought priests were depressed. Obviously, we were all stumped.

Because Catholic Priests Know The Bible, Backwards and Forwards

—Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle
It all seems so silly now.  Before I converted to the Faith, I believed the nonsense that Catholics were biblically illiterate. I remember being amazed at the amount of scriptural knowledge that I noticed when reading Blaise Pascal's book. And Blaise was a layman. When I read The Imitation of Christ, I was astounded at the depth and breadth of Thomas à Kempis' knowledge of scripture.

And Thomas even wrote parts of the book in the character of Our Lord. That is how confident he was of his knowledge of the Bible and of Catholic doctrines. The same happens in the selection below. My friend Thomas was a monk and a priest. The selection you'll see here was also written by a priest. His name is Father Michael Müller, of the Redemptorists. He said I could call him Father Mike, to keep from having to deal with the umlaut over the "u" in his last name all the time. See how nice these priests are?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seal II (Music for Mondays)

A while back, I wrote a post about my Mustang's harmonic balancer. It turned out that my own "harmonic balancer" was out of whack too.  When my pony sat fallow for all that time, the album that I'm about to share with you sat inside the cassette player. It, just like the car, sat there the whole time.

During the waiting period, I did a lot of work on my house. I did a lot of reading too. I was thinking about becoming a Catholic, but wasn't committed to the idea...yet. It was the Summer of 2007, and I turned to the task of fixing my car. As I recounted in the post above, I took the 'Stang to some pro's. They had her fixed in no time, and on the way home from the shop, I put the top down, and turned the stereo on. And the following tunes began to play.

To Pray for the Flood Victims in Pakistan

Feast of Saints Eustachius
It's still raining in Pakistan. At the end of July, some of the worst flooding ever recorded began to take place there. By early August, torrential rains caused the Indus River to rise above it's banks, making upwards of eight million people homeless. Yes, you read that right. 8,000,000,000. Think of everyone in the entire state of Virginia being homeless, with hardly any food and barely any drinkable water, and you can imagine what is the scale of this disaster.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Because Joseph of Cupertino Could Fly

—Feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino
The world is held in thrall by Stephen Hawking's declaration that there is no need for a Creator for the universe to have been formed. The giant has spoken, succinctly, and confidently. If you are like me, you haven't read his new book, but you saw the interview with Larry King.

One of my take-away's from the interview? Stephen Hawking gushing over his experience of being weightless. He got to take a flight on one of those NASA planes that climbs parabolically so at the "top", for a short while, zero-G is achieved. He evidently was thrilled to be weightless.

Friday, September 17, 2010

For Thoughts On Death by Robert Bellarmine

—Feast of St. Robert Bellarmine
Today we celebrate the feast of the saint whose portrait you see here. You can read all about his life elsewhere. What I'm interested in is what this Doctor of the Church has to say about death, and as a consequence, his thoughts on life.

I've shared Blaise Pascal's thoughts on death before in this space. Yeah, Frank, we noticed and could you please talk about something else?! Sorry, but I just had a loved one pass away very recently, so death is on my mind. And who better than St. Robert Bellarmine to instruct us on this subject?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Streamlet's Song (A Few Words for Wednesday)

—Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

I found this little poem, by a forgotten poet, in the journal whose banner you see above. How does one attempt to wrap their mind around the immensity of God and the smallness of our individual selves? If God is the ocean, than we are just streamlets...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

For the Catholic View of Love

-Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Yesterday was Monday and as such I did a music post. The subject was love, and I called it Love: Three Minus One, because the form of love that I was spot-lighting was not romantic love, or eros as it is known in Greek.

Below are some thoughts written by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and published in his book entitled The Power of Love, which hit the bookstores back in 1964.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Love: Three Minus One (Music for Mondays)

—Feast of St. John Chrysostom
Love: Agape, Storge, Phileo, Eros. The four Greek words for love. Currently, all evidence points to modern culture being stuck on eros alone, while ignoring the other three.

At least that is how it seems to me. C.S. Lewis wrote a book that I need to get to one of these days, entitled The Four Loves. There needs to be a balance of Love and when one type dominates, harmony is shattered. What to do? How about some songs.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

For The Witness Of Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang (Circa 1948)

—Feast of the Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The other day, I finished reading John C.H. Wu's Beyond East and West. It is a great story and one which sadly is out of print. Today I am reading the book written by his friend Lou Tseng-Tsiang, briefly Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of China. Here he is as a Benedictine monk and priest named Dom Pierre-Célestin. Is it just me, or does he look like the very model of serenity?

His friend John Wu called him Dom Lou, and he mentioned him a few times in Beyond East and West. What follows are a few of Dom Lou's thoughts on his conversion from the, again out of print, book he authored entitled Ways of Confucius and of Christ. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

For Moments of Solitude

—Feast of St. Paphnutius

Salvific beauty;
Openness to the mystery.
Listening like a child;
Instinctively grasping
Ultimately acknowledging
Discernment of vocation.
Encouragement for the Way.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Because I Believe in Miracles

Feast of St. Peter Claver
When I was startled into wondering if I could become a Catholic, one thing really stood out to me as a proof of the legitimacy of the Church—the miracles. The Catholic Church believes in miracles without flinching. They even have a standard operating procedure in place to prove or disapprove miracles.

For Thoughts Like These from John C. H. Wu

 I've been reading one of John Wu's books. I first received it via Intra-library loan through my local public library.  But it is so good that I coughed up the dough to buy my own copy as well.  It's worth the cost, trust me.

I wrote about how John is a reformed hell-raiser, which is one of the reasons I like him. He lays it all out for us in Beyond East and West. In Part One, it is his personal story. He covers his family background, where he went to school, his rise, his becoming a Christian, his being befriended by Justice Holmes of the U.S. Supreme Court, his falling away from Christianity, his decent into depravity and his conversion to Catholicism.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thanks to Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's The Birth of the Virgin

On this, the feast day of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, take a long look at this painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. He was a 17th century Baroque artist from Seville whose paintings depict the joys of spiritual life. This one, displayed at the Louvre in Paris, shows the birth of our Blessed Mother. She is being cared for by angels and servants while her mother, Saint Anne, rests in the background.

"Spring" (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Like me, Webster is partial to Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th century poet who also was a Catholic convert and a Jesuit. (Depicted here bronze by Irish sculptor Rowan Gillsepie).  Webster has cited Hopkins's poems  here, here and here.

Poems are meant to be read out loud; this is especially true for Hopkins's. He used "sprung rhythm," which is intended to sound like natural speech. (Unlike most poets who use free verse, however, Hopkins made sure the number of feet per line of poetry was kept consistent within a single poem.)

At a funeral I attended Saturday, the celebrant, Msgr. John Mraz, mentioned Hopkins. The deceased, Donald Patton Buckelew, like Hopkins, not only encountered Christ in the Mass, but also in his fellow human beings and in the natural world. What a gift.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Calling All Catechists: The YIMCatholic Bookshelf Is Open

It is the time of the year when those who are curious about the Catholic Church can seek answers to their questions in a setting that is non-threatening. This is done by means of the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults, aka the RCIA program.

Back in 2007, I made my second sojourn through the RCIA program as a Candidate. That is the term given to those who enter the RCIA process and have already been baptised in another Christian faith community outside of the Catholic Church. You can learn more about RCIA from any local parish or from other resources on-line.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day (Music for Mondays)

It's Labor Day here in the U.S.A., a federal holiday where we commemorate the joys of working by giving ourselves the day off. There is lots of history backing up the  establishment of this holiday and you can read all about it somewhere else.

Here at YIM Catholic, though, we're just glad to be off today. While we are at it though, lets remember our brethren who are unemployed in this recessionary economy, both here and abroad. If you know anyone looking for work, say a prayer for them and be a part of their network.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Listen My Son, St. Benedict for Fathers (A Book Review)

This is a first for me, as I've never been asked to write a book review before. But a few months back, I wrote a post about how a particular section in the Rule of St. Benedict resonated with me as a father. It turns out, that I wasn't alone.

Full disclosure time: Father Dwight Longenecker offered to send me a copy of his book at no cost if I would do a review of it. I accepted his kind offer, even though I had no idea how to write a proper review. I still don't. But since Father D. does such a good job with this, it isn't difficult for me to recommend this book to fathers, or anyone in a leadership position.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Because of Faith and Reason

If you're intellectual, if you're a smart, sophisticated person, you can't possibly have faith in God, right? We've been hearing this for centuries. "Every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out, “It is a matter of faith, and above reason.” So said John Locke, English philosopher, political theorist. He founded Empiricism, the school of thought that tell us if we can't measure something with our senses, it doesn't exist.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thanks to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings' film trilogy

I know, I know. Especially as an English teacher, I know. You're supposed to read the book first, then watch the movie. But the truth is, I've never read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, or his Lord of the Rings trilogy. But for the past two nights, friends of our sons have been gathering at our home to watch Peter Jackson's film adaptation of Lord of the Rings on the massive wide-screen TV we inherited from dear friends who recently moved to Maine. And while the movies are not overtly religious, it is comforting to know one of the trilogy's moral lessons is one we want our sons to understand: evil is real and every human has the power to decide whether he wants to be mastered by the evil he encounters or to embrace the path of the spiritual pilgrim. This message hits close to home, coming as it does a week before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which my husband narrowly survived.

Because of the Density of the Instant

As summer slips away and I spend my days shopping for school supplies for our sons, taking one last visit to the beach, and enrolling in graduate school classes, I've been contemplating what difference the existence of the Eucharist makes in my life.

How long exactly, does it take to receive communion? Maybe a few seconds, yes? In that act, we unite with eternity. This is what Fr. Luigi Giussani,  founder of the Communion and Liberation movement, refers to this as the "density of the instant." How many instants are our lives comprised of? Each one is an opportunity to fix our gaze on God.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

For Peace While Suffering (A Few Words for Wednesday)

From this mornings Office of Readings in the LOTH, there is the following Psalm of David. I have several family members who are elderly and ill, as you probably do too. Webster wrote recently of a friend who is suffering from an illness that is likely the door to her immortality.

But whether we depart suddenly or slowly, we will depart. Ponder then, these few words of David, where with hope and faith, the door leads us home, refreshed, and unto God.