Archives for August 2011

For Thoughts On Being a Christian by the “Chinese Chesterton”

All wisdom is from the Lord God, and hath been always with him, and is before all time. —Sirach 1:1

I came across the following thoughts in my friend John C.H. Wu’s book The Interior Carmel: The Threefold Way of Love. Author Frank Sheed called John, a Benedictine Oblate, “the Chinese Chesterton.” The following selection may help you understand why. [Read more…]

To Help Make A Movie? Why Not!

A few weeks back was the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. About a week ago, I received a note from Ian Higgins of  Major Oak Entertainment regarding a movie his studio is making about the story of Dr. Takashi Nagai, survivor of the bombing and author of The Bells of Nagasaki.  The title for the docu-drama  film is All That Remains.

According to Ian’s note, the film has the support of

the University of Nagasaki, his grace Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami and Fr. Paul Glynn, author of the acclaimed biography on Dr. Nagai, “A Song for Nagasaki”.

Here is a synopsis of the project,

Urakami Cathedral,
August 9, 1945 

All That Remains will be a powerful docu-drama telling the remarkable story of Dr. Takashi Nagai, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Catholic convert and dedicated peace activist. His story is a dramatic and inspiring testament to the power of faith in the most extreme of circumstances. Indeed, many have petitioned that he be made a saint, and now it seems Dr. Nagai may soon be declared “blessed” by the church, which is the first step to sainthood.

Takashi Nagai was a Japanese doctor and sceptical man of science whose passion for the pursuit of truth led him to undertake a dramatic conversion to Christianity at a time when Western religious beliefs were especially discouraged in Japan. On the 9th of August 1945, he found himself amongst the survivors of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, where this newfound faith was to be tested in the most extreme of circumstances.

With his beloved wife one of the 70,000 killed instantly, he was left with no choice but to fulfil his duty as a doctor, tending to the multitude of wounded and dying all around him, while struggling to make sense of his own loss and the responsibility he now faced for his two children.

It would be his faith that would guide him back to Atom bombed Nagasaki, and it would be this faith that would inspire him to stay there and help rebuild a city from rubble and ash.

He would dedicate the rest of his short life to promoting world peace through his work as a writer. His first book was “The Bells Of Nagasaki”, it went on to become a bestseller though out Japan, as a nation, defeated and demoralised by war, re-discovered through his words, the healing of power of love.

Dr. Takashi Nagai died in May, 1951 of Leukaemia brought on by prolonged exposure to radiation.

He left behind two children, a 10 year old son, Makoto and a 5 year old daughter, Kayano. But he also left behind a huge collection of books, articles and personal notes, addressed to his children and to God. Through these words, the spirit of Takashi Nagai continues to live, but sadly, his story is fast fading into the obscurity of forgotten history.

Here is the trailer for the film,

I don’t know about you, but this is a film I would like to see. The film version of The Bells of Nagasaki came out in the Fall of the year 1950 in the Japanese market and is due for a refresher. Guess what? We can help!

We are also offering the opportunity for other Christians to get involved and help us make this film, the people who understand the power of faith, the people who want films that hold meaning for them.

Ian has a fundraising page here. If you can, throw a few coins in the tin cup there. Who knows? Your name may even wind up in the credits. While you’re at it, go “like” their Facebook page.

UPDATE: Dr. Nagai’s Nagasaki Funeral Address.

10 Reasons Why I Won’t Publish Your Uncharitable Comments UPDATED

Another ironic sign.

“Dear Frank,

I wrote a comment on your blog and you didn’t publish it. May I ask why? I didn’t use any curse words or anything. What gives?”

Simple: it was glaringly uncharitable. Here’s a little list for you to consider if you ever posted a comment to this blog and it was never published. Call it my Top Ten reasons why your brilliant comment won’t ever see the light of day on YIMCatholic.

1. Because, they are, ahem, uncharitable. Duh! Perhaps this will help.

2. Because they do nothing to further the Kingdom of God.

3. Because they show a misanthropic mindset that flys in the face of
“I give you a new commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.”

4. Because words matter and uncharitable comments show a lack of understanding of Commander’s Intent. Oh, you don’t know the definition of that phrase? Here you go.

5. Because they are the leaven of the Pharisees, and thus a total eclipse of the Son.

6. Because they break the Golden Rule and thus suck all of the life out of the combox, therefore becoming an exercise in resuscitation of zombie narcissists. Get over yourself and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

7. Because they show a basic misunderstanding of the reason why Christ came into the world. He didn’t come just to be worshipped, but to save the world from itself. “I came so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” He has left this mission in our admittedly flawed hands. Amazing, isn’t it?

8. Because if you can’t make your point without resorting to mind reading skills you don’t have, and tearing down the other person, then your position is very weak and cannot stand on its own merits. Therefore it ain’t worth readin’!

9. Because in my charity for you, I won’t allow you to look like an uncharitable lout. Call me crazy.

10. Because life is too short.

Diane over at Te Deum Laudamus has an upcoming series of posts you might want to consider looking at as well. Here’s a promo for the series. Have a great day.

Update: Father Barron of Word on Fire on St. Thomas Aquinas, and ad hominem attacks today vs. the intellectual tradition of the Church,

Yes, An Outdoor Mass Can Be Celebrated Properly

While much of the East Coast was being rained upon by a little nuisance named Irene, there was an outdoor Mass held under crystal clear skies at my parish. And no unorthodox horrors occurred,

Sunday morning mass at Knoxville’s All Saints Catholic Church was a little different this week. The several thousand-member congregation participated in both English and Spanish.

All Saint’s pastor, Father Michael Woods, led the Mass outside on the church lawn. His goal was to unite the members of his church into one large family.

“We have six definite communities here at All Saints because of the number of masses over the weekend, so they don’t get to see each other or know each other,” he said.

“So I cancelled all the masses on Sunday to just have one outdoor mass so we get to see the size of our community, the joy of our community.”

Here is a nice little video clip with an appearance by Father Michael,

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

At Mass last Sunday, Fr. Michael assured us that it wouldn’t rain for this celebration, and as you saw in the video above, it certainly did not. In the week leading up to the Mass, Fr. Michael invited all parishioners to spend an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to pray for our parishioners and for the whole Church. Well over 1000 parishioners signed up to do just that for round the clock adoration of Our Eucharistic Lord.

Last year, before a similar event, we did the same and Fr. Michael reminded us that as a result, we were blessed with 50 Catechumens and Candidates who joined the Church through our RCIA program last year. I shared that information with you earlier this year.

For the rest of the scoop on the Mass yesterday, go here.

Update: Monsignor Pope’s thoughts on martyrdom while evangelizing.

Because Words Matter…

Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings differently arranged have different effects. —Blaise Pascal

Yesterday, I shared a post about catechizing the world. That “c” word is one I had never heard of before I was Catholic. It’s a complicated sounding word that I probably could never get right during a spelling bee. But it doesn’t have to be that fancy sounding,  because all it means is “sharing the Good News” and “teaching the Faith.”

What is the power of the words we choose when trying to bring others to Christ and his Church? Do they matter? Of course they do. Especially if they are puffed up so much that they wind up blocking the Son.

H/T to Terry Fenwick for posting this on her Facebook wall.

For Thoughts from the Guide for Catechists, With a Little Help From My Friends


The next time the Easter Vigil rolls around, I will have been a Catholic 4 full years. But those of you who have followed my conversion story know that I sat in the pews with my wife, and later with my children, for close to 18 years, and that I started exploring the faith in earnest in the Fall of 2006. [Read more…]

Because Love Went to Madrid, And Its Cup Runneth Over

May it find its way through to all the corners of the world. Thanks to Marc Barnes, you can see for yourself.

Quote of the Week

No, my dear brethren, even if you could perform miracles, you will never be saved if you have not charity. Not to have charity is not to know your religion; it is to have a religion of whim, mood, and inclination. Carry on, carry on, you are only hypocrites and outcasts! Without charity, you will never see God, you will never go to heaven!

-St. John Vianney

Alas, my dear brethren, the person who has no charity goes far afield for evil! If someone does him harm, you see him examining all his actions then. He judges them. He condemns them. He turns them all to evil and is always quite certain that he is right.

—St. John Baptiste Marie Vianney, the Cure’ d’Ars

For Stuff My Abba Macarius Says About Discerning True Christians


A while back, I introduced everyone to my patron, St. Macarius the Great. He has some great homilies that help to prepare Christians for the trials and tribulations that we will encounter along this narrow path. What’s that? You don’t need to hear anything from a desert father about the inner struggle in the life of the Christian? Don’t delude yourself.

Think back over the past 9-10 years regarding scandals among the priesthood. Or better yet, look back just recently and there have been any number of implosions across the spectrum of those who profess to be good and holy Christians. I don’t have to name names, now, do I? Scandal is no stranger to the Church.
The fact of the matter is, the path of Christianity is treacherous and full of temptations, and risks of failure. As John C.H. Wu counseled yesterday, when you fall down, you have to get back up. No one is safe and as the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” There is no dearth of scandal among members of the faithful.

But often times, we go looking for earthly heroes and alleged paragons of virtue whom we think we can follow with confidence anyway, when we should just stick with Christ. If we need additional models of Christian behavior, we should just stick with the saints, whom are our brethren in the Church Triumphant, and whose behaviors point us back to Christ anyway.

Below, my patron has a few important words on sifting the posuers from the pure at heart.

Homily XXXVIII: 
Great exactness and intelligence is required to discern true Christians, and who these are.

Many who appear to be righteous are taken for Christians. It is a task for skilled men and experts to try whether such men have really the stamp and image of the King, lest perchance they should be counterfeits of the works of skilled men, and skilled men wonder at them and criticize them. But people who are not skilled cannot test deceitful workers, for they too wear the shape of monks and Christians. For the false apostles also suffered for Christ, and they also preached the kingdom of heaven. That is why the apostle says In perils more abundant, in afflictions above measure, in prisons more abundant, wishing to show that he had suffered more than they.

Gold is easily found; but pearls and precious stones which do for a king’s diadem are seldom found, for many times none that will do are found. So Christians also are built up into the crown of Christ, that those souls may be made partakers with the saints. Glory to Him who so loved that soul, suffered for it, and raised it up from the dead. But as a veil was put over the face of Moses, that the people might not gaze upon his face, so now a veil lies upon your heart, that you may not behold the glory of God. When this is taken away, then He shines forth and manifests Himself to Christians, to those who love Him and seek Him in truth, as He says, I will manifest Myself to him, and will make My abode with him.

Let us endeavor then to come to Christ, who cannot lie, that we may obtain the promise, and the new covenant, which the Lord has made new through His cross and death, having burst the gates of hell and sin and brought out the faithful souls, and given them the Comforter within, and brought them into His kingdom. Let us reign then with Him, even we, in Jerusalem, His city, in the heavenly church, in the choir of the holy angels. The brethren who have been long time exercised and tried, these can succour the less experienced, and feel for them.

For some who had made themselves sure, and had been mightily worked upon by grace of God, have found their members so sanctified that they reckoned that concupiscence does not occur in Christianity, but that they had acquired a sober and chaste mind, and that from henceforth the inward man was raised aloft to divine and heavenly things, so that they really imagined such an one to have come already to the perfect measures. And when the man imagined that he was already near the calm haven, billows rose up against him, so that he found himself again in the middle of the ocean, and was carried where sea was sky and death was ready. Thus sin entered after all, and wrought all manner of evil concupiscence.

And again a certain class of persons having some grace vouchsafed to them, and having received a drop, so to speak, out of the whole deep sea, find it hour by hour, and day by day, such a work of wonder, that the man who is under its influence is amazed and astounded at the strange, surprising operation of God, to think that he should be given such wisdom. After this, grace enlightens him, guides him, gives him peace, makes him good in every way, being itself divine and heavenly, so that in comparison with that man kings and potentates, wise men and nobles are esteemed as least and worthless.

After a time and season things change, so that of a truth such a man esteems himself a greater sinner than all others; and again at another season sees himself like a great colossal king, or a king’s powerful friend; again at another season sees himself weak and a beggar. Then the mind falls into perplexity, why things should be thus and then thus. Because Satan in his hatred of the good suggests evil things to those who attain virtue, and strives to overthrow them. That is his occupation.

But do not submit to him, while you work at the righteousness that is accomplished in the inner man, where stands the judgment seat of Christ, together with His undefined sanctuary, that the testimony of your conscience may glory in the cross of Christ, who has purged your conscience from dead works, that you may serve God with your spirit, that you may know what you worship, according to Him who said, We worship that which we know. Obey God who guides you. Let your soul have communion with Christ, as bride with bridegroom. For this mystery is great, it says; but I speak concerning Christ and the blameless soul.

To Him be the glory for ever. Amen.

Thank you. And Abba Macarius? Please pray for us.

More wisdom from Abba Macarius can be found on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Because Mammon Hates The Idea of the Jubilee, and Hopes You’ve Forgotten It

Who’s the fairest of the all? Mammon!

 

Have you been getting tired of all the Debt Crises du jour stories? Back in April, I did a little tongue-in-cheek post about Mammon, and how even if we actually worshipped him, we would do so in a manner that would put us at risk. And in terms of debt forgiveness, Mammon, would prefer we bring back debtor prisons, rather than ever forgive debt.

Would you be surprised to learn that debt was destroyed routinely back in the day? Doing so helped civilization grow and prosper, because healthy credit markets helped civilizations grow and prosper too. Today I’d like to share a little historical snippet regarding debt from the good old days. The thoughts belong to a fellow named David Graeber, an anthropology professor at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of the book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. This is from a post at the Wall Street Journal’s “Speakeasy” blog,

Contrary to popular belief, credit has been the predominant form of money in world history. In ancient Mesopotamia, elaborate credit systems predated coinage by thousands of years. Periods in which people assume that money really “is” gold and silver, let alone use cash in most everyday transactions, are more the exception than the rule. Ancient empires, for instance, used coins mainly to pay soldiers, and when those empires dissolved in the early Middle Ages, society didn’t really “revert to barter,” as its often believed, but returned to elaborate credit systems—denominated in Roman (and then Carolingian) currency that no longer actually physically existed.

The remarkable thing was that they were able to maintain these credit systems despite the lack of any reliable state authorities willing or able to enforce contracts. How did they do it? Two ways: but both involved insisting that there were values that were more important than mere money.

The first was the cult of personal honor. In most parts of the world, in the Middle Ages (Europe was only a partial exception), merchants had to develop reputations for scrupulous integrity—not just always paying their debts, but forgiving others’ debts if they were in difficulties, and being generally pillars of their communities. Merchants could be trusted with money because they convinced others that they didn’t think money was the most important thing. As a result, “credit,” “honor,” and “decency” became the same thing—an identification which passed into ordinary life as well. As a result in England, where probably 95% of all transactions in a Medieval village were on credit, and decent people tended to avoid the courts, people still speak of “village worthies,” or “men of no account.”

The apogee of this system though was the world of Medieval Islam, where checks were already in wide use by 1000 AD, and letters of credit could travel from Mali to Malaysia, all without any state enforcement whatsoever. In Melaka, the great Indian Ocean entrepôt, merchants from as far a way as Ethiopia or Korea notoriously avoided written contracts, preferring to seal deals “with a handshake and a glance at heaven.” If there were problems, they were referred to sharia courts with no power to have miscreants arrested or imprisoned, but with the power to destroy a merchant’s reputation, and therefore, credit-worthiness, if he were to refuse to abide by their rulings.

This latter brings us to the second factor: the existence of some sort of overarching institutions, larger than states, usually religious in nature, that ensured that credit systems didn’t fly completely out of hand. For much of human history, the great social evil—the thing that everyone feared would lead to the utter breakdown of society—was the debt crisis. The masses of the poor would become indebted to the rich, they would lose their flocks and fields, begin selling family members into peonage and slavery, leading either to mass flight, uprisings, or a society so polarized that the majority were effectively (sometimes literally) reduced to slaves. In periods where economic transactions were conducted largely through cash, there are many parts of the world where this actually began to happen.

Periods dominated by credit money, where everyone recognized that money was just a promise, a social arrangement, almost invariably involve some kind of mechanism to protect debtors. Mesopotamian kings used to rely on their cosmic ability to recreate society to declare clean slates, erase all debts, and simply start over. In ancient Judea this was institutionalized in the seventh-year Jubilee. In the Middle Ages, Christian and Islamic bans on usury and debt peonage, far from being impediments to trade, were actually what made most trade possible, since they ensured ordinary people were not entirely impoverished, and had the means to purchase the merchants’ wares, and because those religious systems became the foundation for networks of honor and trust.

That was my bold highlight. Religious systems the foundation for networks of honor and trust? Imagine that! You can find the entire post here, and his book where they sell books or in your local library. Therein Graebel writes,

It seems to me that we are long overdue for some kind of Biblical-style Jubilee: one that would affect both international debt and consumer debt. It would be salutary not just because it would relieve so much genuine human suffering, but also because it would be our way of reminding ourselves that money is not ineffable, that paying one’s debts is not the essence of morality, that all these things are human arrangements and that if democracy is to mean anything, it is the ability to all to agree to arrange things in a different way.”

I think the Jubilee year was every 50th year, actually, but mechanisms for debt destruction may be an idea that needs to be brushed off if we intend to hold Mammon at bay. Food for thought.