Would You Believe Because Rock Music and Theology are Compatible?

As regular readers know, I’ve shared music on the blog practically since Webster invited me aboard. I don’t recall how it happened, but I remember when he posted a YouTube video in a post and I thought, “wow, that is cool. I wonder if Webster would let me post some music videos too?” We did a post together in January of last year, and by then the fledgling project got off the ground in earnest.

Blah, blah, blah, Frank…whoop-de-do, right? Music for Mondays, big deal. I know, I know, I go over the top with it sometimes, and other times I barely even add liner notes. But the thing is, though I’m not gifted with musical ability myself, I really enjoy music, and respect it as an artform. And though the MfM posts published here run the gamut from Chant to Classical, the bulk of my posts have been written around popular music. And for the most part, rock n’ roll.

So why am I boring all of you about this late on Tuesday night? Because I just found out about a book that I simply must read, and I discovered a blog that I’ve just added to the “Cool Links” list and, à la Mark Shea at his Dark Lordly best, I will command that you all go investigate it at once. First the book.

No, I haven’t read it! I only just found out about it. It’s written by a fellow named David Nantais, a guy with a resume about a mile wide and two miles deep. David thought he wanted to be a Jesuit priest, see, and he studied at the seminary preparing to follow that vocation. He got married back in 2008 and, well, go look at his CV for all the details.

I saw a brief sketch of a review on his recently published book entitled Rock-A My Soul. Here’s what Fr. James Martin, SJ (author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything) had to say about the author and the book,

David Nantais is, hands down, one of the best young writers on Christian spirituality: inviting, inventive, and insightful. In Rock-a My Soul, he offers a fascinating look at how rock music, often thought to be a threat to faith, can actually support and nourish one’s spiritual life. If you’re a music fan, Nantais, a rock musician himself, will show you how the music you love can draw you closer to God. If you’re a believer, Nantais will serve as an experienced guide to modes of experiencing God that you might never have considered. And if you’re a music fan and a believer, well, then this book will, as the band said, rock you.

Operators are standing-by, order your copy today! This is exciting news for me, because I love rock, and of course, I love the Rock of our Faith even more. As my MfM posts will attest, I’ve always seen the complimentarity between the yearning of human beings, and how our deepest longings are often reflected in contemporary music. Jesus, indeed, goes mainstream through music.

And now, here is your next assignment me hearties: go check out this neat blog called Rock and Theology that I just happened upon. I would tell you more about it, but I’m too busy letting you know that it even exists to have spent much time there myself. It all started when,

a theologian friend sent me a link from “Whispers in the Loggia,” to a story about Notker Wolf, then the head of the Benedictines, a Catholic religious order. There was Wolf, strumming an electric guitar with right hand, left hand a-swashing the neck forth and back, face full of focus and a drum kit off his right shoulder. Oh, yes, that’s definitely an atypically liturgical shade of concert orange sidelight shining onto him and the kit, as well. And that cowl—so exceedingly metal! As a cohabitor of Catholicism, rock music, and theology, as a devotee of loud sounds shaken out of guitars under auburn lights, I could hardly breathe. What face of rock was this? I felt in this picture a strange, uncontrollable, entrancing, and consoling beckoning.

Whaat? The head of the Benedictines, Dom Notker Wolf is/was a rocker?! That alone is just another reason why I am Catholic. Then I found out that the blog is part of a project sponsored in part by Fordham University, etc, etc, and there is a boatload of contributors, including David Nantais, all of which have advanced degrees in music and are rockers in their spare time.

Look, I’d love to chat about this with you some more, but I have to head on over to Rock and Theology for a little bit of spiritual rock n’ roll therapy. Feel free to join me!

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Three from S.D. (Music for Mondays)

I had a super busy weekend, thus not much on the posting front. My family and I played on the water all day Saturday, and spent Sunday criss-crossing the Carolinas taking my daughter to a camp. Now it’s Monday morning and my “work for food” beckons.

But on the heels of my last post, I’ve got a couple of songs from a group whose sound I love. I don’t know much about the members of the band, and I don’t need to either. I’m not saying they are Catholics, saints, or even angels. I’m saying they JAM though, and with a raw sound that speaks of “the struggle.”

So “S.D.”, as in Social Distortion. Here are three of their songs that stand out to me,

Story of My Life. Does this ring any bells with anyone?

Life goes by so fast,
You only want to do what you think is right.
Close your eyes and then it’s past;
(it’s the) story of my life.

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Ball and Chain. Singing about marriage? Please. This is about the weight of sin folks. At least, that’s how I hear it. Born to lose, and destined to fail.” Without Christ, that about sums it up.

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Angels’ Wings. Dude…this is the work I was talkin’ about the other day!

I triumphed in the face of adversity
And I became the man I never thought I’d be
And now my biggest challenge, a thing called love
I guess I’m not as tough as I thought I was

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I’ve gotta go to work. I’ll be back later.

To Renew My Inmost Being and Put on the New Man

Have you noticed how tough life is? It’s hard enough to make it on your own, but try living the Christian life fully and the delusion that doing so is easy should have already crashed down upon you like a Summer thunder storm. That is, if you are giving it your all.

I’m reminded of the sage words of a military genius again. Ever heard of Carl von Clauswitz? Here is something he shared in his classic book on military strategy, On War,

Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war.

Sure, you could kid yourself that this doesn’t apply to your life as a Christian. “I’m a civilian,” or so you pretend. But to me, Clauswitz’s thoughts illuminate the truth of the life not only of those “in the world,” but definitely the lives of those of us who struggle mightily to be “not of the world.”

So yesterday morning, for the first time in what seems like ages, I dug into my book bag, pulled out my copy of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, flipped to the Friday morning prayers and proceeded to regain my sanity. It wasn’t long before I came across this truth of the Christian life,

Your inmost being must be renewed, and you must put on the new man (Ephesians 4:23).

I always knew that it was work to be a Christian, in the back of my mind. Everything I had learned from studying the Bible while growing up warned that this was true. But somewhere between leaving home and entering the world on my own, I had forgotten this fact. Running away from the truth will do that to you.

St. Paul’s inspired words reminded me of this situation again. You see, in order to “put on the new man,” you have to take off the old man first. And Lord knows, early on I had as much interest in being changed as the next person, which if you are anything like me means practically not at all. I went along with the easy care of “the saved,” while never confronting any of the dark shadows of responsibility that followed me along that road.

In other words, I sought the easy path of the Christian who is a Christian in name only. I professed belief in Christ, had been baptized, and I was “good to go” in that department, or so I thought, and I could concentrate on other more important things like fighting World War III, or striking it rich, you know, all while ignoring the plight of the poor or less fortunate. Talking myself out of my sinfulness, and letting my pride get the best of me and run the show.

I came back to the well of my faith only when I needed help. Like when I was sweating probation when I was trying to make it through Marine Security Guard School in Quantico, or when I was getting ready to graduate from college and I would pray, “Lord, help me find a job.” Prayers such as these are not invalid. They are necessary prayers for the soul to cry out with, as long as they are backed up with the diligent search to find work, etc. But all in all, I was a fair weather Christian and my conscience would needle me on that point from time to time.

Distractions helped me keep from listening to these urgings for the longest time. Have you allowed that to happen? Especially when there is some important project that you know you should be working on, but you put it off and put it off some more in the vain hope that the task would go away on its own accord so you won’t have to face it. But it doesn’t go away, and then you burn the midnight oil cobbling something together that barely passes muster, and just in the nick of time. I didn’t want to live my life like that forever.

As they say, denial is not just a river in Egypt, but I drank deeply from her anyway. But increasingly I noticed that her drafts still left me parched. Despite dying from thirst, it took my almost being killed to put me finally on the path to the Catholic Church. The Lord knows that marrying a Catholic didn’t do this, but it didn’t hurt matters either. Nor did the accident provoke me into an instant, “on the spot” conversion either. It took another 6-7 years before I finally cracked open the door that, by this time, my conscience was banging on loudly and relentlessly. As I’ve written before, the injuries I sustained ended my Marine Corps career, providing me the opportunity to change my (and my family’s) life and lead us I knew not where.

I never thought this tortuous path would lead me to the Catholic Church, but every day I rejoice that it has. I can say that I have no idea what is going on in much of the rest of the Church. Perhaps my brush with the Desert Fathers has inured me to answering the siren call of keeping tabs on all that the Bishops do, or don’t do, for instance. For me, the call to conversion is deeper than playing “inside baseball” with what is going on with Rome and all her players. This particular player is in the game, and not sitting on the bench. I am too busy “work(ing) out my salvation with fear and trembling” to have much time to devote to anything that distracts me from helping me, my family, and you dear readers, from that goal.

I’ve heard it said by some to others (bloggers, etc.), “how could you not know about Father X?,” or “problem XYZ?” or some such line regarding another scandal du jour. You all know that I’ve heard about, and commented on, some events like these in the past. And I’m likely to do so again, in the future. But it will be only if it is something glaringly obvious worth talking about, and by that I mean something that is leading others astray, or that has affected me personally in some way.

The real reason that I don’t follow all the latest newsy stuff is that I am too busy doing the work of “renewing my inmost being” to pay attention to the noise that’s going on outside. This work of taking off the old person and putting on the new one is time consuming. Especially considering that I have other work, and family responsibilities, on top of blogging about the Faith here. But my friend Webster Bull said once that “being Catholic is like walking around with a blazing torch in your hand, one that illuminates everything you encounter” and for me that is the reality.

It is as if the scales have dropped from my own eyes, and I’ve discovered the “beauty ever ancient, beauty ever new” of the Church. It is the vision of a person who was blind once and can now see. Or like after the storm is gone and I see what Noah saw. Even so, I’ll freely admit that the sight I have regained is still one “as looking through a glass, and darkly.” But the Beacon calls me clearly.

And thankfully, as I continue to do the work of renewal, the Divine Optician constantly updates the prescription on my individual looking glass. And did I mention he also carries most of the load? He’s got the big stuff, so I can sweat the small stuff.

Photo Credit: Michael Belk

For Stuff My Abba Macarius Says About the Adversary

The following thoughts are from my patron, St. Macarius the Great.

from Homily 26.

Question. Does Satan know all of a man’s thoughts and intentions?

Answer. If one man, by being acquainted with another, knows about him, and you, who are twenty years old, know the affairs of your neighbor, can Satan fail to know your reasonings? He has been with you from your birth. He is six thousand years old (Note: This is a very rough calculation from the LXX chronology of the Old Testament, which differs from the Hebrew). Yet I do not say that he knows what a man will do before he tempts him. The tempter tempts, but does not know whether the man will yield or not yield, till such time as the soul gives up its will into bondage.

Nor do I say that the devil knows all the thoughts and devices of the heart. Suppose there is a tree with many branches and many limbs. A man may be able to grasp two or three branches of the tree. So the soul has many branches and many limbs. There are some branches of thought and intention which Satan grasps; there are other thoughts and intentions not grasped by Satan.

In one thing the side of evil is the stronger when thoughts spring up; in another, the mans’ thought is more than conqueror, receiving succour and deliverance from God, and resisting sin. At one point the man is mastered, at another he has his will. Sometimes he comes to God with fervour, and Satan knows it, and sees that he is acting against him, and cannot restrain him.

Why? Because he has the will to cry to God; he has the natural fruits of loving God, of believing, of seeking and coming. In the outer world, the farmer tills the ground; but in spite of his tilling, he needs rains and showers from above. If no moisture comes from above, the farmer has no profit from his tilling of the ground.

So is it with the spiritual world. There are two factors to be taken into consideration. The man must cultivate with a will the ground of his heart, and labor upon it—for God requires the mans’ labor and toil and travail. But unless clouds of heaven make their appearance from above, and showers of grace, the farmer does not profit by his toil.

This is the mark of Christianity: however much a man toils, and however many righteousnesses he performs, to feel that he has done nothing, and in fasting to say, “This is not fasting,” and in praying, “This is not prayer,” and in perseverance at prayer, “I have shown no perseverance; I am only just beginning to practice and to take pains “; and even if he is righteous before God, he should say, “I am not righteous, not I; I do not take pains, but only make a beginning every day.”

He should every day have the hope and the joy and the expectation of the coming kingdom and deliverance, and to say, “If today I have not been delivered, I shall tomorrow.” As the man who plants a vine has the joy and the hope in himself, before ever he embarks upon the toil, and sketches out vineyards in his mind, and reckons up the income, when there has been no wine yet, and so enters upon the toil—for the hope and expectation make him work cheerfully, and for the time being he incurs many expenses out of pocket; and in like manner the man who builds a house, and the man who tills a field, are at much expense to themselves first, in hope of the advantage to come; so it is here.

If a man does not keep before his eyes the joy and the hope, “I shall find deliverance and life,” he cannot endure the afflictions, or the burden, and adopt the narrow way. It is the presence of hope and joy that make him labour and endure the afflictions.

But as it is not easy for a brand to escape from the fire, so neither can the soul escape out of the fire of death, except with a great deal of trouble. For the most part, Satan, under pretext of good thoughts, that “in such and such a way you can please God,” offers suggestions to the soul, and underhand seduces it to subtle and specious notions, and it does not know how to discern that it is being seduced, and thus it falls into the snare and perdition of the devil (1 Tim. iii. 7, and vi. 9).

The most deadly weapon of the combatant and champion is this: to enter into the heart and make war there upon Satan, and to hate himself and to deny his own soul, to be angry with it and rebuke it, and to resist the desires that dwell there, and grapple with his thoughts, and fight with himself.

If outwardly you keep your body from corruption and fornication, but inwardly commit adultery, to God you are an adulterer and a fornicator in your thoughts, and you have gained nothing by the virginity of your body. If there is a young woman and a young man, and he by guile wheedles her till she is corrupted, she then becomes an object of loathing to her spouse, because she has been unfaithful. So the incorporeal soul, if it holds fellowship with the serpent that lurks within, the wicked spirit, goes a-whoring from God, as it is written, “Everyone that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already in his heart”(Matt v.28).

There is a fornication effected in the body, and there is a fornication of the soul, when it holds fellowship with Satan. The same soul is partner and sister either of devils, or of God and the angels; and if it commits adultery with the devil, it is unfit for the heavenly Bridegroom.

Read the entire homily here. St. Macarius the Great, pray for us.

An Old Feature Polished Up and Given It’s Own Page

I’m talking about the YIMCatholic Pandora Radio stations. Frankly, I had forgotten about the possibilites of Pandora Radio. But then a reader jogged my memory after they stumbled across an old post penned by Webster Bull.

Written waaay back on New Years Eve in December of 2009, the post is about a station he had created called Bingen Radio. He built it around the seed of St. Hildegard of Bingen’s music. But his conclusion points to the blog’s Facebook page and a link that you will never find there. One (not exactly) frantic e-mail later, I promised to look into the matter.

So I logged into Pandora Radio and faster than you can say “presto,change-o” I unearthed that old station. And then I decided that, since others may enjoy it, I ‘ll go ahead and put the link for it in a more accessible location, you know, like the right-hand sidebar of the blog.=========>

You can find it now, right under Our Lord’s portrait and the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. It’s “chant city” over at Hildegarde of Bingen Radio. Need a recharge, or need to cool your jets surrounded by prayerful music? Bingen Radio is where you’ll want to go. I re-seeded it with Webster’s original selections, but have added a few more.

And then I had another brilliant idea, or three. Since I was already standing atop the shoulders of the geniuses on Mount Pandora Radio, I came up with another station showcasing artists from the wildly popular Music for Mondays posts. Ok, “wildly popular” may be an overstating things a bit, but say you can’t wait for Monday, or you don’t want to work your way through seven YouTube videos at a time. What to do?

Head to the station I built called Rare Earth Radio.Well, I didn’t build it, really, but I started it from the seed of one great band (Rare Earth),and then proceeded to fill the little garden there with seeds from artists that have been featured on the MfM rock n’ roll music posts. With everthing from Matt Maher to the Foo Fighters, Elvis Presley to Arcade Fire, it’s a pretty eclectic mix. I reckon that little garden is more like a 40 acre farm. Give it a whirl!

And there is a third channel called Antonio Vivaldi Radio started with the seed of the Red Priest himself, and surrounded with other classical composers from the Jesus Went Mainstream -Classical music posts. His brothers in the priesthood, Manuel de Zumaya and Tomás Luis de Victoria, hang their berettas there too.

And the fourth and final channel is called Jesus Just Left Chicago Radio and is packed with songs that include Our Lord’s name in their titles or in their lyrics. Everthing from showtunes (Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell) to Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel is planted there. Who knows what the Music Geneome project will unearth around this theme?

So there you have it folks. Something old, something new, everything borrowed, and some of it blue. The YIMCatholic Pandora stations, available 24/7 on your personal electronic devices.

Thoughts on Obedience and Reading Maps without Guidance

Today, while making the rounds around the blogger neighborhood, I saw a great quote on a subject that is not near and dear to the heart of modern mankind: obedience. Deacon Greg Kandra shared the thoughts of a modern saint on the subject,

Your obedience is not worthy of the name unless you are ready to abandon your most flourishing work whenever someone with authority so commands…Oh, the power of obedience! The Lake of Genesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again into the water and they caught ‘a great number of fishes.’ Believe me, this miracle is repeated every day. –St. Josemaria Escriva [Read more...]

Because it is Only Rational That One Should Submit to Guidance

I’ve shared in this space thoughts on private interpretation of the scriptures before. Stuff from the Treasure Chest, like the article written by Father Bampfield for the Catholic Truth Society. I’ve even shared my own thoughts on this subject by way of my experience with land navigation and map reading skills.

I’ve been flipping through my new favorite classic, The Catholic’s Ready Answer, which I introduced to you this morning. Here again are Jesuit Fathers Michael P. Hill, and F. X. Brors (how is that surname pronounced?!), using their god-given ability to reason, along with God’s grace-filled gift of faith, to explain clearly, succinctly, and definitively, the Catholic approach to interpreting the Bible.

Think, “The Church interprets the Bible, as the Supreme Court of the United States interprets the Constitution”, and you’ll understand the Catholic position in a New York minute. First up? How I was taught as a child, followed by what I learned as a man (and by faith and reason knew what must be true). Common sense, and clear teaching, is coming your way.

BIBLE INTERPRETATIONS

Protestant Position:

—The Bible teaches all necessary truth to all who approach the study of it in the right spirit. In the Scriptures God speaks to the human soul, and no interpreter of His words is needed but the soul itself, enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Catholic Position:

—The above, if we mistake not, is a fair statement of the Protestant view of private interpretation. It differs essentially from the Catholic principle, according to which private interpretation is controlled by the authority of a divinely established Church.

But now a question: What are the grounds of the Protestant position? As the Bible is the Protestant’s final rule of faith, he should be able to quote chapter and verse for this as well as for any other article of his faith. Where in the whole compass of the sacred writings is there a passage enunciating the principle of private and independent interpretation? There are passages in abundance setting forth the benefits resulting from a reading of the Word of God, but none which declare that the individual reader is independent of all control in his interpretation of it.

In opposing such independence we do not mean to imply that the Bible is simply an unintelligible book. Quite the contrary, many parts of Scripture are plain narratives of matters of fact, and the more obvious sense of the text is the true one, or at least one true one. But other parts of the Bible abound in mysteries, or in other obscurities of one kind or another. This was doubtless the case even in the original version of the several books; but what shall we say of the modern translations—the imperfect medium through which all but a few readers get a glimpse of the revealed truth?

Now, is it likely that every chance reader, however good his disposition, possesses a “key to the Scriptures” and sees his way through all their obscurity of thought and expression? Is it not to be feared that the assumption of such power of interpretation will have injurious, and in some cases even disastrous, effects upon the reader? St. Peter the apostle, speaking of the epistles of St. Paul, says of them that they “contain certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter iii. 16). If this declaration, made by no less an authority than St. Peter, and to the very people to whom the epistles of St. Paul were addressed, was justified at the time, is it not to be feared that now, after twenty centuries, the same causes are producing even worse effects?

The Apostle here mentions two effects which he traces to three causes. The two effects are: 1. The wresting— that is to say, the twisting or distorting—of the meaning of Scripture; 2. The spiritual self-destruction of the reader. The causes are: 1. The intrinsic difficulties of the text; 2. Ignorance; 3. Instability (unsteadfastness, as it reads in the Revised Version). The same three causes are in operation to-day, and doubtless tend, in varying degrees, to produce the same effects. The text, with its intrinsic difficulties, remains. Ignorance remains; for the three R’s are the highest reach of knowledge for millions; and what special insight into Scripture is furnished by the three R’s?

But have not some gone much farther than the three R’s? Surely; they have learned their chemistry, or their physics, or their mathematics. But none of these sciences furnish a key to the obscurities of St. Paul. But have we no theologians or exegetes? Certainly we have; and they have helped us not a little to understand the sacred volume; but if we may believe Dr. Littledale it was just from this class that most of the ancient heresies took their rise; and all the theology in the world can not, of itself, secure a man from that instability of which St. Paul speaks—that is to say, from that intellectual and moral giddiness which often accompanies the greatest learning.

But, our opponents will tell us, at least let a man approach the reading of the Scriptures in a prayerful spirit, and he may expect to receive interior illumination. Doubtless a prayerful reading of Scripture has produced much insight into the meaning of the sacred text. But let us not mistake the issue in the present discussion. We do not deny the possibility of personal illumination. God, from the beginning, has deigned to speak to the individual soul. But—and this is the most important thing we have to say in the present article—there is nothing more illusory than the impression of having been enlightened from on high; and in the whole course of religious history nothing has proved more pernicious than the seeing in supposed illumination a practical rule of faith or of conduct.

Where God does really enlighten, no one can enlighten so well; but it is one thing to be enlightened, another to think one is enlightened. Many of our Catholic saints have received what they have described as marvelous illumination, but none were more distrustful of such illumination than the very recipients of it. And yet just the contrary has been the case with those leaders of men from Luther to Mrs. Eddy who have confidently proclaimed a special illumination in their interpretation of Scripture. And when we see the number of such claimants to inspirationand compare their clashing creeds—all based on the same Word of God—and listen to the war of words in which each denounces all the others, we begin to see the utter hollowness of the theory of private interpretation.

Religious chaos was never intended to be the result of the preaching of the Christian revelation. And yet chaos is the necessary result of Christian preaching when it is based on private interpretation. But worse than chaos are the ultimate logical consequences of the theory, for amidst the chaos at least some fragments of the truth remain; but even these are destined to disappear under the powerful solvent of independent judgment. The principle of private judgment is to-day working itself out most consistently in the land of its origin. In Germany individual judgment, even amongst the ministers of religion, who are supposed to have committed themselves to a fixed creed, is rapidly dissolving the fabric of Christianity itself.

Personal illumination is, therefore, in no absolute sense a safe guide. In one’s meditation on Scripture one may, of course, feel that reflection throws some light upon words or sentences heretofore obscure; many sound conclusions may be drawn; spiritual insight may increase; but still, considering that there are many things in Scripture “hard to be understood,” and that so many readers of Scripture have been mistaken in their interpretations, it is only rational that one should submit to guidance, if a guide can be found. And that a guide has been provided by a kind Providence can not be matter of doubt when one reflects on the unspeakable wisdom displayed in all God’s works and, on the other hand, on the sad consequences which are seen to follow the rejection of authority in so important a matter as the interpretation of the word of God.

Evidently, then, there is an infallible interpreter appointed by God Himself; and that infallible interpreter can be no other than the Church of Christ, which St. Paul tells us is “the pillar and ground of truth.” (1 Tim. iii. 15.)

If that sounds sort of like “We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident: no one person can interpret Scriptures,” then so be it. Because the Holy Father wants you to read the Bible.

For Books By Dead Jesuits, Like The Catholic’s Ready Answer

Yesterday I published the Music for Mondays post early. Therein, I commented that Catholicism is so deep and so wide, that ideas for writing about it will never be exhausted. But the fact of the matter is, folks like the shiny new stuff better than the old, moldy stuff already sitting in the libraries of the world.

Not me. I’m the weirdo contrarian, remember? And you know what else? Lately I’ve been bumping into fantastic stuff written by long dead Jesuit priests whom I’ve never heard of. My buddy Blaise Pascal hated the Jesuits with a passion. He’s not alone with that opinion either. But I like them. Guys like Wu Li, SJ for example. And François Nepveu, SJ. Remember Wilhem Wilmers, SJ, torpedoing Ayn Rand’s “originality?” And who could forget Henry Morse, SJ?

Oh, folks love John Hardon SJ, for example, and I picked up a copy of his The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism at a used book sale. I haven’t cracked it open yet though. At the same sale, I also picked up Mission and Grace, Volume 1 written by Karl Rahner, SJ, and We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, by John Courtney Murray, SJ. I’m reading that selection currently and frankly, it is top notch. I promise to post on it soon.

Aside for Fr. Hardon though, I have never heard of any of these guys. It turns out they are modern giants of the Society of Jesus. See? I’ve got a lot to learn. I hadn’t heard of the Jesuit who wrote this neat little book I just added to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf either.

It’s called, The Catholic’s Ready Answer: Popular Vindication of Christian Beliefs and Practices Against the Attacks of Modern Criticism , and looking over it I can say that it will be very useful even to Catholic of today. It was written by Michael P. Hill, SJ and started off as an English translation of a German book written by Franz X. Brors, SJ. Sure, it was published in 1914, but seriously, the modernist tenor of that time was very similar to modernist thoughts encountered nowadays. Don’t believe me? Just check the contents:


AGNOSTICISM > An Agnostic Query—”Why trouble ourselves about matters such as Gods existence, of which, however important they may be, we do know nothing?” (Huxley)

THE BIBLE AND MODERN THOUGHT Objection—The Bible is for many reasons deserving of veneration, but it is quite out of harmony with modern thought. The science, the aspirations, and the general point of view of the modern world are at the opposite pole from the contents of the Bible.

EUGENICS An Accusation—Every human being should love his kind, and a love of his kind should awaken in his breast an interest in the future of his race. The improvement of the race is the object of eugenics, and a want of sympathy with the present eugenic movement betrays either selfishness or an unenlightened conservatism.

HELL Objection—God is good and merciful; but a good and merciful God would not condemn a soul to eternal torments; therefore the eternity of hell is a contradiction of our belief in His goodness and mercy.

MARRIAGE A SACRAMENT, Ultra-Protestant View— “Marriage is an outward, material thing, like any other secular business. Marriage, with all that appertains to it, is a temporal thing and does not concern the Church at all, except in so far as it affects the conscience.”—Luther

See what I mean? The whole book is full of great, modern, controversial, questions and answered briefly from the viewpoint of Catholic tradition. If nothing else, it will get you jump started on learning more about the faith. Here are several examples for you to try out: Thoughts on Tolerance and Tradition.

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TOLERANCE

An Accusation. —Tolerance is the first duty of the citizen as regards religious matters; but “the Roman Catholic Church, if it would be consistent, must be intolerant.”—Tschackert.

The Answer. —According to Christ’s teaching, the first duty of a man living in a community is not tolerance, but love of his neighbor. A pharisaical doctor of the law once “asked Him, tempting Him: Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets” (Matt. xxii. 35-40).

Justice and love are the two first duties of a man to his fellow-men. Tolerance is nowhere mentioned in the law. Mere tolerance does not go far enough. The Catholic Church does not merely tolerate her erring brethren She loves them with a divine charity—and that is more than tolerance. “Tolerance” is the catchword of genuine liberalism, which manages to put up with an obnoxious fellow-citizen, but knows nothing of charity.

But a distinction must be made in the matter of tolerance. Catholics are not intolerant of the erring, but toward their error there can be no such thing as tolerance. We can not compromise with error. What is false we can not call true, any more than we can call black white. When, therefore, the Catholic Church combats error and champions truth, she only follows the example of Christ and does what every right-thinking man will acknowledge to be just.

Dogmatic tolerance is self-contradiction. How can a Church that professes to be a teacher of truth say to the thinking world: “If you believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Christ, and in the sacrament of Penance, well and good. If you don’t believe in them—again well and good—for I can’t be intolerant”? A Church which is the custodian of revealed truth can not compound with error; and any church—no matter what elements of truth it may retain, or what good it may do to men—any church which is seen to throw the mantle of a false charity over all vagaries of opinion within its pale is proved thereby not to have the hall-mark of Christian orthodoxy. In this connection the Catholic Church stands quite alone—and is thereby proved to be the one faithful eustodian of the doctrine revealed by Christ.

TRADITION AS A RULE OF FAITH

Objection. —Tradition can not be a source of true knowledge. There is nothing so unreliable as an old story that has passed from mouth to mouth and is subject to change at every telling. Even written documents are not safe from alteration. Every new copy made is likely to contain fresh errors.

The Answer. —Many who urge this objection are believers in Christianity; and yet what guarantee can be had for the truth of Christianity except in reliable tradition? Perhaps such guarantee is furnished by the Bible; but how can we know that the Bible is the word of God save by tradition?

Doubtless there are matters of secular interest about which neither writing nor tradition can afford any security from error; but there are also matters regarding which all fear of error is reasonably absent. No sensible man doubts about the existence of such historical characters as Csesar, Napoleon, or Luther. So, too, in the religious domain, there is a body of truth which is sealed as such by the continuous and unfailing witness of God’s Church; and what is this but tradition?

The Gospels can be proved to be genuine and reliable historical documents. And it may be proved from the Gospels that Christ, who was sent from on high, established an infallible Church—a fact which is plain from His having commissioned the apostles to preach the Faith to all nations and from His having declared that whosoever would not believe them would be condemned (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20; Mark xvi. 15, 16). The Church as represented by the apostles must be infallible, for otherwise no one would be condemned for not accepting the apostolic teaching. Now the Pope and the other bishops are the successors of the apostles; and they must be supposed to teach with the same infallible authority as the apostles, for otherwise we are forced to the very unchristian conclusion that Christ must have meant that all authoritative teaching should cease with the apostles! It follows that once the Pope and the bishops proclaim anything to be a truth of the Faith, it must infallibly be such.

Now tradition is nothing else but the continuous and uninterrupted teaching of God’s Church. God has it in His power to provide for the continued infallibility of His Church—just as of old He provided for the preservation of the writings of the evangelists and the other sacred writers from errors of fact and of doctrine.

In the Catholic Church there is every possible guarantee that the tradition on which Catholics rely is not of a loose, haphazard sort, containing a large admixture of hearsay and legend. The communion of all parts of the Church with the Apostolic See of Peter and Peter’s successors has been the one great source of unity and continuity of teaching in the Church. The decrees of the Popes, and of councils presided over by the Popes, are written in broad characters on the pages of history; but, even if there were no such record of them, the unfailing continuity of the Church’s life makes her a witness to apostolic truth in every succeeding age. It is to Catholic tradition as thus understood that Protestants owe such elements of pure Christianity as they retain in their several creeds.

Have a look at the rest of the book over on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Stuff I Heard This Weekend (Music for Mondays)

Yep, you read that title right. There is nothing more to this post, and nothing less. Some of these songs I heard in the house, or on the road. None of them were from an i-Pod or anything like that. Usually, I prefer to have music arrive to my ears by chance. Call me crazy. Oh, and this post is so long, I’m publishing it on Sunday night. Call it the Early Edition.

So that is what you have to look forward to from me today. No reasoned approach to the selection. No ulterior motive to the picks. But sometimes, and trust me I’m open to seeing things this way now, the songs just come unannounced and resonate with what is happening in the world of my faith and the new oxygen supply of my life. I speak of my love of the Church here, if you hadn’t noticed that trait rearing it’s head already.

It’s a jumble of old and new, but only if “new” is used very loosely. New, as in “newer rock n’ roll.” Have a listen and see how these tunes tickled my puzzler this past weekend. Warning: The final song in the post is 24+ minutes long. LOL.

The Who, Can’t Explain. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the subject of the Faith and the Church is so deep, and so wide, that it can never be exhausted in terms of ideas to write or blog about. Take this blog, for instance. From one author, to two, and then three, and back to one again, YIMCatholic has 1089 posts published on the books, all wrapped around the title statement and you now what? Webster and Allison are still out there writing posts too. See? She’s like a rich vein in a mine whose surface has only just been scratched. Better yet, it’s like what Our Lord says here,

the water that I will give to him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life. —John 4:10

Other than that, my love for Christ and His Church is unexplainable except it must be Love. I saw this on the Facebook page of the Who and the first song of the set was chosen.

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Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love. Love is complex, multidimensional, and multifaceted. Of late I’ve been sharing thoughts around love as agape. Of course, love also is eros, philios, and storos. Modern culture seems to highlight eros, and maybe to you this song does that too. But real love encompasses all four types of love, and that even includes the love of one’s faith. These are the thoughts I had when I heard this song in the car. It reminded me that setting unrealistic expectations for love will drown you in sorrow. Because love will make you laugh, make you cry, and even make you yodel sometimes. Just sayin’. This was written when Springsteen’s marriage to Julianne Philips was unraveling. Remember that?

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Kim Wilde, Keep Me Hanging On. Welcome to the “Big Eighties!” Big hair, big sound, and big, splashy, covers of older hits. Like this modern take on the song made famous by Diana Ross. I heard this right on the heels of Bruce’s tune. Seriously though, whatever happened to Kim Wilde? Her version of this classic reminded me that often times in love, temptations will arise and attempt to lead you astray. You have to cut them away like wreckage from a boating accident, or it will act like an anchor and drag you to the bottom. You have to say “get out of my life” to that which threatens your relationship’s health or threatens to lead you astray. Sing it Kim!

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Jon Bon Jovi, You Give Love a Bad Name. More big hair, this time on a dude wearing cool looking rags. Ever met somebody that gives “love” a bad name? Some folks think I was giving love a bad name recently. Heh. I tend to default back to a lesson I learned a long time ago: leadership is by example. Those who hit me with “do as I say and not as I do” behavior leave me cold (thank God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation). And they give love a bad name. Christ never said, or did, such a thing.

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Naked Eyes, Promises, Promises. This song, to me anyway, is YIMCatholic. Everything else is simply a string of broken promises. I’ve come to believe what W.J. Williams, G.K. Chesterton, and countless others have come to realize: the Catholic Church is the key that fits the complex lock of human nature. Every other approach is just empty promises that can’t be kept, and that leave you playing solitaire in your jail cell.

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The Fixx, Stand or Fall. Remember these guys? What a bunch of great tunes they made! Red Skies at Night, One Thing Leads to Another, Saved By Zero. Awesome stuff. And of course this tune, which issues something of a challenge. I’ve stated my piece. I choose to stand with the Church.

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Rare Earth, Get Ready. How can you not love this song or this band? Not a recognizable “star” name among them. And yet, BAM! They rock the house. This is their 1969 cover of Smokey Robinson’s classic. The boys took it to #4 in 1970. I heard a snippet of this one while sitting through the trailers in the theater before The Tree of Life started. I’ve got a soft spot for any band whose drummer is the lead singer. You just don’t see that very often. Here is their awesome loooooooong version, where every band member gets to do a solo. Because 3 minutes just isn’t good enough, you know? This is YIMCatholic too. I never met a girl like the Church, the Bride of Christ. She’s bringin’ the world a multidimensional Love that’s true. Now THAT is a rare earth! Are you ready?

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A Tale of the Laity and Priestly Scandal, Circa 1400 AD

This is Part III of a recently started series about on-going personal conversion. Part I started us off with thoughts from a vision of St. Catherine of Siena. Part II continued with words of a Franciscan friar giving an intelligence brief on our adversary. What follows is either miraculous or not depending on how you view things.

I say miraculous, in at least a minor way, because a) until today, I had never heard of this passage I’m sharing now, and b) the timing of the find is uncanny. How, pray tell, did I “find” it? It all started a few weeks ago when I picked up volume one of the Norton Anthology of English Literature for $4.00 at a flea market about an hour from my home. In mint condition, and weighing in at 2074 pages, folks who like math will delight in the fact that I paid ‎a whopping .001344989 cents per page for it. It’s chock full o’ Catholic classics too.

What does this have to do with personal conversion? Boatloads. As Qoheleth, the inspired writer of my favorite Old Testament book says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” That includes scandals involving priests. They will come, and they will go. None of us have seen the last of them, and persevere through them, we must. And despite some folks thinking that questioning priests, and holding them accountable, turns the faithful into members of the “brood of vipers and evil doers” section of the flock, I believe this story shows the opposite to be true.

So this morning, with no intention whatsoever of my own, I picked up this weighty tome I acquired so cheaply and randomly flipped it open to find myself on page 374. There, I happened upon the following tale that beckoned me with the heading Examination Before the Archbishop and started with the following words,

There was a monk should preach in York, the which had heard much slander and much evil language of the said creature.

Uh?, I thought. Do tell! Having never heard of Margery Kempe, I just plunged onward through this story as if I had entered a time machine and was whisked back to the days when England was still Catholic. Margery, it turns out, was a contemporary of St. Julian of Norwich and is honored in the Anglican Communion. She lived in Norwich, married at the age of 20, and had 14 children. She remained a member of the laiety, and yet was ahead of her time in recognizing her calling to the “royal priesthood” that St. Peter describes in his first letter to the faithful (1 Peter 2:9).

Be advised that this is a bit long, so go get a glass of your favorite beverage, or head to the loo, before you wade in. Ready? Enjoy…

from The Book of Margery Kempe

Examination before the Archbishop

There was a monk should preach in York, the which had heard much slander and much evil language of the said creature. And, when he should preach, there was much multitude of people to hear him, and she (Margery) present with them. And so, when he was in his sermon, he rehearsed many matters so openly that the people conceived well it was for cause of her, wherefore her friends that loved her well were full sorry and heavy thereof, and she was much the more merry, for she had matter to prove [test] her patience and her charity wherethrough she trusted to please Our Lord Christ Jesus.

When the sermon was done, a doctor of divinity which loved her well with many others also came to her and said,

“Margery, how have ye done this day?”

“Sir,” she said, “right well, blessed be God. I have cause to be right merry and glad in my soul that I may any thing suffer for his love, for he suffered much more for me.”

Anon after came a man which loved her right well of good will with his wife and others more, and led her seven miles thence to the Archbishop of York, and brought her into a fair chamber, where came a good clerk, saying to the good man which had brought her thither, “Sir, why have ye and your wife brought this woman hither? She shall steal away from you, and then shall ye have a villainy of her.”

The good man said, “I dare well say she will abide and be at her answer with good will.”

On the next day she was brought into the Archbishop’s chapel, and there came many of the Archbishop’s meiny, despising her, calling her “loller” and “heretic,” and swearing many an horrible oath that she should be burnt. And she, through the strength of Jesus, said again to them,

“Sirs, I dread me ye shall be burnt in hell without end unless than ye amend you of your oaths swearing, for ye keep not the commandments of God. I would not swear as ye do for all the good of this world.”

Then they gedyn [went] away as they had been ashamed. She then, making her prayer in her mind, asked grace so to be demeaned that day as was most pleasant to God and profit to her own soul and good example to her evyn [fellow] Christians. Our Lord, answering her, said it should be right well.

At the last the said Archbishop came into the chapel with his clerks, and sharply he said to her,

“Why goest thou in white? Art thou a maiden?”

She, kneeling on her knees before him, said, “Nay, sir, I am no maiden; I am a wife.”

He commanded his meiny to fetch a pair of fetters and said she should be fettered, for she was a false heretic. And then she said,

“I am no heretic, nor ye shall none prove me.”

The Archbishop went away and let her stand alone. Then she made her prayers to our Lord God almighty for to help her and succour her against all her enemies, ghostly and bodily, a long while, and her flesh trembled and quaked wonderly that she was fain to put her hands under her clothes that it should not be aspied.

Since the Archbishop came again into the chapel with many worthy clerks, amongst which was the same doctor (of theology) which had examined her before and the monk that had preached against her a little time before in York. Some of the people asked whether she were a Christian woman or a Jew; Some said she was a good woman, and Some said nay.

Then the Archbishop took his see [ecclesiastical seat], and his clerks also, each of them in his degree, much people being present. And in the time while the people was gathering together and the Archbishop taken his see, the said creature stood all behind, making her prayers for help and succour against her enemies with high devotion so long that she melted all into tears. And at the last she cried loud therewith, that the Archbishop and his clerks and much people had great wonder of her, for they had not heard such crying before.

When her crying was passed, she came before the Archbishop and fell down on her knees, the Archbishop saying full boisterously unto her,

“Why weapest thou so, woman?”

She, answering, said, “Sir, ye shall will some day that ye had wept as sore as I.”

And then anon, after the Archbishop put to her the Articles of our Faith (the Apostle’s Creed), to the which God gave her grace to answer well and truly and readily without any great study so that he might not blame her, then he said to the clerks,

“She knows her faith well enough. What shall I do with her?”

The clerks said, “We know well that she can the Articles of the Faith, but we will not suffer her to dwell among us, for the people have great faith in her dalliance, and peradventure she might pervert some of them.”

Then the Archbishop said unto her, “I am evil informed of thee; I hear said thou art a right wicked woman.”

And she said again, “Sir, so I hear said that ye are a wicked man. And,if ye be as wicked as men say, ye shall never come in heaven unless than ye amend you while ye be here.”

Then said he full boisterously, “Why, thou, what say men of me?”

She answered, “Other men, sir, can tell you well enough.”

Then said a great clerk with a furred hood, “Peace, thou speak of thyself and let him be.”
Since said the Archbishop to her, “Lay thine hand on the book here before me and swear that thou shall go out of my diocese as soon as thou may.”

“Nay, sir,” she said, “I pray you, give me leave to go again into York to take my leave of my friends.”

Then he gave her leave for one day or two. She thought it was too short a time, wherefore she said again,

“Sir, I may not go out of this diocese so hastily, for I must tarry and speak with good men ere I go, and I must, sir, with your leave, go to Birdlington and speak with my confessor, a good man, the which was the good prior’s (St. John of Birdlington) confessor that is now canonized.”

Then said the Archbishop to her, “thou shall swear that thou shalt not teach nor challenge the people in my diocese.”

“Nay, sir, I shall not swear,” she said, “for I shall speak of God and undirnemyn [reprove] them that swear great oaths wheresoever I go unto the time that the Pope and Holy Church have ordained that no man shall be so hardy to speak of God, for God all mighty forbids not, sir, that we shall speak of him. And also the gospel makes mention that, when the woman had heard Our Lord preach, she came before him with a loud voice and said, `Blessed be the womb that thee bore and the tits that gave the suck.’ Then our Lord said again to her, `Forsooth so are they blessed that hear the word of God and keep it.’ And therefore, sir, me thinks that the gospel gives me leave to speak of God.”

“A sir,” said the clerks, “here wot[know] we well that she hath a devil within her, for she speaks of the gospel.”

As such a great clerk brought forth a book and laid Saint Paul for his party against her that no woman should preach. She, answering thereto, said,

“I preach not, sir, I come in no pulpit. I use but communication and good words, and that will I do while I live.”

Then said a doctor which had examined her beforetime, “Sir, she told me the worst tales of priests that ever I heard.”

The bishop commanded her to tell that tale.

Stand-by for one of the best parables I have ever read. Everything prior, though a bit tedious, has set the stage for the following stunner. Read on me hearties!

Peach Tree in Bloom
Vincent Van Gogh

“Sir, with your reverence, I spoke but of one priest by the manner of example, the which as I have learned went wild in a wood through the sufferance of God for the profit of his soul til the night came upon him. He, destitute of his herborwe [lodging], found a fair arbor in the which he rested that night, having a fair pear tree in the midst all flourished with flowers and embellished, and blooms full delectable to his sight, where came a bear, great and boisterous, hugely to behold, shaking the pear tree and felling down the flowers. Greedily this grevious beast ate and devoured those fair flowers. And, when he had eaten them, turning his tail end in the priest’s presence, voided them out again at the hinder part.

The priest, having great abomination of that loathly sight, conceiving great heaviness for doubt what it might mean, on the next day he wandered forth in his way all heavy and pensive, whom it fortuned to meet with a seemly aged man like to a palmer or a pilgrim, the which enquired of the priest the cause of his heaviness. The priest, rehearsing the matter before written, said he conceived great dread and heaviness when he beheld that loathly beast defoul and devour so fair flowers and blooms and afterward so horribly to devoid them before him at his tail end, and he not understanding what this might mean.

Then the palmer, showing himself the messenger of God, thus areasoned him,

“Priest, thou thyself art the pear tree, somedeal flourishing and flowering through thy service saying and the sacraments ministering, though thou do undevoutly, for thou take full little heed how thou says thy matins and thy service, so it be blabbered to an end. Then go thou to thy mass without devotion, and for thy sin hast thou full little contrition. Thou receivest there the fruit of everlasting life, the sacrament of the altar, in full feeble disposition.

“Since all the day after thou misspendest thy time, thou give thee to buying and selling, chopping and changing [bargaining and exchanging], as it were a man of the world. Thou sittest at the ale, giving the to glotony and excess, to lust of thy body, through lechery and uncleanness. Thou breakest the commandments of God through swearing, lying, detraction, and backbiting, and such other sins using. Thus by thy misgovernance, like onto the loathly bear, thou devourest and destroyest the flowers and blooms of virtuous living to thine endless damnation and many man’s hindering less than thou have grace of repentance and amending.”‘

Then the Archbishop liked well the tale and commended it, saying it was a good tale. And the clerk which had examined her beforetime in the absence of the Archbishop, said,

“Sir, this tale smites me to the heart.”

The foresaid creature said to the clerk, “Ah, worshipful doctor, sir, in place where my dwelling is most, is a worthy clerk, a good preacher, which boldly speaks against the misgovernance of the people and will flatter no man. He says many times in the pulpit, `If any man be evil pleased with my preaching, note him well, for he is guilty.’

And right so, sir,” said she to the clerk, “fare ye by me, God forgive it you.”

The clerk wist [knew] not well what he might say to her. Afterward the same clerk came to her and prayed her of forgiveness that he had so been against her. Also he prayed her specially to pray for him. And than anon after the Archbishop said,

An Archbishop

“Where shall I have a man that might lead this woman from me?”

As swithe [immediately] there started up many young men, and every man said of them, “My Lord, I will go with her.”

The Archbishop answered, “Ye be too young; I will not have you.”

Then a good sad [of sober continence] man of the Archbishop’s meiny asked his Lord what he would give him and he should lead her. The Archbishop proferred him five shillings and the man asked a noble. The Archbishop, answering, said,

“I will not waryn [spend] so much on her body.”

“Yes, good sir,” said the said creature, “our Lord shall reward you right well again.”

Then the Archbishop said to the man, “See, here is five shillings, and lead her fast out of this country.”

She, kneeling down on her knees, asked his blessing. He, praying her to pray for him, blessed her and let her go.

Than she, going again to York, was received of much people and of full worthy clerks, which enjoyed in our Lord that had given her not lettred wit and wisdom to answer so many learned men without villainy or blame, thanking be to God.

****

And that’s all for today, dear reader. For more on Margery Kempe, see this new volume added to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf: The Cell of Self-Knowledge.


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