To Share, and Share Alike (The Saturday Evening Blog Post)

Today I saw a blogging friend mention that it was time to contribute to blogger Elizabeth Esther’s Saturday Evening Blog Post. I thought, What’s that?

It turns out to be sort of like the Saturday Evening Post of yore, in that it is a compilation of blog posts from the past month from both Catholic blog writers, and not, from all over. Elizabeth posts these on the first Saturday of each month. Who is Elizabeth Esther? Come and see.


This month, Elizabeth asked for two selections because she didn’t have an issue for the month of December. So I’m sharing a couple of posts that I hope her readers will enjoy and I’m looking forward to reading other bloggers favorite posts as well. From December, I shared Because I Was Blind, And Could Not See, which Scott Hahn told me he liked. And from January, I shared Because the Church Is Paradoxically Consistent, because it is.

So far there are 66 posts to peruse over there, so this issue of The Saturday Evening Blog Post is pretty thick. This should be a blast and I’m looking forward to it!

For All the Saints: Joseph of Leonissa

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph of Leonissa (Feb. 4, 1612). He was from a small town in Italy that, at the time, lay within the borders of the Papal States. At the age of seventeen, he became a Capuchin friar. I hadn’t planned on posting on this saintly fellow, but I found something that I believe I am supposed to share with you. I can’t explain it really, I just feel drawn to share an account that involves Joseph.

But first, a little background. He is best known for heading to Constantinople to minister to the Christian galley slaves of the Sultan there. He didn’t do that on a lark, either. He studied the Turks, and Islam, before heading on this mission.

Art credit: Getty Images

One day, he got the idea that he would preach to the Sultan himself, was captured, tortured and then miraculously released after hanging from hooks through his foot and his right hand (comfortable, and humane) over a smokey fire for three days. You can read more about that episode from the article on him at the Catholic News Service. Suffice it to say it’s a miracle he survived.

Like I said, I really wasn’t going to post anything about this particular saint. But then I found something about him on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, you remember, my wacky hobby nowadays? And one thing led to another.

It is an episode in Joseph’s life that I found in a book entitled The Agonizing Heart, by Fr. François René Blot. I added this volume to our shelf promptly because the subtitle of the book is Salvation of the Dying, Consolation of the Afflicted. So, it sounds like a book that has a broad appeal, since all of us are dying, or consoling someone who has lost someone who has died.

This particular story comes from Section II in the book, Meditations For One Day In Each Month. The selection that concerns our saint of the day is the meditation for the month of December, on the Blessed Virgin Mary. It turns out that Joseph of Leonissa is also know for two things that stand out in my mind: he preached while holding a crucifix, and he had a strong devotion to Our Lady.

What could be more agonizing than losing your child in premature death? A horrible accident for example, or to a disease, and heaven forbid, to a homicide. That is the episode that unfolds in the account that involves our Saint of the Day below. Take a look,

from La Vie du B. P. Joseph de Leonissa
by Daniel de Paris

The talent of consoling the afflicted is one of the gratuitous graces which God gives to whom He wills for the benefit of others, but compassion towards the afflicted is the duty of every Christian, according to the words of St. Paul, ‘Weep with them that weep’ (Rom. xii. 15).

The Blessed Father Joseph had this talent to a remarkable degree. He was ever ready to weep with those who wept, and to lead them to adore the secrets of Divine Providence. On one occasion, when he was preaching the Lent at Jane (ed. a nearby town), he heard that a young man had just been killed in a quarrel, and that his mother, a widow, was inconsolable in her grief.

Father Joseph, with true compassion for her affliction, went to visit her, and to share it; but he found her in a state of frenzy, and full of thoughts of revenge. The servant of God did not begin by blaming her anger; on the contrary, he acknowledged that she had good cause for her tears.

“You weep,” said he, “your tears are reasonable, and God does not blame them. But now that you have given all that nature can expect from a mother’s heart, it is time to think of what grace claims from a Christian. You must let yourself be ruled by faith; look at Jesus on the Cross” (he showed her the crucifix), “and consider the tears of the Blessed Virgin His Mother, and her humble submission to the will of God. Will you not follow so beautiful an example? ”

“Your son has fallen a victim to the hatred of his enemies, but the Son of Mary suffered from the cruelty of His own people. The one was, like all Adam’s children, a sinner, the other was the God-Man, the Saint of Saints, and He died only to restore those who were dead in sin. In short, your son died in a personal quarrel, your Savior died for the sins of others. Yet Mary did not yield to such an excess of grief, she did not call upon Heaven to destroy those wicked deicides; she imitated the clemency of her Son, Who even on the Cross prayed for His murderers; every day she still intercedes for sinners. You have acted as an afflicted mother, but is it not now time to behave after her example, as a Christian mother, who conforms herself in all things to the will of God?”

The tears of a too human sorrow were changed into tears of holy compunction, and the poor mother seemed absorbed in the love shown by Jesus on the Cross. The holy man led her to something yet more perfect. As the Blessed Virgin loves those who have crucified her Son so much that she seeks their salvation, she also learned charity towards those who had taken the life of her child. She invited them to her house, even before the funeral, and assured them that she forgave them for the love of Jesus and His holy Mother.

****
I’ve been reading a book written by John C.H. Wu where he writes that,
Some time or other, the Holy Spirit moves you to whisper to Christ, “Lord, what shall I render to You for Your wonderful love of me? He answers you in a whisper, “Do not always say ‘me, me, me…’ Remember there is a big Me in you. Love Me, love My brothers.”

And of course, He also says,

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

St. Joseph of Leonissa, pray for us.

Our Lady of Sorrows

To Pull for the Pittsburgh Steelers (There’s Even a Catholic Reason, or Two)

My buddy Blaise Pascal has this to say about sports,

Men spend their time in following a ball or a hare; it is the pleasure even of kings.

I’m a baseball fan, so I watch professional football once or twice a year, usually. However, my family and I always watch the Super Bowl. And this year, I’ll be pulling for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This is mainly for personal “childhood memory” reasons. Franco Harris, one of my favorite players, and the Immaculate Reception, for example.

Terry Bradshaw connecting with Lynn Swan for catches like this.

Vietnam veteran Rocky Bleier (#20) one of my favorites too, scrambling forward for yardage tenaciously, in this case for a touchdown.

And I can’t forget John Stallworth.

Glory Days! It turns out that the Steelers have a pretty well know contingent of Catholics in the organization from down on the the playing field all the way up to the owner’s suite. Strong safety Troy Polamalu, for example, is a strong witness for the Faith. According to an article from the Catholic News Service back in 2006, Troy,

is not an NFL superstar who happens to be a man of faith. Rather, in his heart, he is simply “a Christian with a passion for Jesus… Success in anything doesn’t matter. As Mother Teresa said, God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful. My prayer is that I would glorify God no matter what, and not have success be the definition of it.

NFL players who quote Mother Teresa? Who knew! One of the authors of that article, Gina Mazza Hillier comments that, “the entire Steelers organization is a blessing. The owners (The Rooney Family) are devout Catholics and the players are humble.”

Perhaps the same is true for the Green Bay Packers. I can’t say, because I don’t have the same affinity for the Packers as I do for the Steelers, so I won’t be looking into the matter. I do know that a couple of bishops have a bet (all proceeds of which will benefit Catholic Charities) on the outcome of the game this year.

As Bishop David Zubik says,

Have fun with the game, enjoy our Steelers, but don’t let these things define us, don’t let them become such a passion that we lose perspective.

Amen to that. Go Steelers!

Update: Catholic Roots Run Deep for Both Teams.

For Thoughts On Meekness Like These

I mentioned the other day that I had saved up some Christmas gift money and used it to help me buy my friend John C.H.Wu’s book The Interior Carmel: The Threefold Way of Love. The book is John’s reflection on Christianity as The Way of Love. [Read more...]

Candlemas (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. On this day, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple, in accordance with Mosaic Law. Our Lord was blessed by Simeon, as witnessed by the prophetess Anna as set forth in the Gospel of Luke.

Blessed John Henry Newman wrote a poem commemorating the blessing of the candles, which is also done on this day in the Latin Rite.

Candlemas

by John Henry Newman

The Angel-lights of Christmas morn,
Which shot across the sky,
Away they pass at Candlemas,
They sparkle and they die.

Comfort of earth is brief at best,
Although it be divine;
Like funeral lights for Christmas gone
Old Simeon’s tapers shine.

And then for eight long weeks and more,
We wait in twilight grey,
Till the high candle sheds a beam
On Holy Saturday.

We wait along the penance-tide
Of solemn fast and prayer;
While song is hush’d, and lights grow dim
In the sin-laden air.

And while the sword in Mary’s soul
Is driven home, we hide
In our own hearts, and count the wounds
Of passion and of pride.

And still, though Candlemas be spent
And Alleluias o’er,
Mary is music in our need,
And Jesus light in store.

The Oratory. 1849

Update:
The Anchoress on this Feast

Thoughts On Beauty from Sick Bay On A Tuesday

Have you ever heard of François Villon? I never had, but I’m looking forward to finding out more about him. I’m home sick, drinking coffee and later on I’ll be dipping into the medicine chest for the “sniffling, sneezing, coughing, so you can rest medicine.” But first, I want to share with you what, in my unlettered opinion, is the Best. Preface. Ever. Written.

It’s all my friend John C.H. Wu’s fault, you know. For Christmas, I ponied up all of my cash Christmas gifts and bought John’s close to impossible to find The Interior Carmel: The Threefold Way of Love. Since I’m effectively confined to quarters, I started reading it a bit and began noting whatever references he made to other authors, adding their works to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

John is well read, and by reading my friend John, he points me to a lot of good stuff. That’s what friends do for one another, right? So I chased down a reference to a book written by one Pierre Champion, SJ entitled The Spiritual Teaching of Father Louis Lallement. By doing a search of the authors name, I was pointed to a book that quoted him, where I found this preface written by Henry De Vere Stacpoole, the author of a ton of books, including the one made into a movie a few times,  The Blue Lagoon.

Take a look at this and tell me what you think.

Preface to François Villon, His Life and Time, (1431-1463)
By Henry De Vere Stacpoole

Traveling in France you may often get a glimpse of something that England cannot show you—a chateau with slated roofs and towers pointed each like a witch’s cap.

The outline of a Chinese pagoda would not strike upon the retina more strangely than the outline of this veritable figure of stone, ambushed in valley or crouching on hill-top, and showing to the broad light of day the roofs that rose and the towers that took form when Amboise was building and before Bussy was a man. You pass on, the chateau fades from sight, but the picture of it will remain for ever in your mind. You have seen the Middle Ages.

My object is to present to you Francois Villon, one of the strangest figures in all literature, and one of the greatest of French poets. Were I to attempt to reach him immediately and entirely through the MSS. of the Bibliotheque de la Sorbonne, or the Bibliotheque Nationale, or the Archives of the Cote d’Or, and were I to take you with me, we would both be half asphyxiated by the stuffy smell of parchment, and we would part company, or arrive at our journey’s end cross and tired and without finding Villon.

You cannot find a man through manuscripts, unless they are in the handwriting of the man. Archaeologists and museum hunters may tell us all about a man’s surroundings, his companions, his status in life, and his morals, as they appeared to his contemporaries, but to find the man one must find the man, and we can only find him through the expressions of his mind. And that is why so many dead men are so utterly dead. They have left nothing by which we can weigh them as men. Literary men fall under this freezing law no less than others, simply because the large majority of them leave on paper their ideas, fancies, inventions, and so forth, but of themselves little trace. Villon had the magical power of turning himself into literature, and that is why I propose to rob archaeologists and students and all sorts of people on our road, so that we may find out in what sort of country Villon lived and something of the extent of his genius, but to discard or almost to discard these when we come to estimate Villon as a man—to discard everything but the literature which holds his mind and heart, and, almost one might say, his body.

Stand with me, then, on this French road in the year 1914 and, forgetting books and manuscripts for awhile, let that chateau with the pointed towers touch you with its magic wand. All those modern houses crumble to dust, the railway-track vanishes, mule-bells strike the ear, pilgrims pass, their faces set towards Paris, and troops of soldiers, soon to be disbanded and to join the ranks of the unemployed, the labourers, the mendicants, and the robbers.

It is the year 1431. War is smouldering in the land; only a few short months ago Jean d’Arc was burned at Rouen. Henry VI of England, his archers and men-at-arms, are advancing away there to the west slowly towards Paris. Paris is starving. Charles VII, recently crowned, is King of France but as yet only in name, and over the whole broad land the spirit of the dead Maid is welding together the Armagnacs, the Poitevins, the Bretons, and the Burgundians to form the French nation.

Side by side with this creation of a people is going forward—or soon to go forward—the creation of a national language.

Up to this, France has spoken almost entirely in stone; up to this the architect has been the man of letters; up to this all those scattered tribes, Angevins, Poitevins, Burgundians, Armagnacs, and Bretons, have found expression for the genius that lives in man, not in verse or prose or painting, but in the pointed arch and shrill spire, the cathedral, fortress, and chateau.

We are in the land of the gargoyle. That chateau before us is the mind of the Middle Ages epitomised in stone, severe, narrow-windowed, armed, and above all fantastic. When we reach Paris along that road on which the pilgrims are straying, you will see that chateau broken up and repeated in a thousand different forms, you will see its pointed roofs in La Tournelles, its weathercocks on the Hotel de Sens, its towers on the Bastille, its portcullis as you cross the Petit Pont, and its fantasy everywhere.

And what you see here and what you will see in Paris is not a collection of stones cemented by mortar, but the carapace of the mind of the people. You are, in effect, looking at the literature of France in the year 1481.

As I have hinted before, France has not learned to express herself fully in poetry or prose. She has not yet learned properly to write, the mind of the people is pregnant with artistic speech, but as yet it can only murmur in verse and in tapestry or cry out in stone, yet even in these tapestries you may see the prefiguration of French literature, and even in these stones.

Over there at Bourges you will find the first verse of Villon’s Ballade of Jean Cotart, not yet to be written for thirty years, on the main porch where Noah lies drunk and naked, and you will find his ballade of the Contredicts de Franc Gontier hinted at in the sculptures of the Salle des Cheminees of the Palais de Justice in Paris. You will find Rabelais everywhere, from the Abbey de Bocherville to the Church of St. Jacques de la Boucherie, though Rabelais is not yet to be born for many and many a year. Grim humour, gross humour, fantasy and a vague gloom, arising from the skull which is the basis of Gothic art, are found everywhere; we find facades that sneer, porches that criticise, bas-reliefs filled with pointed stories, a whole literature petrified and inhuman. The attempt, in fact, of the human mind to express itself in stone.

To Villon, who was born last month, will fall the high mission of helping to give the human mind expression in speech. The mocking verses of his Testaments will give voice to the spirit of mockery whose expression can now only be found chiselled in the lavatory of the Abbey de Bocherville, or in the sculptures of Guillaume de Paris; his tenderness, his humanity, his tears can be found as yet nowhere, for stone cannot give expression to these.

Leaving aside the genius and directness of vision of this man who has just been born into the world—or rather perhaps because of them— Villon’s highest mission will be to tell future ages that the inhabitants of the land of the gargoyle were living and human beings, not mediaeval figures. That will be the highest mission of one who, with Aristophanes and Homer, holds the position, far above all royal positions, of a world-link—the man whose destiny it is to be ever living in a world ever dying.

So, standing here on this French road in the year 1431 before that isolated chateau and under its spell we may gather some hint of the rigid world into which our poet has just been born, some idea of that huge edifice of stone which Art has constructed as a mode of expression for the dreams and the humours of man, and which has turned into a sarcophagus for the corpse of thought—a sarcophagus to be shattered by the voice of that infant over there in Paris and by the voices of others still unborn.

Trust me, I’ll be reading more of Stacpoole’s book on François Villon. How could I not?

Matt Maher & More (Music for Mondays)

A while back, I did a music post on Matt Maher, the Catholic Contempory Christian artist. Maher and his band are top notch, and I hope to take my kids to one of his concerts if he ever wanders our way.

Here’s why I like his stuff. As Christians, we should measure the worth of an artist by how well they get “it” right about the human condition, don’t you think? Some of us go searching for “it” in music.

Now think of this as Christians walking around holding a tuning fork in our hands. Sometimes, popular contemporary artists will sing a song that appeals to us for all the right reasons, and the tuning fork will sing too. Most often though, they miss the mark.

Not so in the case of Matt Maher. This dude, and his band, is always on the mark and the tuning fork is constantly humming. At least that has been my experience. So for this weeks set, we start up with a couple of knock-out songs from him that should have you running to the i-Tunes store pronto. Then we’ll wind our way through a few post-related songs and wind up with a violin and a piano.

Matt Maher, Love Comes Down. I’ve been listening to Matt Maher’s Alive Again album for my “commute to work” music lately. I heard this one this morning and I hit the repeat button at least three times. I can’t get the song out of my head, and you know what? I don’t want to either.

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Matt Maher, Flesh and Bone. This is the antidote to P!nk’s current hit called F****** Perfect, which is long on sentimentality, but short on truth. This was shot live at a “Theology on Tap” gig, which I’ve heard of but have never participated in. These lyrics are right on the mark. Great introductory remarks by Matt on our encounter with Jesus.

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Ok, I don’t know if the tuning fork will work with the rest of these, but I like them anyway.

Living Color, Cult of Personality. We had a post related to something similar to this just yesterday. I remember this band because it was burst onto the scene around the year I got married. These guys could get loud! One of the best unknown guitarists you’ll ever hear.

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Culture Club, Miss Me Blind. Remember Indiana Jones yelling “That belongs in a museum!”? Well, a few weeks ago, the news reported that Boy George was returning an icon to the Orthodox Christian Church on the island of Cyprus. It turns out the icon had been looted from a church there in 1974 and BG bought it from an art dealer in London, unawares. He’s returning it but seriously… who knew these guys sounded this good live? Not me. They jam!

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The Bangles, Walk Like An Egyptian. As the situation in Egypt moves towards it’s seventh day of rioting, I am remembering my time there and the songs that we played in the Marine House. By the time this one came out though, I was in Malaysia, but I still liked it. For news on what’s happening in Cairo, look abroad.

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John Cougar Mellencamp, Crumblin’ Down. I remember us playing this one a lot in the Marine House Bar in Cairo. John’s singin’ about me being uneducated and having an opinion that means “nuttin.’” That’s it! Tomorrow I’m wearing white socks with my loafers…that’ll show ‘em.

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Midori, Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp. This little lady came to our small town this past Friday. She was the guest of our local symphony orchestra, playing a piece from Strauss. I’ll tell you this…she can make that fiddle sing! My kids said “she moves like a robot” to which I said, “she’s just jammin!” Guess what else? She still uses that little cloth for on her chin rest to this day.

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We’ll see you in February!

For Cults of Personality, Not! (Or My Brush with Fr. Thomas Euteneuer)

 

Late yesterday evening, after I asked for your prayers for Egypt, I clicked over to New Advent to see what was posted there on the situation on the ground. Many of you know that besides being the electronic host of the Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent also posts links to other Catholic websites and blogs for noteworthy news stories or posts. New Advent has graciously posted our blog posts from time to time as well.

But a different sort of story caught my eye instead. [Read more...]

To Pray for the People of Egypt

Back when I was really young, and when I knew everything, I was stationed in Cairo, Egypt. I was one of the Marine Security Guards at the U.S. Embassy there, back in the mid 1980′s.

The War on Terror had begun, for me anyway, when the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was blown up. [Read more...]

Thanks To Everyone!

Word has come to me that Eric Sammons has re-published his list of the “Top 200″ Catholic Blogs, based on the number of people who subscribe to a blog via the Google Reader. I guess that means through RSS feeds?

Anyway, according to Eric’s methodology, YIMCatholic landed in the 36th spot on his list.

So we are blushing now and humbly say “Thank You” to all of our readers! All 523 who subscribe through the Google reader, the unaccounted readers subscribing through other RSS readers, the 740 of you who follow us via Facebook, the 321 of you who follow us via Google Friend Connect, and the 231 who follow us via Twitter. And the daily “one and done” visitors as well (come on back now, ya hear?).

Thanks for following, reading, commenting, and inspiring us. And praying for us too.

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. (Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory. -Psalm 115:1)


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