For Timeless Wisdom Like This

Those who complain that the Church won’t change with the times seem to not realize that though “the times” produce new gadgets, technologies, and toys, the human beings wielding them haven’t changed at all. The critics also seem to miss the fact that the Church does change and develop, albeit at a pace that is too slow for their tastes. 

The fact that we human beings are the same fallen model we’ve always been is why we can read something written thousands of years ago (see the readings in the link above) and get the sense that “wow, that seems like it could have been written yesterday!” And it’s why I can read something written by a saint a few hundred years ago and not bat an eye when saying, “this is still relevant today.”

This little piece by St. Francis de Sales is a good example. Taken from his Introduction to the Devout Life, it matters not one iota that it was written in the early 17th century. Because the same question you may be grappling with today, say “should I shun society and just pray, or should I engage in society and pray?” is a question that Christians have been struggling with since long after the Church was founded. 

For those of us not in the priesthood, or the cloister, but walking the Way, the commonsense  advice that follows is helpful, and timeless. 

Chapter XXIV. Of Society and Solitude.

Either to seek or to shun society is a fault in one striving to lead a devout life in the world, such as I am now speaking of. To shun society implies indifference and contempt for one’s neighbors; and to seek it savors of idleness and uselessness. We are told to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. In token that we love him, we must not avoid being with him, and the test of loving one’s self is to be happy when alone. “Think first on thyself,” says St. Bernard, “and then on other men.” So that, if nothing obliges you to mix in society either at home or abroad, retire within yourself, and hold converse with your own heart. But if friends come to you, or there is fitting cause for you to go forth into society, then, my daughter, by all means go, and meet your neighbour with a kindly glance and a kindly heart.

Bad society is all such intercourse with others as has an evil object, or when those with whom we mix are vicious, indiscreet, or profligate. From such as these turn away, like the bee from a dunghill. The breath and saliva of those who have been bitten by a mad dog is dangerous, especially to children or delicate people, and in like manner it is perilous to associate with vicious, reckless people, above all to those whose devotion is still weakly and unstable.

There is a kind of social intercourse which merely tends to refresh us after more serious labor, and although it would not be well to indulge in this to excess, there is no harm in enjoying it during your leisure hours.

Other social meetings are in compliance with courtesy, such as mutual visits, and certain assemblies with a view to pay respect to one another. As to these, without being a slave to them, it is well not to despise them altogether, but to bear one’s own due part in them quietly, avoiding rudeness and frivolity. Lastly, there is a profitable society;—that of good devout people, and it will always be very good for you to meet with them. Vines grown amid olivetrees are wont to bear rich grapes, and he who frequents the society of good people will imbibe some of their goodness. The bumble bee makes no honey alone, but if it falls among bees it works with them. Our own devout life will be materially helped by intercourse with other devout souls.

Simplicity, gentleness and modesty are to be desired in all society;—there are some people who are so full of affectation in whatever they do that everyone is annoyed by them. A man who could not move without counting his steps, or speak without singing, would be very tiresome to everybody, and just so any one who is artificial in all he does spoils the pleasure of society; and moreover such people are generally more or less self-conceited. A quiet cheerfulness should be your aim in society. St. Romuald and St. Anthony are greatly lauded because, notwithstanding their asceticism, their countenance and words were always courteous and cheerful. I would say to you with St. Paul, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice (Rom. xii. 15);” and again, “Rejoice in the Lord always: let your moderation be known unto all men (Phil. iv. 4, 5).”

And if you would rejoice in the Lord, the cause of your joy must not only be lawful, but worthy; and remember this, because there are lawful things which nevertheless are not good; and in order that your moderation may be known, you must avoid all that is impertinent and uncivil, which is sure to be wrong. Depreciating this person, slandering another, wounding a third, stimulating the folly of a fourth—all such things, however amusing, are foolish and impertinent.

I have already spoken of that mental solitude into which you can retire when amid the greatest crowd, and furthermore you should learn to like a real material solitude. Not that I want you to fly to a desert like St. Mary of Egypt, St. Paul, St. Anthony, Arsenius, or the other hermits, but it is well for you to retire sometimes within your own chamber or garden, or wheresoever you can best recollect your mind, and refresh your soul with good and holy thoughts, and some spiritual reading, as the good Bishop of Nazianzum tells us was his custom. “I was walking alone,” he says, “at sunset, on the seashore, a recreation I am wont to take in order somewhat to lay aside my daily worries.”

And St. Augustine says that he often used to go into St. Ambrose’ room—his door was open to every one,—and after watching him absorbed in reading for a time, he would retire without speaking, fearing to interrupt the Bishop, who had so little time for refreshing his mind amid the burden of his heavy duties. And we read how when the disciples came to Jesus, and told Him all they had been doing and preaching, He said to them, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile (Mark vi. 30, 31).”

I am going to heed this advice and “rest awhile” from blogging. I’ll be back on Ash Wednesday, but in the meantime I’ll be cultivating the quiet place within, and without, in preparation for the Lenten Season.

Ideals of Life (A Few Words for Wednesday)

In his book The Interior Carmel: The Threefold Way of Love, John C.H. Wu ends the chapter on “fraternal charity” with a short poem he composed. I read elsewhere that he was a poet too, but this is the first time I’ve seen one of his originals. I’ll let him introduce it to you,

Last year I hit upon a poem when I was waiting for the bus. I have outlined these (as) my ideals of life. Although I myself am very far from attaining these ideals, I think you may profit by the poem.

Ideals of Life

To see the cosmos in a flower;
To live Eternity in an hour;
To find the Transcendent in the ordinary,

John C.H. Wu

And the One in the many;

To drink the Tao in the cup of duty;
To realize that goodness is beauty.
To taste peace in activity,
And joy in humility,

To meet Christ in your neighbor,
To feel refreshed in labor.
To be sober and drunk at the same time–
Sublimely human and humanly sublime.

Thanks John! You have a way with words.

For Lessons on Lying from “The Catechism Made Easy” (with a Little Help from the Rolling Stones)

The subject of “lying for Jesus,” as Mark Shea puts it, has been rolling through the Catholic blog-o-sphere in light of the tactics used by the Pro-Life group Live Action.

I even posted a little piece comparing many of the commentators to characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I dubbed Mark Shea as “Faramir” because that character said, “I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood.” Mark states his case based on what the Catechism says about lying.

Below, from the handy, dandy YIMCatholic Bookshelf, is a selection I found in a book titled The Catechism Made Easy: Being a Familiar Explanation of the Catechism of Christian Doctrine. Written by Fr. Henry Gibson, formerly a prison and reform school chaplain, the title page includes these simple words from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians,

“Except you utter by the tongue plain speech, how shall it be known what is said? For you shall be speaking into the air.” —1 Cor. xiv. 9.

Ouch! See? I told you being a Christian is hard! Published in 1882, we’ve forgotten a lot of this great stuff written by our Catholic forefathers. This is from the section in Fr. Henry’s book about the Eighth Commandment, with practical examples included at no additional charge.

Oh no, not again!

The Eighth Commandment. What it forbids. False Testimony, Rash Judgment, Lies, Calumny, Detraction, and Talebearing—Obligation of Restitution. What the Eighth Commandment commands.

Q. What is the Eighth Commandment?

A. The Eighth Commandment is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

The next sin which we speak of—that of telling lies— is one against which I am particularly anxious to warn you, both because it is, unhappily, very common among children, and because it is the root of many other vices. To tell a lie, is to say what we believe to be untrue. If we believe that we are speaking the truth, and happen to be mistaken, it is not a lie; on the other hand, if we say what we believe to be false, and it turns out to be true, it is really a lie in the sight of God.

All lies are sinful, because they are all directly opposed to Divine Truth, which is one of the most admirable Perfections of the Almighty. Moreover, they are an abuse of that most excellent gift of speech, which God has given us to enable us to make our thoughts known to our fellow-men; whereas the liar uses his speech to conceal his thoughts and deceive his neighbor. But though all lies are sinful, they are not all equally sinful; some are much more grievous than others.

The worst lie of all is that which is told in confession by him who conceals a sin, for such a lie is a sacrilegious lie, a lie told to God himself, and is a profanation of a holy Sacrament. The lie next in guilt is that which is told to injure our neighbor’s character; for example, when a person gives false testimony in a court of justice, or when he spreads abroad calumnies against his neighbor, accusing him of crimes which he has never committed. Such lies are called malicious lies, because they are told through malice on purpose to injure others, and they are very grievous sins.

But there are other lies which are much less in guilt, namely, lies of excuse and lies of jest. These lies are sometimes called by foolish people white lies, as if that which is black in its very nature could ever become white. It is true that they may not cause our neighbor any injury, but still they are displeasing to God and hurtful to the soul. They displease God, because he is the very Truth, and as the Scripture says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. xii. 22). They are hurtful to the soul, not only on account of the wound they inflict upon it, but also because a habit of lying is thereby formed, which is the foundation of many vices.

If a child is a habitual liar, depend upon it that, if not cured of this vice in time, he will grow up both a hypocrite and a thief, for truth is the twin sister of candor and honesty. “Show me a liar,” says the proverb, “and I will show you a thief.” Moreover, to tell a lie to excuse yourself is an act of cowardice, and shows a certain weakness of character and principle, which may well cause us to fear that so feeble and timid a soul will soon fall a prey to its evil passions and the temptations of the devil. Be always, then, my dear children, most exact in speaking the truth, and pray to God to give you a great love of this excellent virtue which is so pleasing to him. Remember that if you love and always speak the truth, you are in a special manner the children of God, who is the Divine Truth.

On the contrary, if you have a habit of lying, you are the children of the devil, who is, as our Blessed Lord says, a liar and the father of lies (John viii, 44). You must not tell the smallest lie even to save the whole world, for it is better that the world should be destroyed than that God should be offended. Much less, then, should you tell a lie to save yourself from a scolding or a beating, which are soon over, and moreover, are intended for your good. If you have done wrong, be sorry for it and own it, then you are soon forgiven both by God and your parents; whereas if you try to hide it by a lie, you are guilty of a fresh sin, and one often much greater than the fault you first committed.

Listen to these two lines of one of our own poets on this subject; they are well worth remembering—

“Dare to be true, nothing can need a lie;
The sin that needs it most grows two thereby.” -George Herbert

Yes, dare to be true. Be brave enough to speak the truth, for it is an act of true courage. Your parents or teachers may punish you, but they will respect and trust you, the Saints and Angels will look down on you with approval, God will hear and will reward you. Nothing can need a lie, because nothing can excuse it. Moreover the sin you have committed, and that seems to need it most, grows two thereby, since you offend God doubly, and thus make it far more difficult to obtain his pardon.

And depend upon it, sooner or later the liar will be found out in his lies, for, as the proverb says, “truth will out.” In conclusion, what is more contemptible than the character of a liar, whose word is never taken, whose denials are never believed, whose promises are never trusted? On the contrary, what is more noble, what more amiable, than the character of a child who is always candid, truthful, and sincere? Such a one, wherever he goes, carries with him the esteem, the confidence, the respect of every one.

The Bishop and the Soldiers

It is related in Church History that upon one occasion the emperor Maximinian, a cruel persecutor of the faithful, despatched a troop of soldiers to apprehend and cast into prison Antony, the venerable Bishop of Nicomedia. It happened that, without knowing it, they came to the house of the holy Bishop, and being hungry, knocked at the door and begged for some refreshment. He received them with great kindness, invited them to sit down at table, and set before them such food as he had at his disposal.

When the meal was ended, the soldiers entered upon the subject of their mission, and requested him to inform them where they could meet with the Bishop Antony. “He is here before you,” replied the Saint. The soldiers, full of gratitude for his generous hospitality, declared that they would never lay hands upon him, but would report to the emperor that they had not been able to find him.

“God forbid,” replied the Saint, “that I should save my life by becoming a party to a lie. I would rather die a thousand times than that you should offend Almighty God.” So saying, he gave himself into their hands, and was conducted to prison.—Catechisme de Perseverance.

Death Rather Than A Lie

During the great French Kevolution, at the end of last century, the Catholic churches were pillaged throughout the country, and closed for public worship. The priests also were proscribed, and forced to conceal themselves in private houses, or even to seek shelter in the thickets of the forests or in the caves and fastnesses of the mountains. It happened about this time that a young girl, named Magdalen Larralde, of the village of Sare, on the borders of Spain, fearing to have recourse to her own parish priest in his place of concealment, was wont to cross the mountains whenever she desired to approach the Sacraments, in order to seek spiritual assistance from the Capuchin Fathers at Vera, on the Spanish side of the Pyrennees.

One day, on returning from the convent, she fell in with an outpost of the French army, which was then stationed along the frontier, in consequence of the war which raged between the two countries. The soldiers immediately seized her as a spy, and dragged her before the general, who questioned her as to the object of her presence in Spain. Magdalen answered simply and without a moment’s hesitation that she had been to confession.

The officer, touched by her youth and innocent bearing, and anxious, if possible, to save her, quickly replied, “Unfortunate woman, do not say that, for it will be your sentence of death. Say, rather, that the advance of the French troops frightened you, and drove you to seek shelter on Spanish ground.”

“But then I should say what would not be true,” answered the girl, “and I would rather die a thousand times than offend God by telling a lie.” In vain did the general urge and solicit her to yield; her firmness never gave way, and she was conducted before the tribunal at St. Jean de Luz. Before her judges, Magdalen again, with unflinching courage, refused to save her life by a lie. She was, therefore, condemned to the guillotine, and, as she walked to the place of execution, her step never faltered, and she ceased not to invoke the assistance of God, chanting aloud the Salve Regina in honor of the Queen of Heaven. —The Month.

The Imposter Struck Dead

St. James, Bishop of Nisibis, was one day travelling through the country, when he was accosted by a beggar who appeared to be in deep distress. On approaching the Saint he implored him with earnest supplications to bestow upon him an alms to enable him to bury his companion, who, as he said, had just expired by the roadside. The holy Bishop readily gave him what he asked, and went on his way praying earnestly for the soul of the deceased.

The beggar, laughing at the thought of having succeeded so easily in imposing upon the Saint, meanwhile ran back to his companion, whom he had left lying upon the ground at a little distance, pretending to be dead. On coming to the spot he called out to him to get up, as the trick had been successful, but he received no answer. He approached nearer, and took his companion by the hand in order to arouse him, but what was his horror at finding that he was really dead!

Immediately with loud cries and lamentation he ran after the Saint, and, throwing himself on his knees before him, acknowledged the deceit which they had practised, and implored his pardon and intercession. The servant of God having first reproved him for his sin, betook himself to prayer, and the unhappy man, who had provoked God to deprive him of life, was restored at the prayers of the Saint and became a sincere penitent.
—Butler’s Saints’ Lives

If those three examples weren’t enough on the sin of lying, how about one from a secular source? Here are the “Glimmer Twins” and the gang from their 1978 album singing about the problem of prevarication,

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For Thoughts Like These on Truth, the World, and Evangelization

All truth belongs of right to Christian thought, as the spoils of the Egyptians to the Hebrews. “Whatever has been well said anywhere belongs to us who are Christians” — because according to that saying of St. Ambrose, which St. Thomas (Aquinas) delighted to quote, “every truth, whoever said it, comes from the Holy Spirit.” -Jacques Maritain

The spirit of Phariseeism never dies. -John C.H. Wu

Or you can forget what St. Ambrose, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jacques, and my friend John said. But Father Barron will back me up on this one too.

And even he can embarrass his mom as well?! I’ll end this post with just one more quote, this time from the Holy Spirit,

To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all. (1 Corinthians 9:22)

For All the Sacramentals, The Way of the Cross

The Lenten season is just around the corner, and one of the devotions that I look forward to is that of the Stations of the Cross. Also known as the Way of the Cross, I was amazed to see Fr. Sullivan count this devotion as a sacramental. I had no idea, did you?

Last year both Allison and I wrote posts on the Stations of the Cross. Below, Fr. John fleshes out the history of this sacramental devotion for us.

The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross is a devotion which is performed by meditating before fourteen Stations of the Cross successively, on the Passion of our Blessed Lord.

This devotion is also known as the Stations of the Cross, from the Stations or crosses before which it is made, and which are usually affixed to the interior walls of Catholic churches. These Stations are not the pictures, or reliefs, or groups of statuary representing the sufferings of our Savior. The Stations are the crosses, which must be of wood, and which are usually placed over the pictures. The indulgences are attached to the crosses, and the pictures are not essential, but are merely an aid to devotion.

The Stations must be lawfully erected; that is, they must be blessed by the bishop of the diocese or by a priest specially delegated by him. Otherwise, no indulgences can be gained.

The History of the Way of the Cross.

In the early days of the Church many pious Christians made pilgrimages to the Holy Land and visited the places sanctified by our Lord’s sufferings, and thereby gained many indulgences. But when Jerusalem came into the possession of the fanatical Moslems, this could no longer be done with safety; and in order that the same devotion might be performed without danger or difficulty, pictures or statuary were placed in European churches, representing the journey to Calvary.

It is said that the first to do this was the Blessed Alvarez, a Dominican, at Cordova, in Spain. The practice was adopted about 1350 by the Franciscan Minorites, and was soon approved and indulgenced by the Holy See. The indulgences were granted at first only to Franciscans and those affiliated to them—that is, belonging to societies united to the Franciscan Order; but in 1726 Benedict XIII extended these indulgences to all the faithful. Formerly only the Franciscan Fathers could erect Stations in churches, but this power is now given to all bishops, and they may delegate it to their priests.

The Stations are fourteen in number. In past centuries, in different places, the number varied from eleven to sixteen; but the Church finally ruled that they must be not more nor less than fourteen. They may begin on either side of the church; if the figure of our Saviour is facing toward the right, the series goes to the right; if to the left, the order is reversed. Thus in some churches they begin on the Gospel side, in others on the Epistle side. They are sometimes erected in the open air.

Some of the scenes shown in the pictures are described in the Gospels; others are not. There is no mention in the Scriptures of our Saviour’s falls under the cross, nor of His meeting with His Blessed Mother, nor of the story of Veronica. These are handed down by tradition.

The Indulgences of the Way of the Cross.

We know that no other pious practice is so highly indulgenced; that those who perform this devotion properly gain the same indulgences which they would gain by visiting the actual Way of the Cross in Jerusalem; but the precise amount or number of these indulgences is not known. They may be applied to the souls in Purgatory.

To perform this devotion and to gain the indulgences, we are not bound to read a meditation or prayer at each Station; we are not bound to recite any prayers. It is customary to recite an Our Father, Hail Mary, etc., but these are not necessary. We must go around from the first Station to the fourteenth, stopping at each for a short time and meditating on the Passion of our Lord in general or on the particular event which the Station represents. If we cannot go around, on account of the crowded condition of the church, or if the Stations are being performed publicly, it is sufficient to turn towards each Station.

Those who cannot go to the church are sometimes permitted to gain the same spiritual benefits by using an indulgenced crucifix, which is to be held in the hands while the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father are said twenty times—fourteen for the Stations and six for the intention of the Pope. Pictures of the Stations printed in prayer-books or on a chart cannot be used for making the “Way of the Cross.

For All the Sacramentals, The Vestments (Part II)

Prior to finding Fr. Sullivan’s book The Visible Church, there is no way that I would have learned about the priestly vestments that will be discussed below. So again, for the clergy in the audience, this is nothing new.

But for the rest of us, unless you are a player of the Facebook game called Priestville (I kid you not!), you’ve probably never heard of most of this stuff. As for me, I don’t have time for fun and games like that.

Some of the articles described below are vestments, and therefore they are sacramentals, and some aren’t. Perhaps the ones that aren’t are optional? I really have no idea. But I do like the symbolism of some of these articles.

There is a lot of gear here, but luckily there is no quiz at the end. So relax and let’s have a look,

Vestments—II

A Priest’s Vestments. The vestments worn by a priest at Mass are the amice, the alb, the cincture, the maniple, the stole and the chasuble. At certain other services he uses the cope, the humeral veil and the surplice.

The cassock, or “soutane,” the black gown worn by a priest, is not a vestment. It is the priest’s ordinary garb, and in Catholic countries is worn on the street as well as indoors. The Roman collar worn by the clergy (usually with a “rabbi” or stock attached) is not a vestment. The cap worn by priests, known by the Italian name of biretta, is also not a vestment. Its upper surface is square, with three wings—one at the front, another at the rear, and a third at the right side. This peculiar form comes from the fact that the biretta was originally a soft flatcrowned cap; the removal of this from the head caused it to be compressed into folds, especially on the right side, because the right hand is generally used for that purpose; and after a time these folds were sewn together, forming wings—with none on the left side, except in the case of the cap of a Doctor of Sacred Theology, whose dignity is indicated by a fourth wing.

The Amice. This is an oblong piece of white linen, with strings or ribbons by which it is fastened around the shoulders. The name comes from the Latin “amictus,” a wrapper. This vestment has been in use since about the year 800. Formerly it was worn covering the head, and certain religious orders still use it in this way until the beginning of the Mass. It symbolizes a helmet, protecting the priest against the assaults of Satan.

The Alb. This is a long linen gown, extending from the neck to the feet. The lower part is often made of lace. It is a survival of the old Roman dress called the toga. The name is derived from the Latin “alba,” white, and the color, of course, denotes purity.

The Cincture or Girdle. This is a doubled cord which binds the alb closely to the body.

Alb & Cincture

Its name, in Latin, is “cingulum,” a girdle. It may be of the same color as the vestments, but among us it is usually white. It is made of braided linen or of wool, with tassels, and symbolizes continence.

The following vestments vary in color from day to day, according to the object for which the Mass is offered or the festival on which it is said.

The Maniple. This is a small vestment of peculiar shape, worn on the left forearm.
It was originally a handkerchief. The name comes from the Latin “manipulum,” meaning something carried in the hand, a small bundle, a handkerchief, a sheaf of grain; and therefore this vestment is considered symbolical of good works. It is the special badge of the order of subdeaconship.

Stoles

The Stole. This is a long narrow vestment worn around the neck, and ends hanging down in front. At Mass, the ends of a priest’s stole are crossed, and fastened thus by the cincture. At other services the ends are not crossed. A “preaching stole” is often ornamented with tasseled cords connecting the ends. A deacon at a Solemn Mass wears a stole diagonally, from his left shoulder to his right side. The stole came into use as a vestment about the fourth century, and was originally a robe or cloak, which is the meaning of its Latin name “stola.” It was probably adapted from the court uniform of Roman, judges, and hence signifies authority. It is also a symbol of immortality and of the yoke of obedience.

The Chasuble. This is a large vestment worn on the shoulders and hanging down in front and behind. The rear portion is often ornamented with a large cross. The name comes from the late Latin “casula,” a little house. It was originally a large mantle or cloak with an opening for the head in the centre, and had to be raised at the sides to allow the hands to be extended beyond it. The assistants at the Mass helped the priest by holding it up, and a trace of this practice still remains at Solemn Masses, where the deacon and subdeacon hold the edges of the priest’s chasuble, and at ordinary Masses, chasuble, where the acolyte raises it slightly at the Elevation. It symbolizes protection, preservation from evil—a spiritual suit of armor.

Next time, the Vestments-Part III

To Remember to be Childlike (An Artful Reminder)

This morning my wife shared a video with me from a Japanese “pop” group that calls itself World Order. I posted the “New York City” version on my Facebook page, along with another version that was shot in Tokyo, Japan, which is where the group hails from.

My blogging friend Deacon Greg Kandra, whom I sent the video and back story to, posted it on his blog The Deacon’s Bench. You may have seen it and enjoyed it there.

I, of course, can’t speak a lick of Japanese beyond “yes” and “hello,” so I have no idea what the lyrics, that the singer/leader Genki Sudo is warbling here, mean. I only know that this tune is stuck in my head, and I like it.

I also like the visual performance— alot! To me, see, this is performance art of a very high caliber. Though Sudo’s group, called World Order, is labeled as being a part of “popular culture,” I can’t help but look at their art through the lens of Catholicism, and from a contrarian perspective as a result. You see, this is how I look at everything now.

The Lenten season, you know, is right around the corner, and another blogging friend, Elizabeth Scalia, manager of the Catholic Portal at the website Patheos, announced that to help us prepare for Lent, a new columnist has come on board there. It is Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who will be posting twice weekly under the heading Slubgrip Instructs. The posts (I believe) will be based on Fr. Dwight’s book entitled The Gargoyle Code, which is inspired by author C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, but modernized and specifically adapted for Catholics.

Blogger Eric Sammons reviewed Fr. D’s book over at his blog last year. The first installment at Patheos is up and it is about “the purpose of popular culture.” I suggest you go read it just like I would recommend that you read The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. But I also suggest that you approach popular culture from what military strategist B.H. Liddell Hart called “the indirect approach.” I call it viewing popular culture from an oblique perspective. Here is what I mean.

View and enjoy the video below by Sudo’s group. Shot in Tokyo with five dancers, notice how most of the adults ignore Sudo & Company. The adults are very focused on “adult stuff” almost to the point that they don’t even see Sudo & the gang. While you are watching, notice too how the children notice and interact altogether differently with the group than the adults do. Have a look,

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Uh-huh, the city is loud! Did you see the difference in the way the children and adults interacted with the artists? Here is another song by World Order, again shot in Tokyo, but with seven performers. Note the children vs. adult behaviors again,

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Isn’t that great? Did you see the children on the playground? What joy, what fun, what joie de vivre! I especially enjoyed when the performers all lined up behind Sudo, and all you could see were the hands, or heads of the others. And then an adult came in and threw the light switch on. Exit stage right!

So what are you getting at Frank? Oh nothing, really, except while watching the children in these videos, obliquely you see, these words popped into my head over and over again,

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

Do you see now what I see? Now you can go and read Fr. Dwight’s postwith the mindset of the guerilla cultural warrior that you are called to be.

For All the Sacramentals, The Vestments (Part I)

Today, the series on Sacramentals continues with the vestments worn by the clergy. As a rookie Catholic, I understood some of the significance of the vestments, the colors, etc. But if I had to take a quiz and answer the question, “True or False: Are vestments a sacramental?,” my answer would have been a guess, and I would have gotten this one wrong.

Now if the quiz would have been about Marine Corps uniforms, from Dress Blues, to Service (Greens), and Utilities (what you may know as “cammies”) etc., I would have passed with flying colors.

Speaking of colors, that is what Fr. John F. Sullivan’s first lesson on vestments is about. What do they mean? Ponder no more, as Fr. John will make it clear. After this lesson, you will be ready for the quiz.

Vestments—1

Vestments are garments worn by the ministers of religion while performing their sacred duties. They are sacramentals, being blessed by the Church to increase devotion in those who see them and those who use them.

The word “vestment” is from the Latin vestimentum, signifying simply clothing. In every religion the priest has had a distinctive dress; just as others who hold positions of dignity or of authority wear a uniform or badge, so does the minister of God.

Among the Jews every detail of the vestments used in the worship of God was provided for by divine command. In the Catholic Church these details have always been prescribed by church law, and many changes have been made at different times in the number and form of the priestly vestments. During the first four centuries there were no special vestments; the clergy wore their ordinary garb, flowing robes and long cloaks, at the Church’s services; but gradually these were altered and ornamented until they became vestments as we have them now.

The Colors of Vestments

The Church ordinarily uses five colors, and each has its meaning. The Mass is offered for many purposes and in honor of many classes of saints; and each of these is symbolized by the color of the vestments worn during the Holy Sacrifice.

White vestments denote purity, innocence and glory. They are worn on the feast of the Holy Trinity and on festivals of our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, of Angels and of all Saints who were not martyrs.

Red is the color of fire and of blood. Vestments of that color are used in Masses of the Holy Ghost, such as on Pentecost, to remind us of the tongues of fire which descended upon the Apostles; on the feasts of the Holy Cross of our Lord, and on the festivals of all Saints who shed their blood for their faith.

Purple, or violet, is expressive of penance. It is used during Lent and Advent (except on saints’ days), and on the sorrowful feast of the Holy Innocents.

Black is the color of mourning. It is worn at all Masses of Requiem, and on Good Friday.

Green denotes the growth and increase of our holy Church, and is also a symbol of hope.
It is used on all days during the year that are not saints’ days, except in Lent and Advent.

Gold vestments may be used as a substitute for white, red or green—not for purple or black.

Rose-colored vestments, when obtainable, may be used at the Solemn Mass on the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday), and the fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday), because these Sundays are somewhat joyful in the midst of penitential seasons, and the rose-color is less penitential than the purple.

Next time, the “Priestly Vestments.”

Artist’s That Begin With an “S” & More (Music for Mondays)

For some of us in the United States, it is a federal holiday. We celebrate Presidents Day, where we commemorate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It is one of those minor holidays though, where not everyone gets the day off.

If you are off today, and sleeping in, bully for you! If you aren’t, play these songs for a lift during your lunch break. The names of the first three artists I’m sharing today begin with the letter “S”. We’ll start with a contemporary Christian band that is new to me first.

Switchfoot, Free. You can thank Marc Barnes of BadCatholic for pointing me toward this group and this song. He mentioned it in a blog post he wrote the other day. I think “the Kid” is on to something with liking this band. What say you?

Seal, Secret. Live from the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, with the ubiquitous David Foster on piano. I’m always learning something new, and it turns out that David Foster is someone who I never knew by name, but who I have heard much of his work. Check out the biography on him and you’ll understand why I called him “ubiquitous.” And you guys know how I feel about Seal from previous posts.

Sarah MaLachlin, Ordinary Miracle. Sticking with artists whose names begin with the letter “S” for a minute, check out this beautiful tune. A friend of mine tipped me off to it by posting it on his Facebook Page. Thanks Sean!

The Police, Invisible Sun. From a secular perspective, this is one of my favorite three-piece bands. And this song, in a way, is an anthem against the Culture of Death. For those of you who don’t know what an “armalite” is, I suggest you look at this link.

And they’re only going to change this pace of
Killing everybody in the human race.
They would kill me for a cigarette
But I don’t even want to die just yet…

Fiona Apple, Criminal. Remember this one? I heard it one the radio last week and it jogged my memory. Is it a temporal love song, or a spiritual one? I think it could be either. Fiona has a great voice though, that’s for sure.

What I need is a good defense
Cause I’m feelin’ like a criminal
And I need to be redeemed
To the one I’ve sinned against
Because he’s all I ever knew of love.

Rush, New World Man. Speaking of three-piece bands, this one is another favorite of mine too. Three guys with big, BIG, sound and from a small package. I don’t think everyone is on-board with being a New World Man yet. Our Lord is though.

Rush, Rivendell. Would you believe a song that was inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy? From their 1975 album Fly By Night. These novels have been inspiring people for generations.

Elven songs and endless nights
Sweet wine and soft relaxing lights
Time will never touch you
Here in this enchanted place

Tom Petty, Won’t Back Down. You know what? This could be the hobbit Samwise Gamgee’s theme song. Tom Petty with a couple of future Traveling Wilbury’s on another one of my favorite songs. Lookee there! George Harrison, Ringo Starr and the Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynn. How’s that for an All-Star band?

See you next week folks. Enjoy your day today!

For Your Sunday Night at the Movies, “The Scarlet and the Black”

I have my pastor to thank for this post. That’s because during his homily today, he mentioned a movie about an Irish Catholic priest stationed in Rome who, while fulfilling the obligations of his office, also used his office to smuggle Jews, and Allied soldiers, out of harms way after the Nazis occupied Rome. [Read more...]


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