For the Love of Saint Andrew: A Christmas Novena, Day 4

What’s in a name? Upon Our Lord’s first meeting with Andrews’ brother Simon, in John chapter 1, He says Simon’s name will be changed. This is how the scene unfolds,

The next day again John (the Baptist) stood, and two of his disciples. And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turning, and seeing them following him, saith to them: What seek you? Who said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith to them: Come and see.

They came, and saw where he abode, and they stayed with him that day: now it was about the tenth hour. And Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who had heard of John, and followed him. He findeth first his brother Simon, and saith to him: We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter.

Yes, Jesus knew who he was, sight unseen. To keep things straight for us readers, St. John calls St. Peter Simon Peter often throughout his version of the gospel. Even though the “Peter” part wasn’t declared yet. And when he calls him Simon only, he clarifies it, like this from John 6:14 (all of these citations are from the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible):

Simon, whom He (Jesus) surnamed Peter, and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

Biblical name changes are no small matter. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the significance is weighty. For example, Abram (which means high father) becomes Abraham, or father of multitudes. His wife’s name, Sarai (which means my princess) is changed to Sarah, which means mother of nations. Very ironic for a women who was barren? Miraculous, is what it is.

Another major name change in the Old Testament occurs to Jacob. Jacob’s name, which originally means heel or leg-puller is changed to Israel, which means persevere with God. And later on, in the Acts of the Apostles, A Pharisee named Saul will have his named change as well.

The foreshadowing of the name change for Simon in John’s first chapter, feeds the drama of Our Lord’s statement in the 16th chapter of Matthew when he asks the Twelve “Who do the people say I am?” and more importantly, “who do you say I am?” And that is the hugely significant prelude to the recognition of who Peter is, and who he is to become.

Ponder the plan God has for each of us in your heart as you pray the Christmas Novena today.

Meet the Beatles! (Music for Mondays)

I’m not even going to try and squeeze all of the good out of the Beatles in this post. It simply can’t be done. It’s not even remotely possible. Sure, maybe Rolling Stone magazine (or these guys) could come up with the definitive Beatles play list, but why would you believe it? I mean, on what authority?

I’m just glad the Vatican gave them the big thumbs up sign! So forget all about picking the “best Beatles songs of all time” and let’s just enjoy a selection of some of my favorites here. To top it off, I’ll even include a few of my own thoughts, that granted, are completely, 100% guaranteed, private interpretations of their lyrics.

What’s that? I can’t interpret their lyrics, you say? And why not? The Apple Records Magisterium doesn’t exist. And even if it did, it collapsed when the Beatles divorced, broke up, split, and basically went their separate ways. As such, I can make their lyrics mean anything I want them to. Sure, it’s bad form to ignore the intent of the artists, especially when several of them are still alive to tell you what they were actually saying. But I’ve got three words for you on that front: Let It Be. Hey, that sort of rhymes with “heresy” doesn’t it?

So hold on to your hats and get ready to meet the Beatles!

Help! Live, back when live meant “for real.” These lyrics ring true for me and for my need for Our Lord and His Church. I used to be a believer in “sola” this and “sola” that. But now? Well it’s Advent and I’m singing this song until Christmas.

YouTube Preview Image

Let It Be.Just when you thought it was safe to enter the water, they up and sing a song about Mother Mary. Sheesh! With a little help again from Billy Preston on keyboards.

YouTube Preview Image

Lady Madonna. Whaat?! A second one?

YouTube Preview Image

All Together Now. From the end of the movie Yellow Submarine. Sing along (it’s pretty easy to remember the lyrics).

YouTube Preview Image

See? Once again, we haven’t even scratched the surface. One good thing though: most of these songs are short. I’ll see you next week for more MfM.

Because I Never Saw This Coming

Last Thanksgiving, let’s see…yes that was on November 26, 2009,— I received an e-mail from Webster Bull asking me if I would consider sharing my conversion story with the readers of this blog.

I had been pointed towards YIMCatholic from either Patrick McNamara’s blog, or Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog (I don’t really remember which one), and I enjoyed what I had found here.

I was a new(ish) Catholic myself and I had started poking around in the blog-o-sphere looking for kindred spirits. You know, guys like me who had been Protestants once and who had become Catholics. I knew there were a few of us around though, because I had found Francis Beckwith’s story in the Washington Post, see, when I was considering the unheard of idea (to me anyway) of converting to Catholicism. And I knew that Anthony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the UK, was converting to Catholicism too in the same year I was. And as it turns out, that is when Webster had joined the Church as well.

As Webster reported, I had e-mailed him saying that I enjoyed his blog and that if ever I could help him out, I would be glad to do so. I didn’t think anything would come of it, really.  Sometimes my comments weren’t even published ( the nerve!), but I had sent him a few things I thought he would find of interest and that was about all I figured would result from my e-mailing him.

And then on Thanksgiving Day, he asked me to share my story.  That first 2BFrank post hit the blog on November 28, 2009 and thanks to the grace of God, I’ve been here ever since. I never really thought I would be, you know. Writing my conversion story wasn’t my idea of a good time. It never, ever occurred to me to start my own blog, for example, and if Webster wouldn’t have asked, I would not be here now.

I had no idea that in one year, Webster would no longer be here blogging away with me. On other fronts, I had no idea that Allison would be here. Nor had it ever occurred to me that one day (it could happen) I might be the only person still writing here at all.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t know why I was called to join YIMCatholic as Webster’s first partner. Aside from term papers and essays in college, I had never written a word for publication in my life. But called I was, and that calling is what keeps me here sharing my experiences, as well as what I have found about the Catholic Faith that I think you may appreciate, or enjoy, or find comfort in.

So to all of you, and to Webster and Allison too, I say thanks for having me, and for taking a few minutes out of your day to stop by and visit here. And I want to thank my wife, with whom I shared Webster’s initial request and who has steadfastly supported my efforts here.

I pray that I am able to continue serving the Lord in a manner that I believe He finds favor with. I also pray that you may find your visits here to be, as St. Anthony the Great would say, profitable.

“For often (Anthony) would ask questions, and desired to listen to those who were present, and if any one said anything that was useful he confessed that he was profited.”

Because, although I never saw this coming, blogging here has been a gift to me. A gift that I don’t believe I can ever repay.

Pax Christi

For Thoughts Such As These For Advent

Before I became a Catholic, I had no idea what Advent meant. It was just another one of those weird, mysterious, Catholic words for a time in the year before Christmas. Nowadays, I appreciate it more for I understand that it commemorates the time when the people of Israel yearned for the Messiah.

I yearn for Him too. Especially this time of year when Madison Avenue kicks the Christmas shopping season into high gear. And when the radio stations start the post-Thanksgiving “Holiday music” songs playing 24/7 prior to Christmas. And the television hits us non-stop with must-have gift ideas.

Advent as a time of fasting and anticipation goes much better for me when I fast from the television and the radio. And when I pray for the coming of Our Lord in the manner suggested by the following verses translated by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman from works of anonymous authors from the 6th and 7th centuries.

Because I don’t want to shop just yet, nor do I wish to be humming Christmas carols yet either. Instead, I long for the coming of the Lord.

I’ll be praying these words tonight for Vespers and tomorrow bright and early for Matins and Lauds. Won’t you join me?

Advent—Vespers.
Creator alme siderum.

Creator of the starry pole,
Saviour of all who live,
And light of every faithful soul,
Jesu, these prayers receive.

Who sooner than our foe malign
Should triumph, from above
Didst come, to be the medicine
Of a sick world, in love;

And the deep wounds to cleanse and cure
Of a whole race, didst go,
Pure Victim, from a Virgin pure,
The bitter Cross unto.

Who hast a Name, and hast a Power,
The height and depth to sway,
And Angels bow, and devils cower,
In transport or dismay ;

Thou too shalt be our Judge at length;
Lord, in Thy grace bestow
Thy weapons of celestial strength,
And snatch us from the foe.

Honour and glory, power and praise,
To Father, and to Son,
And Holy Ghost, be paid always,
The Eternal Three in One.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Advent—Matins.
Verbum supernum prodiens.

Supernal Word, proceeding from
The Eternal Father’s breast,
And in the end of ages come,
To aid a world distrest;

Enlighten, Lord, and set on fire
Our spirits with Thy love,
That, dead to earth, they may aspire
And live to joys above.

That, when the judgment-seat on high
Shall fix the sinner’s doom,
And to the just a glad voice cry,
Come to your destined home;

Safe from the black and yawning lake
Of restless, endless pain,
We may the face of God partake,
The bliss of heaven attain.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And Holy Ghost, to Thee,
As heretofore, when time is done,
Unending glory be.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Advent—Lauds.
En clara vox redarguit

Hark, a joyful voice is thrilling,
And each dim and winding way
Of the ancient Temple filling;
Dreams, depart! for it is day.

Christ is coming!—from thy bed,
Earth-bound soul, awake and spring,—
With the sun new-risen to shed
Health on human suffering.

Lo! to grant a pardon free,
Comes a willing Lamb from Heaven;
Sad and tearful, hasten we,
One and all, to be forgiven.

Once again He comes in light,
Girding each with fear and woe;
Lord! be Thou our loving Might,
From our guilt and ghostly foe.

To the Father, and the Son,
And the Spirit, who in Heaven
Ever witness. Three and One,
Praise on earth be ever given.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Update: Psalm 37 Wait for the Lord, and keep His way;

“A Thanksgiving” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

A Thanksgiving by Blessed John Henry Newman
“Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”
Lord, in this dust thy sovereign voice
First quickened love divine;
I am all thine,—thy care and choice,
My very praise is thine.

I praise Thee, while thy providence
In childhood frail I trace,
For blessings given, ere dawning sense
Could seek or scan thy grace;
Blessings in boyhood’s marvelling hour;
Bright dreams, and fancyings strange ;
Blessings, when reason’s awful power
Gave thought a bolder range;
Blessings of friends, which to my door
Unasked, unhoped, have come;
And, choicer still, a countless store
Of eager smiles at home.
Yet, Lord, in memory’s fondest place
I shrine those seasons sad,
When, looking up, I saw thy face
In kind austereness clad.
I would not miss one sigh or tear,
Heart-pang, or throbbing brow;
Sweet was the chastisement severe,
And sweet its memory now.
Yes!let the fragrant scars abide,
Love-tokens in thy stead,
Faint shadows of the spear-pierced side
And thorn-encompassed head.
And such thy tender force be still,
When self would swerve or stray;
Shaping to truth the froward will
Along thy narrow way.
Deny me wealth; far, far remove
The lure of power or name;
Hope thrives in straits, in weakness love,
And faith in this world’s shame.

For All The Saints: Clement I

Feast of Pope St. Clement I

Today is the feast day of the third (or fourth?) pope of The Church. Clement left one of the first patristric writings when he wrote letters from his office in Rome to the church in Corinth. But what else is known about him?

The first source I saw, from the good folks over at Universalis, said that nothing certain is known of his life. Looking for a little bit more than the terse paragraph they had on him, I turned to the handy YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

There, I found this interesting account of Clements’ life in a book entitled, Lives of the Saints: Compiled From Authentic Sources by a Jesuit Father named Francis Xavier Weninger. Published in 1876, I found this from Volume 11. Have a look before you go and read his letters to the Corinthians.

St. Clement, Pope and Martyr

Whilst the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, were preaching the Gospel at Rome, there came to them Clement, a son of Faustinus, who was related to the Emperor Domitian. After several discourses with St Peter, he saw the error of Paganism in which he had been born and educated, and became a convert to the Christian faith. He progressed so rapidly in virtue and holiness, that he was of great help to Paul in converting the heathen, as the holy Apostle testifies in his Epistle to the Philippians.

The unwearied zeal he manifested in such holy endeavors, his purity and other bright virtues, raised him, after the death of Sts. Linus and Cletus, to the government of the entire Church of Christ. In this elevated but burdensome dignity, his holy life was an example to his flock.

He gave several excellent laws to the Church, by one of which he divided the city into seven districts, and placed in each a notary to record the deeds, virtues and martyrdom of those who were persecuted for Christ’s sake, that posterity, admiring their heroism, might be animated to follow their example. His sermons were so full of deep thought and so powerful, that he daily converted several heathens.

Among these was Flavia Domitilla, a niece of the Emperor Domitian, who not only became a zealous Christian, but refusing several advantageous offers of marriage, vowed her virginity to God. He converted Sisinius, one of the most influential men in the city, by a miracle. While yet a heathen, Sisinius went unseen into the secret chapel where the Christians assembled, in order to ascertain what they were doing, and to see whether his wife was among them. God, however, punished him immediately with blindness in both eyes. He discovered himself by calling for someone to lead him home; and St. Clement, who was present, went to him, and, restoring his sight after a short prayer, he improved the occasion to explain to him the truths of Christianity.

Sisinius, being soon convinced, received holy baptism, and many heathens followed his example. The Emperor Trajan, being informed of this, commanded St. Clement to be banished to the Chersonesus, unless he consented to sacrifice to the gods. Nearly two thousand Christians had already been banished to that region, where they were forced to work in mines and quarries.

The holy Vicar of Christ rejoiced to be thought worthy to suffer for his Divine Master, and indignantly refused to comply with the Emperor’s command to worship the Pagan idols. He was accordingly transported, and condemned to labor like the others. This fate at first seemed very hard to him, but the thought that he suffered it for Christ’s sake, strengthened him.

With the same thought he endeavored also to inspire his unhappy companions, when he saw that they became discouraged and lost their patience. He also frequently represented to them the reward which was awaiting them in heaven. A miracle that God performed through him raised him to great consideration even with the heathens. There was a great scarcity of water; and the Christians suffered much from the thirst occasioned by their hard work.

St. Clement, pitying them most deeply, prayed to God to help them. Rising from his knees, he saw, on a high rock, a lamb, which seemed, with his raised right foot, to point to the place where water could be found. The holy man, trusting in the Almighty, seized an axe, and, lightly striking the rock, procured a rich stream of clear water, which refreshed all the inhabitants of the country, especially the poor persecuted Christians.

So many heathens were converted on account of this miracle, that, in the course of a year, almost all the idolatrous temples were torn down, and Christian churches erected in their stead. Some of the idolatrous priests complained of this to the Emperor, who immediately sent Aufidian, a cruel tyrant, to force the Christians to forsake their faith, and to put St. Clement to death.

The tyrant endeavored to induce the holy man to forsake Christ, but finding that all words were useless, he commanded the executioners to tie an anchor to the neck of St. Clement, take him out into the sea, and cast him into the deep, in order that nothing of him should remain to comfort the Christians. The last words of the holy Pope were: “Eternal Father! receive my spirit!”

The Christians, who had been encouraged by him to remain constant in their faith, stood on the sea-shore, until the tyrant and his followers had departed, after the death of the Saint. They then knelt in prayer, to beg of the Almighty that He would restore to them the body of their beloved shepherd; and, whilst they prayed, the sea began slowly to retreat from the shore.

The Christians, following the retreating water, came to the place where the Saint had been cast into the sea, and found, to their inexpressible astonishment, a small marble chapel, and in it a tomb of stone, in which the body of the holy Pope was reposing. At his side lay the anchor which had been tied around his neck.

The joy and comfort that filled the hearts of the faithful at this sight can more easily be imagined than described. They wished to take the holy body away, but God made known to them that, for the present, it should not be disturbed; and that every year the sea would retreat, during seven days, so as to permit all to visit the shrine of the Saint. This took place for several years, until, at last, by divine revelation, the relics were transported to Rome.

Thanks to Father Antonio Vivaldi, “the Red Priest”

Around this time of the year, my appreciation for classical music rises to the surface. I don’t know if it is because of the change of seasons, or whether it is the “fall back” move on our clocks. Perhaps it’s because the days are getting shorter and the nights longer now that “daylight savings time” is over.

I’m a simple man, and I would be quickly found a liar if I tried to buffalo you with the idea that I am a man who is a well-educated, and throughly cultured, connoisseur of classical music. No. I’m a poor hick who only knows what he likes. And I’ve always liked Vivaldi and his Four Seasons. I do know that his music came before Bach, Handel, and Beethoven, and that is about it.

But here is what prompted this post: yesterday morning, while preparing to head to Mass, I heard a snippet of a program on NPR where the announcer mentioned that Vivaldi had been “in the clergy.”

Whaat?! It didn’t take me long to determine that given the time frame, and the fact that he was an Italian, that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest. And due to his being a red-head, he was given the nick-name of “the Red Priest.”

A quick check of the internet later and sure enough, seemingly the whole world knows that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest, except me. Somehow I missed hearing about that in music class, and a part of me thinks this is the result of a cover-up. But as I always say, let the sun shine in.

Father Antonio was ordained in 1703 and it seems like he only performed his clerical duties for a short while due to ill health.  He suffered from asthma, among other ailments.

Here is the trailer of a movie based on Vivaldi’s early career. Truthfully, I don’t know if this film ever made it into the theaters or even if it ever hit the small screen instead. But, as you can see, he is wearing a collar throughout. And you get the distinct impression that the good looking red-head had a problem in common with modern-day musicians as well.

YouTube Preview Image

Andante from Concerto In D Minor for 2 Mandolins. But instead of two mandolins, we get Yo-Yo Ma on cello and Bobby McFerran playing his voice box. This is pretty amazing.

YouTube Preview Image

Double Concerto for Two Cellos. This is a beautiful piece Vivaldi wrote for cellos. And this is a very clever presentation with Rebecca Roundman “using multi-tracking. Rebecca plays the two solo cellos parts, the violin 1 part, the violin 2 part, the viola part (not shown), the section cello part and the bass part.” All I can say is, “bravo!”

YouTube Preview Image

Vivaldi did a lot more than this too. Operas and concertos. Sacred and choral music. Like just about any other MfM post though, we are just scratching the surface of his work here. Do you believe he died a pauper? I haven’t read his biography yet (where do you start?) but maybe, just maybe, he wanted to die in that state.

To Send Supplies to the Christians in Iraq

Sending letters to the Nuncio was a great idea to let our embattled brothers and sisters in Iraq know we care. And with a little help from our friends (like the Anchoress and Father Robert Barron and many other bloggers—thanks!), the letter post  “read ’round the world” was shared by 384 people on Facebook and resulted in 2400+ people reading the post. We’re not sure how many e-mails the Nuncio received, but we will let you know what we find out.

But many asked us about how to send relief in the form of food and supplies. Sending donations that can be turned into food, clothing, and shelter is an idea that many of us would like to put into action now.

Good news! I think I’ve found a few ways that you may be able to help in this manner.  Iraqi Christians In Need, is one such organization based in the United Kingdom. This group was was also mentioned in an article dated a month before the latest attacks about Chaldean Catholic refugees in my home state. From the U.S. based ICIN website, I found this You Tube video with only 57(!) views. Take a look,

YouTube Preview Image

From the ICIN website in the U.K., I found the video below with David Frost and Father Nezir Seeman, the chaplain to the Syriac Catholic Community there.

YouTube Preview Image

Other avenues to help might be through Aid to the Church in Need. They are an organization that has been helping persecuted Christians the world over since 1947. And the Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association is another possible alternative.

Full disclosure time: I have donated through ICIN, whose US offices are near where I live. But this post is not a solicitation for either one of these three entities. You may contact your local parish  to see what your local diocese may be doing in order to aid the Church in Iraq too. Or look to your own favorite charitable organizations as well.

And please, keep assaulting Heaven with your prayers.

UPDATE:   A letter to President Obama.

For Thoughts Like These On Martyrdom By Archbishop Sheen

Martyrdom has been on our minds here at YIMCatholic lately. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote that “death is the affirmation of the purpose of life in an otherwise meaningless existence.”

Our Lord led by example, was killed, and buried, by the well meaning and peace-keeping Proconsul named Pilate.

Jesus was an irritant, see, and Pilate, though knowing in his heart that He was innocent, had Him killed anyway. As Father Ronald Knox put it so simply, such is the way of the world. With Our Lord’s Resurrection though, the Game changed and the God of Ecclesiastes unveiled a Heaven sent major revision to the meaning of death.

Sometimes during the Memorial Acclamation at mass we say “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.” (cf. 1 Cor 15 3-23). He leads by example in all things, because if He did not, Christianity would have been stillborn right there at the foot of the Cross. Instead, after Pentecost, former scaredy cats who hid in fear boldly proclaimed the Gospel in a manner that puts real flesh on the phrase “what…you want to live forever?!”

I don’t think there are any words I can offer to succor the families in Iraq left behind in the wake of the deaths of their loved ones. Archbishop Fulton Sheen has a short chapter in his wee book The Power of Love, though, that reminds us that there is more to the picture than meets the eye. Perhaps these thoughts may provide both solace and hope for the persecuted in Iraq and the world over.

Those Who Suffer Persecution by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

“Blessed are you when all men speak well of you, when you are popular and in the limelight,” is a beatitude of the world.

Let the Lord come into a world that believes that our whole life should be geared to flattering and influencing people for the sake of what they can do for us, and say to them: “Blessed are you when men hate you, persecute you, revile you,” and He will find Himself without a friend in the world, and an outcast on a hill with a mob shouting His death and His flesh hanging from Him like purple rags.

This Beatitude is really the Beatitude of the blessedness of being persecuted, or the happiness of being a martyr. In its full statement it runs: “Blessed are those who suffer persecution in the cause of right; the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Blessed are you, when men revile you, and persecute you, and speak all manner of evil against you falsely, because of Me. Be glad and lighthearted, for a rich reward awaits you in Heaven.”

When Our Lord spoke of the world, He did not mean the physical world or the cosmos, He meant the spirit of the world which was arrayed against Him and His followers; a world which would one day kill his servants and think it was rendering a service to God, a world that is composed of human nature organizing itself against Divinity.

The Christian is bidden to be happy as Peter and the Apostles were when they were permitted to incorporate themselves to the Cross of Christ in order to share in the glory of His Resurrection. To be tolerated sometimes is a sign of weakness; to be persecuted is a compliment. The mediocre survive.

The persecuted person shows that his belief is taken seriously and the cause for which he stands must be eliminated if evil is to conquer. True it is that evil men are persecuted, but they do not come within this Beatitude, for as Saint Paul said: “If I should deliver my body up to be burned and have not the love of God and my neighbor in my heart, then it profits me nothing.” A martyr must die for the faith, not for his property, nor his good name, nor for the sake of the Party. Self-made martyrs are numerous, but they have no place in the ranks of those who are promised the Kingdom of Heaven for taking the Cross of Christ on their shoulders.

One would expect that a person who is humble and unselfish, merciful and loving of mankind, should expect a peaceful end, but the Lord who made human hearts knew better. He, therefore, closed His Beatitudes by showing the treatment He would have us expect from the world.

Martyrs, witnesses to the Divine Love in the world, are promised the Kingdom of Heaven. They do not possess it merely because they suffer and endure; they rather suffer and endure because they already possess the Kingdom in their own hearts. One great and mysterious fact that is not generally known to the world is that wherever there is persecution on account of the Faith, it always results in a vast catch of souls for the Kingdom of God. Tertullian was right when he said: “Blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

The triumph of truth in Heaven is not enough; it must also have its glorious revenge in the very theater of its humiliations and conflicts. The world must see how mistaken it was in rejecting Divine Love, and must be forced to exclaim again with Julian the apostate: “Oh Galilean! Thou hast conquered!”

From today’s responsorial Psalm, “The Lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God.” Amen.

Update: To Send Supplies to Iraqi Christians.

Because the Saints Are Alive

Back in November of 2007, it never would have crossed my mind that I would stand in front of my parishes RCIA group giving a talk on the Communion of Saints. And yet three years later that is exactly where I found myself.

A few weeks ago I asked our readers here for pointers on what I should cover. Then, I put together a killer slide show and even planned to show a clip (or two) from the movie The Reluctant Saint.

I really hoped to just knock the cover off the ball with a presentation that would be no less than a tour de force which would leave everyone completely dazzled at the adventure that they individually, along with the rest of the Class of 2011, were embarking on.

I should have known better.

Have you ever heard the phrase “God writes straight with crooked lines?” And let’s not forget the secular saint named Murphy of “everything that can go wrong will” fame. Because on Sunday, my stunning slideshow was viewable only by the two or three people in the front row because my whiz-bang marvel of a Macintosh computer didn’t have the right connection cable doohickeys to hook up to the projector. Even the USB cable that was there was inoperative.Yikes!

But like they say, “the show must go on.” The RCIA Director asked me if I had a prayer to start the class with and I said yes: “Lord, Help!” like Abba Macarius taught me. Other than that, it was adapt, improvise, and overcome time as I crossed the line of departure.

I think that first class turned out ok anyway, and as I was playing to a packed room, I was glad that I had your suggestions and my slideshow/crib notes to refer to. I remember that my own RCIA class, in a different parish, had 8 people in the class between catechumans and candidates. I am happy to report that my current parish has 50 people in the class of 2011. Saints be praised! And by Monday evening, we even had the slide show bugs worked out. Whew!

The main theme of my talk was this thought: the saints are alive and they are a lot like you and me. And just like none of our own lives have turned out as we thought they would (show of hands please? Uh-huh.), neither did the lives of the saints. That wasn’t a hard leap of faith for me to make a statement like that since, right on que, even my equipment was unusable. Lord knows, I was living another unplanned moment.

As we say in the Marines, Press on. I started off with an example of the episode in the life of St. Vincent de Paul when he was captured by Barbary Pirates and sold into slavery. His example of having faith that everything would work out to God’s benefit is inspirational to me.

I introduced them to a few others of our family members too. Because as Henri Nowen once wrote,

Through baptism we become part of a family much larger than our biological family. It is a family of people “set apart” by God to be light in the darkness. These set-apart people are called saints. Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are much more accessible. They are men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people. Some of their lives may look quite different, but most of their lives are remarkably similar to our own.

The saints are our brothers and sisters, calling us to become like them.

So I introduced them to some official saints like the flying “jack-ass for Christ” (Joseph of Cupertino), The Impaled Deacon (Benjamin), my favorite Catholic widow (Blessed Marie of the Incarnation), and the guy who helped a robber make off with his own stolen property (Macarius the Great). And of course Our Mother, Queen of All Saints. And I couldn’t help ad libing about the Desert Fathers,  Saint Al (Alphonsus de Liguori) and Big Terry (Teresa of Avila) too. I also asked the sponsors to share with the class their Confirmation names and we learned even more about our family in the Church Triumphant in that way too.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I let them know that I was a rookie Catholic just a few years removed from where they were sitting. And I told the Monday evening class an abbreviated version of how the uncanonized saint Blaise Pascal sent me running to the chartroom for a major course correction. We glanced at Thomas Merton as the college wise guy and juxtaposed that with what became of him after he became a Catholic. And I had a good time, while losing all track of time talking about the saints.

The main thing about the saints is that they put Christ first in their lives. Their stories aren’t fairytales but well documented and true. Whether we are talking about the original Apostles (all martyred except for St. John), or the ones I named above, they put into practice the following command,

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).

And their lives were never lived only for themselves, but for something far, far greater than that.

Which brings me to the conclusion of this very long post. Toward the end of the Monday evening session, one of our Deacons brought the concept of time into focus for us all. While we live constrained by time, which for us only moves forward, God is not bound by time, or clocks, watches, or chronometers. He is timeless and all that is, was, and will be, is already known to Him. Though God Himself came into time (during the Incarnation as the Son of Man, and whenever it suits Him now) Our Lord is now seated at the right hand of the Father, and therefore no longer bound by time either. Backwards, forwards, sideways, up or down, God is not bound by time as we are.

And this is also true for the saints in the Church Triumphant in Heaven. They are in communion with God in all His glory as well. This is why we can ask them to pray for us and why they can perform miracles in our time too.

In fact, as our Deacon so clearly explained it, when we go to Mass, the entire Church is present there along with us. Not just in my parish, but at every Mass in every parish the world over. We men and women in the Church Militant (slogging it out on our pilgrimage through time on earth) are not the only ones present. Listen to the Liturgy, he explained, and hear us invoke the saints like we do in the Eucharistic prayer here,

In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God. We honor Joseph, her husband, the apostles and martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; we honor Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all the saints. May their merits and prayers gain us your constant help and protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Because the saints are alive, just as the departed faithful in Purgatory are. Which is why during the Mass we also pray for the faithful departed too,

Remember, Lord, those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, especially those for whom we now pray, (names deceased loved ones whom the celebrant or parishioner wishes to offer before God). May these, and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence light, happiness, and peace. Though Christ our Lord. Amen.

Afterwards, I thought of a new slide to add to the end of the presentation. I searched Google and couldn’t find what I was looking for, though I’m positive I’m not the first to think of this. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for so I made this “Venn diagram” of the Church below. Because the Church, like God Himself, is One in Three. And all of His Church members are alive and present together at Holy Mass.

Thanks be to God.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X