Because War is S.O.P. on Planet Earth

The sword shall begin with his cities and end by consuming his solitudes. Because they refused to repent, their own counsels shall devour them. (Hosea 11:6)

You may not have noticed that people are being killed in a war in a little country called the Ivory Coast. You noticed the insurrection in Egypt, though. And you noticed the cruise missiles raining down on Libya, because you started paying $4.00 a gallon for gas pretty quickly thereafter.

Golly, you may be thinking, when will it ever get peaceful again?

Again!? Are you nuts? It’s never been peaceful here on planet Earth. Not since “the Fall,” anyway. S.O.P. in the title above means “Standard Operating Procedure.” Don’t believe me? Then just step into my time machine and I’ll show you.

That’s right. I have a time machine and nobody else can use it! Not Mark Shea especially!

That’s not true though because the good folks over at Conflict History want lots of people to use it too. They have a beta site up and running for their Conflict History Timeline. The subtitle? “Browse the Timeline of War and Conflict Across the Globe.” Even Mark can use it…but I found it first!

It may not be pretty, but this timeline is pretty awesome. This we’ll get you started in the 1982-2011 time period. As you can see, the world is on fire!  That’s been the case pretty much since Cain killed Abel.

Almighty God, from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed, kindle in the hearts of all men the true love of peace, and guide with Your pure and peaceable wisdom those who make decisions for the nations of the earth; that in tranquility Your kingdom may go forward, till the earth be filled with the knowledge of Your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

By Admiration (A Few Words for Wednesday)

You’ve probably never heard of Kenelm Henry Digby. You’ll be hearing more about him from me though. I’m currently reading a biography about him.

A while back, I added a slew of his works to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. Back on All Souls Day, I shared one of his poems with you. Today I’d like you to read a few of Digby’s lines of verse about Art. I promise a post about Digby himself in the future (a fascinating conversion story!).

But for now, just these few lines from his poem Ouranogaia: Heaven on Earth, from Canto VI, and a bonus video featuring the work of an amazing child prodigy named Akiane Kramarik.

By Admiration (works of Art, Painting, And Music)

Great Nature’s works admired so, we said,
To fields Elysian men have often led.
But works of human art no less provide
A field for admiration truly wide;
Whether they would exactly imitate
Sweet Nature’s present and imperfect state;
Or striving to combine in one all parts
Of beauty, so as to inflame our hearts
By picturing an artificial whole,
Made up of parts, and no part copied sole.
While, on whatever pathway they would wend,
They all must seek this one essential end—
Of making the unseen to mind appear,
Without which nought that’s seen is ever dear.
For so all works design’d of human art
That with success would touch and move the heart
Must still by means that are well known to all,
From things unseen remove the present pall,
That the invisible may clearly be
Brought thus before the mind; that ever we
May see its sheen, and feel its cheering glow;
For nought else moves the heart on earth below.
‘Tis then that art will yield for mankind here
A foretaste of the bliss that will appear
In those fair, happy regions, where it may
Be not intended all to pass away.

The bliss of those who Nature will admire,
Descends no less on those who never tire
Observing Nature in men’s works of art,
Of which a view they equally impart;
So that we argue justly when we hold
That human works can Heav’n itself unfold.

In song, the thought and sentiment come first;
These reign and govern, and still will keep the heights;
In painting, howe’er purely artists thirst.
The workman’s hand will chiefly claim its
rights—
Yes, even when it seeks the pure ideal,
And shuns an imitation of the real.

But if with skill you weigh the mystic bond,
Connecting hands with the presiding soul,
Your thoughts disparaging will then prove fond,
If raising not more wonder at the whole;
Or else, unless the hand rebels, and then
You well may scorn Art’s democratic men,

Who seek but profit with much daily toil,
By eccentricity, or what is worse,
By agency the human mind to soil
And yield a bitter, and a cleaving curse.
Whereas it is Art’s office to supply
A path towards Eden to attract the eye,

Supporting and exalting human life,
As even Plato show’d in days of old,
Suggesting that its noble, endless strife
Should be in making age and youth behold
The inner nature of the good and fair,
To fan their temples with Elysian air.

You can read the rest of Digby’s canto here. And now, the evolution of the artistry of Akiane,

Because Confession Puts Us Back Together

Does everyone remember “The Kid?” That’s what I call Marc Barnes who blogs over at BadCatholic. Yes, the one with the blog with a photograph of nuns lighting up smokes. Marc is a gifted writer, and he wrote a guest post for me once. He also has a talent for making videos.

Back in January, I shared the video that Marc made about the March for Life with you. It went viral (sort of), as well it should have. It is that good!

About a month ago, I got wind of a little “make a video about Confession” contest for an All Day Confession Event being held in the Archdiocese of New York. Scholarship money is on the line for the winner of the contest. But for the rest of us, hearing and sharing a message that may save eternal lives is what’s on the line.

The first person that popped into my head when I learned of this contest was “the Kid.” I sent him a note saying, “hey Kid…make a video on Confession!” As a result, his God-given talents were put to work and he created this fantastic one-minute video below.

Watch it, share it, go to You Tube and “like” it, and more importantly…believe it! Go.Be.Forgiven.

Bravo Zulu Marc, and thanks!

Seven Classic Songs We Love (Music for Mondays)

No, this isn’t the “royal we” I’m referring to. For today’s edition of MfM, the “we” I’m identifying is all of us. Because the songs that follow soared up the charts and had catholic, that is “universal,” appeal.

Because if somebody didn’t like them, it’s probably because somehow, they never heard them. Now this isn’t an exhaustive list, as that would probably be at least 500 songs long. But I’m willing to wager that these seven tunes resonate with you even to this day.

These are all pretty modern, as they span the years 1967 up through 1974, and yet they seem timeless. Give them a listen, along with the scripture verses they evoke for me and see if you can’t remember an episode in your life that these songs bring into focus for you.

Some are one-hit wonders, and others went triple Platinum. But they all went far because they spoke to us in a catholic (with a small “c”) way. First up, a song that put us on the edge of our seats…

Bobbie Gentry, Ode to Billie Joe. The year is 1967. The war in Vietnam is raging but news of friends and families and neighbors takes precedence. This “story” song comes along and everyone listened, because this is how our lives unfold too. Remember Matthew 24:2?

Then two shall be in the field: one shall be taken, and one shall be left.

Otis Redding, Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. Is it just me, or do you also get a profound sense of peace when you look upon the ocean? Once again the words of a prophet come to mind (Amos 5:8),

Seek him that maketh Arcturus, and Orion, and that turneth darkness into morning, and that changeth day into night: that calleth the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.

Creedance Clearwater Revival, Proud Mary. It’s 1969 now and CCR rolls out this tune that becomes a huge hit across the country and world wide. Ike and Tina Turner sent it even further. The lyrics appeal to many and bring these words from the mouth of the LORD to mind (Isaiah 55:1),

All you that thirst, come to the waters: and you that have no money make haste, buy, and eat: come ye, buy wine and milk without money, and without any price.

Blues Image, Ride Captain, Ride.  Pretty much a one hit wonder in 1970, but covered by great bands like the Doobie Brothers too. This is the original though. The appeal? Listen to the lyrics and see if you don’t hear the reason the Christ came and why we spread the Good News (Isaiah 42:7),

To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Neil Diamond, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Live from a BBC concert in the year 1971. This song reminds me of Galatians 6:2,

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

Lynn Anderson, Rose Garden. Her monster hit from the year 1973. Bearing crosses and one another’s burdens is tough work. Nonetheless we aren’t called to be “sour-faced saints” either. This song is sort of like the whole book of Ecclesiastes in a song less than 3 minutes long. See Ecclesiastes 9:9,

Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest, all the days of thy unsteady life, which are given to thee under the sun, all the time of thy vanity: for this is thy portion in life, and in thy labor wherewith thou laborest under the sun.

Paul McCartney & Wings, Band on the Run. The Beatles broke up, but all of them went on to solo careers. This song by Paul came out in 1974, and climbed the charts like a rocket. I think it’s still going too, just like the Voyager spacecraft.

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

What comes to your mind when you hear these songs? Let us know in the commbox, and I’ll see you here next week.

Because of Christian Monasticism

I’ve written here before that one of the many reasons that I became a Catholic was because of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. But the reason goes deeper than just this historical one-off. 

You see, one of the reasons that I became a Catholic was because of monks and nuns who have given up everything to follow Christ and God and still do so to this day. I admit that I used to think folks who did this were nuts. But a close reading of scriptures show that it isn’t. 

Recently, I found a book written by a Paulist Father named Bertrand Louis Conway that helps explain the reasons why this practice isn’t strange, but very Christian.  Fr. Conway called his book Studies in Church History and he wrote it in response to questions from non-Catholics that came up all the time while he was conducting missions in the Paulist’s missionary field. In case you didn’t know, that field is here in the United States only.

The excerpt below is from the first chapter of the book. This will get you started,

from Studies in Church History
Christian Asceticism in the First Three Centuries

It is true that the ascetic teaching of Jesus does not hold the predominant place in the Gospels which our rationalistic critics think necessary for our defense of monasticism. But Our Lord did not come to establish a community of monks pledged to the highest degree of perfection, but to found a Church for all men. Our Lord’s general moral teaching was undoubtedly most sublime. Christians are to be perfect as their Heavenly Father is perfect; they are all called upon to live a life of self-denial, sacrifice, renouncement, and suffering.

His words are: “I came not to send peace but the sword. … He that taketh not up his cross is not worthy of Me.” “He that shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.” “If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Self-denial is an essential characteristic of the true follower of Jesus, and in times of persecution, such as He evidently had in mind in the above texts, this self-denial was to be heroic even unto death.

But there are other teachings of our Savior intended only for an elite few. They are in no sense commandments for the multitude, but counsels left to the free choice of those who were to follow Him more intimately in the way of perfection. Protestantism, cursed with the worldly taint of a merely human gospel, has ever ignored Our Lord’s teaching on the counsels. That is the chief reason of its bitter hatred of monasticism and the religious life. That is why the liberal Protestants of today do their utmost to trace the origin of asceticism to a pagan philosophy or a pagan religion.

Jesus mentioned the counsel of chastity in the nineteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. He was restoring marriage to its primitive purity, and prohibiting divorce even in the case of adultery. When, in view of this strict teaching, the disciples declared: “It is not expedient to marry,” Jesus took occasion of their remonstrance to set forth clearly the practice of celibacy “for the kingdom of heaven.” The prohibition of divorce is a commandment for all Christians;he practice of celibacy is a counsel for the elite few. “He that can take, let him take it.”

Some nonCatholic scholars arbitrarily try to show that these last words of Our Lord refer to the indissolubility of marriage, while others think it strange that our Lord should recommend celibacy while extolling marriage. The first theory does violence to the context, while the second sees opposition where in reality none exists. It is unquestionably true that Our Lord’s counsel of celibacy marks the beginnings of asceticism, for virginity is its basic and essential element. Asceticism is possible even when the other practices that generally accompany virginity are absent; but without virginity it does not and cannot exist.

Jesus counseled poverty even more explicitly. He said: “Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses.” “Take nothing for your journey, neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money.” “Sell what you possess and give alms.” “Every one that doth not renounce all that he possesseth cannot be My disciple.” “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor.”

He did not give a command to the rich young man, but clearly made an appeal to his generosity: “If thou wilt be perfect” are His words. Finally, Jesus asked His chosen ones to renounce their own wills, “to deny themselves and to take up their cross.” Harnack ( a Protestant author) is wrong in declaring that the Catholic Church teaches two different moral codes, one for the multitude, and another for the monk who stands for a higher type of perfection. The difference between them is merely a difference of degree, or rather of means. Both have the same end in view, viz., the love of God and the love of the neighbor for God’s sake.

Read the rest, with all the footnotes, at the YIMCatholic Bookshelf

To Give Thanks to the Life of My Aunt Dora

Guest Post by Dee Sparacio

102 years and 9 months. That is how long my Aunt Dora Minnefor lived on this great earth. Early yesterday morning, she passed into the loving arms of God. She was an incredible woman. She was independent yet was always there at any time to help others. She was my father’s sister . When my mother passed away when I was five years old my dad didn’t even ask her, Aunt Dora just moved in. She took wonderful care of my sisters, Melabee and Roberta, and me.

A few years ago, Aunt Dora went through the stage where she told everyone not to buy her gifts for anything. Not birthday gifts, no Mother’s Day gifts, no Easter gifts and no Christmas gifts. As we were looking through her address book yesterday I came across something I wrote to Aunt Dora for her birthday when she didn’t want a gift. I had forgotten about it until I opened the paper. It holds true today.

Dear Aunt Dora,
I promised not to buy you a gift but I wanted to share these thoughts with you.

Your Gift To Me
While making gravy,
Working outside the home,
Or taking care of those you love,
You showed how all these things are done
With never a complaint.
Gladly sharing stories of how things used to be
And using them to show us how to be
The best that we could be.
I only hope that I can share with others
What you have shared with me-
Simple acts, yet precious gifts
Forever in my heart.
Happy Birthday.
Love, Dorinda

Every day is a blessing. For the past 55 years, I have been blessed by the guiding hand and love of my Aunt Dora.

We beseech Thee, O Lord, in Thy mercy to have pity on the soul of Thy handmaid; do Thou, who hast freed her from the perils of this mortal life, restore to her the portion of everlasting salvation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies IV

It’s roughly the midpoint of Lent. Unlike last Friday, when we were celebrating a Solemnity, we are back to abstaining from meat today. But no worries. I’ve always been fond of fish tacos, so that is what’s on the menu at Casa del Weathers tonight. And there is beer to go with them, for the adults anyway, so all is well.

Tonight’s feature presentation is Lilies of the Field starring Sidney Poitier. Poitier won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for this film in 1964. I never saw it though because I was a baby in swaddling clothes around that time.

But I’ve always liked Poitier’s work. For example:  Blackboard Jungle, The Bedford Incident, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. I also liked him in To Sir with Love and They Call Me MISTER Tibbs. Come to think of it, I don’t think there is a single movie I’ve seen him in that I did not like.

So what is this film about? Based on a true story that was fictionalized as a novel by William Edmund Barret, the story is about one Homer Smith and a group of nuns he stumbles upon.  Out of luck, and out of work, he stops to put some water in his radiator at a farm in Arizona while heading westward to find construction work. The farm just happens to be run by a gaggle of transplanted East German nuns from the Sisters of Walburga.

As it turns out, this is a match made in heaven and brought together on earth. Homer isn’t to sure about all this, bun the nuns are. Have a look at the trailer (and prepare to be sucked in for the whole enchilada).

YouTube Preview Image

Are you humming the tune “Amen” yet? Head to your usual video outlets, or watch this on You Tube or over at Gloria.tv in its entirety.


Because the Disciples Were Just Like You (Friday Funnies)

Let me start this post with a hat-tip to Brandon Vogt, convert and Catholic blogger over at The Thin Veil. You may recall that Brandon hosted one of our book club meetings once.

He posted a link on his Facebook page today to a blog of a fellow named Don Miller who, you guessed it, I had never heard of before today. This is reason #1367 for why I didn’t give up Facebook for Lent.

Is Don Miller a Catholic? I don’t think so, but as I’ve explained here before I don’t hold that against anybody, especially when they are as funny as what I will be sharing with you here. See, he put together a wee list of traits of true disciplines of Christ. Guess what? You’ll make the cut. Take a look,

Here are some actual characteristics of the disciples I think we can safely trust. If you resonate with any of these, you’re in a good spot and likely following Jesus:

1. You think Jesus wants to take over the government so you cut off a soldiers ear in order to get the fighting started. (The neo cons are definitely disciples!)

2. You keep pestering Jesus about who he will give more power to in heaven.

3. You have no theological training but own a small fishing business which somehow makes you qualified because you “get it.”

4. The Holy Spirit crashes into one of your mini sermons so everybody can speak different languages and outsiders think you’re drunk.

5. People ask you if you know Jesus and you freak out and say no and run away.

6. You hear they killed Jesus on a cross and you figure the whole thing was a wash and you got duped.

7. You choose other disciples by playing rock, paper scissors.

8. You teach bad theology and have to have somebody else come over and correct you.

See? You’ll do just fine too. Trivia Question Bonus Round: Can you identify which disciples met these particular characteristics? Put them in the combox below by number. The answers may surprise you. Then head on over and read the whole post at Don’s blog.

Update: The Horror!

For Must See TV Like This

Who needs the TV Guide when I have New Advent to keep me informed about what is coming on the television? It’s a rare night in Casa del Weathers, when something isn’t going on to interfere with watching something on TV.

But tonight, we will be free to watch the following special that airs on the History Channel at 9PM (Eastern).

I visited the Vatican once, and all I got was a lousy t-shirt. But that was before I was a Catholic, see. I’m much more interested now. Here is what the folks at the History Channel have to say,

Secret Access: The Vatican provides a revealing look at the inner workings of the Vatican, from the secret archives to the Swiss guards, as well as some of the treasures locked inside. See what is housed under the 110-acre site as an ongoing excavation of an ancient cemetery that the Vatican was built upon uncovers priceless artifacts, including the bones of St. Peter himself. Go inside the Vatican Secret Archives – a collection of rooms and libraries containing some of history’s priceless documents. And get to know Vatican security: the top-of-the-line procedures and practices utilized by a combination of Swiss Guards (elite guards to the Pope), Vatican police, and Italian police that keep the Pope and Vatican safe.

And I hear they even speak to the Vatican’s astronomer? I’m in!

Here is a video clip for you about tonights program. Check your local listings and tune in.

For Napoleon’s Answer to the Question “Who Is Jesus Christ?”

Back in January, I reviewed Eric Sammon’s book, Who Is Jesus Christ? It is a great book and I highly recommend it to you. Many have asked themselves the same question about the identity of the obscure Jewish carpenter from Galilee.

Last week I shared with you the knowledge that Napoleon Bonaparte died a good Catholic death. Today, as I was reading a selection available on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, I stumbled across Napoleon’s answer to this very question.

I was happily just reading along in Cardinal James Gibbon’s book, Our Christian Heritage when the following thoughts of Napoleon’s leapt off the page in the concluding paragraphs to chapter XV,

From The Divinity of Christ Attested by Himself and His Disciples

Cardinal Gibbons writes,

The first Napoleon was not a theologian; but he was a great man, and a profound observer, whose vast experience had enabled him to judge what forces were necessary to produce a lasting effect on mankind. When chained to the rock of St. Helena, he had ample leisure to measure the greatness of men and to estimate them according to their true value.

One day in a conversation with Montholon, he put this question to him: “Who was Jesus Christ?” Montholon having declined to answer, Napoleon proceeded:

“I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires. But our empires were founded on force. Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions would die for Him. I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man. Jesus Christ was more than man.”

“I have inspired multitudes with a devotion so enthusiastic that they would have died for me. But to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, my voice. Who cares for me now removed as I am from the active scenes of life, and from the presence of men? Who would now die for me?”

“Christ alone across the chasm of eighteen centuries makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy. He asks more than a father can demand of his child, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart. He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally, and forthwith His demand is granted.”

“Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man with all its powers and faculties becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers.”

“Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame. This is what strikes me most. This is what proves to me quite convincingly that Jesus Christ is God.”

You may enjoy the entire chapter of Cardinal Gibbon’s book here.