Because I Love the Bible

Here is a reason that answers the question posed by this blog daily that I’ve never written about yet. So here goes: I love the Bible. Well, duh, Frank you may be thinking, of course you do. Well, let me be more specific. I love the entire Bible and every single book therein, including all the books that Martin Luther tossed out during the Protestant Reformation.

I have some mechanical ability, which I have written about in this space once or twice. And I know a thing or two about removing parts from a motor, or adding them, for example. To make a long story short, you don’t remove parts from an engine, leave them off, and expect the motor to work. Remove a turbocharger from a diesel engine, for example, and you will have a motor than runs, but it will run like a sick dog with absolutely no torque. What’s the point of that?

Of course, the other possibility is that you can add parts to a motor in an effort to make it stronger. “Soup it up,” so to speak. Usually this results in some additional power and fun, but at the expense of the longevity of the motor. In other words, you might make more power, but you will probably wind up grenading the motor as well. Oops.

So when I was coming around to the idea of converting, see, I wanted to know what was the scoop on these “extra” books in the Bible. Like a mechanic, I was wondering if the Catholic Church had decided to throw some aftermarket parts onto the motor, if you follow me. You know, like adding a supercharger to a motor that was already strong.

So I grabbed my souvenir Catholic Bible, from my first failed attempt at RCIA class,  and I started looking at these mysterious books. As a result, I discovered some wonderful passages from books that were in the Bible that I had never heard of. Like the one from the first reading from Mass yesterday:

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength, search not. The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise. Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins.

Um, not very scary, is it? As a matter of fact, don’t those verses make all kinds of sense? And there are 50 more chapters of this book to sink your teeth into.  Then I found these verses from the first chapter of the book entitled Wisdom,

Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the LORD in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, and his power, put to the proof, rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin. For the holy spirit of discipline flees deceit and withdraws from senseless counsels; and when injustice occurs it is rebuked.

Wow, I thought. Seek the Lord,  just like it says in Psalm 105, but with a twist for clarity.

For wisdom is a kindly spirit, yet she acquits not the blasphemer of his guilty lips; because God is the witness of his inmost self and the sure observer of his heart and the listener to his tongue. For the spirit of the LORD fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what man says. Therefore no one who utters wicked things can go unnoticed, nor will chastising condemnation pass him by.

Of course! God knows all, sees all. GPS has got nothing on God. It says so right there in 1 Samuel 16:7.

For the devices of the wicked man shall be scrutinized, and the sound of his words shall reach the LORD, for the chastisement of his transgressions; because a jealous ear hearkens to everything, and discordant grumblings are no secret. Therefore guard against profitless grumbling, and from calumny withhold your tongues; for a stealthy utterance does not go unpunished, and a lying mouth slays the soul.

Again, there is nothing strange here. There was a lot of “grumbling” going on in Numbers(14:27), for example, remember? And the command to not lie? That’s right there in the Ten Commandments.

Court not death by your erring way of life, nor draw to yourselves destruction by the works of your hands. Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the nether world on earth, for justice is undying.

I remember clearly thinking to myself after reading this particular passage, “where has this book been all my life?” No wonder I feel immortal, because, gulp (!) I was created to be immortal.  And then I realized there are 18 more chapters in this book too?

And so it goes, as I explored, and continue to marvel at, the wonders of Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, and 1 & 2 Maccabees. The passage in the New Testament that sealed the deal for me was when these verses in Hebrews chapter 11:32-35,

What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders. Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

could only seem to be understood by referring to 2 Maccabees chapter 7:1, 13-14. Take a look,

It also happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way. When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

And then I learned that all of these books had been in the Bible since the beginning of Christianity. They had been in the Old Testament, but got tossed when Luther decided to toss them. At this point, I had to concede three things. 1) I’m not a biblical scholar; 2) The Catholic Church, the institution that assembled the Bible, is the Authority, and further, it has the Authority to decide what books belong in the Bible and what books don’t; 3) These allegedly disputed books were in the Septuagint, which happened to be the authoritative Old Testament Canon in place while Our Lord Jesus Christ walked the earth.

At Mass today, for example, the gospel reading is from Luke and begins like this,

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.(Luke 4:16-17)

What the passage doesn’t say, of course, is that He could possibly, on a different day of the week, or on a different day of the liturgical calendar, have been handed a scroll from Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, or 1 & 2 Maccabees. These books were in the scrolls too, when God walked upon the earth. I don’t know for sure, but like I said, I’m not a biblical scholar. Which is why I rely, again, on the authority of the Church.

So the mechanic in me was left with only one question to consider. As a Christian, did I want to go along with a stripped version of the motor, the one missing a few parts, with all of the pitfalls associated with that, or go along with the original version of the motor; the one that has all of the original parts, all in the proper place.

It really was not a difficult choice to make for me. Especially after I learned that Luther didn’t like the book of James or Revelation either. Lucky us, he left those in because leaving those “parts” out would have been like forgetting the oil sump pump and the oil pan.

I’ll share something on interpretation of scripture shortly.

Elvis Presley Sings “The Miracle of the Rosary” et al.

 

I missed commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the passing of the King of Rock and Roll. I was led to a startling discovery about someone known as the “Chinese Chesterton” on the same weekend that marked the passing of Elvis Presley (August 16, 1977). My humble apologies, because I love you Elvis Presley, and especially your gospel music.

Elvis, see, could sing any song well. Like, for example, Do the ClamAnd despite his fame, and fortune, he never forgot his love for the Lord. He was never ashamed to sing His praises. And as you will see in the first selection below, he had no problem singing Our Lady’s praises either. A post of that video by a friend on Facebook was my wake-up call for this belated appreciation.

Was Elvis a Catholic? I don’t think so. But just like he sent a letter to President Nixon, volunteering his services as a Federal Agent, maybe he sent a letter to the Pope at the same time? Only the Vatican archivists know for sure. Regardless, let me get out of Mr. Presley’s way, because these songs need no introductions, and let you enjoy his gospel side.

Elvis, thanks for singing the Good News. Requiescat in Pace.

Miracle of the Rosary.

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Oh Happy Day.

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The Wonder of You.

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He Is My Everything.

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Where No One Stands Alone

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Take My Hand, Precious Lord.

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How Great Thou Art

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For Thoughts Like These from Frederick Charles Kolbe

Neil Young wrote and performs a tune entitled Just Singing A Song Won’t Change the World. He makes a great point, doesn’t he? However, Neil himself also says, “Even so, I will keep on singing.”

I feel the same way about reading good books on Catholic faith.

Although just reading a book may not change the world in one shot, it may help change it one person at a time. That has been my experience, at least. Some believe that reading the Bible alone is enough. But I wouldn’t be a Catholic if I thought that was true.

I’ve been reading my friend John C.H. Wu’s book, Beyond East and West. John shares a lot in this 364-page autobiographical sketch. What follows is a little fragment from an essay written by Monsignor Frederick Charles Kolbe that John shares with his readers and which I will now share with you. Monsignor Kolbe, you have the floor.

From the essay, The Art of Life

The light that enlighteneth every man coming into this world must have shown with special strength into the souls of those who so earnestly felt after Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, which, whether they knew it or not, is God. And every human response to this Divine shining is of the nature of Faith.

“The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole earth,” and I cannot but think that it is with some degree of the virtue of faith helping their natural insight that such men as Buddha, and Plato reached their moral level. There is something very touching in these early efforts after perfection, and like all early art, they sometimes produce simple effects which are beyond our reach in these more conscious days.

My friend John adds, “what he says about Buddha and Plato applies also to Confucius and Mencius.” Then, I found this interesting fragment from the same essay in an old Catholic magazine known as The Month published in 1903,

People sometimes fancy some disorder of theirs has a spiritual cause, when it may be only medicine or rest that they need. A typical example of this is explained by one of George Eliot’s keen observations —all the more useful to us because she was not thinking of religion at all—namely, that a violent emotion is always likely to be followed by a dreamy disbelief in the reality of its cause. When after a season of special devotion we are unaccountably tormented by temptations against faith, it will spare us a good deal of worry if we recognize that our body is only undergoing a customary reaction.

Or this: when he is contrasting the careful self-examination and perfecting of individual actions which characterizes Catholicism, and the tendency of Protestant spirituality to deprecate these details as excessive.

In this art, Protestants are impressionists (see Monet’s Sunrise, 1872, above). They employ vague sweeps of color, and deprecate close inspection. But true Art demands infinite detail and submits to endless analysis. The highest painter reveals himself in the ravishing delicacy of his lightest touches, and the truest idealism is that which seizes upon infinite detail and suffuses it to an exquisite degree with the glory of God.

Two boats in the water:  one fuzzy, one clear. Although I’m no expert in art, and I love French Impressionism, I know with certainty that painting this bottom portrait in such high detail required the level of skill and care that Monsignor Kolbe writes of in his description above.

With God’s Grace And A Little Help From My Friends

When I was a newly minted Marine, fresh out of boot camp and on my way into life, I was certain that I could lick it. Everything was possible, and all would be right in the world. Well, maybe not the whole world, but my world would be just fine. I realized that I was no all-powerful genie, but I had complete confidence in the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. The winner, which I knew I was, would take all. [Read more...]

To Boldly Go Where Others Have Already Gone

Since my oldest son turned 7 years old, organized baseball has been a big part of my life. He is now a freshman in high school, and working hard on earning the chance to represent his school on the ball field. All of this has changed my life in unexpected ways, and almost all of them good.

My son has learned a lot about the game, and so have I. He has learned that bad calls by the umpires are a part of the game, but the game must go on. He has learned that just looking good gets you nowhere in this game, but experience and hard work can make a huge difference. And he has learned that some things that others consider hard, or impossible to accomplish, he can achieve, because he has seen others just like him do so. Not with ease, and not without effort, but with confidence that the seemingly impossible is achievable because the proof is in his memories or in the history books.

All of these experiences of my son have also helped me give him encouraging words. I too have seen the seemingly impossible achieved, with effort, hard work and determination. I experienced the requirement to achieve what others consider impossible when I was a Marine. Suffice it to say that a Marine’s expectation of what is “normal performance” is often far out along the bell curve, near the tail-ends.

These thoughts that follow were crystallized when I saw the following video clip of a miraculous catch by the center fielder on a Japanese professional baseball team. The team is from Hiroshima, Japan (yes the same Hiroshima you know from the history books), a town 45 minutes by train from a base I was stationed at several times during my military career. This took place on August 03, 2010. This catch was so good, that the fellas at ESPN picked it up and were blown away by it. Take a look,

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Wow, right? Unbelievable, but there it is. Oh, you don’t think it counts as amazing because this is the Japanese league? Please, that is an amazing catch no matter where it happened. Besides, as you may remember from a post I wrote a few days ago, it doesn’t matter where you come from. Everybody can play baseball. But not everyone can make a catch like that. Or can they?

Because below is an example of what I am writing about above. If you have seen something, that you thought was impossible, get accomplished, it opens your eyes a little. Or maybe it opens your eyes, and your mind, a lot. You start thinking to yourself, “Well, if that guy can do it, so can I.” And that is exactly what you will see here,

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Uh-huh. Same pitcher, same two teams playing, just a few weeks later. And now with a different outfielder, making a similar play and another great catch. How? Because his teammate had done it too, and by doing so had shown his peers what is possible. Think outside the box, have confidence, go the extra mile, leap up on to the fence, and make the catch.

When I viewed these two videos, which my wife sent me during lunch today, the first thought that went through my head was “that is what Lou Tseng-Tsiang did when he became a Catholic.” Then I watched the second video and I thought “and that is what his friend John C. H. Wu did. He saw that his friend Lou could do it, and then he went and did it too.”

All of the saints have boldly gone down a path that many see as impossible. But is it really? Aren’t they showing us that it is possible? And aren’t the saints our friends? Don’t they pray for us if we ask them to? I believe so with a firm conviction.

And I also believe this: that they are the pathfinders,the trailblazers. They are the ones who have kept the flame alive; who show us, their teammates in the Church Militant, how we need to be to make it to the Show, which is the Church Triumphant.

Where they have lead, I intend to follow. Let’s go play some baseball.

Asia On Our Minds (Music for Mondays)

In this edition of MfM, we showcase some songs from mega-hit artists and from one-hit wonders. Superstars and no-name acts too. It’s all a big smorgasbord but all related to the posts we’ve been doing here lately. Last Saturday’s post on John C.H. Wu, picked up the journey were Wu Li left off. And yesterday the story of Lou Tseng-Tsiang hit the stands, as well as Allison’s post on the readings. And today, Allison’s prayer for a friend, who doesn’t even know she has a friend named Allison. [Read more...]

Because Once Upon A Time, The Premier of China Was A Catholic

Imagine that you woke up to the news this morning that a former President of the United States, say Jimmy Carter for example, has just held a press conference saying that he has entered the Abbey at Gethsemane to become a Cistercian monk. Would you be flabbergasted? Amazed? Incredulous? Or would you be intrigued? That’s how I felt when I learned the news that I am going to share with you today. [Read more...]

Because of the Divine Beauty of the Mass

Guest Post by Terry Fenwick

I met Terry by way of Francis Beckwith’s Facebook page. Pretty soon, we were “friends” too. Shortly thereafter, we were trading e-mails back and forth and I learned that she was a Catholic convert from the class of 2004.  She, and her late husband, Tom, came into full communion with the Church in 2004. She shared this piece she had written for her parish bulletin with me . I don’t know much, but I knew one thing immediately upon reading this; it needed a wider audience. Take a look and see if you agree with me.

Come and See

Since becoming Catholic in 2004, I have asked myself over and over, why I was never invited to attend a Mass. I could attend funerals and was invited to a few weddings, but not one Catholic ever invited me to Mass. [Read more...]

Because On This Championship Ball Club, Everyone Can Play

Early on, before I officially started upon the path to becoming a Catholic, I read Thomas Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. I had already read Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, and Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ by the time I rolled around to Merton. In baseball terms, it was a strike-out for the side— the side of the Church, that is. Here is the play-by-play.

Blaise was the first pitch, thrown to the inside corner of the plate, and caught me looking. Looking up at the scoreboard, I saw the number “102″ flash under the MPH sign. Gulp. Then, Thomas #1 came in like a fastball, forcing me to swing. But it was a slider and the bottom fell out of that pitch as I swung the bat. No contact at all. By this time, I was 0-2 in the count, and that isn’t where you want to be as a batter.

Because being 0-2 in the count plants some serious seeds of doubt in your mind. Consider, when I first got up to the plate, I was convinced that the Catholic Church, er ball club, had not a leg to stand on. I knew, just knew, that I could handle any and every pitch that it threw at me.

But now I was 0-2 in the count, so I just did what I had to do. I choked up on the bat, determined to make contact. That is when She (they have females in this league) threw me the Merton pitch. It was a killer rainbow curve that caught me just like this one,

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Wow. You don’t have to understand the language being verbally spoken in that video, to realize that this was an amazing last pitch, now, do you? Watching that replay over and over again in my own mind, I knew there was only one thing to do; call my agent and beg him to trade me to the same ball team that these guys played for. Thankfully, I swallowed my pride and the trade worked out. And now, here I am playing on the same team with the legends of the game.

The interesting thing about this here ball club (metaphor alert! read “the Catholic Church”) is that the players come from all over. That used to be unheard of in the big leagues at one time. Heck, some teams are still basically drawing their players from only one geographic area, or culture. But not this team.

Oh they tried that, early on, if you recall. Yeah, way back in the beginning when our first manager, a guy by the name of Peter, had it out with one of the star players on the squad, Paul. The row between these two in the clubhouse was about trying to make everybody who came from another place, fit the same exact mold of the original guys, even if they came from another culture altogether different. It’s all right there at the Baseball Hall of Fame Archives Center.

Man, the dust must have been flying in the dugout that day. But the two agreed that forcing everyone to adopt the same cultural practices of the country that the original players came from didn’t make sense because it wouldn’t help them to win ball games. They knew that the only culture that really mattered, is the Team’s culture. And our owners (there are Three of Them, though the uncanny thing is, They all think and act as One) take winning ball games very seriously.

I saw a story in the sports pages the other day that sounded like “Déjà vu, all over again” as another baseball great, named Yogi Berra, once remarked. A bunch of guys thinking that some people just can’t play baseball.  Period. Bats and gloves, and cleats are just too foreign to them, was the argument. What a load of hooey.

I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Because as best as I can recall it, and check the Rule Book for me on this one, the Owners say everybody can play baseball. No matter who you are, or what country or culture you come from. Let me see…yeah, here it is. This is from one of the Owners,

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19)

That Owner, named Jesus? He came down and played ball with everyone at one time. He was a major “game changer” back in the day and as hard as this is to believe, the “old game” players took him out and killed him for revolutionizing baseball. But the amazing thing is, He came back to life (I told you He was a “game changer”) and he gave us all that play above to carry out,  right before he headed back to the Owners’ Sky Box.

So let’s go play some baseball, huh? Stop worrying about if some can play the game and some can’t. Because it has been proven, over time that everyone can play on this ball club. And don’t forget this either, have fun out there.

First Lesson About Man (A Few Words For Wednesday)

I’ve been engrossed in exploring the life and work of my new friend John C.H. Wu. Is it any surprise to you that he corresponded with Thomas Merton? How could he not have, is what I say. And I found some evidence that he did, of course. Merton wrote the introduction to John’s book The Golden Age of Zen. In fact, John writes this about their friendship,

There is no telling how much the friendship of this “true man” has meant to me during all these lonely years of my life.

See, practically bosum-buddies! And I also posted a thank you to Pink Floyd this week. Working on that, coupled with the knowledge that my friends John and Father Louis were correspondents, jogged my memory of one of Fr. Louis’ poems.

First Lesson About Man

Man begins in zoology.
He is the saddest animal.
He drives a big red car
Called anxiety.
He dreams at night
Of riding all the elevators.
Lost in the halls
He never finds the right door.

Man is the saddest animal.
A flake eater in the morning
A milk drinker.
He fills his skin with coffee
And loses patience
With the rest of his species.
He draws his sin on the wall
On all the ads in all the subways.

He draws moustaches
On all the woman
Because he cannot find his joy
Except in zoology.
Whenever he goes to the phone
To call joy
He gets the wrong number
Therefore he likes weapons.

He knows all guns
by their right name.
He drives a big, black Cadillac
Called death.
Now he is putting
Anxiety into space.
He flys his worries
All around Venus
But it does him no good.


In space, where for a long time
there was only emptiness
He drives a big white globe
Called death.
Now, dear children, you’ve learned
The first lesson about man.
Answer your test:

Man is the saddest animal.
He begins in zoology
And gets lost

In his own bad news.

I was getting the wrong number for a while too. How about you? Perhaps St. Anthony had something to do with helping me find the right number as well!

Take a look at this video for the full reading of the poem and a montage that works pretty well with it. The poster writes,

This surreal poem is from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. I thought the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico provided an interesting perspective (as it were) on the poetry.

I agree.

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