For Your Good Friday Night at the Movies

We are safely back on the ground. We picked up a nice tailwind after we launched off of the Abraham Lincoln last Saturday. This development is putting us ahead of schedule. The electricians on Ol’ Abe replaced the faulty Fire Warning sensor on the starboard engine without a hitch. With that favorable wind, we landed last night before our logistics train made it to our forward base of operations.

So what am I saying? I’m saying we have no food, except what little we had in the cockpit with us. We’ve got lots of water though.  Now, since it’s Good Friday, that’s really not such bad news. The AWACS up in the sky informs us that the rest of the squadron will be here tomorrow.

The good news?  We’ve got the hangar all to ourselves and Webster had tonight’s film stashed in our baggage tank. As such, we’ve taken the liberty of setting up the screen for tonight’s movie right here in the hangar bay after dinner. (I’ve got an apple, Webster has some Fig Newtons, bring what you have to share!) Is it right to even watch a movie on Good Friday? I ran it by the chaplain over at mainside and he said that, given our selection, it wouldn’t be wrong. If you care to join us, it is the 1965 classic The Greatest Story Ever Told. 

Starring Max von Sydow as Jesus, Charlton Heston as John the Baptist, and an all-star cast. This family-friendly movie takes us through the life of Christ from his baptism, ministry, death and resurrection. As the good folks over at IMDb say,

“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?”It is towards this climactic crossroads that the story of Jesus of Nazareth leads, and to which, at the final moment, it again looks back in triumphant retrospect. It is the anguishing crossroads where the eternal questions of faith and doubt become resolved.

Have a look at the trailer, and we hope to see you in the hangar bay at 20:00 for “chow” and 21:00 for the film. Webster, Allison, and I invite you to enjoy the film and have a blessed Easter weekend.  As always, we appreciate your support, and thank you for flying YIMC Airlines.

Because this Prophecy of David Is Fulfilled

The Psalms were a book in the Bible that I pretty much ignored my whole life. I was baptized when I was 10 years old and thought I knew a lot about my faith. I have known Psalm 23 by heart probably since I was 7 or 8.  But it wasn’t until I began exploring the idea of becoming a Catholic Christian, and reading the Psalms closely that I realized that David was not only a mighty warrior and king, but a prophet as well.  

Case in point, Psalm 22.  Clearly David, to whom God promised “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Samuel 7:16), was a witness to the scene that played out on Golgotha, and (thankfully) what comes after. In case those looking on didn’t make the connection, Our Lord cries out the first line while on the cross; “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’(Mk 15:34; cf. Mt 27:46) 

Psalm 22

God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
The words that I groan do not reach my saviour.
My God, I call by day and you do not listen.
I call to you by night, but no rest comes.
But still you are holy,
the one whom Israel praises.
Our fathers put their hope in you;
they gave you their trust and you freed them.
They called on you and they were saved,
they trusted and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm and no man,
despised by mankind and rejected by the people.
All who see me deride me,
they make faces and toss their heads:
“He trusted in the Lord, so let the Lord rescue him:
let him save him, if he truly delights in him!”
Indeed, you drew me from my mother’s womb,
you set me to suck at her breasts.
I have depended on you since before I was born,
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me now,
for my tribulation is close at hand,
for there is no-one who will help.
I am surrounded by many cattle,
the bulls of Bashan hem me in.
Their mouths open wide before me,
like a fierce and roaring lion.
I have flowed away like water,
and all my bones come apart.
My heart has turned to wax,
it melts away within me.

My mouth is dry as burnt clay,
my tongue sticks in my throat:
you have laid me in the dust of death.
I am surrounded by many dogs,
my enemies unite and hem me in.
They have pierced my hands and my feet:
I can count all my bones.
They gaze on me, they inspect me.
They have divided my clothing between them,
they have cast lots for my garment.

So you, Lord, do not stay away:
Lord, my strength, hurry to my help.
Rescue my soul from the sword,
my only child from the teeth of the dogs.
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
from the wild oxen’s horns that brought me low.
I will tell of your glory to my brethren;
I will praise you in the midst of the assembly.
Praise the Lord, you who fear him!
Give him glory, all the seed of Jacob.
Let Israel tremble before him,
for he does not spurn the poor or ignore their plight.

He does not turn his face away –
whoever calls on him, he listens.
I shall cry out your praise in the great assembly,
I shall fulfil my vows before all those who fear you.
The poor will eat and be filled,
those who seek the Lord will praise him.
“Let their hearts live for ever!”
All the ends of the earth will remember the Lord:
they will turn to him.

All the families of nations will worship before him.
For the Lord’s is the kingdom,
it is he who will rule all the nations.
Him alone will they praise, those who sleep in the earth;
they will worship before him, who go down into the dust.
But my soul will be alive to him,
and my seed shall serve him.
They shall tell of the Lord to the next generation,
they shall proclaim his righteousness to a people yet to be born.
“Hear what the Lord has done!”

In an audience given in 1988, Pope John Paul II explains the fulfillment of this scripture clearly.

For the Glory of the Lord

Following the Last Supper, and after Judas left to carry out his betrayal, Jesus explained to the remaining apostles the trials they would face in the coming days, and for the rest of their days. Then Our Lord prayed what is now known as The High Priestly Prayer. Here it is in its entirety as recorded by St. John in chapter 17 of his gospel account, prayed by Jesus for the new holy people:

Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; give glory to your Son, that the Son may give glory to you. You have given him power over all mortals, and you want him to bring eternal life to all you have entrusted to him. For this is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and the One you sent, Jesus Christ.


I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do. Now, Father, give me in your presence the same Glory I had with you before the world began. I have made your name known to those you gave me from the world. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they kept your word. And now they know that all you have given me comes indeed from you. I have given them the teaching I received from you, and they received it and know in truth that I came from you; and they believe that you have sent me.

I pray for them; I do not pray for the world but for those who belong to you and whom you have given to me – indeed all I have is yours and all you have is mine – and now they are my glory. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world whereas I am going to you. Holy Father, keep them in your Name (that you have given me,) so that they may be one, just as we are.

When I was with them, I kept them safe in your Name, and not one was lost except the one who was already lost, and in this the Scripture was fulfilled. But now I am coming to you and I leave these my words in the world that my joy may be complete in them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them because they are not of the world; just as I am not of the world. 

I do not ask you to remove them from the world but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world; consecrate them in the truth – your word is truth. I have sent them into the world as you sent me into the world, and for their sake, I go to the sacrifice by which I am consecrated, so that they too may be consecrated in truth.

I pray not only for these but also for those who through their word will believe in me. May they all be one as you Father are in me and I am in you. May they be one in us; so the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the Glory you have given me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity and the world shall know that you have sent me and that I have loved them just as you loved me.

Father, since you have given them to me, I want them to be with me where I am and see the Glory you gave me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known you but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me. As I revealed your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I also may be in them.”

You can read all of St. John’s account of the Last Supper and the Passion starting in Chapter 13 of his gospel account.

For All the Saints: Benjamin

I wrote once that the saints are hard corps. I used a battlefield story from the Korean War era to make my point about how the saints can motivate us to be better Christians. That is, unless they repel us and shame us with their bravery. Like today’s saint, for example.

It is the feast day of St. Benjamin. He was martyred on this day in the year 424 in a manner that brought renown to a certain Transylvanian nobleman named Vlad. But this killing of a devout Christian, for proclaiming the Gospel, happened in Persia long before Bram Stoker was around to write Dracula.

Benjamin was a deacon too. So although he was pretty involved in the affairs of his parish,  he was still a little guy like you and me. A warrant officer on His Majesty’s Ships muster roll.

Here is some handy background information that I gleaned from the internet.

The Christians in Persia had enjoyed twelve years of peace during the reign of Isdegerd, son of Sapor III, when in 420 it was disturbed by the indiscreet zeal of Abdas, a Christian Bishop who burned the Temple of Fire, the great sanctuary of the Persians.

Zealots…I hate those guys! Which sounds like one of my favorite lines delivered by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Usually hurled at Nazis,other bad guys, etc. As for zealots, it takes one to know one, for as Marines go, I practiced that trade with missionary-like zeal for quite some time.

So this Bishop Abdas got inspired and decided to use the scorched earth policy versus the heathen. Fighting fire with fire. Here is how it worked out.

King Isdegerd threatened to destroy all the churches of the Christians unless the Bishop would rebuild it. As Abdas refused to comply, the threat was executed; the churches were demolished, Abdas himself was put to death, and a general persecution began which lasted forty years.

Notice we aren’t marking the feast of St. Abdas? Well we will be, just not until May 16. That is the day King Isdegerd rounded him and seven others up and had them killed in the year 420. Remember the original 12 disciples? There was a zealot (or two?) among them as well. The Lord loves his zealots, as well as his fishermen and tax collectors, prostitutes, the lame,  and even rich guys hiding in the Sanhedrin.

King Isdegerd died in the year 421, but his policies lived on. His son and heir named Varanes assumed the throne with the intentions of remembering his dad’s legacy, not to mention with the intent to placate the institutional anger of his pagan subjects who remembered well that their temples had been destroyed. Actually, King Varanes was going to show his departed dad how he should have handled these pesky Christians.

So here is little Deacon Benjamin, who was sitting in irons for a year, probably since he couldn’t hide from King Varanes and his stool-pidgeons forever. Good news though! An ambassador of the Emperor of Constantinople negotiates Benjamin’s release from jail. But on one condition: Benjamin must never speak of his religion again. You know, to the authorities. Just keep quiet Benjy and all will be well. Maintain a low profile. Live for another day.

Benjamin decides not to play this game. Instead he,

declared it was his duty to preach Christ and that he could not be silent. Although he had been liberated on the agreement made with the ambassador and the Persian authorities, he would not acquiesce in it, and neglected no opportunity of preaching.

Uh-oh. Another zealot. This is going to end badly.

Here is how King Varenes handles Benjamin,

He was again apprehended and brought before the king. The tyrant ordered that reeds should be thrust in between his nails and his flesh and into all the tenderest parts of his body and then withdrawn. After this torture had been repeated several times, a knotted stake was inserted into his bowels to rend and tear him. The martyr expired in the most terrible agony.

Martyrd by Varenes the Impaler.

But Benjamin’s soul lives on. Do you know the origins of the motto of the State of New Hampshire, Live Free or Die?  The complete saying is taken from a toast by General John Stark, retired from the victorious Continental Army, given in 1809. It goes:  Live free or die. Death is not the worst of evils.

Spoken like another zealot. I think, nay, I know St. Benjamin would agree. For as today’s reading from Isaiah (50:7-8) makes clear,

The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.

St. Benjamin, pray for us.

From the Batcave to the Garden (Music For Mondays)

Now that Batgirl is aboard and you have heard her theme song, just for old-times sake here is the original Batman theme song. This is where I get to say “atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed.”

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Actually, I prefer this live version performed by one of my favorite bands, The Smithereens! Have a listen here because it isn’t on video.

And now, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, here is the song that popped into my head when Allison’s final guest post brought down the house with the most comments for the week.  See if you can make the connection. Scary!

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Slowing it down a lot, here is a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic Little Wing done by that talented family of artists the Corrs. These four siblings are Irish, talented and beautiful. And their lead guitarist can hold his own too.   What is this song about? Did Hendrix even know? But this version by the Corrs makes me think of angels, not Tinker Bell (or crazy wah-wah pedal distortion effects).

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Sade recently came out with a new album.  This song, King of Sorrow, makes me think of Jesus during Holy Week. The video, on the other hand, makes me think of the plight of single mothers everywhere trying to make ends meet, have a career and raise their children too. And all without a husband to help. A tough row to hoe, as many of you well know. Too many. If you turn off the video, maybe you can hear Christ in these words if you change one word (see parenthesis).

I’m crying everyone’s tears
I have already paid for all (your) future sins
There’s nothing anyone
Can say to take this away
It’s just another day  

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George Harrison, the spiritual Beatle. I recently found this acoustic version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Many think that George went off the rails chasing the Maharishi, etc., and only God knows what became of his soul. Nowadays, what with scandal in our ranks, these words strike a chord with me anew, especially if you change your perspective on who the  I  in this song is.

I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps

I don’t know why nobody told you
how to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
they bought and sold you

I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps

I don’t know how you were diverted
you were perverted too
I don’t know how you were inverted
no one alerted you

I look from the wings at the play you are staging,
While my guitar gently weeps.
As I’m sitting here, doing nothing but aging,
Still, my guitar gently weeps.

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Francis Beckwith tipped me off to this one from his Facebook status. Bob Dylan (he converted to Christianity back in 1979 in case you missed the press release) sings a song about Our Lord’s Passion. The back-up band? Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The story of the Alpha and the Omega In the Garden—

In the Garden
by Bob Dylan

When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
Did they know He was the Son of God, did they know that He was Lord?
Did they hear when He told Peter, “Peter, put up your sword”?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?
When they came for Him in the garden, did they know?

When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
Nicodemus came at night so he wouldn’t be seen by men
Saying, “Master, tell me why a man must be born again.”
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?
When He spoke to them in the city, did they hear?

When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He said, “Pick up your bed and walk, why must you criticize?
Same thing My Father do, I can do likewise.”
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?
When He healed the blind and crippled, did they see?

Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
The multitude wanted to make Him king, put a crown upon His head
Why did He slip away to a quiet place instead?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?
Did they speak out against Him, did they dare?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?

When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
He said, “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?
When He rose from the dead, did they believe?

Copyright ©1980 Special Rider Music

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For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies VI

10.000 feet still? What the heck just happened! Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be alarmed. The last time I spoke to you I had said that we would be cruising at 10,000 feet again this week. Instead Webster and I had to land this puppy due to a fire warning light on our starboard engine.

How’d you like the landing? Webster and I really get a kick out of carrier landings (and take-offs too)! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HAW! Oh, and one of the ground crew took a video of our landing too.  Check it out!

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Wow, look at that horizon move.  Ain’t this grand! What’s that? Pass the Dramamine?! You mean you’re not interested in tonight’s meal selection? But Webster checked with the galley here on the good ship Abraham Lincoln and they have prepared a cornucopia of Lenten feast selections for the crew (and now us too)!  Seriously, the whole mess is opened for us with everything from Grilled Swordfish Steaks to Fish Tacos, and all points in between. Webster and I are on flight status so we can’t imbibe, but we hear the slop-shute is open to the rest of you.

As the crack ground crew chases electrons to track down the gremlin that set off that fire warning light, the other aviators on Ol’ Abe have set up a screen in the ready room so we can all enjoy tonight’s movie selection together.  Guess what? It has a Navy captain and a nun as the lead characters! How appropriate! Yep, The Sound of Music. Webster is giving me some guff because he knows I never saw this movie until 2002 (hush—wait until he finds out I’ve never seen A Man For All Seasons!) Anyway, here is the trailer, and thanks again for flying YIM Catholic Airlines!

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Because Nothing Matters, Until Everything Does

Allison recently wrote a good post about soccer and sports. I want to be clear: This is not a rebuttal to her post. I agree with much of what she had to say in that post, and with many of the comments as well. But forget sports, school work, home work, our careers, our relationships, our involvement in society, our intelligence, our physical gifts or impediments for a second. None of it matters unless our love of Christ is the center of our existence. For as Qoheleth says in Ecclesiastes, all is vanity. However, when we are Christ centered people, then everything matters.

You may remember from an earlier post that I hinted that I am a gearhead. I willfully dismantled a perfectly good engine in my Mustang in an effort to make it better, stronger, faster. I did this before I became a Catholic. I have always had an interest in motors, engines, airplanes, trucks, etc. I was just born with this attraction and with mechanical ability. So, new exhaust manifolds, intake manifold, cylinder heads, fuel injectors, camshaft—all were removed and replaced in my driveway with hand tools and moxie back in 1999.

Just to see if I still could, I swapped the cylinder heads on the motor again in 2002 (after my near brush with death). And actually, I had blown a head gasket and took that incident as an opportunity to add ported and polished heads.  That is an example of clear, focused, gearhead thinking for you. In 2005, I drove this car 2100 miles across the country from California to our new home. She is a runner and one spirited pony. And none of this matters for my salvation. That is, until it did.

A few months after our move, she (cars are feminine) broke down and I couldn’t figure out the problem. I started her up one day and she was running really rough. I opened the hood, checked the spark-plug wires, fuel injectors, sensors, etc. All was fine. But still, the motor had a wicked shimmy and was seemingly trying to tear herself off the motor mounts. Have I lost you with all the gearhead jargon? Sorry. Long story short, I put the pony to pasture for a while because I was busy with other chores, like building a stair-case and contemplating swimming the Tiber.

Eventually (over a year later) I finished the home improvement projects and decided to tackle the engine problem again. Knowing my limitations though, I took it to a professional. I learned early on that throwing money and personal labor at problems a professional can diagnose quicker and cheaper is silly. The problem? The harmonic balancer was slipping off the crankshaft key.

The balancer is a big counterweight that dampens the vibrations in the mechanical workings of an internal combustion engine. It probably went a little off kilter when I swapped the camshaft, and eventually it manifested itself as a wicked shimmy. See this photograph? The balancer is that thingy that looks like a wheel on the end of the crankshaft. Without the balancer, centered perfectly on the crankshaft, the engine will tear itself apart. With the balancer in place, the engine will run smoothly.

At the time my car’s motor broke, I was wrestling with my practice of Christianity. I knew that up to this time in my life, Christ definitely had not been the center of my existence. I had pushed him way out on the periphery. Of course, by doing that, the big counterweight that should have been my center was removed. Thus all the other moving parts in my life were vying for the central position. As a result, I was running as rough as my Mustang motor had been with the broken balancer. So this idea popped into my gearhead–Joe Sixpack mind: Christ is our harmonic balancer.

The idea of having Christ at our center isn’t mine, it is God’s. And this handy little diagram isn’t my idea either. But until the motor in my Mustang broke, I didn’t really “get” the ramifications of not having Christ as the center. This incident with the harmonic balancer was when theory and practical application came together for me. It is why I understand that putting sports, or anything else for that matter, at the center of your life instead of Christ will lead to oblivion.

Is this the shortest parable on record? I don’t really know, and truthfully, I haven’t checked. If it isn’t, though, it’s close.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is recorded as having said this in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 13). And there we all are as Catholics and Christians—yeast to be mixed in with the flour of the rest of the world so that the mixture is leavened and the loaf can rise. In the same Gospel, while giving His Sermon on the Mount He also says,
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
The Desert Fathers chucked everything and headed into the desert to pray and wait. I don’t have that option because I was called to be a father and a husband. And I understand that I am called to put Christ first in my life. I have found the Catholic Church to be the place where I can do this most effectively. And all of my God-given talents and abilities are to be put to good use and for His greater glory. The same is true for my wife and our children.
So be it sports, school work, home work, careers, relationships, involvement as citizens, our intelligence, our physical gifts or impediments, et cetera, et cetera, with Christ in his rightful and central place in our lives, everything we do, or think, or say, matters for our salvation.
Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War was not a Catholic or a Christian. Heck, he couldn’t have been because he lived in China around 500 BC. But I think he would have made a good Catholic Christian and he would understand where his loyalties must lie as a disciple of the True King. Note this saying of his,
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
The same is true for us privates and gearheads too.

For Chants Such as These (Music for Mondays)

It’s Monday, and looking very gloomy in my neck of the woods. Pop music? Not interested. Blues? I feel them, but no. I need something a lot more holy than that today. Spring may have sprung, but it still felt like I was in hibernation this morning. Here are a few selections that fit the bill for my frame of mind.

First, the Regina Caelorum (the Marian antiphon from the Presentation of the Lord until Good Friday). Here is an English translation:

Hail, O Queen of Heaven enthroned.
Hail, by angels mistress owned.
Root of Jesse, Gate of Morn

Whence the world’s true light was born:
Glorious Virgin, Joy to thee,
Loveliest whom in heaven they see;
Fairest thou, where all are fair,
Plead with Christ our souls to spare.

V. Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thine enemies.

Let us pray: We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully to assist our infirmity: that like as we do now commemorate Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, Mother of God; so by the help of her intercession we may die to our former sins and rise again to newness of life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Remember the Gospel reading yesterday when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life? Rejoice O Bethany. And the rest of these are in English, so I can follow along.

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And now for a couple more that are in English (whew!). First, the Polyeleos. The citation from Wikipedia reads:

The word “polyeleos” also refers to a large chandelier used in some Orthodox churches, particularly in monasteries. It is in the form of a very large circle (also called a corona or horos) with many candles on it, and is often adorned with icons of numerous saints. The polyeleos is suspended by a chain from the ceiling. During the chanting of the Polyeleos psalms (134 and 135), all of the candles are lit and it is pushed with a rod so that it turns back and forth during the singing, adding to the joy of the service. This practice is still seen in the monasteries of Mount Athos and in other traditional Orthodox monasteries throughout the world.

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This one reminds me of St. Romanus singing of the unapproachable light: Now Christ, Thou Sun of Justice

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For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies V

This is your co-pilot once again.  It is a beautiful afternoon up here in the cockpit.  Cruising now at only 10,000 feet.  We’re safe from small arms fire, but still within range of SAM’s (Surface to Air missles). Oh I don’t want to alarm you or anything, but as we get closer to the end of Lent, the cross-country flight will draw to a close and we’ll be back to flying sorties over enemy territory. Close Air Support, etc. Ten thousand feet is getting down to where Webster and I usually live. We’ll cruise at this altitude next Friday too.

Today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, so Webster has ordered Surf and Turf for this evening’s dinner. Yep, New York Strip grilled to order (don’t ask how we pulled that off) and grilled gumbo shrimp to boot. That will go well behind that Cheeseburger and Cherry Coke lunch we had up here in the cockpit. Caesar salad and your favorite beverages will be on the side.

And for our in-flight entertainment? Becket starring Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton in this fully restored masterpiece. Ever had a buddy who was an enabler, you know, aided and abetted your carousing, etc? If you were King of England, wouldn’t it be cool to appoint your pal the Archbishop of Canterbury? Think of the wacky stunts you could pull if your confessor was your best buddy! That’s what Henry II thought when he appointed Becket as Archbishop. A stunning story of “be careful what you wish for” from both sides of the friendship spectrum.

Enjoy the show, and thanks again for flying with us!

P.S. I Think you can watch the whole thing at You Tube.

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YIMC Book Club, “Mere Christianity,” Week 9

This week we read Book IV, Chapters 9,10, and 11.

Can you hear Barry Manilow sing Looks like we made it? Are you turning cartwheels or heaving a sigh of relief? Show of hands: How many of you actually stuck it out and read the whole thing? On second thought, don’t answer that. Don’t worry about it either, because you could get away with reading just Book IV of Mere Christianity and come away with a new appreciation for the path you have chosen.

If nothing else, this last section of Jack’s book will cause you to pause and reflect on the enormity of the task that lies ahead as you walk this narrow path to salvation. In chapter 9 Jack discusses frankly the “be careful what you wish for” aspect of Christianity.

Did you think you just had a few things to work on, and then all would be well? Jack reminds us that  Our Lord says to each of us, “Be perfect.” And that means trusting in Him and enduring all manner of trials as you are undergoing the transformation to perfection. And Jack doesn’t sugar coat it for us either.  Making the change will kill you. Yes, you will become perfect and die trying. 

Tempted to throw in the towel? You can count on that temptation. Expecting consolations in this world? Don’t count on that one. Take heart, fellow sojourner—

When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along-illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation-he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.

Do you think being a Christian is all about being nice? In Chapter 10 Jack does his level best to disavow you of that namby-pamby notion, too. I’m just a regular guy, but I don’t think you would classify me as a really, really nice guy. Ugh! I’m a Marine, for crying out loud! And I’m a Christian. I can’t speak to your experience, but I think many men have just turned off to Christianity because of the attempt to wedge their square selves into the round hole of nicety.

Jack comes up with some solid arguments to the contrary here. We are becoming new people when we become Christians. For cradle Catholics, you still have to go through this transformation just like us converts. Because as you see here, Jack acknowledges the brutal fact that the change isn’t necessarily a rapid one. And what of the conundrum of the not-so-nice Christian and the very nice non-Christian? Jack tackles that question with alacrity via an analogy a land-navigating Marine like me loves: that of the compass combined with free-will,

Will they, or will they not, turn to Him and thus fulfill the only purpose for which they were created? Their free will is trembling inside them like the needle of a compass. But this is a needle that can choose. It can point to its true North; but it need not. Will the needle swing round, and settle, and point to God? He can help it to do so.  He cannot force it.

Not that niceness, on the whole, isn’t to be encouraged. But as Jack explains, remember that Christ came to save the sick and the poor and those most in need of redemption.  The trick is, of course, that this means all of us! For,

God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.

And Jack explains that this is a transformative experience, not unlike turning a horse into a totally different creature with wings. And now to the final chapter, The New Men.

Chapter 12 begins with an idea that lays to rest any fear that science and reason are incompatible with Christianity. The Theory of Evolution? Heck, as Catholics you should know that as far as the Church is concerned, the theory has validity. Jack agrees, and what thinking person doesn’t? And as Jack reports, the next evolutionary step made its appearance over 2000 years ago. Not by evolution will the next step arrive, but by revolution—

It is not a change from brainy men to brainier men: it is a change that goes off in a totally different direction-a change from being creatures of God to being sons of God.

And daughters too.  It is almost impossible for me to comment on this last chapter because Jack weaves pretty much all of the concepts from the entire book into this final one. I like how Jack portrays the Christian world as one that is still in its infancy. 2000 years old? A mere blink of the eye. Much more work for us to do so stop focusing on the “end times” and start working on the transformation. Which brings us to this thought (and proof) that insure this book remains a timeless classic:

The present wicked and wasteful divisions between us are, let us hope, a disease of infancy: we are still teething. The outer world, no doubt, thinks just the opposite. It thinks we are dying of old age. But it has drought that so often before! Again and again it has thought Christianity was dying, dying by persecutions from without or corruptions from within, by the rise of Mohammedanism, the rise of the physical sciences, the rise of great anti-Christian revolutionary movements. But every time the world has been disappointed. Its first disappointment was over the crucifixion. The Man came to life again. In a sense-and I quite realize how frightfully unfair it must seem to them-that has been happening ever since. They keep on killing the thing that He started: and each time, just as they are patting down the earth on its grave, they suddenly hear that it is still alive and has even broken out in some new place. No wonder they hate us.

It’s hard to keep a good man down, and impossible to keep the Son of Man or His Church down. I’ll wrap this up and turn it over to you and the comment box with one last thought of Jack’s,

The more we get what we now call “ourselves” out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of “little Christs,” all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented-as an author invents characters in a novel-all the different men that you and I were intended to be.

After all, this is the message of Divine Mercy: Jesus, I Trust In You.  Lord, give me the strength to let go of the reins.

Announcement:

The YIMC Book Club will now go on hiatus. We’ll be back sometime after Easter for our next selection, Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies.


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