Thoughts on Obedience and Reading Maps without Guidance

Today, while making the rounds around the blogger neighborhood, I saw a great quote on a subject that is not near and dear to the heart of modern mankind: obedience. Deacon Greg Kandra shared the thoughts of a modern saint on the subject,

Your obedience is not worthy of the name unless you are ready to abandon your most flourishing work whenever someone with authority so commands…Oh, the power of obedience! The Lake of Genesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again into the water and they caught ‘a great number of fishes.’ Believe me, this miracle is repeated every day. –St. Josemaria Escriva [Read more...]

Stuff I Heard This Weekend (Music for Mondays)

Yep, you read that title right. There is nothing more to this post, and nothing less. Some of these songs I heard in the house, or on the road. None of them were from an i-Pod or anything like that. Usually, I prefer to have music arrive to my ears by chance. Call me crazy. Oh, and this post is so long, I’m publishing it on Sunday night. Call it the Early Edition.

So that is what you have to look forward to from me today. No reasoned approach to the selection. No ulterior motive to the picks. But sometimes, and trust me I’m open to seeing things this way now, the songs just come unannounced and resonate with what is happening in the world of my faith and the new oxygen supply of my life. I speak of my love of the Church here, if you hadn’t noticed that trait rearing it’s head already.

It’s a jumble of old and new, but only if “new” is used very loosely. New, as in “newer rock n’ roll.” Have a listen and see how these tunes tickled my puzzler this past weekend. Warning: The final song in the post is 24+ minutes long. LOL.

The Who, Can’t Explain. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the subject of the Faith and the Church is so deep, and so wide, that it can never be exhausted in terms of ideas to write or blog about. Take this blog, for instance. From one author, to two, and then three, and back to one again, YIMCatholic has 1089 posts published on the books, all wrapped around the title statement and you now what? Webster and Allison are still out there writing posts too. See? She’s like a rich vein in a mine whose surface has only just been scratched. Better yet, it’s like what Our Lord says here,

the water that I will give to him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life. —John 4:10

Other than that, my love for Christ and His Church is unexplainable except it must be Love. I saw this on the Facebook page of the Who and the first song of the set was chosen.

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Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love. Love is complex, multidimensional, and multifaceted. Of late I’ve been sharing thoughts around love as agape. Of course, love also is eros, philios, and storos. Modern culture seems to highlight eros, and maybe to you this song does that too. But real love encompasses all four types of love, and that even includes the love of one’s faith. These are the thoughts I had when I heard this song in the car. It reminded me that setting unrealistic expectations for love will drown you in sorrow. Because love will make you laugh, make you cry, and even make you yodel sometimes. Just sayin’. This was written when Springsteen’s marriage to Julianne Philips was unraveling. Remember that?

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Kim Wilde, Keep Me Hanging On. Welcome to the “Big Eighties!” Big hair, big sound, and big, splashy, covers of older hits. Like this modern take on the song made famous by Diana Ross. I heard this right on the heels of Bruce’s tune. Seriously though, whatever happened to Kim Wilde? Her version of this classic reminded me that often times in love, temptations will arise and attempt to lead you astray. You have to cut them away like wreckage from a boating accident, or it will act like an anchor and drag you to the bottom. You have to say “get out of my life” to that which threatens your relationship’s health or threatens to lead you astray. Sing it Kim!

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Jon Bon Jovi, You Give Love a Bad Name. More big hair, this time on a dude wearing cool looking rags. Ever met somebody that gives “love” a bad name? Some folks think I was giving love a bad name recently. Heh. I tend to default back to a lesson I learned a long time ago: leadership is by example. Those who hit me with “do as I say and not as I do” behavior leave me cold (thank God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation). And they give love a bad name. Christ never said, or did, such a thing.

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Naked Eyes, Promises, Promises. This song, to me anyway, is YIMCatholic. Everything else is simply a string of broken promises. I’ve come to believe what W.J. Williams, G.K. Chesterton, and countless others have come to realize: the Catholic Church is the key that fits the complex lock of human nature. Every other approach is just empty promises that can’t be kept, and that leave you playing solitaire in your jail cell.

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The Fixx, Stand or Fall. Remember these guys? What a bunch of great tunes they made! Red Skies at Night, One Thing Leads to Another, Saved By Zero. Awesome stuff. And of course this tune, which issues something of a challenge. I’ve stated my piece. I choose to stand with the Church.

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Rare Earth, Get Ready. How can you not love this song or this band? Not a recognizable “star” name among them. And yet, BAM! They rock the house. This is their 1969 cover of Smokey Robinson’s classic. The boys took it to #4 in 1970. I heard a snippet of this one while sitting through the trailers in the theater before The Tree of Life started. I’ve got a soft spot for any band whose drummer is the lead singer. You just don’t see that very often. Here is their awesome loooooooong version, where every band member gets to do a solo. Because 3 minutes just isn’t good enough, you know? This is YIMCatholic too. I never met a girl like the Church, the Bride of Christ. She’s bringin’ the world a multidimensional Love that’s true. Now THAT is a rare earth! Are you ready?

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A Tale of the Laity and Priestly Scandal, Circa 1400 AD

This is Part III of a recently started series about on-going personal conversion. Part I started us off with thoughts from a vision of St. Catherine of Siena. Part II continued with words of a Franciscan friar giving an intelligence brief on our adversary. What follows is either miraculous or not depending on how you view things.

I say miraculous, in at least a minor way, because a) until today, I had never heard of this passage I’m sharing now, and b) the timing of the find is uncanny. How, pray tell, did I “find” it? It all started a few weeks ago when I picked up volume one of the Norton Anthology of English Literature for $4.00 at a flea market about an hour from my home. In mint condition, and weighing in at 2074 pages, folks who like math will delight in the fact that I paid ‎a whopping .001344989 cents per page for it. It’s chock full o’ Catholic classics too.

What does this have to do with personal conversion? Boatloads. As Qoheleth, the inspired writer of my favorite Old Testament book says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” That includes scandals involving priests. They will come, and they will go. None of us have seen the last of them, and persevere through them, we must. And despite some folks thinking that questioning priests, and holding them accountable, turns the faithful into members of the “brood of vipers and evil doers” section of the flock, I believe this story shows the opposite to be true.

So this morning, with no intention whatsoever of my own, I picked up this weighty tome I acquired so cheaply and randomly flipped it open to find myself on page 374. There, I happened upon the following tale that beckoned me with the heading Examination Before the Archbishop and started with the following words,

There was a monk should preach in York, the which had heard much slander and much evil language of the said creature.

Uh?, I thought. Do tell! Having never heard of Margery Kempe, I just plunged onward through this story as if I had entered a time machine and was whisked back to the days when England was still Catholic. Margery, it turns out, was a contemporary of St. Julian of Norwich and is honored in the Anglican Communion. She lived in Norwich, married at the age of 20, and had 14 children. She remained a member of the laiety, and yet was ahead of her time in recognizing her calling to the “royal priesthood” that St. Peter describes in his first letter to the faithful (1 Peter 2:9).

Be advised that this is a bit long, so go get a glass of your favorite beverage, or head to the loo, before you wade in. Ready? Enjoy…

from The Book of Margery Kempe

Examination before the Archbishop

There was a monk should preach in York, the which had heard much slander and much evil language of the said creature. And, when he should preach, there was much multitude of people to hear him, and she (Margery) present with them. And so, when he was in his sermon, he rehearsed many matters so openly that the people conceived well it was for cause of her, wherefore her friends that loved her well were full sorry and heavy thereof, and she was much the more merry, for she had matter to prove [test] her patience and her charity wherethrough she trusted to please Our Lord Christ Jesus.

When the sermon was done, a doctor of divinity which loved her well with many others also came to her and said,

“Margery, how have ye done this day?”

“Sir,” she said, “right well, blessed be God. I have cause to be right merry and glad in my soul that I may any thing suffer for his love, for he suffered much more for me.”

Anon after came a man which loved her right well of good will with his wife and others more, and led her seven miles thence to the Archbishop of York, and brought her into a fair chamber, where came a good clerk, saying to the good man which had brought her thither, “Sir, why have ye and your wife brought this woman hither? She shall steal away from you, and then shall ye have a villainy of her.”

The good man said, “I dare well say she will abide and be at her answer with good will.”

On the next day she was brought into the Archbishop’s chapel, and there came many of the Archbishop’s meiny, despising her, calling her “loller” and “heretic,” and swearing many an horrible oath that she should be burnt. And she, through the strength of Jesus, said again to them,

“Sirs, I dread me ye shall be burnt in hell without end unless than ye amend you of your oaths swearing, for ye keep not the commandments of God. I would not swear as ye do for all the good of this world.”

Then they gedyn [went] away as they had been ashamed. She then, making her prayer in her mind, asked grace so to be demeaned that day as was most pleasant to God and profit to her own soul and good example to her evyn [fellow] Christians. Our Lord, answering her, said it should be right well.

At the last the said Archbishop came into the chapel with his clerks, and sharply he said to her,

“Why goest thou in white? Art thou a maiden?”

She, kneeling on her knees before him, said, “Nay, sir, I am no maiden; I am a wife.”

He commanded his meiny to fetch a pair of fetters and said she should be fettered, for she was a false heretic. And then she said,

“I am no heretic, nor ye shall none prove me.”

The Archbishop went away and let her stand alone. Then she made her prayers to our Lord God almighty for to help her and succour her against all her enemies, ghostly and bodily, a long while, and her flesh trembled and quaked wonderly that she was fain to put her hands under her clothes that it should not be aspied.

Since the Archbishop came again into the chapel with many worthy clerks, amongst which was the same doctor (of theology) which had examined her before and the monk that had preached against her a little time before in York. Some of the people asked whether she were a Christian woman or a Jew; Some said she was a good woman, and Some said nay.

Then the Archbishop took his see [ecclesiastical seat], and his clerks also, each of them in his degree, much people being present. And in the time while the people was gathering together and the Archbishop taken his see, the said creature stood all behind, making her prayers for help and succour against her enemies with high devotion so long that she melted all into tears. And at the last she cried loud therewith, that the Archbishop and his clerks and much people had great wonder of her, for they had not heard such crying before.

When her crying was passed, she came before the Archbishop and fell down on her knees, the Archbishop saying full boisterously unto her,

“Why weapest thou so, woman?”

She, answering, said, “Sir, ye shall will some day that ye had wept as sore as I.”

And then anon, after the Archbishop put to her the Articles of our Faith (the Apostle’s Creed), to the which God gave her grace to answer well and truly and readily without any great study so that he might not blame her, then he said to the clerks,

“She knows her faith well enough. What shall I do with her?”

The clerks said, “We know well that she can the Articles of the Faith, but we will not suffer her to dwell among us, for the people have great faith in her dalliance, and peradventure she might pervert some of them.”

Then the Archbishop said unto her, “I am evil informed of thee; I hear said thou art a right wicked woman.”

And she said again, “Sir, so I hear said that ye are a wicked man. And,if ye be as wicked as men say, ye shall never come in heaven unless than ye amend you while ye be here.”

Then said he full boisterously, “Why, thou, what say men of me?”

She answered, “Other men, sir, can tell you well enough.”

Then said a great clerk with a furred hood, “Peace, thou speak of thyself and let him be.”
Since said the Archbishop to her, “Lay thine hand on the book here before me and swear that thou shall go out of my diocese as soon as thou may.”

“Nay, sir,” she said, “I pray you, give me leave to go again into York to take my leave of my friends.”

Then he gave her leave for one day or two. She thought it was too short a time, wherefore she said again,

“Sir, I may not go out of this diocese so hastily, for I must tarry and speak with good men ere I go, and I must, sir, with your leave, go to Birdlington and speak with my confessor, a good man, the which was the good prior’s (St. John of Birdlington) confessor that is now canonized.”

Then said the Archbishop to her, “thou shall swear that thou shalt not teach nor challenge the people in my diocese.”

“Nay, sir, I shall not swear,” she said, “for I shall speak of God and undirnemyn [reprove] them that swear great oaths wheresoever I go unto the time that the Pope and Holy Church have ordained that no man shall be so hardy to speak of God, for God all mighty forbids not, sir, that we shall speak of him. And also the gospel makes mention that, when the woman had heard Our Lord preach, she came before him with a loud voice and said, `Blessed be the womb that thee bore and the tits that gave the suck.’ Then our Lord said again to her, `Forsooth so are they blessed that hear the word of God and keep it.’ And therefore, sir, me thinks that the gospel gives me leave to speak of God.”

“A sir,” said the clerks, “here wot[know] we well that she hath a devil within her, for she speaks of the gospel.”

As such a great clerk brought forth a book and laid Saint Paul for his party against her that no woman should preach. She, answering thereto, said,

“I preach not, sir, I come in no pulpit. I use but communication and good words, and that will I do while I live.”

Then said a doctor which had examined her beforetime, “Sir, she told me the worst tales of priests that ever I heard.”

The bishop commanded her to tell that tale.

Stand-by for one of the best parables I have ever read. Everything prior, though a bit tedious, has set the stage for the following stunner. Read on me hearties!

Peach Tree in Bloom
Vincent Van Gogh

“Sir, with your reverence, I spoke but of one priest by the manner of example, the which as I have learned went wild in a wood through the sufferance of God for the profit of his soul til the night came upon him. He, destitute of his herborwe [lodging], found a fair arbor in the which he rested that night, having a fair pear tree in the midst all flourished with flowers and embellished, and blooms full delectable to his sight, where came a bear, great and boisterous, hugely to behold, shaking the pear tree and felling down the flowers. Greedily this grevious beast ate and devoured those fair flowers. And, when he had eaten them, turning his tail end in the priest’s presence, voided them out again at the hinder part.

The priest, having great abomination of that loathly sight, conceiving great heaviness for doubt what it might mean, on the next day he wandered forth in his way all heavy and pensive, whom it fortuned to meet with a seemly aged man like to a palmer or a pilgrim, the which enquired of the priest the cause of his heaviness. The priest, rehearsing the matter before written, said he conceived great dread and heaviness when he beheld that loathly beast defoul and devour so fair flowers and blooms and afterward so horribly to devoid them before him at his tail end, and he not understanding what this might mean.

Then the palmer, showing himself the messenger of God, thus areasoned him,

“Priest, thou thyself art the pear tree, somedeal flourishing and flowering through thy service saying and the sacraments ministering, though thou do undevoutly, for thou take full little heed how thou says thy matins and thy service, so it be blabbered to an end. Then go thou to thy mass without devotion, and for thy sin hast thou full little contrition. Thou receivest there the fruit of everlasting life, the sacrament of the altar, in full feeble disposition.

“Since all the day after thou misspendest thy time, thou give thee to buying and selling, chopping and changing [bargaining and exchanging], as it were a man of the world. Thou sittest at the ale, giving the to glotony and excess, to lust of thy body, through lechery and uncleanness. Thou breakest the commandments of God through swearing, lying, detraction, and backbiting, and such other sins using. Thus by thy misgovernance, like onto the loathly bear, thou devourest and destroyest the flowers and blooms of virtuous living to thine endless damnation and many man’s hindering less than thou have grace of repentance and amending.”‘

Then the Archbishop liked well the tale and commended it, saying it was a good tale. And the clerk which had examined her beforetime in the absence of the Archbishop, said,

“Sir, this tale smites me to the heart.”

The foresaid creature said to the clerk, “Ah, worshipful doctor, sir, in place where my dwelling is most, is a worthy clerk, a good preacher, which boldly speaks against the misgovernance of the people and will flatter no man. He says many times in the pulpit, `If any man be evil pleased with my preaching, note him well, for he is guilty.’

And right so, sir,” said she to the clerk, “fare ye by me, God forgive it you.”

The clerk wist [knew] not well what he might say to her. Afterward the same clerk came to her and prayed her of forgiveness that he had so been against her. Also he prayed her specially to pray for him. And than anon after the Archbishop said,

An Archbishop

“Where shall I have a man that might lead this woman from me?”

As swithe [immediately] there started up many young men, and every man said of them, “My Lord, I will go with her.”

The Archbishop answered, “Ye be too young; I will not have you.”

Then a good sad [of sober continence] man of the Archbishop’s meiny asked his Lord what he would give him and he should lead her. The Archbishop proferred him five shillings and the man asked a noble. The Archbishop, answering, said,

“I will not waryn [spend] so much on her body.”

“Yes, good sir,” said the said creature, “our Lord shall reward you right well again.”

Then the Archbishop said to the man, “See, here is five shillings, and lead her fast out of this country.”

She, kneeling down on her knees, asked his blessing. He, praying her to pray for him, blessed her and let her go.

Than she, going again to York, was received of much people and of full worthy clerks, which enjoyed in our Lord that had given her not lettred wit and wisdom to answer so many learned men without villainy or blame, thanking be to God.

****

And that’s all for today, dear reader. For more on Margery Kempe, see this new volume added to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf: The Cell of Self-Knowledge.

The Messenger, the Muse, and the Redeemer

Why can’t I just turn away from the John Corapi story and leave it behind? All I can figure is that it is like the aftermath of a ferry boat accident. There are a lot of passengers that are still in the water and I have the conn of a lifeboat.

Or it’s like I’ve happened upon the scene of a passenger train wreck, and I’m stepping into the role of the Good Samaritan. I don’t know how effective I will be, but I’m trying to help move survivors back to safety.

As for John Corapi himself, it appears more and more to me that he has done as Shakespeare’s lines in Hamlet state: hoisted himself on his own petard. Perhaps he feels, though, that he is Hamlet reciting these lines,

There’s letters seal’d: and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard; and ‘t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.

–Hamlet Act 3, scene 4, 202–209

No matter. His orders from his superior are clear and he is in direct violation of them. Obviously the best thing to do would be for him to obey, return to base, and stand the ecclesiastical version of a court-martial. But that isn’t happening, as Deacon Greg’s latest synopsis clearly shows.

Leaving the errant messenger, then, I give you Johnny Cash. Johnny knows addiction, pain, and hurt. So Johnny, the muse, can help assuage your wounds now. These songs may help as he points you toward the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who also felt the betrayal that you feel now.  The Lamb of God took that burden all the way to hell and back.

Sing it Johnny,

Ring of Fire.

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I See A Darkness.

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Hurt.

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Why Me Lord?

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Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang once wrote this about the faith,

In every period of transition the two opposing currents are very violent. To escape from them, one must be prepared to be judged unfavorably by both. So one must learn to be alone. The Christian life, for its part, does not escape this rule. Our Lord Jesus Christ is so often all alone on His Cross.

Solitary Man.

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And by reader request (thanks!),

Redemption Song.

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Redemption Day.

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Haul yourself into the lifeboat and head back to the barque of St. Peter.

For Thoughts on Our Adversary by Fray Francisco de Osuna

No, this isn’t about Uncle Sam, patriotism, or anything like that. This is part two of a series on the work of on-going personal conversion that I started yesterday. Milk drinkers beware, because meat and potatoes are coming your way.  Bring your knives and forks and spoons. Napkins are optional.

Last December, I wrote of a minor miracle regarding me and Fray Francisco de Osuna. Come to think of it, St. Anthony of Padua probably had something to do with it too, as I thought a book was lost, and it was found. Francisco, see, was a Franciscan, and he wrote the book I misplaced, The Third Spiritual Alphabet, that had a huge impact on St. Teresa of Avila. Information like that gets my attention, pronto.

For me, Fray Francisco became a mentor of sorts. Sure, he’s dead and gone, and not an official saint, but if reading his book helped out the Carmelite superstar mentioned above, then I figured he could help me out too. I didn’t know too much about Franciscans at the time, except that they were founded by the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi. But for a guy that was cloistered, Fray Francisco sure seemed an expert on human nature. And his command of the scriptures, as you’ll soon see, put this RCIA attending “soon to be former” Protestant “Bible-expert” at ease.

As for his “peace-loving” Franciscan side? Well, don’t you dare try and stereotype my mentor. Besides, the combat he refers too is spiritual, though it involves the physical as well. In my mind’s eye, I picture him as Sir Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, but with a Spanish accent. However, instead of spouting modernist, Manichean, New Age, Star Warsian psycho-babble from under his brown wool habit, he’s teaching Catholic orthodoxy. The kind that, with me anyway, never goes out of style.

Take for instance the following passage from the seventh letter of “the Alphabet.” What’s this section all about? “How We Are To Cast Out Evil Thoughts, Saying: Thoughts Start War if the Gate is not Closed.” What follows is from the first chapter of this treatise. Remember my affinity for the military genius from ancient China, named Sun Tzu? My mentor Fray Francisco could teach him a thing, or two.

Chapter 1: The Devil’s Army

Astute captains always keep soldiers in reserve so that when they rush into a losing battle, the soldiers who thought themselves overwhelmed will take heart at the support, and their joy and renewed efforts will discourage the enemy. This is exemplified in the valiant, gentle captain Joshua who in the fight against the city of Hai placed five thousand men in ambush on one side of the city and thirty thousand on the other side, while he with the main body of soldiers stood openly against the city. He pretended to flee before the citizens, who ran out in pursuit, while the thirty thousand came and took the city, and the five thousand resisted those who returned to defend it; thus, with some helping others, they all enjoyed total victory. (Joshua, Chapter 8)

Just a quick note from your Marine Corps trained editor. See what I mean? Fray Francisco speaks the lingo that resonated with the recently retired Leatherneck. And now, we meet the adversary.

This strategy of clever warriors is no less known by that skilled soldier, the devil, to whom the words of the Maccabeans are applicable: “He fought many battles and took the fortresses of all, and killed the kings of the earth. He went through even to the ends of the earth and took spoils of many nations; and the earth was quiet before him. And he gathered great power and a very strong army, and his heart was exalted and lifted up. And he subdued the countries and nations, and princes became tributaries to him.” (1 Maccabees 1:2-5)

This passage describes the unjust, exceedingly prideful Alexander (Ed: Alexander the Great), who through great force became lord of what was in no justifiable sense his. He represents the devil, not only in deed but in name, for his name means the very strong, and so it can be said of him that he was a very strong and warring man, the son of a whore (Judges 11:1) His evil guilt and sin are expressed by his wicked mother whose son he became when he obeyed her and heeded the counsel of iniquity.

This devilish and most strong Lucifer, like the other Alexander, fought and fights each day many unjust battles; he took the fortresses of all when he conquered our first parents, leaving us vanquished like the subjects of a captured king. He killed the kings of the earth, who were our first parents, whom God created to rule all inferior things, when he caused them to offend God Your Majesty and be sentenced to death. He killed them, as it were, because he said they would not die for their offense, but that in itself was the reason they perished.

And it says he passed through to the end of the earth, which is human flesh corrupted by iniquity, and God says that this end has come before him in lament (Genesis 6:11-13). This passing through the earth is original sin, which goes from one to another like a perpetual burden, as slavery is handed down from mother to child, or corrupton spreads from the roots of the tree, or force of yeast affect the entire dough, or the poison of the salamander invades the tree’s fruit, for Pliny says that if the salamander touches the roots of the tree, its entire fruit and all the tree will be infected.

See Isaiah 14:12

Thus the devil passes by to take possession of mortals and steals immense wealth when he leads into sin many who previously were rich in grace. And if they do not resist, the earth becomes quiet before him, which in itself suffices to make them his. The devil gathers a great army from among the defeated, forcing them to fight against those as yet unconquered, and he protects them and arms them with cleverness like his own so that they constitute a crowd of sinners whose hearts burst with deviltry and who are more skillful than the devil himself.

He can muster such an army because there is no earthly power to equal his (Job 41:24). He took countries of nations, especially because the Gentiles worshipped him (as Alexander probably did), and as Christ explains, the tyrants became his tributaries when he named himself prince of this world (John 12:31). The tyrants are lesser devils who serve him continually, albeit against their will, for if they do not consent to honor God in heaven, even less do they wish to be subjects of Lucifer.

This extraordinarily strong warrior who, like Goliath, is trained for battle since youth (1 Samuel 17:33), fights in the style I began to describe: that is, he keeps soldiers in reserve and divides his army into three groups for a more clever attack. He orders one squadron after another into the skirmish so that if his enemy succeeds against the first, the second will defeat him, and the third, as seen in the image from the book of Kings: Three companies went out from the camps of the Philistines to fight (1 Samuel 13:17).These Philistines, who are demons, pitch their tents in the field of malice and assemble their trops in three battalions.

Luxury is the first battalion and it marches forth heavily armed and provided with everything necessary to win. St. Bernard says this battle engages every rank or class of people: all ages, the ugly, the beautiful, the great and small, the healthy and the sick –in short, the entire human race.

Many manage to escape from their ferocious opponent, but then the battalion of Pride rushes in, armed with offices, riches, honor, and such things, and those who did not wish to sully themselves in what they considered the obscenity of the first vice now fall victim to the second precisely because it seems so clean in contrast with the first and less blameworthy for the reason that so many people commit it.

If they overcome the second battalion, the third surely defeats them, for these soldiers are more ferocious and cunning, being the demons themselves who have come to battle men by thrusting into their imaginations a whole throng of spiritual vices, as expressed by the image of Sennacherib (Tobit 1:18), who launched his entire army and power against Jerusalem.

St. Paul advised the faithful about this: “Take comfort, brothers, in the Lord and the strength of his power. Put on the armor of God to counter the devil’s tricks. For now we do not contend just with flesh and blood, but with princes and powers, the rulers of the world of darkness, the evil spirits over heavenly things (Ephesians 6: 10-12).”

The apostle’s words prove the seriousness of the battle in that first he warns us that the battle will be strenuous and we will need the armor of God’s favor and effort, since our own is inadequate against such infamy, and second, he refers to trickery, which implies malice as well as strength. Third, he emphasizes the grievousness of the battle by stating that it is no mere contest of flesh and blood and by naming the demons with lofty titles so as to evoke their tremendous power to battle spiritual opponents for what he calls heavenly things, those which the commentary explains are the virtues and souls of the faithful against whom the third assault is launched.

The first two attacks are physical, clear to see, and involve the body rather than the spirit. But the third hurls a host of evil thoughts to irritate and wear us down, and our letters says concerning these: “Thoughts start war if the gate is not closed.”

It seems that in the first two battles the devil leaves the fighting to his soldiers, those who take his side: that is, the flesh, which is the first vice to plague man, and the world, which supports the devil against Christ. But when the devil sees that his companions and vassals, who are other demons, are defeated and that person has withstood successfully the siege of these two vices and lives chastely and totally devoted to God, then it can be said of him: “He sent against them the heat of indignation, anger, and fury, and tribulation, a multitude of agents of misfortune; he opened a way for his anger and he did not save them from death.” (Psalm 77:49-50)

Is your milk getting curdled yet? Perhaps it is fitting to recall that Blessed Pope John Paul II recommend the following to the flock,

“May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St. Michael throughout the Church. Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Because Christ Is In Every Book of the Bible

Interestingly, I missed this video (below) last week when Deacon Greg Kandra ran it over at his place. Maybe there is a reason for that. You see, earlier this week some friends of mine got into a discussion regarding books of the Bible. [Read more...]

For Archishop Fulton Sheen’s Thoughts on Vatican II

The good folks over at Catholic Answers have the scoop:

Q: “Did Fulton Sheen support Vatican II? Sheen is a favorite of some who reject the Council, so a quote from him citing his support for Vatican II would be quite helpful for discussions with them.” [Read more...]

A Reply to a Scold from a Priest Regarding the Corapi Kerfuffle

I hadn’t intended to write another word about John Corapi. In fact, I even closed off the comments in my recent post and left readers links to follow the story so I could just enjoy my Father’s Day in peace. That was the plan, anyway.

But I received an e-mail this morning from a Catholic priest upset over my “Mr. Corpai Goes. I Stay” post. As you will find in the sidebar, I subscribe to the well known Welborn Protocol when it comes to correspondence. So here is the note in it’s entirety followed by my reply.

Frank,

Your comments regarding Fr. Corapi are remarkably cruel. Once an accusation is made, the priest is automatically suspended period. The suspension is indefinite. It is not the priest’s choice in any way. He may not wear clerical garb, use any honorific titles, preach or engage in any sort of sacramental ministry. The priest is at a disadvantage from the get-go and rarely if ever is vindicated. Thank the good Lord Corapi is a religious in that he can return to his community so he has a place to live and food. Diocesan priests in his situation do not have that to fall back on.

The magnitude of the injustice is hard to fathom. Everyone has a right to his reputation and his good name.

Whether or not Fr. Corapi’s message, style, and ministry appealed to you is beside the point. Yes, life will indeed go on whether or not he is preaching, etc. But to write in such a cavalier fashion about a priest’s life and ministry that is now thoroughly destroyed is really mean spirited.

You do no service to the Faith by writing as you did regarding Fr. Corapi.

In His Name,

Fr. B

Dear Father B,

I appreciate your note, though I am at a loss to see how I was as “cruel” with Corapi as you feel I was. Actually, I didn’t even get warmed up. Indeed, the post that I believe you are referring to is only the second time I have ever even written about the Corapi kurfuffle.

Help a brother out!

In the first instance, I wrote a lay pastoral note, if there is such a thing, to those who followed him, giving them suggestions on how to spend their time strengthening their life of faith. I hope you do not find fault with that. Surely brothers and sisters in the faith must encourage one another when the going get’s rocky.

And in Corapi’s case, he knows who his accuser is. He’s said so repeatedly, and even said in his latest announcement that she is “the one person that I can honestly say I did more to help and support than any human being in my entire life.” Honesty, after all, is the best policy. As for the investigation process, I look to others for guidance. I humbly know my limitations.

I’m just a simple man, Fr. B, and a relatively new Catholic. One of the many things that impresses me about Catholic priests and religious is that they take vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience. They sacrifice much for the reward of leading people in the faith. The priests bring us the Sacraments, so that our travail in this valley of tears through life on earth are made bearable. Thanks be to God for this.

Later on, I learned that not all priests take the vow of poverty. Though most Diocesan priests aren’t exactly wealthy, some are. Either way, the same safety net that is extended to every citizen of this country is extended to priests and religious as well. Unemployment compensation, Social Security, etc. All are covered, including unemployed priests. I’m not sure if Mr. Corapi qualifies for unemployment now that he has resigned from the priesthood though. I think you actually have to lose your job for a different reason than quitting it in order to collect unemployment compensation. I could be wrong on this.

Anyhow, as the Corapi kerfuffle continued to unfold, I ran into other stories about how not only did Corapi not take a vow of poverty, but that he set up a “for-profit” media empire instead. That he lived in a sumptuous mansion and estate out West. Owning multiple homes and, for all I know, maybe he has a private helicopter too. Granted, I don’t know whether these stories are all true or not (I hope the truth all comes to light somehow), but I understand that the order he was affiliated with, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, basically didn’t make a single penny from all of the books, tapes, and speaking engagements that he sold over the course of his career as a Catholic priest.

Feed me $$$, sheep.

As a rookie lay Catholic, I’m not sure why anyone in the Church heirarchy would give any priest carte blanch to make a ton of money off the flock, you know, Elmer Gantry style, that didn’t somehow wind up helping the poor in Mother Teresa’s mission field, or in some other way that helped spread the Good News to the world. This raises serious questions in my mind. Questions that I hope those who are better versed, and who have deeper knowledge in these matters than I, pursue and bring to resolution. I’m just Joe Six-Pack, USMC. At best, all I can do is handle ridiculous pseudo-dramas like this in a cavalier manner.

As the drama continued to spin, frequently from late Friday afternoon Scud missiles launched from Corapi’s lair at Santa Cruz Media, there were other things I heard as time went on. Like when someone in the past had busted Corapi’s chops when he had claimed to have enlisted in the Army with a guarantee for Special Forces training. But, as the Corapi version of the story goes, due to a training accident (an unlikely one involving a helicopter) he wound up as a clerk-typist in Germany instead, making outstanding clerk-typists, who serve in the military with honor the world over, look bad in the bargain. If this episode, claiming Special Forces training and black-belt fighting skills, etc. is true Father, then it is just plain wrong.

News flash: No one enlists with guarantees for Special Forces training. Not in my military experience anyway. No, first you endure all the regular training, spend some time in your specialty, and only then can you apply for, and appear before selection boards for, special duties like I did when I became a Marine Security Guard. Anyone who claims that they were guaranteed the Green Beret in the local Army recruiters office definitely does not pass the “smell test.” That is unless you’re looking for the “Stinky Cheese Man.” I am not.

So now, a short three months later, the world learns that Corapi is giving up his vocation as a Catholic priest, and instead is launching a new, and I reckon “improved,” venture with a new name and a creepy photograph of a (dyed?) black canine eyeing sheep and wolves with equally malevolent stares. So I said what you perceived as a cruel thing:

As for me and my house, we won’t be waiting for salvation via Pirate Radio broadcasts from Mr. John Corapi anytime soon. We’ve better things to do. And better speeches to read.

Happy Fathers Day!

Guess what else we won’t be doing? Buying his books and tapes to hear his side of the story. You know how the Dark Lord monologue will go. On and on about how he has been unjustly treated by the evil bishops who felt threatened by his zeal for all the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty™ (registered trademark by BlackDogUp! Enterprises) that he was bringing to the flock. Time for a reprise of my other cruel remark:

“Yawn.”

Have a listen to this classic by Nick Lowe before moving on to the next segment of my reply, if you please.

Yes indeed, I reckon sometimes we must be cruel to be kind, in the right measure. Get angry a bit, because it is no sin to get angry. Christ was angered when the temple was being used as a marketplace. As the scriptures note, He broke out a whip and scrambled that egg with a wrath that cleaned house rather dramatically. Would have made a big impression on me, if I would have witnessed it. That’s for sure.

Eyes like these

No Father B., I was not cruel. I was not even angered by what John Corapi did. I didn’t sit around expectantly on the edge of my seat for these past three months waiting to see what the “last hope for our Church” would do next. Why? To quote a speech I heard recently,

It’s that dead look in my eyes, from all the horrors that I have seen, so I’m sort of immune to it. Gentlemen to bed! Gentlemen to bed, for we leave at first light. Tomorrow we battle. We may lose our lives, but remember…Death is but a moment; cowardice is a lifetime affliction.

Yeah, that is a made up speech from a silly movie, but rousing nonetheless. But St. Paul’s words from a few days back are the ones that stand us in good stead and last forever. I shared those too, in my alleged cruelty as you may recall,

dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city,
dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea,
dangers among false brothers;

Is John Corapi a false brother? I don’t know. He’s not a member of the priesthood any longer, that is for sure. Is he still a Catholic, loyal to the Magisterium? I don’t know that either. He’s kind of vague on that in his announcement. All that is known for sure points to him not being loyal to anyone but himself. Not to his (former) office as a priest (while you soldier on, my brother!), not to his superiors, nor to his order, and not even to his flock of followers, who at last count on his Facebook fan page, stand at 52,800+ souls.

I wear my gray hair proudly

In fact, to my simple mind and simple ways, the cruelest cut of all came from the blow Mr. Corapi’s announcement made to his large and loyal flock of followers. Simple folk, such as myself, who believed in this man. Now what is in store for them Father B? Should they stay loyal to Mother Church? Or follow the Black Sheep Dog, who for all we know will hit them next with a message such as this,

He tasks me! He tasks me, and I shall have him! I’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up! Prepare to alter course!
—Khan Noonien Singh, in Star Trek II, riffing off Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.

No. I won’t be following any comic book characters anywhere Father. Not Darth Vader, not Dr. Evil, Not Kahn nor Captain Ahab. I follow Jesus Christ and His Church. I’m loyal to Him and to Her. I’ll continue to study His Word, and His message. That way, see, when somebody goes off-message, I’ll be able to recite with clarity and authority, these words of an immortal soldier,

Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.

As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” —Joshua 24:14-15.

Thank you again for your note. Have a happy Fathers Day and a blessed Holy Trinity Sunday. Please pray for me and for all who have been affected by this unfortunate incident. I am,

His Obedient Servant,

Frank

Update:  Following the Black Sheep Dog Down the Rabbit Hole

Breaking News: Corapi’s superior: “We wanted him to come back to the community…

Love, the Blues, & Forgiveness (Music for Mondays)

In light of recent events, I am bringing this post back up to the top. Got the blues? First, may I suggest a 3-minute retreat? Then, dip into these waters…

  

We are called to love one another. A cursory look at the New Testament will show this time after time. But guess what? Love hurts too, and we all know it. Betrayal, denial, loss. These are the pathogens  of our brokenness.

The songs in today’s MfM set list move through the stages of Love that we all encounter. But we’ll be skipping the puppy love sweetness and head straight to the hard stuff.

Because love and forgiveness go together like peas and carrots, wrapped up in the to-go box called the blues.

Soft Cell, Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go. Whatever happened to these guys? Search me. But this hit was epic among the denizens of One Hit Wonderland. Their original song melding into the hit by the Supremes struck cords with many regarding a truth about the “double-edged” nature of love.

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The Smithereens, Blues Before and After. OK…you’ve never felt like this after being run through by Love, the double-edged sword? Come on now, be truthful with yourself. Confession time: I love this band, the groove of this song, and this is just a WAY COOL video too. It’s silent for the first few seconds and then…!!!

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Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scar Tissue. What happens when the double-edged sword of love wounds us? Scar tissue develops as part of the healing process.

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David Bowie, Changes. Do you know what happens if scar tissue is allowed to form naturally, with no further intervention? Rigidity, stiffness, inflexibility of the underlying intersitial tissues. I know a thing or two about this from experience. To regain suppleness, deep massaging of the affected area is needed. Changes…

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Wham!, Freedom. We move on to the forgiveness portion of our program now. Betcha didn’t see this one coming. Listen to the words though and I think you’ll see that it fits into this particular set nicely.

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The Corrs Forgiven, Not Forgotten. And you thought the Jackson 5 were talented? Get a load of the Corrs. They’re from Ireland, and make a point with this tune that we need to remember. Wounded? Yep. Got scars? Yep. Forgiven? Absolutely. Forgotten? Never!

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Don Henley, The Heart of the Matter I have no idea if Don Henley is a Christian or a Catholic. But he isn’t wrong when he notes that forgiveness is the heart of the matter. For as Our Lord said after he taught us how to pray, “But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.(Matt 6:15).”

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Pearl Jam, Just Breathe. Because, when all is said and done, “did I say I need you?” Eddie Vetter and the gang at Pearl Jam remind us here…

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Have a good day folks. See you here on Monday.

Because These Words Paul Wrote Are Worthy of Shakespeare

Especially compared to the “weak tea” of the speech heard ’round the world yesterday.

Of course, this passage from his second letter to the Corinthians isn’t just some dramatic idea that the Apostle Paul dreamed up. They are after all an account of his personal experience witnessing for Christ.

But they are more than that too. They are the words of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Long time readers know of my favorite speech from Shakespeare’s play Henry V. I love how Kenneth Branagh delivers the St. Crispins Day speech so realistically. Just the other day in a post about friendship, I shared a video scene between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they imagine dialogue from a costume drama set in the hills of Northern England.

I’ve probably watched that scene two dozen times now. I’ve been driving my kids crazy with it too as I improvise more things to say after the rousing “Gentlemen to bed!” introduction.

So with the flair for the dramatic still reverberating through my brain, I turned to the Daily Readings and came upon what follows. Interestingly, I had shared them with you before just a fortnight ago. But as I read them today, I hear a classically trained actor delivering them with verve and dripping with pathos. Maybe it’s just the newly revised edition of the New American Bible.

Reading 1
2 Cor 11:18, 21-30

Richard Burton

Brothers and sisters:
Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.
To my shame I say that we were too weak!

But what anyone dares to boast of
(I am speaking in foolishness)
I also dare.
Are they Hebrews? So am I.
Are they children of Israel? So am I.
Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
Are they ministers of Christ?
(I am talking like an insane person).
I am still more, with far greater labors,
far more imprisonments, far worse beatings,
and numerous brushes with death.

Five times at the hands of the Jews
I received forty lashes minus one.
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked,
I passed a night and a day on the deep;
on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers,
dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race,
dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city,
dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea,
dangers among false brothers;
in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights,
through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings,
through cold and exposure.

And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me
of my anxiety for all the churches.
Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

And the saga continues on into the next day.

Brothers and sisters:
I must boast; not that it is profitable,
but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows),
was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know that this man
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)
was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things,
which no one may utter.

About this man I will boast,
but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.
Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish,
for I would be telling the truth.
But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me
than what he sees in me or hears from me
because of the abundance of the revelations.

Therefore, that I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.

Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

How can the scriptures not come to life when such inspired words as these are read as if they were spoken directly to a blood brother? Read the Bible!


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