For All the Sacramentals, The Way of the Cross

The Lenten season is just around the corner, and one of the devotions that I look forward to is that of the Stations of the Cross. Also known as the Way of the Cross, I was amazed to see Fr. Sullivan count this devotion as a sacramental. I had no idea, did you?

Last year both Allison and I wrote posts on the Stations of the Cross. Below, Fr. John fleshes out the history of this sacramental devotion for us.

The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross is a devotion which is performed by meditating before fourteen Stations of the Cross successively, on the Passion of our Blessed Lord.

This devotion is also known as the Stations of the Cross, from the Stations or crosses before which it is made, and which are usually affixed to the interior walls of Catholic churches. These Stations are not the pictures, or reliefs, or groups of statuary representing the sufferings of our Savior. The Stations are the crosses, which must be of wood, and which are usually placed over the pictures. The indulgences are attached to the crosses, and the pictures are not essential, but are merely an aid to devotion.

The Stations must be lawfully erected; that is, they must be blessed by the bishop of the diocese or by a priest specially delegated by him. Otherwise, no indulgences can be gained.

The History of the Way of the Cross.

In the early days of the Church many pious Christians made pilgrimages to the Holy Land and visited the places sanctified by our Lord’s sufferings, and thereby gained many indulgences. But when Jerusalem came into the possession of the fanatical Moslems, this could no longer be done with safety; and in order that the same devotion might be performed without danger or difficulty, pictures or statuary were placed in European churches, representing the journey to Calvary.

It is said that the first to do this was the Blessed Alvarez, a Dominican, at Cordova, in Spain. The practice was adopted about 1350 by the Franciscan Minorites, and was soon approved and indulgenced by the Holy See. The indulgences were granted at first only to Franciscans and those affiliated to them—that is, belonging to societies united to the Franciscan Order; but in 1726 Benedict XIII extended these indulgences to all the faithful. Formerly only the Franciscan Fathers could erect Stations in churches, but this power is now given to all bishops, and they may delegate it to their priests.

The Stations are fourteen in number. In past centuries, in different places, the number varied from eleven to sixteen; but the Church finally ruled that they must be not more nor less than fourteen. They may begin on either side of the church; if the figure of our Saviour is facing toward the right, the series goes to the right; if to the left, the order is reversed. Thus in some churches they begin on the Gospel side, in others on the Epistle side. They are sometimes erected in the open air.

Some of the scenes shown in the pictures are described in the Gospels; others are not. There is no mention in the Scriptures of our Saviour’s falls under the cross, nor of His meeting with His Blessed Mother, nor of the story of Veronica. These are handed down by tradition.

The Indulgences of the Way of the Cross.

We know that no other pious practice is so highly indulgenced; that those who perform this devotion properly gain the same indulgences which they would gain by visiting the actual Way of the Cross in Jerusalem; but the precise amount or number of these indulgences is not known. They may be applied to the souls in Purgatory.

To perform this devotion and to gain the indulgences, we are not bound to read a meditation or prayer at each Station; we are not bound to recite any prayers. It is customary to recite an Our Father, Hail Mary, etc., but these are not necessary. We must go around from the first Station to the fourteenth, stopping at each for a short time and meditating on the Passion of our Lord in general or on the particular event which the Station represents. If we cannot go around, on account of the crowded condition of the church, or if the Stations are being performed publicly, it is sufficient to turn towards each Station.

Those who cannot go to the church are sometimes permitted to gain the same spiritual benefits by using an indulgenced crucifix, which is to be held in the hands while the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father are said twenty times—fourteen for the Stations and six for the intention of the Pope. Pictures of the Stations printed in prayer-books or on a chart cannot be used for making the “Way of the Cross.

To Remember to be Childlike (An Artful Reminder)

This morning my wife shared a video with me from a Japanese “pop” group that calls itself World Order. I posted the “New York City” version on my Facebook page, along with another version that was shot in Tokyo, Japan, which is where the group hails from.

My blogging friend Deacon Greg Kandra, whom I sent the video and back story to, posted it on his blog The Deacon’s Bench. You may have seen it and enjoyed it there.

I, of course, can’t speak a lick of Japanese beyond “yes” and “hello,” so I have no idea what the lyrics, that the singer/leader Genki Sudo is warbling here, mean. I only know that this tune is stuck in my head, and I like it.

I also like the visual performance— alot! To me, see, this is performance art of a very high caliber. Though Sudo’s group, called World Order, is labeled as being a part of “popular culture,” I can’t help but look at their art through the lens of Catholicism, and from a contrarian perspective as a result. You see, this is how I look at everything now.

The Lenten season, you know, is right around the corner, and another blogging friend, Elizabeth Scalia, manager of the Catholic Portal at the website Patheos, announced that to help us prepare for Lent, a new columnist has come on board there. It is Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who will be posting twice weekly under the heading Slubgrip Instructs. The posts (I believe) will be based on Fr. Dwight’s book entitled The Gargoyle Code, which is inspired by author C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, but modernized and specifically adapted for Catholics.

Blogger Eric Sammons reviewed Fr. D’s book over at his blog last year. The first installment at Patheos is up and it is about “the purpose of popular culture.” I suggest you go read it just like I would recommend that you read The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. But I also suggest that you approach popular culture from what military strategist B.H. Liddell Hart called “the indirect approach.” I call it viewing popular culture from an oblique perspective. Here is what I mean.

View and enjoy the video below by Sudo’s group. Shot in Tokyo with five dancers, notice how most of the adults ignore Sudo & Company. The adults are very focused on “adult stuff” almost to the point that they don’t even see Sudo & the gang. While you are watching, notice too how the children notice and interact altogether differently with the group than the adults do. Have a look,

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Uh-huh, the city is loud! Did you see the difference in the way the children and adults interacted with the artists? Here is another song by World Order, again shot in Tokyo, but with seven performers. Note the children vs. adult behaviors again,

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Isn’t that great? Did you see the children on the playground? What joy, what fun, what joie de vivre! I especially enjoyed when the performers all lined up behind Sudo, and all you could see were the hands, or heads of the others. And then an adult came in and threw the light switch on. Exit stage right!

So what are you getting at Frank? Oh nothing, really, except while watching the children in these videos, obliquely you see, these words popped into my head over and over again,

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

Do you see now what I see? Now you can go and read Fr. Dwight’s postwith the mindset of the guerilla cultural warrior that you are called to be.

For Faith in Action: Live Action and the Lord of the Rings

Feast of St. Alvarez of Corova

I know. This is a weird title for a post. What does the Lord of the Rings trilogy have to do with Live Action? Maybe nothing, or maybe everything. Bear with me for a moment and I’ll try to explain.

The other day, I wrote a little post that I titled Because All of the Big Questions Have Been Answered. There, I stated simply that, “what is left to do, and one which takes a lifetime to perfect, is the implementation of the answers.”

Actually, it would take an eternity of lifetimes for us to try and perfect the implementation of Christian values, and we simply don’t have that luxury. Because though our souls are immortal, for this go around for us at least, our earthly bodies are finite.

But guess what? God knows all this.

Because the Holy Spirit speaks to us often of our condition as “earthen vessels,” for we are often compared to “clay pots.”  So in our finite bodily existence here on earth, in this test called life, we must act with partial and incomplete knowledge. I wrote of this condition of ours a long time ago.

Our Majesty also knows that we are in “the play” and this ain’t no dress rehearsal. And as Christians, we are not called to just theorize and contemplate. We are also called to act upon this stage called life. And our actions, though imperfect, must seek to glorify God. And they must be in accordance with His will. We believe we will be judged accordingly, do we not? How do we know then that we are acting in compliance to these two demands?

In my mind, we can’t do either on our own, which is why we need the Church as the grounding, or foundation of our actions. And the Church also must be the referee, if you will,  of the drama of life. But even acting on our own, we do have a sense of what is “right conduct” and what is “wrong conduct.” Case in point, the whole Live Action sting on Planned Parenthood controversy that has everyone with an opinion on fire to share it.

I’m no expert on moral theology, or moral philosophy. I will leave that to others with more knowledge and experience, both within the Church, and without. And until the Church hands down a definitive opinion on this matter, where you come down on this incident depends on where you stand.

So where do I stand? I stand with the people who understand the following statement from my ancient Chinese friend,

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. —Sun Tzu

Wormtongue

And this is a war our government doesn’t seem to have the stomach to fight virtuously, or even at all.

Once I wrote on a friend’s Facebook page that there is Spiritual Warfare going on both within us and throughout the world. Spiritual battles that will inevitably spill out into the public square. How could they not? Only if you believe in relativism and that all ideas are equally virtuous, or equally fatuous. But the truth is, this cannot be.

Speaking of drama then, what if we lived in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the Live Action vs. Planned Parenthood fracus played itself out among the characters there? Assume then that the role played by Planned Parenthood is that of the character named Grima, also known as Wormtongue, OK? In the movie adaptation, this character was played by actor Brad Dourif, who also played Hazel Motes in John Huston’s adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood.

So much for the character supporting the agenda of the Dark Lord of Mordor. What about the good guys? Below are a few links to discussions about what to make of these events. I will share them with you in the order in which they match up with Tolkien’s characters. I think each makes valid points.  As a mere hobbit though, I am inclined to let wiser heads prevail in these debates. But I also seek information from all sides in order to view the full picture. First up is the opinion of a modern day version of Gandalf the Grey,

Peter Kreeft: Why Live Action Did Right, And Why We Should All Know That..

You promised the Jews to hide them from their murderers. To keep that promise, you have to deceive the Nazis. Physical hiding and verbal hiding are two sides of the same coin, whether you call it lying, or deception, or whatever you call it. What it is, is much more obvious than what it is to be called. It’s a good thing to do. If you don’t know that, you’re morally stupid, and moral stupidity comes in two opposite forms: relativism and legalism. Relativism sees no principles, only people; legalism sees no people, only principles.

Hadley Arkes: When Speaking Falsely is Right.

But we remind ourselves that we don’t cast moral judgments solely on the basis of the gross description of the act: “Smith takes the hose from the garage of his neighbor Jones.” Before we’d call it a “theft” we’d ask whether he had permission to take it. He might not have had permission, but he borrowed it for a moment to put out a fire and returned it. He had no permission, but we would be moved to say that his act, given the circumstances, was “justified”—i.e., just, not wrongful.

Guess who plays the character of Arwen?

Lila Rose: Statement on House Defunding of Planned Parenthood.

The case to cease funding is crystal clear. But for any Senator who remains unsure, imagine explaining to your constituents that you voted to keep sending $350 million of their tax dollars to an ‘non-profit’ that puts young girls in harm’s way and made $63 million in profits by aborting 300,000 unborn children last year. It’s time once and for all to stop financing these activities.

And of course, there is the brave and able Aragorn of Gondor.

Francis Beckwith: Live Action and Telling Falsehoods.

Two instances found in Scripture make this clear. The author of Hebrews writes, “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given friendly welcome to the spies.” (11:31). In James 2:25 we learn that Rahab was “justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way.” What did Rahab do that was so commendable that Scripture presents it as a work of faith that justified her? She intentionally told a falsehood.

And then there is Eowyn.

Elizabeth Scalia, aka “The Anchoress:”Gosnell; Baby Feet Kick the Nation.

After all, Margaret Sanger — the poster girl for pro-choice advocates in America — was all about making sure that certain races and certain classes of people were discouraged from reproducing. But you’re not supposed to know that, or at least you’re not supposed to acknowledge that. To do so would be as rude as forcing people to consider that the only way to prevent a pregnancy from advancing to new life is to “stop” it unnaturally, or to note that “stopping” is just a euphemism for “killing.” Because that’s the only way to stop new life from flourishing: by killing it.

Entering from stage right, we have Legolas.

Tim Muldoon: Imagining a Nation without Abortion.

Imagine a nation that loved all its children so passionately that it built an entire social and economic structure around protecting them, nurturing them, fostering their growth, and supporting their every stage of life. The logic of this care for children would, of course, extend to the conditions by which those children entered the world. The nation would first care about young adults and their sexual choices.

Remember what Faramir said? “I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood.”

Mark Shea: Faustian Bargains.

But these do not exhaust our options. For one can also note that, in our panic about being accused of idiotic callousness toward innocent victims we have failed to notice that the notion that lying will save the Jews from the Nazis is dubious to start with. In other words “Lie or die!” is a false dilemma. Does anybody think that if I lie, the Gestapo will say, “Oh! Okay! Sorry to bother you! Have a nice day!” and not look in the attic anyway? Clearly the *real* trick is not to lie well but to *hide your Jews well*. Then you can say, “Look for yourself”, offer the Nazi a nice cup of tea, and speed him on his way with a “Seig Heil” without rousing suspicion, looking sweaty and guilty, and having to remember what you said. In short, a little forethought about what is morally permissible can actually help you do a better job of protecting your wards than just seat-of-the-pants “Let’s lie!” gut responses. Does this cover every possible situation? I doubt it. But it tends to get overlooked in the rush to create the dilemma for the sake of defending Lying for Jesus.

As for me, I’ll just try to keep my friend on the straight and narrow I reckon. All I know is this—we are at war, and war is hell. Not everyone sees the big picture.  But somehow, by each one of the allies doing their duty,  good can overcome evil. It truly is like the great stories…

Update: Marc @BadCatholic on the virtues of Hobbits.

A Chinese “Spiritual” (A Few Words For Wednesday)

I’ve been reading John C.H. Wu’s The Interior Carmel: The Threefold Way of Love. This morning, I caught the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the bus stop right outside of my office back-door. As I was drinking my coffee during the ride, I dipped into my book bag and flipped open John’s book. Guess what I found?

Before my eyes were the words to a little ditty that John suggests “when spiritually interpreted, will perhaps give an inkling of the joy of the saints.” I think you will agree that they do. And in the spirit of “for God so loved the world,” enjoy this depiction of the rooster/world by graphic artist Kentaro Nagai.

from “an old Chinese love-song,”

Cold is the wind, chill the rain.
The cock crows kikeriki.
Now that I have seen my Love,
Peace has come to me.

The wind whistles, the rain drizzles.
The cock crows kukeriku.

From a newly discovered1500 year
old church in Israel

Now that I have seen my Love,
My sickness is healed too.

The wind and the rain darken the day.
The cock ceases not to crow.
Now that I have seen my Love,
My joy ceases not to grow.

For the Psalms and Spring, Family and Sports

It is getting ready to be a very busy time for me and my family. That’s because Spring is just around the corner, and around my house this means our children’s sports teams will begin hitting the ground running.

Not everyone gets involved in such things as sports for their kids. Not every child enjoys organized soccer, or baseball, or softball, volley ball, basketball, horse riding, or any of the other myriad possibilities to turn your child’s attention to.

So why do we even bother in our household? Joy in living is the only real reason that I can think of. That and the realization that though our children’s gifts and abilities are out of our hands, they should still be developed. Besides, everything we spend time doing matters.

It is a tight-rope and certainly there is a fine line between the healthy reasons for involving our children in sports, and the unhealthy turning of sports into an idol. On the positive side, for example, our oldest son has played organized baseball for 8 years, since he was 7 years old. As it turns out, he is pretty good at this game. Honestly, he is ten times better at it than I ever was.

How did this happen? I really have no idea. It is nothing that I expected. And let me assure you, my wife never saw this coming either. But God saw it coming, and of that fact I have no doubt. He has decided that, through our children, He will take my wife and I places that we never intended to go on our own.

And there is the riddle of our son’s gift, for example. Though endowed with excellent hand-eye coordination, and having an arm that can accurately throw thunderbolts, the most important characteristic of all isn’t even a physical one. It is that my son simply loves this game. And this love for it drives him to do things that only love can make him do.

Like get up early for practice, and study hard to keep up his grades. And endure practices that look like something that the Marine Corps would endorse. Sure, it wasn’t like that when he was in little league. That was all fun, and that is also where the seeds of this love were planted. But now that he has made the high school team, the love for the game has been tested by the fires of hard work and sweat. There is a spiritual message in all of this somewhere, I am sure.

As an aside, one of the great things about being Catholic is that we have never missed a Mass because of baseball, or any other sports games of my children either. Blessed to live in a diocese with more than one parish, Our Lord has also seen fit to provide more than one Mass said at each parish during the weekend across our area. The only excuse for missing a Mass is sloth, and thankfully, that hasn’t ever occurred.

One day, my son’s baseball career will come to an end, as all good things generally do. And on that day, my career as a baseball dad will end too. Life will go on. But until that day comes, I’ll keep supporting my children in these endeavors.

Because in the end, unless you measure things crudely in only utilitarian and materialistic terms, the benefits of participation in sports (or other extracurricular activities) far outweigh the negatives. Especially when you acknowledge that these abilities and talents being developed are gifts from God, and not of our own making.

I teach my children, and pray that they will remember, gratitude for these truths sung by the Psalmist,

I praise you, so wonderfully you made me;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you knew;
my bones were not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw my actions;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
How precious to me are your designs, O God;
how vast the sum of them!
Were I to count, they would outnumber the sands;
to finish, I would need eternity.

And also this Song of Ascents of David, which is well suited to keep the soul of an athlete grounded in humility,

Psalm 131

LORD, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul,
hushed it like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
so is my soul within me.

Israel, hope in the LORD,
now and forever.

Amen.

From a Poem by George Santayana (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I think you will be surprised by this, because I know I was.Yesterday, I shared a little something that the atheist, and self-described “aesthetic Catholic,” George Santayana wrote. Today I’m going to do the same.

It seems Professor George really wanted to be known as a poet and he wrote a good number of poems and sonnets, which were published by the Herbert S. Stone & Company publishing house. I “discovered” his poem The Hermit of Carmel yesterday and I am amazed by it. I  added it to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf without hesitation.

I’m no poetry critic, because I don’t know poetry enough to criticize it. I only know what I like and can understand, and what I think is good. Below I’m sharing with you a taste of Professor George’s artistic ability from his poem Lucifer: A Theological Tragedy.

Published in 1899, this poem opened to mixed reviews. It was viewed favorably by Christian critics, and less favorably by secular ones.Tongue firmly in cheek,  I wonder why? I’ll give you a taste of his ability via two speeches. The first is by St. Peter to Hermes, and the second is The Risen Christ to Lucifer himself.

from Act IV,
Saint Peter’s Soliliquy to the pagan god Hermes,

It is a serpent tempts thee, noble youth.
Even while speaking truth he leads astray.
His eye is subtle, but his heart is blind,
And of God’s fruits he marks the spotted rind,
But not the kernel where their virtue lay.
All nature yields no meaning to his mind,
For understanding withers at its springs
Unless love guide it to the sense of things.
On faith is built the wisdom of mankind.
Mark how this age, that builds its truth on doubt,
Falters at heart and knows no certain hope,
But trusts to fate, with which it dare not cope,
To work its undeserved salvation out.
What truth have men ? The senses brief deceit.
What happiness ? The slavery to greed.
What art ? An echo and a paltry cheat.
What God ? A helpless consciousness of need.
Upon what food, then, doth this people feed
That it forgets of whom it borrows breath?
Knows it the secret of the budding grain,
Or can it conjure floods or summon rain?
Or grows it sick and amorous of death,
Or like its father, Satan, dull to pain?
Oh, men have waxed too covetous of gold
To lift their eyes up from their labour s gain;
And as each morning brings the sun again
And summer wears his splendours as of old,
They drive the ploughshare deeper in the mould
And say : There are no longer gods in heaven!
With smitten breast and penance would they crave
Their bread, if God less bountifully gave,
But they forget him now, when all is given.
Thus are the souls my Master died to save
Like earth-regarding beasts in stupor driven
Without the hope of heaven to the grave.

                      ****
from Act IV, Christ to Lucifer

Unteachable! Is God not the Lord of Hosts?
The arms that against his bosom fly
His own strength drives, and in thy mutiny
He triumphs, and is mighty in thy boasts.
What need of sentinel to guard the shore
When he is master of the embosoming sea,
When his the wave, the bark, the sail, the oar,
And his the sinews of his enemy?
O Lucifer, couldst thou behold thy soul,
As it lies open to my Father’s sight,
The gathering clouds of pity fast would roll
Across thine eyes, to hide thy proper plight,
And rain on thy parched heart in showers light
Of sweet humility. Woe to the vain
And raging will that hugs its mortal pain.
Is it for thee to fathom wrong and right?
Tis God who spun the fibres of thy brain
And wove thy reason; had he placed awry
One thread, new dreams had turned
thy dreams to naught
And idle thought confounded idle thought
For ever, and none questioned destiny.
Now thine own tyrant, to thyself unkind,
Thou chafest at the limits of thy wit
Whose meek quietus were to live resigned
And serve the elder will that fashioned it
For in the bosom of the infinite
Thou hast thy life, and thy forsaken woes
Like foam on the false bosom of a wave,
Rise in vain fury, impotently rave
A moment only. Then thy proud will goes
Whither the billow sinks or the wind blows.

For All the Saints: Joseph of Leonissa

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph of Leonissa (Feb. 4, 1612). He was from a small town in Italy that, at the time, lay within the borders of the Papal States. At the age of seventeen, he became a Capuchin friar. I hadn’t planned on posting on this saintly fellow, but I found something that I believe I am supposed to share with you. I can’t explain it really, I just feel drawn to share an account that involves Joseph.

But first, a little background. He is best known for heading to Constantinople to minister to the Christian galley slaves of the Sultan there. He didn’t do that on a lark, either. He studied the Turks, and Islam, before heading on this mission.

Art credit: Getty Images

One day, he got the idea that he would preach to the Sultan himself, was captured, tortured and then miraculously released after hanging from hooks through his foot and his right hand (comfortable, and humane) over a smokey fire for three days. You can read more about that episode from the article on him at the Catholic News Service. Suffice it to say it’s a miracle he survived.

Like I said, I really wasn’t going to post anything about this particular saint. But then I found something about him on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, you remember, my wacky hobby nowadays? And one thing led to another.

It is an episode in Joseph’s life that I found in a book entitled The Agonizing Heart, by Fr. François René Blot. I added this volume to our shelf promptly because the subtitle of the book is Salvation of the Dying, Consolation of the Afflicted. So, it sounds like a book that has a broad appeal, since all of us are dying, or consoling someone who has lost someone who has died.

This particular story comes from Section II in the book, Meditations For One Day In Each Month. The selection that concerns our saint of the day is the meditation for the month of December, on the Blessed Virgin Mary. It turns out that Joseph of Leonissa is also know for two things that stand out in my mind: he preached while holding a crucifix, and he had a strong devotion to Our Lady.

What could be more agonizing than losing your child in premature death? A horrible accident for example, or to a disease, and heaven forbid, to a homicide. That is the episode that unfolds in the account that involves our Saint of the Day below. Take a look,

from La Vie du B. P. Joseph de Leonissa
by Daniel de Paris

The talent of consoling the afflicted is one of the gratuitous graces which God gives to whom He wills for the benefit of others, but compassion towards the afflicted is the duty of every Christian, according to the words of St. Paul, ‘Weep with them that weep’ (Rom. xii. 15).

The Blessed Father Joseph had this talent to a remarkable degree. He was ever ready to weep with those who wept, and to lead them to adore the secrets of Divine Providence. On one occasion, when he was preaching the Lent at Jane (ed. a nearby town), he heard that a young man had just been killed in a quarrel, and that his mother, a widow, was inconsolable in her grief.

Father Joseph, with true compassion for her affliction, went to visit her, and to share it; but he found her in a state of frenzy, and full of thoughts of revenge. The servant of God did not begin by blaming her anger; on the contrary, he acknowledged that she had good cause for her tears.

“You weep,” said he, “your tears are reasonable, and God does not blame them. But now that you have given all that nature can expect from a mother’s heart, it is time to think of what grace claims from a Christian. You must let yourself be ruled by faith; look at Jesus on the Cross” (he showed her the crucifix), “and consider the tears of the Blessed Virgin His Mother, and her humble submission to the will of God. Will you not follow so beautiful an example? ”

“Your son has fallen a victim to the hatred of his enemies, but the Son of Mary suffered from the cruelty of His own people. The one was, like all Adam’s children, a sinner, the other was the God-Man, the Saint of Saints, and He died only to restore those who were dead in sin. In short, your son died in a personal quarrel, your Savior died for the sins of others. Yet Mary did not yield to such an excess of grief, she did not call upon Heaven to destroy those wicked deicides; she imitated the clemency of her Son, Who even on the Cross prayed for His murderers; every day she still intercedes for sinners. You have acted as an afflicted mother, but is it not now time to behave after her example, as a Christian mother, who conforms herself in all things to the will of God?”

The tears of a too human sorrow were changed into tears of holy compunction, and the poor mother seemed absorbed in the love shown by Jesus on the Cross. The holy man led her to something yet more perfect. As the Blessed Virgin loves those who have crucified her Son so much that she seeks their salvation, she also learned charity towards those who had taken the life of her child. She invited them to her house, even before the funeral, and assured them that she forgave them for the love of Jesus and His holy Mother.

****
I’ve been reading a book written by John C.H. Wu where he writes that,
Some time or other, the Holy Spirit moves you to whisper to Christ, “Lord, what shall I render to You for Your wonderful love of me? He answers you in a whisper, “Do not always say ‘me, me, me…’ Remember there is a big Me in you. Love Me, love My brothers.”

And of course, He also says,

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

St. Joseph of Leonissa, pray for us.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Matt Maher & More (Music for Mondays)

A while back, I did a music post on Matt Maher, the Catholic Contempory Christian artist. Maher and his band are top notch, and I hope to take my kids to one of his concerts if he ever wanders our way.

Here’s why I like his stuff. As Christians, we should measure the worth of an artist by how well they get “it” right about the human condition, don’t you think? Some of us go searching for “it” in music.

Now think of this as Christians walking around holding a tuning fork in our hands. Sometimes, popular contemporary artists will sing a song that appeals to us for all the right reasons, and the tuning fork will sing too. Most often though, they miss the mark.

Not so in the case of Matt Maher. This dude, and his band, is always on the mark and the tuning fork is constantly humming. At least that has been my experience. So for this weeks set, we start up with a couple of knock-out songs from him that should have you running to the i-Tunes store pronto. Then we’ll wind our way through a few post-related songs and wind up with a violin and a piano.

Matt Maher, Love Comes Down. I’ve been listening to Matt Maher’s Alive Again album for my “commute to work” music lately. I heard this one this morning and I hit the repeat button at least three times. I can’t get the song out of my head, and you know what? I don’t want to either.

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Matt Maher, Flesh and Bone. This is the antidote to P!nk’s current hit called F****** Perfect, which is long on sentimentality, but short on truth. This was shot live at a “Theology on Tap” gig, which I’ve heard of but have never participated in. These lyrics are right on the mark. Great introductory remarks by Matt on our encounter with Jesus.

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Ok, I don’t know if the tuning fork will work with the rest of these, but I like them anyway.

Living Color, Cult of Personality. We had a post related to something similar to this just yesterday. I remember this band because it was burst onto the scene around the year I got married. These guys could get loud! One of the best unknown guitarists you’ll ever hear.

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Culture Club, Miss Me Blind. Remember Indiana Jones yelling “That belongs in a museum!”? Well, a few weeks ago, the news reported that Boy George was returning an icon to the Orthodox Christian Church on the island of Cyprus. It turns out the icon had been looted from a church there in 1974 and BG bought it from an art dealer in London, unawares. He’s returning it but seriously… who knew these guys sounded this good live? Not me. They jam!

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The Bangles, Walk Like An Egyptian. As the situation in Egypt moves towards it’s seventh day of rioting, I am remembering my time there and the songs that we played in the Marine House. By the time this one came out though, I was in Malaysia, but I still liked it. For news on what’s happening in Cairo, look abroad.

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John Cougar Mellencamp, Crumblin’ Down. I remember us playing this one a lot in the Marine House Bar in Cairo. John’s singin’ about me being uneducated and having an opinion that means “nuttin.’” That’s it! Tomorrow I’m wearing white socks with my loafers…that’ll show ‘em.

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Midori, Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp. This little lady came to our small town this past Friday. She was the guest of our local symphony orchestra, playing a piece from Strauss. I’ll tell you this…she can make that fiddle sing! My kids said “she moves like a robot” to which I said, “she’s just jammin!” Guess what else? She still uses that little cloth for on her chin rest to this day.

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We’ll see you in February!

Who Is Jesus Christ? by Eric Sammons (A Book Review)

Yesterday I wrote about classic books in the packs and pockets of the saints and how reading them can help us too. For example, St. Francis de Sales (whose feast day is tomorrow) and his worn copy of Dom. Scupoli’s The Spiritual Combat. St. Teresa of Avila turned from reading trashy romance novels to reading books like Francisco de Osuna’s The Third Spiritual Alphabet.

Francisco himself constantly references the works of Jean Gerson, which were over 100 years old by the time he read them. I recommend Gerson to you as well.

When the saints above were picking up these volumes, however, they were written by their contemporaries. So just like them, I’m going to recommend a new book to you today: Who Is Jesus Christ? Unlocking the Mystery in the Gospel of Matthew by Eric Sammons.

Who is Eric Sammons? Eric is the director of evangelization at his parish in Gaithersburg, Maryland and is working towards his Masters degree in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also a husband and father of five children. Did I mention he co-founded the non-profit Little Flowers Foundation that helps Catholic families adopt special-needs children? He also blogs at The Divine Life. I like Eric because he is a baseball fan too, and a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, which was my favorite team from childhood. That and he’s obviously a disciple of Our Lord.

But enough about Eric, and on to why should you buy this book. It’s quite simple really. As I mentioned yesterday, you are in Christ the King’s Army, or are thinking about joining it. As such, you are willing to put your life on the line for His Majesty. Therefore it makes a lot of sense for you personally to get to know Him better. This slim, accessible volume, will help you do just that.

There is even a strategic and tactical reason for you to learn as much as you can about Jesus. In the Marines, leadership responsibilities are pushed down to the lowest levels from the highest. Any break in the chain of command, due to death, injury, or absence of one’s superior, does not absolve the subordinate from responsibility to act, in any situation, the way his commander would.

The mission is shared with all and known by all. In the Marines, we call this Commanders Intent. By knowing the commander better, we know how he would act if he was here. Therefore the subordinate knows how to act in his absence. We act as the commanders proxy in any situation. This means we need to have a personal understanding of the commander and that is where Eric’s book comes in. Eric has taken the Gospel of Matthew, and all of the titles of Our Lord and Savior given therein, and has addressed each one in a way that gives us a fuller understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

Reading this book is a wonderful way to get to know Our Lord better. Eric guides us by the hand by exploring our incomplete perceptions of Him first, (Man, Rabbi, Ghost(!), Carpenter’s Son) and even those of His contemporaries and of the Apostle’s (John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah). After all, He did ask the question “who do the people say that I am” followed up with “and who do you say that I am?” Eric goes on to explore the roles of Jesus, the prophecies and types of Christ, and his role as a son and as the Son.

Eric takes us through each of these names, or roles, or types, in a way that is easily understandable. I have read aloud portions of this book to my children before family prayer time. I’ve had my children read chapters during “quiet time” too. I’ve read it during breaks at work when my batteries need a recharge as well.

The chapters are short, but dripping with scripture references, the works of the Church fathers, and Eric ends them with reflections and points to ponder. Eric too is a convert to Catholicism, and reflections on his conversion, and examples from his walk on the Way, are helpful to all of us as we too walk this path.

Getting to know Our King better is one of the reasons why I am Catholic. This rich book, published by the good folks at Our Sunday Visitor, will help you (and your family) do the same. Buy a copy and keep it in your, back-pack, briefcase, lunch box, or purse. You’ll be glad you did.

Because, Believe It Or Not, It’s Easy

How many high school seniors do you know who have a blog? To narrow that list down a bit, how many of them have one dedicated to blogging about the Catholic faith? Well allow me to introduce you to a young man who does just that.

He’s young, smart, edgy, and reverently irreverent. In other words, he’s the kind of Catholic I hope my kids meet up with and hang out with. 

Full Disclosure: I’ve never met Marc personally. But he caught my eye first with a post he wrote on Catholics in the military, and another that he posted which linked to my post on Vlad the Impaler.

If photographs of nuns smoking cigarettes offend you (some people do smoke, you know, and some of these people become nuns and priests too) don’t bother e-mailing me. Just remember this about my friend Marc: He is young, and though inexperienced in many ways, he is inflamed with a love for Christ and His Church, and his writing shows this clearly.

Thirty years ago, when I was Marc’s age, I was just as fired up about being a Marine. I think we share a personality trait, or two. We go all the way, or not at all. There is no “half way.” Why is Marc Catholic? Because, as “the Kid” writes below, it’s easy.

Guest post by Marc Barnes,

I suppose that whenever any honest Catholic is asked this question – be it by the must-save-you-from-hell-for-which-you-are-destined-by-your-goddess-worship Baptist or the mind-boggled agnostic who cannot begin to comprehend our happy willingness to make a few babies -G.K. Chesterton’s answer seems the most appropriate response; that “the difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”

I want to laugh and yell to the inquisitors that the real question, and indeed the only question worth asking, is why on earth are you not Catholic? An aversion to joy? Or perhaps just an aversion to fish on Fridays? A fear of true community? Or perhaps a deep and abiding fear of nuns? (I have a secret belief that those who do not like Catholicism simply have no sense of humor. However, that’s another story.)

But if I had to undertake the monstrous task of sorting through the various delights and pleasures of Catholicism – which I do, in case you were wondering – to search for one most meaningful to me – to decide between incense, the Communion of Saints, old ladies praying rosaries, our Mother Mary, and all the rest – there is one guilty happiness, one indulgent secret of Catholicism that makes it the Right Religion For Me. Catholicism is easy.

Having made that reckless statement, I would kindly ask those who fast every other day of their novena-filled lives while practicing self-flagellation to put down their pitchforks, stop google mapping my house, have some bread and water, and follow me for a few more paragraphs.

Catholicism is the only religion that is equally accessible to both saints and sinners, and is just as true and available to the murderer in the last pew as it is to the priest facing him. Though I dislike explaining positives through negatives, the same simply cannot be said for popular versions of Evangelical Christianity, for example, where spiritual experience requires emotional or transcendent experience to validate it.

I have many Protestant friends who I’ve honestly questioned, “how do you know you are forgiven for your sins?” The answers are many and varied, but all incredibly deep: “I let God into my heart and He speaks his word of forgiveness there, telling me I’m forgiven” or “I admit my sins and I feel God’s forgiveness wash over me.” There is nothing at all wrong with these holy answers except this: they are too holy.

But answers like these make forgiveness only accessible to saints, to people with hearts finely-tuned to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, to those who hear God in their ears telling them they are forgiven, and thus they make it unavailable to the hungover truck driver or that murderer in the back pew, God bless him. Better is the follower of religion that when asked, “are you forgiven?’ can answer “yes, I went to Reconciliation on Tuesday before the 9 a.m Mass,” for that is an answer that even the worst of us can give.

It gets even holier when I’ve asked them if they have God in their lives. “Yes, he speaks to me through His word, and is constantly inside of me.” or “Yes, ever since I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior he has been holding my hand.” What beautiful answers! Indeed, the holiest saints in heaven are nodding their heads in sage agreement.

But what sadness and tragedy! The hungover trucker is shaking his head and saying “what the hell are you talking about?” Answers such as these are brilliant gems of trust, but the truth of the matter is – when it comes to feeling God’s presence – we aren’t all diamonds in the rough. Most of us appear to be just “the rough,” in fact.

The hand-holding Jesus does not always remain foremost in the mind of those rocked by sorrow or sin, and thus the responses made by our Protestant brothers and sisters are reserved for the peaceful, contemplative saints among us, and not the beserker in the back pew, may he live forever. Better is the religion that when asked, “Is God inside you?” can answer, “Yes, and I ate Him this morning at the 9 o’clock Mass too.” for that is an answer that the most distracted and unsaintly of practicing Catholics can give.

This trend continues throughout every aspect of the faith. “How do you know you’ve received the Holy Spirit?”, “How do you know you are saved?”, “How do you know God loves you?” No matter the question, Catholicism’s answer is always universal, practical and equally applicable to every one of it’s members, while other believers answers are emotional, personal, and apply to seemingly only the holiest of saints among them, whom they consider themselves to be. The irony that Catholics should happily admit is that the problem with every other form of Christianity is not that they have dumbed down religion (though they often do in many aspects), but that they have made it extremely complicated and – dare I say, dare I? Oh, alright then – elitist.

If, as Chesterton says, “religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; [and] it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary,” then it is certainly a point for Catholics that we follow this maxim, and certainly a point against our holy brothers and sisters for whom a man must feel extraordinary to even begin to take part in the faith.

That’s why Catholics are so happy and ridiculous. Because Christ made this whole religion thing easy. He established an infallible Church so that we would not have to seek personal revelation for our every decision, he established the power to forgive sins here on earth so we would not just have emotional consolation after every lustful thought. He established the Eucharist so He would be with us always, not only in Spirit, but physically there for the least of us to cradle in our unworthy hands.

I am Catholic because Catholicism is easy. But the really beautiful thing in this whole matter is this. Just because Catholicism works for the sinner does not mean it is banal, bland, or boring for the saint. The Eucharist, when viewed with proper consideration and taken with proper praise has us weeping, fainting, and caught up in the most intimate, sensual glories of heaven. It is our very life-breath, the greatest most addicting drug ever given to man, that can elevate us beyond the reach of earthly delight.

And all of us, every last one of us, has a duty to become a saint, has a duty to try for this holiness, and for the holiness that Christians of other faith traditions claim as their staple diet. But the reason I am Catholic and the reason I would die for my Church, is that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is available to us whether or not we can reach this holiness. He has made it easy, so that the brigand in the back pew might slowly and surely become the saint in the front.

About the author,

Marc is close to failing high school or close to passing, depending on your outlook on life. He plans to go to Franciscan University in Steubenville and become a famous rapper and/or Catholic writer and/or fast-food employee. He loves short walks on the beach. His favorite thing to do of all time is to create clubs, groups and organizations that only ever really have one meeting that never gets followed up on. He currently maintains a blog known as BadCatholic, that focuses on how bad we are at practicing our great religion. And how that’s O.K. He has 5 brothers and sisters, an incredibly attractive girlfriend and no pets. He wishes he were cool enough to be invited into a gang.


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