For Your Vatican-Approved Friday Night at the Movies

It’s not often we get a free pass to go to the movies from the Vatican.  But that is what we received earlier this week. And heck, I couldn’t be happier because I love this movie. My mom loves this movie. Come to think of it, my wife, sister, brother, and even my kids love this movie.

Bravo Zulu to the Vatican Film critics. So head to the library, Blockbuster, or boot up your Netflix account and have a blast watching this classic comedy starring the late John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. Here is one of my favorite clips and a little preview clip to boot.

“It’s gotta cop motor, 440 cubic inch plant.  It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s the model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. Whaddaya say? Is it the new Bluesmobile or what?”

That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!

YouTube Preview Image

“We’re on a mission from God.”

YouTube Preview Image

YIMC Book Club “The Great Heresies” Chapter Two

It’s meat and potatoes time here at the YIM Catholic Bookclub. Old Thunder (Belloc) kicks off this chapter with these terse and direct words, “Arianism was the first of the great heresies.” Where are the footnotes to back up this claim? You won’t find any footnotes in Belloc’s books. I suppose he is confident in making the claim because “everyone knows” this to be true.

Sure, I didn’t, and maybe you didn’t either. But I’ve stated before that I don’t know everything, so if I were you I would make a note to myself to check out these assertions. Perhaps by reading the works of St. Athanatius, for example, or more recently the words of Cardinal John Henry Newman. But for now, let’s just let Belloc draw back the veil on the early Church and see what almost happened to Christianity.

And let me remind you that from almost the very beginning of the Church, it has not been “smooth sailing.” Consider the words of St. John (1 John 2:18-19) when he states,

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was our number.

Yes, the bold is my emphasis, but I’m not the one making the point. St. John is clearly stating that even in his lifetime (6 – 100 AD), controversy and heresy were getting off the ground. Heck, it sounds like they were actually thriving because otherwise why would he mention it? This is shocking to no one who is deep in the scriptures, which is probably why Belloc didn’t encumber every one of his points with footnotes. For the rest of us though, it wouldn’t hurt for you to keep the Bible and the Cathechism close at hand while reading the rest of Belloc’s book. And may I suggest Freiderich Knicht’s helpful book as well?

Belloc writes,

Now the central tradition of the Church here, as in every other case of disputed doctrine, was strong and clear from the beginning. Our Lord was undoubtedly a man. He had been born as men are born, He died as men die. He lived as a man and had been known as a man by a group of close companions and a very large number of men and women who had followed Him, and heard Him and witnessed His actions.

But, said the Church, He was also God. God had come down to earth and become Incarnate as a Man. He was not merely a man influenced by the Divinity, nor was He a manifestation of the Divinity under the appearance of a man. He was at the same time fully God and fully Man. On that the central tradition of the Church never wavered. It is taken for granted from the beginning by those who have authority to speak.

Did I mention that everything hinges on authority for Belloc? And in the end, isn’t that True?

Before I blather on, recall that at the start of the meeting for this book selection, I asked for volunteers to take a leadership role in guiding our discussion here. Up to the plate this week is “Mary R.” What follows is Mary’s brief synopsis of this weeks chapter and the high points as she saw them.

Let’s give Mary R. a hearty welcome and a dose of gratitude for being the first out of the gate in my little experimental twist on the YIMC Book Clubs’ rules of engagement: “all readers should be prepared to help discuss the book.” Maybe Webster, Allison and I will eventually just bring the refreshments!

Mary R., you have the floor,

Chapter 3 – The Arian Heresy
I erred in my first reading of this chapter. Hillaire Belloc stated, “There is no greater error in the whole range of bad history than imagining that doctrinal differences, because they are abstract and apparently remote from practical things of life, are not therefore of intense social effect. … Merely to say that Arianism was what it was doctrinally is to enunciate a formula, but not to give the thing itself.”

I read “enunciate” as “eunicate.” “Eunicate” is not a word (ed.- LOL) but “eunuch” is and that is what I did to the Arian heresy when I first heard about it. I removed the essential and kept the dogmatic part. I knew that Arianism concerned the denial of the divinity of Jesus but I did not take into consideration the society and the uniqueness of the era.

Belloc, referred to as HB going forward, corrected my view and gave me the history, the flesh and blood, of the Arian heresy. This chapter covers roughly 250 years from 300 to 550. It is about generals, emperors, men and motives. HB explains the cultural groundwork that allowed Arianism to take root.

There are the people who supported Arianism – the noble families who were reluctant to accept the social revolution of Catholicism; the intellectuals who were concerned about the loss of their social position; and the Army who supported it. It is the history of people and how their support strengthens or weakens the Church. And it is the doctrines that must be defended.

The competing doctrines were:

* Catholic Christianity: Jesus was at the same time fully God and fully man. “On that central tradition of the Church never wavered.”

* Arianism: Jesus was man and our Lord but not divine. He was not God.

The two main characters who supported opposing views were Areios and St. Athanasius. Both men were charismatic. Both were passionate and both believed what they taught. And finally, halfway through this chapter we find out how St Athanasius defeated Arianism. He was sincere, he was tenacious, he was Patriarch of Alexandria (2nd most important town in Eastern Empire), he enjoyed popular backing, he was a genius, and he was young when the Arian heresy started. He had a lot going for him but he also endured five exiles. Through it all, St Athanasius defended the doctrine.

If you are like me looking for answers, be careful not to read too fast this chapter or you might misread words, change meaning, and miss what you are looking for. Fortunately, I wrote this introduction and had to reread the chapter several times. Thus I have an answer to how I can personally combat heresy. No, I am not male therefore I cannot be a bishop. I don’t have a following of people to support my ideas. And I am not young. Finally, I shouldn’t look for an Army general (HB tells us how the Army was finally converted from Arianism).

What I did learn is that I need to study and understand Church teachings – the dogmas of what it is to be Catholic. I need to believe by both reason and faith.  I need to listen to my bishop and give him my support as he leads me back to union with God.

Okay. Now it is your turn. What did you learn?

Thanks Mary R., and Bravo Zulu! I’m looking forward to our members’ (and anyone else who has read the chapter) discussion in the comm-box below.

One Hit Wonders (Music for Monday’s)

I stumbled across the idea for this post when I was praying the LOTH today and ran across this quote attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

I suppose some of the following artists were on the precipice of worldly success, some probably didn’t care, but others hoped for superstardom. As you will see, that wasn’t meant to be because these were all “one hit wonders.”

But the following songs were hits because each of them struck a chord with listeners, or at least with program directors, back in the heyday of radio. So let’s consider them catholic with a small “c” and have a little fun going down memory lane with what I can remember hearing on the radio or television over the years.

Norman Greenbaum, Spirit in the Sky (1969-70) For the longest time, I thought this was played by the band T-Rex.  I always liked it growing up, and dug the guitar riffs too. And who doesn’t want to “go to the place that’s the best?”

YouTube Preview Image

Hillside Singers, I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (1972). The song that later became an iconic commercial success for Coca-Cola. I hope you hum it all day long.

YouTube Preview Image

Sister Janet Mead, The Lord’s Prayer (1974). Made it to #4 on Billboards Top 100 back in 1974. A rockin’ nun from South Australia, I remember the tune well.  You all know the words so sing along!

YouTube Preview Image

Patrick Hernandez, Born to be Alive (1979) Break out your dancin’ shoes because “you see we’re born, born, born to be alive (born too be alive.)” I can’t argue with that!

YouTube Preview Image

The Korgis, Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime (1980). Don’t look know, but we’ve hit the Eighties. Does anyone else remember this tune? A classic catholic one hit wonder if there ever was one. Universal appeal? Just check the following lyrics,

Change your heart
Look around you.
Change your heart
It will astound you.

YouTube Preview Image

Joey Scarbury, Believe It Or Not  (1981) Also know from the television series The Greatest American Hero, where a teacher is given a suit by aliens that gives him superpowers.  It was a fun show starring William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Selleca.  Music by Mike Post. While we’re at it, does everyone remember the Solid Gold dancers? Sheesh!

YouTube Preview Image

Maybe next week we’ll continue with One Hit Wonders through the Eighties.

YIMC Book Club “The Great Heresies” Chapter 1

In last weeks introduction, Belloc spelled out why we should study heresy. This week, he explains the plan of his book and why he choose the five heresies that he did. Although the number of heretical ideas that assault Christianity are as numerous as sand is on a beach, Belloc argues that the five heresies he covers here should suffice in alerting us as to what we need to be aware of.

It’s disclaimer time here at the book club: I’m fully aware that Belloc’s book is provocative. And his point of view is that Christianity is seen in it’s fullness in Catholicism. Period. This will likely irritate many modern readers, but so be it. As Belloc discussed in the introduction, heresy has become an unused word.

For example, he is unapologetic about the following statement:

There is, as everybody knows, an institution proclaiming itself today the sole authoritative and divinely appointed teacher of essential morals and essential doctrine. This institution calls itself the Catholic Church.

Going further, Belloc states that,

Many through antagonism or lack of knowledge deny the identity of the Catholic Church today with the original Christian society. 

Are you still with us? Because for Belloc, and for many others who have converted to Catholic Christianity, the matter of authority is a key issue. One which many don’t concern themselves with. Not Belloc, though, because for him the matter of authority is crucial. May I suggest you switch off your “know-it-all-ness” for a bit and just listen to what he says? You’ll be glad you did because in doing so you will gain the knowledge to identify “old hat” heresies dressed up in new clothing.

Santayana opined, and I paraphrase, that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Do you believe that? I admit that I do.  Qoheleth, in Ecclesiastes, flatly states that what has been before will be again. So if we don’t know what was “before,” how will we know if we are being led astray? Well, I’ve come to believe the Church because,

From the day of Pentecost (some time between A.D. 29 and A.D. 33) onwards there has been a body of doctrine affirmed for instance, at the very outset, the Resurrection. And the organism by which that body of doctrine has been affirmed has been from the outset a body of men bound by a certain tradition through which they claimed to have the authority in question. 

It is further historically true (though not universally admitted) that the claim of this body to be a divinely appointed voice for the statement of true doctrine on the matters essential to man (his nature, his ordeal in this world, his doom or salvation, his immortality, etc.) is to be found affirmed through preceding centuries, up to a little before the middle of the first century.

Belloc then provides brief sketches of the following heresies and how they attack the Catholic Church. Belloc claims that each of the following present a type of attack. They are as follows,

1) Arianism: Attacked the authority of the Church by denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. But even more, it was a “large-scale reaction against the supernatural.” Ever meet a Christian who scoffs at the miracles the Catholic Church has approved of? Sure you have.

2) Islam: So you thought this was an indigenous religion of the Middle East like Shinto Buddism is to Japan or Confucianism is to China? Belloc notes that Islam is essentially,  a heresy alien rather than intimate. It threatened to kill the Christian Church by invasion rather than to undermine it from within. This should be interesting.

3)Albigensianism: Much like the Manichean heresy (that St. Augustine dabbled with prior to his conversion) with the concept of good fighting evil, and the equal power of the two. Combined with this is the idea that matter is evil and that “all pleasure, especially of the body, is evil.” Ever heard Christians lamenting that our bodies are just corrupt and that we would be better off without them? Show of hands?

4)Protestants: Here is the elephant in the room, eh? Protestants denied the unity of the Church and the central authority Christ gave to Peter as his vicar. Denial of “not the doctrines it(new denominations) might happen to advance, but its very claim to advance them with unique authority” while rejecting unity. This one is going to be hairy!

5)The Modern: Belloc claimed this heresy was on the rise when he wrote this back in 1936 and it is probably blowing full force by now, wouldn’t you say? If I can’t touch, taste, see, or smell it, then it obviously doesn’t exist. If it can’t be measured and tested by the scientific method, then it is make-believe. This heresy, Belloc notes, came before all the other ones, so it looks like we are back to where they started.

Such are the five great movements antagonistic to the Faith. To concentrate our attention upon each in turn teaches us in separate examples the character of our religion and the strange truth that men cannot escape sympathy with it or hatred of it. To concentrate on these five main attacks has this further value, that between them they seem to sum up all the directions from which the assault can be delivered against the Catholic Faith.

Next week we jump into Arianism with the help of reader Mary R. Until then, happy reading!

From “The Pearl” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Today is the feast day of St. Ephrem the Syrian, Deacon and Doctor of the Church. Pope Benedict XV gave him the title of Doctor in his Encyclical dated October 5, 1920.

St. Ephrem was prolific, writing over 3000 poems and hymns during his lifetime. So why have I never heard of him? Maybe because I haven’t been paying attention. Well, I’m paying attention now because even though he wrote his poems in Syriac, they translate beautifully into English.

As I’ve written before, I really enjoy learning new things about our Church and the depth and breadth of our Catholic faith. And I enjoy sharing my discoveries with you too. Perhaps I’ve been studying the wrong poets for too long a time, but poems like this one leave me yearning for more.

Below is the Fourth Hymn of St. Ephrem’s The Pearl: Seven Hymns on the Faith translated by J.B. Morris. I think Hilaire Belloc got a kick out of reading poems like this. It left me mesmerized. After reading this, you will understand why St. Ephrem was known by the sobriquet, The Harp of the Holy Spirit.

The Pearl: Hymn Four

The thief gained the faith which gained him,
And brought him up and placed him in paradise.
He saw in the Cross a tree of life;
That was the fruit,
He was the eater in Adam’s stead.
The fool, who goes astray,
Grazes the faith, as it were an eye,
By all manner of questions.
The probing of the finger blinds the eye,
And much more doth that prying blind the faith.

For even the diver pries not into his pearl.
In it do all merchants rejoice
Without prying into whence it came;
Even the king who is crowned therewith
Does not explore it.

*****

Because Balaam was foolish,
A foolish beast in the ass spoke with him,
Because he despised God Who spoke with him.
Thee too let the pearl reprove
In the ass’s stead.
The people that had a heart of stone,
By a Stone He set at nought,
For lo, a stone hears words.
Witness its work that has reproved them;
And you, ye deaf ones,
Let the pearl reprove to-day.

With the swallow and the crow did He put men to shame;
With the ox, yea with the ass, did He put them to shame;
Let the pearl reprove now,
O ye birds and things on earth and things below.

*****

Not as the moon does thy light fill or wane;
The Sun whose light is greater than all,
Lo! of Him it is that a type is shadowed out in thy little compass.
O type of the Son,
One spark of Whom is greater than the sun!
The pearl itself is full,
for its light is full;
Neither is there any cunning worker who can steal from it;
For its wall is its own beauty,
Yea, its guard also!
It lacks not,
since it is entirely perfect.

And if a man would break thee
To take a part from thee,
Thou art like the faith which with the heretics perishes,
Seeing they have broken it in pieces and spoiled it:
For is it any better than this
To have the faith scrutinized?

The faith is an entire nature
That may not be corrupted.
The spoiler gets himself mischief by it:
The heretic brings ruin on himself thereby.
He that chases the light from his pupils
Blinds himself.

Fire and air are divided when sundered.
Light alone, of all creatures,
As its Creator, is not divided;
It is not barren, for that it also begets
Without losing thereby.

*****

And if a man thinks that thou art framed by art
He errs greatly;
Thy nature proclaims that thou, as all stones,
Art not the framing of art;
and so thou art a type of the Generation
Which no making framed.
Thy stone flees
From a comparison with the Stone which is the Son.
For thy own generation is from the midst of the deep,
That of the Son of thy Creator is from the highest height;
He is not like thee,
In that He is like His Father.

And as they tell,
Two wombs bare thee also.
Thou camest down from on high a fluid nature;
Thou camest up from the sea a solid body.
By means of thy second birth
Thou didst show thy loveliness to the children of men.

Hands fixed thee, when thou wast embodied,
Into thy receptacles;
For thou art in the crown as upon the cross,
And in a coronet as in a victory;
Thou art upon the ears, as if to fill up what was lacking;
Thou extendest over all.


St. Ephrem, Pray for Us.

You may read all seven hymns in The Pearl here.

Baseball (Music for Mondays)

A few days ago, Webster posted on the imperfect call heard ’round the world. Baseball has been a big part of my life, especially after I became a dad, with two boys who play the game. Softball is pretty big too, as my daughter plays that game (and my alma mater, UCLA,  is in the College Softball World Series championship game, Go Bruins!).

There is a lot of baseball on my, and my oldest son’s plate this week as he has a camp, hitting lessons, games, and finally try-outs for the high school team.  All of that on the weekdays, and of course, more baseball this weekend too.  So when thinking of music for this Monday, I have baseball on the brain.

Baseball gives me chills sometimes.  This scene from The Natural always does.

YouTube Preview Image

Brought to you by the guy who wrote and sang such hits as Short People  and I Love L.A., Randy Newman did the score for The Natural.

YouTube Preview Image
Anyone not remember this speech from Field of Dreams?
YouTube Preview Image

And the theme? Composed, co-orchestrated, conducted, and produced by James Horner.

YouTube Preview Image

A baseball music post would not be complete without John Fogerty’s Centerfield. Check out that baseball bat shaped guitar. Nice!

YouTube Preview Image

Nor would it be complete without Wild Thing covered by the band X. Made famous from the comedy movies Major League and Major League 2.

YouTube Preview Image

Take me out to the ball game!

Because of the Feast of Corpus Christi

Sometimes, I feel like I don’t fit in—to my adopted state of New Jersey, to my neighborhood, heck even to my family, which is three males plus me. This is why I am thankful for the Eucharist and for the Feast of Corpus Christi that celebrates it. (Pictured here is the Corpus Christi procession of parishioners at Holy Cross Croy, in the Archdiocese of Glasgow, Scotland.)

Let’s consider what God did. He loves each and every one of us with such effusion that He sent his only Son to Earth so that we might have the possibility of Heaven, the place where all of us will always feel we fit, united as we will be for eternity with our creator. His Son suffered and died an unjust and tortuous death to free us from our sins. And before His Son died, He instituted the Eucharist so that each of us might have a foretaste of Heaven every day of our lives.

My parish will celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi  with great elaboration on Sunday. We will have an outdoor procession with the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Among the sounds of bells and the wafting of incense at each of four outdoor altars that represent the four corners of the earth, we will sing medieval chants composed by St. Thomas of Aquinas.

For most of its history, the Church did not celebrate this Feast. The day, officially known as the Solemnity of the  Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, first was celebrated in the 13th century, thanks to the efforts of St. Juliana, an Augustinian nun from Belgium and a contemporary of St. Thomas.

One purpose of this feast day is to remind ourselves of what the Eucharist is—Christ Himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity. The feast also brings that knowledge to the outside world. Our parish sits in the heart of our small town, and many drivers and pedestrians will see us processing with the Blessed Sacrament around the parish property.

God gave us the Eucharist so that we might become the Body of Christ. This means when we leave the walls of our churches, we become the face of Christ to those we encounter. It also means we are better able to see the face of Christ in our neighbors.

God underlined this point for me last month, when our oldest son was confirmed on the Feast of Pentecost. Before the Mass we hosted a simple breakfast reception for friends and neighbors on our enclosed front porch. Our next-door neighbors, Roger and Fayga, Orthodox Jews and retired public school teachers, loaned us tables and chairs, as well as two tablecloths Fayga had sewn herself. They attended, along with about 20 other people. My family rushed from the reception to Mass. We didn’t return home until hours later, after the Mass and a luncheon reception for family members at a nearby hotel. We discovered that while we were gone, Fayga had taken it upon herself to clean up from the breakfast reception.

The Feast of Corpus Christi is a powerful reminder for us Catholics to share our faith with the world and to understand that the Eucharist will help us discover the face of Christ in unexpected places.

YouTube Preview Image

YIMC Book Club, “The Great Heresies,” Introduction

This week’s reading is the introductory chapter of The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc. My first impression? This guy is smart. My next impression? There is heresy everywhere! Heck, it’s behind every tree, rock, and corner.

First Belloc defines heresy as the removal of one or more aspects from a belief system. Think of a sphere of cheese, and then start taking bites out of it.  What used to be perfectly round is now not, and as such it no longer will roll smoothly. It is no longer whole, but retains some of the structure of the original. Thus,

On this account it can appeal to believers and continues to affect their lives through deflecting them from their original characters. Wherefore, it is said of heresies that “they survive by the truths they retain.”

And as a result, the functioning of society is changed when heresy rears its head. Belloc uses several great examples of this from doctrines of Christianity such as the Christian who believes all the doctrines except that of the immortality of the soul. Not believing in this, Belloc argues, would change the way humans behave. And he uses the example of Christian marriage vs. the idea that marriage is only a contract dissolvable by divorce being a concept that undermines the original idea of marriage.

Which is why I said earlier that after reading a wee bit of Belloc, heresy is seemingly everywhere. Is that your impression too? It also seems like the words and thoughts of Belloc could have been written last week, by George Weigel or someone similar. Which is another great reason to read a book like this, because the big wheel keeps going around and there is nothing new under the sun. Modern anti-Christian spirit in society is nothing new and reading this book will help us open our eyes to that reality.

But why study heresy at all? Belloc argues as follows:

What we are concerned with is the highly interesting truth that heresy originates a new life of its own and vitally affects the society it attacks. The reason that men combat heresy is not only, or principally, conservatism, a devotion to routine, a dislike of disturbance in their habits of thought; it is much more a perception that the heresy, in so far as it gains ground, will produce a way of living and a social character at issue with, irritating, and perhaps mortal to, the way of living and the social character produced by the old orthodox scheme.

This is going to be interesting, to say the least.  What were your impressions? Throw them into the comm-box so we can all chew them over. Thanks for reading and thanks to Brian Vogt for volunteering to lead the discussion for Chapter 6, The Reformation.

Next week we read Chapter Two, on the scheme of the book.

Because Nobody’s Perfect

I’m betting that Armando Galarraga has a saintly Catholic mother and that somewhere, last night about 10 p.m., she was smiling quietly to herself. Because we all saw the replays from the ninth inning of last night’s Tigers-Indians game. And because we all saw what Galarraga did after the play and after the game. As a nation of outraged baseball fans saw on the ESPN replays, the Tigers’ young pitcher made the third out, and umpire Jim Joyce blew the call. Joyce admitted it after the game. “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” he told reporters. Galarraga had retired the first 26 Indians in a row and was on the verge of only the 21st perfect game in Major League history. Instead, he had a “one-hit” shutout. And what did Galarraga do?

While his teammates howled at Joyce from the dugout, then swarmed him after the game, Galarraga smiled—after a momentary reaction of dumbfounded, childlike amazement. He walked away from an argument with Joyce, returned to the mound, and retired the next batter. Then, according to The New York Times:

Galarraga told reporters that Joyce apologized to him after the game, adding that he had no instinct to argue the call. “He probably felt more bad than me,” Galarraga said. Smiling, he added, “Nobody’s perfect.” 

That’s a good Catholic kid for you, I’d say, with the emphasis on good. There are plenty of baseball players and evidently many who were raised Catholic. But how many of them, in the same circumstances, would turn the other cheek . . . and get the next batter out? Good work, Mrs. Galarraga, wherever you are!

YouTube Preview Image

YIMC Book Club Meeting Reminder

We must begin by a definition, although definition involves a mental effort and therefore repels.

With those words, Hillaire Belloc is getting us prepared for another journey into the history of Christianity. Are you ready to voyage into the mine-filled waters of heresy? I am, because all of this stuff was completely skipped over in my experience growing up. [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X