For Evelyn Waugh’s Prayer of a Convert

Psst…I finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s novel Helena. I think it is fantastic and I enjoyed it immensely. Reading it makes we want to head with my family to the Holy Land on pilgrimage, bankrupting us in the process. St. Helena, as the empress dowager, never faced that particular financial aspect of her own journey to Palestine.

Careful, because if you read this book you too may feel compelled to do the same. As I was racing through the pages, I came upon a section that I call “the Prayer of the Convert.” It applies to those who were born into the Church as well, the cradle Catholics who wandered away from their faith and have been called back to it. Waugh was a convert like me, see, and so was St. Helena, who begs the intercession of the magi when she attends Mass on the eve of the Epiphany in the cave where Our Lady gave birth to Our Lord,

“This is my day,” she thought, “and these are my kind.”

Perhaps she apprehended that her fame, like theirs, would live in one historic act of devotion; that she too had emerged from a kind of ουτοπια or nameless realm and would vanish like them in the sinking nursery fire-light among the picture-books and the day’s toys.

“Like me,” she said to them, “you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way. For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed among the disconcerted stars.

“How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculations, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!

“You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!

“Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room at the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life there was room for you too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.

“You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

“Dear cousins, pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly. And pray for Lactantius and Marcias and the young poets of Trèves and for the souls of my wild, blind ancestors; for their sly foe Odysseus and for the great Longinus.

“For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”

Amen, brother Evelyn—Amen.

Sassetta’s Journey of the Magi

To Help Make A Movie, Part Deux!

Ian Higgins writes,

Hi Frank, 

I just wanted to personally thank you and all your readers who have so kindly donated and shown their support for our movie “All That Remains”. It has been overwhelming to witness such support in such a short space of time.

It is thanks to the kindness of all those who donated that we now have enough funds in place to film the crucial interviews in Japan. We’ve managed to raise enough funds to fly out to Japan and film the necessary interviews for the documentary aspects of the movie – thanks to everyone who rallied to our cause!

We didn’t reach our total, but we still consider our campaign a huge success and have decided to launch a second campaign – this time with the goal of raising the necessary funds for the drama sequences that will help bring this amazing story of a remarkable man to life with all the emotional power that a film has.

I would also like to add, to all those who chose to contribute anonymously on our previous campaign, remember to please get in touch with us at info@majoroakentertainment.com with your email addresses (that information is not given to us when you donate as anonymous) so we can send you the links to your perks as and when they become available. Your personal details will be treated as strictly confidential.

Thanks again for your kindness and support!

Huzzah! Ian and Dominic can wing it over to Nagasaki now and get some digital film in the flash drives! Very cool. Guess what else?

Frank, Dominic and I also would like to give you a producer credit on the movie. I know it’s not on the perk you purchased (Ed. a cheap one!), but I think as one of the job descriptions of a producer is to help raise funds for a production – that qualifies you.

Warmest regards,
Ian Higgins

Gulp. Know what that means? I’m now no longer just the chief fan boy or über cheerleader, but an honest-to-goodness movie producer now!? I gotta tell you, the Lord works in mysterious ways because I sure didn’t see that title landing beside my name EVER. No way, no how.

But this is a remarkable story that needs to be told, and told again. It never crossed my mind that I would be denominated with a title like producer on my résumé. And it never would have happened without the generosity of giving readers like you. Folks who live out the words penned by St. James (2:14-17) two thousand years ago,

What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him? And if a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food: And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit? So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.

Know what else it means? That’s simple: I need to make some more rain for the project! And I’m a beggar-thy-neighbor type, long on faith and prayer, but short on cash. But God will provide, and of that I am sure. And it looks like I’ve got some new stuff to learn. Maybe Tom Cruise can help.

Takashi Nagai, praying the rosary

Remember that little post I shared with you about how Words Matter? Well they do. As I thanked you for your generosity before, I will thank you for it again and ask that you share the news on this project via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc. Heck, by any means possible. And give, give, and give some more —in any amount!

But I won’t brow beat you about it either. Shakedowns? We don’t need no stinking shakedowns! Instead, you can keep track of the fundraising progress right here at YIMCatholic. If you have a gander at the right-hand sidebar (up topside), you’ll see I’ve added a little widget showing the All That Remains Phase-2 IndieGoGo page where you can easily share it, see how many shekels are in the jar, how much time is left to give, etc., etc. How neat is that? Here’s an idea: put it on your blog too!

With prayer, action, faith, hope, and love,  I’m sure that Phase-2 of fundraising for this project will be a rousing success. All it will take is the following…

To Forgive, But Never Forget

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him. And opening his mouth, he taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.

So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

****
The Pentagon

Flight 93 crash site

Thoughts worth facing.

A homily worth reading.

A reflection worth understanding.

A pilgrimage and a prayer worth making,

A song worth playing,

Scriptures worth pondering over,

To David himself, understanding. Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (Psalms 31:1)

Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever. (Psalms 83:5)

Blessed are they that keep judgment, and do justice at all times. (Psalms 105:3 )

Blessed are they who search his testimonies: that seek him with their whole heart. (Psalms 118:2)

Now therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. (Proverbs 8:32)

Blessed are they that saw thee, and were honored with thy friendship. (Sirach 48:11)

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying to me: Write: Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord. From henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow them. (Revelation 14:13)

Better posts worth reading.

A final prayer worth praying.

Image credit: Grevy Pix.

Because I Asked, I Prayed, And You Helped This Pro-Life Cause

Dr. Nagai and his children praying.

Thank you YIMCatholic Readers! On the last day of this past August, I shared a post about helping to make the movie All That Remains. When completed, it will be a docu-drama about the life of Dr. Takashi Nagai, survivor of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of the city of Nagasaki. I called it “rattling the tin cup” for a good cause, and I shared the post with you all. I threw a few shekels in myself and prayed that others would respond too.

When Ian Higgins sent me the information about the project, the fundraising page he had built over at IndieGoGo set a lofty goal of $24,000 dollars and had a whopping $45.00 in the kitty from three kind donors. Did I mention that there is some kind of time limit on this campaign? The clock was ticking down with 14 days remaining and that goal seemed all but impossible.

It still seems like a stretch. But who knows? Well, God knows. And maybe Ian and his brother Dominic can get an extension. But the good news is that 1082 folks read that post (according to Blogger’s internal counter) and 22 of them have contributed $4155 dollars towards the completion of this inspiring project. Isn’t that great? I’m thanking everyone who contributed, as well as everyone who forwarded the post, shared it on Facebook, Tweeted it, and linked to it. Thanks for all your help!

Now, the counters over at IndieGoGo say that 4 days is all that remains (pun intended!) on the fundraising campaign and I’m rattling the tin cup once again and praying for a miracle. Of the 1082 folks who read the post the first time around, 22 contributed in various amounts; from as little as $15 to as much as $1000(!).  Remember me and my calculator? That works out to 2.03% of readers contributing to the cause. Which is about 17.97% shy of the 20% the Pareto Principle would have predicted would have given.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Pareto Principle? The 80/20 rule? Basically it means 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. Or,

80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers
80% of your profits come from 20% of the time you spend
80% of your sales come from 20% of your products
80% of your sales are made by 20% of your sales staff
80% of your comments come from 20% of your readers

I just made that last one one up. Or put another way, as Our Lord said,

The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.(Matthew 13:33)

I wonder how close the percentage of meal to leaven in the parable is to 80:20?

Here is the link to the fundraising site (Phase 2!) again, as well as the awesome trailer,

All That Remains – Feature film Trailer from Ian & Dominic Higgins on Vimeo.

For those who think that using nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified, Joe Six-Pack, USMC would simply remind you that doing so in the future would not be justified in light of Catholic teaching. See Guadium et Spes (§80),

80. The horror and perversity of war is immensely magnified by the addition of scientific weapons. For acts of war involving these weapons can inflict massive and indiscriminate destruction, thus going far beyond the bounds of legitimate defense. Indeed, if the kind of instruments which can now be found in the armories of the great nations were to be employed to their fullest, an almost total and altogether reciprocal slaughter of each side by the other would follow, not to mention the widespread devastation that would take place in the world and the deadly after effects that would be spawned by the use of weapons of this kind.

Urakami Cathedral, 500 meters
from Ground Zero.

All these considerations compel us to undertake an evaluation of war with an entirely new attitude.(1) The men of our time must realize that they will have to give a somber reckoning of their deeds of war for the course of the future will depend greatly on the decisions they make today.

With these truths in mind, this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes,(2) and issues the following declaration.

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Nor was it an open and shut case among many folks involved in the war effort at the time either, not that that matters now. Never Again!

Thanks again to all who have helped out and thanks in advance for those who will! If you can, throw the Brothers Higgins a few shekels, but if you can’t, please share this with others and pray for the successful completion of this important Pro-Life film project.

P.S. Here’s a bonus earworm from Dweezil and Moon Unit…

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To Help Make A Movie? Why Not!

A few weeks back was the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. About a week ago, I received a note from Ian Higgins of  Major Oak Entertainment regarding a movie his studio is making about the story of Dr. Takashi Nagai, survivor of the bombing and author of The Bells of Nagasaki.  The title for the docu-drama  film is All That Remains.

According to Ian’s note, the film has the support of

the University of Nagasaki, his grace Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami and Fr. Paul Glynn, author of the acclaimed biography on Dr. Nagai, “A Song for Nagasaki”.

Here is a synopsis of the project,

Urakami Cathedral,
August 9, 1945 

All That Remains will be a powerful docu-drama telling the remarkable story of Dr. Takashi Nagai, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Catholic convert and dedicated peace activist. His story is a dramatic and inspiring testament to the power of faith in the most extreme of circumstances. Indeed, many have petitioned that he be made a saint, and now it seems Dr. Nagai may soon be declared “blessed” by the church, which is the first step to sainthood.

Takashi Nagai was a Japanese doctor and sceptical man of science whose passion for the pursuit of truth led him to undertake a dramatic conversion to Christianity at a time when Western religious beliefs were especially discouraged in Japan. On the 9th of August 1945, he found himself amongst the survivors of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, where this newfound faith was to be tested in the most extreme of circumstances.

With his beloved wife one of the 70,000 killed instantly, he was left with no choice but to fulfil his duty as a doctor, tending to the multitude of wounded and dying all around him, while struggling to make sense of his own loss and the responsibility he now faced for his two children.

It would be his faith that would guide him back to Atom bombed Nagasaki, and it would be this faith that would inspire him to stay there and help rebuild a city from rubble and ash.

He would dedicate the rest of his short life to promoting world peace through his work as a writer. His first book was “The Bells Of Nagasaki”, it went on to become a bestseller though out Japan, as a nation, defeated and demoralised by war, re-discovered through his words, the healing of power of love.

Dr. Takashi Nagai died in May, 1951 of Leukaemia brought on by prolonged exposure to radiation.

He left behind two children, a 10 year old son, Makoto and a 5 year old daughter, Kayano. But he also left behind a huge collection of books, articles and personal notes, addressed to his children and to God. Through these words, the spirit of Takashi Nagai continues to live, but sadly, his story is fast fading into the obscurity of forgotten history.

Here is the trailer for the film,

I don’t know about you, but this is a film I would like to see. The film version of The Bells of Nagasaki came out in the Fall of the year 1950 in the Japanese market and is due for a refresher. Guess what? We can help!

We are also offering the opportunity for other Christians to get involved and help us make this film, the people who understand the power of faith, the people who want films that hold meaning for them.

Ian has a fundraising page here. If you can, throw a few coins in the tin cup there. Who knows? Your name may even wind up in the credits. While you’re at it, go “like” their Facebook page.

UPDATE: Dr. Nagai’s Nagasaki Funeral Address.

Yes, An Outdoor Mass Can Be Celebrated Properly

While much of the East Coast was being rained upon by a little nuisance named Irene, there was an outdoor Mass held under crystal clear skies at my parish. And no unorthodox horrors occurred,

Sunday morning mass at Knoxville’s All Saints Catholic Church was a little different this week. The several thousand-member congregation participated in both English and Spanish.

All Saint’s pastor, Father Michael Woods, led the Mass outside on the church lawn. His goal was to unite the members of his church into one large family.

“We have six definite communities here at All Saints because of the number of masses over the weekend, so they don’t get to see each other or know each other,” he said.

“So I cancelled all the masses on Sunday to just have one outdoor mass so we get to see the size of our community, the joy of our community.”

Here is a nice little video clip with an appearance by Father Michael,

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

At Mass last Sunday, Fr. Michael assured us that it wouldn’t rain for this celebration, and as you saw in the video above, it certainly did not. In the week leading up to the Mass, Fr. Michael invited all parishioners to spend an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to pray for our parishioners and for the whole Church. Well over 1000 parishioners signed up to do just that for round the clock adoration of Our Eucharistic Lord.

Last year, before a similar event, we did the same and Fr. Michael reminded us that as a result, we were blessed with 50 Catechumens and Candidates who joined the Church through our RCIA program last year. I shared that information with you earlier this year.

For the rest of the scoop on the Mass yesterday, go here.

Update: Monsignor Pope’s thoughts on martyrdom while evangelizing.

For Thoughts from the Guide for Catechists, With a Little Help From My Friends


The next time the Easter Vigil rolls around, I will have been a Catholic 4 full years. But those of you who have followed my conversion story know that I sat in the pews with my wife, and later with my children, for close to 18 years, and that I started exploring the faith in earnest in the Fall of 2006. [Read more...]

For Stuff My Abba Macarius Says About Discerning True Christians


A while back, I introduced everyone to my patron, St. Macarius the Great. He has some great homilies that help to prepare Christians for the trials and tribulations that we will encounter along this narrow path. What’s that? You don’t need to hear anything from a desert father about the inner struggle in the life of the Christian? Don’t delude yourself.

Think back over the past 9-10 years regarding scandals among the priesthood. Or better yet, look back just recently and there have been any number of implosions across the spectrum of those who profess to be good and holy Christians. I don’t have to name names, now, do I? Scandal is no stranger to the Church.
The fact of the matter is, the path of Christianity is treacherous and full of temptations, and risks of failure. As John C.H. Wu counseled yesterday, when you fall down, you have to get back up. No one is safe and as the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” There is no dearth of scandal among members of the faithful.

But often times, we go looking for earthly heroes and alleged paragons of virtue whom we think we can follow with confidence anyway, when we should just stick with Christ. If we need additional models of Christian behavior, we should just stick with the saints, whom are our brethren in the Church Triumphant, and whose behaviors point us back to Christ anyway.

Below, my patron has a few important words on sifting the posuers from the pure at heart.

Homily XXXVIII: 
Great exactness and intelligence is required to discern true Christians, and who these are.

Many who appear to be righteous are taken for Christians. It is a task for skilled men and experts to try whether such men have really the stamp and image of the King, lest perchance they should be counterfeits of the works of skilled men, and skilled men wonder at them and criticize them. But people who are not skilled cannot test deceitful workers, for they too wear the shape of monks and Christians. For the false apostles also suffered for Christ, and they also preached the kingdom of heaven. That is why the apostle says In perils more abundant, in afflictions above measure, in prisons more abundant, wishing to show that he had suffered more than they.

Gold is easily found; but pearls and precious stones which do for a king’s diadem are seldom found, for many times none that will do are found. So Christians also are built up into the crown of Christ, that those souls may be made partakers with the saints. Glory to Him who so loved that soul, suffered for it, and raised it up from the dead. But as a veil was put over the face of Moses, that the people might not gaze upon his face, so now a veil lies upon your heart, that you may not behold the glory of God. When this is taken away, then He shines forth and manifests Himself to Christians, to those who love Him and seek Him in truth, as He says, I will manifest Myself to him, and will make My abode with him.

Let us endeavor then to come to Christ, who cannot lie, that we may obtain the promise, and the new covenant, which the Lord has made new through His cross and death, having burst the gates of hell and sin and brought out the faithful souls, and given them the Comforter within, and brought them into His kingdom. Let us reign then with Him, even we, in Jerusalem, His city, in the heavenly church, in the choir of the holy angels. The brethren who have been long time exercised and tried, these can succour the less experienced, and feel for them.

For some who had made themselves sure, and had been mightily worked upon by grace of God, have found their members so sanctified that they reckoned that concupiscence does not occur in Christianity, but that they had acquired a sober and chaste mind, and that from henceforth the inward man was raised aloft to divine and heavenly things, so that they really imagined such an one to have come already to the perfect measures. And when the man imagined that he was already near the calm haven, billows rose up against him, so that he found himself again in the middle of the ocean, and was carried where sea was sky and death was ready. Thus sin entered after all, and wrought all manner of evil concupiscence.

And again a certain class of persons having some grace vouchsafed to them, and having received a drop, so to speak, out of the whole deep sea, find it hour by hour, and day by day, such a work of wonder, that the man who is under its influence is amazed and astounded at the strange, surprising operation of God, to think that he should be given such wisdom. After this, grace enlightens him, guides him, gives him peace, makes him good in every way, being itself divine and heavenly, so that in comparison with that man kings and potentates, wise men and nobles are esteemed as least and worthless.

After a time and season things change, so that of a truth such a man esteems himself a greater sinner than all others; and again at another season sees himself like a great colossal king, or a king’s powerful friend; again at another season sees himself weak and a beggar. Then the mind falls into perplexity, why things should be thus and then thus. Because Satan in his hatred of the good suggests evil things to those who attain virtue, and strives to overthrow them. That is his occupation.

But do not submit to him, while you work at the righteousness that is accomplished in the inner man, where stands the judgment seat of Christ, together with His undefined sanctuary, that the testimony of your conscience may glory in the cross of Christ, who has purged your conscience from dead works, that you may serve God with your spirit, that you may know what you worship, according to Him who said, We worship that which we know. Obey God who guides you. Let your soul have communion with Christ, as bride with bridegroom. For this mystery is great, it says; but I speak concerning Christ and the blameless soul.

To Him be the glory for ever. Amen.

Thank you. And Abba Macarius? Please pray for us.

More wisdom from Abba Macarius can be found on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Postcards from WYD: Hey…I Know That “Kid!”

Remember I told you that Marc Barnes, aka “the Kid” , and blogger at BadCatholic, was in Madrid for World Youth Day? The proof is above. That photograph is one of 106 that Life Teen International has posted over on their Facebook page. Here’s another with Marc and his buddies,

Go check them all out. And while you’re at it, go check out Marc’s post over at Virtouspla.net It’s about Superman, or something.

I Hear Guitars…And Lot’s of Reverence.

The English version of the World Youth Day theme song…sing along!

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