Seal II (Music for Mondays)

A while back, I wrote a post about my Mustang’s harmonic balancer. It turned out that my own “harmonic balancer” was out of whack too.  When my pony sat fallow for all that time, the album that I’m about to share with you sat inside the cassette player. It, just like the car, sat there the whole time.

During the waiting period, I did a lot of work on my house. I did a lot of reading too. I was thinking about becoming a Catholic, but wasn’t committed to the idea…yet. It was the Summer of 2007, and I turned to the task of fixing my car. As I recounted in the post above, I took the ‘Stang to some pro’s. They had her fixed in no time, and on the way home from the shop, I put the top down, and turned the stereo on. And the following tunes began to play.

I had never really listened to the whole album before. I mean, not to the lyrics.  I was that fellow in the Pink Floyd song who was “comfortably numb,” see? But when these songs started playing, they hit me like a ton of bricks, lyrics and all.

I had always liked a couple of the songs, and sang them like a crazy man, occasionally, when blasting around the freeways of Los Angeles in the ‘Stang.  But after my readings and reflecting on my faith, and realizing whose harmonic balancer was really out of whack, coupled with hearing Seal sing these songs on this album, and in this order…well, let’s just say I crossed the “line of departure” and there was no turning back.

Does God work through the secular? I don’t have any doubt about it. After all, it is His world, you know.

Bring It On. This is the first song. You can go to YouTube directly for the lyrics too(for all of the songs below). I’ll just get out of Seal’s way now.

YouTube Preview Image

Prayer for the Dying. You don’t have to have AIDS to be one of the dying. This is all of us.

YouTube Preview Image

Dreaming in Metaphors. Why must we dream in metaphors?
Try to hold on to something we couldn’t understand.

YouTube Preview Image

Don’t Cry. I thought to myself, who is singing this? Our Lord, Our Lady? Both? What has the world done to me…

YouTube Preview Image

Fast Changes. There is a time to wait, and a time to act. For me, it was time to act.

YouTube Preview Image

Kiss From A Rose. I wrote a post on this one earlier here.

YouTube Preview Image

People Asking Why. I mean, I was certainly asking this question, for a long time.

How do I get to where I’ve come from, now?
How will I paint this garden I’ve destroyed, green?
Can I get back to where I’ve come from?

YouTube Preview Image

Newborn Friend. I remember thinking, Christmas in July!

YouTube Preview Image

If I Could. I would explain it all if I could. Some things just can’t be put into words.

YouTube Preview Image

I’m Alive. I heard this and the part of the lyrics you see here? I must have rewound that tape 20-25 times to make sure. Yep, I heard that right.

Your hands found me.
Blood on the cross,
And it changed my life.

YouTube Preview Image

Bring It On(Reprise). Right back where we started. Get thee to RCIA!

YouTube Preview Image

To Pray for the Flood Victims in Pakistan

Feast of Saints Eustachius

It’s still raining in Pakistan. At the end of July, some of the worst flooding ever recorded began to take place there. By early August, torrential rains caused the Indus River to rise above it’s banks, making upwards of eight million people homeless. Yes, you read that right. 8,000,000,000. Think of everyone in the entire state of Virginia being homeless, with hardly any food and barely any drinkable water, and you can imagine what is the scale of this disaster.

There has been a lot going on in the world since the end of July. None of which seems to include helping the people of Pakistan. What hasn’t happened is a huge outpouring of aid from the West to the people of this flood ravaged country. There has been no “Berlin Airlift” for the Pakistani’s, no visits from Western leaders giving speeches where they proclaim “I am a Pakistani” like President Kennedy’s “Ich Bin ein Berliner” speech.

What’s a poor boy in Tennessee to do but lift my hands up in prayer? There are hearts and minds to be won in Pakistan, but more importantly, there are mouths to feed and healthcare to provide.  An outpouring of honest to goodness charity is needed, as well as relief provided from charitable donations. Charity, the kind of love that Archbishop Sheen once said,

was not much used in the classical Greek; it was a love so noble and divine that Christianity alone made it popular. 

Below are some recent videos uploaded to YouTube by Catholic Relief Services. Take a look  at them and read the news releases here, here, here, and here.

If you have the means, please send them what you can. But please, send the people of Pakistan, God’s children,  your prayers.

YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image

Listen My Son, St. Benedict for Fathers (A Book Review)

This is a first for me, as I’ve never been asked to write a book review before. But a few months back, I wrote a post about how a particular section in the Rule of St. Benedict resonated with me as a father. It turns out, that I wasn’t alone.

Full disclosure time: Father Dwight Longenecker offered to send me a copy of his book at no cost if I would do a review of it. I accepted his kind offer, even though I had no idea how to write a proper review. I still don’t. But since Father D. does such a good job with this, it isn’t difficult for me to recommend this book to fathers, or anyone in a leadership position.

I’ll confess that I was skeptical of applying the entire rule to fatherhood and family life. It helps a lot to know that when Father D. wrote this, he was a novice oblate, and a former Anglican priest. Married and a father of four, he has some real-world experience in being a dad. Nowadays, he is still a husband, a dad, and a Roman Catholic priest. He is a parish priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Greenville, South Carolina. He also blogs at Standing On My Head.

What Father D. has done with this book is break the entire Rule of St. Benedict up into daily reflections.  He has devised a scheme whereby you can read the rule three times over the course of a one-year period. For example, Chapter VII of the Rule, Humility, would be read on January 25th, March 26th, and September 25th. In this way, the Rule is divided into bite-sized morsels, and so are Father D.’s reflections. Let’s take a look. First, St. Benedict:

Brothers, Holy Scripture cries aloud to us saying, ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ When it says this it is teaching that all exaltation is a kind of pride. And the Prophet shows that he himself was on his guard against it when he said, ‘Lord, my heart has no lofty ambitions, my eyes do not look too high; I am not concerned with great affairs or marvels beyond my scope.’ Why thus? ‘If I did not think humbly, but exalted my soul, as a child on the mothers breast is weaned, so did you treat my soul.’

Father D. then provides a short reflection on the virtue of humility, usually no more than four paragraphs. Here is an excerpt.

For Benedict, humility is linked with self-knowledge. The truly humble person is the prodigal son, who gets to the very bottom of his resources, where, as the Authorized Version puts it, he ‘comes to himself’(Luke 15.17) and realizes his need of the father’s love. This kind of self-knowledge does not grovel before others. Nor does it indulge in maudlin self-pity or overblown guilt. Instead, it is a clear, hard, and realistic self-appraisal.

Father D., then expands a bit more, freely helping explain Benedict’s thoughts on humility as it relates to pride and further explaining, and referencing, the quotes from Scripture that Benedict used in the section of the Rule that is being read on this particular day. He also dips into other resources in his reflections, from the works of other saints as well as from other Scriptures that help bring clarity to applying the rule to the role of fatherhood.

I would go further and say that his reflections also help anyone, be they a father, or simply someone who fills a leadership role, apply the Rule of St. Benedict in their daily life. After all, that is what the rule was intended to do; to take Christianity and apply it practically to life within a community.

Father D.’s reflections help to keep the Rule relevant for those of us who are shepherding flocks inside our homes, or at work, rather than inside the confines of the cloister.

For Peace While Suffering (A Few Words for Wednesday)

From this mornings Office of Readings in the LOTH, there is the following Psalm of David. I have several family members who are elderly and ill, as you probably do too. Webster wrote recently of a friend who is suffering from an illness that is likely the door to her immortality.

But whether we depart suddenly or slowly, we will depart. Ponder then, these few words of David, where with hope and faith, the door leads us home, refreshed, and unto God.

Psalm 39
Dixi custodiam. A just man’s peace and patience in his sufferings; considering the vanity of the world, and the providence of God.

Unto the end, for Idithun himself, a canticle of David.

I said: I will take heed to my ways:
that I sin not with my tongue.
I have set a guard to my mouth,
when the sinner stood against me.

I was dumb, and was humbled,
and kept silence from good things:
and my sorrow was renewed.
My heart grew hot within me:
and in my meditation a fire shall flame out.
I spoke with my tongue:
O Lord, make me know my end.
And what is the number of my days:
that I may know what is wanting to me.

Behold you have made my days measurable
and my substance is as nothing before you.
And indeed all things are vanity: every man living.
Surely man passes as an image:
yea, and he is disquieted in vain.
He stores up: and he knows not for whom
he shall gather these things.

And now what is my hope?
Is it not the Lord?
And my substance is with you.
Deliver me from all my iniquities:
you have made me a reproach to the fool.
I was dumb, and I opened not my mouth,
because you have done it.

Remove your scourges from me.
The strength of your hand has made me faint in rebukes:
You have corrected man for iniquity.
And you have made his soul to waste away like a spider:
surely in vain is any man disquieted.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and my supplication:
give ear to my tears.
Be not silent: for I am a stranger with you,
and a sojourner as all my fathers were.
O forgive me, that I may be refreshed,
before I go hence, and be no more.

With God’s Grace And A Little Help From My Friends

When I was a newly minted Marine, fresh out of boot camp and on my way into life, I was certain that I could lick it. Everything was possible, and all would be right in the world. Well, maybe not the whole world, but my world would be just fine. I realized that I was no all-powerful genie, but I had complete confidence in the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. The winner, which I knew I was, would take all. [Read more...]

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 9)

As we finish this novena, I’d like to thank readers who prayed along with me. What changes did you experience in yourself as you followed this spiritual discipline? Please share in the comment section below.

This novena has given structure to my days and given me St. Joan of Arc’s presence as a spiritual companion. My special intention during this novena was to ask God to find me a job so I may help support my family. I’ve been searching for work for two years. During that time, I returned to school for retraining so I might become a teacher.

In the middle of my novena days, God answered my prayer. I was offered not one, but two, full-time jobs as a high school English teacher. This was more of a blessing than I could have imagined. I have accepted one of the jobs and begin work soon at a large suburban high school, where I will be a Special Education teacher in the English Department.

We should not consider novenas quid pro quo arrangements, or engage in, as one priest so aptly calls it, dispensing-machine Catholicism. But the more we develop a relationship with Our Lord through prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the Church, the better our communication becomes. Like any relationship we care about, we need to spend time together. God does answer prayer.

He did so with Saint Joan of Arc. While she died a tortuous death at the stake, undoubtedly her soul flew peacefully to heaven. The Church eventually restored her reputation and confirmed her as a saint. Her mother, Isabelle Romée (depicted in sculplture in the photo above), began that process after her daughter’s death. An illiterate woman like St. Joan, Isabelle, taught her children the beauty of the faith. After her daughter’s death, she petitioned the Church for a retrial. A comprehensive trial involving clergy from across Europe concluded in 1456 – 25 years after St. Joan’s death –  that the young peasant girl was a martyr.

The nullification trial opened with St. Joan’s mother speaking. Now a widow, who had lost two other children in addition to Joan, she traveled to Paris in the winter to attend the trial. Imagine how she felt as she uttered this testimony on November 7, 1455.

 I had a daughter born in lawful wedlock who grew up amid the fields and pastures. I had her baptized and confirmed and brought her up in the fear of God. I taught her respect for the traditions of the Church as much as I was able to do given her age and simplicity of her condition. I succeeded so well that she spent much of her time in church and after having gone to confession she received the sacrament of the Eucharist every month. Because the people suffered so much, she had a great compassion for them in her heart and despite her youth she would fast and pray for them with great devotion and fervor. She never thought, spoke or did anything against the faith. Certain enemies had her arraigned in a religious trial. 

Despite her disclaimers and appeals, both tacit and expressed, and without any help given to her defense, she was put through a perfidious, violent, iniquitous and sinful trial. The judges condemned her falsely, damnably and criminally, and put her to death in a cruel manner by fire. For the damnation of their souls and in notorious, infamous and irreparable loss to me, Isabelle, and mine. I demand that her name be restored.”

When Isabelle was 78, the court found the Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, guilty of heresy. The man had manipulated St. Joan’s trial and sent her death into motion to suit his own political agenda. The Church canonized St. Joan of Arc in 1920, 500 years after her martyrdom.

Dear Saint Joan, Thank you for accompanying me throughout the day, and in the work that I did. Thank you also for your guidance and your counsel. Please help me to listen to God and to you, dear Saint, that I may do what I am called to do. Please intercede on my behalf and beg God to take all my faults and turn them into virtues. I thank you for all you have done for me, and all the things you have interceded for on my behalf. Please continue to pray for me and for all the souls who need it.

St. Joan of Arc, Pray for us. Amen.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 8)

St. Joan of Arc knew she would die a martyr’s death long before those around her did. She crowned Charles VII king at the Cathedral at Reims in July 1429, fulfilling a central part of her mission. Two months later, she led an unsuccessful attempt to liberate Paris. The following May she was captured by the Burgundians, allies of the English. Betrayed by King Charles VII, she was sold to the English for 10,000 gold francs. Charged with heresy and witchcraft, she was tried, and found guilty of heresy in a church court (they had to throw out the witchcraft charges because an examination by a duchess found St. Joan to be a virgin) by men with a clearly political agenda.


Bishop Pierre Cauchon of the Diocese of Beauvais orchestrated the whole thing. He was a zealot for England and chose a biased jury. He falsified evidence, suppressed findings favorable to St. Joan, terrorized jurors, and refused St. Joan’s repeated appeals to the Council of Basel and the pope. 
 You can find the trial transcripts here. The English burned Joan of Arc to death on May 30, 1431. Then they burned her body twice more to prevent the collection of relics.

As she was dying, St. Joan asked two priests to hold a crucifix before her face. As it had throughout her life, St. Joan’s gaze remained on Christ as she, like him, endured an unjust and painful death.

Glorious St. Joan of Arc, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection…(mention here).

Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints praise Him through all eternity.

O most powerful Saint Joan, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven, forever and ever. Amen.


This is the spot in Rouen’s Old Market Square where St. Joan was burned at the stake.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 7)

One remarkable aspect of exploring the life of St. Joan of Arc through this novena is all the characters I have discovered; folks who helped her to achieve her mission or who played a role in letting the world know about it. I’ve met Yolande of Aquitaine, a royal dynamo who was among the first to believe Joan’s visions were divine, and Étienne de Vignolles , the crude knight she convinced to join her cause and whose heart she converted.

Just last night I met Venetian-born poet, mother, widow and nun Christine de Pisan, (above) who challenged the prevalent misogyny of medieval times and was its most prolific female writer. Hers is the only record of St. Joan of Arc that exists outside of court documents of her trial.

Born into an educated family 47 years before St. Joan, Christine de Pisan was married at age 15 and widowed with three children by the time she was 25.  She turned to writing to support her children. Her patrons were members of the French nobility. She began by writing love ballads but quickly expanded into other genres.

“Her writings in prose and verse soon gained her great renown. Her contemporaries compared her eloquence with that of Cicero and her wisdom with that of Cato. Prompted by necessity she wrote incessantly. She declares herself that “in the short space of six years, between 1397 and 1403, she wrote fifteen important books, without mentioning minor essays, which, compiled, make seventy large copy-books.”  In her mid-fifties, Christine of Pisan  entered a Dominican convent where her daughter was a nun. Sher wrote her final work, The Tale of Saint Joan,  at the convent while St. Joan led successful military campaigns. Here is an excerpt.

XXIV

When I reflect upon your state,
The youthful maiden that you are,
To whom God gives the force and strength
To be the champion and the one
To suckle France upon her milk
Of peace, the sweetest nourishment,
To overthrow the rebel host:
The wonder passes Nature’s work!

XXVI

But as for us, we’ve never heard
About a marvel quite so great,
For all the heroes who have lived
In history can’t measure up
In bravery against the Maid,
Who strives to rout our enemies.
It’s God does that, who’s guiding her
Whose courage passes that of men.

XXVIII

And Esther, Judith, Deborah,
Those ladies of enormous worth,
Through them it was that God restored
His people, who were sorely pressed;
Of many others I have learned,
Courageous ladies, valiant all,
Through whom God worked his miracles.
But through the Maid He’s done much more.

Glorious St. Joan of Arc, filled with compassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer, heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I kneel at your feet and humbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection…(mention here).

Vouchsafe to recommend it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and lay it before the throne of Jesus. Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace to one day meet God face to face and with you and Mary and all the angels and saints praise Him through all eternity.

O most powerful Saint Joan, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain for me the grace of winning my way to heaven, forever and ever. Amen.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 6)

St. Joan of Arc is both a saint and a warrior. As a military leader, she is best known for marshaling French troops during the Siege of Orléans (1428 to 1429), breaking 80 years of English dominance during the Hundred Years’ War between the two nations. She was 17 years old at the time.

Orléans is a city on the Loire River in north-central France and had major significance to both the French and English during the Hundred Years’ War. This siege was the high-water mark  of English power during the long conflict.

At the time,  Orléans was the northernmost city in France that remained loyal to the French monarchy. England already had invaded and controlled much of northern France. Many believed that if the English would maintain their siege, eventually they would conquer all of France. Nine days after St. Joan of Arc showed up, the siege collapsed. Before that time, the French had only tried one assault to repel the English during the siege, and that had resulted in a crushing, demoralizing, defeat.

St. Joan, in following God’s commands, served her countrymen who had been oppressed by the English. Her cause lead her into battle where she continued to honor God by encouraging purity and morality from her fellow soldiers.

St. Joan fulfilled God’s mission through justice–the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor; establishing harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. 

She, by honoring God’s commandments, fulfills his foremost law: love. 

Saint Joan, Your my example both by word and life; Let God Be First Served, I pray that in my own life this will also be the example of my life in service to God.

Saint Joan, Patriot in the service to your God and country; Pray for me.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 5)

To some who are not Catholic, and heck to some who are, novenas seems like superstition, a relic of folk religion. Novenas are not incantations; they do not offer us magic if only we say certain words or do certain things. Alas, some Catholics are misguided about novenas. Have you ever attended a Mass where someone had stuck a copy of a novena to St. Jude in a pew? The flier says that if you go to church for nine days and leave a copy of the prayer behind, your request will be granted. This is a misuse of the Catholic treasure of a novena.

Father William P. Saunders, refers to this practice as “dispensing—machine Catholicism; just as a person puts the coin in the vending machine and presses the button to get the desired soda, here a person says the prayer, goes to Church, and is supposedly guaranteed that the request will be granted. So much for God’s will. What is really sad these days is that the person simply Xeroxes the letter; one would think they could at least hand-write it.” So what is a novena, exactly?

We set aside a time over nine days, and ask a certain saint to pray for us. Right now, I am praying my very first novena and perhaps some of you are praying along with me. I am meditating and learning about the life of Saint Joan of Arc, and asking her to pray for a special intention of mine.

I prefer to pray the same prayer to Saint Joan every day; it helps keep me disciplined and stick to the novena. But you can pray whatever you like. You can simply say “Saint Joan, pray for me in my time of trouble.” Novenas are not quid pro quo arrangements. It’s not as if I want X and if I pray a novena, Christ will grant me X. Perhaps at the nine days’ end, I will discern that X isn’t what Christ wants for me anyway. Perhaps I will find out that peace and joy come when I don’t receive what I think I need.

Having never prayed a novena before, I am discovering some of its benefits. Because I am praying the novena each morning, it  shapes to my days. I am praying, with Saint Joan near me as a heavenly companion. That helps keep me focused on Christ throughout my day. I feel Saint Joan’s  presence beside me.

For those of you who prefer variety in your novena prayers, here is another Novena to Saint Joan I found. This one focuses on soldiers everywhere.

O Joan, holy liberator of France, the powerful holy force in the days of old, as you yourself said, “Peace would be found only at the point of a lance,” who used the weapons of war when no other means were able to obtain a just Peace, take care and help today those who do not want to do viol
ence and patiently try to employ all possible peaceful means of resolution, but now allow the violence of war.

Heroine of Orleans, transmit to our leaders, your talent to inspire your soldiers to accomplish great deeds of valor, in order that our soldiers’ efforts will come to a rapid and successful end.

Triumphant One of Reims, prepare for us the just peace under the shield of a force that will be henceforth vigilant! Martyr of Rouen, be near to all the soldiers who fall in battle, in order to support, console, and help them and those dear ones that they leave behind.

Saint of the Country, excite in all souls, in every home of the world, the zeal to contribute to the salvation of the world and the return of peace, works which you crave, the rediscovery of a more Christian life, through holy thoughts and actions, forgiveness and persistent prayer, that as you yourself once said, “God must be served first.” Amen.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X