Because The Case for Marian Devotion Is Iron-Clad

On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it’s a good time for a little post on Marian devotion, wouldn’t you agree? Because if it’s Advent, ’tis the season for carping about Catholics and their overdone attachment to the Mother of Christ.

So I’ve got a two-for-one post to help explain this predilection of ours, via the old media (from a book you can’t find) and via the new media from a You Tube video, which ironically is based on passages from ancient media (the Bible). [Read more...]

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Because of Catholics like Hubert of Aquitane (Saints for the Rest of Us)

Wait a second, isn’t that what is on the label of a bottle of Jägermeister  liquer? What does that remotely have to do with being Catholic, you say? Is this some sort of joke, like something from Cracked? Well, let me introduce you to another Catholic saint, and all around swell guy, named Hubert of Aquitane. This is a rendition of the vision he saw while deer hunting. And yes, its on the label of a bottle of Jägermeister too.

Confessor, thirty-first Bishop of Maastricht, first Bishop of Liège, and Apostle of the Ardennes, born about 656; died at Fura (the modern Tervueren), Brabant, 30 May, 727 or 728.

Yawn, right? Yep, just another run-of-the-mill perfect saint story. Where do they come up with these guys, central casting? What happened to all the regular guy saints, like St. Peter and the rest of the crew? [Read more...]

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Because Catholics Say Stuff Like This…And Mean It

You know, like soon after their city has been devastated by a nuclear bomb. Catholics, being fallen human beings, say other stuff that is less encouraging too. But thoughts like the ones above are timeless, beautiful, and true.

I have faith that I will meet Takashi Nagai in person one day.

Which reminds me! My friends Ian and Dominic Higgins are busting their buns trying to squeeze the film version of Nagai’s life into the can before the next anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing rolls around (August 9). I’m talking about All That Remains. [Read more...]

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Because Blaise Pascal Spoke Truth to Power Like this

I love Blaise Pascal. I’ve said that before a number of times. The guy accomplished more in the thirty-nine short years of his life than I ever will, and I look forward to sharing a beer with him in Heaven. And if he doesn’t like beer, I’ll share a glass of wine with him instead.

He is a mathematical genius who can also write well. His Pensées are easy to read, easy to understand, and he gets right to the point. And as unlikely as our friendship may seem to you (dead guy genius befriends knuckle-headed, and still living, Marine), the Holy Spirit brought us together. So go figure.

[Read more...]

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Because of Jesus Christ, the Rugged Individualist…Not!

Have you bought into the lie that you can achieve everything you need or want to accomplish in this life all by yourself? I did, for a time you know, when I was a delusional pharisee. [Read more...]

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Because Love Went to Madrid, And Its Cup Runneth Over

May it find its way through to all the corners of the world. Thanks to Marc Barnes, you can see for yourself.

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Because Family Has No Perfect Picture

There are neat people everywhere. Yes, you have them in your parish too. And they are outside your parish as well, waiting for you to invite them to join the family. Or to expand your own family, like one of my fellow parishioners has done.

If one listens closely enough, His voice can be heard. It can happen at anytime and can be for any number of reasons.

For Larry Strauser and his wife of 18 years, Beverly, that time came 13 years ago.

“My wife (has a background of) Church of God and I’m Roman Catholic, and she heard the calling,” said Larry. “And I asked my pastor about it and I said, ‘I didn’t hear anything.’” So he said, ‘Larry, if your wife was called into it, you were called into it, too.’ So, we’ve been doing it ever since.”

The Strauser’s are foster parents. It’s a commitment that stands alone and there are children all over Knoxville, as well as the world, who need and want to find a loving home. Larry said after his wife heard the call, they both decided to put down roots in East Tennessee and let their faith guide them along the way.

“In 1998 we sold our businesses and we got called into the ministry working at a children’s home in Sevierville,” he said. “We worked there for five years and we decided we loved Tennessee so much that we wanted to live here. So, we bought a house out in the Karns area and went into foster care with Catholic Charities and Omnivisions. Now we have two great kids who’ve been with us for two-and-a-half years — (foster children) Ryan and Noah — they’re 10 and 13. Five years ago we adopted my son Kevin, so it’s just the five of us at home right now.”

Go read the rest here. Did I mention Larry also finds the time to be a sponsor in our parish RCIA program? Last year, 50 folks joined the Catholic family through that narrow portal.

So the family isn’t “perfect.” But her members try, and the Church provides the means of grace through the sacraments. My friend Wu Li, SJ put it this way,

Those who are known as “daily improving”
to praise the Spirit are worthy;

Day by day, and one step at a time.

Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (cf. Matt 17:20)

Lord? Help my unbelief. Amen.

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Because We’re a Pilgrim People

My father was a wandering Aramean.

Today is the Feast of St. James the Greater, brother of St. John the Evangelist. He is one of the sons of Zebedee, the “sons of thunder,” as Our Lord called them. James was the first of the Apostles to be martyred, which is interesting when you consider that Mary Salome, the mother of these two, and with them in tow, had the temerity to ask Jesus the following request,

“Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking.

Then he must have turned to these two and asked,

Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?”

They said to him, “We can.”

You’ve got to hand it to them. I mean they were nothing if not confident.

He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, (this) is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Of course, after this episode, the other ten disciples got pretty fired up at these two, and Jesus again uses it as a teachable moment and says,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Christ certainly has a way of melting animosity while bringing the focus back to seeing things as He sees and pointing us down the paradoxical path of the Way.

Speaking of St. James, feast days, paradoxes and the Way, I wanted to share with you all a couple of blog posts that you may find of interest. The first is from Teresa Doyle-Nelson’s blog Bible Saints and includes some really neat background information about James the Greater. The second is a post written by Fr. Steve Grunow of Word on Fire about the pilgrimage along “the Way of St. James,” also known as Santiago de Compostela.

My wife would be thrilled to know that I would love to fly to Provence (remember that dream?) and hike along the pilgrims path all the way to the cathedral in Santiago in Northern Spain. Wait a second…hike the route?! Ok, that may be a little over the top. Maybe a Eurail Pass would do the trick.

By the way (pun intended), I found that way cool map at the website of the Confraternity of St. James. Go check it out too!

UPDATE: Which James is which again?

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For the Paradox of the Wide Road on the Narrow Path

Joe Six-Pack, USMC here with a few brief words on Why I Am Catholic. Actually, there is one word that sums up what I am getting at with this post: pluralism. Before pitchforks and torches are mobilized, and hordes of angry, conspiracy theory influenced folks attempt to hurl themselves upon my redoubts and battlements, and risk being bitten by my ferocious and cunning battle dog, let me clarify which definition of this word I mean.

Using the handy Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, you will find the definition of pluralism, as I use it here, listed as the fourth one with two parts.

4 a: a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.

b: a concept, doctrine, or policy advocating this state

Catholic Cathedral Bamako, Mali

If when reading the definition in 4 a) you didn’t immediately notice the similarity of this with the actual makeup of the Catholic Church, think about it for a moment. Do you see it now? I don’t mean just in your particular parish, or even in your diocese, though if they are anything like mine, it may be enough. No, I mean the whole Church, the entire Body of Christ spread as she is throughout the world; every parish, and every diocese from Rome, Italy to Bamako, Mali, in all countries, from A to Z.

Whoa Frank, you may be thinking, there is only one way, and that is the Catholic way! And if you note the title of this blog, it should come as no surprise that I agree. But I do so with the caveat that within the “one way” of Catholic tradition, there are many variations that allow the adaptation of practices not only to the cultural mores of local parishes, but even extending out to the widely different charisms that give rise to the multitude of orders and societies within the Church as well.

If there was only “one way,” there would be no allowance for the orders of the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Paulists, or the Poor Clares. There would be no tolerance of the charisms of the Capuchins, the Carthusians or the Cistercians. No need for the Carmelites, the Brothers of the Holy Cross, the Redemptorists, or the Sisters of Mercy. Seriously, if there is only one way to be a faithful, Christ-centered, and blessed by grace, Catholic, the enterprise of saving the whole world was doomed to failure at the beginning.

But it wasn’t a failure. Instead, the mission has been a rousing success, in spite of all the challenges, travails, and martyrs. From the death and resurrection of the Founder, to those of our brothers and sisters that endure persecution for being faithful Catholics today, the saving mission of the Church continues on. The sharing of the Good News, and the provision of inward grace via the outward signs of grace (which are the sacraments) continues apace.

And the Church was successful, and will continue to be so, because the catholic nature of the world demands an embrace of pluralism that, frankly, the leadership of the Church understands and encourages. This is why when you hear some folks ranting about there being only one way to receive communion, only one correct way to sing songs (and even diatribes on certain songs that are in in your hymnal? Lord have mercy.), only one proper way for the Mass to be said, in only one proper language, etc, etc., there is something to remember: there is a wideness in God’s mercy within the narrow path of Catholicism.

Oh, and thank God for bishops. Who, among their many responsibilities, have one also “to affirm legitimate pluralism and to challenge simultaneously contemporary currents which exceed the boundaries of justice, holiness, and mutually forgiving love, so that the unity of truth and the unity of Spirit can be even more deeply renewed ” among the faithful and spread to the world. See Matthew 7:16.

I lifted that quote from Brother James Hanson, CSC and I’ll also share this one from the introduction of his book, If I’m a Christian, Why Be a Catholic? as well,

To be Catholic today is to live in the pluralism of the post Vatican II Church. For many the experience is as confusing as it is renewing. Gradually the dust is settling as the wheat is separated from the chaff while gently nurturing new shoots of life at the same time (Matthew 13:25-30). I am convinced that all truth is beautiful and that the revealed truth of Catholic faith is compellingly beautiful when it is properly understood. In John 10:14, Jesus called himself the good shepherd who knows his sheep and is known by them. When Pope Gregory the Great preached on that text, he wrote, “If someone does not love the truth, it is because he has not recognized it.”

I thank God for helping me to recognize it. And a huge part of that recognition is from seeing the beneficial fruits of the pluralistic policies of the Church as seen in the various approaches she allows in following her. She is so accommodating and hospitable, you know, like you would expect your best friends mom to be.

Now, Brother Hanson wrote those words 27 years ago about the Council, which concluded 19 years before he wrote them. Perhaps he was premature in saying the dust was settled, because there was plenty of threshing to be done, as there always will be. But to me, and remember, I’m just Joe Six-Pack, she believes, practiced, and continues to practice E Pluribus Unum long before that motto was adopted on the Seal of the United States (1782, for you history buffs). In fact, a variation of the phrase was used in the fourth book of the Confessions of St. Augustine (which is just another reason why I am Catholic).

Why has pluralism been a “Catholic thing” since the beginning? Well, I’ll venture to again keep things simple with a one word answer, that may require development in further posts to make it evident. Agape. A simple answer that again is seen as the reason for the saving mission of Christ, and thus of His Church,

A mustard seed

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)

And thus the mustard seed of agape was planted and now we behold the truth as the Truth Incarnate foretold us in this short parable,

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”

Not just for one kind of bird, and in a very large bush. Thanks be to God.

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Quote of the Week

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.

-Hannah Senesh, poet, playwright, and paratrooper (1921-1944)


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