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.

Because of a Marine in Charge of Justice and Peace



Originally published on February 10, 2010.

Before I was a Catholic, yet seriously considering  the idea of becoming one, my wife made a suggestion to me.  My daughter was preparing for her First Communion and while the children were being prepared, there was someone speaking to the parents in the parish hall in the interim.  My wife said he was a very good speaker and that I might enjoy what this person had to say. I was dubious, to say the least. [Read more...]

Thoughts on the Economy: Catholic, and Not

Ok, class. Today’s lesson is on a little thing called “regression to the mean.” That’s a fancy way of saying that when something gets out of whack, you know, like when one thing shoots for the stars while everything else is holding steady, see, well, it will move back to where it belongs. And usually suddenly. Like a bursting bubble, which by now everyone with a pulse and a 401k is familiar with. Right? [Read more...]

Thoughts on the Vicissitudes of Michael Voris & Co. UPDATED

Actually, I have none. Really. I mean stuff like this happens all the time to me. I’m a father of three children and they are all the time doing stuff that a) I don’t know about; b) I don’t approve of; and c) that I didn’t teach them to do. Guess what? I love them anyway.

Is it scandalous? Only if he lets pride lead him by the nose. Is it embarrassing? You betcha. A dad knows, and a mom does too. I mean, if I had a nickel for every time my kids did something to disappoint me, I’d be a rich man. Of course, I’d be a lonely, Silas Marner, scrooge of a misanthropic man, no doubt. You know, the kind who never wanted children in the first place. But I’d probably think I was well off materially, of course. But spiritually? I’d be a wreck without them in my life.

Nope. You can’t run from the Cross, neither as parents nor as presidents of your own non-profit/for-profit, gig. You have to weather the vicissitudes of life, because ready or not, here they come. I suspect that things will get tightened up in the departments that have been lax, and I’m just as sure that eventually something new will rise up to take their place to harry him. I mean, I know this: it’s non-stop for me.

That’s why the saints teach us to be humble and to pray. It’s also why humility is the virtue that has the most telling effect on those with whom we interact with in our life as Christians. It very much explains why the “pitchfork and torches” or “drawn swords” modus operandi is generally a non-starter in the work of winning souls to Christ.

Deacon Greg Kandra, Elizabeth Scalia , and Mark Shea all have something to say on this news anyway (or will soon). I’ll just go back to trying to figure out what kind of bird this is. Help me out if you can.

UPDATE: The bird has been identified! Thanks Ramona.

UPDATE II:  Mark Shea’s charitable post today.

UPDATE III: From Madrid, Michael Voris responds.

UPDATE IV: What Should Michael Voris learn from this?

Because Yes, Baseball and Faith Are Compatible

H/T to Our Sunday Visitor for catching this ground ball and throwing it to me on second base. I first learned of Florida Marlins manager Jack MeKeon’s piety while watching  the video Champions of Faith with my children a few years back.


Long time readers of YIMCatholic know I’m a baseball fan. So I was glad to see this story  highlighting Jack’s faith in the New York Times this morning. Take a look.

Jack McKeon’s baseball days begin in a pew. At 8 on Tuesday morning, the Florida Marlins’ manager attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, less than 12 hours after his team beat the Mets on a 10th-inning grand slam. Such games are testament to his faith in the saint he prays to every game during the national anthem.

“A good night for St. Thérèse,” he said, sitting in the lounge of a Midtown Manhattan hotel.

In each major league city, McKeon has a favorite, or at least a convenient, Roman Catholic church. If he does not know their names, he can describe them or tell you how to get there. In Cincinnati, it’s SS. Peter and Paul. In Chicago, Mass is at Holy Name Cathedral. In Philadelphia, he goes to what he calls “the oldest church in the U.S.” When the Marlins stayed at a hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, he followed these directions: “Walk out the door, take a left, walk 30 yards, and take a right, where the homeless hang out.”

For each of the regular churches in his personal directory, he learns the Mass schedule.
“At St. Patrick’s it’s 7, 7:30, 8, noon and 12:30,” he said. “They’re very flexible.”
Mornings at church “give me energy,” he said. “You’re free. You feel good.” His daily ritual is part of a baseball routine that is now in its 62nd year, stretching back to D League ball in Greenville, Ala.

Hey, Jack and I have two things in common now! Go enjoy the rest here.

The 27 Club (Music for Mondays)

Photo credit: Syzmanski 

This past weekend, the news out of the UK was that singer, songwriter Amy Winehouse died. I’m not sure what the autopsy will show, but the press says her death was possibly from a drug overdose.

I really wasn’t a big fan of hers because I never really got around to hearing her music. I do remember her being splashed all over the internet, and by extension I guess that means the tabloids too.

I was saddened to hear of her passing though. It’s heart-breaking to learn of the demise of anyone with a gift that delights the world. At such a tender age, she was catapulted to fame, and her reaction to it may have contributed to her undoing. It could happen to any of us. It has happened to many others in her line of work.

And so it is that the newest member of the 27 Club will be put to rest. And as a kind of requiem music post, I do not wish to celebrate her crossing over into the select group of deceased musicians who preceded her in membership of this “club” by dying at the same young age. But she does join the company of some rock n’ roll music legends and I’ll share with you a few of them today. I said a prayer for her soul, and for the souls of those who preceded her.

Amy Winehouse, Back to Black. I’m a horrible consumer of recently popular music. As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to the latest stuff, I live under a rock. So I was surprised when I saw this haunting video from what the rest of you know as being from Amy Winehouse’s album that won five (5!) Grammy Awards. The imagery in this selection is all too prophetic. And in a way, this song may even help us remember those whose deaths have been eclipsed by hers in the news.

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The Rolling Stones, Paint It Black. A charter member of the “27 Club” is Brian Jones, the founder of the Rolling Stones. He died under “mysterious” circumstances (death by misadventure?!) a month after leaving the band on July 3, 1969, at the age of 27. On this particular song, he is playing the sitar, which is the signature sound on this hit that went to #1 both in the U.S. and the U.K. in 1966. It seems Brian could play almost any instrument he took a fancy to.

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Jimi Hendrix, All Along the Watchtower. Next on the club list, the innovative, ex-paratrooper, guitar genius named Jimi Hendrix. He died on September 18, 1970 from a combination of drugs and alcohol. Check him out as he covers Bob Dylan’s classic that he made his own in this live performance from the year he died. Hendrix could have played guitar upside down and sideways too. In fact, he did. He was a lefty, so he turned the classic Fender Stratocaster right-hand model upside down and strung it backwards for his purposes. He took the electric guitar to places no one even thought possible.

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Janis Joplin, Try (Just a Little Bit Harder). Janis Joplin had a lot in common with Amy Winehouse. A soulful voice, with a deep range. The ability to belt out tunes in a way that just made you realize that she poured every ounce of herself into it. Maybe so much that she thought there was nothing left. She died on October 4, 1970 of a possible heroin overdose. This is from a performance on the Dick Cavett Show on July 18, 1969. This song does not need a little more “cow bell,” if you know what I mean.

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The Doors, Break On Through (To the Other Side). July 3, 1971 on the second anniversary of Brian Jones death, Jim Morrison, the lead singer and lyricist of the Doors died in Paris, France. Cause of death? Heart failure is what the coroner came up with. Steve Huey, his biographer writes, he “would often improvise poem passages while the band played live, which was his trademark. He is widely regarded, with his wild personality and performances, as one of the most iconic, charismatic and pioneering frontmen in rock music history.” Val Kilmer played him in Oliver Stone’s movie. I’ll have to check it out.

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Nirvana, All Apologies. Aside from Amy Winehouse, I was too young when the rest of the members of this select group passed to remember a thing about their departures. Oh, I remember when Elvis died, but he wasn’t 27 years old. And he died when I was old enough to remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. But when Kurt Cobain committed suicide by a shotgun blast on April 5, 1994? I remembered thinking that it was just a sad and tragic waste; a loss not just to his band and fans, but to his recently started family. He personified the Seattle “grunge rock” genre.

This video is from an MTV Unplugged episode that aired 4 months before Kurt took his own life. Current Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl (who was the drummer for Nirvana) and guitarist Pat Smear, who Cobain added to relieve some of the pressure off himself, can be seen playing here as well.

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Thoughts on Obedience and Reading Maps without Guidance

Today, while making the rounds around the blogger neighborhood, I saw a great quote on a subject that is not near and dear to the heart of modern mankind: obedience. Deacon Greg Kandra shared the thoughts of a modern saint on the subject,

Your obedience is not worthy of the name unless you are ready to abandon your most flourishing work whenever someone with authority so commands…Oh, the power of obedience! The Lake of Genesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again into the water and they caught ‘a great number of fishes.’ Believe me, this miracle is repeated every day. –St. Josemaria Escriva [Read more...]

For the Work of On-Going Personal Conversion (Part I)

I’ve written in the past about the deleterious side effects of cults of personality. If I wasn’t clear before, let me rectify the situation and say that I believe in the only cult of personality that really matters. It is the same one that all of the saints point us towards: the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Church is built around this, and this alone. One of the reasons I am a Catholic now is that I believe I became ready to move past the milk and head on to the solid food of the Faith. Prior to my conversion, I was a milk drinker for so long that I grew tired of it. So I left and as a result, I almost missed the feast that awaits Christians that persevere along the Way.

One way I have found that helps me stay grounded in the faith is to follow the advice of St. Philip Neri,

It is very useful for those who minister the Word of God, or give themselves up to prayer, to read the works of authors whose names begin with S., such as Saint Augustine, Saint Bernard, etc.

Or in the case today, the works of St. Catherine of Siena. What follows is from Chapter 63 of her Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin. How do I know it’s chapter 63? Because something I was reading that was written by Father Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. identified it as such in his The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life. How did I find out about his book? From the tip I received from the Chinese “Chesterton”, and author of The Three-fold Way of Love, John C.H. Wu. See?

Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

The common thread among these folks, and the other saints (such as St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, and others), is that Christianity is not just a “one-and-done” conversion. Far from it.

As Christians, see, through no merit of our own, we help spread the Good News, while the saints help us to persevere in the faith in that which we cannot see. In the passage below, God gives information through a vision of St. Catherine that points out how after our first conversion, the second must be attained, which leads unto the third. Come and see,

How the Soul, after having mounted the first step of the Bridge, should proceed to Mount the Second.

“Thou hast now seen how excellent is the state of him who has attained to the love of a friend ; climbing with the foot of affection, he has reached the secret of the Heart, which is the second of the three steps figured in the Body of My Son. I have told thee what was meant by the three powers of the soul, and now I will show thee how they signify the three states, through which the soul passes. Before treating ‘ of the third state, I wish to show thee how a man becomes a friend and how, from a friend, he grows into a son, attaining to filial love, and how a man may know if he has become a friend. And first of how a man arrives at being a friend.”

“In the beginning, a man serves Me imperfectly through servile fear, but, by exercise and perseverance, he arrives at the love of delight, finding his own delight and profit in Me. This is a necessary stage, by which he must pass, who would attain to perfect love, to the love that is of friend and son. I call filial love perfect, because thereby, a man receives his inheritance from Me, the Eternal Father, and because a son’s love includes that of a friend, which is why I told thee that a friend grows into a son. What means does he take to arrive thereat ? I will tell thee.”

“Every perfection and every virtue proceeds from charity, and charity is nourished by humility, which results from the knowledge and holy hatred of self, that is, sensuality. To arrive thereat, a man must persevere, and remain in the cellar of self-knowledge in which he will learn My mercy, in the Blood of My onlybegotten Son, drawing to Himself, with this love, My divine charity, exercising himself in the extirpation of his perverse self-will, both spiritual and temporal, hiding himself in his own house, as did Peter, who, after the sin of denying My Son, began to weep. Yet his lamentations were imperfect and remained so, until after the forty days, that is until after the Ascension.”

“But when My Truth returned to Me, in His humanity, Peter and the others concealed themselves in the house, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, which My Truth had promised them. They remained barred in from fear, because the soul always fears until she arrives at true love. But when they had persevered in fasting and in humble and continual prayer, until they had received the abundance of the Holy Spirit, they lost their fear, and followed and preached Christ crucified. So also the soul, who wishes to arrive at this perfection, after she has risen from the guilt of mortal sin, recognising it for what it is, begins to weep from fear of the penalty, whence she rises to the consideration of My mercy, in which contemplation, she finds her own pleasure and profit. This is an imperfect state, and I, in order to develop perfection in the soul, after the forty days, that is after these two states, withdraw Myself from time to time, not in grace but in feeling. My Truth showed you this when He said to the disciples ‘I will go and will return to you.’”

“Everything that He said was said primarily, and in particular, to the disciples, but referred in general to the whole present and future, to those, that is to say, who should come after. He said ‘I will go and will return to you;’ and so it was, for, when the Holy Spirit returned upon the disciples, He also returned, as I told you above, for the Holy Spirit did not return alone, but came with My power, and the wisdom of the Son, who is one thing with Me, and with His own clemency, which proceeds from Me the Father, and from the Son. Now, as I told thee, in order to raise the soul from imperfection, I withdraw Myself from her sentiment, depriving her of former consolations.”

“When she was in the guilt of mortal sin, she had separated herself from Me, and I deprived her of grace through her own guilt, because that guilt had barred the door of her desires. Wherefore the sun of grace did not shine, not through its own defect, but through the defect of the creature, who bars the door of desire. When she knows herself and her darkness, she opens the window and vomits her filth, by holy confession. Then I, having returned to the soul by grace, withdraw Myself from her by sentiment, which I do in order to humiliate her, and cause her to seek Me in truth, and to prove her in the light of faith, so that she come to prudence. Then, if she love Me without thought of self, and with lively faith and with hatred of her own sensuality, she rejoices in the time of trouble, deeming herself unworthy of peace and quietness of mind.”

“Now comes the second of the three things of which I told thee, that is to say: how the soul arrives at perfection, and what she does when she is perfect. This is what she does. Though she perceives that I have withdrawn Myself, she does not, on that account, look back, but perseveres with humility in her exercises, remaining barred in the house of self-knowledge, and, continuing to dwell therein, awaits, with lively faith, the coming of the Holy Spirit, that is of Me, who am the fire of charity.”

“How does she (the soul) await me? Not in idleness, but in watching and continued prayer, and not only with physical, but also with intellectual watching, that is, with the eye of her mind alert, and, watching with the light of faith, she extirpates, with hatred, the wandering thoughts of her heart, looking for the affection of My charity, and knowing that I desire nothing but her sanctification, which is certified to her in the Blood of My Son. As long as her eye thus watches, illumined by the knowledge of Me and of herself, she continues to pray with the prayer of holy desire, which is a continued prayer, and also with actual prayer, which she practises at the appointed times, according to the orders of Holy Church.”

“This is what the soul does in order to rise from imperfection and arrive at perfection, and it is to this end, namely that she may arrive at perfection, that I withdraw from her, not by grace but by sentiment. Once more do I leave her, so that she may see and know her defects, so that, feeling herself deprived of consolation and afflicted by pain, she may recognise her own weakness, and learn how incapable she is of stability or perseverance, thus cutting down to the very root of spiritual self-love, for this should be the end and purpose of all her self-knowledge, to rise above herself, mounting the throne of conscience, and not permitting the sentiment of imperfect love to turn again in its death-struggle, but, with correction and reproof, digging up the root of self love, with the knife of self-hatred and the love of virtue.”

More from St. Catherine’s Dialogue can be found on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. I’ll post more on this subject with thoughts from my Franciscan mentor, Francisco de Osuna.

Christian Thoughts On Private Property: What Ayn Rand Missed, Part II

Still in my library, I found the following selection on the subject of private property, and of “the state,” in Life of Leo XIII And the History Of His Pontificate. Ayn Rand missed this book as well as Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. Perhaps this is just a case of too much writing and too little research. That’s what I think anyway. Of course, she was a novelist, so facts weren’t necessary (head-slap). [Read more...]


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