For the Faith of Andrea Doria at Lepanto

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed reading history. Usually, I wasn’t reading the history that I was supposed to be reading in the classroom.  I really didn’t do that well in school until I served two hitches in the Marines and then decided to get out and go to college. Grade school and high school? Homework, schmomework!


When Christmas loomed in our house though, my mom knew what I was interested in and what presents to get me: military history books. Ships, planes, tanks, armies, navies and air forces were her sure-fire ticket to success for Frank. In one of those books I learned about the Andrea Doria.

The ironic thing is that this wasn’t a warship. But it was famous because of one of the most heroic stories of a rescue at sea, after a collision. The rescue was so impressive,  that it wound up in one of the books I was reading. It never, ever, occurred to me that Andrea Doria was a man, nor what importance he held in the history of Christendom, or in Western Civilization. I definitely had no idea what Our Lady of Guadalupe had to do with him either. I was a kid (a non-Catholic one, to boot), remember? I just figured it was a feminine name given to a cruise ship.

Now, though, I know better.

Today, you see, is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It used to be commemorated as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, because on this date in the year of Our Lord 1571, the Battle of Lepanto was fought and won by a smaller, underdog coalition of European Christian forces, primary Catholic and Orthodox, with a smattering of Protestant support, over the larger, and seemingly invincible forces of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. Giovanni Andrea Doria was one of the Admirals on the Christian side, in command of the Fortuna.
This may be news to you, but the Ottoman Empire had been cleaning the clocks of Christian nations, and conquering the same, since the collapse of the Roman Empire. All that hoopla about the Crusades? Well, the Crusades were a failure. And wherever the Islamic forces won, which they did early and often, Christianity, and most, if not all of the freedoms that grow out of the Faith, ceased to be. But don’t take my word for it, crack open a history book or two or visit North Africa, Spain and Portugal.

To me, though, the most interesting part of this war story is that while preparing for the battle, Admiral Dorea went down to his quarters and prayed in front of a reproduction of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You may recall that image appeared on a certain Mexican peasants tilma in the year 1531. And,

Andrea Doria had kept a copy of the miraculous image of our Our Lady of Guadalupe given to him by King Philip II of Spain in his ship’s state room.

After this prayer break, the wind turned in favor of the Christian allies, giving them advantages, the much sought after weather guage, which was detrimental to the Ottoman forces.  As a result, the undermanned, but heavily armed Christians, known as the Holy League, defeated the Ottoman forces in a naval battle for the very first time. Ever.

Big deal? G.K. Chesterton thought so, as he wrote a great poem about this event. Does prayer make a difference? Pope St. Pius V thought so, because prior to the battle, he asked all of Europe to pray the Rosary to ensure victory. According to the Wikipedia citation,

The Holy League credited the victory to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary. 

Take a look at the image below.

What is the Blessed Virgin standing on? Looks like a darkened crescent moon, yes? For more on Our Lady, the significance of this image, Lepanto, Fatima, the Rosary, Islam and what it all may mean, click on this link from our good friends over at EWTN. And then check out Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s thoughts on this matter as well.

YouTube Preview Image

To Pray for Rihanna and the Farmer

Rihanna showing too much skin? So says an Irish farmer. Around his neck of the woods he’s known as “the Christian.” Rihanna & Co. wanted to shoot a music video on his property, and he agreed until he saw how scantily clad she was. Here’s the scoop,

A Christian farmer in Northern Ireland who allowed pop star Rihanna to film a music video in his wheat field, asked her to leave when he saw she was half naked.

Farmer Alan Graham also encouraged the global star – infamous for her risqué performances – to seek after God and his Son Jesus Christ.

He has been praised for showing a strength of belief that was once commonplace, and for standing up against “the sexualistion of society and our celebrity culture”.

Mr Graham said he has no ill will towards the singer, but he asked the film crew to stop shooting the video when things got out of hand.

“I thought it was inappropriate. I requested them to stop and they did,” he explained.

“I had my conversation with Rihanna and I hope she understands where I’m coming from. We shook hands,” he said.

Mr Graham confessed that he had never heard of Rihanna when he was first contacted about using his field for a music video.

He said: “I didn’t know who was coming. If the name ‘Rihanna’ had been mentioned, well, no disrespect but it wouldn’t have meant anything.”

He also said: “Everybody needs to be acquainted with God and to consider his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his death and Resurrection.”

Read the rest here. Only 23 years old, Rihanna has had a meteoric rise to fame. There are only 45 million fans on her Facebook page. She has also been abused by her high-profile boyfriend a few years back.

Offer up a prayer for her, so that Mr. Graham’s chivalrous, and Christian, action helps her realize that she is a pawn of an industry (and culture) that seeks to profit off of turning her into an object. While you’re at it, say a prayer for Mr. Graham too,

He has since been inundated with hate mail from her some of her fans – but despite the fuss, the farmer insists he’s thinking about naming a grain in the superstar’s honour.

Graham tells Britain’s The Sun, “I’m taking it all in my stride, it’ll soon die down. To be honest, all this fuss has kept me back a bit. I’ve got straw to harvest that I haven’t been able to finish yet… Maybe I’ll name a type of grain after her.

“I’d love to have her back. She was lovely and gracious when I spoke to her. Just as long as I know what she’s wearing before the visit.

Good on you, mate!

A Brief U.S. History of Corporate Whining

Heh. Before you get your dander up, turn red in the face trying to scare me with the facts of the imminent demise of all that is right and true about the American Way, I’ve got one word for Corporate America: quitcherbellyachin’.

And Wall Street firms: Don’t even think about lowering executive compensation or bonuses. That’s unconscionable. Instead, lay off the cannon fodder, make the remaining folks count paper clips, drink smaller cups of coffee, and stop using their company provided cell phones (and stuff like that) first.

And one more thing (or close to a dozen),

Warren Quote
Created by: Online MBA Programs

That is all.

Update: Thoughts on the Economy, Catholic and Not.

For All the Saints: Francis of Assisi, Deacon

It’s the feast of St. Francis of Assisi today, in case you didn’t notice. True story: My grandfather was a Catholic and his name was Francis too, and he was named after the fellow you’ll be reading about below. As it happens, that is also how I came to be named, but the Catholic connotation of that Christian name lay dormant for some great length time. My grandfather died, see, when I was a wee tot and my memories of him bear no mark of his (and now my) religion at all.

Dipping into my favorite electronic library, I came across this little review of “Mrs. Oliphant’s” Life of St. Francis in an English journal called “The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art.” Wow, they don’t write journals with titles like that anymore! Now, I have no idea who the author of the following thoughts is, but the introductory paragraphs of the essay below start with the chagrin St. Francis causes amongst our non-Catholic Christian brethren. Because there really is no one closer to St. Francis in devotion to Christ, than perhaps the Blessed Virgin herself.

Looking for a Catholic who took the gospels literally? You’ve found him. These thoughts were penned in the Year of Our Lord 1872, or about half a heartbeat ago in the cosmic scheme of things. Have a look,

from a review of The Life of St. Francis

The Franciscan Order met a crying want of the age which the older religious communities failed to satisfy. But there is nothing to show that Francis had any such conscious purpose in originating it. From first to last he was the child of impulse, but of impulses which were always benevolent, generous, and devout. “He thought little of himself, even of his own soul to be saved;” his one idea and master-passion was how best to work for God and to help men.

The first murmurs were already beginning to be heard of the great democratic movement which has since overspread Europe, and the feudal system, still surviving in full force, was more and more felt to be an oppressive burden on the poor. Nor was the only power that could then act as a counterpoise itself irreproachable. There was a very general outcry against the pride of a wealthy and dominant hierarchy accused of caring more for its own aggrandizement than for the souls of men. And that cry had taken shape in strange forms of heresy, old and new, which threatened social as well as ecclesiastical order, and which Church and State—so far as the two can then be distinguished—were banded together to trample out with ruthless and indiscriminate severity.

But the Church, if she was to retain her moral supremacy, required a machinery which could convince as well as crush; there was needed a popular ministry to satisfy the wants of popular devotion, and a popular theology to meet on its own ground the advances of popular heresy. And this was the double work which Francis, however unconsciously, was destined to accomplish, though he might have seemed from his antecedents about the unlikeliest man in Europe for the purpose.

In the little city of Assisi, which lies beneath the Eastern slope of the Umbrian Apennines, there lived a worthy merchant, Pietro Bernadone di Mericoni by name, to whom was born in 1182 a son named Francesco, and known among his companions by the common Italian sobriquet of Cecco. The boy grew up to be the pride of his parents, the spoiled child of fortune, the darling of society, the idol of a glittering circle of youthful friends, gayest among the gay, of singular personal beauty, fascinating manners, and brilliant but genial wit.

At the age of twenty he was struck down by a severe illness, and from that hour is dated his “conversion—from a life of carelessness, not apparently of vice—the first result of which was his joining, in obedience to a dream, the army of the “Gentle Count” “Walter of Brienne, in the strife of Guelph against Ghibelline. But a second dream turned him back at Spoleto, and for a time he resumed his old life, but not in the old spirit. “Why so grave, Francis?” said his wondering companions; “are you going to be married?” The question suggested the reply: “I am; and my bride is—Poverty.”

Those strange nuptials have been immortalized by the greatest of French orators and of Italian poets, and the pencil of Giotto has familiarized to our eyes what the glowing words of Bossuet and Dante have made musical to our ears. The events which followed in rapid succession must be briefly dismissed here. In obedience to another vision Francis undertook to rebuild the little church of St. Damiano, outside the walls of Assisi, and incurred the fierce anger of his father, who had already been sorely troubled by his eccentricities, by selling some of his bales of cloth for the purpose. He was seized as a lunatic, and imprisoned for several months in his own home.

At length, after signing a renunciation of his patrimony, and stripping off his costly garments, he went forth, homeless and friendless, like the patriarch of old, forgetting his own people and his father’s house, and not knowing whither he went. But he now remembered an incident which had occurred some time previously, and had deeply impressed him. He had met a leper near Assisi, and, conquering his natural disgust, had sprung from his horse and embraced him. Those who know the peculiar care bestowed by the Church of that age on these unhappy outcasts, whom Christ, according to the Vulgate reading of Isaiah’s prophecy, had made types of Himself, will not wonder at the sequel. The seeming leper vanished, to appear again to Francis in a dream; for it was indeed none other than the Divine Sufferer of whom the prophet spoke.

To the lepers’ hospital at Assisi accordingly Francis now betook himself, and thence he came forth to supplicate alms to rebuild the church of St. Damiano, and another church outside the city formerly dedicated to St. Peter, but now restored under the name of La Portiuncola, or Our Lady of the Angels, and which is still the central home of the Franciscan Order.

The time for establishing that Order had now come. We must pass over the touching story of the conversion of his two first companions, Bernardo di Quintavalle and Pietro di Catania, who settled in a little hut on the plains of Assisi to form the first nucleus of the new community. In a few weeks the numbers had increased to twelve, and already Francis heard in spirit “the tread of multitudes”—French, Spaniards, English, Germans—thronging to join them. He traced out a cross on the ground stretching to the four points of the compass, and despatched his little band in four companies on their mission of mercy to the bodies and souls of men.

The Order was now formed, but it had no legalized existence, and the members were simple laymen. Francis, therefore, who was no “nonconformist,” but a devoted son of the Church, resolved in Izio to repair to Rome, and ask for the sanction of the Pope. Innocent III., whom he and his companions found pacing at sunset along the stately terraces of the Lateran, looked with amazement on these strange visitors, in their rough shepherd’s dress, and remanded them till the morning.

That night, we are told, he dreamt, like the Syrian King of old, of a palm-tree which rose beneath his feet, and its branches stretched over the earth, and the weary and world-worn from every nation came to repose beneath its shade. And again he dreamed that the great Lateran Church was falling to the ground, and was propped up by the poor beggar in big brown shepherd’s dress who had stood before him the previous evening. He hesitated no longer, and, in spite of the remonstrances of his cardinals, dismissed his visitors with his blessing and a solemn, though as yet unwritten, approbation of their stern rule of poverty.

That went something like this,

The return of Francis to Assisi was like a triumphal procession. Bells were rung and litanies chanted, and crowds came forth to meet him, and the church of the Portiuncola was at once formally made over to him. The conversion of St. Clare soon followed, and the Church of St. Damiano was assigned to the female community of Poor Clares, the “Second Order” of Franciscans, instituted under her rule.

And now Francis, who but two or three years before had been hooted as a madman through the streets of his native city, was preaching in the cathedral, though only a deacon, to enraptured crowds, who hung upon his every word. We must pass rapidly over the first General Chapter of the Order, the second journey of Francis to Rome to obtain a fuller confirmation of the rule from Honorius HL, and his meeting there with St. Dominic, when the founders of the rival Orders vowed before the altar an eternal friendship, to note his first acquaintance with Cardinal Ugolino, afterwards Pope Gregory IX., who remained ever afterwards the warm friend and patron of Francis and his community.

St. Francis, pray for us.

Because Vincent de Paul Was Once A Muslim’s Slave

Life got you down? Things perhaps haven’t turned out as you planned? Do you think everyone else has got it so easy? Your neighbors, for example, or those fortunate people who come into a considerable sum of money?

And how about those saintly types? They are simply walking on air, those guys, living lives of complete and blessed beatitude, right? Hold up!

While in Heaven the saints enjoy the beatific vision, but while they were here on earth? They were slogging it out with the rest of us. And that even includes those who were fortunate enough to be blessed with an earthly inheritance.

Take St. Vincent de Paul for instance (today is his feast day). Following his being ordained a priest, in the year of Our Lord 1605, he received news that someone had left him an inheritance. Saints be praised! Come and see where this development led him.

Once Upon a Time, over four hundred years ago…

The young priest’s life flowed on peacefully for the next five years, and then a startling adventure befell him. An old friend of his died at Marseilles, and Vincent received news that he had been left in the will a sum of fifteen hundred livres, which in those days was a considerable deal of money. Vincent’s heart was full of gratitude. What could he not do now to help his poor people. And he began to plan all the things the legacy would buy till it struck him with a laugh that ten times the amount could hardly get him all he wanted. Besides, it was not yet in his possession, and with that reflection he set about his preparations for his journey to Marseilles.

He probably went the greater part of the way on foot, and it must have taken him about as long as it would take us to go to India. But he was a man who had his eyes about him, and the country which he passed through was alive with the history he had read. Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and the scandal, now two hundred years old, of the two popes, would be brought to his mind by the very names of the towns where he rested and the rivers which he crossed, but at length they were all left behind, and Marseilles was reached.

His business was soon done, and with the money in his pocket he was ready to begin his long walk back to Toulouse, when he received an invitation from a friend of the lawyer’s to go in his vessel by sea to Narbonne, which would cut off a large corner(of his journey). He gladly accepted and went on board at once. But the ship was hardly out of sight of Marseilles when three African vessels, such as then haunted the Mediterranean, bore down upon them and opened fire.

The French were powerless to resist, and one and all refused to surrender, which so increased the fury of the Mohammedans that they killed three of the crew and wounded the rest. Vincent himself had an arm pierced by an arrow, and though it was not poisoned, it was many years before the pain it caused ceased to trouble him. The ‘Infidels’ boarded the ship, and, chaining their prisoners together, coasted about for another week, attacking wherever they thought they had a chance of success, and it was not until they had collected as much booty as the vessel could carry that they returned to Africa.

Vincent and his fellow-captives had all this while been cherishing the hope that, once landed on the coast of Tunis, the French authorities would hear of their misfortunes and come to their aid. But the Mohammedan captain had foreseen the possibility of this and took measures to prevent it by declaring that the prisoners had been taken on a Spanish ship. Heavy were their hearts when they learned what had befallen them, and Vincent needed all his faith and patience to keep the rest from despair.

The following day they were dressed as slaves and marched through the principal streets of Tunis five or six times in case anyone should wish to purchase them. Suffering from wounds though they were, they all felt that it was worth any pain to get out of the hold of the ship and to see life moving around them once more. But after awhile it became clear that the strength of many was failing, and the captain not wishing to damage his goods, ordered them back to the ship where they were given food and wine, so that any possible buyers who might appear next day should not expect them to die on their hands.

Early next morning several small boats could be seen putting out from the shore, and one by one the intending purchasers scrambled up the side of the vessel. They passed down the row of captives drawn up to receive them; pinched their sides to find if they had any flesh on their bones, felt their muscles, looked at their teeth, and finally made them run up and down to see if they were strong enough to work. If the blood of the poor wretches stirred under this treatment they dared not show it, and Vincent had so trained his thoughts that he hardly knew the humiliation to which he was subjected.

A master was soon found for him in a fisherman, who wanted a man to help him with his boat. The fisherman, as far as we know, treated his slave quite kindly; but when he discovered that directly the wind rose the young man became hopelessly ill, he repented of his bargain, and sold him as soon as he could to an old chemist, one of the many who had wasted his life in seeking the Philosopher’s Stone.

The chemist took a great fancy to the French priest and offered to leave him all his money and teach him the secrets of his science if he would abandon Christianity and become a follower of Mohammed, terms which, needless to say, Vincent refused with horror. Most people would speedily have seen the hopelessness of this undertaking, but the old chemist was very obstinate, and died at the end of a year without being able to flatter himself that he had made a convert of his Christian slave.

The chemist’s possessions passed to his nephew, and with them, of course, Father Vincent. The priest bore his captivity cheerfully, and did not vex his soul as to his future lot. The life of a slave had been sent him to bear, and he must bear it contentedly whatever happened; and so he did, and his patience and ready obedience gained him the favour of his masters.

Very soon he had a new one to serve, for not long after the chemist’s death he was sold to a man who had been born a Christian and a native of Savoy, but had adopted the religion of Mohammed for worldly advantages. There were many of these renegades in the Turkish service during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and nearly all of them were men of talent and rose high.

Vincent de Paul’s master had, after the Turkish manner, married three wives, and one of them, a Turk by birth and religion, hated the life of the town where she was shut up most of the day in the women’s apartments, and went, whenever she could, to her husband’s farm in the country, where Vincent was working. It was a barren place on a mountain side, where the sun beat even more fiercely than in Tunis; but at least she was able to wander in the early mornings and cool evenings about the garden, which had been made with much care and toil.

Here she met the slave, always busy—watering plants, trimming shrubs, sowing seeds, and generally singing to himself in an unknown tongue. He looked so different from the sad or sullen men she was used to see that she began to wonder who he was and where he came from, and one day she stopped to ask him how he happened to be there. By this time Vincent had learned enough Arabic to be able to talk, and in answer to her questions, told her of his boyhood in Gascony, and how he had come to be a priest.

“A priest! What is that?” she said.

And he explained, and little by little he taught her the doctrines and the customs of the Christian faith.

“Is that what you sing about?” she asked again. “I should like to hear some of your songs,” and Vincent chanted to her,

“By the waters of Babylon,” feeling, indeed, that he was “singing the Lord’s songs in a strange land.”

And day by day the Turkish woman went away, and thought over all she had heard, till one evening her husband rode over to see her, and she made up her mind to speak to him about something that puzzled her greatly.

“I have been talking to your white slave that works in the garden about his religion—the religion which was once yours. It seems full of good things and so is he. You need never watch him as you do the other men, and the overseer has not had to beat him once. Why, then, did you give up that religion for another? In that, my lord, you did not do well.”

The renegade was silent, but in his heart he wondered if, indeed, he had “done well” to sell his soul for that which had given him no peace. He, too, would talk to that Christian slave, and hear if he still might retrace his steps, though he knew that if he was discovered death awaited the Mohammedan who changed his faith.

But his eyes having been opened he could rest no more,and arranged that he and Vincent should disguise themselves and make for the coast, and sail in a small boat to France. As the boat was so tiny that the slightest gale of wind would capsize it, it seems strange that they did not steer to Sicily, and thence journey to Rome; but instead they directed their course towards France, and on June 28, 1607, they stepped on shore on one of those long, narrow spits of land which run out into the sea from the little walled town of Aigues-Mortes.

Vincent drew a long breath, as after two years captivity he trod on French soil again. But he knew how eager his companion was to feel himself once more a Christian, so they only waited one day to rest, and started early the next morning through the flowery fields to the old city of Avignon. Here he made confession of his faults to the Pope’s legate himself, and was admitted back into the Christian religion. The following year he went with Father Vincent to Rome, and entered a monastery of nursing brothers, who went about to the different hospitals attending the sick and poor.

It is very likely that it was Father Vincent’s influence that led him to take up this special work, to which we must now leave him, for on the priest’s return to Paris, he found a lodging in the Faubourg SaintGermain, close to the Hopital de la Charity—the constant object of his care for some months.

And did I mention that St. Vincent is an Incorruptible?

You can read the rest of St. Vincent de Paul’s story in The Book of Saints and Heroes by Leonora Lang on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

This was originally posted on November 12, 2010. Happy Feast of St. Vincent de Paul!

Hey Gen-X: Be Rebels…Slow Down…Have Kids…Stick it to the Man

It’s the Catholic thing to do. Or you can keep doing what you’ve been doing, as the survey below reports, and continue on the treadmill to oblivion.

Study Finds Gen-X Overlooked in the Workplace

A new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy finds that despite being the smallest generation (46 million), Generation X might be “the most critical generation of all” for employers.

Gen Xers are of an age (33 to 46 years old) that should put them at the prime of their lives and careers, stepping into leadership roles and starting families. However, a recent study, titled “The X Factor: Tapping into the Strengths of the 33- to 46-Year-Old Generation,” reveals that due to challenges and circumstances out of their control, Gen Xers are taking a different life path.

That’s it…we’ll get them to plead “it’s out of my control” and before they realize it, their “prime years” will be gone ( and be all ours). Bawahahahahahahahahahahaha!

The study found a large number of Gen Xers are choosing not to have children. Their extreme work schedules (nearly a third of high earning Gen Xers work 60+ hours a week), strong career ambition, the current economic challenges, as well as changing mores, and life choices are all factors that contribute to their high level of childlessness compared to other generations.

Looks like we got ‘em right where we want ‘em. Keep working harder kids…that’s the answer! Besides, no babies and no diapers equals no little league games, no soccer, no ballet recitals to attend. This way, you can just keep grinding away for Mammon and the man. 60 hour work weeks can become 70 hour work weeks.

Gen X, born between 1965 and 1978, might be called the “wrong place, wrong time” generation, says the Center for Work-Life Policy. They were hit by an economic triple whammy: college-related debt, multiple boom and bust cycles (including the 1987 stock market crash, occurring just as Gen X entered the work force), and the housing slump. As a result, Gen X is the first generation not to match their parents’ living standards.

And they just might not ever…if they stick to our evil plan. Snicker, snicker.

While these economic woes have impacted most generations, they have hit Gen X the hardest in their work lives, the study found. Due to their own financial concerns, Boomers (grrrrrrr) are not retiring and are choosing instead to work an average of nine years longer than anticipated. This delays Gen X’s career progression, resulting in their feeling stalled in their careers and dissatisfied with their rate of advancement.

Heh. And perhaps we can convince them that it is more important to save for retirement, and worship at the altar of the almighty $$$ than it is to tend to their souls. Cackle, cackle.

Go read the rest here. Like I say in the title, continue to play the game to the world’s music and Gen-X will go down in flames (and so will the “Millenials” and all of us). Go the other way, dare I say it, the Catholic way, and you won’t. And even if you still crash, you’ll have at least lived your life to the fullest.

For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?

Exactly! The girls can tell you,

YouTube Preview Image

And the boys too,

YouTube Preview Image

All together now,

YouTube Preview Image

A Modest Proposal: Treat Priests Like Officers, Not Like Corporate CEO’s

“Soldier, shut up and soldier!”

That’s one of my favorite lines from Robert Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers. You might remember that it was made into a campy, sci-fi cult movie back in the late 1990′s.

I remember it as a novel I read and enjoyed in high school (you know, instead of doing my homework) before I entered the Marines. Later, I would be amazed that it made the Marine Corps’ Professional Reading List.

Click on the link above and you’ll see Heinlein’s novel listed right there under the Captain / Chief Warrant Officer 4 heading along with a host of other great reads:

• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by
LtGen Victor H. Krulak, USMC (Ret) (CMC 359.96)
• The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai (CMC 305.892)
• The Defense of Hill 781 by James McDonough (CMC 355.4)
• The General – by C.S. Forrester (CMC F)
• The Lions of Iwo Jima by Fred Haynes (CMC 940.54)
• Lost Victories by Erich Von Manstein (CMC 940.54)
• The Mask of Command by John Keegan (CMC 355.3)
• Passion of Command by Bryan McCoy (CMC 355)
• Sources of Power – by Gary Klein (CMC 658.4)
Starship Troopers – by Robert Heinlein (CMC F)
• The Tipping Point – by Malcom Gladwell (CMC 302)
• Victory at High Tide by Robert D. Heinl (CMC 951.9)
• We Were Soldiers Once and Young – by Harold G.Moore & Joseph L. Galloway (CMC 959.704)

Military thoughts, fact and fictional, from every clime and place. Guess what else? You’ll also find it listed under the lowly Lance Corporal rank heading too. The Marine Corps, see, doesn’t subscribe to the “master-slave” model of leadership development. Instead, she goes for what’s known as the “teacher-scholar” school of thought, sharing the wealth of knowledge across the entire rank spectrum. Both the officer and enlisted ranks are encouraged to further their professional knowledge for the good of the Corps.

Oh, that’s right. You thought Marines don’t read. Well evidently a number of priests don’t read either. Or at the very least, they don’t understand some basic leadership / followership traits that are just rudimentary stuff to anyone who has ever served in the military. It’s a funny thing, I know, to hear the Church referred to as the Church Militant, what with visions of military-like prowess and efficiency paraded before your mind’s eye.  And then you see that often the war for the salvation of souls seems to be run instead like a loose confederation lead by tribal chieftains rather than as a tight military operation with a clear focus and even clearer chain of command. By “tight” I mean “taut” as in “run like a taut ship.”

Lately it seems that there have been plenty of loose cannons rolling around the top decks, calling attention to themselves, putting themselves ahead of the mission of the Church, and generally wreaking havoc among the ships company, er, I mean the faithful. Blame this upset of good order and discipline on whatever you want. Everything from the “Smoke of Satan” to problems of “evil, corrupt bishops” and other excuses that run the gamut from A to Z show up in comboxes routinely these days.  But Joe Six-Pack, USMC has another suggestion for an explanation and it’s a very simple one: lack of discipline coupled with short-sightedness on how priests are assigned to roles within the Church.

Let’s discuss the latter of these reasons in detail, because the former one seems to be answered succinctly by the sentence that leads off this post. Keep in mind that I am a newbie Catholic who doesn’t know diddly-squat about how the Church actually runs her Officer Corps, er, I mean her “priestly assignment system.” But I can tell you that they don’t seem to run it in any way that makes sense from a military personnel development / mission accomplishment point of view. By that I mean priests (and I am probably wrong on this front, so those with Holy Orders feel free to correct me in the combox) don’t seem to be assigned like they generally are in the military where folks rotate into and out of line and staff positions routinely throughout the course of their careers. It’s an approach like climbing a staircase, or going up the rungs of a career ladder, where officers move in and out of line and staff positions throughout their career. Nobody stays in one place for too long.

Take the latest example of what is in the news now with Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of an organization called Priests for Life. The news of his recall back to the Amarillo Diocese is all over the wires. His bishop’s leaked letter to all his brother bishops, Fr. Pavone’s own statements, etc., etc., all played out in the court of public opinion for all us arm-chair generals and barristers to see. (Head over to New Advent for all the latest).

Wiser folks than I have been commenting on this latest example of “priests gone wild” and I haven’t up till now because I figured those involved would handle their differences quietly and professionally. Fat chance of that, or so it seems. So instead I got to thinking “what kind of rag-tag outfit is this anyway?” Staff officers on special assignment think they can call their own shots and do whatever they please while the line-officers prosecute the war and are flat out forgotten? And these priests circumvent their chains-of-command and chafe at the orders from their bishops too? That’s weird and dangerous. And it’s no way to run an army. I think the folks over at Global Security.Org have noticed this downward slide.

Within the last 12 months, we have witnessed the fall of Fr. Euteneuer, Fr. Corapi, and now this latest dustup with Fr. Pavone is unfolding right before our eyes. In each of these cases, the priest in charge of the (insert name of your favorite indispensable sloop of war here) was long at the helm of a staff command in an organization with an ancillary, nay, secondary (if not tertiary) mission in support of the specific mission of the Church. As a whole, what is that grand mission? Winning souls to Christ and His Church, and nourishing them sacramentally on their pilgrimage here on earth so that they move from the Church Militant into the arms of the Church Triumphant.

Over at Dr. Gerard Nadel’s blog, where he has lead the charge with sensible commentary on this latest cause célèbre, I commented that I’ve always wondered why our priests aren’t moved around more often among these high profile ministries, like officers in the military are. See, it helps them become well-rounded to be exposed and developed in new ways by these types of assignments. But in the military, they are never left there long enough to become homesteaded and then ensconced in them. The normal tenure is 3-4 years max, then they move on to another assignment or command, richer for the experience (in theory, anyway) and able to bring more to bear to the organization as a result.

A priest receives orders to head over to EWTN for an assignment in the limelight? Hey that’s grand. But slap a time limit on it, and it would be even better. Doesn’t that make sense? In that way, see, the heads of any of these organizations, be it Priests for Life, Human Life International, or a priest occupying a position in the the media spotlight , and heck I don’t know, even the heads of the various religious orders, would have clear career paths so that when it lands them in one of these assignments, it does so as stewards of an “office” and not like religious versions of Chief Executive Officers, with all the attendant cults of personality and troubles that this secular title implies. Lately the CEO/Media Superstar model of priestly leadership is showing it’s weaknesses.

If what I am suggesting seems impossible to change, perhaps that is because you don’t realize that this problem has been faced, and conquered, in various ways in the military since the time when Julius Caesar was conquering Gaul. But you don’t have to go back that far. Just look at the American experience of moving from a loose confederation of militias during the Revolutionary War to the transformation of a military that is a professional organization, with personnel policies that, though not perfect, have moved a long way from having, say, enough money and prestige to buy the rank of Colonel,  to actually earning that title by way of promotion via a selection board that has assessed your fitness to handle that rank and the responsibilities of command at that level. A difference, you must admit, that is like night is to day.

One of my favorite professors at UCLA wrote the definitive history about the modernization of the U.S. Navy’s officer personnel system from it’s roots in prize-money taking captaincies to a professional system of advancement. The book is expensive ($135!), and the subject (officer promotion and assignment policies…yawn!) esoteric, but given the seemingly non-stop episodes of priests being set up in positions that then lead to trouble, perhaps folks at the Vatican might want to pick up a few copies of this book. Think of it as “outside-the-box” reading of books written by laymen whose provenance is the study, and solving of, organizational problems of this nature.

The book’s title goes a long way to understanding the problems of homesteading and cronyism that faced the Navy before the system was fixed. It’s called Waiting for Dead Men’s Shoes: Origins and Development of the U.S. Navy’s Officer Personnel System, 1793-1941. Don’t take Joe Six-Pack’s word for it though, let the experts sing it’s praises:

“An excellent source of lessons to be learned.”—Naval History

“This lengthy, important, and almost unique book addresses U.S. Navy officer policy for the first two-thirds of the service’s history.”—The Journal of Military History

“Donald Chisholm has provided us with an important book. It is the first comprehensive history of the development of the U.S. Navy’s officer personnel system.”—Naval War College Review

“Extensively researched in primary sources and thoroughly documented, [Chisholm’s] book is a major contribution to organizational theory.”—Naval War College Review

“Chisholm has achieved what he set out to do in fine style. He has provided a comprehensive history of naval officer personnel management and at the same time has shed light on the creation, structure, and problem solving that resulted in the organization we see today. From now on it will be impossible to write usefully about the history of personnel management without reference to this book. It promises to be a standard authority.”—Naval War College Review

Waiting for Dead Men’s Shoes contains a wealth of descriptive detail on the general environment in which the personnel system developed and on the large cast of naval and political players involved. It is clearly organized, reads well, contains extensive citations, and includes an exhaustive bibliography. . . . it will stand as a definitive reference on the subject and will be used by many naval, administrative, and political historians for the rich material that it contains.”—The Journal of American History

And that’s about all I have to say about this issue. Until the way these, I don’t know if this is the right phrase to use, “plum assignments” are managed, the Church will most likely continue to be faced with embarrassing, mud flinging, headline grabbing turf battles between the well known heads of these ancillary organizations, and their bishops. Unchanged, this problem will continue to feed individual cults of personality with these individuals placed on pedestals by their admirers, facing all manner of temptations as a result.

It’s time to professionalize this approach. But that’s just this simple layman’s $.02.

UPDATE: How did the young Fr. Fulton Sheen handle this same situation? Take a look. (H/T Michelle Arnold of Catholic Answers).

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 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.

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...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X