Thanks to Pink Floyd (Music for Mondays)

I’m warning you early—this edition of MfM will eat up your entire lunch hour. And if you don’t like rock n’ roll, get out now while there is still time.

Wait a second, I take that back. Stay. Because maybe, just maybe, everything you heard about Pink Floyd, is wrong. That is how it was for me and the Catholic Church for a long time, see? I was listening to people’s opinions instead of checking out the facts for myself. You all know where that led, as this blogs marquee proclaims. Besides, who else will show you Roger Waters, David Gilmore & Co. like this?

So what is it about these drug-crazed hippies that I think you should find appealing? You may be thinking to yourself, Obviously Frank…can’t you tell a bunch of sinners when you see them? [Read more...]

For All The Charities: “The Christian Foundation for Children and Aging”

Christ has a way of getting us to listen. I’ve been struggling to fully obey the Second Commandment, loving your neighbor as yourself. In fact, I blogged about it yesterday morning. Shortly thereafter, my husband and I and our two sons headed to Mass at  St. Peter the Apostle Parish in New Brunswick, NJ, where both our boys had been baptized. We arrived early and as I lingered in the foyer, I noticed some brochures set up on a table. It seemed there would be a guest preacher at this Mass.

During Mass, the guest preacher, Father Tom Singer O.M.I , read from the Gospel the Canticle of Mary from the Book of Luke. And then he did something remarkable, something I never had seen a priest do. He raised the Lectionary high in one hand and proclaimed “THIS is the Gospel of the Lord.” By then, I was eager to hear what he had come to share.

He began by talking about the Our Lady, given that yesterday was the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This dogma teaches us that when Mary died, her body and soul were assumed into heavenly glory. This means that Mary is fully human in heaven, just like her son Jesus.

What, Father Tom asked, does this have to do with us? He explained that the fact of Mary’s Assumption means that the more human we are, the more holy we are. God did not design us to avert our gaze from others. He designed us to love others, even in their poverty and their despair. Father Tom has been a priest for more than half a century. He told us one of the most meaningful experience of his life was when his superiors sent him to do mission work in a Brazilian slum. He said that caused him to understand we all must be a voice for the poor and the hungry, “God’s favorites,” he called them, because otherwise no one will hear their voices.

Now in semi-retirement, Father Tom spends his days preaching for a lay Catholic organization called the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. Neither Greg nor I had ever heard of it, but you can look it up. CFCA has a beautiful mission and the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator and the American Institute for Philanthropy. Virtually all the funds it raises help people in need. Sponsoring an individual costs $30 a month.

One aspect of CFCA’s work in 24 developing countries that impresses me is that it offers sponsorships to  the aging as well as to children and teens. This reflects the Catholic value of honoring life in all its stages and Catholic social justice teaching, articulated in the 1998 by the United States Catholic Bishops.

Dear readers: are any of you sponsors with CFCA? Do you have experiences with other Catholic groups of this kind? Close friends who are Evangelicals always have pictures on their refrigerator of children they sponsor through church missions. Until yesterday I was unaware of any Catholic group with such an outreach.

Based in Kansas City, Kan., CFCA was founded  in 1981 by four siblings and a family friend. Perusing its website this afternoon I discovered one of those founders, Bob Hentzen, is walking 8,000 miles from his home in Guatemala to Chile. Right now, he’s in Ecuador. Check it out. 12 countries, 16 months, 8,000 miles from CFCA on Vimeo.

Because We Are All Conceived in Love

The other day in my neck of the woods, just as I was heading out the driveway to Mass, something sad happened. Three police cars raced down the street, parking haphazardly in front of a home where a large family lives. I don’t know what happened: on the front lawn a young woman cried, a father walked away, children were in distress, and an elderly couple talked with the police. All I could do was pray.

 My faith teaches me that despite my inability to fix a situation, Christ wants me to pray. I figured everyone in that home needs prayers. A friend recently told me something she heard while attending Mass in Scotland: we need to pray for those who have no one to pray for them.

Why is this? The mere fact of our existence means that God loves us. Everyone who ever has lived is beloved by God. No matter what kind of a mess we make of our lives, God still loves us. We were conceived in love by God. When I judge others or try to avert my gaze from their distress, I try to imagine them as babies in their mother’s womb, deeply loved by God.

This insight might seem obvious. But my tendency, particularly since becoming a parent, has been to turn away from the pain of others, to cocoon myself in my own family and parish life, avoiding even thinking about others’ struggles. Sometimes I think, I don’t want to be dragged down by these people.

But Christ brings family, friends and neighbors to us. We are called to look upon them as He, in his overwhelming mercy and love, does.

 ”God revealed that He desires a personal relationship with us, one based on His very essence which He imprinted on our very nature; “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness….’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26f). What is this essence of God? “God is Love.” (1 John 4:8).

Reading Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc last night underlined this point for me once again. In the book’s first section, the narrator recounts a conversation between the young Joan and her village priest in Domrémy about imaginary fairies the children play with. Twain uses this  fictional anecdote to show Joan’s understanding of Christ’s love.

When I read this passage, I thought about the people I condemn because their lives are a struggle or because they lack faith. Joan tells her priest: “Who gave these poor creatures a home? God. Who protected them in it all those centuries? God. Who allowed them to dance and play there all those centuries and found no fault with it? God. Who disapproved of God’s approval and put a threat upon them? A man.”

Sometimes, the wounds of the world in front of us seem too deep to bear. Or the confusion and emptiness of those who are lost can feel overwhelming. On this, for the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary,  we can pray.

Because of Catholics like the “Chinese Chesterton”

Today I want to introduce you to another man from China named Wu, who also became a Catholic. His full name is Wu Jingxiong, or Wu Ching-hsiung. As he spent much of his life in Western countries, he did what many do and adopted an Anglicized form of his name: John Ching Hsiung Wu, or John C. H. Wu for short.

Earlier this year, before summer started, I happened upon the story of a Chinese painter and poet who became a Catholic, way back in the year of Our Lord 1681. His name is Wu Li and I wrote several posts about him, his art, and his poetry. He eventually became a Jesuit Priest and spent the remainder of his years serving Christ as a missionary to his native land.

It was an exciting discovery, for me anyway, to find a convert to Catholicism whose decision to become a Catholic made my own decision to join the Church look like a cake-walk. There I was,  thinking that my swimming the Tiber had been the biggest step that anyone could have ever possibly taken. But from a cultural perspective, living in a nation founded on Christian principles, it can’t begin to compare to the decision Wu Li made to become a Catholic. Unlike Wu Li, though, John is a modern convert to the Church, having been born in the year 1899 and passing on to eternity in 1986.

John had already made the leap to Christianity, as a Methodist, 20 years before he entered the Roman Catholic Church, so he was a bold pioneer who stepped aside from the norms of his own culture early on. Again, I’m humbled by stories of courageous, audacious actions of converts like these. See what the Holy Spirit can do? So how did he wind up becoming a Catholic? That’s where the story gets good.

But first, the biographical information that will help you understand my new friend better.  I am indebted to the work of Li Xiuqing, editor-in-chief of the Journal of East China University Political Science and Law for her paper on the college life of John, as well as to Nicholas Howson of the University of Michigan School of Law for translating it. Howson’s commentary appears in italics below.

John was born in 1899 in Ningbo, China, a little town south, and across the bay, from Shanghai. Details of his youth are lacking, but he wrote of them and when I get my hands on one of his books, I look forward to learning more. He studied and graduated from the Suhzou University Law School with an L.L.B in 1920, and then went on to obtain his J.D. degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1921. Yep, you read that correctly, one year later.  Because he was a “young man in a hurry,” see? I know the type. Howson writes the following,

John C. H. Wu is one of the giants of post-Imperial Chinese law, philosophy, education and religion, who visited at law schools and universities throughout the United States and Europe — including Paris (1921), Harvard (1923 and 1930) and Northwestern (1929). He engaged in a long correspondence with Justice Holmes between 1921 and 1935, founded “Tianhsia Monthly” (1935) as a bridge between Chinese and Western culture, and served as Vice Chairman of the KMT-era Legislative Yuan’s Constitutional Drafting Committee starting in the early 1930s. In fact, he is well-known in China and Taiwan as the principle drafter of the 1946 Chinese Constitution, largely based on his June 1933 draft constitution (still described in Chinese as the “Wu draft”).

Whaat?! Yes, he wrote a government’s constitution. Like Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Morris, et al., wrote the U.S. Constitution. And he corresponded with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well. He was getting pretty well known. Did I mention he later became Chief Justice of a district court in China too?

In January 1927, he was appointed by the Jiangsu Provincial Government to sit as a judge on the new “Shanghai Provisional Court”, a court with jurisdiction over all controversies in the Shanghai International Settlement, except those cases where the defendants were citizens of the Treaty nations. (As he exulted to Justice Holmes at that time, “I shall try to Holmesianize the Law of China!”) He was later promoted to Chief Justice and then President of the same Court.

Soon he tired of this position and left it to further hone and polish his legal expertise by heading to the United States for a few plum assignments.

He resigned from the Court in the Fall of 1929 to return to the United States as a Rosenthal Lecturer at Northwestern Law School (Winter 1929) and a Research Fellow at the Harvard Law School (Spring 1930). By the Fall of 1930 he had returned to Shanghai, where he practiced law until the Japanese invasion.

And from what I gather, he became a wealthy and very influential lawyer during that short time—and disenchanted, nay, with an empty feeling inside as a result. Surely there is more to life than this. It is time for a saint to intervene. More on that further on, but first, let’s round out his career.

After 1937 John Wu rediscovered his early Christian faith, only now as a Catholic and not a Methodist, and went on to an equally rich career as a Catholic intellectual and leader, translating the New Testament and the Psalms into Chinese, and serving as Chinese minister to the Vatican in 1947-8. (He later, in 1961, completed a still popular English translation of Laozi’s Taoist classic, the Tao Teh Ching (Classic of the Way).

He kept busy, huh? It’s humbling to me to think of translating a menu at a restaurant into English, but John translated the entire New Testament and the Psalms into Mandarin. Gulp! And my friend Jonathan Chaves informs me that his translation of the Tao Teh Ching is excellent. And he was the Chinese minister to the Vatican too? Sheeeeesh. What more can this guy possibly have accomplished? Well, there was revolution brewing back home, see. Surely that tripped him up.

In February 1949 he returned from Rome to Shanghai and was asked by the Guomindang Prime Minister Sun Fo (Sun Yat-sen’s son) and Acting President Li Chung-zen (Chiang Kai-shek having “retired” to his home of Ningbo, prior to his transfer to Taiwan) to be China’s Minister of Justice. The appointment was never formalized with the collapse of the Sun Fo cabinet, and in March 1949 – after a final, melancholy, interview with Chiang Kai-shek at their shared hometown Ningbo – John Wu departed China for the last time. After the 1949 Revolution, he was a long-time professor at the University of Hawaii and later still Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

Wow. Have you seen the movie Field of Dreams? “Hey Rookie—you were good!” This guy was a secular superstar if there ever was one. And then he became a Catholic and, to use a baseball term, he kept hitting long balls over the fence. I mean, Mao Zedong came to power on the mainland and John left China and settled in the United States none the worse for wear. At least that’s how is seems. Of course there is probably more to the story, much more.

That’s enough for the particulars though, wouldn’t you say? Not quite, because there are a few more things to cover. According to Dr. Karl Schmude, of Campion College in Sydney, Australia, John was given the sobriquet “the Chinese Chesterton” by “a Chinese-Australian lady whom the Australian author and publisher Frank Sheed met in Sydney in 1944.” Sheed published one of John’s books about Catholicism entitled Beyond East and West and I can’t wait to read it.

John authored a number of books. As mentioned above, some were related to his cultural heritage, like his translation of the Tao. Others concerned his profession as a lawyer. After his conversion to Catholicism, his writing career flourished as a means to explain his conversion to others and as a way to explore the common ground between Confucianism and Catholicism. In fact, he wrote another book that I look forward to reading entitled From Confucianism to Catholicism.

Here is a list of his published works,

Jingxiong Wu, Juridical Essays and Studies

Some Unpublished Letters of Justice Holmes

The Art of Law and Other Essays Juridical and Literary

Essays in Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy

The Science of Love: A Study in the Teachings of Thérèse of Lisieux

Justice Holmes to Doctor Wu: An Intimate Correspondence 1921-1932

From Confucianism to Catholicism

Beyond East and West

The Interior Carmel: The Threefold Way of Love

Fountain of Justice: A Study in Natural Law

Justice Holmes: A New Estimate

Cases and Materials on Jurisprudence

Chinese Humanism and Christian Spirituality

Sun Yat-sen: The Man and His Ideas

The Four Seasons of T`ang Poetry

Zhongguo zhe hsuëh [Chinese philosophy]

The Golden Age of Zen


Jingxiong Wu, Tao Teh Ching

Not quite as prolific as Chesterton, you say? Sure, but John was a law professor for his day job, remember? That can take up a little bit of your time too. Anyway, I think I’ve covered the basics of what you need to know about my newest friend in the faith for one post. I’ll delve more into the particulars of John’s “rediscovery of his Christian faith,” and what led him to Rome, in a post tomorrow.

Because Winning Wars Takes Organization

I could sit here and bore you in nauseating detail about why the Church is necessary, and why it is vital to the salvation of all mankind. I could fill my dissertation with footnotes, and quotes from sources old and new. But really, that would be a colossal waste of your time and mine.

A few high-placed people have questioned the legitimacy of organized religion of late. Are they right? Or are they wrong? Look at this picture  and get a clue. Wars aren’t won by individuals on their own. They are won by individuals united in a common purpose and with a unifying mission. To get to this point, where these troops have crossed the “line of departure,” as you see here, thousands of hours and millions of lives have been at work together to bring the fight to a foe.

Is organized religion necessary? Not when you are at peace. But when you remember that we are at war, and have been since the beginning, the question is moot. As someone I met recently would say, “Think well on’t.”

Semper Fidelis

For Thoughts Like These from Robert Hugh Benson

Robert Hugh Benson was an English convert to Catholicism. No big deal, right? Wrong! You see, RHB had been ordained an Anglican priest in 1895. The thing was, his dad was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time.  Think of how proud his parents and the rest of his family were of him.

In 1896, his father passed away suddenly, and Benson himself was ill as well. While on a field trip to recover his health, he began delving into his beliefs and began to lean toward becoming a Catholic. His relatives were underwhelmed with the idea of the son of the late head of the Church of England doing such a thing. Preposterous—but Bobbie did just that in 1903. [Read more...]

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Back in June, I shared a poem by Frederick Faber in this space.  This week, I share the words of a hymn he wrote. You can find the music, too, and sing along if you like.  But I actually prefer these words without the music.

I first read read them in my favorite book about my favorite Old Testament book. Faber wrote lots of hymns, Faith of Our Fathers being one of the better known ones. This hymn is a gift that reminds me of the passage that St. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.(2Cor. 1:3-4)

Though the road that leads to life is narrow, God’s mercy is not.

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

‘Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
It is something more than all;
Greater good because of evil,
Larger mercy through the fall.

If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
‘Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us
Come and gather at His feet?

For All the Saints: Clare of Assisi

When I was nineteen I stood before what seemed to be the incorrupt body of St. Clare in the crypt of the basilica in Assisi bearing her name. Her body was covered only with a thin gauzy veil, and it looked whole to me. Now, I gather, it is no longer deemed to be incorrupt. But the impression, and the inspiration, have not gone away.

I was on a year off from college, seeing the world on a Eurail pass. (For three months, and $95, you got to sleep upright and vibrating anywhere in Europe.) I was neither a Catholic nor a practicing Christian, having left the Episcopal church-going of my youth in the rearview mirror. My companions and I pulled into Assisi one morning and soon found ourselves—stiff of back, sleepy of eye, and for all that dumbfounded—in front of the body of a woman who had died over 700 years before. It is still one of only two or three indelible impressions from those three months on the railroad.

This morning’s reading from the Office, for the memorial of St. Clare, has a striking image. In a letter from Clare to Blessed Agnes of Prague, the saint writes of Christ as an unclouded mirror: “For he is the splendor of eternal glory, the brightness of eternal light, and the mirror without cloud.”

Queen and bride of Jesus Christ, look into that mirror daily and study well your reflection, that you may adorn yourself, mind and body, with an enveloping garment of every virtue, and thus find yourself attired in flowers and gowns befitting the daughter and most chaste bride of the king on high. In this mirror blessed poverty, holy humility and ineffable love are also reflected. With the grace of God the whole mirror will be your source of contemplation. . . . 

It strikes me now that the body of St. Clare was a mirror for me too: a view into what lasts and doesn’t. In the sanctity of Francis’s friend is an image of what I can be, and in her body, not so incorrupt after all, is what my body will be soon enough. Looking at St. Clare lying in her crypt was like being suspended between heaven and earth.

Because I Want Original Cream of Wheat, Not Quick or Instant

My great-grandfather was one of the founders of the Cream of Wheat Company, which began in the midst of an economic depression in 1892. George Bull was a wheat farmer in Grand Forks, ND, who used some old milling equipment to create a form of porridge from refined middlings, the best part of the wheat. He sent a case of the stuff stamped “Cream of Wheat” to his broker in New York along with a carload of wheat, and the agent wired back:

“Forget wheat. Can’t sell. Send carload Cream of Wheat.” An American brand was born.

When I was a child outside Minneapolis–St. Paul, my dad was vice-president, then president of Cream of Wheat, following in the footsteps of his own father and grandfather. (The company had long since moved to this milling center on the Mississippi.) As son of an officer of the company, I had to eat a lot of Cream of Wheat, lumps and all. I also served as an unofficial beta tester of Quick and Instant and even some weirdly flavored experimental varieties of Cream of Wheat, as the firm struggled to expand its product line and escape its fate as a one-trick pony. It never did so. In 1961, CW was sold to Nabisco and we followed Dad’s career to the New York area.

Sticking to my ribs today is not only the residue of a carload of Cream of Wheat swallowed in childhood but also a conviction that there are things that are more real than others, more original, closer to the source: “original Cream of Wheat,” from the heart of the grain.

This helps explain why I am a Catholic today.

This weekend, on vacation up country, I had a chance to attend two church services in succession: Catholic mass celebrated by a priest followed by an ecumenical Protestant-ish service led by a barefoot minister.

Let me be fair: The pastor in question is the soul of kindness, compassion, and ecumenism. She talked at length of the accidental burning of a religious building in a nearby town, and urged our prayers. She gathered six children into her lap and shared her love and kindness, with a bit of old time religion. She chose her own reading, from Revelation, which did not mention Jesus, and developed the theme beautifully in a fifteen-minute sermon that had everyone nodding their heads and mmm-mmming along. It was a moving community experience and occasionally powerful theater.

It was also a pale shadow of something else, something original, something we know as the liturgy. There was a cross without corpus on the table, a table that filled in for an altar, where the bread, wine, and grape juice were laid out for a symbolic “communion.” Behind the table stood the choir and behind the choir was a mural of a mountain scene. On the surrounding walls was not one image or symbol of Christian worship. At one point (can’t say exactly when) we said the Lord’s Prayer, the common denominator of all Christian worship, but everything else was improvised, everything to me was like Quick or Instant, even if it took longer than Father Tom’s full-length Sunday Mass at the bottom of the mountain. 

I am no final judge of such things, as our Protestant readers are sure to remind me, but I do know my cereal. This may have been cereal, but I can promise you it was not Original Cream of Wheat.

As Flannery O’Connor said famously of the Eucharist, “If it’s a symbol, then to hell with it.”

From the Treasure Chest: Challoner’s “The Morality of the Bible-Genesis”

Although I didn’t do any writing while on vacation, I was able to do a little reading. I “discovered” another modern Catholic writer that I would like to get to know better.  His name is Richard Challoner, whom you see here in the portrait.  This particular portrait of Richard hangs in the Archbishop’s House at Westminster Cathedral.

It’s a pity that the blog that was hosted there is no longer active. There is a great post all about Richard that was written by a priest there. Having recently visited the Library of Congress, and Thomas Jefferson’s personal library located there, I was motivated to continue adding virtual book selections to our humble YIM Catholic Bookshelf. And today is the feast day of St. Lawrence, patron of librarians and archivists, so what better day than this to share more books with you?

Somehow, and I honestly don’t recall how,  I stumbled upon Challoner’s work and immediately added fifteen of his books to the shelf. What with our limited budget here, but with books that are free, this was easy to do. No need to get Webster’s approval.

The book below was published in 1762 and re-published in 1827.  Its full title is The Morality of the Bible: Extracted From All of the Canonical Books, Both of the Old and New Testament. It’s subtitle is For the Use of Such Pious Christians As Desire to Nourish Their Souls to Eternal Life With Daily Meditating On The Word of God. You know, as well as I do, that they just don’t title books like this anymore.

As a former Protestant who converted to Catholicism, I enjoy reading the Bible. I’m not afraid of touching mine, and as my wife can verify, I don’t get lost between it’s covers. Geographically speaking, I know my way around the Scriptures and I don’t need the table of contents or the handy side tabs to find passages.

In case I get labelled as a “holier than thou” type, let me just say that in no way am I claiming that I completely understand everything I’m reading there. Alone, no one else does either.  I don’t care if you have a PhD. in theology, you alone don’t know enough, and you never will. If you haven’t figured that out yet, then you have been kidding yourself. I’m not going to argue with you though, I’m just stating the facts.

But I’m not saying “throw in the towel” either. Not by a long shot. Read scripture and study the Word.  We are called to do so, and contrary to popular belief, we are encouraged to do so. And this isn’t something new either, as these quotes of St. John Chrysostom prove:

To become adult Christians you must learn familiarity with the scriptures(On the Letter to the Ephesians – Education of Children).

But what is the answer to these charges? “I am not,” you will say, “one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household.” This is what has ruined everything, your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do. Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine. So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil.[Second Homily on Matthew, section 10 (which is sometimes labeled as section 5.)]

Want to see more saintly quotes on the importance of reading scriptures? See what the actual “holier than thou types”, from St. Augustine to Pope Benedict XIV, have to say on the matter here. As for me and other “needier than thou” types, let’s just say that Challoner’s little book is a good start to help you summon the courage to dive in and to start reading the Bible on your own.

Sure,  this book is old and may be lacking in the most up to date teachings of the Church. But it won’t be very far off, and Challoner keeps it pretty straightforward. In the preface, he states:

The word of God has been of old the great meditation book of the holy fathers and other saints: and these pure souls illustrated by the light of the Spirit of God, have discovered in almost every page of this heavenly book (where there is not one iota or tittle without its meaning, St. Matt. v. 18.) in its mystical sense many excellent lessons of life, and documents of divine wisdom; for the bringing on the spiritual man to all perfection.

But as the generality of Christians are not capable of penetrating so far into the profound depths of the more obscure and mysterious parts of the sacred scriptures; much less of making themselves perfect masters of all the sublime contents of these divine books: for which the whole life of the best capacities would hardly suffice; though wholly employed in study and meditation: we have endeavoured in the following sheets, for the benefit of the commonality, to abstract from every part of these sacred writings, what appeared to us the most plain, and the most intelligible; the most instructive, and the most affective; adapting the whole as much as possible to every capacity; in order to make the meditation on the divine word, both very easy and very profitable to all Christians of a good will: industriously avoiding all such hard and obscure passages, as might be liable to be wrested by the unlearned and the unstable to their own perdition (2 St. Peter, iii. 16.) and passing by all such as might rather exercise the brain, than enlighten the mind and enflame the heart: which is the great business of meditation and mental prayer.

Sheesh, they wrote with huge paragraphs back in the day! Again, for more instruction, there are other resources for you if, and when, you need them; your Parish priest, a deacon, or a pastoral associate, for example, will be more than willing to answer any questions you may have. And the Cathechism, and all of the helpful commentary in your thicker Catholic Bible, is there to help as well. And don’t forget the resources on our YIM Catholic Bookshelf, too.

Here is Challoner’s first chapter, which naturally covers the book of Genesis. Take a look, and see what you think. I know what I think—This will be a great resource to help my children become as familiar with the Scriptures as I am.

School’s in!


Chapter I. Verse 1. &c.;

‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And God said: be light made, and light was made: and God saw the light that it was good.’

See, my soul, how all things readily obey the great Creator: he speaks the word, and they are presently made; and they spring forth out of nothing, at his command: and all that he makes he sees to be good, and nothing that he makes is evil. And why wilt not thou obey his word? How long wilt thou resist his commands? How long shall evil (which is no part of his creation) have dominion over thee whom he created good, for himself the sovereign Good?

v. 31. ‘And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good.’

Each part of the creation, and every single creature was good: but all of them together were exceeding good, nothing being wanting to make the whole absolutely perfect. O great Creator, glory be to thy name! Let the whole creation bless thee for ever.

Chap. ii. v. 3. ‘God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he had rested from all his work.’

This day of God’s rest, sanctified by him, has a mysterious allusion to the everlasting rest or sabbath, into which he will introduce all his true servants, after the six days labors of their mortal life. (Hebr. iv. 4. 5. 9. 11.)

v. 9. ‘The Lord God brought forth of the ground, all manner of trees—the tree of life also in the midst of paradise.’

This tree of life, by eating of the fruit of which man would have lived for ever, was an illustrious figure of our Lord Jesus Christ, by feeding on whom, we are brought to everlasting life. (St. John vi. 50, 51, 52, &c.;)

Chap. iii. v. 17, &c.; Mark the sentence of man’s punishment for sin:

‘Cursed is the earth in thy work: with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee—in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread, till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken, for dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return.’

Of this curse, the just punishment of man’s fall from God by sin, we still feel the weight, in this earth (of flesh) which we carry about with us, in the thorns and thistles of our disorderly inclinations, and the labour and toil with which we must suppress them, &c.; And this remembrance of our extraction and the necessity of our returning to our original dust, is here inculcated, to teach us to know ourselves; to be ever humble; and to be always prepared for our journey hence.

Chap. iv. 9, 10. ‘The Lord said to Cain—What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the earth.’

O sinner, what hast thou done, when by thy scandals, or by thy drawing any of thy neighbours into sin, thou hast murdered that poor soul ? Will not thy brother’s blood, in these cases, cry aloud to heaven for vengeance against thee?

Chap. v. v. 5. ‘Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years, and he died:’

and so of the other patriarchs; the account of whose long lives is still concluded with these words, “and he died.” And how small a difference will there be by and by, between the longest and the shortest life? Since a thousand years before the eyes of the eternal Truth are but as yesterday, which is past and gone, Psalm lxxxix. 4.

v. 24. ‘Enoch walked with God, and was seen no more, because God took him.’

Happy they who make it the business of their life to walk with God, by keeping themselves in his presence,” by a spirit of recollection; and by a constant attention to please him ! such as walk with him tn this manner, he will take to himself in a happy eternity.

v. 29. ‘He called his name Noe (Noah), (or comforter) saying this same shall comfort us, from the works and labours of our hands on the earth which the Lord hath cursed.’

Our true Noe, or comforter, sent us from heaven, is the Son of God, who comes to comfort us under all our labours; to bless the works of bur hands; and to change into a blessing in our favour, the curse laid on us for sin.

Chap. vi. 3. ‘God said: my spirit shall not remain in man for ever, because he is flesh,’(enslaved to carnal sins, and therefore shall be destroyed.)

Mark how by the sins of the ‘flesh, the spirit of God is sure to be taken away, from the carnal man; and a deluge of evils of course will overflow his whole soul.

v. 6. ‘Noe was a just and perfect man in his generations: he walked with God.’ v. 22.

And Noe did all things which God commanded him. Behold the way to all happiness: ’tis by doing thus we shall escape the dreadful deluge, which threatens all the sinners of the earth.

Chap. viii. 21. ‘The imagination and thought of man’s heart are prone to evil from their youth.’

O the dismal consequences of original sin! Good God deliver us from ourselves.

Chap. xii. 1, 2, 3. ‘The Lord said to Abram. Go forth out of thy country: and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house; and come into the land which I shall shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation: and I will bless thee, &c.; and in thee shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’

Happy they who follow God, when he calls them, from the midst of sin and iniquity, as it were out of their native land, to shew them the fair regions of virtue and devotion, in order to bless them there; and from thence to translate them to an eternal inheritance in his kingdom above. This is that great grace of vocation, the corresponding with which is the way to heaven. This “following” God is the fundamental point of Christian morality.

Chap. xiv. v. 18, 19, &c.; ‘Melchisedech the King of Salem, bringing forth bread and wine, for he was the priest of the most high God, blessed him, and said, blessed be Abram, by the most high God, who created heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God by whose protection the enemies are in thy hands.’ “And he gave him the tithes of all.”

Behold here a most ancient and a most illustrious figure of Christ, our great king and priest; and of his sacrifice. See Heb. vii. &c.;

Chap. xv. 1. ‘Fear not, Abram, I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great.’

My soul he will be so to thee, if thou also wilt seek him as Abram did, in the simplicity and sincerity of thy heart. (Wisdom i. 1.)

v. 6. ‘Abram believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice.’

Happy faith, which, joined with obedience and devotion, made Abram the special favourite of heaven.

Chap. xvii. v. 1. ‘I am the Almighty God: walk before me, and be perfect.’

The shortest way to all perfection is to walk before God, and in his presence; with a constant attention to please him.

Chap. xviii. v. 17, &c.; ‘The Lord said: can I hide from Abraham what I am about to do seeing that in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed? For I know that he will command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, and to do judgment and justice.’

See here the duty of fathers and masters, &c.; And see also how true it is that the ‘Lord is good to them that hope in him; to the soul that (sincerely) seeketh him.’ (Lamentations iii. 25.)

v. 27. ‘I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am but dust and ashes.’

Learn my soul thus to humble thyself in thy addresses to God in prayer.

v. 32. ‘I beseech thee, said Abraham, be not angry, O Lord, if I speak yet once more: what if ten just men shall be found there?(viz. in Sodom) I will not destroy it said the Lord for the sake of ten.’

Of what service then are the just to the whole commonwealth(?); Since ten of them might have even saved Sodom.

Chap. xix. 14. ‘Lot spoke to his sons in law (the men of Sodom) that were to have his daughters: and said: Arise, get ye out of this place; because the Lord will destroy this city: and he seemed to them to speak as it were in jest.’

So when the servants of God threaten the wicked with the judgments of God, which are hanging over their heads, their words make no more impression upon them than if they were in jest; till the wrath of God coming on a sudden and when they least expect it, hurries them away and plunges them into a miserable eternity.

v. 26. ‘Lot’s wife looked behind her and was turned into a statue of salt.’

Instructing us, how dangerous it is after being delivered from the Sodom of iniquity and sin, to look back, by a relapse, or by the affection to sin, towards that miserable city.

v. 33. ‘Abraham called upon the name of the Lord God the Eternal’

behold one of God’s names, the most expressive of his divine essence.

See Chap. xxii. The ready obedience of Abraham, when he was sent to offer up his son Isaac in sacrifice; as well as the obedience and resignation of Isaac, who was then a young man in the flower of his age, and yet offered no resistance. And mark the blessing-entailed upon them both, in consequence of this intended sacrifice; alas! how often have we been called upon, to offer up, as it were, in sacrifice, some darling object of our affections; or some unhappy passion, which ties us down to the earth: and yet we never have had the courage to make this offering; and for want of this compliance have deprived ourselves of God’s special blessing, and have perhaps the great work of God yet to begin.

Chap. xxiv. v. 63. ‘Isaac was gone forth to meditate in the fields,’ &c.;

Learn, my soul, from the patriarchs and all the other saints this holy exercise of meditation: and let it be thy daily employment.

Chap. xxv. v. 8. ‘Abraham died in a good old age, having lived a long time, and being full of days: and was gathered to his people:’ (the people of God, who were gone before him)

Where note, that he in a particular manner is said to have lived a long time, and to have been full of days; and yet both his father, and almost all his ancestors lived to a greater age than he. (Gen. ii.) But Abraham’s time was long, and his days were full indeed, by the good use of his time, and by his constant attention to please God in all things. O let our days, my soul, be full in this manner.

v. 34.’Esau eat and drank, and went his way, making little account of having sold his first-birth right.’

A figure of unhappy sinners, who for the sake of gratifying for a moment, their carnal or sensual appetite, sell their title to the inheritance of the first born whose names are written in heaven, and forfeit their father’s benediction; and make little or no account of this greatest of all miseries. See Heb. xii. 16, 17.

Chap. xlv, v. 4. &c.; ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Be not afraid: and let it not seem to you a hard case that you sold me into these countries: for God sent me before you into Egypt, for your preservation—Not by your counsel, was I sent hither, but by the will of God, &c.; And Joseph blessed all his brethren, and wept upon every one of them.’

O admire and adore the wonders of divine Providence, in the whole history of Joseph; and imitate the charity, purity and humility of this holy patriarch.

Chap. xlvii. v. 9. ‘The days of my pilgrimage (said Jacob to king Pharaoh) are one hundred and thirty years, few and evil; and they are not come up to the days of the pilgrimage of my fathers.’

Thus these holy men looked upon themselves as pilgrims upon earth; longing for their true and heavenly country. Heb. xi. 13, 14, 15, 16. Such ought to be the sentiments and dispositions of all good Christians.

Chap. xlviii. v. 15. ‘God, in whose sight my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk,’ &c.;

Said Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph! O my soul how happy shall we be, if we also take care to walk in this divine presence, like these ancient saints!

Chap. xlix. v. 6. ‘Let not my soul go into their counsel, nor my glory be in their assembly.’

Say thou my soul the same of the counsels of the ungodly: and of all the assemblies of the workers of iniquity. v. 10. ‘The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda—till he come that is to be sent (Shilo the Messiah) and he shall be the expectation of nations.’ v. 18. “I will look for thy salvation O Lord.”

Illustrious promises of the coming of the Son of God, for our salvation: who also in the blessing of Joseph v. 26 is called “the desire of the everlasting hills,” as being longed for as it were, by the whole creation.

Chap. l (50) v. 19, 20. ‘ Can we resist the will of God, said Joseph to his brethren, you thought evil against me; but God turned it into good, &c.;’

O how often does he deal thus with us, by drawing good out of our evils ! O blessed be his name!

Challoner’s book in it’s entirety may be found on the YIM Catholic Bookshelf.