Because Once Upon A Time, The Premier of China Was A Catholic

Imagine that you woke up to the news this morning that a former President of the United States, say Jimmy Carter for example, has just held a press conference saying that he has entered the Abbey at Gethsemane to become a Cistercian monk. Would you be flabbergasted? Amazed? Incredulous? Or would you be intrigued? That’s how I felt when I learned the news that I am going to share with you today. [Read more...]

Because of the Divine Beauty of the Mass

Guest Post by Terry Fenwick

I met Terry by way of Francis Beckwith’s Facebook page. Pretty soon, we were “friends” too. Shortly thereafter, we were trading e-mails back and forth and I learned that she was a Catholic convert from the class of 2004.  She, and her late husband, Tom, came into full communion with the Church in 2004. She shared this piece she had written for her parish bulletin with me . I don’t know much, but I knew one thing immediately upon reading this; it needed a wider audience. Take a look and see if you agree with me.

Come and See

Since becoming Catholic in 2004, I have asked myself over and over, why I was never invited to attend a Mass. I could attend funerals and was invited to a few weddings, but not one Catholic ever invited me to Mass. [Read more...]

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 3)

Joan of Arc’s public ministry began and ended the year she was 17. She had grown up in a loving family who provided her with concrete examples of Christian charity. Historical records describe the D’Arc family as “willing to open their home to strangers and to share what they could with them.

People remembered how Joan would willingly give up her bed to these strangers while she herself slept by the hearth.” To leave her childhood home (pictured above, with the village church beside it) and follow her destiny, St. Joan left home without telling them her true destination and goal: fight the English at Orleans and have the Dauphin crowned king.

Her Uncle Durand asked her parents’ permission to take Joan to his home so that she could help his wife with the housework and to help her with the delivery of her child. While Joan was there, she convinced her uncle of her mission. In the end, her parents supported her; they walked to Reims to see the Dauphin crowned King Charles VII of France. Clearly, St. Joan and her family understood what St. Paul told the church in Corinth.

“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many.

What risks are we taking to fulfill God’s plan for our lives? Are we willing to face the people and circumstances Christ places in front of us?

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

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

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

Because On This Championship Ball Club, Everyone Can Play

Early on, before I officially started upon the path to becoming a Catholic, I read Thomas Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. I had already read Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, and Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ by the time I rolled around to Merton. In baseball terms, it was a strike-out for the side— the side of the Church, that is. Here is the play-by-play.

Blaise was the first pitch, thrown to the inside corner of the plate, and caught me looking. Looking up at the scoreboard, I saw the number “102″ flash under the MPH sign. Gulp. Then, Thomas #1 came in like a fastball, forcing me to swing. But it was a slider and the bottom fell out of that pitch as I swung the bat. No contact at all. By this time, I was 0-2 in the count, and that isn’t where you want to be as a batter.

Because being 0-2 in the count plants some serious seeds of doubt in your mind. Consider, when I first got up to the plate, I was convinced that the Catholic Church, er ball club, had not a leg to stand on. I knew, just knew, that I could handle any and every pitch that it threw at me.

But now I was 0-2 in the count, so I just did what I had to do. I choked up on the bat, determined to make contact. That is when She (they have females in this league) threw me the Merton pitch. It was a killer rainbow curve that caught me just like this one,

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Wow. You don’t have to understand the language being verbally spoken in that video, to realize that this was an amazing last pitch, now, do you? Watching that replay over and over again in my own mind, I knew there was only one thing to do; call my agent and beg him to trade me to the same ball team that these guys played for. Thankfully, I swallowed my pride and the trade worked out. And now, here I am playing on the same team with the legends of the game.

The interesting thing about this here ball club (metaphor alert! read “the Catholic Church”) is that the players come from all over. That used to be unheard of in the big leagues at one time. Heck, some teams are still basically drawing their players from only one geographic area, or culture. But not this team.

Oh they tried that, early on, if you recall. Yeah, way back in the beginning when our first manager, a guy by the name of Peter, had it out with one of the star players on the squad, Paul. The row between these two in the clubhouse was about trying to make everybody who came from another place, fit the same exact mold of the original guys, even if they came from another culture altogether different. It’s all right there at the Baseball Hall of Fame Archives Center.

Man, the dust must have been flying in the dugout that day. But the two agreed that forcing everyone to adopt the same cultural practices of the country that the original players came from didn’t make sense because it wouldn’t help them to win ball games. They knew that the only culture that really mattered, is the Team’s culture. And our owners (there are Three of Them, though the uncanny thing is, They all think and act as One) take winning ball games very seriously.

I saw a story in the sports pages the other day that sounded like “Déjà vu, all over again” as another baseball great, named Yogi Berra, once remarked. A bunch of guys thinking that some people just can’t play baseball.  Period. Bats and gloves, and cleats are just too foreign to them, was the argument. What a load of hooey.

I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Because as best as I can recall it, and check the Rule Book for me on this one, the Owners say everybody can play baseball. No matter who you are, or what country or culture you come from. Let me see…yeah, here it is. This is from one of the Owners,

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19)

That Owner, named Jesus? He came down and played ball with everyone at one time. He was a major “game changer” back in the day and as hard as this is to believe, the “old game” players took him out and killed him for revolutionizing baseball. But the amazing thing is, He came back to life (I told you He was a “game changer”) and he gave us all that play above to carry out,  right before he headed back to the Owners’ Sky Box.

So let’s go play some baseball, huh? Stop worrying about if some can play the game and some can’t. Because it has been proven, over time that everyone can play on this ball club. And don’t forget this either, have fun out there.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 2)

Centuries ago, the unlikely transformation of an illiterate peasant girl into a brave military leader and a defender of the faith began in her father’s garden. “When I was thirteen years old, I had a Voice from God to help me govern my conduct. And the first time I was very fearful. And came this Voice, about the hour of noon, in the summer-time, in my father’s garden; I had not fasted on the eve preceding that day.” Four years later, Joan of Arc was commanding the French military in its war against English invaders.


Skeptics have considered this girl’s voices were merely symptomatic of schizophrenia. That was my conclusion when I first heard about Joan of Arc in my high school church youth group. But this summer, as I have studied the details of her life, this diagnosis seems most improbable.

Joan’s behavior did not deteriorate over the next four years, as one would expect from an unmedicated schizophrenic. On the contrary: she was able to accomplish the improbable and with a great sense of purpose. Also contradicting the idea St. Joan was schizophrenic is the fact that throughout her brief life, she showed tremendous empathy for others.

Because we are Christians, we believe in the miracle of Christ’s birth and resurrection. Can we not then believe that Joan of Arc’s voices were divine? To accept the transcendent is to accept the possibility. As C. S. Lewis put it: “Many people think one can decide whether a miracle occurred in the past by examining the evidence ‘according to the ordinary rules of historical inquiry.’ But the ordinary rules cannot be worked until we have decided whether miracles are possible, and if so, how probable they are.

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

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

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

For All the Saints: Bernard of Clairvaux

Today we celebrate the feast day of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a medieval monk, writer and a gifted preacher. This Doctor of the Church was born in Burgundy in 1090.  I  heard about him earlier this year over breakfast with  a dear friend who is a medieval historian and an expert on the Crusades. The only St. Bernard I remember hearing about  prior to that conversation was a dog. That breed is named after a different St. Bernard.

There is much to learn about and from the life of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, considered one of the last Fathers of the Church. His father was a knight who died in the First Crusade. Encouraged by his devout mother, St. Bernard joined a Cistercian monastary when he was 22. His enthusiasm for the cloistered life was so great his four brothers and nearly 30 friends joined the monastery too. He later founded and became Abbott of Clairvaux Abbey. While St. Bernard was a contemplative, politicians, bishops and kings sought him out. Consequently, his life was woven in with the politics of the the Second Crusade and of the Papacy.


What intrigues me most about the life of St. Bernard is his founding and reviving of dozens of monasteries in Europe during his lifetime. What an inspiration as our Church faces declining vocations. We are blessed that St. Bernard left so much writing  (which Frank has already written about here and here ), spiritual food to taste centuries later.

Here is an excerpt from St. Bernard’s book On Loving God.

“Why should not the creature love his Creator, who gave him the power to love? Why should he not love Him with all his being, since it is by His gift alone that he can do anything that is good? It was God’s creative grace that out of nothingness raised us to the dignity of manhood; and from this appears our duty to love Him, and the justice of His claim to that love.”

He was devoted to Our Blessed Mother. Tradition tell us he wrote the Memorare prayer.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother, to thee I come, before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate! Despise not my petitions, but, in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

St. Bernard’s overwhelming love of God and his knowledge that without God’s love we would not exist, is a reminder to me to always put this fact in front of me. “Every morning Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – lead a holy life.

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena

Given my recent enthusiasm for St. Joan of Arc, Frank suggested I pray a novena to her, asking her to intercede for my private intentions. Who better to ask to pray for us than St. Joan? She was a courageous warrior for Christ, country and family during a tumultuous time in her native land. Filled with the Holy Spirit, this peasant girl from the French countryside never stopped believing that the voices and visions that began coming to her when she was 13 were messages from God. This novena will end August 28, the feast day of Saint Augustine, who lived 1,000 years before St. Joan and “established anew the ancient faith.”

Even though I’m a lifelong Catholic, I did not know what a novena was until a few years ago. So in case you were as poorly cathecized as I, let me share what I found out:  a novena, which comes from the Latin word “novem”  for nine, is a series of prayers said over nine days to obtain special graces.  “They’ve been prayed since the very beginning of the Church — and before its official beginning: Mary and the Apostles prayed from His Ascension until Pentecost, a period of nine days (Acts 1). Also, a nine-day period of supplication was a pagan Roman and Eastern practice, so novenas were easily accepted by the earliest converts in these lands.”

Both Webster and Frank have shared their novenas with you. And so for the next nine days I invite all of you  who seek the intervention of this remarkable saint to pray along with me. Following this prayer, say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be.

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

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

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

Because of The Ecclesia Domestica (Domestic Church)

Something remarkable happened this summer. Our home became a gathering spot for neighbors and friends. The ability of my husband and me to welcome them and the joy our visitors bring to us are gifts from the Holy Spirit and signs of Christ’s welcoming grace.

I last remember folks stopping by like this when our two boys were toddlers – generally the visitors were stay-at-home moms or dads would drop by for a play date, adult conversation or a simple meal.

That was a decade ago; both our boys now are adolescents. The people dropping by now are my sons’ preteen or teen friends, as well as young adults in their twenties who I have met through church or CL. They are older neighbors looking for companionship and young mothers whose children like our puppy.

Nothing on the surface is special about our home. It is one of the smallest in our neighborhood. Our glassed-in front porch has a table with chairs that I bought on clearance. Our younger son plays cards at the table with his friends. Our family room has two large and comfy sofas and an enormous TV friends gave us when they moved out of town. Our former dining room is now a music room for my son’s basses (one upright and one electric) as well as the family computer, which is currently on the fritz. The mother of a son’s friends loaned me the boy’s laptop while the boy vacations so I can use it to continue my job search (and blog). Another friend is teaching our teen how to fix the home computer. Our kitchen table is tiny, with just three stools.

Little is particularly Catholic about the way our home looks. Yes, every room has at least one cross or crucifix. But we don’t have a holy water font by the front door, or a cellar of blessed salt, or a family altar.

Still, our home is the heart of our family: we pray here, we cook meals together, we welcome friends of all faiths and no faith, we bicker with one another and we try to forgive one another before the sun sets. We deal with the “concreteness of (our) daily existence.”

Recognizing the centrality of family life to spiritual life, our Church calls our homes “ecclesia domestica,” or domestic churches. John Paul the Great understood their value. “The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission.”

This is the reason people stop by. And this is yet another reason why I am Catholic.

First Lesson About Man (A Few Words For Wednesday)

I’ve been engrossed in exploring the life and work of my new friend John C.H. Wu. Is it any surprise to you that he corresponded with Thomas Merton? How could he not have, is what I say. And I found some evidence that he did, of course. Merton wrote the introduction to John’s book The Golden Age of Zen. In fact, John writes this about their friendship,

There is no telling how much the friendship of this “true man” has meant to me during all these lonely years of my life.

See, practically bosum-buddies! And I also posted a thank you to Pink Floyd this week. Working on that, coupled with the knowledge that my friends John and Father Louis were correspondents, jogged my memory of one of Fr. Louis’ poems.

First Lesson About Man

Man begins in zoology.
He is the saddest animal.
He drives a big red car
Called anxiety.
He dreams at night
Of riding all the elevators.
Lost in the halls
He never finds the right door.

Man is the saddest animal.
A flake eater in the morning
A milk drinker.
He fills his skin with coffee
And loses patience
With the rest of his species.
He draws his sin on the wall
On all the ads in all the subways.

He draws moustaches
On all the woman
Because he cannot find his joy
Except in zoology.
Whenever he goes to the phone
To call joy
He gets the wrong number
Therefore he likes weapons.

He knows all guns
by their right name.
He drives a big, black Cadillac
Called death.
Now he is putting
Anxiety into space.
He flys his worries
All around Venus
But it does him no good.


In space, where for a long time
there was only emptiness
He drives a big white globe
Called death.
Now, dear children, you’ve learned
The first lesson about man.
Answer your test:

Man is the saddest animal.
He begins in zoology
And gets lost

In his own bad news.

I was getting the wrong number for a while too. How about you? Perhaps St. Anthony had something to do with helping me find the right number as well!

Take a look at this video for the full reading of the poem and a montage that works pretty well with it. The poster writes,

This surreal poem is from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. I thought the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico provided an interesting perspective (as it were) on the poetry.

I agree.

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Because St. Anthony Helped Me Find John C.H. Wu

Anyone remember Webster’s first post on minor miracles? Something a little more than a coincidence led me to John C. H. Wu and I’m not ashamed to go “on the record” and say that. While browsing the shelves of my local public library, I came upon this little volume called St. Anthony’s Treasury. It’s a wee little book of prayers that is about the size of a pocket New Testament, like the ones the Gideon’s publish.

Catholic prayer books in the public library? That’s a minor miracle in itself, right? I know it was a gift from a patron. How? Because in pencil on the top right-hand corner of the blank page facing the inside cover is written carefully the word “gift.” The library, see, doesn’t have the money to purchase every published book under the sun. Especially not little Catholic prayer books like this one.

So I checked the book out, with the intention of looking over the prayers and devotions later. I was on my break and as I walked back to my office I learned about the First Friday Devotions right there on page 76. I always wondered what that devotion was all about. As someone who pretty regularly attends daily Mass, First Fridays are the same as every Friday, or so I thought. Now I know better.

When I got back to the office, I tossed the book into my book bag and forgot about it. And when I got home that evening, I dropped my bag in its customary resting place.  I forgot about it again until I needed to put my lunch into it the next morning. My routine? Grab my lunch, stuff it in the bag, grab my coffee, and out the door. Just another day, so far.

I work downtown and park in a garage that is about a ten minute walk from my office. So I get out of the car, throw my bag over my shoulder, lock the car and start walking. Oh yeah, then I dug into the bag and pulled out St. Anthony’s Treasury to read while I walked. Who knows? Maybe I’d learn something new.

The day before, I had checked the contents and skipped to the first devotion that caught my eye. For my walk, however, I started in the foreword, which is where I used to never look. You know, from before, when I was a “know-it-all.” I used to never read introductions, prefaces, or forewords, because I just wanted to get right to the action. I learned over the years that this wasn’t always a great idea.

So to the foreword it was. Written by a Robert Nash, S.J., he reminds us that St. Anthony is renowned as an “expert in the art of finding lost articles.” Does everyone know St. Anthony’s Prayer? You have lost something, say, and can’t find it anywhere. So you ask St. Anthony of Padua to help you out by calling on him like so,

St. Anthony!, St. Anthony!
Please come down.
Something is lost,
And can’t be found.

But, as far as I knew, I hadn’t lost anything on this day, so I kept on reading Fr. Nash’s foreword which was a lamentation on the huge numbers of people who have lost their faith and don’t really seem to care about it. It sounded like he was sulking, really, and I was just going to turn the page when I ran smack dab into these words,

The pagan philosopher Dr. Wu read…this in the Life of St. Thérèse. “What a wonderful girl!” he exclaimed. “If this saying of hers is an expression of the meaning of Catholic faith I see no reason why I should not become a Catholic.”

Having done a few posts on a guy named Wu, I was intrigued. The Wu I knew, though, became a Jesuit priest way before Thérèse of Lisieux had been born. As I walked, I resolved to see if I could find any information on this “pagan philosopher” named Wu, because from the quote Fr. Nash used, he sounded like a smart guy to me.

Now, this foreward is in the edition of St. Anthony’s Treasury that was published in 1975 by the Anthonian Press out of Dublin Ireland. I had some pretty good clues on this Wu person, and a Google search later, I had discovered that the guy who uttered these words was no pagan. Heck, by 1975, my friend John had been a Catholic for 38 years, and had published numerous books about the Faith. He had been an envoy to the Vatican in the early 1940′s, for crying out loud, and this Fr. Nash had no idea!

Something had been lost, alright, but it wasn’t my car keys. It was the Catholic legacy of John C.H. Wu that had been lost. Perhaps St. Anthony was pointing me in this direction so that John’s legacy can be rediscovered? That’s what I believe, anyway. Especially when I realized that most of his books are out of print, and used copies of them are few and far between. And expensive! Which got me thinking too.

Take a look at this map below.

This is the map of the world shaded by percentage of the population that identifies themselves as being Christian. See the big light colored space? Like all the way from Casablanca on the coast of Morocco to the islands of Japan? Less than 10 percent of the people in these areas are Christians. And the most populated country on that map is the Peoples Republic of China, right next to the second most populated country, the Republic of India.

Which leads me to make this appeal to the good folks at Our Sunday Visitor. Would OSV please consider republishing the works of John C.H. Wu if they still own the rights to them? I think the market for John’s books is pretty large. Heck, I love what he has written too and I’ve only read The Science of Love so far. He is the “Chinese” Chesterton after all. Just imagine the souls that could be reached in Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Arabic, and other lanquages.

What do you say OSV? Can you bring John’s work back to the presses (or to Kindle)? St. Anthony has found him, but we here at YIMCatholic do not have a printing press. Thanks in advance for taking up this cause. If anyone reading this post knows anyone who can help make this happen, I would be much obliged.


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