Because We Don’t Sing Alleluia and Then We Do

Post by Allison  
My parish choir’s alto section – all two of us – came a half hour early Thursday night to rehearsal to work with our music director on Georg Friedrich Händel’s Hallelujah Chorus. As we sang, with our church enveloped in darkness and the world outside dark too, I realized being able to sing Alleluia – which means Praise God – is one of the reasons I am Catholic.

This Lent has been a long and lonely time for my soul. We Catholics do not sing or say Alleluia during this penitential season. Some Christian friends who attend non-liturgical churches do not understand why Catholics observe 40 days of Lent and then the 50-day Easter season. The rhythms of the Church’s calendar help me to understand the drama of salvation.

As for Händel’s Messiah, I’ve been singing and hearing it since childhood. I think of it as one of my personal theme songs. It was almost an anthem for my public high-school chorus and my parents sang Messiah in various choral groups. How I am looking forward to singing it with my fellow choristers at Easter Vigil after we have traveled together through Lent! Easter, in which we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, doesn’t makes sense without Lent. Without understanding deprivation, we cannot understand salvation. Without the sorrow of Christ’s suffering, our Easter joy is meaningless. Our church was dark Thursday night except for a light in the choir loft. As I surveyed the darkened sanctuary below, with its veiled statues and crucifix, I could see only the candle burning in front of the tabernacle. The light of salvation like this, too.

When we are unbelieving, our world can be dark and desolate. Yet God is always with us. We are heading into the most solemn and holy week in the Christian calendar. We journey with Jesus to Calvary and we do so with the assurance He is risen. For a sneak peak at what will be celebrated next Saturday evening at a Catholic church near you, check out this clip

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Because We’re Having Too Much Fun Here

Synchronize watches, YIMC-ers! We have a big announcement scheduled for 0500 hours on Passion Sunday. That would be tomorrow. You don’t want to miss this. No, it has nothing to do with immigrants. Or scandal. Or soccer. Itching to find out? Desperate to know? Can’t wait another second? Well, we’ll give you a hint, but we’re betting you’ll never guess. . . .
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For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies VI

10.000 feet still? What the heck just happened! Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be alarmed. The last time I spoke to you I had said that we would be cruising at 10,000 feet again this week. Instead Webster and I had to land this puppy due to a fire warning light on our starboard engine.

How’d you like the landing? Webster and I really get a kick out of carrier landings (and take-offs too)! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HAW! Oh, and one of the ground crew took a video of our landing too.  Check it out!

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Wow, look at that horizon move.  Ain’t this grand! What’s that? Pass the Dramamine?! You mean you’re not interested in tonight’s meal selection? But Webster checked with the galley here on the good ship Abraham Lincoln and they have prepared a cornucopia of Lenten feast selections for the crew (and now us too)!  Seriously, the whole mess is opened for us with everything from Grilled Swordfish Steaks to Fish Tacos, and all points in between. Webster and I are on flight status so we can’t imbibe, but we hear the slop-shute is open to the rest of you.

As the crack ground crew chases electrons to track down the gremlin that set off that fire warning light, the other aviators on Ol’ Abe have set up a screen in the ready room so we can all enjoy tonight’s movie selection together.  Guess what? It has a Navy captain and a nun as the lead characters! How appropriate! Yep, The Sound of Music. Webster is giving me some guff because he knows I never saw this movie until 2002 (hush—wait until he finds out I’ve never seen A Man For All Seasons!) Anyway, here is the trailer, and thanks again for flying YIM Catholic Airlines!

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Because of the Seven Last Words

Guest post by Warren Jewell
I have five Crucifixes on my walls. They represent my favorite icon of my God, as Son and Savior, as Brother and Servant. In my suffering of one thing and another, the Crucifix reminds me just how much suffering God Himself bore for me. No simple cross, without a corpus, is enough, for a simple cross is but a marker, as in a graveyard. The Cross is His most evocative throne. Now, you tell me: what good is the throne without the King?

In praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of my Rosary one day, I was reminded in the last mystery, of Jesus, God and man and our Christ, humbly accepting His sin-conquering Crucifix and lovingly sacrificial death, of the last words of Jesus from His cross. It struck me just how forgiving He is that He would so suffer for us to save us from our sins. His words came to me as not just as summation of His loving life among us, but actual words in immediacy of absolving us from our sins. So, read on about Jesus’ seven last acts of absolution. Oh, and yes, permitting the Crucifix to remind you: “Go, and sin no more.” (One reason that wherever I look I see the Crucifix!)

Of course, Jesus’ first very memorable words are “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) They are addressed to His heavenly Father about us lost in our world in absurd madness of our sins – so much as to fail to recognize Jesus – Jeshua – Whose very Name means “God is with us”. So, even in the fresh agonies and horror of accepting crucifixion, Jesus thinks of us, all of us, first; to absolve us for not recognizing Him, and our greatest sin of taking the giving human life of our very loving God.

Look closely upon that good thief, Dismas: And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43) The very King of glory, as Dismas saw and acknowledged, and of Whom he begged for forgiveness, addresses absolution to Dismas – and, what an absolution! “You die a thief; you will live again, and forever, a saint.” That very day the thief who stole heaven would enter accompanied by very God made man. Christ with Dismas shows us that we can die in unimaginable, unmentionable suffering, some of which is ignominy, and yet have absolution that we can live forever. We can beg in prayer much as Dismas did: (Remember me, my Lord, in Your love; absolve me of my sins and take me Home with You.)

Can our good Lord be any plainer in His absolution than to give us His holy Mother, Mary, as our holy Mother? The exact words seem to indicate He looked for her, and to her and John, to do just that, to so absolve us as give us to her, and her to us. When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27) Mary as our holy Mother powerfully symbolizes all the love Christ invests in us in giving us our other Holy Mother, His Church, through His Spirit. Mother Mary lived among us to tell us: “See? You need not sin!” Mother Church lives on and on to tell us: “Ah, but you will sin; and I am here to offer you Jesus’ absolution.” In our Holy Mother, Christ’s Church, the gentle father who is our pastor is in his confessional, of daily absolution from Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who waits, beckons, exhorts, calls, and answers our repentance with His absolution.

“I thirst.” (John 19:28) These words were as signal touchstone to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Christ so thirsts for our souls living with Him forever, He calls out to us: “Quench My thirst by accepting the graces of My salvation.” More than just an offer, it is His absolution for us as His desire. “Come – follow Me – let Me forgive you – I will absolve you – I will save you – I have always loved and will always love you – I thirst to love you, and for your love for Me.” How can we resist responding with our own prayer: (O my Savior, I thirst for You, now and forever, and seek Your Way from out of Your absolution. In Your Way, grant me every grace to follow You to Your end in glory.)

Then, the most terrible instant in all time: all sin has been taken on by Jesus Christ, and God His Father, though never less than completely loving, simply must glance away from His sin-laden Son. In this greatest anguish, so vital that two evangelists relate the event, Christ prays Psalm 22, and cries out: “E’lo-i, E’lo-i, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?”“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 22:46, Mark 15:34) Jesus is never so close to us as in this moment, when He so embraces us in loving absolution that He takes all the penalty of guilt for our sins upon Himself – our most giving, sacrificing, absolving Brother. (And who of us would not appreciate having the King of kings as our Brother?) It is the paramount moment when all of heaven shares in His anguish over sin. (O, my God, forsake me not to my sins and death as result of my sins. I beg of You in Your love to have mercy, forgive me, absolve me. And, lead on that I follow You with my own cross.)

His absolution is our Lord’s completion of our repentance, as Jesus tells us when He declares from His Crucifix that “It is finished.” (John 19:30) We cannot forgive ourselves so completely as Christ can; maybe, not at all until He absolves us. His absolution is complete and His loving mission to absolve us is ‘finished’ in saving us by His Crucifix, giving His human Body and Blood and bringing His Soul and Divinity for us.

Jesus, our Christ, gives us His last act of absolution in turning us over to our most loving Father in heaven. He prays, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” (Luke 23:46) He offers us with Himself, and offers us as His and our Father’s children who are given absolution so easily now, by faith and repentance out of hope and love.

No, there is never a ‘wrong time’ to look to Christ in His passionate Crucifixion. But, don’t let killing Him as He chose and willed for us to do to Him, to be able to have and accept salvation, go to waste. He calls you and me to repentance, confession and absolution from His very Cross, and in His last words. As well, accept His suffering as His demonstration that He knows suffering, your suffering, and can help you through your suffering to share His Resurrection with Him. You see, Jesus Christ, Son of God, loves no one more than He loves you and wants you Home with Him forever.

Because Nothing Matters, Until Everything Does

Allison recently wrote a good post about soccer and sports. I want to be clear: This is not a rebuttal to her post. I agree with much of what she had to say in that post, and with many of the comments as well. But forget sports, school work, home work, our careers, our relationships, our involvement in society, our intelligence, our physical gifts or impediments for a second. None of it matters unless our love of Christ is the center of our existence. For as Qoheleth says in Ecclesiastes, all is vanity. However, when we are Christ centered people, then everything matters.

You may remember from an earlier post that I hinted that I am a gearhead. I willfully dismantled a perfectly good engine in my Mustang in an effort to make it better, stronger, faster. I did this before I became a Catholic. I have always had an interest in motors, engines, airplanes, trucks, etc. I was just born with this attraction and with mechanical ability. So, new exhaust manifolds, intake manifold, cylinder heads, fuel injectors, camshaft—all were removed and replaced in my driveway with hand tools and moxie back in 1999.

Just to see if I still could, I swapped the cylinder heads on the motor again in 2002 (after my near brush with death). And actually, I had blown a head gasket and took that incident as an opportunity to add ported and polished heads.  That is an example of clear, focused, gearhead thinking for you. In 2005, I drove this car 2100 miles across the country from California to our new home. She is a runner and one spirited pony. And none of this matters for my salvation. That is, until it did.

A few months after our move, she (cars are feminine) broke down and I couldn’t figure out the problem. I started her up one day and she was running really rough. I opened the hood, checked the spark-plug wires, fuel injectors, sensors, etc. All was fine. But still, the motor had a wicked shimmy and was seemingly trying to tear herself off the motor mounts. Have I lost you with all the gearhead jargon? Sorry. Long story short, I put the pony to pasture for a while because I was busy with other chores, like building a stair-case and contemplating swimming the Tiber.

Eventually (over a year later) I finished the home improvement projects and decided to tackle the engine problem again. Knowing my limitations though, I took it to a professional. I learned early on that throwing money and personal labor at problems a professional can diagnose quicker and cheaper is silly. The problem? The harmonic balancer was slipping off the crankshaft key.

The balancer is a big counterweight that dampens the vibrations in the mechanical workings of an internal combustion engine. It probably went a little off kilter when I swapped the camshaft, and eventually it manifested itself as a wicked shimmy. See this photograph? The balancer is that thingy that looks like a wheel on the end of the crankshaft. Without the balancer, centered perfectly on the crankshaft, the engine will tear itself apart. With the balancer in place, the engine will run smoothly.

At the time my car’s motor broke, I was wrestling with my practice of Christianity. I knew that up to this time in my life, Christ definitely had not been the center of my existence. I had pushed him way out on the periphery. Of course, by doing that, the big counterweight that should have been my center was removed. Thus all the other moving parts in my life were vying for the central position. As a result, I was running as rough as my Mustang motor had been with the broken balancer. So this idea popped into my gearhead–Joe Sixpack mind: Christ is our harmonic balancer.

The idea of having Christ at our center isn’t mine, it is God’s. And this handy little diagram isn’t my idea either. But until the motor in my Mustang broke, I didn’t really “get” the ramifications of not having Christ as the center. This incident with the harmonic balancer was when theory and practical application came together for me. It is why I understand that putting sports, or anything else for that matter, at the center of your life instead of Christ will lead to oblivion.

Is this the shortest parable on record? I don’t really know, and truthfully, I haven’t checked. If it isn’t, though, it’s close.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is recorded as having said this in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 13). And there we all are as Catholics and Christians—yeast to be mixed in with the flour of the rest of the world so that the mixture is leavened and the loaf can rise. In the same Gospel, while giving His Sermon on the Mount He also says,
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
The Desert Fathers chucked everything and headed into the desert to pray and wait. I don’t have that option because I was called to be a father and a husband. And I understand that I am called to put Christ first in my life. I have found the Catholic Church to be the place where I can do this most effectively. And all of my God-given talents and abilities are to be put to good use and for His greater glory. The same is true for my wife and our children.
So be it sports, school work, home work, careers, relationships, involvement as citizens, our intelligence, our physical gifts or impediments, et cetera, et cetera, with Christ in his rightful and central place in our lives, everything we do, or think, or say, matters for our salvation.
Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War was not a Catholic or a Christian. Heck, he couldn’t have been because he lived in China around 500 BC. But I think he would have made a good Catholic Christian and he would understand where his loyalties must lie as a disciple of the True King. Note this saying of his,
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
The same is true for us privates and gearheads too.

Because We Welcome Immigrants

Guest post by Allison 
Because my own family has roots in both Latin America and Europe, it has been painful for me to hear some Catholic friends tell me how they fear the influx of Latinos into their churches. I wish these fellow travelers could have come with me and my son Friday night when we visited Saint Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Princeton, New Jersey, for Spanish Stations of Cross.

As part of their CCD programs, our sons must attend two Stations of the Cross during Lent. For our older son, this has been tough. Friday nights find Gabriel at rehearsal with a regional orchestra based in Princeton, 20 miles from our own parish. Now we’re running out of Fridays in Lent.

So last Friday, after Gabriel’s rehearsal, he and I headed over to St. Paul’s on Nassau Street across from Princeton University for Spanish Stations of the Cross, which started at 8. This proved to be one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever have had inside a Catholic church.

I’m a lifelong Catholic. I never witnessed such a level of devotion among teenagers, or such a young demographic attending Stations of the Cross.

St. Paul’s in Princeton was founded in 1847 in response to the many immigrants who settled in the area. It is staying true to its mission. The Latino population in Princeton Borough is growing, primarily with immigrants from southern Mexico and Guatemala. Ten years ago, 8 percent of borough residents were Latino, a percentage that has increased in the intervening years.  

Arriving a little before 8, Gabriel and I found a spot in the pews and said some prayers while we waited for the Stations to begin. By 8, at least 50 people had gathered in the large church. Unlike my home parish, where Stations of the Cross draws mostly senior citizens, virtually all of these worshipers were ages 30 and under, including many families with young children. (By the way, more than half of all Catholics in the United States under the age of 25 are Latino.)

We discovered that the parish’s Spanish-language youth group was hosting the Stations that night. 

A cluster of teen-aged girls gathered at the ambo and read from the script while another group of teens and young adults sang on the other side of the altar. A third group, teen-aged boys, reverently led a procession of worshipers around to the 14 Stations. One boy held a large wooden cross and two others held white candles. We worshipers followed them, singing, kneeling and praying at each station as we recalled the Crucifixion. After we completed the Stations, worshipers knelt in their pews for prayer. 

At various times before, during, and after the Stations, several teens spontaneously knelt on the hard marble floor of the Church, praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Never have I seen such a spontaneous expression of devotion—not in my parish growing up and not in the parish we now attend. 

At the end, we all prayed El Padre Nuestro and El Ave María. Then a nun who was helping shepherd the worshippers around the sanctuary said a special prayer for the teens. In more direct language than I have heard for years in a Catholic Church, she asked God to keep them safe—from sex before marriage, from drugs and from violence. 

Even those who profess great faith can ignore the Holy Spirit and become distracted by fears and anxieties about newcomers in the pews. Recently, in our home parish, I have heard unfounded fears that by becoming more welcoming to Latino families, say, by offering confession in Spanish, we might: attract gangs, foster heterodoxy, and promote socialism.

One of the beauties and strengths of the U.S. Catholic Church, however, is that we always have been the church of immigrants— welcoming first worshippers from Europe and now the faithful from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”

To Become Like Little Children

This afternoon my friend Carol led my fourth-grade religious ed class through the Stations of the Cross. Teaching this class this year has been a revelation, and while I look forward to the summer break, I will miss these kids. They continue to teach me.

They have surprised me in so many ways: Boys who didn’t seem to give a hang in October now reading along attentively with Carol. Look at my pal C at left! Not to mention the other C in the Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox jersey.

Girls who wanted only to blend in with the woodwork, meek, seemingly afraid or unwilling to step forward, now front and center with their interest. That’s my friend E to the left of the column, looking so intently at the 11th Station. Beautiful!

Children have a deep, indelible wish to know God. I can’t wait for my next class in the fall. I can’t wait to start learning again.

Thanks to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

“On the day upon which the Church celebrates the feast, I had a vision of Mary’s Annunciation.”

At daily Adoration I have been reading slowly The Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the visions of German visionary and stigmatist Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824). I opened the book today (volume one of four) and found that I had reached the Annunciation, which we celebrate tomorrow. It reads:

“I saw the Blessed Virgin a short time after her marriage in the house of Nazareth. Joseph was not there. He was at that moment journeying with two beasts of burden on the road to Tiberias, whither he was going to get his tools. But Anne was in the house with her maid and two of the virgins who had been with Mary in the Temple. Everything in the house had been newly arranged by Anne. Toward evening they all prayed standing around a circular stool from which they afterward ate vegetables that had been served.”

I feel a bit kooky reading Emmerich. She starts with the Garden of Eden, for goshsakes, complete with a tree on an island in the middle of a pond, as vivid as the island green at Sawgrass (left). Emmerich’s vision of the Annunciation is just as vivid.

“Anne seemed to be very busy about the household affairs, and for a time she moved around here and there, while the Blessed Virgin ascended the steps to her room. There she put on a long, white, woolen garment, such as it was customary to wear during prayer, a girdle around her waist, and a yellowish-white veil over her head. The maid entered, lighted the branched lamp, and retired. Mary drew out a little, low table, which stood folded by the wall, and placed it in the center of the room. It had a semicircular leaf, which could be raised on a movable support so that when ready for use the little table stood on three legs. Mary spread upon it a red and then a white, transparent cover, which hung down on the side opposite the leaf. It was fringed at the end and embroidered in the center. A white cover was spread on the rounded edge.”

I love all this detail. Don’t you wonder where it came from—and how it could possibly go on for 1,800 pages? What was happening here?

“When the little table was prepared, Mary laid a small, round cushion before it and, resting both hands on the leaf, she gently sank on her knees, her back turned to her couch, the door of the chamber to her right. . . . I saw her praying for a long time with intense fervor. She prayed for Redemption, for the promised King, and that her own supplications might have some influence upon His coming. She knelt long, as if in ecstasy, her face raised to Heaven; then she drooped her head upon her breast and thus continued her prayer. And now she glanced to the right and beheld a radiant youth with flowing, yellow hair. It was the archangel Gabriel. His feet did not touch the ground. In an oblique line and surrounded by an effulgence of light and glory, he came floating down to Mary. The lamp grew dim, for the whole room was lighted up by the glory.”

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Emmerich entered an Augustinian convent when she was twenty-eight. “Here she was content to be regarded as the lowest in the house.” Her sisters were disturbed and annoyed with her weak health, her ecstasies, her strange powers. In 1813 she became bedridden, and soon afterward she received the Stigmata, including the marks of thorns encircling her head. In about 1820 Klemens Brentano, a famous poet, visited her. She recognized him, saying that he was the man who would help her fulfill the word of God. She dictated the entire
Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to Brentano. He was won over by her purity, humility, and patience under indescribable sufferings.

“The angel, with hands gently raised before his breast, spoke to Mary. I saw the words like letters of glittering light issuing from his lips. Mary replied, but without looking up. Then the angel again spoke and Mary, as if in obedience to his command, raised her veil a little, glanced at him, and said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to they word!’ I saw her now in deeper ecstasy. The ceiling of the room vanished, and over the house appeared a luminous cloud with a pathway of light leading up from it to the opened heavens. Far up in the source of this light, I beheld a vision of the Most Holy Trinity. It was like a triangle of glory, and I thought that I saw therein the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

“As Mary uttered the words: ‘May it be done unto me according to thy word!’ I saw an apparition of the Holy Ghost. The countenance was human and the whole apparition environed by dazzling splendor, as if surrounded by wings. From the breast and hands, I saw issuing three streams of light. They penetrated the right side of the Blessed Virgin and united into one under her heart. At that instant Mary became perfectly transparent and luminous. It was as if opacity disappeared like darkness before that flood of light.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us, “Sister Emmerich lived during one of the saddest and least glorious periods of the Church’s history, when revolution triumphed, impiety flourished, and several of the fairest provinces of its domain were overrun by infidels and cast into such ruinous condition that the Faith seemed about to be completely extinguished. Her mission in part seems to have been by her  . . .  Besides all this she saved many souls and recalled to the Christian world that the supernatural is around about it to a degree sometimes forgotten. A rumour that the body was stolen  caused her grave  to be opened six weeks after her death. The body was found fresh, without any sign of corruption. In 1892 the process of her beatification was introduced.

“While the angel and with him the streams of glory vanished, I saw down the path of light that led up to Heaven, showers of half-blown roses and tiny green leaves falling upon Mary. She, entirely absorbed in self, saw in herself the Incarnate Son of God, a tiny, human form of light with all the members, even to the little fingers perfect. It was about midnight that I saw this mystery.”

Because of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Guest post by Allison Salerno
Tomorrow, nine months before Christmas, our Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation—the moment when God became Incarnate in the womb of an unmarried, virgin teenager. So important is this start to our Lord’s life that the only time we Catholics bow when we recite the Nicene Creed is when we say “by the power of the Holy Spirit, [Jesus] was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.”

Did Mary fully understand what she was agreeing to? Did she consider the risks? Did she imagine her pain at the eventual crucifixion of this baby? Did she foresee how her gift of yes would give humanity the possibility of eternal life? Pope St. Leo the Great, in his eloquent letter, details the consequences of Mary’s fiat:

Lowliness is assumed by majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our sinful state, a nature that was incapable of suffering was joined to one that could suffer. Thus, in keeping with the healing that we needed, one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other.

Once, March 25 was a Holy Day of Obligation and the day was called the Feast of the Incarnation. The newer, vaguer name, with the removal of any obligation, diminishes its importance. Still, across the globe, Catholics are reclaiming the day.

In 1993 El Salvador became the first nation to make March 25 a secular holiday to commemorate the unborn. Other Latin American countries have followed suit, including Peru, Ecuador and Argentina. In 2001 the Dominican Republic approved the celebration, saying it is “appropriate and necessary to assign a day to the unborn child, for the purpose of encouraging reflection on the important role of a pregnant woman in the destiny of humanity, and the value of the human life she carries in her womb.”

In an effort to highlight the significance of the Incarnation, since 2002 the Knights of Columbus have been calling March 25 ” The Day of Prayer for the Unborn Child,” to encourage Catholics to pray for an end to abortion. In Virginia last year, Sarah Harkins designed and made this lovely pro-life rosary.)

Conception is a hidden miracle. Abortion is a hidden evil.

If your local Knights of Columbus chapter is not sponsoring prayers for unborn children, pray the rosary in the morning for the safety of innocents now being nurtured in their mothers’ wombs. Pray too, as Pope John Paul II asked: for all of us to find ways to support women in crisis pregnancies; provide counseling services, open our hearts and homes to “unwanted” and abandoned children, young people in difficulty, to the handicapped, and to those who have no one to care for them.”

It’s the least we can do for our Blessed Mother.

Because Jesus Beats the Devil at Martin Luther’s Game

Reading my daily gospel chapter (Matthew 4), I started out thinking, “So why four Gospels?” Islam has one Koran, one truth never to be challenged, on pain of death. By approving a canon of four Gospels, the Church Fathers opened themselves to, nay invited multiple interpretations. As though the story of Christ’s life among us had been made by Akira Kurosawa and the four Gospels were a Greek “Rashomon.”

In that 1950 classic starring Toshiro Mifune (pictured), the story of a crime is told from four conflicting viewpoints. So with the Gospels and its story of the answer to a Great Crime, original sin: Did Mary hear an angel’s voice and visit Elizabeth, as Luke has it; or did Joseph hear an angel in a dream and flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt, as Matthew tells us? Or both?!

What exactly happened after the Resurrection, and in what order, and how long did it take? I’m sure you Bible scholars (Frank?) can give far better examples. I’m just a po’ largely unchurched, unBibled Episcopalian gone Roman.

But you see my point? The structure of four Gospels makes interpretation required. So sola scriptura, the “Reformation” “creed” that only Scripture is infallible, has an inherent self-contradiction at the outset.

Then you come to Matthew 4, and the three temptations of Christ. Jesus and “the tempter” have what amounts to a Scripture Slam, fending each other off with passages from what we now know as the Old Testament. The second temptation is the kicker. The devil uses Scripture (the 91st Psalm in this case) to tempt Jesus. And what does Jesus do? Contradicts the devil with Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16)!

Now, I’m sure the “Reformers” have an answer for this quandary of mine, and I hope to hear from a few of them. But for now, I’m just a po’ Catholic boy scratching my thinning white head. Was Kurosawa Catholic?