Because These Words Paul Wrote Are Worthy of Shakespeare

Especially compared to the “weak tea” of the speech heard ’round the world yesterday.

Of course, this passage from his second letter to the Corinthians isn’t just some dramatic idea that the Apostle Paul dreamed up. They are after all an account of his personal experience witnessing for Christ.

But they are more than that too. They are the words of God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Long time readers know of my favorite speech from Shakespeare’s play Henry V. I love how Kenneth Branagh delivers the St. Crispins Day speech so realistically. Just the other day in a post about friendship, I shared a video scene between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they imagine dialogue from a costume drama set in the hills of Northern England.

I’ve probably watched that scene two dozen times now. I’ve been driving my kids crazy with it too as I improvise more things to say after the rousing “Gentlemen to bed!” introduction.

So with the flair for the dramatic still reverberating through my brain, I turned to the Daily Readings and came upon what follows. Interestingly, I had shared them with you before just a fortnight ago. But as I read them today, I hear a classically trained actor delivering them with verve and dripping with pathos. Maybe it’s just the newly revised edition of the New American Bible.

Reading 1
2 Cor 11:18, 21-30

Richard Burton

Brothers and sisters:
Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.
To my shame I say that we were too weak!

But what anyone dares to boast of
(I am speaking in foolishness)
I also dare.
Are they Hebrews? So am I.
Are they children of Israel? So am I.
Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
Are they ministers of Christ?
(I am talking like an insane person).
I am still more, with far greater labors,
far more imprisonments, far worse beatings,
and numerous brushes with death.

Five times at the hands of the Jews
I received forty lashes minus one.
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked,
I passed a night and a day on the deep;
on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers,
dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race,
dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city,
dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea,
dangers among false brothers;
in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights,
through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings,
through cold and exposure.

And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me
of my anxiety for all the churches.
Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

And the saga continues on into the next day.

Brothers and sisters:
I must boast; not that it is profitable,
but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows),
was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know that this man
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)
was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things,
which no one may utter.

About this man I will boast,
but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.
Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish,
for I would be telling the truth.
But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me
than what he sees in me or hears from me
because of the abundance of the revelations.

Therefore, that I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.

Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

How can the scriptures not come to life when such inspired words as these are read as if they were spoken directly to a blood brother? Read the Bible!

“Post-Rapture Scare” Music (Caritas in Veritate Edition)

Like a champion athelete that should retire when they are on top, I probably should have quit when I was ahead when it comes to the most recent Rapture scare. But the thing is, this isn’t the first prediction of the end of the world and it won’t be the last.

The Bible may not guarantee it, but I will. And we get to do this all over again in 2012 too? Sheesh! But wait a second; the Bible does guarantee something: there is no knowing when the end will come, so stop with the guessing already.

Not only does Christ the LORD state this clearly (see Photoshopped billboard above) once, but He does so repeatedly. Here, here, here, and here. For good measure, the Apostles Peter and Paul do so as well, here and here, respectively. And did I mention Christ said it again here? Practically everywhere throughout the New Testament! Sorry to engage in Shock and Awe scripture tactics but beware the Catholic who reads his Bible regularly.

So, you see, I’m still going to have some fun with this event while hopefully spreading the Truth with Charity (see above links, por favor). Oh, and before we get any further, the Catholic Church (the one founded by the Just Judge Himself) has stated unequivocally that what Christ and the Disciples said about all the end of the world stuff is absolutely and unchangeably true. Catholics believe in the end of the world. It will happen once, and for all. But not on the time-table of any charlatan who thinks he can decipher the mind of God the Father. Even the Son didn’t go there. So that idea is most assuredly laugh-out-loud funny.

So let’s get to some of the music that my friends and I thought of while waiting for this most recent bout of end-times silliness (see you again next year) to pass. First up, the best pop song I can think of that makes light of Apocalypse now!

It’s the End of the World, As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M. No set up for this is needed, right? I felt fine, how about you? I didn’t even break out my stash of spare bricks for the post-Rapture looting I invited everyone to attend. Yep, I was that confident that God wouldn’t satisfy the pride of a huckster by showing up on the schedule (say that the British way, for effect) of a mere mortal.

YouTube Preview Image

Rapture, Blondie. A number of my friends posted this one on their Facebook walls. About all that this song has in common with the end of the world is the word “rapture.” Deborah Harry helped bring rap music mainstream with this song. The Mars Attacks! theme sort of reminds me of the zombie apocalypse (see my “Theology of the Zombie” post for details) scenario in a way.

YouTube Preview Image

Dueling Banjo, from the movie Deliverance. See, God is subtle, and as the scriptures (and the Church) clearly teach, the end is unknowable. And your personal end is unknowable too. But something like this happening might be a sign that you should pay attention to. Just sayin’.

YouTube Preview Image

One of Us, Joan Osborne. Several of my friends shared their “If this was the last day on Earth” music as the clock ticked down. This tune made Catholic author Mary DeTurris Poust’s play list. She also wrote a little post about the event you may enjoy as well. Have a look while you listen to Ms. Osbourne.

YouTube Preview Image

Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears. The idea for sharing this song just came over me. Perhaps it’s the name of the band, which fits this event to a “t”, as well as the general idea behind the song. Harold Camping, and his ilk, have a problem with letting the Maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen, rule the world, see? Yo! Mr. Camping—get your hand off the tiller.

YouTube Preview Image

Won’t Get Fooled Again, Pete Townsend. This song is about politics on one level, and about being duped (with startling regularity) on the other. A huge hit for Pete’s band the Who, he’ll go a little softer with his acoustic version. But not much.

YouTube Preview Image

I Will Always Be True, Third Day. Rounding out this seven song set, the gang from Third Day puts this whole episode into the proper perspective for us. After all, Truth Incarnate said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

YouTube Preview Image

Next week, I’ll get back to the Jesus Goes Mainstream series.

Because Christ is a Warrior (Then, So Am I)

Hi, remember me? I’m the guy who said Christ is a Royal (Then, So Am I). Now I have to write another post with a similar title because I observed that many of the same folks who weren’t interested in the Royal Wedding last week also seem to be conflicted about the actions of S.E.A.L. Team Six a mere forty-eight hours later.

Perhaps I’ll be starting a whole new series of blog posts around this theme of who Jesus Christ is, and how it relates to YIMCatholic. Sure, Eric Sammons already wrote a book about this, but that only covers Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Matthew.

But you see, the Catholic Church is Jesus Christ, and if you are a part of His Church, then as members of His Mystical Body, you too are just what St. Teresa of Avila, aka “Big Terry,” says you are:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

St.Thérèse of Lisieux
as St. Joan of Arc

If you think Frank has gone a little batty with the assertion that the Church is Christ, then look at our blog patron’s statement that is right there in paragraph 795 of the Catechism as well,

About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter. —St. Joan of Arc

This assertion, then, has ramifications for each and every one of us regarding our earthly vocations. I’ve seen many who have written posts after the death of Osama Bin Laden with plenty of Bible quotations that play up the docile, meek, and seemingly pacifistic side of Christianity. I can just as easily break out scripture references that proclaim Our Lord as a warrior, or that liken Him to one.

If the Bible is like an encyclopedia, than G.K. Chesterton’s point is well made:

For it is the test of a good encyclopedia that it does two rather different things at once. The man consulting it finds the thing he wants; he also finds how many thousand things there are that he does not want.

Hmmm, there G.K.C. goes again, knocking the cover off the ball. Perhaps he is also talking about the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Or the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Because as important as the imagery is along the spectrum between the end points of pacifism and just war, it’s also important that we remember that the Church is composed of living, breathing, members of the Mystical Body of Christ. And these members cross the broad spectrum of all mankind.

Like last week, some of them are actual Royals in addition to being in the royal priesthood that Christians all belong to. And like the week before, some of them are homeless. And this week, we must remember that some of the members of Christ’s body are soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

Christ, then, in the form of the Church, continues to achieve His earthly mission to bring all people to salvation through the agency of many human beings, whom He created. And some of His children are called to the professional vocation of warrior. As the Holy Spirit spoke through King David in Psalm 144,

Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war.

David seemed pretty thankful in the opening line of that Psalm, didn’t he? Here is what the Catechism has to say on the duties and responsibilities of the faithful who fill this role,

2310 —Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense. Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.

And that is exactly what the members of S.E.A.L. Team Six did this past weekend. It’s what they, and all the other members of the armed forces, have been doing, and will continue to do, as long as our country is in existence. Were they Christians? I don’t know. Were any of them Catholics? I have no idea. But do we need people like them doing what they do? Think about it.

I’ll wrap this post up with another paragraph from the CCC (emphasis mine) and another quote from St. Joan,

2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits”- reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges:

“Asked if she knew that she was in God’s grace, she replied: ‘If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.’”

That is my prayer as well, so help me God.

Update: Father Steve Grunow of Word on Fire on the Death of a Terrorist. Also, a primer on Just War Doctrine.

For Bernard of Clairvaux’s Bible Reading Program to Make Sense of the World

Back in October of last year, I shared thoughts written by a Doctor of the Church with you. It was from a homily St. Bernard of Clairvaux had written and preached to the brothers in his order about one of the books in the Old Testament. As I was re-reading the homily today, these words of truth leapt off the screen,

there are two evils that comprise the only, or at least the main, enemies of the soul: a misguided love of the world and an excessive love of self…

I named the post where these words can be found For Solid Food Like This (Hold the Milk). As posts of mine go, it was unread for the most part. Last week I suggested that we all could spend an extra hour a week reading the Bible. But Frank, you may be thinking, where do we start? I think St. Bernard might have an idea or two.

In that homily, which is on the title of The Song of Songs, he recommends two of my favorite books from the Old Testament to tackle: The Book of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

Comparing these two books to loaves of rich bread, here is what he says to us about them in regard to his quote above,

These are two loaves of which it has been your pleasure to taste, loaves you have welcomed as coming from the cupboard of a friend.

Of course, he is addressing the brothers in the Cistercian order. As such, he is no longer talking to mere babes in Christ, but to soldiers of Christ. No longer folks who believe, but folks who have committed their whole life to Christ and His Church. And today, he is speaking then to Christians who are ready to take the training wheels off their bicycles and really begin to ride. But why these two particular books? Here’s what Doctor Mellifluus has to say,

The Book of Proverbs: Uproots pernicious habits of mind and body with the hoe of self-control.

Have we thrown self-control and self-discipline to the wayside? It appears that St. Bernard is describing the merits of this book as the first phase of recruit training to me. The process where we scrub off our old, worldly selves and become immersed in the culture of our new family. More than just a thought, where in our minds the light-bulb comes “on”, this book deals in concrete actions that teach us how to become practicing Christians and children of God. The military analogy that pops in my mind? Marines aren’t born, they’re made. The same is true for Christians. And what of the second book?

Ecclesiastes: by the use of enlightened reason, quickly perceives a delusive tinge in all that the world holds glorious, truly distinguishing between it and deeper truth. Moreover, it causes the fear of God and the observance of his commandments to be preferred to all human pursuits and worldly desires.

To me this is St. Bernard’s “know your enemy” book recommendation, comparable to Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The shocker to many is that the Church doesn’t discard the use of reason, but she embraces it. Many have thought, “Why is Ecclesiastes even in the Canon of Scriptures?” Because the Church Fathers deemed this inspired book’s merits far outweighed its demerits, and for the very reasons that St. Bernard cites above.

Qohelth describes the world as we know it. Writing as if he is King Solomon, “the Teacher” profiles all of the paths that people take in the world, and describes in pithy phrases the stark truth: all of these ways lead to dead-ends except one. Which is why the good Doctor can say this without batting an eye about these two books,

the former is the beginning of wisdom, the latter its culmination, for there is no true and consummate wisdom other than the avoidance of evil and the doing of good, no one can successfully shun evil without the fear of God, and no work is good without the observance of the commandments.

Tempted to skip these two books and head straight to the Song of Songs? I wouldn’t recommend it and neither does St. Bernard.

Taking it then these two evils have been warded off by the reading of choice books, we may suitably proceed with this holy and contemplative discourse which, as the fruit of the other two, may be delivered only to well prepared ears and minds.

In other words, don’t put the cart before the horse. Learn the fundamentals, and practice them constantly until they become second nature. No, I don’t have this completely “wired” yet and probably never will. But we have to start somewhere and practice, practice, practice.

The Book of Proverbs is pretty straight forward, and the notes in your Catholic Bible should have all the resources you need to understand it. Ecclesiastes may be a little more challenging, but there is a lot of information available to help you along with the writer’s, and thus the Holy Spirit’s, reasoning. As Our Lord says,

but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Come to the well.

For the Daily Readings

If it’s Thursday, then I’ll be lectoring at daily Mass at the parish near my office. I went to the USSCB website to see the readings for today and again was amazed, for like the millionth time, at how prescient the order of the readings are.

I have no idea when the readings for the Lenten season were chosen, or put in this particular order. I know it wasn’t last week though. Most likely it was 30,40,50, or 350 years ago. But the thing is, they always seem to hit home with whatever the crisis du jour is.

Universal truths ring loud and clear, and they are timeless. This is why I love the Bible and the Church.

Jeremiah 15: 5-10

Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.

And the Responsorial Psalm (from Psalm 1) complements beautifully,

R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.

R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.

R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Not so, the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.

R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Amen.

For 10 Things To Do While Fr. Corapi is on Leave

Joe Six-Pack, USMC here, also known as “the Worst Consumer of Catholic Media on the Planet.

You’ve heard the news about Fr. John Corapi? Let’s say that you are a devotee of his. You aren’t alone, because last time I checked, there are 45,800+ “fans” on his Facebook page alone.

He has been placed on Administrative Leave, which to a Marine (like me) means he has been given a “time-out” from line-duty until an investigation can be completed. Nothing to get all wound up about.

But the question now is, how are you going to fill that hour or two (or four?!) that he helped you fill during your week?

 Whaat?! The company commander is wounded and has been medevaced and you lugs just sit down? What is this, the Soviet Army?!

I’ve got news for you lubbers. That’s not how we run things here in the Church Militant. There is plenty for you to do, especially when you consider Commander’s Intent and orders from the Holy Spirit via the pen of St. Paul,

So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.

You heard the Old Man…WORK! And lest you start bellyachin’ about the opportunity for advancement you have been presented, heed these words too:

Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. -(Philippians 2:12-15)

So, let’s assume the Skipper (Marine slang for Captains/Company Commanders) won’t be back, OK? But we’re still at war. So here is a little list of things to do to fill your time while Fr. John is on hiatus.

1. Read Your Bible for an Hour a Week. What, you don’t have a Bible? What kind of soldier are you? Besides, the battlefield is littered with them. I may not be a heavy user of Catholic Media (and TV…no time!), but the USSCB website has the Bible available 24/7. No excuses for not heading to the rifle range. I bet your parish has a bible study class available too. Sign up for it ASAP.

2. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This is like #1 above, but with spiritual direction provided by the Church. The readings and psalms are all laid out for you. It is a great way to spend your time, any time of the day. Available 24/7 at Universalis.

3. Meet the Doctors of the Church Where do you think Fr. John learned to shoot like he does? He’s standing on the shoulders of giants, and so can you. Head to the library and read some of the sermons of St. Athansius, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and others. You’ll be amazed at the stuff they wrote, and the skills you’ll pick up.

4. Read The Spiritual Combat by Dom. Lorenzo Scupoli. Want action? Want a riveting read on tactics and strategies for living through this fight called Christian life? You’ve come to the right place with this book. This will get you started on Chapter One.

5. Pray for our priests and for vocations. We have deaths, retirements, and casualties. And the troops always need leaders. Pray for us soldiers for Christ and pray for our officer corps. If Adoration is available at your parish, that is a great place to pray. But anywhere will do, if you just make the time.

6. Go to Confession. A great way to kill an hour, at least for this week. Only you and God know the state of your own soul, so go take care of business.

7. Go to Daily Mass. This is a great way to spend a half-hour everyday, if you can swing it. You will be surprised at how easy it is to form this habit.

8. Get to know your own parish priest(s) better. This sort of takes care of itself as a result of #6 and #7 above. You know their names, but do they know yours? Why not?!

9. Get Involved in Your Parish. Here is an idea: become a lector, or an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Or join the choir, a committee, or help out at the next parish function. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Help pull some of the load in your parish.

10. Pray the Rosary with your family. Pope John Paul II said, “How beautiful is the family that recites the Rosary every evening.” Hard to do in my family, I’ll admit, but it’s not impossible to do at least once a week. You can even pray along with Mother Angelica and the gang over at EWTN (9:30 PM Eastern).

I’m sure there are many, many other ways to increase your knowledge and devotion during Fr. Corapi’s hiatus. So, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For, as the Apostle says When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.

So don’t take your packs off. Saddle-up and move out for King and Country!

Because God Became Man (Despite His Flawed Human Ancestors)

This day is just beginning, but I can’t let it go forward without mentioning yesterdays’ Gospel reading. It is from Chapter 1 in Matthew and it is the genealogy of Jesus. Here the gospel writer goes to great pains to show that Our Lord and Savior is indeed descended from the line of King David.

Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling with portraits of Our Lord’s earthly ancestors. After reading this post, you may think that earthy is a better description of them.

I work in an archive and many of our patrons come to our repository in order to research their family history and genealogy. It is a fun hobby for many, and though some pursue it in order to prove they are related to famous founding fathers or so they can join patriotic groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the Revolution, etc., most just want to know where their families came from.

Who are my forefathers? Were they like me? In this land of immigrants, when did my family arrive here? Were they good people? Were they famous, or rich, or generous? Am I descended from royalty, or from scoundrels? The riddle of how you came about waits to be solved, because the cast of characters in your background is both deep and wide. Interestingly, many lose heart when nothing special turns up, or they discover their great-grandfather was a horse thief and they are repulsed. Oops!

Our Lord’s genealogy has it’s share of wonderful peculiarities. Jesus is fully God and fully human, and his human line has some very interesting characters, let me tell you. Some have even called Our Lord’s human ancestors a veritable rogues gallery. Forget horse thieves, how about some liars (Abraham, Isaac), adulterers (David), murderers (Manassah), fornicators (Judah), polygamists (Solomon), and harlots? They are all here.

Let’s look at Manassah for example. This is from the Encyclopedia Britannica,

Manasseh, also spelled Manasses, king of Judah (reigned c. 686 to 642 bce). During his long and peaceful reign, Judah was a submissive ally of Assyria. In the course of his reign there occurred a revival of pagan rites, including astral cults in the very forecourts of the temple of Yahweh, child sacrifice, and temple prostitution; hence, he is usually portrayed as the most wicked of the kings of Judah.

Sheesh, that’s right! He even sacrificed his kids to Moloch. And you thought it was bad nowadays? Good news though. By the grace of God, Manassah repented and turned things around. Whew! You can read all about it right there in 2 Chronicles, chapter 33.

And how about the ladies in the line, huh? Strange enough that women are included at all, given the patriarchal society of the Hebrews. Maybe the gospel writer hopes to clean up the reputation of this line a little bit with a brace of impeccable women? Not hardly. First up, we get the Gentile woman named Tamar, who seduced her father-in-law in order to get pregnant. Whaat?! That sounds like something out of an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful, doesn’t it?

See, that was after her first husband, a fellow by the name of Er, “greatly offended the Lord; so the Lord took his life.” Gulp! So Judah (see list above) orders Er’s brother Onan to do his duty and “unite” with Tamar so she could have children. Onan, “spilled his seed on the ground”, offending the Lord and he lost his life too. Which led her to dress up like a hooker, get Judah drunk and seduce him. I can’t make this stuff up, folks. Go check out the story in Genesis, chapter 38.

Next up, we have Rahab the harlot, so you know what she did for a living. Did I mention she was into espionage as well? And she too was a Gentile, a Caananite. So much for the racial purity aspect of Christ’s human lineage. Now, Rahab aided Joshua and his men when they spied on Jericho. So she was a hooker and a traitor? Yep. Picture Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, hiding a couple of spies on her roof and you get the picture right. When the ruler of Jericho asked her to send out the men, she lied and said they were already gone. They didn’t bother to go in and check (they probably didn’t want to be seen in Rahab’s digs). Again, go read about this episode in Joshua Chapter 2. She too is in the cloud of witnesses though due to her faith. You don’t believe me? See Hebrews chapter 11.

And then there is Ruth, the impeccable woman out of this bunch. And again, not Jewish (how can this be?!) Anyway, she married a nice Jewish fellow name Boaz, and lived happily ever after. She had children and had a son who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David, so she is David’s great-grandmother. There is a tiny book all about her in the Old Testament, and you should take a look at it. The filial piety practiced by Ruth is the kind that Wu Li, SJ, and my other Chinese Catholic friends, are very comfortable with. And that goes for me too.

Last, but certainly not least, we round out this list of femme fatales with “the wife of Uriah”, you know, Uriah the Hittite? That was the good soldier whose wife David slept with, which makes this next lady none other than Bathsheba. All kinds of wreck and ruin came about as a result of her and David getting together. She gave birth to Solomon, who I mentioned earlier as the future polygamist and polytheist.  Get all the details on David and Bathsheba in good ol’ 2 Samuel, chapter 11.

I don’t think you need any more examples from me regarding the incontrovertible fact that God works His Will through us flawed human beings whether we see the big picture or not. God promised a Messiah, and I would wager that many of the people on this family tree had no idea that all along God’s Will was working through their lives to bring about the Incarnation. Is it any wonder that Mary, would exclaim, “how can this be?” Because aside from being a virgin, she knew her family line was a train wreck. Maybe even more so than yours or mine.

In my favorite Old Testament book, Qoheleth put it best when he writes,

God made everything fitting in it’s time; but He also set eternity in our hearts, though we are not able to embrace the work of God from beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

And Our Lord speaks volumes when He says,

Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.(Matthew 9:13)

Maranatha, Lord Come!

Because of Francisco De Osuna and a Minor Miracle

During the Summer of 2007 I read an awful lot of books that led me to join my parish RCIA program in the Fall of that same year. I’ve written about most of my reading program in earlier posts in this series, and I continued reading great Catholic books once my RCIA class started too.

For example, I read Mirabai Starrs’ translation of The Book of My Life by St. Teresa of Avila. It is a fascinating book about prayer by a fascinating woman. By reading Big Terry’s book, I discovered the work of another obscure author I had never heard of who had a big impact on this Doctor of the Church and on me. Here is what St. Teresa says on page 20 of her book that peaked my interest,

On the way to my sister’s village, we stopped in to see my Uncle Pedro. He gave me a copy of The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Francisco de Osuna. This is a book all about the Prayer of Recollection. In the past year, I had realized what harm my appetite for romance novels had done to my soul, and I had begun to develop a tremendous appreciation for spiritual books. Since I did not know a thing about the practice of contemplative prayer, or how to go about recollecting my senses and my thoughts, I was thrilled to find a book that told me exactly what to do.

I remember thinking to myself, I don’t know what St. Teresa is talking about (contemplative prayer? What’s that?), but if she liked de Osuna’s book enough to give it such a ringing endorsement, then I need to get a copy of it too, post haste! And the “harm of romance novels” comment resonated with me too, as I sheepishly realized how much of my reading time had heretofore been wasted on a lot of superfluous junk. Since this time, my night stand has been cluttered with “spiritual books”, and lots of them, instead. I wonder if she introduced de Osuna’s book to another Doctor of the Church too, you know, her friend and colleague St. John de la Cruz.

It turns out that Paulist Press published this book as a part of their excellent The Classics of Western Spirituality Series and it’s readily available. A visit to Amazon.com, a few clicks of the mouse, and a credit card authorization later, and The Third Spiritual Alphabet was on its way to me.

Within a week it arrived, all 609 pages of it. And let me tell you, de Osuna did not disappoint. I broke out my pencil for underlining purposes early, and often. Here are some examples of his thoughts from a few of the chapter and section headings,

Communion to God is Open to All; As Gifts Increase, So Do Our Debts; How We Should Give Thanks In Adversity; Blindness is Necessary to See God; How We Cannot Know God in Himself While We Live; Imitating Our Lord in the Desert of Recollection.

And here are a few of his thoughts on recollection that I underlined,

p.170: …we note that the devotion is called recollection because it gathers together those who practice it and, by erasing all dissension and discord, makes them of one heart and love. Not content with just this, recollection, more than any other devotion, has the known, discernible property by which someone who follows it can be greatly moved to devotion when he sees another person also recollected.

Having just left the greater Los Angeles area for my hometown in the hills of Tennessee, these words on the next page struck a chord with me too,

p.171: This devotion encourages us to retire from the traffic of people and noisy places to dwell in more secluded regions and to go out only now and then. If we do leave, we find ourselves anxious to return to our retreat to enjoy recollection, and we are just as eager as when we began the practice. We are like an eel that slips around in the fisherman’s hands so it can wriggle back into the water.

He could say that again. He goes on to say,

In recollection news and vain gossip have no appeal, nor do we like to hear anything that does not advise us to withdraw further into our hearts…for (the recollected) only wish is to see God with their hearts.

And Fray Francisco doesn’t pull any punches on what it takes to get from A to Z in the practice of this devotion. These are his thoughts from p. 175 that maybe only a Marine Corps Drill Instructor can appreciate,

You should also remember that no one masters any art without arduous practice, and the more one practices and becomes accustomed to something, the more quickly he masters it. Do not be so foolish as not to respect in this devotion and art the two things we observe in all occupations. First, learn it so that you are its master; do not be content to remain a beginner all your life like stupid, listless people who are forever learners, never attaining the science of truth because they are insufficiently attentive to their tasks. They are like the one in the gospel of whom it is said, “This man began to build and could not finish( Luke 14:30).”

How ignorant is the man who starts to build a house but does not concentrate on finishing it as quickly as possible so he can enjoy it soon! …If you wish to build the house of recollection for your souls, brother, you will profit immensely by remembering your intention. Plan to finish it.

Aye, aye sir! Now that I’ve given you a taste of my pal Fr. Francisco, I promise to share more of his thoughts in future posts. I can assure you of this because of the minor miracle that I will briefly describe for you now.

You may not have noticed that I’ve been blogging here for just over a year and this is only the second time that I am writing about my friend Fr. Francisco. I mentioned him briefly in the YIMC Book Club discussion of Mere Christianity when we were reading C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on pride. The principal reason for me keeping Fr. Francisco hidden from view is simple: I misplaced his book!

I had searched up and down my house, and my office, for it too. I reckon that it has been missing from my shelves for well over a year. Miraculously, and admittedly this is a minor miracle, not a supernatural one, the book reappeared in the back seat of my car last night. Here is the story.

Our family attended a Christmas party last night, see, and we took two cars because my wife had to go early to help set up. She took my eldest son with her to help her carry things. In Marine Corps jargon, her and my son were the Weathers “advance party” to the event. I followed in trace with the “main body” which included myself and my two younger children.

With the advent of cellular phones, this “advance party(AP) – main body (MB)” jargon makes sense to me because the AP called the MB about five times between the time the AP left and the MB crossed the line of departure. The message traffic went sort of like this,

AP to MB: “Could you bring my make-up bag? I left it in my other purse. Over.”

MB to AP: “Roger that AP, will do.”

AP to MB: “MB, MB, could you stop by the ATM and get some money so we can buy some raffle tickets? I’m out of cash. Over.”

MB to AP: “Roger that AP, will do. Over.”

AP to MB: “Could you bring XYZ with you? I just realized I forgot it. Over.”

MB to AP: “Negative AP, we are enroute and only 5 mikes (minutes) from your location. Over.

AP to MB: “OK then, disregard. Over and out.”

Granted, my wife and I don’t really talk like this on our cell phones. But really, isn’t this the way these AP to MB conversations go? Surely you have experienced this too. After that first exchange about the makeup bag, I found that bag and took it directly to the back seat of my car. I know what is of vital importance to a mission being successful or not, and a missing makeup bag would have been unimaginable. I absolutely did not want to forget that, thus I put it right there on the empty back seat of my car and walked away knowing that all would be well.

The MB arrives at the party and finds it well attended and packed to the gills with people enjoying themselves immensely and noted a long, snake-like, slow-moving, line of people waiting their turn for the food. I tracked down my wife, who was busy helping out, etc. I informed her that I had the makeup bag in the car and to let me know when she needs it and I’ll go get it. She said, “why didn’t you bring it in?” and discretion being the better part of valor, I turned tail and went and got it, ASAP.

As I approached my car, unlocked the doors, and rounded the rear bumper to open the passenger door on the side of the car where I had deposited the make-up bag, I was shocked to see Fr. Francisco’s book sitting there pretty as you please. When I unlocked the car, the dome light comes on automatically and I just stared through the window at that book for probably 15 seconds before I opened the door. I was thinking to, “where did you come from?” That seat had been empty when I threw the makeup bag there less than an hour earlier.

I was happy though, and thanked the Lord that it reappeared. It turned out that my youngest son had somehow noticed that something was bulging in the pouch on the back of the front passenger seat. He may have thought that I was hiding a Christmas present in there or something. I’m sure he was disappointed when it turned out to be one of his Dad’s dog-eared and well worn old books. So he just tossed it onto the seat and never said a word.

Sometimes that is how minor miracles work themselves out. Regardless, I’m just glad Francisco is back and I look forward to sharing more of his thoughts with you in future posts.

Because Catholic Priests Know The Bible, Backwards and Forwards

—Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle

It all seems so silly now.  Before I converted to the Faith, I believed the nonsense that Catholics were biblically illiterate. I remember being amazed at the amount of scriptural knowledge that I noticed when reading Blaise Pascal’s book. And Blaise was a layman. When I read The Imitation of Christ, I was astounded at the depth and breadth of Thomas à Kempis’ knowledge of scripture.

And Thomas even wrote parts of the book in the character of Our Lord. That is how confident he was of his knowledge of the Bible and of Catholic doctrines. The same happens in the selection below. My friend Thomas was a monk and a priest. The selection you’ll see here was also written by a priest. His name is Father Michael Müller, of the Redemptorists. He said I could call him Father Mike, to keep from having to deal with the umlaut over the “u” in his last name all the time. See how nice these priests are?

Father Mike was a well known writer and apologist in the 19th Century. What follows is the preface to a book on prayer that he wrote entitled Prayer: The Key to Salvation. It was published back in 1868, which is quite recently, if you think about it. As you will see, he can throw down scripture quotes with the best of them. And look out Thomas, because he borrowed your technique of writing in the character of Our Lord from time to time too. Take a look,

Preface to Prayer: The Key to Salvation

“The Jews, therefore, murmured at Him, because He had said: I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” (John vi. 41.) “This murmuring at the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ is,”  says St.Cyrillus, “the inheritance which was bequeathed to the Jews by their forefathers, who lived at the time of Moses.” Would to God that this inheritance had been transmitted to the Jews only; but, alas! there is no class of men which is free from such murmurers.

Our Lord’s doctrine is murmured at by infidels when they hear Him say: ” He that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark xvi. 16) . . . “because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John iii. 18.) The doctrine of our Lord is murmured at by Protestants, when He declares: “Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of My Father who is in Heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. vii. 21.)

The will of God has not been taught by Luther, or Calvin, or Henry VIII., or John Wesley, or by another man who invented certain doctrines, and founded a sect according to his own private notions, but it has been taught by Me, the Son of God, Who have charged Peter and his lawful successors to do the same. Upon him I have built My Church; to him and his lawful successors I have said: “He who heareth you heareth Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth Me, and he who despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me.” One who does not do this will be condemned.

“There is a way (the Protestant religion) that seemeth to a man right, and the ends therefore lead to death.” (Prov. xvi. 25.) Sinners murmur when our Blessed Saviour preaches: “I say to you that unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.” (Luke xiii. 3.) The rich also complain, when He threatens ” Woe to you that are rich, for you have your consolation.” (Luke vi. 24.) The poor are dissatisfied when He teaches : “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (Math. v. 3.) The learned reject His doctrine when he warns: “Amen I say to you: unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Math. xviii. 3.) The young are displeased when He exclaims : “Woe to you that now laugh, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Luke vi. 25.) Those who are tempted or afflicted, murmur when He exhorts them by His words and example: “Not my will but Thine be done.” (Luke xxii. 42.) The lukewarm are displeased when He tells them : “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of My mouth.” (Apoc. iii. 16.) Finally, the greater part of men murmur at our Lord, when He teaches : “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent bear it away.” (Matt. xi. 12.) They complain with the unfaithful disciples of our Lord, “these are hard sayings; who can hear them?” (John vi. 61.)

There are still many, it is true, who will say with St. Peter and the other Apostles: “Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have known that Thou art Christ the Son of God.” (John vi. 69, 70.) But how many, even among these, will murmur, not indeed at Christ’s doctrine, but at heretics, unbelievers and great sinners? How many are there who, like the Apostles, not knowing of what spirit they are, wish that fire should come down from heaven to consume them (Luke ix. 54, 55), for not believing, in spite of so many miracles and evident proofs, confirming the truth of the Catholic religion?

To all these our Lord answers with divine sweetness: “Murmur not among yourselves: no man can come to Me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him.” (John vi. 44.) As to all those of you, He means to say, who believe in Me and live up to My doctrine, you ought not to murmur at infidels, heretics or nominal Christians, on account of their infidelity, false belief or bad life, but you should remember that faith, especially practical faith, is a supernatural gift of God, and that no one can have true faith in Him unless it is granted by My heavenly Father. Since they are not as yet drawn by the Father, you should not feel indignant or treat them with severity, but rather pray to the Father that He may draw them sweetly, but powerfully, by enlightening their understanding to know the true faith, and by exciting their will to embrace it in practice, and thus they will be united with you in the same religion.

But as to you who do not believe My doctrine, or believe only a part of it, or live not according to it, neither ought you to murmur at Me and My doctrine or at those who believe truly in Me, because My Father has drawn them. Pray you, too, to My Father that He may draw you also, by removing from your understanding the darkness which prevents you from knowing My Church and the truths she teaches. Pray that He may remove from your heart the coldness and indifference which prevents you from loving the truth, and from your will the reluctance and resistance which prevents you from embracing it.

For this purpose, you should often say to God in all sincerity: “Our Father, who art in heaven, if there are still more truths which I must know and practise, in order to be saved, I beseech Thee, for the sake of Jesus Christ, permit me to know them in whatever way it pleaseth Thee to manifest them to me. Give me a good will that I may embrace them and practise faithfully what they command, until the end of my life.” If you pray perseveringly, in this manner, rest assured that you also will be drawn by My Father, to live and die with My true followers in the same faith.

All your unjust murmurs and complaints would soon be changed into joy, as I have promised when I said: ” Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full,” (John xvi. 24), for My Father “is rich unto all that call upon Him,” (Rom. x. 12) in My name, for the sake of which I will grant that life of which I have said: ” I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly,” (John x. 10), here by My exuberant grace and hereafter by My unspeakable glory.

This doctrine, of such vital importance for the salvation of mankind, is too seldom preached, little understood, and still less put in practice,” God thus permitting it,” says St. Alphonsus, “in punishment for the sins of men.”

“And now, brethren, as you are the ancients among the people of God, and their very soul resteth upon you, comfort their hearts by your speech” (Judith viii. 21), by explaining to them, as often and as plainly as possible, the great necessity of this doctrine on prayer, as well as the right manner of practising it, in order to derive therefrom all possible advantage.

In this book I have tried, my dear reader, to do this; wherefore, I venture to assert that the reading of it will be more profitable to you than the perusal of any other book, for the more you read it the more you will find this assertion to be true. I pray you to read it again and again with great attention, not because it is my production, but because it is a means which God offers you to enable you to attain eternal salvation, thereby giving you to understand that He wishes you to be saved. When you have finished reading this book, induce as many of your friends as you can to read it also.

You must also thank the Lord for what He teaches you in this book, “for it is a great mercy,” says St. Alphonsus, ” when He gives the light and grace to pray and to understand the importance of prayer.” “Ah, my dear brethren,” wrote Pope Celestine to the Bishops of France, “let prayer never leave your hearts, and the grace and mercy of God will never leave your souls. Rest assured that the Lord will never withdraw from you, nor cease to enlighten, guide and protect you as long as you pray to Him. You complain of the difficulty of saving your souls in the midst of a corrupt world, in which you are exposed to so many dangers. Do you wish to escape them all and to fear none? Arm yourselves with prayer. Prayer was the daily food and strength of the prophet; it was his whole delight; he understood but too well all its advantages.”

That is what I would call a tour de force. And that is just the preface? Sheesh! Bumping into guys like this made it very easy for me to consider swimming the Tiber. You can find the rest of this book on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

For the Catholic View of Love


Yesterday was Monday and as such I did a music post. The subject was love, and I called it Love: Three Minus One, because the form of love that I was spot-lighting was not romantic love, or eros as it is known in Greek.

Below are some thoughts written by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and published in his book entitled The Power of Love, which hit the bookstores back in 1964.

Bishop Sheen discusses the radical transformation of love from the Catholic perspective which has helped change the world as we know it. This form of love is from the Greek word agape, which in Latin is caritas, which translated into English is the word “charity.”

Historically, Catholics have used the word charity in lieu of agape, though many still think of the Salvation Army, or corporal works of mercy when they hear that word,  instead of this really unprecedented form of love. Have a look at this passage from Archbishop Sheen’s little book,

The third word for love was not much used in the classical Greek; it was a love so noble and divine that Christianity alone made it popular. That word is “agape.” It was used only ten times by Homer; it is found only three times in Euripedes; later on, it was used a bit in popular Greek which was spoken throughout the world after Alexander conquered it.

The Greeks did not need such a word, because Plato held that there could be no real love between God and man, inasmuch as the gods being perfect desired nothing; therefore, they had no love for man. Aristotle argued in the same way. He said that there was too great a disporportion between man and God to have any love between the two.

When God sent His only Son to this world to save it, and when His Divine Son offered His life on Calvary to redeem it, then was born a love between God and man which the Greeks could not and did not understand. That kind of love was best expressed by “agape.” In contrast to it, the word “eros” is nowhere found in the New Testament; the word “Philia” in all its forms is found forty-five times, but the word “agape” is found 320 times.

Once this agape began to exist, then it flowed down to illumine even Eros; Eros became the sensible expression of Divine Love; fraternal and friendly love was also sanctified by the agape inasmuch as we were to regard everyone else as better than ourselves. The only true lovers or friends are those whose love is explained by the agape of Him who so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son to redeem it.

So agape then is charity, the form of love that St. Paul expounded upon in chapter thirteen of his first letter to the Corinthians. It is this form of love that is used so often in the New Testament. On the YIMCatholic Bookshelf, a search of the word “agape” pulls 22 books (out of 360). Not much, see? But a search of the word “charity,” from the Latin form of “agape”(caritas) pulls 208 volumes from our library. Did I mention that Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Caritas in veritate, is on this very subject? And lest I forget, the Catholic Encyclopedia has a fact-filled citation on this subject as well.

Even Thomas Hobbes, author of the classic of political thought, Leviathan (1651), states it thus,

For these seeds have received culture from two sorts of men. One sort have been they that have nourished and ordered them, according to their own invention. The other have done it, by God’s commandment and direction : but both sorts have done it, with a purpose to make those men that relied on them, the more apt to obedience, laws, peace, charity, and civil society; So that the religion of the former sort is a part of human politics; and teacheth part of the duty which earthly kings require of their subjects. And the religion of the latter sort is divine politics ; and containeth precepts to those that have yielded themselves subjects in the kingdom of God. Of the former sort were all the founders of commonwealths, and the lawgivers of the Gentiles: of the latter sort, were Abraham, Moses, and Our blessed Saviour; by whom have been derived unto us the laws of the kingdom of God.

To close this brief post on Love, I’ll leave you with Archbishop Sheen again, this time from an episode of his television series Life Is Worth Living. Here he discusses Pope John XXIII and his living of this Catholic, this Christian, form of Love. Enjoy.

YouTube Preview Image


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X