Archives for November 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #81)

7 Quick Takes Friday

This week: The Archdiocese of Washington is kicking-off Advent with a strong media program. Marcel has an excellent Advent resource page. Edwarda O’Bara has died. The Population Research Institute has another video addressing the population explosion myth. The CCHD continues to disappoint in the latest 2012 report. A new game like Angry Birds, but with nuns instead of birds? Brazilian elevator hi-jinks.

— 1 —

The Archdiocese of Washington is jumping on Advent with their Find the Perfect Gift initiative. Cardinal Donald Wuerl observes “Christmas is all about that great and perfect gift that is Jesus Christ.” English and Spanish websites have been created, radio commercials prepared, several videos made (including for TV) along with 10,000 yard and window signs.

Of particular interest to me, conversion and reversion stories are also included.

— 2 —

Speaking of Advent, Marcel LeJeune has put together an excellent page with a great information and links.

— 3 —

Edwarda O’Bara died at age 59, just before Thanksgiving. She has been in a coma since age 16 and before losing consciousness, asked her mother to stay at her side. Kay O’Bara did that until passing away in 2008 when Edwarda’s sister Colleen continued her care. Kay said that she could feel the presence of the Virgin Mary in Edwarda’s bedroom.

This inspiring story was told by Dr. Wayne Dyer in his book A Promise is a Promise: An Almost Unbelievable Story of a Mother’s Unconditional Love and What It Can Teach Us. The family maintains a website for Edwarda.

— 4 —

The Population Research Institute has produced another video on the myth of “over population”. See their website and YouTube channel for a lot of great content on this non-issue.

— 5 —

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development continues to DISAPPOINT. I support many Catholic charities, but am always very careful to give nothing to the CCHD. Why? Continuing problems in funding organizations who act contrary to Catholic teaching. Proof? See the current report of Reform CCHD Now. Suggestion: redirect what you would have given to the CCHD to solidly moral charities instead.

— 6 —

I don’t know what to make of this Android and iOS game. My first thought upon reading the title was that it had something to do with the infamous “Nuns on The Bus“. Alas, that couldn’t be as the artwork depicts them wearing habits. A game review notes similarity to Angry Birds. It seems too weird to be offensive – more baffling than anything else.

Nun Attack

— 7 —

From the Convert Journal Brazil desk: Wacky, fun-loving pranksters or just mean?

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!

The last time

The Last Time

Here we are at the end of another Church year! It is a perfect time to reflect on our spiritual lives and memories. This is not the kind of thing we typically would stop for in the middle of the day. More likely, in the still of the night when we are trying to fall asleep our thoughts may move in this direction.

Something during the day might bring a brief remembrance of our past – a person, a place or a “thing.” Lying in bed, we have the time to recall and savor that memory more completely.

I remember my family and extended family members, individually and in groups, in our routine interactions and special occasions. For example, dinner time as a child with my Dad, Mom and brother gathered around the kitchen table or celebrations when we would all get together like Thanksgiving. Their laugh, what we talked about, the sunlight, the smells – sometimes decades before but remembered just like it was yesterday. Broadening to other friends and acquaintances (classmates, fraternity brothers, teachers, co-workers, church, etc.) with who I was close, the memories seem endless.

Think about the people in your life. Your favorite teacher, most mischievous uncle, childhood best friend, your family on vacation, the person at work who became a lifelong friend, a special neighbor. This quickly grows to a lot of people!

It’s not just people that we remember but places and things too. Your childhood bedroom, the place you or your parents rented every year for vacation, the favorite restaurant you used to go to, your college campus, your first cubicle. Maybe you remember your first camera or record player, a prom dress, or that first car.

A curious thing about all of these memories is their indistinct point in time. For example, if you think about your best childhood friend, the vignette that comes to mind is one or more points in the midst of knowing them (or maybe even a “blended” memory). This seems true for most such memories.

What does not stick is the LAST TIME we experienced each person, place or thing except in particularly traumatic circumstances. I remember the last time I saw my Dad and spoke with my Mom, but not really so much for my other relatives and friends. Of places and things, I would be hard pressed to remember the last time I was there or enjoyed that thing.

Yet, there was a last time.

There was a last time I spoke with all the people in my memories. So many have died that whenever that last time was, it was permanent (at least on this side of eternity). In almost all cases, I did not realize then that I would never see or speak with them again. I only know this now in hindsight.

This observation brings to mind some important conclusions:

  • Know that every person we encounter today may be gone tomorrow. Treat them accordingly. Remember this especially for our loved ones. Remember it too for our enemies as we may have no additional opportunities to make ammends.
  • Tell God how grateful we are for all the people in our life and the many, many blessings we have received.
  • One day will be our last. That might be today. Are you ready?

“But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In [those] days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be [also] at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Baltimore Catechism: on indulgences

Baltimore Catechism

Lesson 21

231 Q. What is an indulgence?
A. An indulgence is the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to sin.

I have explained before what the temporal punishment is; namely, the debt which we owe to God after He has forgiven our sins, and which we must pay in order that satisfaction be made. It is, as I said, the value of the watch we must return after we have been pardoned for the act of stealing. I said this punishment must be blotted out by our penance. Now, the Church gives us an easy means of so doing, by granting us indulgences. She helps us by giving us a share in the merits of the Blessed Virgin and of the saints. All this we have explained when speaking in the Creed of the communion of saints.

*232 Q. Is an indulgence a pardon of sin, or a license to commit sin?
A. An indulgence is not a pardon of sin, nor a license to commit sin, and one who is in a state of mortal sin cannot gain an indulgence.

If you are in a state of mortal sin you lose the merit of any good works you perform. God promises to reward us for good works, and if we are in the state of grace when we do the good works, God will keep His promise and give us the reward; but if we are in mortal sin, we have no right or claim to any reward for good works, because we are enemies of God. For this reason alone we should never remain even for a short time in mortal sin, since it is important for us to have all the merit we can. Even when we will not repent and return to Him, God rewards us for good works done by giving us some temporal blessings or benefits here upon earth. He never allows any good work to go unrewarded any more than He allows an evil deed to go unpunished. Although God is so good to us we nevertheless lose very much by being in a state of mortal sin; for God’s grace is in some respects like the money in a bank: the more grace we receive and the better we use it, the more He will bestow upon us. When you deposit money in a savings bank, you get interest for it; and when you leave the interest also in the bank, it is added to your capital, and thus you get interest for the interest. So God not only gives us grace to do good, but also grace for doing the good, or, in other words, He gives us grace for using His grace.

233 Q. How many kinds of indulgences are there?
A. There are two kinds of indulgences – plenary and partial.

234 Q. What is a plenary indulgence?
A. A plenary indulgence is the full remission of the temporal punishment due to sin.

“Full remission”; so that if you gained a plenary indulgence and died immediately afterwards, you would go at once to Heaven. Persons go to Purgatory, as you know, to have the temporal punishment blotted out; but if you have no temporal punishment to make satisfaction for, there is no Purgatory for you. Gaining a plenary indulgence requires proper dispositions, as you may understand from its very great advantages. To gain it we must not only hate sin and be heartily sorry even for our venial sins, but we must not have a desire for even venial sin. We should always try to gain a plenary indulgence, for in so doing we always gain at least part of it, or a partial indulgence, greater or less according to our dispositions.

235 Q. What is a partial indulgence?
A. A partial indulgence is the remission of a part of the temporal punishment due to sin.

*236 Q. How does the Church by means of indulgences remit the temporal punishment due to sins?
A. The Church by means of indulgences remits the temporal punishment due to sin by applying to us the merits of Jesus Christ, and the superabundant satisfactions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints, which merits and satisfactions are its spiritual treasury.

“Superabundant” means more than was necessary. (See explanation of communion of saints in the “Creed.”)

237 Q. What must we do to gain an indulgence?
A. To gain an indulgence we must be in a state of grace and perform the works enjoined.

“Works” – to visit certain churches or altars; to give alms; to say certain prayers, etc. For a plenary indulgence it is required in addition to go to confession and Holy Communion, and to pray for the intention of our Holy Father the Pope; for this last requirement it is sufficient to recite one Our Father and one Hail Mary. Now, what does praying for the intention of the Pope or bishop or anyone else mean? It does not mean that you are to pray for the Pope himself, but for whatever he is praying for or wishes you to pray for. For instance, on one day the Holy Father may be praying for the success of some missions that he is establishing in pagan lands; on another, he may be praying that the enemies of the Church may not succeed in their plans against it; on another, he may be praying for the conversion of some nation, and so on; whatever he is praying for or wishes you to pray for is called his intention.

There are three basic ways of gaining a partial indulgence. A partial indulgence can be gained by: 1) raising one’s heart to God amidst the duties and trials of life and making a pious invocation, even only mentally; 2) giving of oneself or one’s goods to those in need; 3) voluntarily depriving oneself of something pleasing, in a spirit of penance.

A partial indulgence is also granted for reciting various well-known prayers, such as the acts of faith, hope, charity and contrition, and for performing certain acts of devotion, such as making a Spiritual Communion.

To gain an indulgence you must also have the intention of gaining it. There are many prayers that we sometimes say to which indulgences are attached, and we do not know it. How can we gain them? By making a general intention every morning while saying our prayers to gain all the indulgences we can during the day, whether we know them or not. For example, there is a partial indulgence granted us every time we devoutly make the Sign of the Cross or devoutly use an article of devotion, such as a crucifix or scapular, properly blessed by any priest. Many may not know of these indulgences; but if they have the general intention mentioned above, they will gain the indulgence every time they perform the work. In the same way, by having this intention all those who are in the habit of going to confession every two weeks are able to gain a plenary indulgence when they fulfill the other prescribed conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence, even when they do not know that they are gaining the indulgence.

Since partial indulgences were formerly designated by specific amounts of time, you sometimes see printed after a little prayer: An indulgence of forty days, or, an indulgence of one hundred days, or of a year, etc. What does that mean? Does it mean that a person who said that prayer would get out of Purgatory forty days sooner than he would have if he had not said it? No. I told you how the early Christians were obliged to do public penance for their sins; to stand at the door of the church and beg the prayers of those entering. Sometimes their penance lasted for forty days, sometimes for one hundred days, and sometimes for a longer period. By an indulgence of forty days the Church granted the remission of as much of the temporal punishment as the early Christians would have received for doing forty days’ public penance. Just how much of the temporal punishment God blotted out for forty days’ public penance we do not know; but whatever it was, God blotted out just the same for one who gained an indulgence of forty days by saying a little prayer to which the indulgence was attached. But why, you may wonder, did the early Christians do such penances? Because in those days their faith was stronger than ours, and they understood better than we do the malice of sin and the punishment it deserves. Later the Christians grew more careless about their religion and the service of God. The Church, therefore, wishing to save its children, made it easier for them to do penance. If it had continued to impose the public penances, many would not have performed them, and thus would have lost their souls.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2012

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the peoples his deeds!
Sing praise to him, play music;
proclaim all his wondrous deeds!
Glory in his holy name;
let hearts that seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek out the LORD and his might;
constantly seek his face.
Recall the wondrous deeds he has done,
his wonders and words of judgment,
You descendants of Abraham his servant,
offspring of Jacob the chosen one!

I hope that you and your family had a blessed, happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Review: Catholicism


It seems presumptuous for a 279 page book to have a title like “Catholicism” with its history of thousands of years and a deep, beautiful faith. Yet, somehow, Father Robert Barron‘s book captures its essence surprisingly well.

My hopes for the book, the written accompaniment to the excellent Catholicism DVD series, was high. Moreover, Fr. Barron is someone I follow and respect so my expectations were further elevated. While I have not seen the full DVD series, I have seen those portions broadcast on television. They are a work of art: an excellent narrative skillfully told, breathtaking video, beautiful soundtrack – all skillfully woven together. This book essentially takes the story told there and presents it in a complimentary form.

The story is presented in classic Father Barron style. If you are familiar with his videos, you will find the same sort of insight, reasoning, excitement, phrasing and pacing in the book. I heard him reading it to me.

One thing the book is not – a fast read. It took me much longer than usual for a book this size. Not that it was particularly difficult, but because it is thought provoking.

Like Catholicism itself, the target audience for the book is really everyone. Don’t like Catholicism but are fair minded? Thinking about possibly, maybe, tentatively looking into Catholicism? In any stage of RCIA? Fallen away from your Catholic faith? Faithful Catholic head-over-heals in love with your faith? Read this!

Father Barron describes it thus: “What I propose to do in this book is to take you on a guided exploration of the Catholic world, but not in the manner of a docent, for I am not interested in showing you the artifacts of Catholicism as though they were dusty objets d’art in a museum of culture. I want to function rather as a mystagogue, conducting you ever deeper into the mystery of the incarnation in the hopes that you might be transformed by its power.”

I think that he succeeds. I was particularly pleased with Father’s presentation of the Mass, the source and summit of the Christian life. You will not find a dull, mechanical catalog of its component parts together with an overview of the vessels and vestments used (as I have found by some authors). Instead, Father Barron eloquently and beautifully presents the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as it really is. A small snippet:

From a Catholic point of view, this coming together of faith in the Incarnation and faith in the real presence is of great significance, for the Eucharist is nothing other than a sacramental extension of the Incarnation across space and time, the manner in which Christ continues to abide, in and embodied way, with his church.

The book is structured into 10 fairly long chapters:

  1. Amazed and Afraid: The Revelation of God Become Man
  2. Happy are We: The Teachings of Jesus
  3. “That Than Which Nothing Greater Can Be Thought”: The Ineffable Mystery of God
  4. Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast: Mary, The Mother of God
  5. The Indispensable Men: Peter, Paul, and the Missionary Adventure
  6. A Body Both Suffering and Glorious: The Mystical Union of Christ and The Church
  7. Word Made Flesh, True Bread of Heaven: The Mystery of The Church’s Sacrament and Worship
  8. A Vast Company of Witnesses: The Communion of Saints
  9. The Fire of His Love: Prayer and The Life of The Spirit
  10. World Without End: The Last Things

Also included are Acknowledgments, an Introduction (“The Catholic Thing”), A Coda (“It’s All About God”) and an Index. Black and white pictures of people and places are sprinkled throughout the text. The center of the book includes a nice bonus: 8 pages of full-color artwork and other images printed on high-quality paper.

I recommend this book without reservation and have added it to my Great Books list (very few, very select, highly recommended books). I am in very good company recommending it: Archbishop Charles Chaput, Scott Hahn, George Weigel, Raymond Arroyo, Mike Aquilina and many more. Buy it for yourself and give it as a gift. You probably know a lot of people who could benefit from it.

Full Disclosure:  This book was provided to me at no charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. They seek only my honest, real opinion and that is what I give!