Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Blessed Sacrament

Something to read before you read my post today. Shameful...

I (and many others) have said before that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the faith. For a Catholic to be at Mass and watch the priest raise the Host as he says the words of consecration, you feel awed that those words call forth the great continuing miracle of the faith. Those words cause simple unleavened bread and wine to become the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Risen Lord.

Get ready because there's a soap box coming. I can only speak of the Catholics in America because it is all I know, but far too many; deny the Real Presence, disrespect the sacrament and just generally abuse in so many small ways the greatest gift they have. Now that 70% number that gets thrown around a lot concerning lack of belief in the Real Presence is artificial, but no less telling. We as American Catholics have gotten squishy and soft we tout our faith only when we seem to perceive it as beneficial. Or we flat out ignore the parts we don't like. The bottom line is my generation was poorly catechized because our parents were dealing with their reactions to Vatican II, and other things so we got a mishmash of poor catechesis, and it is our loss. But this really is another column.

What I want to talk about today, relates right back to the theft I pointed out in the link above. I guarantee that those consecrated Hosts weren't stolen by some starving homeless person, or misguided fundamentalist.

They were stolen with the intention of using them in a Black Mass. It seems telling to me that most Protestant denominations view Communion as symbolic, but the Satanists love to get hold of consecrated Hosts.

Now this isn't an issue where dispensing the indult against Communion in the Hand would have preserved these Hosts, if someone is determined enough they will get their hands on the Sacrament. It does however cause me to look again at Redemptionis Sacramentum: "If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful” (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 92).

If you ask me ever since the indult concerning receiving on the hand was granted that was the beginning of the end of reverence to the Sacrament. I grew up receiving on the hand, but once I did research and found out that it was an indulted practice and not the norm, I stopped. I haven't received in hand in more than a year. Receiving on the tongue is no big deal and has certainly helped me to find some of my lost reverence toward the Mass as a whole and particularly the Eucharist.

Ultimately, as I said I think it is an interesting note that Satanists seem to give a lot of credence to the idea that there is something special that happens to the bread and wine at Mass. While most Protestants deny that Communion or The Lord's Supper is anything more than a symbolic memorial. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some Different Thoughts on Easter and Protestantism vs. Catholicism....

Just a warning this post will not likely deal with the actual events we celebrate at Easter, rather a look at the system to date the feast and why Mainline Protestantism accepts the Roman Catholic method, when they try so hard to distance themselves from anything Catholic.

In the year 725 Venerable Bede declared: "The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter." While this is not perfectly accurate in terms of the description of date selection it is pretty darn close. It's also the way I always heard my Papaw say it, well without quite as much verbosity, so it's more or less how I think about the date.

Wikipedia says this about Bede's declaration: "However, this does not reflect the actual ecclesiastical rules precisely. One reason for this is that the full moon involved (called the Paschal full moon) is not an astronomical full moon, but the 14th day of a calendar lunar month. Another difference is that the astronomical vernal equinox is a natural astronomical phenomenon, which can fall on March 19, 20, or 21, while the ecclesiastical date is fixed by convention on March 21."

At any rate the date can occur in the West any Sunday between and including March 22 and April 25. Now the Eastern Orthodox Churches all use the old Julian Calendar to select their Easter date, which pushes it to April 4 to May 8. Looking at a 30 year period from 1982-2022, the date will coincide East and West 10 times. It almost appears to be a three year cycle that reoccurs; however it skips coincidental dating between 1990 and 2001. Only to be the same date two years in a row, last year and this year.

Enough about the methodology for dating the feast. The question in my mind is why do most, granted not all, though the ones who don't use Rome's date generally don't celebrate Easter at all, of the 30,000 or so Protestant denominations celebrate Easter using the date of Holy Mother Church and not find some new method or date, seeing as most view anything Catholic as evil, or wrong, or just plain bad. 

Now, mind you, perhaps Pope Benedict can use this to his advantage somehow as the "Pope of Christian Unity," and remind these separated souls that they already use our date for Easter as well as (most) of our Bible.

I have heard Fundamentalists go on long tears about the Church being the "Whore of Babylon" or worse and usually just wonder where they think the Bible they are quoting came from. That Bible didn't fall shrinkwrapped from the sky in the King James Version, I guarantee it. It was written, collected, codified and preserved by the Holy Catholic Church. Written in that last sentence might get me in trouble, but let me say: it was inspired by God, but written by men, Jewish-Catholic, men.

And unfortunately for one of the big dividing points between Protestantism and Catholicism not one of the Sacred Authors was inspired to scribble out a Table of Contents, which would have easily settled one of the core debates. If only the Church could have pointed to a chapter and verse and explained to Martin Luther, see it says right here those books belong in the Bible, what might have been.

Yes, yes I know I trivialize Luther's contentions, some of which were plenty valid, but the man dug his own grave. Even before his death he marveled, unhappily, at what he had wrought.

As you can see if you stuck with me this far, which I doubt any of you have, I find it odd that so many Protestants seem willing to shred any traces of their undeniably Catholic roots, yet maintain ties to us in regards to celebrating Easter, Christmas, etc.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Man Child and The Mad Man

Did you happen to see President Obama's speech on Libya last night. I refused to watch it as I feel my brain cells die every time he opens his mouth. If it sounded as dumb as it reads then I am sorry for anyone who sat through it. But let's investigate the adminstrations waffling and ineptitude.

I missed Meet the Press this weekend, should have tuned in, because evidently SecDef Gates said and has said many times we are in Libya with an eye toward "Regime Change". He started to repeat himself to David Gregory and SecState Clinton cut him off and changed that tune in a hurry. Evidently Gates (the only grown-up in the Administration) didn't say much else the rest of the show. 

So beyond the fact that his administration can't get on the same page, BO decides to befoul the airwaves with his simmering ineptitude. Schedule to air early enough so as not to upset people wanting to tune in to "Dancing with the Stars," I guess, House was a rerun so Monday's TV was lost anyway, why not let BO impress us with his legendary oratorical (reading) skills.

Can the man appear before a camera and not take shots at President Bush, I have yet to see it. Even when those shots are unfounded and inaccurate. It came late in the speech, probably he was hoping folks would have nodded off by then, and missed it. I missed this one until Rush pointed it out this morning but he even took a shot at President Clinton about Bosnia.

Compare Obama bumbling and stumbling around; only giving speeches after things have happened and even then muddling his words until they mean nothing with President Bush's speeches during the lead up to the "Shock and Awe" campaign which opened the Iraq war. One of the two was a real leader; the other a real idiot. Not to mention Bush went to the UN got resolutions, shared information with Congress, got their approval and had something like 80% popular approval before the first bombs fell.

Obama in his speech mentioned his coalition (smaller and less enthusiastically supportive, especially in the Arab world) than the "Coalition of the Willing" that joined us in invading Iraq. He mentions how we are transferring the lead role of the Operations in Libya to the UN and NATO. Never mind that the US for all intents and purposes runs NATO. To quote my favorite WWE superstar the Miz "Really....Really Mr. President?"

Does he think anyone who pays attention doesn't understand that NATO is the international equivalent of Diana Ross and the Supremes (or maybe Gladys Knight and the Pips).

Returning to his speech, sorry but that is what I am writing about, Obama insists that the "Regime Change" in Iraq took 8 years. For such a "brilliant" man he sure is an idiot. By the time there were American boots on the ground in Iraq the regime had changed. Uday and Qusay were about to be killed and Saddam was hiding in a spider hole.

The parallels between how the left views President Bush's supposed hurry to go into Iraq and President Obama's bumbling into Libya, are sickening. Bottom line we have no real goal or reason for being there; we have no exit plan; we have no timetable for our actions. All charges lobbed against George Bush without merit and yet I don't see the media taking Obama to task for these things.

If this were purely a humanitarian effort as Obama tried to make it out to be, why aren't US troops in Darfur, North Korea, China or any of the other places where there are equally atrocious human rights issues. Try again Bambi.

Someone wake me up when the administration gets their act together and decides what our goals are. Depose Qaddafi? Support the opposition? Humanitarianism?

And if you don't think Americans will put boots on the ground in Libya, I have some wonderful ocean front property in Arizona I would like to show you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

This past weekend was an interesting one in the church's year. It started Friday with the Feast of the Annunciation. Because of Canon law the feast falling on a Friday dispensed the traditional abstinence from meat rules for Lent. The readings for this, the third Sunday of Lent, hit their highpoint with St. John's account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-43).

We are told Jesus had to pass through Samaria. Usually the Jewish people would have avoided Samaria and gone from Judea to Galilee through Jordan. However John 4:4 says Jesus had to pass through the area. In this we see the workings of the Divine Plan as well as Jesus himself reaching out to the Gentiles.

Everything about the story breaks some convention or rule. In the first place a Jew likely wouldn't even talk to a Samaritan, especially male to female. Yet Jesus asks her for water, risking touching the same utensils as her, thus making himself ritually unclean. Besides the fact that the woman is at the well around noon, which shows her to be an outcast. Since the only people who went to the well in the heat of the day were usually travelers (Jesus), prostitutes (not her), or outcasts (bingo!)

The woman has had five husbands and is currently living in an unmarried state with a sixth man. Jesus limits rebuking her and merely asks for a drink. The two discuss the "Living Water" that Jesus will give. By now the poor woman is all sorts of confused looking for some kind of garden hose that Jesus must be hiding.

Then they get to the heart of the matter, as the woman, probably uncomfortable for being called out by a stranger switches topics. She asks Jesus about right worship noting that her people have long worshiped on that very mountain, yet the Jews say Jerusalem is the place of worship.

Jesus replies to her in John 4:21-24. In essence the Lord tells her that it will shortly be a moot point whether to worship on that mountain (Garizim) or in the Temple at Jerusalem. Because God is Spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth. Jesus is foretelling the rise of his new church, as well as accepting and saving the first Gentile convert.

Even in the context of announcing a change of worship Jesus tells the woman, that "Salvation is from the Jews." (John 4:22).

Of course this is in fact correct as all of Salvation History is played out between God and his Chosen People. From Covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David to the New Covenant made through Christ's suffering, death and Resurrection.

I am sure that this particular passage holds even more than I have dealt with here as it is one of the meatiest parts of the Bible.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Power of a Song.....

Sometimes the first time you hear a song it touches you in such a deep way you can't help but feel. The song sort of tells you how to feel, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes somewhere in between. A song that really hit me awhile back is called "She's With Me," by Collin Raye.

The song is about his Granddaughter, who died from a rare brain disease. The first time I heard it was a time when Tommy was having a rough night sleeping so I had gotten up with him and we were watching music videos on GAC. On Sunday mornings they have a couple hour block of Christian/Country videos. Music usually soothes Tommy so we were watching trying to stay cool and calm. That's when the video for that song came on, Traci had joined Tommy and I as we were sitting in the living room and by the middle of the video she and I had tears running down our faces.

The song talks about a lot of the things special needs parents face. Finding tables at a restaurant, having to leave the mall earlier than you might want because your child is just done. Things that seem so easy to do for parents without special needs kiddos become very difficult for you because of your little one's needs.

"I know just what heaven looks like when I see that perfect face
For no other mortal heart could be so fair
I myself so weak and weary, so imperfect as a man
How could I be the one you chose to care for our girl
Never done a single deed to earn the right to share her light."

It was right about this part of the song when I just lost it. I looked up to heaven and said: "Ok God, I get it." I so know the way it feels to look in the mirror and think how could I be the one to be so blessed to take care of Tommy. When I listen to this song, my brain just sort of auto corrects all of the references to a little girl, to little boy.

I often wonder about the Ineffable Plan God has. I know I am so imperfect and that Tommy is so perfect I can't help but screw something up.   

God I know you won't give us any more than we can handle, but sometimes I wonder why you trust me so much. I love that, Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that. I can relate and I have nowhere near her heroic virtue.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Madness...Aka Why March Means Basketball....

It's that time again....March Madness...The best week of the year is the opening week of the NCAA basketball tournament. Cinderella dons her dancing shoes as the supposedly weak mid-major schools look to upset basketball's big boys. Every so often one of these schools hangs around and goes deep into the Tournament, shattering everyone's bracket, a few years ago George Mason did just that ending up in the Final Four. At least ESPN hasn't tortured us with Obama's lousy picks this year, maybe they thought he might be busy, although he doesn't do much.

ESPN's annual $10,000 give away is set to begin with the Tournament, so head here and fill in a bracket. I loved it last year when I could use one of my bracket selections to put UNM, UTEP and NMSU in a Final Four together. I knew it wouldn't happen, but if it did I wanted to be ready. None of them made the Dance this year though. The New Mexico schools were bounced in their Conference Semis; UTEP made their Conference Championship. 

Teams To Watch:
  1. In the East I like: Villanova, Xavier and (God this hurts) Washington. 'Nova and Xavier are Mid-Majors that aren't really. UW has lots of upside with solid guards and good inside presence, which always seems to matter in March. Syracuse may be poised to make a run too, as coach Boeheim is a seasoned coach with a solid squad.
  2. The West has four teams that could easily make the Final Four. If it goes chalk any of the top four seeds are capable. The biggest First round danger pick is San Diego State at 2. Northern Colorado likes to run and gun and they are very capable, while SDSU has the never won a tourney game albatross to deal with. I like the Aztecs, whose only two losses this season came at Jimmer Fredette and BYU's hands. Look for them to go deep. Arizona could also make some noise as the 5 seed here.
  3. In the Southwest, watch out for Richmond, the committee seeded them far below their abilities. We usually see a 5-12 upset this could be the easy one to pick in the first round, or second round I guess now with the expanded field. The Spiders can go, and if coach Mooney can get them playing mad from their seed debacle, they could George Mason this thing. I expect Purdue and Notre Dame will have something to say in this bracket before all is said and done. 
  4. I gotta give some WAC love for the Southeast, Stew Morrill is a great coach and has had a ton of talented teams at Utah State, but has never been able to go deep in the Dance. Look for a Sweet 16 this year. This bracket seems to be the Mid-Major bracket lots of talented smaller schools here. Including last season's runner-up Butler. I think I like more low seeds in this bracket, including Michigan State as a 10 seed. Coach Izzo lives for March, the Spartans will be ready. 
Players To Enjoy:
  1. Jimmer Fredette: BYU, The guy could win player of the year honors and no one would bat an eye. He is a supremely gifted scorer and has a great knowledge of the game, plus his name is fun to say. 
  2. Kemba Walker: UConn, Another POY candidate with a fluid game. Plays like a man among boys. I hate UConn, in all things but he is fun to watch. 
  3. Kalin Lucas, MSU, The Spartans spark plug, the senior guard does everything, passing, scoring rebounding. Gives MSU some senior leadership that coach Izzo can lean on. 
  4. Derrick Williams, Arizona, The 'Cats sophomore big man, is averaging nearly a double-double scoring 19.1 points a game while hauling in 8.1 boards. Gives them something in the low post. 
  5. Tu Holloway, Xavier, Can shoot the lights out, sparks a fun Xavier offense. He can help score points in bunches, a necessary thing in the tournament. 
Have fun watching the tournament everyone, should be a good one this year. For the record my Final Four picks are: Ohio State, San Diego State, BYU and Notre Dame.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Mass in Scripture

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has lost some of its luster and sense of wonder and reverence over the last 45 yerars, since Vatican II. Vatican II did a lot of good things for the Catholic church, but its biggest negative was that we lost a lot of our Catholic Identity. Priests no longer celebrated the Mass looking East, usually away from the people. The celebration was taken from Latin to the vernacular, with at least in the English speaking world a poor translation from the Latin. The general sense of reverence toward what was going on was lost, people let their guard down slowly about what was acceptable behavior and dress in church.

We forget that we were doing something foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the new. Malachi 1:11, says: "For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles...there is offered to my name a clean oblation..." at the time Malachi was written the Gentiles were a pagan bunch...most believing in a panoply of gods. So for the author of Malachi to proclaim that the Gentiles would offer a "perfect sacrifice" from "the rising of the sun even to the going down," was an interesting prophesy. 

When God instituted the Passover for the Jews he told them that the Paschal Lamb had to be eaten (Exodus 12:8,46), and interestingly that not a bone of it shall be broken. Jesus when He was crucified didn't have his legs broken because the centurion could see he was already dead. Jesus is the spotless lamb of sacrifice (1 Peter 1:19), his cousin John foretells his purpose at Jesus' baptism when he hails him as Lamb of God (John 1:29). 

In the types and shadows of the Bible, the Jewish sacrificial lamb is a direct prefiguring of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross. To a Catholic the Mass re-presents that sacrifice at Calvary. It is a step out of our time and space and into the Eternal. It's an amazing feeling to be present at Mass and feel like you are watching Christ instituting the ministerial priesthood as well as the Eucharist as the priest acting In Persona Christi recites the Eucharistic Prayer. 

Jesus sitting at the table with the Apostles gave them a command to always do what he was about to do in remembrance of him. In Hebrew the word is means to make something present, to participate in a past event.

The Eucharist has been called the Source, Summit and Center of the Faith. Of course it is, Jesus is giving us the Living Bread and telling us that all who eat it will not perish. How could that not be the most important thing. 

I have heard it said that the people who walked away when Jesus gave the Bread of Life lesson, were people who understood Christ literally and he wanted them to walk away because he was speaking in metaphor. That is utterly laughable, Christ came so all would believe if people were walking away because they misunderstood Him, He could have called them back and set them straight. He didn't, merely because they couldn't yet accept that He would be slain for us and leave us His flesh as True Food and His blood as True Drink.

If the Eucharist was merely intended as a symbol, why would St. Paul, the Didache, Justin Martyr and nearly every single Church Father specifically mention not partaking of it "unworthily." 1 Corinthians 11:27 warns us that if we take the Body of the Lord or drink of His Blood while not worthy (i.e. with unconfessed sins, or other reasons) we are guilty of nothing short of murder. Pretty steep talk if we are to take it as just a symbol, it's also worth noting that St. Paul's first letter to Corinth is among the earliest written manuscripts of the New Testament, thus showing how early the Catholic belief is visible. 

In short despite many attacks, such as claims that Catholics worship bread, are cannibals, etc. The Mass has its very roots deep in the Bible; from the readings during Mass; to the fact that many of the prayers are lifted right out of the Bible. The Mass is saturated in the Bible. That is one reason I always laugh when Joel Osteen is telling people at the end of his broadcasts to get into "A good Bible based Church." I always just think, done and done. I was fortunate to be born into it and I will die a Catholic.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Questions Answered

Holoprosencephaly...Say that three times fast, I'll wait for you to give it a try. I'd never heard that one before, I used to read the dictionary for fun, but this was a new one on me. Tommy was without a diagnosis for nearly a year and a half before he finally had an MRI. The MRI finally showed us the root cause of Tommy's issues.

Holoprosencephaly....What it means is that when he was still a fetus, Tommy's brain didn't do the things it was supposed to do. His brain didn't separate as it formed into two distinct hemispheres and didn't produce much of a corpus callosum.

So his brain is without the piece which aids in the left/right communication of brain activity. Not to mention as I said he doesn't have separate hemispheres.

Before we had this diagnosis we chased down several rabbit trails of other ideas, none of which bore fruit. They only served to pull us away from where we should have been looking. If I sound a little bitter about this I suppose I am. A CAT scan of Tommy's brain showed some abnormalities to the neonatalogists, but they didn't pursue them. His geneticist proposed a syndrome she thought would fit and we loped along the trail chasing those down. The blood results proved that wrong.

I guess my frustration comes from the fact that we didn't get into see a neurologist for 18 months because no one thought Tommy's brain abnormalities were worth referring.

When I get aggravated about it, I try and step back and pray. Just letting God remind me that He has known all along what we need to know and when. It seems very much like God is unfolding the many mysteries of Tommy slowly as we can accept and deal with them. This is at once a comforting and terrifying thought. Comforting for obvious reasons.

Terrifying because I think of the fact that we didn't know about two various aspects of Tommy's situation, either one of which could have been the death of him, until he was 13 months old. That's when we found out Tommy has two separate endocrinological issues, either of which, if untreated could be fatal. Yet we had carried on blissfully unaware and he had been kept perfectly safe.

I truly know as I have said many times before Tommy has a very special purpose here on earth. I don't know what it is exactly, but his survival shows he has something to do.

Every time I look at him I think to myself, he shouldn't even be here. Most babies conceived with this problem are miscarried or stillborn.

"The condition can be mild or severe. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), "in most cases of holoprosencephaly, the malformations are so severe that babies die before birth.
When the embryo's forebrain does not divide to form bilateral cerebral hemispheres (the left and right halves of the brain), it causes defects in the development of the face and in brain structure and function."

So many things seem to have conspired against Tommy and yet he soldiers on. He just daily accepts his trials and keeps such a happy disposition. It is hard to be unhappy with Tommy around.

I remember one night after Tommy was born, while he was still in the hospital I was praying my rosary, the mysteries of the day were the sorrowful mysteries. While reflecting on Jesus carrying his cross, I realized God was telling me that this was Tommy's cross to bear and just like Jesus had help carrying His cross, so should I help Tommy with his.

When the Hand of God comes down on Tommy and gives him his miracle, I hope he doesn't lose his personality to his new brain...Lord I would rather he stay this way, than be healed and be a surly, grouchy kid.

Happy Lent everyone. I hope you all have a glorious season of repentance....

Friday, March 4, 2011

Take a look at this

Father Z has a special prayer request on his blog for the cure of a two-year old boy with stage 4 cancer. Please keep him in your prayers. Check out that link and read the story about the angels.

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for Joseph.

Desert Island Music

Let's take a break from religion and politics for something a little lighter. I'm sure you have all heard the old hypothetical, "If you were stranded on a desert island what would you want with you....?" Well this is my response to that question from a musical standpoint. Or to frame it another way, if you could only have certain albums (look it up youngsters, it's what we used to call CD's, which would you take. The following is in no certain order after the first one anyway.

  • From Elvis in Memphis (Legacy Edition): The King's best...Maybe the best thing ever recorded period. Recorded at American Sound Studios in Memphis with the legendary Chips Moman producing. Elvis was fresh off his "Comeback" special and wanted to return to his roots a little bit. A lot of what he recorded at those sessions were covers of old country tunes, which he did amazing work on. He covered a more modern country hit with his take on the John Hartford penned tune "Gentle On My Mind", which Glen Campbell had a massive hit with. That may be the album's weak link. I like it but it pales in comparison to the Campbell version. The album's strength came from a run of hits. "Suspicious Minds" (my all-time favorite Elvis song and his last chart-topper), "In the Ghetto," "Kentucky Rain" and "Don't Cry Daddy." If you don't like this album, you don't like music. 
  • From Elvis in Memphis: Legacy Edition
  • Born in the USA- Bruce Springsteen: The case could be made that "The Boss" has recorded better albums, but this one is my favorite. Besides it's the one that really pushed him over the top. From the opening guitar riff and drum beat of the title track that opens the album you know you are in for some good stuff. I would highlight individual tracks but I can't find one I don't like. Every song is a winner. 
  • Born in the U.S.A.
  • Who's Next - The Who: The best album from the best British band of all-time. Yeah I said it, it's my blog, (sorry Beatles and Stones maybe next time). How can you not love an album that starts with "Baba O'Reilly", yeah it starts with one of the Top 5 Rock songs of all-time. If you don't think you know that song just let the words Teenage Wasteland run through your brain for a second and you will be singing the chorus. In addition to "Baba" they also have "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Behind Blue Eyes." Some bands don't have that many great songs in a career and The Who stuffed an entire album with 'em. Also great are "Going Mobile" and "Bargain", the latter was used by Toyota in a 90's ad campaign. 
  • Who's Next
  • Thriller - Michael Jackson: This is another of those albums that I defy you not to like. Nine songs on the original release and seven singles. Those seven singles all reached the Top-10 some hit the top spot. The music videos alone for this album make it memorable. MJ was one of the first to really push the art of the music video. The videos for "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" are all still amazing. No other album better encapsulates a star at the peak of their stardom then this one.
  • Michael Jackson 25th Anniversary of Thriller (CD+DVD)
  • Time Well Wasted/5th Gear - Brad Paisley: Can't pick my favorite between these two just an amazing two album run by one of country music's best. If you aren't a Paisley fan give either of these albums a listen, I bet you will be by the end. An amazing guitarist and vocalist the dude knows how to tell a story. 
  • Time Well Wasted 5th Gear
  • Carnival Ride - Carrie Underwood: Her second album, just an absolutely perfectly crafted country album. From song choices to arrangements. This is the album that pushed her into the stratosphere. "All-American Girl," "Just a Dream," "I Told You So," (sidenote my favorite Randy Travis song). Just an amazing effort. 
  • Carnival Ride
  • Live Like You Were Dying - Tim McGraw: Another perfect album, even better than Carnival Ride. This album has so many amazing songs and covers so many angles it's not even funny. Tim does funny, "You Want Fries with That." Sad, the title track, "Old Town New." As a bonus the single best track he ever recorded is on this album "Kill Myself." If you haven't heard that one give it a listen. Have a tissue handy. 
  • Live Like You Were Dying
  • American VI: Ain't No Grave - Johnny Cash: Released posthumously "The Man in Black," recorded these songs shortly before his death. They are an amazing reflection on mortality. Cash enjoyed a bit of a resurgence late in life from his sessions with Rick Rubin and these represent those final sessions.  One hell of a swan song for an American original.
  • American VI: Ain't No Grave
  • Somewhere Down in Texas/It Just Comes Natural - George Strait: Two great Strait albums of a more recent vintage. King George drops a great album at least once every two years it is hard to narrow down his catalog. If I absolutely couldn't take anything else I would struggle to decide between his Strait out of the Box set or From Elvis in Memphis. The two albums I mentioned are strong efforts with amazing album cuts as well as singles. Songs like "She Let Herself Go," "You'll Be There," "Give it Away," and "How 'Bout Them Cowgirls," highlight the two albums. 
  • Somewhere Down in Texas It Just Comes Natural
Well those are just some of my favorites. How about yours? 

Lenten Reading

I don't know if anyone else likes to do some spiritual reading during Lent, but I know I do.This year I am tackling a couple weighty books. Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross and Pope Benedict's second volume of Jesus of Nazareth.

Dark Night of the Soul is a classic of Christian/Catholic mysticism. Here is what has to say about the book:

As a Carmelite monk, the 16th-century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross was well trained in the systematic theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. In Dark Night of the Soul, St. John's sharply organized mind gives clean shape to his mystical belief in a loving Being somewhere outside the realm of feeling, thought, or imagination, who can only be known through love. Dark Night of the Soul describes the process of purgation, first of senses, and then of spirit, that precedes the soul's loving Union with God. To quote from this book would detract from the coiled power of its tightly focused picture of the soul's progress; suffice it to say that there has never been a better book for discouraged Christians. When you cannot understand what or why you believe, but you find yourself unable to abandon faith, look to St. John for help.

Sounds like a real winner, I am super excited to get my hands on this one.

The other major reading project I have in mind for Lent is as I said Jesus of Nazareth Vol. 2 by Benedict XVI. I loved his book The Spirit of the Liturgy and think he writes at a level that is amazingly deep and profound yet accessible. His new book is centered around the final week of Christ's life from the triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the glory of the Resurrection. Seems an appropriate read for the Lenten season.

Now if I could just figure out which of my vices I am going to try abstaining from for that 40 day journey.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pray For Me....

One of the major charges leveled against Catholics is that we are idol worshipers, or that we have many gods, because we pray to the Communion of Saints. Without bogging down the discussion from the get-go I will say this before we look at the biblical roots of intercessory prayer:

Catholics have long held that the Saints in heaven are worthy of veneration and we ask them to join us in praying to God; the Blessed Virgin Mary owing to being the Tabernacle of the Incarnation is considered the first in the Hierarchy of Saints (stole this explanation from Brother Nick, sorry dude). Only the Godhead is due worship. 

Saint Augustine, that great pagan convert to Catholicism and Doctor of the Church says the following:

It is true that Christians pay religious honor to the memory of the martyrs, both to excite us to imitate them and to obtain a share in their merits, and the assistance of their prayers. But we build altars not to any martyr, but to the God of martyrs, although it is to the memory of the martyrs. No one officiating at the altar in the saints' burying-place ever says, We bring an offering to you, O Peter! Or O Paul! Or O Cyprian! The offering is made to God, who gave the crown of martyrdom, while it is in memory of those thus crowned. (Contra Faustum 20:21)

We honor the saints in heaven, because we know they lived righteous lives, and are now enjoying the Beatific Vision, they are great role models to emulate, so we can get closer to God. To become a Saint it must be proven that two miracles were performed as a result of that person's intercession. For instance Venerable John Paul the Great, soon to be Blessed John Paul, was asked for his intercession in healing a nun with Parkinson's. That nun has since been cured.

Wikipedia says "...It must be proven that a miracle has taken place by his or her intercession: that is, that God has shown a sign that the person is enjoying the Beatific Vision by God performing a miracle in response to the Blessed's prayers. Today, these miracles are almost always miraculous cures, as these are the easiest to establish based on the Catholic Church's requirements for a "miracle." (The patient was sick, there was no known cure for the ailment, prayers were directed to the Venerable, the patient was cured, the cure was spontaneous, instantaneous, complete and lasting, and doctors cannot find any natural explanation.) (Wikipedia Canonization article)

Now that we have defined what it means to be a saint let's look at the biblical roots of prayer to the saints. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. From the Church Fathers onward Catholics have long understood that as what we call the Communion of Saints.

As for that Cloud of Witnesses, Catholics note that Jesus told us God is the God of the living not the Dead. Jesus is referring to God telling Moses he was the God of Abraham and Isaac. Jesus is telling the audience (in this instance Sadducees and his disciples, that the righteous dead are in fact aware of life on Earth). This is born out at his Transfiguration when he converses with Elijah and Moses. See Mark 9:3 and Luke 9:30-31. So the dead can converse with the living. Jesus also tells us that there is much rejoicing in Heaven over the return of one lost sheep. See Luke 15:4-10.

Saint Paul routinely asks his audiences in his epistles for their prayers. After all prayer is just asking for something. See Col 4:3 and 1st Thess. 5:25. Webster defines it thusly:
entreat, implore —often used as a function word in introducing a question, request, or plea <pray be careful>

Revelation has several references to prayers of intercession. For instance in Rev. 5:8, we see the Holy Ones in heaven offering up the prayers of those of us still on Earth. Another reference in Revelation is in Rev. 8:3-5, where we see an angel offering prayers to God as incense.

We are also told in James 5:16 that the prayers of a righteous man are powerful. Catholics believe that those in Heaven are Sanctified and made perfectly holy, after all "Nothing unclean will enter Heaven. Rev. 21:27. So if the prayers of a righteous man are powerful; and the saints in heaven are righteous, their prayers must be powerful indeed. That is why Catholics turn to our friends in Heaven asking them to join their prayers with ours; even as Jesus taught, "Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven." Matt 18:19-20.

Catholics always catch a lot of flack from Protestants who think of this practice as necromancy or a seance. It is none of that. For we are all one body in Christ, who is the head and we all should seek to build each other up (I believe it was a saint who said that).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Web Links Wednesday

So I was going to have a real post and not web links today, but then I found something that absolutely deserved to be seen.

I'll be back tomorrow with a post about real substantive issues, or whatever useless crap my brain wants to write warned I may break down the American Idol wannabes in the near future....