Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Under the Mantle" by Fr. Donald Calloway

I spent this afternoon reading Fr. Calloway's latest, Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest, and I just have to say, "Wow!"  This book is tremendous - insightful, straightforward, down-to-earth, humorous, and Marian.  Once I started looking at it, I had to purchase it; I am going to read these chapters aloud to my son in middle school.  Here is a priest who speaks and models authentic masculinity - strength expending itself in sacrificial service to Christ and His Church.  In this book he writes about foundational issues such as the Papacy, Eucharist, Confession, Prayer, and the dignity inherent in both Masculinity and Femininity; but he presents these timeless Truths through analogies that any 21st century Americans can understand. Let me give you an example of what I mean, because it's pretty unforgettable:   

Confession is like a spiritual diaper change. Fr. Calloway points out what an incredible wise Heavenly Father we have.  When God made us members of His Family, He knew that, on our way to maturity, we are going to make a mess of things.  Like human parents He knows there "is no 'once cleaned, always cleaned' situation when it comes to taking care of a child.  No parent would ever say to a child, 'What's this?  I cleaned you yesterday! No more cleaning for you!"  And that is why God gave us the gift of Confession; and our Father administers this cleansing through the hands of our Mother, the Church.  Observe how Fr. Calloway brings it home, "In light of this we should never be afraid to approach our Father and our mother, the Church.  It shows we have humility when we, like a little child, come to Confession and echo in childlike terms: 'Uh oh, I did it again!  I'm messy again.'  Then Dad and Mom clean us up every single time."  See what I was saying?  You are never going to forget that analogy, and there isn't a person alive who cannot understand it (so by all means, share).

What I appreciate most about this book though, is the way Fr. Calloway has integrated the Blessed Mother into every facet. He teaches in a practical, common sense way the truth glimpsed by all of the great saints - that Mary is Jesus' most perfect disciple and the personification of the entire Church.  And as such, God intends for her to play an integral role in the life of every Christian. We are meant to pray, live, celebrate, obey, suffer, and come to eternal life - just as she was!  Every Christian is called to be a "Marian" Christian - by the grace of God to say, "Let it be done unto me according to Thy word" (Lk.1:38) in every circumstance.

I am failing to do this book justice; seriously, you need to check it out for yourself ... and then share it with someone you love.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Help a Good Priest and a Worthy Cause

So here is a first for my blog - fundraising!  When a friend brought this to my attention however, I knew I needed to do my part to get the word out.  Here is the link to Fr. Kenneth Bolin's fundraising page, where you can pledge money and support him in his running of the 38th Annual Marine Corp Marathon in support of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.  I have never met Fr. Bolin personally, but a man who gives his life to not only the priesthood but the Marines is certainly deserving of our help.  Oh, and NOT ONLY is he a priest and a Marine, he's a HUSBAND and FATHER (a convert from Anglicanism in 2009)!  I know that it if it is within your means, you will do what you can; so my thanks in advance.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"SHARKNADO" - Helping Kids Learn the Bible

I have never been one to go in for versions of the Bible (like the Good News Bible) that paraphrase instead of interpret God's Word.  I don't want someone's attempt at putting God's Word into modern slang; I want it as close to the original languages as possible.  But last night I viewed SyFy's "SHARKNADO" (yes, it really should be spelled in all caps), and my life was forever changed.  I understand why it has gripped popular culture in such a powerful way and am convinced that millenia from now human beings will still be viewing and learning from it, much as we today continue to study the Iliad and Odyssey.

I think Bible translators can seize upon this to bring the Bible home to young people in a dynamic way.  My modest suggestion?  Change the word "locust" to "SHARKS."  It communicates the gravity of plagues in a new way.  Check it out:

Exodus 10:3-6

Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring SHARKS into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land; and they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours which grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses, and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians.’”

Revelation 9:2-4

… he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.  Then from the smoke came SHARKS on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth;  they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads. 
And look at how even more hardcore the Baptist appears:
Mark 1:6

Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate SHARKS and wild honey.
I know, pretty powerful stuff.   If you're not on board, I simply dare you to watch "SHARKNADO," and then tell me this isn't a stroke of genius.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Today's Gospel, in a Photo

Pope Francis on Holy Thursday
But Jesus summoned them and said, 
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
(Matthew 20:25-28)

A blessed Feast of St. James the Apostle to you!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

face to Face

Have you had the experience of  dreaming about something, waiting for it to happen for years; and then finally seeing your hopes  realized?  I felt like that when I held a printed copy of The God Who is Love in my hands.  For ten years I had been longing for the day when I would be able to share the story of what God did for me, the Truth He opened my eyes, in depth - and there it finally was.

I was reminded of that feeling while praying the Rosary and meditating on Jesus' Presentation in the Temple.  The elderly Simeon had waited years, perhaps the majority of his life, to see the Messiah. (God had promised him that he would before he died.)

"Moved by the Spirit, [Simeon] went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.'” (Lk 2:27-32).

Between the time God made His promise to Simeon and the day it was finally realized, it must have come to feel a bit like a dream:  Simeon had tried to imagine the child's face thousands of times, only to see a blur in his mind's eye.  And then, on a day that started like any other, Jesus was suddenly in his arms, Simeon looking down into His small face and taking in His delicate features.

You and I share Simeon's experience.  Jesus is the focus of our lives, and we think about Him and speak to Him throughout every day; but we are still waiting to see His Face!  But we have the promise that we will:
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)
We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2)
Some days, with the passage of years, that day may seem foggy and hard to envision; but it is coming.  We will see Him face to Face; and the years of waiting and longing will melt away in the light of Reality.
Face on the Shroud of Turin, compliments of

Monday, July 15, 2013

"I Will Bless Those Who Bless You" - Some Fiscal Fun

From time to time I share a story about how God sends me a little financial help. This time it was a rather large dose of help: after 10 years, it was time to get a new car.  I was doing comparison shopping online and thought I had it narrowed down to the car I wanted.  Before I met with the salesman the following morning however, I wanted to ask my brother-in-law, a car salesman, some tips on negotiating a fair price.  (The cars my brother-in-law sells were a little more than I thought I could afford, so that's why I had not approached him to make the purchase.)  He was great; he told me what price I should insist upon for my trade-in as well as how low the other salesman should be able to go.  But then he said, "What if I could get you a 2013 Toyota Corolla for that same price; would you be interested?"  Now, we were talking a couple of thousand off - selling the car to me at cost - and with the way Toyotas hold their value, it would help me out years down the line when I went for my next car too.  When I said "yes," he jumped on the phone with his manager and started working on a deal.  

The following afternoon I was at the dealership with him, looking at
a few of the Corollas he could give me a deal on.  I had been wanting a car in white for awhile (it's my favorite color), so when I settled on it, he went in to start the paperwork.  He got me the car, at cost, with 0% financing for 60 months.  My prayer as I drove away was that the Lord had 1) given me the most reliable Toyota ever constructed, and 2) that He would bless my brother-in-law for his incredible generosity toward me.  Now hold on, because the story gets even better!

The next night, when we all got together at my parent's house for dinner, I was thanking my brother-in-law again for the amazing deal he was able to put together for me when he shared that it had actually worked out amazingly well for him too:  The car that I picked out, completely unbeknownst to my brother-in-law, had sat on the lot longer than any other car.  Somehow over the past several months, people continually bought the Corollas sitting all around it, without ever selecting this particular car.  Well, the dealership has this ongoing reward for the salesperson who sells the oldest car on the lot - my brother-in-law walked away with a $650 commission, something he should earn for selling a car at $2000 over cost!

Wow - that sure seems like the Lord had a hand in this.  I was immediately reminded of God's promise to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you" (Gen 12:3).  Please don't take me for one of those "health and wealth Gospel" types; because I am most assuredly not.  I don't believe in donating money as a way of forcing God to return ten times as much to you - that's drivel.  But I do know that from time-to-time, God returns the kindness shown to one of His children.  I think that's what happened to my brother-in-law, and I hope he recognizes it as such.  Today's Gospel reading has some other words from Jesus about the care we show one another:
"Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One Who sent Me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man's reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple--amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." ~ Mt 10:41-42
But His penultimate promise comes at the end of Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus spoke of the Judgment:
"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"
 ~ Mt 25:34-40

So let us continue to express our love for one another because when we do, we express love for our King.  We don't do it to try and earn some kind of "payment," but every once in awhile we have these funny stories to share about the way He returns a favor.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Virtue of the Handmaid

Downton Abbey's Head Housemaid, Anna
"Handmaid" - the Blessed Mother used that word for herself when she responded to Gabriel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).  

Handmaid - what does it mean?  The Greek word is doule - meaning servant, slave girl. That is how our Blessed Mother, who possessed more grace than all the saints and angels combined - understood herself.  And there was nothing derogatory about it.  

There is no shame in being a servant; it is part of reality. That same word (in its masculine form, doulos) is used in the Bible for Moses, Joshua, David, and Jesus!  That's right, God became man to make himself a servant, the Servant (Is 52:13-53:12).  Listen to our Lord:
  • "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." (Mk 9:35)
  • "Who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." (Lk 22:27)
  • "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." (Jn 13:14-15)

On Monday, I shared how inspired I have been by Gary Zimak's Listen to Your Blessed Mother.  Listen to how he brings all of this down to earth:
We view certain tasks and jobs as being “beneath us”.  On the other hand, Mary understood and embraced her role as God’s handmaid.  She made her proclamation without any qualifications whatsoever.  She was the Lord’s servant in all circumstances, not just the favorable ones.  The details didn’t really matter to her.  What was important was that she was willing to do anything that God asked of her.  That’s exactly what a good and faithful servant does.