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A New Adventure with Steve Ray, the Catholic Indiana Jones!
presents ABRAHAM Father of Faith and Works
NEW YEAR – NEW FILM – NEW ADVENTURE WITH STEVE RAY! And ready for the “BIG SCREEN” in Your Parish in 2015!
Have you been following the Footprints of God from Ignatius Press and Steve Ray?
If you have, you already know there is nothing else like these fast-paced, entertaining, educational documentaries on our salvation history. If you haven’t, you’re in for a real treat!
These eight films combine the elements of a biography, travel documentary, Bible study and apologetics course all rolled into a remarkable, family friendly adventure! Each one is a 90-minute, stand-alone masterpiece taking the viewer to another time and place. With ABRAHAM you will travel with Steve back 4,000 years to Iraq, Turkey, Palestinian Territories and Israel. Have you ever seen a ziggurat? You will!
And now this much anticipated foundational film in the series, ABRAHAM: Father of Faith and Works, has been released as an exclusive parish screening program. Parishes, schools and organizations will be able to purchase a package that will include DVDs to have for sale or to gift, a free DVD for showing, promotional materials, and a 12-month site license to show the movie unlimited times in your facility or in a theater!
License holders will have 6 weeks of exclusive sales of the ABRAHAM DVD before general sales will start on March 17th.
FOOTPRINTS of GOD Parish Screening Program
And for those who would like to show all 8 Footprints of God DVDs now available: JESUS, MARY, PETER, PAUL, APOSTOLIC FATHERS, MOSES, DAVID/SOLOMONand ABRAHAM, we have packages that include a 12-month site license to show all 8 DVDs as well as a free copy of each DVD to use for showing, copies of all the DVDs to sell or gift, and promotional materials.
Both of these parish screening programs make great evangelization tools and can be used as a fundraiser as well.
Click here to see an overview of the Footprints of God films.
For more information on packages and prices available as well as the forms to order your packages, please go to www.IPMovieNights.com and click on SPECIAL SCREENING PROGRAMS.
The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times. Too often dismissed simply as burn-out or a midlife crisis…learn the symptoms and effects of this terrible affliction. Most important, learn the remedies for it!
The Noonday Devil Dom Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B Foreword by Marc Cardinal Ouellet Softcover, 208 pages, $16.95
The noonday devil is the demon of acedia, the vice also known as sloth, a combination of weariness, sadness, and a lack of purposefulness. It robs a person of his capacity for joy and leaves him feeling void of meaning. Feel like you might be battling the "noonday devil?" Let Abbot Nault show you the remedies for it in this book.
Save 20%* when you order your copy with the code NDEV15 at checkout.
Praise for The Noonday Devil
"Dom Nault's book shows how acedia is the unwillingness to ask the questions about the meaning of our lives. Hence those burdened by the vice busy themselves in all sorts of activities and distractions. Nault's reflections are most welcome in a world that sees so much darkness at noon-time and wonders why." - James V. Schall, S. J., Author, Reasonable Pleasures
"A must read for anyone who takes the spiritual life seriously. Christ's passion and death on the cross is the most perfect answer to the terrible evil that tells man his very existence is meaningless." - Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., Author, The Ear of the Heart
"With clarity and penetrating insight, Abbot Nault unmasks the pernicious demon of acedia, showing how it tempts souls in every state of life and why it may well be the zeitgeist of our time. A most helpful and encouraging book on a long-overdue topic." - Johnnette Benkovic, EWTN host; Founder, Women of Grace®
"A revelation, a modern-day treatise on an ancient and yet familiar foe. This book can transform the spiritual life of those willing to dive in and go deeper." - Vinny Flynn, Author, 7 Secrets of the Eucharist
"The simple, direct style of this work makes the reader feel involved and challenged to consider anew what is essential in his existence." - Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (Rome)
*This offer is valid online only from March 21, 2015 until March 28, 2015 midnight EST.
San Francisco, March 25, 2015 – A group of Catholic publishers announced today plans to sponsor the first annual Catholic Stores Month, in July 2015.
Leading the initiative is Ignatius Press. Anthony Ryan, Marketing Director, said, “Ignatius Press is concerned about the plight of Catholic stores in an environment increasingly dominated by a handful of large online shops. We want to do our part to help keep the tradition of Catholic stores alive and well.”
Many distinguished Catholic publishers have already agreed to join Ignatius Press in this endeavor. Participating publishers will partner with independent Catholic businesses to encourage consumers to visit and support their neighborhood Catholic stores during the month of July.
Participating vendors and Catholic stores will provide a variety of special offers, and will sponsor customer events during the month of July. Specific offers are still in the planning stage, but likely will include bundles, special pricing discounts, and free items available exclusively from participating Catholic businesses.
By providing a concerted marketing and public relations effort through various media outlets, the businesses behind this initiative hope to raise awareness and support in the broad Catholic community.
“Initial reaction from the stores we have spoken to is very positive,” said Michele Sylvestro, Vice President of Sales at Catholic Word Publishing, “As a result, we are strongly encouraging our own publishing partners to join Catholic Word in this worthwhile venture.”
The Ignatius Press and Catholic Word sales teams will be spearheading efforts to involve Catholic stores in this new project. Stores can get more information and also register for Catholic Stores Month at the website for the program: www.catholicstoremonth.com
Interested stores should contact the sales office of Ignatius Press, at 800-360-1714 or via email at StoreSales@ignatius.com. Interested media should contact Ian Rutherford at 970-493-4840, or Ian@intrepidgroup.com
Nuns greet Pope Francis during his meeting with religious at the cathedral in Naples, Italy, March 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Five About Francis | Carl E. Olson | CWR blog
A look at some recent stories about the Holy Father and his pontificate
The Holy Father is constantly in the news and there is never a shortage of stories about what he is saying and doing, as well as about what he might have said, should do, or won't say or do. Here are five recent stories about Pope Francis that caught my attention for various reasons.
1. On the occasion of the two-year anniversary of Francis' election, George Weigel spoke with Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO about the current papacy. Here are a couple of excerpts:
KJL: You’ve written that he has “reanimated the papacy.” What does that mean for Church teaching?
GW: I hope it means that the new interest in the pope evokes a new interest in the Church’s teaching, of which the pope is the custodian. Francis ought to be taken at his word when he says, as he has often done, that he is a son of the Church who believes and teaches what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. If his media-generated popularity, fragile as that may turn out to be when the world discovers that the pope is really a Catholic, opens windows of possibility for explaining that divine mercy leads us to the truths God revealed to us (and inscribed into the world and into us), then his reanimation of the papacy will advance the “Church in permanent mission” for which he called in Evangelii Gaudium, which is the grand strategy document of his pontificate. ...
KJL: In that same article for the Tablet, a British magazine, you said, “All over the world, Francis is news, and when the Pope is news, so is the Church and the Gospel.” Is that still good news when the pope seems to be interpreted in different ways by different people? When the Gospel seems to be interpreted in different ways by different people?
GW: That’s the obvious challenge, perhaps even danger, here. By its very nature as a custodial office, the papacy can’t be a Rorschach test, into which people read whatever they like – whatever they fear or hope for. So when media “narratives” about Francis get set in concrete, and act as filters bending or distorting (or ignoring) aspects of his vision and his teaching that don’t fit the established story line, the Church has a problem. There’s an obvious investment in some media circles in the “narrative” of “the pope who’s finally going to get with it.” And as a friend at a major American newspaper said to me when I complained about this tendency in his own paper, “You know how these media narratives are. They’re like bamboo.” Meaning, once they start growing, you can’t kill them.
Perhaps the dumbest of these story lines is that Francis has re-opened conversation and debate in a Church that had been closed and claustrophobic for 35 years under John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I defy anyone who, over the last 35 years, has spent time on the campuses of Notre Dame or Georgetown, or who has read the National Catholic Reporter, or who has gone to a meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, to make that claim without experiencing a twinge of conscience that says, “I should wash my mouth out with soap.”
The most enduring of the false narratives is that the signature phrase of the early pontificate — “Who am I to judge?” — was a matter of the pope jettisoning millennia of Catholic moral teaching. It was not. It was a specific response to the circumstances of a man who had repented and was trying to live an upright life; it was, in a word, what any sensible pastor, facing that specific set of circumstances, would say. But ripped out of context, it has become an all-purpose filter through which everything else — including the pope’s multiple reaffirmations of Humanae Vitae, Paul VI’s encyclical on the morally appropriate means of family planning — gets airbrushed out of the picture.
And then there’s the trope about an impending “global-warming encyclical.” The pope is preparing an encyclical on nature and the environment, including the human environment (which includes the moral imperative of a culturally affirmed and legally recognized right to life from conception until natural death). So what happens? A low-ranking Vatican official with gauchiste tendencies and a marked talent for self-promotion gives an interview to the Guardian, one of the most consistently anti-Catholic newspapers in the world, in which he claims that this is a global-warming encyclical — which he couldn’t possibly have known, as the document wasn’t drafted yet. The Guardian loves it, because it fits the story line of the long-awaited Great Catholic Cave-In. So the story wafts across the Atlantic, where it’s picked up with glee by Catholic progressives and horror by some Catholic conservatives — and the battle of the blogs is on, full blast. No one bothers to ask whether there’s any basis in fact for the assertion that this is going to be a “global-warming encyclical.” So when climate change gets some attention in a 100-page document, the most important parts of which will have to do with the theology of stewardship and the theology of “human ecology,” it’s almost certainly going to be rapturously embraced, or bitterly opposed, as a “global-warming encyclical,” despite the evidence that it’s much more broadly gauged than that.
More pro-active Vatican communications might be able to do something about all this, but when the Holy See is constantly in the mode of, “No, what the pope really meant was . . . ,” the game has already been largely forfeited.
2. Veteran Vatican reporter Sandro Magister's most recent piece suggests that Francis is starting to shy away from his earlier support for Cardinal Kasper's proposals about Communion for some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics:
The Mystery of the Annunciation is the Mystery of Grace | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) | Ignatius Insight
The mystery of the annunciation to Mary is not just a mystery of silence.It is above and beyond all that a mystery of grace.
We feel compelled to ask ourselves: Why did Christ really want to be born of a virgin? It was certainly possible for him to have been born of a normal marriage. That would not have affected his divine Sonship, which was not dependent on his virgin birth and could equally well have been combined with another kind of birth. There is no question here of a downgrading of marriage or of the marriage relationship; nor is it a question of better safeguarding the divine Sonship. Why then?
We find the answer when we open the Old Testament and see that the mystery of Mary is prepared for at every important stage in salvation history. It begins with Sarah, the mother of Isaac, who had been barren, but when she was well on in years and had lost the power of giving life, became, by the power of God, the mother of Isaac and so of the chosen people.
The process continues with Anna, the mother of Samuel, who was likewise barren, but eventually gave birth; with the mother of Samson, or again with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer. The meaning of all these events is the same: that salvation comes, not from human beings and their powers, but solely from God—from an act of his grace.
Detail, Ordination of St. Stephen by St. Peter, by Fra Angelico (1447-49).
New Testament Witness | Fr. John Navone, SJ | HPR
The faith of the early Christians in Jesus and the Kingdom of his Father constituted them as a community or Church. If it was their shared faith that formed them into a community, who and what they believed in would be the decisive factor in shaping their shared life as a community and their self-understanding as a Church. The self-understanding or their ecclesiology had to be shaped by their Christology, their theology of Jesus.
Christology and Ecclesiology
In both his Gospel and in the book of Acts, Luke associates the resurrection experience very closely with the notion of “giving witness.” In the speeches of both Peter and Paul that are narrated in Acts, this is a recurrent theme: “This Jesus God raised up, and, of that, we are all witnesses” (2:32; see also 3:15; 5:32; 1:31). In one passage, Peter sees the reason for the resurrection experience in the fact that they were chosen by God as witnesses: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses …” (10:39-41). In his Gospel, Luke makes this association in the final conversation between Jesus and his disciples, where Jesus tells them that they are to be “witnesses of these things” (24:48).
Moreover, the role of giving witness is associated, not only with the resurrection experience, but also with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In the Gospel account of the final conversation, the disciples are told to stay in the city until they are clothed with the power which the promise of the Father will bring (24:49). In the Pentecost event itself, the Spirit comes in the symbols of fire and a rush of mighty wind, and Peter stands to speak and give witness (Acts 2:2-14). The power which they received from the Holy Spirit was, in a special way, the power to give witness.
These associations of both the resurrection experience and the Pentecost experience with the call to give witness and the power to give witness suggest that Luke’s theology, both of the resurrection and of Pentecost, was formulated within the context of the delay of Jesus’ coming, and are Luke’s theological solution of this problem. Luke’s theology of the Ascension also makes sense within this context. When Jesus did not come in power and glory as they expected, his power and glory was portrayed as his heavenly exaltation “at the right hand of the Father.” The manifestation of his power is that power which comes with the outpouring of the Spirit. The opening scene in Acts shows the interrelationship of these various elements in Luke’s theology: the disciples are not to inquire about “times and seasons” for the coming of the Kingdom, but they are to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and they are to be his witnesses, and after saying this, Jesus departs from them. It was his absence that made witnesses necessary, and made the role of the Spirit in empowering to give witness so central.
The disciples, then, were constituted witnesses to Jesus through the resurrection experience and through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. What the nature of their witness was to be, however, and what all it was to include were things that they had to learn. Luke brings this out in Acts in the story which he tells about Stephen, who was one of the seven deacons chosen to take care of the daily distribution to the widows. We are told that Stephen was “full of grace and power, and did great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8). So great were the wonders and signs, that they began to cause trouble for Stephen with the synagogue. Members of the synagogue began to dispute with him, but when they could not withstand the “wisdom and spirit” with which he spoke, “they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes” and had Stephen arrested (6:12).
There follows the story of Stephen being brought before the High Priest and the Council, and his lengthy speech about the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets, ending with the account of Jesus, whom Stephen calls the Righteous One, being betrayed and put to death (7:52).
Ideals and Norms | Russell Shaw | Catholic World Report
You can affirm the truth of a moral doctrine while at the same time undercutting it in practice—by treating the doctrine as an ideal rather than a norm.
Lately the idea has been gaining currency among some responsible conservative Catholics that unless the synod of bishops or the Pope specifically repudiates a settled Church doctrine—which is highly unlikely—there’s no immediate cause for alarm. I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t.
Philip Lawler, paraphrasing Ross Douthat, gives this summary account of the viewpoint in question: “The tensions between the Pope and doctrinal conservatives could become enormously important if the Pope makes an effort to change established Church teaching. Unless and until that happens…it’s a gross exaggeration to say that the conflict is tearing up the Church.”
And, one might add, since that effort to change Church teaching almost certainly isn’t in the cards, what’s to worry?
Alas, this way of thinking could be an unintended invitation to complacency. For it’s possible sincerely to affirm the truth of a moral doctrine while at the same time undercutting it in practice. The way to do that is to treat the doctrine as an ideal rather than a norm.
Right here it is important to say that I don’t know exactly what Pope Francis thinks about all this. What I do know is that he has said repeatedly that, as a loyal son of the Church, he has absolutely no intention of overturning any Catholic doctrine. In saying this, he obviously means it, and I applaud him for that.
At the same time, Francis also has provided two synods as forums in which people who wish to divorce pastoral practice from doctrine and treat the doctrine as an ideal rather than a norm have been given the opportunity to publicize and press their view.
Confusion in Ireland as 'Marriage Equality' Referendum Approaches | Michael Kelly | CWR
Changes in ambiguous wording, tepid warnings from Catholic bishops, and deep concerns about children are part of the tense lead-up to May 22nd vote
Just two months before a May 22nd 'Marriage Equality' referendum, many commentators predict Ireland will become the first country in the world to insert a constitutional amendment permitting civil marriage between two people of the same gender.
A distinctive feature of Irish democracy has been frequent recourse to constitutional referendums. May’s referendum will be the 35th time voters have been asked to amend the constitution in less than 80 years. The origin of this state of affairs may partly be traced to the unhappy split in the 1920s over a treaty with Britain, which led to a civil war after it was narrowly passed by a parliamentary majority. Prime Minister Éamon de Valera, who framed the 1937 constitution, felt strongly that future decisions on fundamental questions required more than a simple parliamentary majority.
Opinion polls currently predict that 77% of voters will back the constitutional redefinition of marriage while 22% of people say they will vote ‘no’. However, opinion polls on constitutional questions are notoriously unreliable in Ireland.
In 2013, for example, a referendum on children’s rights – which enshrined individual rights for minors in the constitution and granted the state greater powers to intervene in families – was just narrowly passed. An opinion poll had said just 4% of voters would oppose the motion, on polling day a significant 42% of citizens decided to vote against the children’s rights amendment.
There’s also the fact that many of those saying they are inclined to vote in favor of same-sex marriage have reservations.
According to John Downing, a political commentator and former government adviser, much of the apparent support for same-sex marriage in opinion polls is soft and many voters are not entirely convinced.
Only 59% of those who said they will vote ‘yes’ said they strongly held that opinion. The other 18% were more tentative about their voting intention. The pollsters also asked further questions about matters related to the issue of gay marriage. One-third of those prepared to vote ‘yes’ said they had reservations about gay couples adopting children.
Those who said they would vote ‘yes’ were further asked if they had reservations about the concept of the same-sex marriage referendum. In this case, 42% said they had reservations about the idea of the referendum.
When the question is a simple yes/no on whether the voter intends to support same-sex marriage the results are strongly in favor of a ‘yes’. However, when a series of more detailed questions are put into the mix, this number falls eventually to 44%.
Confused wording, last-minute changes
The Government’s ‘yes’ campaign has also been criticized by legal experts after Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was forced to make a last-minute change to the proposed wording after fears the move could inadvertently ban traditional marriage.
"A Field of Wheat" (1878) by Ivan Shishkin [WikiArt.org]
Unless we become grains of wheat... | A Scriptural Reflection on the Readings for March 22, 2015, the Fifth Sunday of Lent | Carl E. Olson
Readings: • Jer 31:31-34 • Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15 • Heb 5:7-9 • Jn 12:20-33
“If a tree falls in a forest,” goes the philosophical riddle, “and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
In today’s Gospel we hear something similar, yet not it is not a riddle or philosophical puzzle, but a clear response and a spiritual challenge. “Amen, amen, I say to you,” Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Put as a question: if a grain of wheat does not fall to the ground and die, will it bear fruit? No, the Lord says, it will not. For although death is the enemy, it is also, paradoxically, the means to everlasting life. “By death,” the Byzantine Easter chorus announces, “he conquered death.” Such paradoxes appear contradictory and illogical, but they express a truth; it is a surprising and profound truth, as with the analogy used by Jesus.
But how is it that those who love their lives will lose them? What does it mean to say that whoever hates his life in this world will gain eternal life?
This strong language is quite similar to Jesus’ assertion that if “any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). We know, of course, that Jesus did not condone hatred of family or strangers. Rather, by using a common form of Semitic rhetoric, he brought into bold relief the two possible options: either put Jesus first, where he belongs, or put him somewhere else.
It is never wrong to love our family, but it is wrong to put our families or ourselves before Jesus and the things of God. The man who loves his life in this world is a man who puts more sweat, tears, and time into this world than he does into the kingdom of God. If we live as though this passing, temporal world is our highest priority, it necessarily means that we have placed something that is good, because it is from God, above the greatest Good, which in turn pits that good thing against God.
Some might argue—as many critics of Christianity do—that such thinking forms people who are so heavenly-minded they are of no earthly good. In reality, the Christian who is oriented toward his final destination and who lives with the hope of heaven is of the greatest earthly good, for he rightly perceives the place and value of this world.
After all, no man has ever been more heavenly-minded than Jesus Christ, and no man has ever done more earthly good than Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, human history is marked with the tragic and bloody remains of those destroyed by men who were so earthly-minded that they were of no heavenly or earthly good.
St. Irenaeus, in his famous work, “Against Heresies,” observed that a kernel of wheat “falling into the earth and becoming decomposed rises and is multiplied by the Spirit of God, who contains all things. And then, through the wisdom of God, it serves for our use when, after receiving the Word of God, it becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time.”
The God-fearing Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship during the Passover said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” This is the desire of those who know this world is not enough; they want to see and know the One who is Truth. And when the Eucharist is lifted up at Mass, we do see Jesus. We receive him completely. Having died with him in baptism, we will one day, by God’s grace, rise with Him at our appointed time.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the March 29, 2009, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
Lily James and Richard Madden star in a scene from the movie "Cinderella." (CNS photo/Disney Enterprises)
Kenneth Branagh's Very Christian Cinderella
This "Cinderella" is not only free of ideological agendas, it reflects a deeply Christian vision of sin, love, and salvation
Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella” is the most surprising Hollywood movie of the year so far.
I say this because the director manages to tells the familiar fairy tale without irony, hyper-feminist sub-plots, Marxist insinuations, deconstructionist cynicism, or arch condescension. In so doing, he actually allows the spiritual, indeed specifically Christian, character of the tale to emerge. I realize that it probably strikes a contemporary audience as odd that Cinderella might be a Christian allegory, but keep in mind that most of the fairy stories and children’s tales compiled by the Brothers Grimm and later adapted by Walt Disney found their roots in the decidedly Christian culture of late medieval and early modern Europe.
In Branagh’s telling, Ella is the daughter of wonderful parents, both of whom instill in her a keen sense of moral virtue and joie de vivre. The girl’s idyllic childhood was interrupted by the sudden illness of her mother, who, while on her death-bed, delivered to Ella the injunction always to be “kind and courageous.” Her father then remarried and brought his new wife and her two daughters to live with him and Ella. Some years later, Ella’s father left on a lengthy business trip. Before he set out, she enjoined him to send back to her the first branch that his shoulder would brush while on the journey. A few weeks later, a servant arrived with the branch in his hand and the dreadful news that Ella’s father had become sick and had died.
The now utterly isolated Ella became the victim of her wicked stepmother (played by the always compelling Cate Blanchett) and her obnoxious stepsisters, who visit upon her every type of cruelty and injustice. They even take away her bedroom, forcing her to sleep by the dying embers of the fire to keep warm. The ashes that stain her face give rise to the cruel nickname her stepsisters assign to her. Significantly, the cat belonging to Ella’s stepfamily is called Lucifer.
So we have a beautiful, vivacious, and morally upright young lady whose life becomes a nightmare through the intervention of untimely death and wicked oppression.
The Past is a Foreign Country: Liturgical Latin and Fiction | James Casper | IPNovels.com
Much we know about the world would be lost were it not for artistic renderings of the past. Memories otherwise would seldom outlive those who remember.
Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars forced professional historians and casual readers alike to revise assessments of the Catholic religion in England in the years immediately preceding the Reformation:
If medieval religion was decadent, unpopular, or exhausted, the success of the Reformation hardly requires explanation. If, on the contrary, it was vigorous, adaptable, widely understood, and popular, then we have much yet to discover about the processes and the pace of reform.
In the almost six hundred pages following this observation, Duffy develops support for this thesis: that the Reformation in England was more of a revolution against a popular, widely-revered institution than an effort to reform something rife with problems and corruption. He can only build his case by reference to contemporary written accounts and a study of Church artistic works that somehow managed to survive state-sponsored efforts to obliterate the past.
The Tudor and Puritan road he guides his readers down is littered with burnt books, defaced statues, destroyed altar screens, and melted down church vessels. Destroy the artistic creations and traditions of an age, and when the last person who remembers it dies, a world dies also. This is where the road ends.
In our own time, those of us old enough to remember the Catholic Church as it was prior to Vatican II are also living with an obliterated past on a road marked ‘Dead End’. Inevitably, as the days move along, we are a vanishing breed on an all but forgotten journey.
These days much is made of the Catholicity of celebrated writers Chesterton, Tolkien, and Waugh. The latter two lived long enough to experience firsthand changes wrought by Vatican II, and both railed against them. (Details are at hand in the Ignatius Press edition of A Bitter Trial.) Tolkien and Waugh would never again feel at home in the Church. G. K.’s childhood memory of successful businessmen, bankers, and shop clerks falling to their knees as Cardinal Manning passed by along Kensington High Street seems to come from a world other than this one. G. K.’s old nemesis, George Bernard Shaw, might think the Church has become a bit more palatable, but what would G. K. himself think? Given his sense of humor, he might have somehow managed whereas Belloc—had he lived to see the day—would have blown a fuse.
Tolkien is said to have been dismayed by the exiling of Latin to what would become in our time a liturgical antique shop.
The Importance of Knowing St. Joseph | Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. | The Introduction to The Mystery of Joseph by Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P. | Ignatius Insight
The publication of this serious, even profound study of a person intimately joined to the life of the Messiah and written by one of the most respected figures in our contemporary Catholic scene should cause serious attention to be paid to the often neglected figure of Saint Joseph.
Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P., an important French theologian who died only in 2006, was a man whose thought was of great influence and depth. He was also a man greatly devoted to the Church who founded the Community of Saint John. This new community is now recognized in several countries as a very successful attempt to restore a vibrant spirituality to the religious life, which in many places has seemed moribund for years.
The Brothers and Sisters of Saint John are a cause of hope to those who look ahead to the restoration of the authentic and powerful traditions of the religious life that have gotten lost in recent times. The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal have welcomed them with joy.
Father Philippe's book on Saint Joseph is very consistent with the new biblical theology called for by Pope Benedict XVI. The author very impressively examines the sparse facts that we have concerning the life of Saint Joseph, teasing from them material that connects easily and well with a very impressive structure of theological teaching. This then becomes a means of providing a firm foundation for devotion to the Foster Father and Guardian of the Son of God.
Except for Christ and Saint Paul, New Testament figures attract little attention from the secular world and especially the secular media – even when they are in a kindly mood. Occasionally a small amount of attention is shown to the figure of the Blessed Mother but rarely is Saint Joseph or any of the Apostles mentioned. Even in cities named Saint Joseph or San José are the inhabitants really conscious of the fact that their hometown is actually named for a person – a person who played a role of immense importance in God's plan of redemption for humankind. This apparent obscurity finds at its root a kind of Protestantism that is focused intensely on the figure Christ and on the writings of Saint Paul, but which seems barely acquainted with Saint Joseph and even the Mother of God, herself.
Catholic theology, which takes a less constricted view of such things, opened up a world of devotion to Saint Joseph the humble carpenter of Nazareth as well as to the Mother of God. How could it be otherwise? These are the figures who stood at the manger on the first Christmas; they are the ones to whom the care of the Word Incarnate was entrusted by God.
Pope Francis hands gifts to children during a meeting with an Italian association for large families to mark the the feast of the Holy Family in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 28, 2014. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPA)
A mission of love | George Weigel | CWR blog
The months leading up to the World Meeting of Families this September should be a time when Catholics ponder the full, rich meaning of marriage and the family
The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September should be more than a vast Catholic “gathering of the clans” around Pope Francis—and so should the months between now and then. If the Church in the United States takes this opportunity seriously, these months of preparation will be a time when Catholics ponder the full, rich meaning of marriage and the family: human goods whose glory is brought into clearest focus by the Gospel. Parents, teachers and pastors all share the responsibility for seizing this opportunity, which comes at a moment when marriage and the family are crumbling in our culture and society.
Now, thanks to a fine mini-catechism prepared by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family, we’ve been given a basic resource with which to do months of preparatory catechesis on marriage and the family—and preachers have been offered reliable material for shaping homilies on these great themes between now and September.
“Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive” (Our Sunday Visitor) begins by reminding us that the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and the family is not composed of “positions” or “policies,” a widespread misunderstanding today.
Charles Rubin's Eclipse of Man demonstrates the right way for scholars to grapple with the multi-faceted questions raised by advances in biotechnology, robotics, and computing
The only reason we are still alive is our inconsistency in not having actually silenced all tradition.” – Gerhard Kruger (1902-72)
In Sir Arthur C. Clarke's classic science fiction novel Childhood's End (1953), a mysterious alien race known as the Overlords land on Earth. Swiftly establishing a benevolent dictatorship, the Overlords put an end to war and want and transform the world into a tranquil, rationalist utopia.
They do this not for the sake of mankind per se, however, but to pave the way for the next leap in human evolution—a leap which occurs years later, when human parents mysteriously beget superhuman children. With the watchful Overlords as their guardians, these children eventually abandon human form and merge into a disembodied collective supermind which roves the galaxy at the speed of thought. Meanwhile and for reasons not entirely clear, the human race loses its will to live, which is just as well since the transformation of the mutant children into a new collective life form unleashes terrible cosmic forces. Said forces destroy the Earth.
As Charles Rubin suggests in Eclipse of Man: Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress, Clarke's Childhood's End possesses virtues that should not be casually dismissed, however objectionable the novel might be in many ways. C. S. Lewis, of all people, regarded the novel with admiration. Whatever else Clarke got wrong, felt Lewis, his story was at least motivated by a sense of man's ultimate aim being grander and more marvelous than a cozy world of well-manicured lawns and secure pensions. That said, the story also reflects a regrettably fideistic attitude toward Progress. Such fideism remains strong to this day, even after all the ecological, social, and political catastrophes of the 20th century. Concerns about nuclear war, the greenhouse effect, and bioterrorism have even led some to “double down” on progressive ideology by calling for the transformation of man into an alien being.
The growing number who call for such a transformation are known as transhumanists. As Rubin explains,
Transhumanists argue not only that modern science and technology are giving human beings the power to take evolution into our own hands to improve the human species, and then to create some new species entirely, but also the ability to improve on all of nature. Much like the older apocalyptic visions [of the environmentalist movement], the transhumanists believe that mankind as we know it and nature as we know it are on their way out; but for most transhumanists, that is the deliberate goal sought, not a consequence of our hubris to be avoided. Indeed, the transhumanists believe that if we are to prevent some of the more common apocalyptic visions from becoming reality, we must redesign humanity so that our ruinous flaws can be eliminated. To avoid mere destruction, we must embrace creative destruction.
As with any movement, the sub-ideologies found within transhumanism are legion.
What Is the Spirit Saying through Pope Francis? | Fr. Michael Najim | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
When I was in seminary, I learned in moral theology the importance of avoiding moralistic preaching. In short, moralistic preaching is when a priest simply states the rules. For example: a priest preaches that abortion is wrong and sinful; however, the preacher fails to put the sinfulness of abortion into the larger context of God’s plan for each person, that God wills and loves every human life, that each human life, created in God’s image and likeness, has dignity and inestimable value.
Sadly, the preacher does not speak of the love and mercy that God offers to the one who has chosen abortion, that God can, and desires, to forgive and renew us. The preacher ends, or even remains exclusively focused, on a note of judgment, rather than inviting his hearers into the fullness of God’s love, and, more importantly, inviting them to know that God’s love and mercy is infinite. To the hearer, moralistic preaching is judgmental, cold, and unfeeling. Moralistic preaching rarely, if ever, can lead the hearer to a genuine, life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ, who is Love and Mercy incarnate.
This might explain why so many people throughout the world have been so attracted to Pope Francis, for his style is the antithesis of moralism. Francis came onto the world stage proclaiming that the Church and the world, more than anything else, need to be invited into a personal relationship with a God whose very essence is love and mercy, a God who desires that all people be saved.
To be clear, this was the same approach taken by St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict; neither was moralistic in his approach. John Paul and Benedict both proclaimed God’s love and mercy, and the importance of friendship with Jesus. However, and sadly, the truth is that, for many, the face of the Church for some time now has been perceived as a face of judgment on immoral behaviors. And unfortunately, for many, perception is reality.
And this is where Pope Francis comes in, for maybe the Church and the world—and the media!—are in need of being shaken from this perception.
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it about the same number of times.
“It” is John 3:16, one of the most famous verses in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” I first memorized it at the age of four, reciting it before a small Fundamentalist congregation.
That verse, from today’s Gospel reading, is a beautiful summary, from the lips of the Savior, of the heart of salvation. As Pope Benedict XVI stated in the opening of his encyclical on love, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” And that is an apt description of the season of Lent: a transforming encounter with a person, the Son of God, who gives us life, direction, purpose.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, sought out an encounter with Jesus. He came at night, fearful of being seen with Jesus The nighttime, in John’s Gospel, symbolizes the spiritual darkness in which man lives apart from God, a theme introduced in the opening verses of John’s Gospel (Jn 1:4-5). This ruler of the Jews realized his need for spiritual light, readily confessing his belief that Jesus was “a teacher who has come from God.” Surely he must have been challenged by Jesus’ declaration that “whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
A decisive direction was presented to Nicodemus. Yet the Apostle John does not describe what reaction Nicodemus had to the words of Jesus; the secretive visitor seems to have silently disappeared back into the night. Perhaps St. John did not immediately reveal Nicodemus’s choice because Nicodemus, in a certain way, is each of us. We have met Jesus, we have sat at his feet, and we have heard his words. What will we do?
This is one of so many brilliant qualities of the Fourth Gospel, which is a literary and spiritual icon offering a window into the mystery of Christ—and into the mystery of our own hearts. We can relate to Nicodemus, just as we can understand the joy of the woman at the well (Jn 4), the hunger of the crowds who followed Jesus (Jn 6), and the fear and anguish of Peter, who betrayed Jesus after the arrest in the garden (Jn 18). “Nicodemus,” wrote Monsignor Romano Guardini in his classic work, The Lord, “has been shaken by Jesus’ mysterious power; his wonderful teaching has struck home.” But, just like the woman at the well, the crowds, and Peter, there was at first bewilderment and confusion. He no longer wanted to be in the darkness, but he was not ready to step fully into the light. He would stay in the shadows for a while longer, pondering the person and words of Jesus.
But eventually Nicodemus did, cautiously, step forward a bit, coming to Jesus’ defense before his fellow Pharisees (Jn 7:50-52). But his appeal for fairness was met with suspicious anger. Perhaps he pondered again these words: “whoever lives the truth comes to the light…”
We meet Nicodemus one more time, after the Crucifixion. Pilate had given Joseph of Arimathea permission to remove and bury Christ’s body, and Nicodemus, “the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds” (Jn 19:39). He was finally in the light completely, revealing himself as a disciple of the Son of Man who had been lifted up “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Lent is a time to come into the light and to embrace the gift of eternal life. That’s worth hearing about a thousand times. Or more.
(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in the March 22, 2009, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)
U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is pictured preaching in an undated photo. (CNS photo)
Fulton Sheen's Intense Life of Holiness Worthy of Sainthood, Biographer Writes | Joseph M. Hanneman | CWR
Thomas C. Reeves, author of America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen, has written a final chapter, now available for free online
Driven and sustained by his daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen lived an intense life of holiness, zeal to save souls and Christian love that helped make him the most influential Catholic in 20th-century America, biographer Thomas C. Reeves says.
Reeves has released a previously unpublished conclusion to his 2002 Sheen biography, America's Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen (Encounter Books). The concluding chapter, titled "Living Intensely," covers Sheen's spirituality, his inspiration and how others viewed his life. While Reeves does not directly promote Sheen as a candidate to be raised to the altars, his book's concluding chapter is a very tidy summation of Sheen's merits for sainthood. Reeves is making the chapter available for free on the internet, and has donated it for inclusion in his papers at Marquette University.
"To an extraordinary degree, his mind was on God," Reeves wrote of Sheen (1895-1979), the prolific author and Catholic evangelist best remembered for his 1950s television series, "Life is Worth Living." "This supernatural approach to life activated and sustained his enormous energy. He said late in life, 'the secret of my power is that I have never in fifty-five years missed spending an hour in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That’s where the power comes from. That’s where sermons are born. That’s where every good thought is conceived.' "
Sheen's commitment to keeping a holy hour began on the day of his ordination on September 20, 1919 and lasted until the day of his death on December 9, 1979. He was clearly devoted to the practice, but he viewed it not as a devotion but "a sharing in the work of redemption." For many decades, he urged brother priests, religious and all the faithful to make a daily holy hour.
"We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset, the face takes on a golden glow," Sheen wrote in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay. "Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms the heart in a mysterious way, as the face of Moses was transformed after his companionship with God on the mountain." The holy hour was also a source for intellectual ideas and preaching. "Theological insights," Sheen once said, "are gained not only from the two covers of a treatise, but from two knees on a prie-dieu before a tabernacle."
In September 2002, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints officially opened Sheen's canonization case and conferred on him the title "Servant of God." An investigation into Sheen's heroic virtue began in 2008. After a tribunal on a miracle attributed to Sheen's intercession, Pope Benedict XVI in June 2012 affirmed Sheen's heroic virtue and conferred on him the title "Venerable." In 2014, a dispute arose as to where Sheen's body would repose for the expected beatification and canonization. The Archdiocese of Peoria announced on September 3, 2014 that the Sheen cause was being suspended indefinitely.
A lifelong drive for holiness and purity was not just a Sheen hallmark, Reeves wrote, but a key to his success in spreading the Gospel and winning converts.
Prof. Tracey Rowland, Dean and Permanent Fellow of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute (Melbourne, Australia) and an expert on the thought of Benedict XVI (middle), was appointed to the International Theological Commission last year by Pope Francis (right). [Photo: CNS]
A View From the International Theological Commission: An Interview with Tracey Rowland | John Paul Shimek | CWR
The Australian theologian discusses Synods, Cardinals, Popes, theological issues—and being called a “strawberry” by Pope Francis
Professor Tracey Rowland is the Dean and Permanent Fellow of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Melbourne, Australia. In 2003, she published Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II, establishing herself as a bold, fresh voice in international Catholic theological circles. A member of the editorial board of the North American edition of Communio: International Catholic Review, she is also the author of Ratzinger’s Faith and Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed. Last September, Pope Francis appointed her to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s International Theological Commission.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with her about her recent appointment, her work with Australia’s Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, her thoughts about the forthcoming 2015 Synod of Bishops, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, Thomism, Cardinal Pell, the Church in Australia, and other topics.
CWR: In September, Pope Francis made new appointments to the International Theological Commission (ITC). Could you tell us about the ITC and its current projects?
Professor Tracey Rowland: The International Theological Commission was created after the Second Vatican Council in the late 1960s. It comprises 30 members all of whom are professional theologians. The appointments are for 5 years and during those 5 years the theologians work on producing 3 documents covering topics of current theological significance. The three topics for the next 5 years are: (1), synodality, (2) faith and sacraments and (3) religious freedom.
CWR: Synodality seems to be very important to Pope Francis. Already, he has called two Synods of Bishops. And, he has asked the Orthodox to help us understand better the role of syodality in the life of the Church. Was the topic of synodality proposed by Pope Francis himself? As a theologian, what do you make of his sense of synodality? Why do you think it is an important issue for the ITC to discuss?
Rowland: Synods of Bishops are nothing new in the life of the Church. They were held during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as well. None of the topics was proposed by Pope Francis. The topics were chosen by the members of the ITC themselves.
I really haven’t any insightful comments to make about the pope’s sense of synodality. There has been a lot of media interest in it, and people blogging about it, but papal commentary in the present era reminds me very much of Kremlin commentary during the Cold War. Instead of referring to documents or books where people spell out their ideas, in this instance there is no body of work from which to quote. All one can do is to draw inferences from actions and reactions and social data like who the Pope invited to lunch. That’s shaky ground and I would rather remain on the more solid ground of academic work.
CWR: Five women were among the September appointments, including you and Sister Prudence Allen (USA). Was this the first time women were appointed to the ITC?
“War in Heaven”: A review of "The Drop Box" | Nick Olszyk | CWR
I adopt others because God adopted me,” says pastor Lee Jong-rak, whose work on behalf of abandoned babies in Seoul is depicted in this powerful film
MPAA Rating: NR USCCB Rating: NR Reel Rating: (5 out of 5)
In the last few years, there have been numerous movies dealing with pro-life topics that have ranged in quality from okay (October Baby, Bella) to pretty good (Juno, Gimmie Shelter), but all failing to hit the bulls-eye directly. The Drop Box hits it dead center, and it does so by simply showing the truth. The Drop Box is a documentary that follows a Korean pastor who builds a sort-of “mailbox” with an alarm for desperate women to anonymously drop off infants instead of abandoning them in the streets, a not uncommon practice.
Director Brian Ivie takes what could have been a rather dreary topic and makes it infinitely accessible, forceful enough to demand change but lighthearted enough to be enjoyable on a Saturday night date with popcorn and soda. The Drop Box is, I think, one of the best films of the decade so far.
In the 1970s, Lee Jong-rak was a Protestant seminary student in South Korea, so skinny he earned the nickname “fish bones.” He freely admits learning the guitar simply to attract girls and soon earned the reputation of being a ladies’ man despite no actual experience. After school, he married and started a small church in the capital city of Seoul. His life changed dramaticaly when his first son Eun was born with several serious deformities. Eun would spend the next fourteen years in the hospital, and Lee eventually sold his house to pay for the medical bills.
Several years later, Lee discovered an abandoned baby girl outside the church gate; she had been exposed to the cold for several hours and almost froze to death. He began to search for a way to help those poor souls, especially ones with disabilities. He came up with the idea for his Drop Box after seeing similar devices in the Czech Republic, based in part on medieval monasteries which cared for infants left on the doorstep. The documentary not only looks at Lee’s solution but examines the serious social injustices that lead to such an inhumane practice as abandonment. One factor is the serious stigma surrounding unwed mothers. For example, girls in school who are discovered to be pregnant are often expelled or beaten by their relatives. One woman tells Lee over the phone that she is planning to “poison herself and the baby.” Fortunately, he talks her out of it.
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco carries a monstrance in St. Mary's Cathedral at the beginning of the fourth annual rosary rally Oct. 11, 2014. (CNS photo/Dennis Callahan, Catholic San Francisco)
Keeping Catholic schools Catholic | George Weigel | CWR
We should be grateful for the courageous leadership shown by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, whose San Francisco archdiocese is arguably ground zero of the culture war
There seems to be some dispute as to whether the original Trotskyite—that would be, um, Leon Trotsky—ever said, “You may not be interested in the dialectic but the dialectic is interested in you.” One quotation-archaeologist, digging deeply, claims to have found the origins of Trotsky’s alleged bon mot in that unforgettable treatise, “Petty-Bourgeois Moralists and the Proletarian Party;” but, while this is Lent, excavating such rocky soil and farther would transform penance into masochism. So let’s just assume that Trotsky, as a good dialectical materialist, believed that there was no escape from history as it was being driven by “the dialectic.”
Or, to put it less dialectically-materialistically, you can’t duck some fights, try as you may.
Like, for example, the intensification of the culture war that will follow the Supreme Court’s anticipated discovery that the 39th Congress, passing the 14th amendment to the Constitution in 1866, included within the amendment’s guarantees a “right” to so-called “same-sex marriage.”
Supper at Emmaus, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi (1615-1625).
How to Read Christology and Still Keep Your Faith | Dr. Jake Yap | HPR
“Christology” is everywhere. That is, if we take its basic etymology and understand it simply as “speech concerning Christ.” People can utter his name flippantly, even blasphemously. Popular films and novels can be “christological.” And there are many serious books about Jesus, written for a mainstream, theologically-minded audience. As Gerhard Lohfink states in the preface of his Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was (2012): “There are innumerable books about Jesus. The reason is obvious: we can never finish with him, and every age must encounter him anew.”1 Lohfink says that, while some of these books on Jesus are very good, others are “very bad,” and the reason is that “they are far from understanding that the real ‘historical Jesus’ cannot be grasped independently of faith in him.”2 Here we can see three things: a judgment that some christological books can be “very bad,” the possibility of knowing and understanding the “real, ‘historical Jesus,’” and faith as one of the necessary criteria for interpreting him correctly.
Christology is also not immune to theological fashion. It is trendy. Theologians down the centuries, except for the few who are utterly “unworldly” and even saintly, compose their accounts of Christ not only to serve the truth, to enlighten believers, and to convince the skeptics; some also write Christologies to make a name for themselves, “to win a place in the biblical sun.”3
There are christological writings from various perspectives and contexts: liberationist, feminist, political, ecological, cultural, and so forth. Teilhard de Chardin’s “cosmic Christ” continues to appeal to certain readers. And if it could be argued that Christologies “from above” served well an earlier epoch when Christ’s divinity, robustly upheld, was gratefully received by believers, it is now asserted that such an approach fails to speak to a contemporary world that, on the one hand, has grown skeptical of the supernatural, and, on the other hand, sorely needs a human and humanizing Jesus. Lohfink writes:
So we see Jesus as an opium for the soul and as a political revolutionary. Here, he is the archetype of the unconscious, there a pop star. He appears as the first feminist and as the faithful advocate of bourgeois morality. Jesus is used by those who want to see nothing change in the Church, and he is used as a weapon against the Church. He is instrumentalized over and over again to confirm people’s own desires and dreams. At present, he must, above all, stand for the legitimation of universal tolerance, which is no longer interested in truth and, therefore, threatens to slide off into arbitrariness.4
So are there “many Christs”? Not at all. But the array of christological writings, each presenting an “interpretation” of Christ, can be bewildering. This essay addresses itself to Christians who are interested in reading Christology. More specifically, I write for those who wish to read and learn (and indeed there is much to learn) while keeping their creedal faith intact. I wish to help them to navigate the expansive terrain, the sheer scope of the literature, and to steer clear of landmines and trenches. For they will find it a formidable task, if no one will guide them through it. Any good theological library will have an extensive collection of christological literature. And every year, more and more books are being written, published, and promoted. Which ones should they read? By what criteria should they approach a particular author, adopt a particular perspective, embrace, or at least be sympathetic to, a particular interpretation? Let me offer six pieces of advice.
1. Trust the Gospels
“The key question for studying Jesus is,” according to N.T. Wright, “can we trust the Gospels?”5 This is a legitimate question, but to answer it more fully will take us far beyond an essay such as this. The short, correct, and defensible answer is: Yes, we can. Wright elaborates:
Good Catastrophes, Part 3: Recovering a Clear View | Holly Ordway | IPNovels.com
I’ve been arguing for the importance of a revitalized Catholic literature that is eucatastrophic, grounded in confidence of the truth of the Christian faith and nourished by the reality of the sacraments. I’ve repeatedly referenced Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as an example of what we need to do. But how are we to do it? Simply mimicking The Lord of the Rings on a surface level is most certainly not the answer. If it were, then the sheer quantity of Tolkien-derivative fantasy novels, not to mention Middle-earth film-tie-in merchandise, would have already put us into a full-fledged Catholic revival. This has observably not been the case. There is a lot to unpack about the influence of Tolkien (and that’s a large part of the academic writing I’m doing now), far more than I can even hint at in a blog series, but we can gain some valuable insight into the potential of Catholic writing from Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-stories.”
In “On Fairy-stories,” Tolkien addresses fantasy literature specifically, but the conclusions that he draws can be applied to literature more broadly as well. He finds three particular functions of Fantasy: Recovery, Escape, and Consolation.
Recovery, Tolkien writes, “is a re-gaining—regaining of a clear view.”
This award-winning movie is a beautiful representation of the mystical life of St. Maria Faustina, who became the "Apostle of Divine Mercy". It tells the story of her mystical experiences as a nun living in a convent in Poland in the early 20th century. It is to her that Jesus appeared and commanded that she be his instrument for promoting devotion to his Divine Mercy, and that the Feast of Divine Mercy be established and celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. He also requested from Sister Faustina that an image be painted and venerated of him and his Divine Mercy, and asked that we pray especially the Chaplet of Mercy.
The story and film are based on her own writings from her "Diary", which has become a worldwide best-selling spiritual work. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000 as the first saint of the new millennium. Actress Dorota Segda received great critical acclaim by European film critics for her stunning portrayal of Sister Faustina.
Film includes a 30 minute bonus extra of the "Making Of" the movie.
This DVD contains the following languages: Polish with English or Spanish subtitles.
William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. (Photo courtesy of CL: www.catholicleague.org)
Catholicism and Secular Media: 10 Questions for Bill Donohue | Sean Salai, S.J. | CWR
“I am a civil rights leader who is expected to combat injustice,” says the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, “so being sensitive to bigots is not a priority.”
William A. Donohue is a New York-based author, sociologist and political activist who has been president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights since 1993. He holds a PhD in sociology from New York University and is an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation. His last book was the 2012 best-seller Why Catholicism Matters: How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the 21st Century.
Mr. Donohue took over the Catholic League after the death of founding president Father Virgil Blum, S.J., in 1990. As president of the organization, he seeks to counter anti-Catholic bias in the secular media. I recently interviewed Mr. Donahue about his work by email.
You’ve spent much of your career fighting “defamation and discrimination” against Catholics in the American secular media. How do you understand these words?
We spend most of our time defending the institutional Church against defamation, and much less time defending individual Catholics against discrimination. Since the time of President John F. Kennedy, Catholic men and women have made great progress, but the defamation against the Church has grown much worse.
By defamation, I do not mean criticism; I mean insult. I do not have a problem with those who criticize the Church's positions on public policy issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, school vouchers, and the like. But if the comments hit below the belt—this is obviously a judgment call—that is a different issue.
What does defamation mean to you in the context of today’s public discourse?
It is not defamatory to harshly criticize a particular bishop or priest, but when sweeping generalizations are made about all bishops or priests, that is unfair and the offenders need to be called out on it. There is a difference between disagreement and disdain, and between statements meant to inform and those that are meant to hurt. For example, late-night TV talk-show hosts like to take pot shots at the pope, and when it is done in a light-hearted manner (most of Colbert's jokes are of this vein), then that is fine. But when the host becomes vile (Bill Maher is the classic example), then we are dealing with bigotry.
What do you believe is the biggest example of anti-Catholic bias in the U.S. today?
Sacrificing Priests on the Altar of Insurance | David A. Shaneyfelt and Joseph P. Maher | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
Fr. Bob (that’s what we’ll call him) was a faithful parish priest for more than 25 years. One day, a process server showed up at the rectory door and handed him a summons and complaint. The complaint alleged that some 20 years earlier he had engaged in sexual contact with the plaintiff, who was then a young teenager and an altar server, and who now suffers from extreme mental anguish because of that conduct.
Fr. Bob is furious, mortified, humiliated, and terrified. He remembers the young man, he counseled him and found him deeply troubled—but he never, never touched him inappropriately, much less had any sexual contact with him. He calls his bishop immediately, but the bishop is unavailable. He calls the vicar general who tells him the diocese was served with a summons and complaint, too, in which the plaintiff alleges that the diocese knew, or had reason to know, of the inappropriate conduct, and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it from occurring. The vicar general tells him to not talk with anyone, especially the press, and to wait for further direction.
The vicar general then calls Fr. Bob and tells him he is being placed on administrative leave, pending further investigation. Fr. Bob is transferred to the chancery and given a room at the local retreat center. A few days later, he meets with an attorney and tells him everything he remembers, including every action from his past 25 years that could possibly be perceived by someone to have involved inappropriate touching. He racks his brain as a kind of general confession and recalls the outer limits of acceptable conduct—an emotional embrace of sympathy with a woman in distress, a caring touch to a troubled teen. The attorney takes notes.
Several months go by, and Fr. Bob is still on administrative leave. One day, a confidential letter arrives from his bishop. The bishop tells him that due to the pending claim and ongoing investigation, his priestly faculties are suspended indefinitely, and he is not permitted to remain employed by the diocese or to receive further living accommodations. He has 30 days to move. He has no family to count on; no friends on which he wishes to impose. With $2,500 dollars in his bank account, he looks for a low-rent apartment in a bad part of town. He takes up new residence, with no job, and a stash of peanut butter and Top Ramen in the cupboard. Several months later, he receives another letter from the bishop; his priestly faculties are removed altogether. He is no longer a priest. The lawsuit settles.