Looking for some good Catholic reading for Lent or Easter? Sr. Julia of the Daughters of St. Paul suggests some possibilities for your bookshelf. One of the books she reviews is Fr. Robert Barron’s The Strangest Way. I agree with her, it is a marvelous book. Also reviewed are Balthasar’s Heart of the World and Hansen’s The Gospels for Prayer. The books she suggests in this video are primarily spiritual reading (rather than history or theology per se). Note also, this video is edited from a longer one and some of the cuts are abrupt but you’ll get the basic point 🙂 By the way, I tried to link the books above to the Daughters of St Paul Bookstore but, strangely, they do not seem to appear when you place them in the search engine. Thus, the links to Amazon!
One of the biggest obstacles to learning about the Church is the misrepresentation by the secular media of the Church, often by means of pithy soundbites. In the last couple of weeks there have been a number of attacks on Pope Benedict XVI for lifting the excommunication of four bishops who belong to the Society of Pius X. The Society is a group that separated from the Church in 1962 when it chose not to accept the Church’s teaching authority with regard to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The subsequent ordination of these four bishops was not legitimate in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.
When the excommunication was lifted to make one small step toward the reintegration of the Society of Pius X into the Catholic Church it became public that one of the four bishops in an interview denied the historical reality of the holocaust. “How could the Pope lift the excommunication of a Holocaust denier” was the accusation lobbed at the Pope by the media and even some politicians. Yet, from the perspective of the Church, the lifting of the excommunication had nothing to do with the denial of the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust denial was not the reason for the excommunication, the lifting of the excommunication could not have been withheld because of the denial. It is not the practice of the Church to excommunicate people for lunatic views. Excommunication is reserved for grave sin. For more see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1463).
Yesterday, various papers condemned Pope Benedict’s assertion that condoms were not only unhelpful in the fight against AIDS, but to the contrary could even be harmful. While condemning the Pope for his statement, the mainstream media failed to include that the use of condoms gives only a false sense of security given that the failure rate is higher than many people think. This false sense of security leads to increased promiscuity thus undermining the only true defense against Aids: abstinence. The successful experience in Kenya with a policy focused on abstinence education is one example of this fact.
Both stories are examples of how the secular media fails to appropriately report on the Church’s teaching and practice. It raises the question of where you can find accurate reporting on the Church. It is important for Catholics to know the Church’s teaching and to approach media reporting with a solid foundation and a critical eye. There are a few sources whose mission is to be a daily source of Church news. The Vatican has a news service that can be found at http://www.vatican.va/news_services/press/vis/vis_en.html. Catholic News Service is a U.S. based Catholic news service. http://www.catholicnews.com. A local arch/diocesan newspaper is a good source of local news. In the Archdiocese of Washington we have the Catholic Standard and http://cathstand.org and ElPregonero. http://www.elpreg.org
There is a large body of Catholic magazines and journals that look at Church life from a wide variety of perspectives. Take a look at your parish reading rack or one of our local Catholic book stores to see what they offer. Newman Books is near Catholic University at St. Paul’s College, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a book store, and the Catholic Information Center in downtown D.C. are all good sources.
Reason # 21 – The Command. Not uncommonly today I hear some people say that they do not go to Church because they “don’t get anything out of it.” We can address the substance of this complaint in a moment but first it must be said that we don’t go to Church merely to get something out of it. We go because we are commanded by God to do so. The Third Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.” The Book of Leviticus spells the commandment out for us further: “For six days work may be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath rest, a day for sacred assembly.” (Lev 23:3). Let’s be clear, God is not merely suggesting or requesting that we keep holy the Sabbath, he is commanding it. We are to avoid unnecessary work and to keep “sacred assembly,” Sacred assembly means, getting to Church. The notion that we should simply go because we get something out of it is rather an ego-centric approach and misses the more simple reason of obedience. We ought to go simply because God commands it.
Now we may wonder as to why God commands it. It remains true that God does not command things of us merely for arbitrary reasons. The most obvious answers as to why he commands it would seem to be these:
- He has many graces to bestow on us at Mass
- He knows we need community and fellowship in order to be spiritually healthy
- We need to be instructed in his Holy Word
- We need to be fed on his Body and Blood
- Alone, we do not have all the gifts we need, but together and with Christ we have all the gifts we need.
- We need the blessings and minsitry of the priest who acts in the person of Christ.
Now as to the point that some raise that they don’t get anything out of Mass there are many possible answers. I would first say that it is a call and reminder to the clergy and to parishes that the Mass and all liturgical celebrations should be well planned, beautifully celebrated, and reverently prayed. The Mass, well celebrated, should never be boring. Every priest or deacon who preaches should be prepared, enthusiastic and prophetic. The choirs, lectors, ushers and others should all be prepared and enthusiastic about what they do. Every priest should celebrate Mass with piety and devotion. So, in the first place I think that we who are tasked with planning and celebrating the Sacred Liturgy should take to heart the complaint that some (not a few) make when they claim to get little out of it.
However, it also remains true that in order to get something out of Mass, everyone has to come prepared and with plans to participate. The Mass is not spectator sport. We are all to pray and take part in the Sacred liturgy. We ought to grow in our understanding of the Mass over the years and be as attentive as possible. In the end, if we receive Jesus in Holy Communion can we really say we “got nothing out of Mass?” So here is a call to faith as well.
But let’s end where we started. We go to Mass in the first place because we are commanded by God to do so. Hence, even if the choir is off for the summer or my favorite priest is away on vacation, or the new pastor isn’t to my liking etc, we go anyway. We go because we love God and want to obey him. We don’t just go to get entertained. We go to worship God. And God is worthy of our praise, worthy of our obedience. Here’s a reason to come home: He’s worthy of our praise and our obedience.
If you’re preparing for the Sacrament of Confession (which you ought to celebrate sometime during Lent) here is a litany of Repentance. What is good about this approach is that it lists many attitudes and drives that are sinful and thus helps us to look a little deeper, beyond our external behaviors to the deeper dirve that give rise to sin. I have put the Litany in pdf form and you can get it here: Litany of Penance and Reparation
There is also an Examination of Conscience that is pretty good and is available here: Examen
Posted Comment: “Many young people I know are practical atheists, God and the Church aren’t even on their radar.”
Practical atheists? Yes. Not on their radar? I disagree. I think that God and the Church are very much on young people’s radar. The problem is that there are so few opportunities to actually discuss God and the Church in our society which continues to become more secular.
Most young people are at least aware that there may be a God and are also aware that the Church has much to say about the fact that there may be a God. Not only that, but our everyday lives remind us of this possibility. Birth, death, sadness, sexuality, science, love, loneliness…all these experiences are opportunities for us to explore the possibility of God and the viewpoint of the Church. Sadly, we often push through that sense of inquiry because it’s not effective and won’t help us pay the rent.
Do you want to explore the questions you have about God and the Church? The Office of Young Adult Ministry will be hosting three Conversations at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V Streets NW in April and May. The format for the evening is pure Q&A, and we will have two panelists who will discuss whatever questions the audience. The three topics for this spring are science and faith, sex and contraception, and the GLBTQ community.
“[Young adults] said that they need a forum not only where misgivings and doubts can be expressed but also where the teachings of the Church can be clearly articulated in response…much of what young adults feel regarding the institutional Church arises from a misunderstanding of what the Church actually teaches.”
-Sons and Daughters of the Light, USCCB
Join us for this unique opportunity!
For complete information on Conversations, visit our News and Events page. This event is open to the public.
Reason # 20 – The Final Wish of a Dying Friend – Consider the following scenario. You are crossing the street with a friend and suddenly as if out of nowhere a large truck is bearing down on you both. Your friend sees it coming and pushes you out of the way but takes the full force of the hit himself. Coming to your senses you run to your friend who lies dying in the road. In grief you lament his imminent death and thank him for saving your life. You say, “What can I ever do to thank you for what you have done?!” And he says, with his dying breath, “Please go to Church and remember me at the altar every Sunday.” ….Would you do it? …..Of course you would! This is the final wish of a dying friend who saved your life.
Well, isn’t this what Jesus did? Just before he died for us he left us a last request: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Do what? you might say. Here is Jesus request in context: The setting is the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples on the last evening before he died. As he sat at table with them he said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…” Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. So here is what we are to do in memory of Him: celebrate the Holy Mass, receive Holy Communion! It seems so little and yet so many have drifted away from this last request. It must have been important to Jesus since it was his final request.
So here is a powerful reason to come home, to fulfill the final wish of a dying friend, a dying Savior and Lord who saved your life, who died in your place: “Do this in memory of me.” The Book of Psalms also says it so well: “What return (what thanks) can I ever give the Lord for all the good he has done for me?! The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call on the name of the Lord.” (Ps 116:13) What a beautiful line to remember as you see the priest lift up the Chalice at every mass and remember the final wish of a dying friend.
The following video is one of the more intriguing vocation videos I have seen. And it is from an interesting source. The video also illustrates well the general theme of this blog that the longings we experience are ultimately about God, whatever our vocation. Sister calls her longing that “tug in her heart.”
Because of the hype surrounding Stem Cell Research, Catholic teaching on this matter is often misunderstood and misrepresented. The basic facts on Catholic teaching are these:
- The Catholic Church does not oppose all stem cell research. We oppose embryonic stem cell research but we support adult stem cell research.
- We oppose embryonic stem cell research because it involves the killing of a human being. Some may say it is only an embryo but, raise your hand if YOU started out as an embryo. The truth is that human life proceeds in stages from conception to natural death. No one of these stages is more or less sacred than another. At the moment of conception a unique human person is created. Everything we will physically ever be is present at the moment of conception. The truth is that every human person goes through stages. I spent time in my mother’s womb. When I was in my 20s I was young , tan and trim, lately I am more old, white and fat. I currently am 47, balding, graying, and carrying a bit more weight than I should. Before you know it I’ll be getting my AARP invitation. Before I least expect I will become a senior citizen and head into the autumn of my life. Every stage is sacred. We can’t just say, “Well, certain stages of human development are not deserving of our respect.
- Adult stem cell research is a promising field and should be encouraged. In it we use our own stem cells which is safer and means that someone else doesn’t have to die to improve my life. Many cures already exist that have come from adult stem cell research.
- Embryonic stem cell research has produced no cures. The body tissue produced through this procedure is unstable and tends to produce tumors. Further, and most importantly, another human being has to die so that I can possibly be cured.
Well, enough from me. I encourage you view the following videos when you have time. They set forth the basic Catholic teaching that we share with many other Christian denominations and others in the Scientific field.
This first video is six minutes in length and explains the opposition to embryonic stem cell research:
This second video (12 minutes in length) is produced by the Michigan Catholic Conference and expands on the first video