Jan 172017

The Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican has announced a new series of collection stamps – Great Heretics.

The new series will start off in 2017 with everyone’s favorite heretic Martin Luther to memorialize 500 years of schism. Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognising him as a “witness to the gospel” – a statement recently made by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Just when you thought the Catholic Church couldn’t lick Protestantism, you can now lick a Protestant.

Future stamps in this very collectable series will feature Mar Nestorius who was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431.

Plus who can forget Fr. Arius whose theology brought about the First Council of Nicaea,

Three great heretics bringing about three great councils – order yours today.

Caveat LifeSiteNews says they confirmed the Martin Luther stamp with the Philatelic and Numismatic Office. Still I am dubious since they are often not a reliable source. Yet at this stage nothing would surprise me.

Jan 162017

Called to Be the Children of God – Multiple Authors

Listening to the Al Kresta show I heard a interview with Carl E. Olson regarding Called to Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification, put out by Ignatius Press. I bought this as this is a subject I am somewhat interested in and knew just some of the basics. This is a book of essays on the subject from a variety of authors.

In the last essay in the book, David W. Fagerberg provides a good summary in his own included essay.

It is an impressive accomplishment in this book to see the theme of divinization laid out across the broad range of Catholic history: Scripture, the Greek and Latin Fathers, Dominicans and Franciscans, Trent, the embryonic Scheeben and Newman, the French schools, two Vatican Councils, and the current Catechism.

Fagerberg’s essay was on Liturgy and Divinization.

So the essays are very wide-ranging across the history of the Church. Previously I had thought that deification was primarily a focus of the Greek Fathers and and much more emphasized theologically in the Eastern part of the Church. There is a truth to that, but this book demonstrates just how much it is and has been a fabric of the whole Church. Mainly that it is covered under a whole range of words and ideas that express the same underlying concept. These essays show just how fundamental this is and again demonstrates how much God loves us. So this is recommended for anybody who wants to know more about the subject. While scholarly, it is also written for a general audience.

Mary of Nazareth – Michael Hesemann

Mary of Nazareth: History, Archaeology, Legends.

This book presents a very interesting approach to providing a biography of Mary. From scripture we can only gleam a little information, but via historical documents and archaeology there is actually a lot more that we can dive into.

While the text of the Proto-Gospel of James is an apocryphal early work and should be looked at critically. It does contain a wealth of information that can be “verified historically and archaeologically” as the author says along with “that we must assume that it has an authentic tradition at its core”. I knew that this document is where we got the names of Mary’s Parents Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, but I did not realize how much other information there was. The author does a good job of demonstrating what we can likely take as valid information along with what is more dubious.

I especially enjoyed how he was able to combine what is known of the history of the times around events in Mary’s life along with being amplified by archaeologically discoveries. This provides both context and flavor. I especially found interesting the connection with King Herod and the Essenes and a foretelling he received from an Essene by the name of Menahem predicting he would become King of the Jews. This led to the fact that after a great earthquake the Essenes likely moved to Jerusalem. Subsequently that Herod allowed them to be involved in the building of the new Temple, much to the chagrin of the Sadducees. Now I am rather suspicious of historians seeing the Essenes influencing everything, yet this is not the case in this book.

Really I can go on and on about what I found interesting and informative in this book. Information about Mary’s house, the Holy House of Loretto, what we can know about the Flight into Egypt along with her time in Ephesus. The wealth of archaeological discoveries is really amazing in what it provides in backstory.

I only had some very minor quibbles. Some of the dated chronology of events were presented without mentioning alternatives. He favors a birth of Christ being in 5 B.C. as do others. Jimmy Akin has a good post in favor of 3/2 B.C. This and other points of chronology I would have liked to see more of a caveat regarding them. Still I found this to be an excellent read along with many “wow” moments.

Caveat This book was provided by the publisher for review.

Continental Ambitions by Kevin Starr

Continental Ambitions: Roman Catholics in North America: the Colonial Experience

As a sad note Kevin Starr recently died of a heart attack in San Francisco on January 14, 2017.

This book provided by the publisher I have not read yet. This is a large volume history which I want to get to, so here is the publisher’s summary.

Starr begins this work with the exploration and temporary settlement of North America by recently Christianized Scandinavians. He continues with the destruction of Caribbean peoples by New Spain, the struggle against this tragedy by the great Dominican Bartolomé de Las Casas, the Jesuit and Franciscan exploration and settlement of the Spanish Borderlands (Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Baja, and Alta California), and the strengths and weaknesses of the mission system.

He then turns his attention to New France with its highly developed Catholic and Counter-Reformational cultures of Quebec and Montreal, its encounters with Native American peoples, and its advance southward to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. The volume ends with the founding of Maryland as a proprietary colony for Roman Catholic Recusants and Anglicans alike, the rise of Philadelphia and southern Pennsylvania as centers of Catholic life, the Suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, and the return of John Carroll to Maryland the following year.

Starr dramatizes the representative personalities and events that illustrate the triumphs and the tragedies, the achievements and the failures, of each of these societies in their explorations, treatment of Native Americans, and translations of religious and social value to new and challenging environments. His history is notable for its honesty and its synoptic success in comparing and contrasting three disparate civilizations, albeit each of them Catholic, with three similar and differing approaches to expansion in the New World.

Faith with Good Reason – Ben Butera

I received Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens from it’s author, of whom I know of from Two Catholic Men and a Blog.

An interesting look at using analytical problem solving to finding truths in the faith. He brings his experience in the field of problem solving for a large company to show how the same rules apply to matters of faith.

As so many have a narrow view of empirical science as being the only access to truth, this book provides the anecdote. He references part of a quote that Saint John Paul II went on to include in Fides et ratio.

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.

Not surprising all the circular logic when so many are trying to fly on one wing.

The book is presented in an accessible style providing plenty of examples, stories and personal stories, and thought experiments. I especially enjoyed his analogies. There is also a lot of apologetics information looked at via his analytical lens. It is always interesting how many tools can be used to look at the faith and to give us new perspectives. He does this ably here and provides tools to use from our reason.

As a note most of the proceeds are going to help the Mystic Monks of Wyoming build their monastery.

From A Dark Wayover – Dan Lord

I was very happy to receive a review copy of From A Dark Wayover: Book Two of the Von Koppersmith Saga (Volume 2) from the author. I totally loved the first book By the Downward Way: Book One of the Von Koppersmith Saga, which I previously reviewed.

Stunningly good and a flight of imagination that carries you along. Traveling from the Garden of Eden to the Pied Piper and its own mythology is brought together to present a fascinating story. A decedent of the pied piper and an evil act that must be atoned for is brought into a world not of his choosing. Enjoyed pretty much every aspect of the story. While it is apparent there are more books to come in this new series, the first book is totally self contained.

The second book does not disappoint and escalates the story. Leo has a lot more to save than just the boys. Lots of surprises along the way as things don’t turn out how you might expect them to do. This one does end on a cliffhanger and so is not as self-contained at the first book. Still my interest is highly peaked to see the final volume. I really enjoy fantasy that builds you up and has a decided moral viewpoint without being message fiction.

Jan 122017

Saw the following article THIS IS PROOF THAT DRIVE-IN CHURCHES WERE A REAL THING IN THE 40S and this did not surprise me. Although I did like the photos. I knew that the late Rev. Robert Schuller started his ministry having services at a Drive-In.

He went from Drive-In to eventually building the Crystal Cathedral. This is of course now Christ Cathedral for the Diocese of Orange. Can’t say that I am a fan of the design, although if Superman ever needs a new Fortress of Solitude maybe the diocese can turn a profit.

Still what if had had continued at a Drive-In? Perhaps the previous bishop would have bought that instead.

So how could Catholics adapt a Drive-In Mass? For one I guess Catholics would have to buy Lowriders so that they could go from kneeling to rising and vice versa.

For the offering they could have a car tag system where they photograph the plate and send the bill. Although postage could be more than the $1 bills collected.

Communion would be a problem though. Maybe they could have a track where people board a train. Yes, bring back Communion Rail.

Imagine the time savings. Many people already leave right after Communion to get to their car. This would eliminate that step.

Jan 102017

Dialog from North by Northwest:

Eve: Men like you!
Roger: What’s wrong with men like me?
Eve: They don’t believe in marriage.
Roger: I’ve been married twice.
Eve: See what I mean?

Over the weekend I rewatched North by Northwest. It had been quite a while since I had seen it and last time was on an old style TV with 4:3 aspect ratio. I’ve been rewatching all of Hitchcock’s films and was surprised to find that this movie could not be gotten from Netflix’s DVD service. So I bought the Blu-Ray version.

I remembered some of the plot of mistaken identity and the UN along with the iconic cornfield scene. But watching the Blu-Ray version on a decent-sized TV was like watching a totally new movie. It just made being able to see all his shot choices in their full glory. Most of the dialog was excellent and the part quoted above made me pause the movie to jot it down. Although the sexually suggestive parts of the dialog certainly pushed his increasing battles with the Hays code at the time.

Oh and Hitchcock’s story idea sprung from the idea of Cary Grant hiding in Lincoln’s nose and it took years to put a plot around it.

Jan 042017

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 10 November 2016 to 4 January 2017.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.


General Audiences






Papal Tweets

  • “The love of God, which can look into the heart of each person and see the deepest desire hidden there, must take primacy over all else.” @Pontifex 15 December 2016
  • “Forgiveness is the most visible sign of the Father’s love, which Jesus sought to reveal by his entire life” @Pontifex 16 December 2016
  • “I thank you all for your kindness. Please do not forget to pray for me.” @Pontifex 17 December 2016
  • “Our joy comes from the confidence we have that the Lord is close to us with his tenderness, mercy, forgiveness and love.” @Pontifex 18 December 2016
  • “I express my solidarity with migrants around the world and thank all those who help them: welcoming others means welcoming God in person!” @Pontifex 18 December 2016
  • “Nothing of what a repentant sinner places before God’s mercy can be excluded from the embrace of his forgiveness.” @Pontifex 19 December 2016
  • “Mercy is the concrete action of God’s love that, by forgiving, transforms and changes our lives.” @Pontifex 20 December 2016
  • “Mercy gives rise to joy, because our hearts are opened to the hope of a new life.” @Pontifex 21 December 2016
  • “The birthday of Jesus, who took on the burden of our human weakness, is drawing closer.” @Pontifex 22 December 2016
  • “The Lord becomes man to journey with us in our everyday lives.” @Pontifex 23 December 2016
  • “Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God.” @Pontifex 24 December 2016
  • “Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!” @Pontifex 25 December 2016
  • “On today’s Feast of Saint Stephen let us remember the martyrs of today and yesterday. May we overcome evil with good and hatred with love.” @Pontifex 26 December 2016
  • “Christmas has above all a taste of hope because, for all the darkness in our lives, God’s light shines forth.” @Pontifex 27 December 2016
  • “God, who is in love with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, by being born poor and frail in our midst, as one of us.” @Pontifex 28 December 2016
  • “Let us be touched by the tenderness that saves. Let us draw close to God who draws close to us. Let us pause to gaze upon the crib.” @Pontifex 29 December 2016
  • “Holy Family of Nazareth, help us all to recognize the sacred nature of the family and its beauty in God’s plan for humanity.” @Pontifex 30 December 2016
  • “As we end this year, let us remember the days, weeks and months we have lived in order to give thanks and offer everything to the Lord.” @Pontifex 31 December 2016
  • “Let us entrust the new year to Mary, Mother of God, so that peace and mercy may grow throughout the world.” @Pontifex 1 January 2017
  • “At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations.” @Pontifex 2 January 2017
  • “May nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions.” @Pontifex 3 January 2017
  • “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.” @Pontifex 4 January 2017

Papal Instagram

Jan 032017

On Tolkien’s birthday it annoys me that once when it comes to books I was as irritating as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Fantasy books – no way. Give me Asimov, Niven, Clement. I want hard science fiction not day dreams! Thus I totally ignored this genre.

Even when I finally came around on Fantasy, I ignored Tolkien. Talk about dumb. It was only much later coming into the Church that I kept seeing his name on list of recommended books from Catholics. Since first reading it now they have become something I read it almost annually. They have become almost like spiritual wisdom since they contain so much wisdom. In one of those ironies of life leading up to my conversion I was noticing my increased love of the Fantasy genre because of the heroic and virtuous characters. I loved their willingness to do what is right and willing to sacrifice. I was coming to hate that I could not find those virtues in myself.

Last night I started going through the extended edition Blu-Ray of the movies again. It’s funny how the books and the movies have merged so much for me. Watching the movie I could have sworn there was a scene removed here or there. I could almost remember watching it. The same would happen reading the books. Although this only happened when there was considerable overlap. Mostly watching the movies I can understand the reasons for what was removed. Tom Bombadil and the whole section leading to Rivendell. The decision to remove the Scourging of the Shire, less so and how this changes a lot of things. Funny he could make 3 movies out of the hobbit, but kept to three for LOTR.

Still I really love the movies – especially the extended editions as they undo some of the character damage and do add to the telling. Although what I hate is that when a character is altered it is always for the worse. Faramir and Sam most of all. Sam leaving Frodo – you got to be kidding me. Yeah lots to quibble over regarding the movies, but at least mostly understandable quibbles. Although I can’t not say that for Hobbit trilogy – feast for the eyes, but not the soul. I don’t own any of those movies and I love the book.

I do love John C. Wright’s essay on one of the Hobbit movies. THE HOBBIT: The Desolation Of Tolkien and how it was often struck by the Stupidity Hammer.

Dec 312016

2016 has been the year of making a year anthropomorphic. Dark humor mixed in with a running joke.

This has kind of annoyed me. Yes I could appreciate the running joke, but I also want to count the blessings. Scapegoating the current year makes sense since we are always looking for patterns to put into a narrative. We are all storytellers of various skill and extract from everything to place into a story to make sense of.

Sure election years suck and this has been the suckiest in my memory. But I knew I was going to oppose whoever got elected. Yes it is sad when iconic entertainers die, especially at a younger age. Just that now we are feeling what are parents felt as their iconic stars died as they got older.

Still I would rather celebrate and enter in again what they left behind in film, books, and movies than complain about 2016. So yes this year triggered a lot of revisits of favorites leading also to new favorites.

Every year really is like Dickens brilliant start to “A Tale of Two Cities”.

As an optimistic/pessimist both dark humor and gratitude appeals to me in often contradictory ways. Still I would like to think about and list things I am grateful for in random order.

  • I actually managed to keep a New Year’s Resolution. I prayed the Rosary every day this year. Sure it was 366 (leap year) distracted Rosaries. But that was still better than roughly 4 a week I managed before. I also managed to pray Evening and Night Prayer every day along with spiritual reading. Before I was consistent on the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. I used an app called Strides to log this everyday and that helped me to prioritize this everyday instead of my usual severe procrastination.
  • Discovered lots of new music (to me) this year via Apple Music. My favorite album was Megadeth’s “Dystopia”. The addition of guitarist Kiko Loureiro has reenergized Dave Mustaine.
  • My Apple Watch enabled me to be consistent in a daily workout. Probably only 7–8 days I missed during the whole year. Now have a standing desk at work and became much better at taking breaks and short walks.
  • While 2016 was not a great year for movies, there were some very good series with “Stranger Things” topping the list. Surprisingly the series “Lethal Weapon” was very good and actually brought the premise fuller to life. Plus it is one of the few series with an intact and happy family in it. I also enjoyed “Mr. Robot” and am finishing the second season of “A Man in the High Castle”. While movies are mostly retreading – series are showing that we don’t have a dearth of good writers.
  • This year I think I read more books from indie authors than books from big name publishers. Again reminding me how much talent is out there. Elitist gatekeepers have moved to narratives of political correctness and virtue signaling. The new Dragon Awards, awarded novels I actually read and enjoyed and the Hugo’s continued their decline. Sure there is a lot of crap in the indie world – just like the published world. See Sturgeon’s Law.
  • Yes there is a lot of bad news out there. Pope Francis phrase ‘piecemeal World War III’ is deadly accurate. So there is a lot to pray about and sometimes I responded appropriately in intercessory prayer. I want to make this my default response.
  • There is so much that can move us towards wonder if we let it. Sometimes my response to wonder can be overwhelming in the actuality of it. I am thankful for this and have a long way to go for a true Chestertonian response to the wonder of the world.
  • I am very thankful for a more detached view towards the world of politics. Yes still a political junkie, but less moved towards anger. “Put no trust in princes” has almost become an ejaculatory prayer for me this year.
  • Super thankful for social media friends. They keep me out of a bubble and challenge me. Even though I follow mostly faithful Catholics – there are certainly a wide range of prudential reactions out there. This helps me to not dogmatize my opinions and to remember how often I am wrong and will continue to be. Plus I love the wide range of interests that open me up into new worlds.
  • Also thankful for the job I have. As an application developer I enjoy my work which is intellectually satisfying, challenging, and requires constant learning.
  • Last but not least is just being a Catholic. How everything provides evidence for the truth of the faith. How my stoic tendencies are constantly being bombarded by the truth of the faith and “sheer grace”.

Thank you Jesus!

Dec 282016

Since John Glenn’s death I have been going through books on the various space programs. I wanted to fill in my gaps of knowledge since while growing up in that era I knew little of the Mercury and Gemini programs.

So started with The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe’s masterful book on the Mercury program. The opening chapters describing a jet pilots life were just great writing with a poetic rhythm. Such a great book.

Next up was “On the Shoulders of Titans: History of Project Gemini.” This was a straight forward history produced by NASA (free PDF). A bit dry, but informative. It kind of freaks me out I didn’t know about the Gemini 6A and 7 accomplishing the first space rendezvous. Had no idea we ever sent up two crews close together.

Now I am reading A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin. I got the audiobook version of this which is done by my favorite narrator Bronson Pinchot. This one is really blowing me away. This approaches “The Right Stuff” in writing skill. Chaikin eventually was able to interview almost all of the Apollo pilots that were still living at the time. So you see it colored by these interviews adding so much flavor and really bringing you into the moment. Just so well done. I just finished the part on Apollo 8 mission, the first to go around the moon and first using the new Saturn V rocket. I was ten at the time and remember listening to their broadcast on Christmas Eve on my crystal radio set with the single earpiece and braided cord. Listening to them describe the moons surface and then alternately read from Genesis. I remember this so well, although I had no idea what the book of Genesis was. My exposure to scripture was all accidental. In fact decades later I was surprised to find out how many phrases I knew were actually scriptural references. YouTube video with the Genesis reading from the Astronauts.

Regardless the audiobook version of A Man on the Moon is phenomenal. Pinchot’s skill is so evident while being both restrained and dramatic when the story is open to it. A good history is a time machine into the past and this is that in spades. The introduction to the book is from Tom Hanks who describes the impact it made on him for his preparations for Apollo 13 along with others involved. Astronaut Jim Lovell the commander of Apollo 13 was also one of the crew on Apollo 8 and Command Pilot of Gemini 10.

The space programs was transformative for me being that they lead me to my lifetime love of Science Fiction along with technical interests starting as an electronics hobbyist, a Navy Career as an Avionics tech doing component repair of “black boxes”, and then a career working with computers as an application developer. So like many others influenced by this era it is sad to see our space program dwindle so. The sadness of watching live the Challenger explode and the joy of watching the subsequent Discovery launch while I was in Florida on a port visit with the U.S.S. America (CV–66). I remember the night before the successful Discovery launch playing the Commodore 64 Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space simulator from Activision all night long until finally having success.

Dec 242016

Steven D. Greydanus has a thoughtful piece on more and more Protestant churches being closed on Christmas Day. Christmas and culture: Closing churches on Christmas?

While this has been a trend in Protestant churches, the trend I notice for Catholics is earlier and earlier Christmas Vigil Masses. While parishes still have Midnight Mass and other Christmas Day Masses I am seeing multiple Vigil Masses and ones as early as 4:30 PM.

Seems to me to be a get Mass out of the way phenomenon. I know I can catch myself in this mentality. The old joke about what time is Midnight Mass isn’t quite as funny anymore. Convenience rules the day and then we see what Catholics in the Middle East are suffering through.

I love Midnight Mass myself. Even when I was an atheist because of the Christmas Carols. So I would put up with the sky fairy thing for being able to sing Christmas Carols. I am not a person who much like crowds and Midnight Masses are often overcrowded. But I arrive early not just to get a seat in a pew, but mostly for the Christmas Carols sung before Mass. There is something about bringing in Christmas Day at Mass in participating with the Angels who brought the message to the shepherds. Plus it is hardly even a Vigil Mass being at midnight. Plus one thing I dearly love is the thunderous Joy to the World pretty much sang at the end of Mass regardless what parish I have attended. It gets me every time.

I have been to many different parishes for Midnight Masses in my diocese. The experience regardless of the normal liturgical fare offered at other times is usually quite excellent. This is when parishes all of a sudden remember that there are hymns written before 1970. Where we tend to have fuller choirs and symphonic accompaniment.

Although one time the choir was so out of tune that it was disconcerting and not just one person. That this included one of the soloists was surprising. I discovered later that this wasn’t just an off night. My mantra to myself was – “They are giving of their time and ”cough“ talent so don’t complain.” Guess I failed at the not complaining part, but it has been a couple of years.

So really looking forward to the 4:30 PM Mass, I mean Midnight Mass.

Dec 242016

Hilaire Belloc – Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!

A Catholic tale have I to tell! And a Christian song have I to sing
While all the bells in Arundel ring.

I pray good beef and I pray good beer
This holy night of all the year,
But I pay detestable drink for them
That give no honour to Bethlehem.

May all good fellows that here agree
Drink Audit Ale in heaven with me
And may all my enemies go to hell!
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!

May all my enemies go to hell!
Noël! Noël! (Hilaire Belloc – The Four Men, 1912)

This from Belloc makes me laugh despite how much I hate the funny part.

I much prefer Tolkein’s Noel.

J.R.R. Tolkien – Noel

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.