Feb 242015
 

The Weekly Francis – Volume 91 – 24 February 2015

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 23 January 2015 to 21 February 2015.

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.

Angelus

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Feb 232015
 

So when I saw the headline that a new Doctor of the Church was named by Pope Francis and then that it was Saint Gregory of Narek, my first reaction was who? Never heard of him. Although the gaps in my knowledge are large and numerous.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has declared Armenian poet and monk, Saint Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Universal Church. Meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints on Saturday ahead of his departure for Aricca on Lenten retreat, the Pope confirmed the proposal put forward by the Plenary Session of the Congregation to confer the title of Doctor of the Universal Church on the 10th century saint.

St. Gregory of Narek is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. Born in the city of Narek in about 950 A.D., St. Gregory came from a line of scholars and churchmen.

St. Gregory received his education under the guidance of his father, Bishop Khosrov, author of the earliest commentary on the Divine Liturgy, and from Anania Vartabed, abbess of Narek Monastery. He and his two brothers entered monastic life at an early age, and St. Gregory soon began to excel in music, astronomy, geometry, mathematics, literature, and theology.

He became a priest at the age of 25 and dedicated himself to God. He lived most of his life in the monastery of Narek, where he taught at the monastic school. St. Gregory began his writings with a commentary on the “Song of Songs,” which was commissioned by an Armenian prince. Despite his reservations that he was too young for the task, the commentary became famous for its clarity of thought and language and its excellence of theological presentation.

He also wrote a number of famous letters, sharagans, treasures, odes, melodies, and discourses. Many of his prayers are included in the Divine Liturgy celebrated each Sunday in Armenian Churches around the world.

St. Gregory’s masterpiece is considered to be his Book of Lamentations. Also known as Narek, it is comprised of 95 prayers, each of which is titled “Conversation with God from the depth of the heart.” A central theme is man’s separation from God, and his quest to reunite with Him. St. Gregory described the work this way: “Its letters like my body, its message like my soul.” He called his book an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” It was his hope that it would serve as a guide to prayer for people all over the world. After the advent of movable type, the book was published in Marseille in 1673, and has been translated into at least 30 languages. Source

From Catholic Culture

St. Gregory’s prayers are still used in the liturgy of the Armenian Catholic Church. The monastery where he lived and worked survived for several hundred years, until it was destroyed in the Armenian holocaust.

So I wanted to learn more about this new Doctor of the Universal Church and to read his writings. Couldn’t really find anything on the U.S. version of Amazon or elsewhere in English. Hopefully somebody will rectify that eventually.

Feb 212015
 

For a while on my book wish list sat one called Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon. It finally landed on my actively reading list. I was pretty much totally caught unaware by the talent of this author, although somehow it made it to my wish list. Reading Swan Song I kept drawing comparison to Stephen King’s The Stand my favorite of King’s books. There are comparisons to draw, but they are also very different stories and I found Swan Song]swan to be even superior in parts. Heresy to my mind considering how much I have loved The Stand. So I was soon book binging on some other books recommended to me and found repeated great storytelling in a genre I so enjoy.

Recently I read his Boy’s Life and once again was absorbed in this time a Ray Bradberry-esque story combined with McCommon’s own gifts. At the end there was a set of acknowledgements. These I often don’t read, but this one caught my attention. So I was already enthused with this author, but wow I so love his acknowledgements which I can so relate to.

My thanks to Forrest J. Ackermann; Roger Corman; Boris Karloff; Vincent Price; Lon Chaney Senior and Junior; Jungle Jim; Sky King and Penny; Screen Thrills Illustrated; Ian Fleming and Bond, James Bond; Eudora Welty; Bob Kane; Barbara Steele; Big Daddy Roth; the Boys from Hawthorne though a young man is gone; Clutch Cargo; Space Angels; Super Car; the Captain and Tom Terrrrific; Yancy Derringer; Famous Monsters of Filmland; Gordon Scott ; Vic Morrow and the Combat squad; Jim Warren (sorry, Forry!); Boston Blackie; Zorro; Cisco Kid and Pancho; the Whistler; Kirk Douglas in Spartacus; the Rolling Stones; Thriller and those pigeons from hell; the Hammer Films bunch; Peter Cushing, the ultimate Van Helsing; Christopher Lee; Edgar Rice Burroughs; Red Skelton and the passing parade; Creepy and Eerie; Ray Harryhausen and the Ymir; Mr. Television , Milton Berle; It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad (Did I miss one?) World; Edgar Allan Poe; Lester Dent or Kenneth Robeson or whoever cranked out all those great Doc Savages; Three Dog Night (hello, Cory!); Clayton Moore, the one and only Lone Ranger, Richard Matheson; Roy Rogers and Trigger, X-Men; Buffalo Bob and Howdy; the Brothers Grimm; Bela Lugosi; Paladin; The Outer Limits; Brigitte Bardot (I didn’t spend all my time with Geographics!); Basil Rathbone; Mister Dillon! Mister Dillon!; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Invaders from Mars; Gene Autry; Steve Reeves; Aunt Bea; Dr. Richard Kimble; the Who; Hans Christian Andersen; 13 Ghosts and those weird glasses; Sergeant Preston of the Yukon; Mr. and Mrs. North; the Thin Man; Peter Lorre; Alfred Hitchcock; Here, Lassie!; Errol Flynn, the perfect Robin Hood; a man named Jed; the Aquanauts; Steve Roper and Mike Nomad; Clint Walker, Kookie, my hair’s falling out!; Gorgo; Rodan; Reptilicus; Charles Laughton; Oral Roberts heal thyself; The Gallant Men; Victor Mature swinging that jawbone; Walt Disney; Mr. Lucky; Burt Lancaster, Through the Looking Glass; Bronco and Sugarfoot; the Mavericks, wild as the wind in Or-e-gon; Joe and Frank; Fantasia; that house on haunted hill; Guy Madison and Andy Devine; The Mysterians; Dementia 13 (Yikes!); Captain America and Bucky; Harper Lee; Steve McQueen (Cooler!) on that motorcycle, jumping the barbed wire; Tom Swift and His; and so many, many more whom I will think of as soon as I believe I’ve finished writing this.

To two very special influences on this boy’s life and writing: Mr. Rod Selling, for his talent and imagination that continues on far beyond the Zone; and to Mr. Ray Bradbury. Your lake will always be deeper and sweeter than mine, your jar hold greater mysteries, your rockets travel truer to the heart. Thank you so very, very much.

McCammon, Robert R. Boy’s Life (p. 610). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

Feb 172015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 2 February 2015 to 16 February 2015.

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.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

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Speeches

Papal Tweets

Feb 172015
 

There is one genre that I would like to see grow and then have no need for at all. That is the conversion testimony of those who were once pro-abortion and were involved in the business of providing abortions. There have been some startling conversion stories such as founding member of NARAL the abortion doctor Bernard Nathanson. In recent years it was the story of an ex-Planned Parenthood manager Abby Johnson in her book Unplanned. I enjoy reading conversion stories since while there are commonalties they are as unique as the person who wrote them.

That is certainly true of a new book by Ramona Treviño titled Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back. While the late Dr. Nathanson and Abby Johnson were converts to the faith, Ramona was raised in the Church. While she grew in a rather difficult family atmosphere with an alcoholic father, it was one she persevered through. While their Mass attendance was off and on she was attracted to the Church and through the movie The Song of Bernadette was attracted to religious life. A desire to give her self to others. This all went astray with the entering into her life of an older boy who ended up leaving her pregnant and eventually marrying her. This did not go well at all and setup many of the difficulties she later encountered in trying to provide security for her daughter.

Told by a friend about Planned Parenthood hiring people she applied and they were impressed with her enough to put her into a management position of a Planned Parenthood clinic. One that did not do surgical abortion, but nevertheless provided referrals to the Planned Parenthood clinic that did.

What I found very interesting in the relating of her story is regarding how she justified her work as a Catholic. The idea of helping people was what really led her and I saw the same in Abby Johnson’s story. That they really came to believe in the mission that Planned Parenthood pretends it has and that they were really helping people with contraceptives and providing the safe-sex message. Being Catholic and thinking the Church is nuts regarding contraceptives is not exactly a rare-breed of Catholic. The basically uncatechized Catholic who has some idea of what the Church teaches, but lacks any understanding of the cohesive and deeply rational nature of those teachings. Besides anybody that makes any endeavor into self-knowledge quickly realized all the rationalizations we come up with to justify some behavior apprehended as a good. We quickly quiet our conscience like shushing a baby.

Over the period of time she worked for Planned Parenthood there was certainly an awakening of conscience and the awareness of the cognitive dissonance between the upper level management of Planned Parenthood and their supposed concern for women. In her personal encounters with people she was seeing this more and more.

I had suspected this and it is interesting to see corporate Planned Parenthoods response to the Live Action videos. It was not a case of “this is terrible we really need to train our people better”, it was all about suppression and being on the lookout for Lila Rose. The outrage was all regarding being exposed. She describes other instances regarding corporate management that again shows a total lack of concern for women, but just a typical lust for profits.

The work of Catholic media also had a strong influence in her conversion. In this case Catholic radio where she heard what she did not want to hear such as on Barbara McGuigan’s show. Yet it was still something she came to listen to. One aspect of radio was that it was something she could listen to in an atmosphere that was not threatening and could be done in the privacy of her commute. EWTN’s offering of content to small but continuously growing Catholic radio has got to be the greatest human tool for conversion currently. It was greatly influential for me and I have heard this repeated many times by others on their call in shows. Catholic Answers fairly new series “Why Are You Pro-Choice?” also played a role for her.

A wonderful part of her story is all the people that helped her out. From a priest in the confessional who did not try to tell her contraception was a personal issue to the number of people in the pro-life cause. She was met by love and help at every turn. Whether it was members of 40 days for life or the one women she first met that was gentle and had words of God’s love for her even after she told her she was the manager of the clinic. Such a valuable lesson to remember when helping others escape sin.

My review only gives a thumbnails view of this book, how she tells her full story and the wisdom she has gained is what really makes this worth reading. The struggles and the continuing struggle to stay true to her convictions and putting problems into God’s hands.

Feb 162015
 

Once again Lent is coming around again in it’s a annual cycle. Yet with Easter being a movable feast we still are always a bit surprised by the start of Lent regardless of whether Ash Wednesday starts earlier or later than average. Lent is almost something you can look forward to. We know we need that spring cleaning of the soul and that we have some work to do to get our spiritual lives untangled. Still if we think of an upcoming Lent at all we also know that we want to make good use of it.

Yet once Lent starts we can hardly wait for it to be over. The saying “no plan survives contact with the enemy” is often true of Lenten plans and we do have an enemy that would disrupt any plan towards growing in holiness. So exactly how do you maintain a good Lent? No doubt there are plenty of strategies to do so that we learn to adapt to our own personalities.

I’ve always found spiritual reading greatly helpful in this, but our moving inward must help us also move outward in the world. Fasting is very useful, but it also has to move into the dimensions of the spiritual works.

So I was presently surprised to find an excellent book with all this in mind. Marcellino D’ambrosio sent me a couple of his recent books including 40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent. While there is a treasury of books with daily meditations during Lent, this book has that solid core while also being filled with practical suggestions. These suggestions help with concrete examples of how to live the faith. To externalize what you are learning. To take us out of ourselves.

His personable style brings what he has learned in his own life through examples easy to relate to. This book is something to help challenge you through Lent and to make of Lent what you always intended but still fell away like a New Year’s resolution. Two to three pages a day makes reading this through Lent quite doable.

I especially liked this points at the end of the book regarding Easter and the Easter season. Lent gets all the attention, yet it is the joy of Easter we are striving towards

After reading it I now look at the reviews and see that my own opinion was matched by many others whose opinions I trust, including my previous bishop.

Marcellino D’Ambrosio offers the neophyte as well as the seasoned Catholic a potpourri of Lenten reflections that are as engaging as they are practical. If you want to fall more in love with Jesus, then nourish yourself with 40 Days, 40 Ways!

Victor Galeone, Bishop Emeritus of St. Augustine, Florida

Feb 102015
 

VATICAN CITY – Last Wednesday during the Pope Francis’ weekly General Audience he touched on the issue of corporal punishment within a family when he said:

A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself. Once I heard a father at a meeting on marriage say: “Sometimes I have to strike the children lightly… but never in the face so as not to humiliate them”. How beautiful! He has a sense of dignity. He must punish, but he does it in a just way, and moves on.

The resultant outcry has covered the gamut from groups advocating for the protection of children to even members of the Vatican sex abuse commission.

The Vatican commission, comprised of 17-members, affirmed that it would make recommendations to the papacy about protecting children from corporal punishment.

Dr. Krysten Winter-Green, another commission member from New Zealand, urged parents to use different methods when disciplining children:

“There has to be positive parenting, in a different way,” she said.

There have been leaked reports that Pope Francis in his continued catechesis on the family will again bring up this topic. This time in regards to how children should be obedient in the face of such punishment done withing the context their dignity. One translation of the leaked text says:

Children you should always honor your mother and father as the commandment says. When you have transgressed against them and deserve punishment receive that light spank in a spirit of humility and contrition and even as Jesus said to “turn the other cheek.” (cf. Luke 6:39)

Feb 092015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 31 January 2015 – 08 February 2015.

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.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Letters

Speeches

Papal Tweets

Feb 082015
 

An excerpt from a very good article in the Star Tribune.

Today, almost 140 young men are discerning the priesthood at St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas. The St. Paul Seminary has nearly 100 seminarians, who flock here from dioceses around the country.

In many ways, today’s young priests resemble their peers in the millennial generation. They play Ultimate Frisbee, jog, or play the drums. Originally, many aspired to become professionals, such as architects or accountants. But in the end they chose not an occupation but a vocation — a comprehensive way of life. Their wholehearted desire to challenge the prevailing culture, and their vow of celibacy, mark them as cultural radicals.

Howe — with a wry smile — puts it this way. “I’m a walking contradiction, a walking perplexity. I’m living a life that the larger society says isn’t possible.”

“Many Minnesota Catholics think they know what to expect from clergy — a now-familiar mix of soft social criticism and gentle moral encouragement,” says Robert Kennedy, chair of the Department of Catholic Studies at St. Thomas. “But many of the younger clergy take a very different approach. Their voices will not be soothing and predictable, but challenging and supported by personal witness. They are out for souls, not social change.”

Well the priesthood has always been a sign of contradiction.

Although I would quibble with the last sentence in this excerpt. When the concern is for souls there is also corresponding social change starting at the smallest level outward.

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce)so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Lk 2:34)

Feb 052015
 

Another thing I love about the Church is the humor of the faithful. You just have to look at any list of patron saints and find the ironic funny bone of the Body of Christ.

I find this information regarding the reason for the naming of a Catholic parish hilarious.

Though Nevada was the last of the continental 48 states to establish its own diocese, between 85% and 95% of the state’s Catholics live in the Diocese of Las Vegas. The city’s Catholic roots extend as far back as 1908, when its oldest Church, St. Joan of Arc, was built for a town of just 700 people — only 70 of whom were Catholic.

“When it was founded, Las Vegas was a railroad town,” explained Father Timothy Wehn, a 47-year resident of Las Vegas and pastor of the diocese’s Guardian Angel Cathedral, “and one of the Catholics living there had purchased a plot of land specifically for a church.”

Though Joan of Arc hadn’t yet been canonized in 1908, Bishop Lawrence Scanlan of Salt Lake City — the diocese overseeing Las Vegas at the time — insisted the church be named for her. Among the bishop’s reasons for the name was Las Vegas’ blistering summer temperatures.

The rest of the article Sin City’s Secret: Catholicism Is Booming by Chris Kudialis is also interesting.“ ”

Well “Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,”. (Romans 5:20)

Still it must be difficult for Catholic parishes to raise funds in Las Vegas, I mean can Bingo really compete?

There is one aspect of Las Vegas that mirrors a sacrament. That is the Sacrament of Confession in that “What happens in confession, stays in confession.”