Apr 112016

Handed Down: The Catholic Faith of the Early Christians by Jim Papandrea. Published by Catholic Answers Press.

There are plenty of Catholic apologetic books showing the falseness of the idea of Sola Scriptura. As a part of this the subject of Apostolic Tradition is often covered in part. This book goes more in-depth regarding Apostolic Tradition and charts some of the development of doctrine as these traditions handed down become concrete in Church teaching. This charting is done via the Early Church Fathers.

Each Chapter of the book addresses a specific topic and uses a “Featured Father” to illustrate what the Church teaches via that Father’s writings. A brief biography of that Father is given along with sections of their writings. Beyond this each chapter incorporated this aspect with a fuller explanation of the doctrine and the historical context fleshed out.

This is written in such a way to not just be citations from the Fathers, but a coherent look at how a Catholic doctrine was taught early on. Plus this is written in such a ways as to not be just a dry account, but more as a story. I enjoy this format as I have from other authors writing on the Church Fathers in recent years.

A worthwhile read and once again Catholic Answers Press delivers the goods.

I would also point you to this review of the book which provides a far better summary of the book.

Saints Who Battled Satan: Seventeen Holy Warriors Who Can Teach You How to Fight the Good Fight and Vanquish Your Ancient Enemy by Paul Thigpen. Published by TAN Books.

Really all you need to now is that this is a new book from Paul Thigpen and for me that is enough to want to read it. A couple of his daily mediation books like A Year with Mary: Daily Meditations on the Mother of God and A Year With the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God are daily companions. His book Manual for Spiritual Warfare published in 2014 is outstanding and it right drew applause. In some ways his new book is a followup to his book on spiritual warfare. I would guess his extensive research on the subject was an impetus to it.

This book takes the lessons of spiritual warfare and shows how it was concrete in the lives of the saints. Interestingly he starts with the story of Adam and Eve. A case in point that not all spiritual warfare is successful. Where pride rules, the battle is lost. Still it made perfect sense that the first saint he covers is Mary, the New Eve. As she is our solitary boast it is she of whom we should imitate and intercede to for protection. Next up is St. Joseph who has been called the Terror of Demons.

As we move into the life of St. Paul we start to see more solid examples regarding the spiritual life and concrete examples of spiritual warfare. Apt since St. Paul put into military terms this spiritual warfare. St. Paul gives us so many examples of the cross were are to embrace when we try to grow in holiness. Much to learn here in this chapter.

The book then starts to move on to the early martyrs, early church fathers, and other saints up to the present day. When I started reading this book I mentally made a list of the saints who would illustrate this the best. While the ones I really expected were referenced, I was surprised by other saints that I had not thought about in this connection. I also believed I was well-aware of stories regarding St. Teresa of Avila and was interested for find more.

One thing I found reading these stories is that it was easy to fall into a skeptical view regarding this as exuberant hagiographies. That was what I was thinking about such stories long in the past, then it dawned on me that I was not skeptical regarding very similar stories of saints in more modern times such as St. Pio or St. John Vianney. Stories regarding them are rather well-attested. So I realized my skeptical dividing line was rather arbitrary.

A fascinating read with lots of wisdom from the saints.

Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool, And Evangelize the World by Matthew Warner.

This is a short but very annoying book on evangelization. I thought I had sufficiently immunized myself against personal evangelization efforts and this punched through my excuses. So if you had built up excuses why you don’t have to personally do this, then avoid this book. An enticing short read only makes it more dangerous.

Seriously though, I really like how he has taken Pope Francis’s “Make a mess” and provides a framework around it. While I understood what the Pope was getting at by this phrase, it was not a phrase I was particularly warm towards. I really liked how Matthew Warner has put this into context and provided good real world examples of when you have to make a mess before you can put something in order.

I was more open at the start to being a fool as St. Paul laid the groundwork towards being a fool for Christ (1 Cor 4:10) and saints such as St. Francis elaborated just what this means.

I totally enjoyed how this book could be both light-hearted, but not light on actual content. Really I wished parishes would buy this book in bulk to be given out.

Mar 302016

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 24 March 2016 to 30 March 2016.

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.




Papal Tweets

  • “Annointed with the oil of gladness to pass on the joy of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 24 March 2016
  • “Jesus loved us. Jesus loves us. Without limit, always, to the end.” @Pontifex 24 March 2016
  • “Impress, Lord, in our hearts the sentiments of faith, hope, love and sorrow for our sins.” @Pontifex 25 March 2016
  • “The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.” @Pontifex 25 March 2016
  • “To live Easter means to enter into the mystery of Jesus who died and rose for us.” @Pontifex 26 March 2016
  • “Jesus Christ is risen! Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!” @Pontifex 26 March 2016
  • “Every Christian is a “Christopher”, that is, a bearer of Christ!” @Pontifex 27 March 2016
  • “Jesus shows us the real face of God, for whom power does not mean destruction but love, and for whom justice is not vengeance but mercy.” @Pontifex 28 March 2016
  • “If we open ourselves up to welcome God’s mercy for ourselves, in turn we become capable of forgiveness.” @Pontifex 30 March 2016

Papal Instagram

Mar 302016

At the end of his weekly general audience today, Pope Francis pointed to the sky and said Mother Angelica “is in heaven”.

The Holy Father gave his blessing and made the remark to members of EWTN’s Rome bureau as he greeted the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

The staff had brought with them an image of EWTN’s founder as a sign of affection and remembrance for Mother Angelica after she passed away on Easter Sunday at the age of 92. National Catholic Register.

In response to the Pope’s action todays several noted theologians are divided on the theological significance of the Pope’s index finger point to Heaven with a statement referring to Mother Angelica.

Fr. Cyrus Winfield questioned the idea of whether the Pope’s digitus secundus pointing up exercised an infallible act. He noted the missing of words such as “formally declare or define” and the context regarding speaking to a group of faithful and not to the whole Church. He said “While this is certainly in the area of faith it is uncertain as to whether this must be held by the whole Church or locally such as in regards to beautifications.”

Lay theologian Irvin Brock, who entered the Church last year, had more definite ideas about this. “If the Pope had simply said she “is in Heaven” than this would be a simple case of him speaking off-the-cuff and would in no way have have invoked the charism of infallibility.“ He went on to say “Still that combined with the finger pointing in the traditional direction of Heaven makes this a totally different act. This could be papal sign language for “I define” we will just have to wait and see.

In the meantime Fr. Lombardi has not yet issued a statement regarding this.

Mar 292016


When I had first read on Twitter that Mother Angelica had died I was surprised to find myself tearing up. This was not unexpected news as reports from EWTN had mentioned here physical decline. This hit me anyway. This these were tears of joyful sadness. A mix of emotions from my own sense of gratitude towards her and her work.

It is etched in my mind when I first came across Mother Angelica. I was in my limbo between atheism and theism moving towards Christianity where I was devouring the shelves of the library and searching on the internet. It was early 1997 when I came across the home page of EWTN which had a prominent picture of her. I remember just how much I was struck by her photo. “What they still have nuns who look like this?” Still I found their discussions forums and bookmarked the site. The internet archive first shows EWTN having a web presence in late 1996 with a very barebones page. I had no idea who Mother Angelica was and had never even heard of her.

When I retired from the Navy and moved from Virginia to Florida I had my next run in with Mother Angelica. Flipping channels I ran across EWTN and her program and was instantly hooked. I was quite disappointed to find out that EWTN at the time was only available for 3 hours a day by my cable provider. Still the channel soon to become a mainstay for me. I even remember the first episode of Mother Angelica Live that I watched where she had Fr. Groeschel on as a guest talking about his book “In the Presence of Our Lord”. Now if Mother Angelica’s appearance caught me by surprised originally, the same could be said for Fr. Benedict Groeschel. In this day and age? The banter between them quite amused me. Wow these odd looking Catholics can be pretty funny. His book was the first Catholic book I purchased.

I soon found that we had a local Catholic radio station Queen of Peace WQOP. I later found out it was only one of three Catholic radio stations in the country. I remember devouring content from the radio. I even recorded hours of the show on cassette to listen to later at work. I remember it driving me crazy that I could not get their signal within the walls at work. Catholic Answers Live soon became another addiction back when it was available for one hour during weekdays.

I owe such a massive debt to Mother Angelica and the media network she created. The content she freely provided enabled local efforts to startup Catholic radio stations. Having freely available content is the main factor in why there are over 300 Catholic radio stations in the U.S. now and the growing number outside of the country.

Before EWTN my reading was quite scattershot. I was basically just checking out a whole section of the library regarding Christianity. I had no idea what was worthwhile or not. My reading became much more directed by what I was hearing as I was becoming more and more convicted that not only was their a God, but that the Catholic Church was what Jesus founded. As important as all the book knowledge became for me, Catholic radio provided another important factor. The call in shows showed me an aspect of the Church I was not going to easily experience myself. As an introvert getting out and meeting other Catholics is an uphill battle. From the shows I learned the reality of the faith lived out. The struggles people have and the myriad difficulties within the Church. This helped me to not have an idealized picture of the Church. I found out that things are messy in the Church, but more importantly that things have always been messy in the Church. Catholic radio helped give me a dimension that my introvert tendencies was not going to easily fill out through experience.

The time period between when I first started watching Mother Angelica Live and her having a stroke was unfortunately way too short. Still I can remember so much from those episodes. I especially remember the time when she walked out on the set of her show not wearing braces on St. Thomas Aquinas’ feast day. I remember being stunned by this image and the story she told of the healing. I remember so many of the guests which sent me buying more books. I also remember the show where she had Marcus Grodi on which led to The Journey Home, a show I have seen almost every episode of. Plus who could forget her rant on a letter Cardinal Mahoney wrote on the Eucharist. Her grudging apology later was not her finest moment, but she made the effort in obedience. Most of all I remember laughing over and over at what she had to say. She had a way to make the Gospel stories so alive. She could make them alive since she knew people so well and could project attitudes in people’s reaction to Jesus. On Monday I happened to listen to a rerun of her show via podcast and was struck again at her wisdom and common sense.

In the years since being introduced to EWTN I have listened to thousands of hours of audio, now mostly via podcast. People complain about EWTN’s sets, but listening to most shows via audio this has not been important for me. Pretty much most EWTN show works just as well as audio since the content is more important than the video.

When I think about Mother Angelica what I think about is that she was the greatest evangelist in the United States since Venerable Fulton J. Sheen and that she has had even more impact. I could hardly measure all the conversions stories I have heard or read that involved people running across EWTN on TV or radio. She had a treasury of very funny conversion stories from people who wrote to her after coming across her show. The same goes for Catholic radio where on a variety of shows I hear how they impacted somebodies life. Most recently Ramona Treviño book Redeemed by Grace where she describe how helpful Catholic radio was in bring her out of Planned Parenthood.

I saw one article that described Mother Angelica network as a “media empire” and that phrase struck me as being wrong, but still being right. She enabled a whole media framework that inspired others to add on to it. There is much to complain about the state of the Church in the United States. Still there are plenty of hopeful signs and the media seeds she planted are growing. There are so many ironies regarding how a cloistered nun achieved all of this and how it was her partnership with the laity that have made her efforts something that does not pass with her. She was willing to take a back seat in her media empire since she always let the Holy Spirit drive anyway.

Her faithfulness to the Church was quite inspiring. There were plenty who wanted to pull her down or take over. She was a thorn in the side to those who wanted to water down the faith. In the biography of her life by Raymond Arroyo there are plenty of interesting stories about run ins over her network with the hierarchy. That the U.S. Bishop’s once had their own cable channel might seem surprising now, that it was less than orthodox at times is not as surprising. Her rapport with the audience was part of EWTN’s relative success. Still it was the faith presented winsomely and faithfully that had the most impact. The hard sayings go down better when your laughing hard. I recently heard Paul Darrow, who is same-sex attracted and a former international model, talk about first seeing a “Pirate nun” on TV. He relates this episode today in How the ‘Pirate Nun’ Changed a Gay Man’s Life.

There is so much talk about the Catholic Church holding women down since they see the priesthood in terms of power instead of in terms of service. Yet the greatest evangelist for the faith in recent time in the United States is neither a bishop or a priest, but a contemplative nun who built a network on total trust in the Lord. Her resume and life experience was totally at odds with what she achieved, but totally in keeping in what God can do with us when that still small voice is not drowned out.

This is one of those cathartic blog posts whose main point it to let loose what is inside and to try to show some gratitude for Mother Angelica in what she did and enabled. The great thing about the Body of Christ is that I finally get to talk to Mother Angelica and that she will pray for us as we pray for her. Her friend Phil Lawler who use to appear with her wrote about how much she would be amused to have her funeral on April Fools Day. It was fitting for her to die on Easter and fitting that her funeral is to be held on this date. Like St. Francis she was a Fool for Christ and was foolish enough to achieve what she was not qualified to do according to the world.

Requiescat in Pace

Mar 262016

So I noticed this series of headlines:

Basically the same basic story appeared in British news sources:

An insider on the tour added: “The band’s team were flabbergasted when the Vatican got in touch via letter and couldn’t believe their eyes.

“As much as they didn’t want to upset the Pope, they had a contract in place to play on the Friday – and in their mind they were going to honour it. They have made a promise to the Cuban people and won’t let them down.”

My spidey-senses are tingling and my first instinct is to call BS on this story (my second and third instincts as well). First off the story is being shaped as “Pope bans”, when at most it might have been someone in the Vatican. Even that seems rather fishy. Where is this letter they received? Seems to me that if The Rolling Stones management ever actually received such a letter it they would make the most of it by posting it online. It makes great publicity.

I really don’t think the Vatican is going to get involved in rock band tour dates.

Although I remember when the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper L’ Osservatore Romano decided to get into music journalism and released a list of the top ten rock and pop albums of all time.

At the time I envisioned their new direction which thankfully didn’t bear out.

Mar 232016

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 7 December 2015 to 23 March 2016.

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.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences





Papal Tweets

  • “… That families in need may receive the necessary support and that children may grow up in healthy and peaceful environments.” @Pontifex 12 March 2016
  • “Pray for me.” @Pontifex 13 March 2016
  • “The Sacrament of Reconciliation allows us to draw near to the Father with trust to have the certainty of his forgiveness.” @Pontifex 14 March 2016
  • “God is truly “rich in mercy” and extends it abundantly upon those who appeal to Him with a sincere heart.” @Pontifex 15 March 2016
  • “As we exit the confessional, we will feel his strength which gives new life and restores ardor to the faith. After confession we are reborn.” @Pontifex 16 March 2016
  • “No one can be excluded from the mercy of God. The Church is the house where everyone is welcomed and no one is rejected.” @Pontifex 17 March 2016
  • “The greater the sin, the greater the love that must be shown by the Church to those who repent.” @Pontifex 18 March 2016
  • “I am beginning a new journey, on Instagram, to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God.” @Pontifex 19 March 2016
  • “Let us come to Him and let us not be afraid! Let us come to Him and say from the depths of our hearts: “Jesus, I trust in You!”” @Pontifex 20 March 2016
  • “Let us take our Christian calling seriously and commit to live as believers.” @Pontifex 21 March 2016
  • “I entrust to God’s mercy all those who lost their lives. #Brussels” @Pontifex 22 March 2016
  • “With how much love Jesus looks at us! With how much love He heals our sinful heart! Our sins never scare Him.” @Pontifex 23 March 2016

Papal Instagram

Mar 212016

Once again my plans for a Holy Lent have been dashed by reality.

Sure I had a framework planned out involving more prayer and fasting. Most of that lasted the whole first week of Lent and then I started to find excuses to lighten up. Not that my initial plan was over the top or beyond my reach. Just that once again I tried to brute-force holiness by doing stuff and forgetting to invite God into this. A stoic at prayer.

Not that it was a total failure. I did manage to be very consistent in the course of spiritual reading I set out for each day. With the help of the Strides app I have also managed to pray the Rosary each day when before I was rather less consistent on weekends.

Still I notice the same awful tendencies I have and self-centeredness. Still Lent does help me to be more aware of this and even failing I see myself failing and resorting to prayer. I try to put the Jesus Prayer on continuous loop at these times. Lent can often be a good cure for spiritual pride as you find any spiritual pride to be rather ridiculous in face of the truth. I provide myself comic relief by laughing at myself.

Last night while thinking about my Lenten misadventure I remembered Lent wasn’t over yet.

So I am going to cram for Holy Week. Pick up that dropped framework and carry it out for the rest of Lent and the Triduum before Easter.

Like most crammers I have the expectation that I can make up my lack of progress the night before Easter. I will just pull a Lenten all-nighter figuratively. Yeah that’s the ticket. Besides Jesus paid those late workers in The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. So I’m holding him to that.