Friday, December 21, 2012

I Just Like to Smile, Smiling's My Favorite

Ok,  I admit it.  Elf is one of my favorite movies.  And I must agree with the following two authors that  there is a wealth of theological gold within it:
If you have not yet seen Elf, stop reading this post right now.  Get a hold of yourself.  Get your life in order.  Then, come back and see me.
If you have seen Elf and you hate it, go kick a puppy or steal Tiny Tim's crutches because that is probably what you were wanting to do anyway.  And stop being a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
If you are a civilized, well-balanced human being (i.e. you have seen the movie, have liked it on Facebook, and have yelled out "SANTA!!! I KNOW him!" at least once this year) read on.
 Read all of Rozann's article at Word on Fire here.

Listen to Fr. Matt's talk here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fr. Barron On "The Hobbit"

Mother Teresa is Gonna School Ya

Wanna live a holier life?  Let Mother Teresa show ya how's it done over at Fallible Blogma:
Step one: Slow down.
“I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.”
Step two: Make some room.
“If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness and your intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full. It is as simple as that.”
Read all of the "7 Steps to a Holier Life" here

Adoption: the Loving Option

Monday, December 17, 2012

And you didn't think O was an important letter...

December 17th begins the week-long countdown until Christmas - during the final days of Advent you find the 'O' Antiphons present in the liturgy (an antiphon is basically a repeated verse - think of the Responsorial Psalm at Mass - the verse that the congregation repeats is an antiphon).  These are the antiphons that begin and end the Magnificat in Vespers during the final days of Advent and are called the 'O' Antiphons simply because they all begin with 'O', and are verses invoking titles of Christ as you can see from the Breviary:

Dec. 17th:  O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.  Come and show your people the way to salvation.

Dec. 18th:  O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:  come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

Dec. 19th:  O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you.  Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

Dec. 20th:  O Key of David, O royal power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven:  come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

Dec. 21st:  O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:  come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Dec. 22nd:  O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust. 

Dec. 23rd:  O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

In Latin the titles are Sapientia (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), Clavis David (Key of David), Oriens (Dawn), Rex Gentium (King of the nations).

Here is a resource with scriptural citations of each of the titles and the Latin text of the antiphons followed by a good English translation - and you can hear the Latin antiphon chanted (which is awesome!) by clicking on the speaker icon.
Fr Z. has more detailed info on the O Antiphons here.

After reading the O Antiphons, you see the significance of a familiar hymn:

Come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Chorus: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
from ev'ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict'ry o'er the grave.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav'nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven's peace.
Hymn lyrics from fisheaters.

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Explosion of Life'

Jennifer Fulwiler is the host of - of which I am a fan.   She is a convert to Catholicism from atheism and was asked to have a reality show made about her life.  Reluctantly, she agreed and below is Episode one of three.  I found it to be a great mix of apologetics, humor, story-sharing and real-life reality.  I especially love the line when she's describing her conversion to Catholicism and she says being Catholic is 'like an explosion of life' meaning that when you come to realize the beauty and fullness of the Faith it's like finally becoming alive, you finally being to truly live.  I couldn't agree more.  Enjoy:

Your Story

Several students attended the midnight showing of "The Hobbit" last night (kudos to those of you who still have the gusto to watch any movie in those wee hours).  The wonderful fascination of Tolkien's writings continues in this new genre of the motion picture but also in its original genre of literature.  What is it about this series that seems to capture so many?  As I once heard Christopher West express as he pointed to a crucifix, "Any good story, tells this story."  I think it is certainly the case that the stories that capture the most hearts and prove to last for extended periods of time, do somehow tell the story of redemption.  It's often not explicit, but nonetheless, it is there.  Stories of overcoming odds, good triumphing over evil, forgiveness, growth in virtue and holiness, sacrificial love - stories that contain these and other aspects of The Story capture us.  They put us in touch with what our hearts are truly longing for - God himself.  Deep down we know these stories are about us and the God who loves us and pursues us.  

Joseph Pearce has an article about "The Hobbit" at the National Catholic Register which gets at a similar point:
In short, we are meant to see ourselves  reflected in the character of Bilbo and our lives reflected in his journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain. 
Indeed, and perhaps surprisingly, Bilbo bears a remarkable resemblance to many of us, his diminutive size and furry feet notwithstanding.  He likes tea and toast and jam and pickles; he has wardrobes full of clothes and lots of pantries full of food; he likes the view from his own window and has little desire to see the view from distant windows. He is a creature of comfort dedicated to the creature comforts.  
In Christian terms, Bilbo Baggins is dedicated to the easy life and would find the prospect of taking up his cross and following the heroic path of self-sacrifice utterly anathema.  
The unexpected party at the beginning of the story, in which the hobbit's daily habits are disrupted by the arrival of unexpected and unwelcome guests, is, therefore a necessary disruption.  It is the intervention into his cozy life of an element of inconvenience or suffering, which serves as a wake-up call and a call to action.
In losing his bourgeois respectability - the price he must pay for becoming an adventurer - he forsakes the world and the worldly in favor of the pearl of great price.
As Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us, "We are not made for comfort, we are made for greatness."  This is the story.  It's your story.  It's my story.  That God loves us and has made us for more than we too often allow ourselves to settle for.  The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit remind us, through the characters of Bilbo and Frodo, that life really is an unexpected journey - a journey that leads us back to God and who He made us to be.

Read the rest of Pearce's article here.

P.S. If you enjoy this kind of thing (i.e. finding The Story in stories) then be sure to come to our Theology of the Body and Culture study next semester on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in the Marquette Student Center.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thank You Drurys!

Great article on the Drury family whose roots are in our area and who gracefully continue to support the work of the Church in so many ways - thank you Drury family!  

In his personal life, Drury continues his Church-related philanthropy, a practice that his family maintained even when they were living on the farm with very few material possessions.
He and his wife Shirley participate in local fundraisers and community initiatives, as well as international efforts to help those in need around the world through organizations such as the Papal Foundation.
Currently, Drury is dealing with the federal contraception mandate. Issued in Jan. 2012 by the Department of Health and Human Services, the mandate requires employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and drugs that have the potential to cause abortions.
Although he is pro-life and objects to the mandate, his company is subject to it because it is considered “secular” by the government, despite the fact that it is a private family company.
Drury said that he has sent out notices that the company – which is self-insured – will not comply with the mandate and is in the process of pursuing a legal challenge to it.
“We will not participate in payments of any kind” that oppose Church teaching, he said.
Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Coatlaxopeuh

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.  She is amazingly awesome! The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is truly miraculous in many different ways.  On December 9th, 1531 she appeared to a humble convert, St. Juan Diego, whose feast day was Dec. 9th, on Tepeyac hill near what is now Mexico City. She requested that a chapel be built at the site. She appeared to Juan Diego four times.  When he went to the bishop to make Our Lady's request known, the bishop was skeptical and requested proof from Juan Diego.  Juan Diego then saw Our Lady on December 12th and as proof for the bishop she told him to gather some nearby roses - this is significant because roses should not have been blooming during this time of the year. Our Lady arranged the roses in Juan Diego's tilma, similar to a tunic or cloak, and Juan Diego went to the bishop to show him the roses.  When Juan Diego opened his tilma to reveal the roses the miraculous image of Our Lady was on his tilma. 

Today you can travel to Mexico City with millions of other pilgrims to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray in the church which Our Lady requested be built and to see the actual tilma, which has lasted 481 years.  The image itself has had many scientific tests proving that the image is not painted on nor is it embedded into the fibers.  The image is rich in meaning.  During the time of the apparitions most of the people of Mexico were indigenous who worshipped false gods.  Many worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. and performed human sacrifice.  Our Lady stands in front of the sun and upon the moon with a cloak of stars signifying to the people that she is greater than all these.  She is the crown of all God's creation.  She also stands with her head bowed and hands folded in prayer showing that there is One greater than she - the true God.  The ribbon around her waist is a sign to the Aztec people that she is a virgin but its placement shows that she is with Child. All of these are significant not only as signs to the Aztec culture, but also to all the world as we read the following from the Book of Revelation:
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery...And the dragon stood before the woman who was brought about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron...
Another important aspect of this story is the name "Guadalupe":

Using [Juan Diego's] native tongue of Nahuatl, the Virgin said her name was “Coatlaxopeuh” (pronounced “quatlasupe”). Her name sounded remarkably like “Guadalupe,” the name of a famous Spanish image of the Blessed Mother [located in Spain which the Bishop was familiar with]. In Nahuatl, however, “coatlaxopeuh” means “The One Who Crushes the Serpent.” 
This is incredibly significant in light of Genesis 3:15, known as the protoevangelium, "first Gospel":
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
This translation as well as others that say "he shall crush your head and you shall bruise his heel" convey the truth that through Our Lady, the Conqueror of Sin and Death shall come, Jesus.  The New Adam and the New Eve crush the serpent's head.  When Our Lady said 'yes' at the Annunciation, the crushing began.  

In a very short time following the apparitions, Mexico was converted and human sacrifice as they knew it ceased.  For this reason, Our Lady of Guadalupe is also known as the patroness of the unborn.  She is also patroness of the Americas.  There are many more miraculous things associated with the image itself - for example, if examined closely you can see reflections of St. Juan Diego, the bishop and others reflected in her eyes.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is loved by many - this is certainly one of my favorite titles of Our Lady.

Our Lady said to Juan Diego:
Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightens you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing: do not let it disturb you.  Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?  Are you not under my shadow and protection?  Am I not the source of your joy?  Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?  Do you need something more?  Let nothing else worry you or disturb you.
Jesus listens to the prayers of His Mother and we can fly to her for intercession, confident that she will bring our petitions and praises to her Son.

I barely skimmed the surface of the story, so if you want to learn more please check out the following resources: 

Pierced Hearts
Catholic Education Resource Center
Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
Book: Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love

Fr. Barron on the Queenship of Mary

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What is the Immaculate Conception?

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - a holy day of obligation - so please make it to Mass today!

What is the Immaculate Conception about? Many mistakenly think that this feast is about the miraculous virgin conception of Jesus, but it is actually about the conception of his mother, Mary.

This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about this dogma:
490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with thee gifts appropriate to such a role." The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immmune from all stain of original sin.

492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son." The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love."

By the grace of God and the merits of her Son, Mary was free of Original Sin and personal sin her whole life long.  How can this be?  Here is a great explanation from Catholics United for the Faith.
The basic gist though is to prepare a worthy dwelling place for his Son and by the merits of his Son, God gave Mary the grace of being free of Original Sin and all personal sin. "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:28).  Remember God is outside of time, so he can apply the graces won for us on the cross by Jesus to his Mother even before Jesus is conceived. The Church Fathers would explain it in the following manner:  If I have fallen in a hole and a man comes by and pulls me out then he has saved me from the hole.  If I am standing at the edge of the hole and a man comes by and prevents me from falling into it then he has also saved me from the hole.  Such is the case here - Mary was about to fall in but Jesus saved her from it before she fell in - so Mary can also sing "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1: 46-47).  Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.  Just as in the Old Covenant God's word, the Ten Commandments, dwelt in the Ark, so in the New Covenant, God's Word, the Word made flesh, dwelt in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception.  Many misunderstandably think that Catholics worship Mary, but the reality is no, we don't worship her.  Worship is due to God alone.  However, we do honor Mary as the Mother of our Lord and recognize the indispensable role that she has played in salvation history.  She is the Mother of God and our Mother.  Just as Jesus gave Mary to John the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross, "Son, behold your Mother", so has he given her to all he has redeemed. 

Mary is my mother and I give thanks to God today for the graces he has bestowed on her and the great faith she expressed in saying yes to him - "Be it done unto me according to Thy word!"

Read more about this dogma and its biblical consistency here and here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Nun in the Unlikeliest of Places

A young woman who I am acquainted with via pro-life work has her vocation story shared in.....Marie Claire magazine!  How cool is that?!  This is a wonderful opportunity for the love of God to be shared with many who are searching...
"How do I grow as a woman without being a wife and mother?", she continues.  "While I give up the natural expression of my sexuality, I of course retain my sexuality as something to be cherished.  The void that these missing relationships leaves is kept empty so as to make room for God.  While this emptiness can be difficult, it is also my greatest joy.  I'm deeply in love with God." Sister Maria Teresa is radiant as she speaks, "By being a nun I am able to love in the most radical way imaginable, by giving up everything for my Beloved.  This finally satisfies my immense need to love and be loved, to know and be known.  The relationship is more intense, more intimate than any human relationship could be:  I do have a husband, He is God."
Click here to read the whole article.

Monday, December 3, 2012

For Freedom...

Conversion is a life-long process which is why St. Paul reminds us:  For freedom, Christ has set us free, so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
And St. Peter warns us to be on guard: Be sober and vigilant.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same suffering. (1 Peter 5: 8-9)
Temptations, memories, accusations, etc. will be thrown at us to discourage us, but never forget that God's love and mercy are always more powerful than our own sins and weaknesses: