Book Review: Manual of Practical Devotion to St. Joseph

I freely admit that this title first struck me because it boasted of being “practical”. After all, what good is something to me if it’s unpractical? We can theorize all day long, but it won’t benefit us unless we can put it into practice. Thus, I am happy to report that ‘A Manual of Practical Devotion to St. Joseph’ fulfills its claim. The work is divided into three parts: the first part is dedicated to telling the motives for devotion to Saint Joseph, the second describes the protection and patronage of Saint Joseph, and the third and final part consists of practices, prayers, hymns, etc. in honor of Saint Joseph.

Father Patrignani does an excellent job. After Our Lady, St. Josephis the man we should turn to in our need. His patronage is extensive and effective, as Fr. Patrignani outlines in the first two parts. St. Teresa of Avila had a great love and devotion to St. Joseph which Fr. Patrignani describes well in the first part. St. Theresa said of St. Joseph that,

“Among all those who are sincerely devoted to him, and who make an open profession of honoring him, I know not a single individual who does not daily advance in virtue, so powerfully does he assist all those who place themselves under his protection.” (p. 85).

St. Joseph has granted numerous gifts and favors to those devoted to him, and Fr. Patrignani gives plenty of examples. Once we have been sufficiently convinced of the motives and efficacy of devotion to St. Joseph, the third part of ‘A Manual of Practical Devotion to St. Joseph’ provides practices for every day, particular seasons, numerous prayers and hymns (some in Latin!) to honor St. Joseph. Especially helpful is the breakdown for the month of March, traditionally dedicated to St. Joseph. Fr. Patrignani provides a short meditation (taken from the motives for devotion to St. Joseph), a hymn, and a prayer toSt. Joseph for each day in March.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of A Manual Of Practical Devotion To St. Joseph for the free Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Remarks (with commentary!)

I couldn’t help but notice obvious contradictions in the President’s remarks as I read them earlier today. His remarks, which can be found at the White House website are in quotes (with my own emphasis), and my commentary is underneath (or simply visualized by photo).

We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face.

He contradicts himself about 4 sentences later…

… the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action — sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.

We can’t leave our values at the door.  If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union.

And yet this is EXACTLY what the President is asking US Catholics to do with the HHS mandate requiring Catholic institutions to violate the very principles they were founded on, and the very values and consciences of those who run and work for these institutions by forcing them to pay for ‘health’ coverage which is morally wrong. He wants Catholic hospitals to ‘leave their values’ at the door and provide abortions, cover such disgusting murderous procedures, and cover contraceptives (the use of which has led our society to embrace heinous practices (like the slaughter of children in the wombs of their mothers as legal). All of which the Catholic Church and institutions run by the Church greatly object to precisely because of her values and religious beliefs…

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.”

Uhh… Our Lord wasn’t talking about money… (and how many times is this now that Obama has placed himself in the position of Jesus???  Instead of it being Jesus–the Just Judge–requiring [x] of said person, Obama himself is going to tell you how much you’ve been given and how much is thus ‘required’ of you– through the eyes of the government. What a way to twist the words of Sacred Scripture!)

 But part of that belief comes from my faith in the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper; that as a country, we rise and fall together.

It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these –- for the poor; for those at the margins of our society.
To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
Treating others as you want to be treated.
Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper.  Caring for the poor and those in need.
how we ensure opportunity for every child,

Obama says, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves"

I’m more than certain that these “unwanted children” who are murdered through abortions are truly the “least of these” in our society, they are the poorest, and they are the marginalized. They cannot speak for themselves, they are destitute and their God-given inalienable rights have been ignored by the government of the United States with the full support of President Obama. He is his brother’s keeper–except for those in the womb. We must ensure opportunity for every child–unless they’ve yet to be born.

Does he even think before he writes his speeches (or I guess I should be asking if his writers think things through before allowing him to speak such contradictions openly!)?!

Movie Review: The Rite

Throw in a quote from Blessed Pope John Paul II at the beginning of a movie and apparently all the Catholics will think it’s a great movie.

On the contrary, Catholics need to be more discerning. Besides, it wasn’t even that fantastic of a quote about exorcism, evil, and existence and influence of the devil in the modern world. And it wasn’t even that fantastic of a movie. I also disagree with the USCCB’s overly positive review (which I read after watching the movie myself), and think the movie does nothing to underscore the value of priesthood. Rather, I think it undermines it through the excessive portrayal of a layman performing priestly duties. I am therefore not inclined to read the book.

Problems with the movie:

~Michael Kovak (the seminarian) absolves a dying girl– or rather, pretends to, with a priest (albeit, injured) no less than 10 feet away. Without ordination, his blessings and absolutions are ineffective. Plus… the priest was RIGHT THERE… It was the cruelest thing he could’ve done to only pretend to offer a dying girl what she desperately wanted when the real thing was readily available.

~Unrealistic. They would never send a seminarian… or ANY person of weak faith into a room with a demon. Bad idea. That doesn’t help a person find faith, but it does make them an excellent candidate for the next possession. The best line of the movie was probably, “choosing not to believe in the devil won’t protect you from him”. The truest thing said in the movie. However, they did the exact opposite– the seminarian doubts the reality of possession, and the existence of the devil, so they throw him into a room with him and his demons ready to devour a doubting soul.

~The priest takes a phone call on his cell phone in the middle of an exorcism. Yes, this portrays priests in a bad light. Anthony Hopkins makes a bad priest (… typical Hollywood style).  They tried (inappropriately) to inject some humor into the movie. It’s a scary situation. A scary portrayal. The attempt at a laugh was pathetic, pitiful, and inappropriate.

~A layman (Michael Kovak) performs an exorcism, even wearing a stole (a vestment proper to a priest) part of the time.

To be fair, they did get some things right:

~The fear factor was there, though I  think perhaps it was a bit overboard at times which made it seem less realistic. Nonetheless, evil is a scary thing. It should be scary, but we should not have an irrational fear about it. Our Lord has conquered and triumphed, and we do so in and through Him.

~The demon telling Michael (the doubting seminarian) that he’s followed him. When he didn’t believe, when he doubted, he was really following the devil; though he falsely believed he was following no one. This is not a battle where one can ride the fence or sit on the sidelines. If you don’t play on God’s team, then you play for the devil. It’s that simple.

This is not an exhaustive rendering of the pros and cons of the movie, but I had no desire to watch it a second time to really parse through it scene by scene or line by line. And if I had to watch a girl die begging for Last Rites with a priest 10 feet away and a doubting seminarian pretend to mutter a powerless absolution all over again, I probably would’ve broken the disc. At the very least.

Practical tips in response to evil:

Get yourself some holy water and USE it. Frequently. (… as an added bonus, holy water remits venial sin!)
Pray the Our Father. Frequently.
Pray the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Frequently.
Pray the Rosary. Frequently.

*NB: “Frequently” means “at least daily”.

Good reads on exorcism/the struggle against evil:

The Spiritual Combat/Treatise on Peace of Soul by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli
An Exorcist Tells His Story
by Father Gabriele Amorth
An Exorcist: More Stories by Father Gabriele Amorth

When does a person become a person?

When does a person become a person?

It seems like a silly question, yet the entire abortion debate hinges on this. Abortion is permitted because in the United States(and elsewhere) a human being is not considered a person until birth. Legally. (Of course, we must also recognize and remember that this is the same country whose courts defined black persons as property (Dred Scott v. Sanford) until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the Slaughter-house cases)

But unfortunately even many intelligent people (too many) accept this idea that personhood begins at birth without question. Without looking at the issue from a reasoned, scientific perspective and that’s a problem.

So, I invite every person to consider these questions: What makes a person a person? When does a person become a person?

Our constitution grants citizenship (legal personhood) at birth. Is this a scientific truth? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it needs amending—desperately, because innocent lives hang in the balance.

What is it about birth that could possibly bestow personhood on another? What is the fundamental change that takes place in that instant one moves from a fetus to an infant that transforms one into a person?

Is it the air? Does the air contain magical effects that bestow personhood the moment one touches it? No, this cannot be logical since animals and insects and rocks are all touching the air and they are not persons. Thus, it is not the air. Nor is it something else about the environment into which one enters upon birth, changing your environment does not change who you are.

Is it a level of self-awareness? Does birth suddenly grant one the ability to be self-aware? No, this is neither logical since no one remembers their infancy with a clear constancy of “I” (persons claiming to remember ‘bright lights’ etc. are not demonstrating a level of self-awareness), much less the instant of their birth. Furthermore, a two-year old has a lesser level of self-awareness than a twelve-year old, or a twenty-year old. Does personhood admit of degrees? No. Not even legally. It either is a person, or it is not; there is no half-person. Also, there are legal adults with a very low level of self-awareness, if at all, due to mental conditions. Plus, according to some studies done in fetal psychology (who’d have ever thought there’d be such a thing!) fetuses in the third trimester are very similar to newborn infants, and infants apparently are able to retain some sort of memories of being in the womb—preferring the sound of mom’s voice, the voice of relatives or anyone else who was frequently around when they were in the womb, preferring to hear the same stories/music they heard while in the womb, etc. Thus, self-awareness cannot make one a person.

Is it dependency? Does birth make one completely independent? No. The baby is still reliant on the mother (or someone) to feed him, change his diaper, etc. –his very life still depends upon someone else. Toddlers and children are still pretty dependent too. For that matter, so are most adults! Dependency, then, cannot be the criteria for personhood either.

What else could it be?

Could it be size? Does a baby grow a bit bigger the second he emerges from the birth canal? No… in fact, most babies usually even drop their weight after birth before gaining the pounds. Besides, once we start talking size, we’d end up with degrees again since we (typically) grow bigger as we get older. Personhood cannot admit of degrees.

So then, perhaps some people are willing to grant now that a fetus is at least a person. But what about an embryo (or a zygote)? Surely I can’t be expecting everyone to grant personal status to “a bunch of cells”? …Or can I? According to our current study of medicine, from the moment of conception the zygote/embryo has everything it needs to live and grow. Pregnancy is simply a matter of growth and development. An embryo has measurable brain waves at about 43 days after conception. Foundations of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system are laid after a mere 20 days of existence. The embryo posses a beating heart after about 24 days (though you can’t hear it on a Doppler until about the second trimester)… that “bunch of cells” truly does have amazing capabilities: that zygote needs nothing added to it to develop into a complete human body—compete with personhood! And it possessed all of this, as our medical science admits, from the moment of conception.

Our science will admit it, why won’t our courts?

Book Review: YOUCAT

Bottom Line: There are some major concerns regarding this catechism, which desperately needs a revision! Don’t let your children read this until these issues are fixed!

I hate to be a Debbie Downer when everyone is so excited over this youth catechism, but I can’t let the concerns I have go unnoticed.

Let me start off by saying that I had such high hopes for this catechism. Especially in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s foreward which exhorts youth to “study this catechism”. I can’t say that I agree with our Holy Father’s opinion here… and I wonder whether he read it or simply gave it a quick flip through. When I first received the catechism, I was excited and as I flipped through quickly I couldn’t help but thinking that this was a great idea. Aim a catechism towards the younger generation to help catechize and get them interested in their Catholic faith. The format is appealing–it doesn’t look like a lot to read, and it has fun little stick figures among the pictures, and quotes in the margins supporting the Catholic teachings discussed in the text. Sounds awesome, right?

Here’s where disappointment sets in. There are a few pictures which are questionable. Some are immodest: a girl wearing a spaghetti strap tank with an undergarment which does not hide certain parts best left unnoticed (pg. 55), and in the section on marriage a picture depicting a couple having a moment of intimacy–while not revealing anything, it is a close-up that shocks you when you first see it (pg. 226)– it’s just odd. There is also a group picture where a young man is making a gesture with his hand, I don’t know what it is–is it a gang sign? An inside joke?Who knows? (pg. 168). And while the stick figures were amusing towards the beginning, once you sit and read through the catechism, the stick figures only seem to trivialize whatever point the catechism is trying to make. In one instance, a stick figure is depicted with a gun pointed at a kneeling sweating/crying stick figure– execution style– under the section on the fifth commandment. Yes, the fifth commandment commands us to respect human life, and thus not kill… but cartoon violence does not get that point across effectively.

   

More troublesome than the pictures, are some of the marginal quotes. Many of them are obscure to today’s youth, and many of them aren’t even from Catholics or persons of good moral character. Martin Luther is quoted in a positive light, alongside several other Lutherans–and while I do acknowledge that some other Christian faiths have not completely repudiated the entirety of the Catholic faith, we are trying to catechize young Catholics about Catholicism– we want them to stay in the Church, not leave it because the Lutherans have similar enough beliefs! A Chinese policitian (identified as a philsopher in the catechism) who led an (objectively) sinful lifestyle and then committed suicide is quoted in support of the family (pg. 204)! Sure, he’s most likely unknown to the youth and most who would read the catechism would have no idea who he is or what sort of life he led or how he died… but that information is all readily accesible on the internet to those with an inclination to Google. As a last example (I could go on), some British actor is quoted in the section on Confession as saying “the closest thing to a father confessor is probably a bartender” (pg. 139)… WHAT?!?! If that doesn’t trivialize the Sacrament, I don’t know what does. That quote is completely out of place, inappropriate, and entirely unsuitable for a youth catechism.

Thus, I cannot in good conscience recommend or praise this catechism. We have so many wonderful Catholic Saints, philosophers, writers, etc. who remained faithful to the Church who could (and ought) to have been quoted instead. I hope they revise the quotes and perhaps rethink some of the pictures/illustrations and reissue the catechism.

I wrote this review of  YOUCAT for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Storeonline. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Book Review: Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament

“Though an assent of Catholic faith be not due to them (miracles), they deserve a human assent according to the rules of prudence by which they are probable and piously credible.” Pope Benedict XIV

Moments Divine’ is a little book (pocket sized) of about thirty chapters containing accounts of Eucharistic miracles, prayers, and act of contrition, a reading regarding the Sacred Heart, and a prayer for spiritual communion. The end also contains a small section with litanies and other prayers, as well as prayers for Benediction. And at the very end there are a few pages with quotes from various Saints and theologians on visions and miracles. ‘Moments Divine’ can be a good preparation for Adoration, especially if you need a little something to help you turn your mind to God and holy things. Its size is fairly compact, which makes it easy to keep in your car, purse, or pocket.

Both the miraculous accounts and the Sacred Heart readings are documented by way of footnotes, and the Eucharistic miracles are titled by location and date such that it would be relatively easy to look up more information about a particular account at a later time.

“There are two sorts of apparitions, and both of them true, supernatural and divine, the handiwork of God. First of all, God by His absolute power can make such an impression on the senses of His servant, that while others see the absolute whiteness, roundness, thinness and quality of the sacramental species, he beholds a beautiful vision of the Babe of Bethlehem presented to him by the Divine Will; and it is no deceit; for as St. Augustine says, a fiction which is referred to as signification is not a falsehood, but a figure of the truth. Or again, when it is God’s will that a whole multitude should behold the vision, instead of miraculously impressing their senses, He may please to change all the accidents of the Host, its commensurable quantity excepted– which is the root and support of all the accidents– and may convert them into this appearance; and thus the laws of the Sacrament are not injured, falsified, or fundamentally disturbed, the dimensions remaining inviolate… These, as appearances of flesh and blood, are astounding evidences of the truth of the Blessed Sacrament; these apparitions of an infant are literally types, figures of its spirit, manifestations of its sweetness, disclosures of the devotional character which is apt to form.”Father Frederick Faber

I wrote this review of Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament for the free Catholic book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Tis the season…. of ADVENT!

This time of year brings out one of my greatest frustrations– the rush to reach Christmas whilst passing over Advent, as though time would move faster. Advent is probably the most under-appreciated and most forgotten liturgical season. Advent and Lent are similar liturgical seasons in that both demand an attitude of repentance (in preparation for the celebration of the coming Christmas/Easter). However, Advent is  less somber than Lent and is a season of joyful expectation. It’s also a season of waiting and patience. We join ourselves to those in the Old Testament who awaited the coming of the Messiah. Though the length of Advent is short, it’s impact is great. And while at the time of the writing of this post, Christmas is but a week away, let me remind you: IT IS STILL ADVENT! So whilst you rush around to finish your Christmas shopping and prepare for your Christmas traditions, take a few moments to remember that Christmas is not about anything other than the Incarnation of the Son of God. Nothing else matters. Nothing. So if your plans are going to keep you too busy to bear in mind that great truth, then trim your plans so you can focus on what really matters: the Infant born to bear our transgressions and pour out His Precious Blood for us.

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear…
O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who orders all things mightily,
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 didst give the law
In cloud and majesty, and awe…
O come, O Rod of Jesse free,
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave…
O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery…
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight…
O come, Desire of nations, bind,
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of peace…

Good reads for Advent:
the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, especially in light of the “O Antiphons
The Incarnation Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary by John Saward

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