The Real Story of Halloween…

… Or “All Hallows Eve” (i.e., the evening of All Hallows– All Saints–Day) as it was traditionally known, is a Catholic holiday which unofficially recalls the reality of Hell and the despair of the damned. This ‘scary’ subject is the source for the scary/gory/evil ideas about Halloween which popular culture has turned into a celebration–not of triumph over evil– but a celebration of it. Is Hell a scary topic? Of course, but along with the reality of Hell and the punishment of the damned Catholic parents (and all in charge of handing on the Faith) are responsible for teaching the end of the story… namely, Our Lord’s words, “… rest assured for I have conquered the world.” (cf. John 16:33).

Instead of dressing up as secular/profane characters, today would be a good day to dress up as Saints and talk about their virtues and holiness. Instead of gorging on commercial candy, make some Italian ‘Ossi di Morto’ cookies (bone cookies), sugar skulls, toasted pumpkin seeds, “Soul Cakes” (doughnuts), etc.  and celebrate the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin and death (… and Hell) and the fact that through Him we can also be spared the eternal torment of damnation.

Lastly, since it is the last day of October (the month of the Rosary) pray a Rosary today for the conversion of unbelievers and the lukewarm.

Reads for Halloween:
The Dogma of Hell: Illustrated by Facts Taken from Profane and Sacred History by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, SJ
(TAN Books has an edition that also includes How To Avoid Hell by Thomas A. Nelson)
Hell and its Torments by St. Robert Bellarmine
Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Life Everlasting by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Ossi di Morto Cookie Recipe (taken from FishEaters)

1 1/4 cups flour
10 oz almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz pine nuts
1 TBSP butter
A shot glass full of brandy or grappa
The grated zest of half a lemon
Cinnamon
One egg and one egg white, lightly beaten

Blanch the almonds, peel them, and chop them finely (you can do this in a blender, but be careful not to over-chop and liquefy).

Combine all the ingredients except the egg in a bowl, mixing them with a spoon until you have a firm dough. Dust your hands and work surface with flour, and roll the dough out between your palms to make a “snake” about a half inch thick. Cut it into two-inch long pieces on the diagonal. Put on greased and floured cookie sheet, brush with the beaten egg, and bake them in a 330-350 oven for about 20 minutes. Serve them cold. Because they are a dry, hard cookie, it is good to serve these with something to drink.

(I made these cookies last year along with some (poorly crafted) sugar skulls, and they are relatively easy to make and rather tasty!)

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Book Review: True Devotion to Mary

How can one praise this book enough? St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary is a must-read on  Marian devotion in the Catholic Church. Next to the Eucharist and the Papacy, Marian devotion is probably one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church. Most Protestants accuse Catholics of paying too much attention to Mary, and too often in response Catholics will downplay or outright deny the necessity of Marian devotion in the teachings of the Church and the spiritual life. Yes, necessity.

“It was through the most holy Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world, and it is also through her that He has to reign in the world.”

St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary is the handbook on Marian devotion– what it is, in what it consists, why such devotion is necessary, and he also distinguishes between true and false devotions. St. Louis de Montfort demonstrates that those who would accuse the Catholic Church of being excessive in her devotion to Mary are confused, and that the Church is right and obliged to reveal the truth about the necessity of devotion to Mary. Mary’s role in the history of our salvation is far greater than simply giving birth to Jesus Christ. Is her role utterly, completely, and entirely dependent upon the grace of God? Of course! But this does not diminish her role. Mary is but a mere creature of the Creator; but she is a creature to whom great graces have been given. She is our means of finding Jesus, and we go to her only that we may more perfectly find and love her Son, Jesus.

“The Son of God became man for our salvation; but it was in Mary and by Mary. God the Holy Ghost formed Jesus Christ in Mary; but it was only after having asked her consent by the one of the first ministers of His court.”

We cannot find Jesus without Mary. And the more perfectly conformed and united to Mary that we are, the more perfectly conformed and united we are to her Son. This is the essential truth of authentic Marian devotion: it leads to a deeper understanding of and union with Jesus, necessarily. Just as Mary led the servants to her Son in the Bible (cf. John 2:5, “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you”), so too, does she lead us to God when we become the servant of the handmaid of the Lord. It was her will to do the holy will of God, and this is what she will teach us through imitation and prayer.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of  True Devotion to Mary for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. 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.

Good Reads on Christian Marriage

With the recent news regarding the decline in belief in the Church’s teachings on Christian Marriage (i.e., sex), I thought some might appreciate a compendium of good reads on the topic of Christian Marriage: encyclicals, books, articles, etc.

From the Popes:
Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Pius XI
Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Leo XIII
Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) — Pope John Paul II

The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II (* a general audience, which makes up the teachings contained in the theology of the Body, is not on the same level of teaching as a Papal encyclical or Conciliar document)

From the Bishops:
Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality – Pontifical Council for the Family
Preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage – Pontifical Council for the Family
Love & Life in the Divine Plan — United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Cohabitation Before Marriage — the Bishops of Kansas
Pennsylvania Bishops Document on Cohabitation — the Bishops of Pennsylvania
PDF on Fornication & other Sexual Matters — Archdiocese of Washington
Pastoral Letter on Cohabitation & Marriage in the Church — Archbishop Sheehan, Archdiocese of Santa Fe
The Vocation of Marriage in God’s Plan — Archbishop Stafford

From Priests, theologians, etc.:
Cana is Forever — Fr. Charles Hugo Doyle
Three to Get Married — Msgr. Fulton Sheen
Clean Love in Courtship – Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik
Chastity: A Guide for Teens & Young Adults – Fr. Gerald Kelly, SJ
Questions Young People Ask Before Marriage – Fr. Donald Miller, CSSR
When Is Company Keeping Lawful & Prudent? – (“Company Keeping” = courtship/dating)
Little Book of Instructions for Christian Mothers – Fr. Pius Franciscus, OM Cap.
“Casti Connubii 60 Years Later” – John Kippley

Books not currently available (to my knowledge) online: (Get ‘em from your library or cool Catholic friend)
The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand
The Sins of Parents by Fr. Charles Hugo Doyle
Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) (you can catch a decent size preview on Google Books here)
Called to Love by Carl Anderson & Fr. José Grenados (I briefly reviewed it here)

This is (and will be) constantly updated. Feel free to recommend something I may have missed.


Surprising Statistics

Unfortunately it’s not surprising, but it is disappointing… according to the latest statistics from CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) only a mere %14 of Catholics think pre-marital sex is wrong, and even among Catholics who regularly attend Mass (i.e., at least once a week) only %30 said pre-marital sex is wrong. Msgr. Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington noting the statistics said, “we have a lot of work to do”… YA THINK!?! Archbishop Chaput also said last week that this generation has failed in catechesis… in handing on the faith to the next generation and as a result young people today have lost a “moral vocabulary”:

“Our culture is doing catechesis every day. It works like water dripping on a stone, eroding people’s moral and religious sensibilities, and leaving a hole where their convictions used to be.”

“Christians in my country and yours – and throughout the West, generally – have done a terrible job of transmitting our faith to our own children and to the culture at large.
Instead of changing the culture around us, we Christians have allowed ourselves to be changed by the culture. We’ve compromised too cheaply. We’ve hungered after assimilating and fitting in. And in the process, we’ve been bleached out and absorbed by the culture we were sent to make holy.
We need to confess that, and we need to fix it.”

“The central issue is whether we ourselves really do believe. Catechesis is not a profession. It’s a dimension of discipleship. If we’re Christians, we’re each of us called to be teachers and missionaries.”
“If we’re embarrassed about Church teachings, or if we disagree with them, or if we’ve decided that they’re just too hard to live by, or too hard to explain, then we’ve already defeated ourselves.”
“We need to really believe what we claim to believe,” he stressed. “We need to stop calling ourselves ‘Catholic’ if we don’t stand with the Church in her teachings – all of them.”

In response to the crisis, the Archdiocesan website put up a PDF of relevant passages from the Sacred Scripture condemning pre-marital sex. You can find it here.

While it is clear that the Bible condemns pre-marital sex (“fornication”), and the Church has always taught that sex before marriage is wrong; it’s also clear that either people don’t understand this, or very few care anymore. This baffles me. Even aside from the religious aspect of things, look at the situation rationally: what has promiscuity brought us? … STDs, children who don’t know their fathers or who must grow up in a ‘broken home’, and all the mental consequences of casual hookups (depression, etc.), etc. Not one good thing has come from embracing promiscuity.

I have to also admit, given the popularity of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, especially with Christopher West and others supporting and teaching it all over the country… I am surprised at the numbers… but as the good Archbishop Chaput said, “the central issue is whether we really believe”.

 

What does the Catholic Church teach regarding Christian Marriage?
Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Pius XI
Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) — Pope Leo XIII

Book Review: A Father Who Keeps His Promises

Scott Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises is a good introduction to Covenant Theology. For anyone familiar with the popular “Bible Timeline” series by Jeff Cavins, or the earlier “Our Father’s Plan”, Hahn’s book will sound very familiar. A Father Who Keeps His Promises goes through each of the six main covenants in Sacred Scripture: God’s covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. The goal is to paint the “big picture” of salvation history as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. Hahn hits the main characters and main events that “tell the story” of salvation so the reader can see a cohesive whole instead of a scattered and confusing book that seems to jump all over the place.

Hahn’s book is a simple introduction, written in very easy to understand language–very casual at times. This is why I say it’s a good introduction, since it will be easy for those who have little or no Scriptural background (especially lapsed and cradle Catholics unfamiliar with their faith) to see what he’s talking about and where he’s going. For the majority of  Catholics, navigating the Sacred Scriptures, much less retelling the big picture is next to impossible. Hahn’s book, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, is the solution  for their ignorance.

That said, Hahn’s book is not solely for beginners to reading the Sacred Scriptures. This book is also the introduction to the “kinship by Covenant” theme which Hahn introduces right away. Namely, that God establishes familial relationships through His covenants in Scripture. Covenant is not simply a mere legal contract, but establishing a familial relationship: God’s family. In His love, God incorporates us into His family through covenant. It’s personal. There is also more than thirty pages of notes which include a bibliography for those wanting to delve into deeper study of particular covenants or themes.

 

 

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of  A Father Who Keeps His Promises for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. 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.

 

News worth repeating

“All friends and supporters of Saint Benedict Center are hereby informed that Father David Phillipson has been appointed to serve at Saint Benedict Center, Richmond. Father has been granted faculties by the Bishop of Manchester to offer Mass and hear confessions at the Center’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel. Please join the Brothers and Sisters, Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in our gratitude to Bishop McCormack for approving our chapel as a place of Catholic worship and for allowing Father Phillipson to serve here.”

http://catholicism.org/very-good-news-a-new-priest-for-sbc.html

 

Deo gratias!

Our Lady of the Rosary (aka Our Lady of Victory)

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (also known as Our Lady of Victory).  These two titles are intertwined, especially as we remember today the great victory at the Battle of Lepanto. Led by Don Juan of Austria, the battle of Catholic naval forces of Spain, Austria, and Genoa was won over the Turkish fleet (of Muslims using thousands of Christian slaves as rowers). This victory is credited as belonging to Our Lady because Pope St. Pius V, knowing the Christians were at a disadvantage in battle, called on all of Europe to pray the Rosary for victory. They did, and the Christian fleet was victorious. The Rosary truly is our greatest ‘weapon’.

In honor of Our Lady, pray a Rosary today (and every day!). Imagine if Christians all joined together in praying the Rosary for victory over some of the evils of today: abortion, euthanasia… how quickly we would be empowered if more people would trust in God.

So, in honor of Our Lady today pray a Rosary (today, and every day!). Heed the words of Our Lady at Fatima…

PRAY THE ROSARY EVERY DAY!

Good reads in honor of this feast of the Most Holy Rosary:
Marian teachings of the Popes
The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis Marie de Montfort
The Rosary in Action by John S. Johnson

Here is G.K. Chesterton’s poem Lepanto

White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run,
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold.

Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world.
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain – hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,-
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, ‘Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces – four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.’
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still – hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St Michael’s on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip’s in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial, and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed –
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives, sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign –
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade…
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)