Happy Feast of All Saints!

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Church Triumphant– all those glorious Saints in Heaven, whether canonized or not, who have fought the good fight of faith and won. It’s a great day to pray the Litany of the Saints. Praying the Litany of the Saints always brings to mind the first verse of Hebrews 12, and when reading Hebrews 12, I call to mind the Litany of the Saints…

“And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. For think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds.”

Hebrews 12:1-3

We are not alone in the battle for sanctity. We are surrounded by the witness of those who have gone before us and left us examples of heroic virtue in faith and holiness. We look to them for guidance, strength, and encouragement knowing that we can do all things by the grace and merit of Jesus Christ.

So today, pray the Litany of the Saints… ask the Saints to intercede for you… and read up on the lives of the Saints!

Good Reads for All Saints Day:
Any biography on the lives of the Saints
Saints Who Raised the Dead by Fr. Albert Hebert
Mysteries, Marvels, Miracles: In the Lives of the Saints by Joan Carroll Cruz

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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!)

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!