God’s Words are True!

Editor’s note:  The following is NOT a transcript of an Obama cabinet meeting.  It’s from today’s first reading, from the second chapter of the Book of Wisdom.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

The wicked said among themselves,
thinking not aright:
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news for the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that the atheists are taking over our public schools.  Kids can’t pray.  Christmas vacation has been replaced by a “winter break.”  Likewise, Easter break is now “spring break”.  Even minor holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween have taken on politically-correct, non-religious aliases.  But that’s the least of our worries.

Kids are being taught “revised” curricula where Church history isn’t taught, where great (Catholic) literature has disappeared, and where the benefits of abstinence aren’t part of sex education.  Some public schools, even at the grade school level, feel it’s their duty to pass out free condoms.  What’s a mother (and father) to do?

You really have three choices.  You can put your head firmly in the sand and send your kids to public school anyway, hoping you can monitor what they’re taught and counteract the foolishness when they’re at home.  Or, you can home school, an excellent choice but not one that most parents are comfortable with.  (It takes a lot of time and effort to teach them a full curriculum, especially when both parents work.

Of course, the final choice is to send them to a Catholic school.  While it’s expensive, it’s money well spent.  They’ll get a faith-based education, they’ll get more individual attention since class sizes are usually smaller than in public schools, and you can sleep at night knowing that their heads aren’t being filled with PC nonsense.

According to the National Catholic Education Association, there are just over 2 million students currently enrolled in almost 7,000 Catholic schools.  You can click the link to see more detailed stats, so I won’t repeat them here except to say that the average grade school tuition nationwide is $3,383 for elementary schools and $8,787 for secondary schools.

That may seem like a lot, especially if you have more than one child, but $3,383 breaks down to about $65.00 per week.  What makes financing Catholic school so difficult is that while you’re paying tuition to your parish school, you’re also supporting a public school system that you don’t use.  It’s high time the government started to give tax breaks to parochial school parents.  Imagine what would happen to the government school systems if those 7,000 Catholic schools suddenly closed their doors and 2,000,000 Catholic students suddenly showed up at their doors.  Giving Catholic parents tuition assistance would seem like a bargain.

But, I digress.  Catholic schools have a long history of providing quality education at reasonable costs.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost per child in our public schools is more than $10,000 per year.  That’s more than double the cost of a Catholic education.  Of course, if you’re sending a kid or two to the parish school, you’re footing both bills.

Here’s the thing.  Catholic schools are the best choice for quality education.  Across the US, local churches are making plans to improve the quality of our schools, and looking at creative ways to finance them.  Here in Saint Louis, Archbishop Carlson recently shared his Alive in Christ program, a long-range plan for our Catholic education system.  This plan, along with similar plans across the US will succeed, as long as we support it.  Will it cost money?  Of course.  Will it call for some sacrifices from each of us, whether we have kids in school, or if those days are in the past?  Yes, it will.  But we can’t afford NOT to support our schools.

As they always have, Catholic schools will continue to educate our children to become the leaders of tomorrow.  The list of graduates of Catholic schools who are leaders in our communities is too long to get into here.

Catholic schools offer the best possible education, both academically and spiritually, and that’s cool!

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #15 Catholic Schools

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news for the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that the atheists are taking over our public schools.  Kids can’t pray.  Christmas vacation has been replaced by a “winter break.”  Likewise, Easter break is now “spring break”.  Even minor holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween have taken on politically-correct, non-religious aliases.  But that’s the least of our worries.

Kids are being taught “revised” curricula where Church history isn’t taught, where where great (Catholic) literature has disappeared, and where the benefits of abstinence aren’t part of sex education.  Some public schools, even at the grade school level, feel it’s their duty to pass out free condoms.  What’s a mother (and father) to do?

You really have three choices.  You can put your head firmly in the sand and send your kids to public school anyway, hoping you can monitor what they’re taught and counteract the foolishness when they’re at home.  Or, you can home school, an excellent choice but not one that most parents are comfortable with.  (It takes a lot of time and effort to teach them a full curriculum, especially when both parents work.

Of course, the final choice is to send them to a Catholic school.  While it’s expensive, it’s money well spent.  They’ll get a faith-based education, they’ll get more individual attention since class sizes are usually smaller than in public schools, and you can sleep at night knowing that their heads aren’t being filled with PC nonsense.

According to the National Catholic Education Association, there are just over 2 million students currently enrolled in almost 7,000 Catholic schools.  You can click the link to see more detailed stats, so I won’t repeat them here except to say that the average grade school tuition nationwide is $3,383 for elementary schools and $8,787 for secondary schools.

That may seem like a lot, especially if you have more than one child, but $3,383 breaks down to about $65.00 per week.  What makes financing Catholic school so difficult is that while you’re paying tuition to your parish school, you’re also supporting a public school system that you don’t use.  It’s high time the government started to give tax breaks to parochial school parents.  Imagine what would happen to the government school systems if those 7,000 Catholic schools suddenly closed their doors and 2,000,000 Catholic students suddenly showed up at their doors.  Giving Catholic parents tuition assistance would seem like a bargain.

But, I digress.  Catholic schools have a long history of providing quality education at reasonable costs.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost per child in our public schools is more than $10,000 per year.  That’s more than double the cost of a Catholic education.  Of course, if you’re sending a kid or two to the parish school, you’re footing both bills.

Here’s the thing.  Catholic schools are the best choice for quality education.  Across the US, local churches are making plans to improve the quality of our schools, and looking at creative ways to finance them.  Here in Saint Louis, Archbishop Carlson recently shared his Alive in Christ program, a long-range plan for our Catholic education system.  This plan, along with similar plans across the US will succeed, as long as we support it.  Will it cost money?  Of course.  Will it call for some sacrifices from each of us, whether we have kids in school, or if those days are in the past?  Yes, it will.  But we can’t afford NOT to support our schools.

As they always have, Catholic schools will continue to educate our children to become the leaders of tomorrow.  The list of graduates of Catholic schools who are leaders in our communities is too long to get into here.

Catholic schools offer the best possible education, both academically and spiritually, and that’s cool!

Paranoia? I Don’t Think So

I know you’re well aware of the US Bishops opposition to the Health and Human Services mandate that Catholic institutions must provide health insurance coverage for artificial birth control and other so-called “preventative medication and services”.  While the news media have made a big deal out of the Church’s opposition to this attack on our freedom of religion, a couple of other stories have received much less coverage.

 

On February 15 the Vatican received notice from J P Morgan Chase Bank that it’s accounts would be closed effective March 31.  [J P Morgan Chase was the recipient of $25 billion in government bailout money.]

 

On March 6, the US State Department placed the Vatican, along with 190 other countries, on a list of potential “money launderers”.  The Holy See falls into the category “of concern”, the second highest classification.

 

I suppose you could call these last two events coincidences.  But it seems pretty clear to me that there’s a definite message here.  If you stand up, speak out, and defend your Constitutional rights, there will be consequences.  The question is, do we as Catholics bow to intimidation tactics, or do we defend the faith regardless of the potential risks?  Ironically it seems that members of other faith traditions, particularly our Jewish brothers and sisters and several protestant denominations, are more upset about what’s going on in Washington DC than you and I are.

 

To paraphrase Monsignor Michael Witt who is, among his many jobs, the Director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate, the Bishops have dusted off their crosiers and are using them, not as walking sticks, but as weapons to defend the faith.  They’ve put themselves at the head of this fight and as loyal Catholics, it’s our duty to fall in behind them.  On March 2, representatives of the US Bishops met with the administration.  The Bishops were told that they didn’t understand the Catholic faith.

 

The bishops have asked us to pray and fast.  If you haven’t already, you should contact your senator and representative and let them know how you feel.  If this assault on the Church and on our Constitution is allowed to stand, the floodgates will have been opened.  Who knows what the next target will be?

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #16 Catholic Art

Following up on yesterday’s post, it seems logical to take a look at Catholic art.  As I mentioned before, for the first fifteen hundred years (give or take a few centuries) most people couldn’t read.  In the present day, how do we convey information to our young people who can’t read yet?  We use pictures.  That’s what they did during the years of the early Church.  Instead of simple pictures for modern preschoolers, they created beautiful works of art for a grown-up audience.

Take the picture above, Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son.  The father lovingly greets his returning son while the resentful son who stayed home looks on, an amazing depiction of the famous story.  Henry Nouen”s book of the same name is based, not so much on the story, but on Rembrandt’s painting.

Not a painting, but a statue, Michelangelo’s Pieta shows a grieving Mary holding her dead Son in her arms.  Again, the work tells the story far better than words ever could.  For people who hadn’t acquired the ability to read, their only source for the great stories of the Bible was in the mass, and in the works of the great artists.

I could go on and on, showing you examples of great Catholic art but you can find examples in museums and on line.  Check out Art and the Bible for far more examples than I could include here.  Just think about the great painters and sculptors and their favorite subjects.  I think you’ll agree that without Catholic art, museums all over the world would have a lot of empty wall space.

Catholic art is spiritual, it’s beautiful, and it tells all the great stories from Scripture.  And, that’s why it’s cool.

Here’s one last example.

Raphael's Transfiguration

 

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #17 Catholic Music

Bach—Beethoven—Dvorak—-Mozart—Verdi—-Handel

What do they have in common?  They wrote Catholic music, particularly Catholic masses.  Over the centuries the mass has been the inspiration of the greatest composers of all time.  In some cases, for instance Schumann, Stravinski, and Verdi, they weren’t even Catholics yet they composed magnificent music for the mass.

While we’re on the subject of Catholic music, we can’t forget Gregorian chant.  There’s nothing more beautiful than well-done chant sung by a choir of monks.

Rather than give you a history of music in the Church, I’m going to let the music do the talking.  Click on any of the following links and enjoy.

Catholic music is really cool!

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #18 Saint Joseph


Saint Joseph

Today is the feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin.  Like many Catholic men, Saint Joseph is my hero.  Here’s a man who was the step-father of the Son of God yet we don’t know a single word he ever said. We don’t even know when he died.  The last reference we have to him in scripture is the incident where he and Mary found Jesus in the temple when He was still a young boy.  Yet he was a key player in our salvation.  Without Joseph’s participation God’s plan for our salvation would have come to a screeching halt.  We don’t know how old he was at the time he took Mary as his wife though legend has it that he was an older man.

One thing we know is that he had tremendous faith.  He accepted God’s call.  He accepted Mary’s explanation of her pregnancy.  He agreed to allow Mary to remain a virgin, even after their marriage.  At the angel’s command, he abandoned what we assume to be a successful carpentry business and move his family to Egypt.  Then, after he must have restarted his business there, the angel came again and told him to move back to Nazareth.

When the child was left behind in the temple, he helped Mary search for him, and when they found Him, what did Jesus say?  “Didn’t you know I must be in my FATHER’S house?”  How painful must that have been for him?  Yet, he followed his calling and did everything he could do to raise God’s son.  As his human role model, Joseph taught Jesus how to be a man.

When I think of Jesus, I’m reminded of my late father-in-law.  He was a devout Catholic but he didn’t make a big deal out of it.  He did what he thought God wanted him to do in a simple, humble way.  If he had been born a generation later, Harold would have made a much better deacon than his son-in-law.  He lived his faith and, as Saint Francis said, he preached the Gospel every single day without using words.

In spite of what the media and anti-Catholic pundits would like us to believe, the Catholic Church is not dominated by men.  Granted the ordained leadership is male-only, as Jesus wants it to be.  But take a look around you on Sunday at mass.  Women are in the majority.  Our society makes it much more difficult for a man to be a devout Catholic.  It’s just not “manly”, especially in the United States.

One example, and it may not be particularly insightful but it’s still a common occurrence, would be professional sports.  Catholic athletes from other countries, particularly those from Latin America, regularly make the sign of the cross before stepping into the batters box in baseball, and when they’ve had a successful at-bat.  Hispanic goal keepers kiss the goal posts and cross themselves before every game.  But, when was the last time you saw an Anglo-American do the same thing?  Not often.

We men are very blessed to have Joseph as our spiritual role model.  He may not have said anything that the Gospel writers felt was worth writing down, but his actions spoke volumes.

So, here’s to you, Saint Joseph, on your feast day.  You answered God’s call.  You suffered much hardship and raised God’s son to be a man.  You went about your faith and your business with quiet dignity.  Thank you for your example.  It couldn’t have been easy to be you.  Being the only member of the household who was capable of committing sin must have been quite a challenge. Whenever anything went wrong, it had to be your fault.

Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and mentor to the Son of God, thank you for showing all of us what it really means to be cool!

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #19 Scripture and the Mass

Some of our protestant brothers and sisters refer to themselves as “Bible Christians.”  I suppose they do that to differentiate themselves from “non-Bible Christians”.  That would be us.  There’s a wide-spread myth that Catholics are not Bible readers.  I’m sure you’ve heard some people criticize us saying that Catholics don’t own Bibles, or that we own them but don’t know where to find them.  On the surface, this myth may have some basis in truth.  But, lets look at the facts.

First and foremost, there’s the mass.  Just counting weekend masses, there are four selections from Scripture in the Liturgy of the World:  One Old Testament reading; a responsorial Psalm; a New Testament reading; and a reading from the Gospels.  Over 52 Sundays, that’s a total of more than 200 readings.  There is some duplication, and there are some Sundays when a second NT reading takes the place of the usual OT reading, but if you attend mass every weekend for three years, you’ve heard more than 600 Scripture readings.  Of course, if you attend daily mass, the total is much, much higher.  Because we’re a Church of structure, every Catholic Church in the world is supposed to be reading the same readings on any given Sunday.  Then there’s the homily where the priest or deacon, who is a student of the scriptures, relates the daily readings to our daily lives.  (Most of the time.  Nobody’s perfect.)

Some faith traditions give the minister the freedom to choose his own readings.  Face it, there are an awful lot of readings that nobody would use if they didn’t have to, so these ministers tend to focus on a limited selections of readings.

When you pass a lot of churches on Sunday morning, you’ll notice that the worshipers are carrying Bibles.  What’s up with that?  Since the Catholic mass has defined readings, we’re able to publish booklets containing each day’s readings called missalettes.  You don’t need a Bible because the readings are there for you in the pew.  Very convenient.  Of course, when you see a bunch of people walking around with Bibles in their hands, it’s not unreasonable to think of them as “Bible Christians.”

The prayers of the Liturgy of the Eucharist are very Biblical.  The words of the Consecration are taken directly from Scripture.  The Our Father and the Lamb of God are straight out of the New Testament.  We’re constantly exposed to the depth and meaning of the Word of God.  Of course, we’re expected and encouraged to explore the Bible on our own through personal and group Bible studies.

You are likely to run into a couple of arguments from your “Bible Christian” friends about Catholics and the Bible.  1. ” Catholic Churches used to chain down the Bible so the people couldn’t read it.”  As I wrote just two days ago, prior to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, all books (including the Bible) were very rare and expensive.  Plus, there weren’t a lot of people who knew how to read.  If a church was lucky enough to have a copy of Sacred Scripture, the wanted to be sure they kept it.  Saying the Church discouraged Scripture study by chaining down the Bible is like saying the bank discourages financial transactions by chaining down the pens.

2.  “At one time Catholics were forbidden to read the Bible.”  Once Martin Luther opened the flood gates, there were a number of new, unauthorized translations of the Bible.  By this time more people were learning to read but they might not have had the education or the experience to discern whether something called “The Bible” was the real deal.  To protect the laity from being sold a bill of goods, the Church insisted that they get their Word of God from the Church.

The bottom line is that every Catholic should be familiar with the Bible.  We’re encouraged to dig into the Scriptures.  But if all you do is go to mass every Sunday and Holy Day, you will know what the Bible says.

That’s extremely cool!

Sidebar:  To be a “Bible Christian” you don’t have to know what Scripture says, you just have to know where everything is.  In a typical sermon, the minister will say, “Turn to the sixteenth paragraph of the third chapter of the Book of John (today’s Gospel, by the way).  Then he’ll read it to you.  If you haven’t been practicing, by the time you find your place, he will have moved on.  

40 Reason’s Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #20 Saint Patrick

I arise todayThrough God’s strength to pilot me:

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save meFrom snares of devils,

From temptations of vices,

rom everyone who shall wish me ill,

Afar and anear,Alone and in multitude.

From the Breastplate of Saint Patrick

Surprisingly we don’t know a whole lot about the patron Saint of Ireland.  We know he died on March 17, around the year 460.  Patrick was not Irish.  He was English.  His father was a deacon, but according to the History Channel, he probably assumed the role of deacon to obtain certain tax breaks.  (Click on the History Channel link for links to some other cool Saint Patrick sites.)

As a teenager Patrick was taken prisoner by the Irish and spent six years in Ireland herding sheep.  During his captivity he became a devout Christian.  (He could talk to God or he could talk to sheep.  Clearly he made the right choice.)  He escaped his captors and returned to England where a voice told him to return to Ireland and convert the Irish to Christianity.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Since the natives tended to worship the sun, Patrick combined the symbol of the sun with the Christian cross, creating the famous Celtic Cross.   (That’s a Celtic cross in the right hand column of the blog–>).  Using his knowledge of the Irish language and local customs, he was able to convert huge numbers of Irish.

Today, Irish and would-be Irish all over the world celebrate March 17.  Some even celebrate the day as a Catholic holy day.  No doubt Patrick would be scandalized to see what some people do to celebrate his feast day.  Drinking, especially Guinness and Irish whiskey, carousing, overeating “Irish” food (Corned-beef and cabbage is an American invention), and other activities many people associate with the Saint would cause Patrick to shake his head in disbelief.

But I guess the fact that a saint who passed from this world more than 1,500 years ago gains so much attention, some of it possibly religious in nature, can’t be all bad.  Personally, I’ll go to the Paddy’s Day parade, raise a glass or two, and enjoy the other trappings of the day.  I’ll also bow my head and give thanks to the young man who converted an entire nation to Catholicism.  I’ll enjoy my Irish heritage knowing that few other men in history have left a legacy that’s lasted so long, and makes so many people pretend to be Irish, no matter where they come from.

In fact, if you read yesterday’s post, you know that Catholicism would have faded away during the Dark Ages if it hadn’t been for Irish monks.  Consider this:  If it hadn’t been for Saint Patrick there would have been no Irish monks.  No Irish monks—no European civilization.  Ne European civilization–no Catholic Church.

Saint Patrick was a cool guy, no matter what your ethnic heritage.

NOT Saint Patrick

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic-#21 The Irish Monks Saved Western Civilization

Page from the Book of Kells

As we approach the biggest day of the year for Irish Catholics (and Irish protestants too) it’s good to give the monks of the Emerald Isle credit for saving Catholic and secular civilization way back in the sixth century.  For a detailed description of these events, Thomas Cahill‘s excellent book, How the Irish Saved Civilization is a wonderful resource.  This post only skims the surface.

The early Irish were fascinated with letters.  Since they were poor people, they would often borrow great books and then painstakingly copy them, letter by letter; word by word.  They would combine Greek and Roman alphabets with their own Ogham alphabet to create books that were also works of art.  Any visit to Dublin should include a trip to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, a hand-copied book of Scriptures, created around 800.

Monks living in monasteries all over Ireland, as well as several on islands off the Irish shore spent their days copying the great works of European literature.

As the barbarians overran continental Europe, the Irish monks were minding their own business, copying everything they could get their hands on. In the process of conquering the Continent, the barbarians destroyed the literature of the past.  The past was obliterated, except on that tiny island in the North Sea.

To make a long story short, the barbarians couldn’t be bothered conquering a small, desolate island like Ireland, so the literature of Greece and Rome lived on in the monk’s libraries.  While the continent suffered through the “Dark Ages”, the Irish were keeping the candle lit and would bring the light back to the Continent, possibly flavored with a little Irish wit and humor.

The “White Martyrs”, so named because they sailed off into the white horizon never to return, would replant the seeds of ancient civilization in the many monasteries they founded all over Europe, even as far south as present-day Italy.  So, when we read the ancient works of the great Greek and Roman writers, we have to assume that the Irish monks copied them exactly as written.  But who knows, since they all passed through Irish hands, there might be just a little bit of blarney here and there.

It’s cool the the Irish Catholic monks of the Emerald Isle kept this great literature alive, especially if you happen to be a descendant of the Auld Sod yourself.  And this weekend, who isn’t?

Tomorrow:  What do you think?