Monthly Archives: January 2011

What I Learned From Bible Study: Acts 8

Yesterday, we studied Acts 8, which has so much in it, I was floored.
It starts with Paul’s persecution of the church, which was much more brutal than the short sentences described in Acts. By piecing together mentions in the Pauline letters, one sees that Paul was not only imprisoning Christ’s followers, but murdering them. He was following in the line of many of the great men of the Old Testament such as Moses, Saul, and David – being a murderer before achieving his greatness before God.
Why this brutal persecution of the Church so soon after Gamaliel had convinced the Sanhedrin to let Peter go? Gamaliel’s warning had concerned the leaders of the Way. This new persecution was against the followers. Note that the apostles were able to stay in Jerusalem while the followers had to flee.
This chapter contains two other critical points. The first is the preaching to the Samaritans. After Philip had baptized the Samaritans, it was required that Peter and John come and lay hands on them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. This is the first example of the Sacrament of Confirmation in the scriptures.
The second critical point is the interaction of Philip with the Ethipian eunuch. The eunuch’s acknowledgment of being unable to understand scripture without a guide should be a caution to us all concerning our own personal interpretations of scripture.
This chapter also introduced the sin of simony as well as further established the roles of deacons in the church through the actions of Philip.
Our bible study is the Great Adventure Series, which I highly recommend.

Cutting the Cable

A little over a week ago, we decided to cut the cord on cable TV. To be precise, we technically still have cable, but only those channels we would otherwise receive over the air. No more Nickleodeon. No more Disney. No more Discovery Channel or Animal Planet or Food Network or ESPN. No more Fox News or CNN. None of it.

With four kids, one of which is on the threshold of teen-dom, you would think there would have been great wailing and gnashing of teeth. You would be wrong.
I am not sure they have even noticed, even though they did have a favorite show on Nickleodeon that they were somehow able to get their grandfather hooked on. Beyond that show, the bigger kids were not big of TV watchers anyway – predominantly restricted to weekends and usually too busy even then. The younger two used to get a Disney cartoon during morning cleanup, but that was easily replaced with Arthur on PBS.

For me, though I seldom watched more than the occasional Discovery Channel show, the thought of the change was oddly disquieting. I had cable TV for almost as long as I could remember. Certainly for the entirety of my adult life. To stop taking it seemed somehow wrong, like I would be missing something important. It certainly bucks a trend.
We rent a home to a family on government assistance, and even though they don’t make enough money to afford rent, they do make enough to afford digital cable (we never took that step – just sticking to basic cable until last week’s cut). It is a big priority to them – the delay in getting it installed when they moved in was a BIG DEAL.
So for a family that could easily afford the premium stuff, to reject the whole thing is … not … normal.

Once it was done, it felt like getting rid of so much clutter. It just simplified life. There is no more fear that the kids might accidentally surf over to MTV. There is no more temptation to see what’s on TV tonight. There is no need to ever tell the kids to turn the TV off. (Though to be fair, they were never that type anyway.)
There are so many things of THIS world that seem so important to us, but when we cut them away, we find that they were a millstone around our neck, if only a small one. And if we keep cutting, who knows how far we can rise?

My Experience with John Paul II

When I was living in Italy, back when I was a confused and searching atheist, I had a habit of hopping the bus to Rome on Saturdays. I enjoyed walking the city and spending significant time in both the monuments – like the Coliseum – and in the cathedrals. I particularly liked Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Peters.
On one occasion I walked to St. Peters Square. I had intended to see the basilica. But the square was packed with thousands and thousands of people. The entire sea of shoulder-to-shoulder people was centered on one tiny white speck of a person. I had never seen a crowd like it. Of course I knew who the white speck was. And of course I took a picture. I still have it.
At the time, I felt as if I had seen a celebrity from afar. But it was more than that. I was seeing the power of the faith. I was seeing a 72 year old religious figure being treated like a rock star. Better than a rock star, with thousands of people hanging on his every word.
Moments like this – and moments like my awe at the paintings of Carravaggio in Santa Maria Maggiore or my curiosity at the stories told at the San Pietro in Vincolo (St. Peter in Chains) church – were tilling the soil of my heart, preparing me for the seed that soon God would be planting there.
So today I see the news of John Paul II’s beatification. I was in the presence, even tangentially and even if he was just a speck in the distance, of one whom we will call blessed, of one whom eventually we will call Saint. It is a thrilling thought.
These experiences that prepare one’s soul for God’s grace, we owe them to our children. Even local shrines or monasteries or diocesan cathedrals can be moving and can give one a glimpse of the majesty of God, a taste of the supernatural. On May 1, there will be another chance for such an experience, with the beatification ceremony of John Paul II. My kids and I will be watching.

Just Rewards and Due Punishments

The below reading from Ecclesiasticus was from today’s Office of Readings. It reminds us that our reward for following Christ does not come in this world, but the next, and that the sinner’s reward as well does not come in this world but the next. It is an important fact to remember and is put beautifully in this reading. Our world today is markedly unfair. The rich who created this recession were bailed out, while the rest of us are indebted as a result. The unborn are denied life and their killers are enriched with our tax dollars. It is good to remember that a gift of wealth might not be a gift at all, but a curse.
Ecclesiasticus 11:12-30
Put your trust in God alone
Another man is a poor creature begging for assistance,
badly off for support, but rich in poverty,
and the Lord turns a favourable eye on him,
sets him on his feet out of his abject condition,
and enables him to hold his head high,
to the utter amazement of many.
Good and bad, life and death,
poverty and wealth, all come from the Lord.
The Lord’s gift remains constant to the devout
and his goodwill means a good journey for ever.
A man grows rich by his sharpness and grabbing,
and here is the reward he receives for it:
he says, ‘I have found rest,
and now I can enjoy my goods’;
but he does not know how long this will last;
he will have to leave his goods for others and die.
Persevere at your duty, take pleasure in doing it,
and grow old at your work.
Do not be astonished at the sinner’s achievements;
trust the Lord and keep to your duty;
since it is a trifle in the eyes of the Lord,
in a moment, suddenly to make a poor man rich.
The devout man receives the Lord’s blessing as his reward,
in a moment God brings his blessing to flower.
Do not say, ‘What are my needs,
what will be my profits in future?’
And do not say, ‘I am self-supporting,
what losses can I suffer in future?’
In a time of profit, losses are forgotten,
and in a time of loss, no one remembers profits.
Yet it is a trifle for the Lord on the day a man dies
to repay him as his conduct deserves.
A moment’s adversity, and pleasures are forgotten;
in a man’s last hour his deeds will stand revealed.
Call no man fortunate before his death;
it is by his end that a man will be known.

Seven Things I Never Thought About Doing Before I Became a Father

1. Sort through closets every six months to get rid of the clothes they have outgrown.
2. Enjoy a teeny-bopper show on Nickleodeon.
3. Get up a 4:30 every morning just to have some quiet time for prayer.
4. Have a successful fishing trip without ever putting my own pole in the water.
5. Catch vomit with my bare hands and be grateful that I didn’t spill any.
6. Sleep the night through on the last 3 inches of space at the edge of the bed.
7. Go to work with a big, greasy oatmeal splotch on my right shoulder.

Consoling Our Sorrowful Mother

As I was praying the sorrowful mysteries – on the fifth mystery, in fact – I found myself imagining I was at the foot of the cross, next to the Blessed Mother, attempting, vainly it seemed, to console her as her Son died before us. It occurred to me that when we pray the Rosary, or any Marian prayer, we are consoling Mary in her sorrows, by showing her how much her Son is loved. And if we console His mother, are we not pleasing the son?
Just a thought.

Most Holy Name of Jesus

Today is the Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
It is days like this that modern Catholics usually forget or brush aside as just an archaic bit of trivia from a church that, in their mind, no longer exists. But if we make such days a part of our lives, if we teach them to our children, then our faith becomes more alive, more real, and more of a constant presence rather than a once a week obligation. It says a lot when parents recognize a feast or memorial or solemnity even when they are not required to. It tells the kids, “Here is something important.” Even if we can’t, for work reasons, be at Mass today, we can still make it special.
Here is the Litany to the Most Holy Name of Jesus from the EWTN website. I will be teaching it to my kids tonight:

Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus
V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Holy Spirit,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Holy Trinity, one God,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, Son of the living God, R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father, [etc.]
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Jesus, King of glory.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, most amiable.
Jesus, most admirable.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Jesus, most powerful.
Jesus, most patient.
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Jesus, lover of us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Jesus, author of life.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Jesus, our God.
Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Jesus, true light.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Jesus, crown of Saints.
V. Be merciful, R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Be merciful, R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Jesus.
From all sin, deliver us, O Jesus.
From Your wrath, [etc.]
From the snares of the devil.
From the spirit of fornication.
From everlasting death.
From the neglect of Your inspirations.
By the mystery of Your holy Incarnation.
By Your Nativity.
By Your Infancy.
By Your most divine Life.
By Your labors.
By Your agony and passion.
By Your cross and dereliction.
By Your sufferings.
By Your death and burial.
By Your Resurrection.
By Your Ascension.
By Your institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
By Your joys.
By Your glory.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the
world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the
world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the
world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.
V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.
Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, You have said, “Ask and you shall
receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall
be opened to you.” Grant, we beg of You, to us who
ask it, the gift of Your most divine love, that we may
ever love You with our whole heart, in word and deed,
and never cease praising You.
Give us, O Lord, as much a lasting fear as a lasting
love of Your Holy Name, for You, who live and are
King for ever and ever, never fail to govern those
whom You have solidly established in Your love. R.
Amen.