Glaring error on the Smithsonian Channel

December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

An Icon of Saint Nicholas of MyraI recently added the Smithsonian Channel app on my Nook Color (bought it two months before the Nook Tablet came out, just my luck…). You can watch full shows and explore other content with the app, and the first show I watched was one which was in the rotation of recommended shows on the front page, “In Search of Santa Claus.” The show seeks to educate the masses about that which every Catholic knows from the age of reason- that “Jolly old Saint Nick” was a real guy, who came about long before the fat man in the red suit created by marketers. Seems like a great show to watch, especially during this Christmas season.

So I’m not three minutes into the show, during the part where the announcer is basically giving a precap of the show, when he states something along the lines of how the saint’s bones were dug up and ‘worshiped by millions, even royalty.” Um, wait, excuse me? Did an organization purporting to be a museum, a repository of knowledge, just say that Catholics worship Saints’ relics? Yep. I stopped watching the show, and fired off a quick email to the producers. Once again, Christians are under attack at Christmas. It just really reinforced the belief that there is still a clear anti-Christian, anti-Catholic agenda in American media. I urge all Catholics to contact the Smithsonian Channel (produced by Showtime Networks) and educate them on Catholic doctrine, reminding them that there are a lot of us and we refuse to watch television networks that blatantly misrepresent our beliefs.

Secular Franciscan Companion

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Secular Franciscan Companion, published by St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009, is a  handbook on Franciscan spirituality as practiced by the Secular Franciscan Order. Though published specifically for Secular Franciscans, this book is invaluable for any lay Catholic who is interested in practicing Franciscan spirituality in his or her daily life. It includes a short history of the Secular Franciscan Order as well as the full text of the Secular Franciscan Rule at the front for easy reference. The rest of the book is comprised of two sections; the Secular Franciscan at Prayer, which makes up most of the book and includes several subsections, and a Calendar of Franciscan Saints. The primary subject of the book, and indeed of Franciscan spirituality, is that of prayer. First come the daily prayers, many of which are familiar to every Catholic, such as acts of contrition, the Creed, morning and night prayers, etc., but also includes uniquely Franciscan prayers, such as the Franciscan morning prayer, the Crown Rosary, and many other prayers penned by Saint Francis himself, on a variety of subjects. There follow prayers to Saint Francis, such as a prayer for fidelity to the Rule, and those of devotion and perseverance, and a selection of prayers to Franciscan Saints, including St. Bonaventure and St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

Next come meditations. There are beautiful meditations for before Holy Mass, meditations of adoration and praise, of thanksgiving and penance, and the Creed of Pope Paul VI. Following is a section on liturgical prayer, with many familiar prayers like the sacrament of penance and the Office of the Passion, yet, again, enriched by many specifically Franciscan prayers, such as the Liturgical Office of the Twelve Our Fathers. This section also features the entire text of the ordinary parts of the Mass. Seriously! Even if you can’t make daily Mass, you can follow along in spirit. Non-liturgical prayers such as the Seraphic Office, the Office of Praise, and, of course, the Office Prayed with St. Francis, follow. The next section is devoted to devotions; prayers before the Blessed Sacrament, the Stations of the Cross, and the Mysteries of the Rosary included, as well as many novenas and litanies, like the Chair of Unity Octave and Novena to Saint Francis, as well as the Litany to Saint Francis and many other litanies. Finally, there is the Calendar of Franciscan Saints, with the feast days of very many Franciscan Saints for every month of the year. Franciscans will have no lack of reasons to celebrate when consulting this calendar.

This small book, which can easily be carried in a pocket or purse, is absolutely packed with everything one needs to put the faith of Saint Francis to work in their daily lives. Incredibly, the print is large and easily readable on the almost three hundred pages in this little book. For those Catholics who love prayer and devotions, the Secular Franciscan Companion is an invaluable resource that is sure to bring many graces to the reader. It is hard to get across just how much is packed into this small book, so I recommend that you get your own copy today and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

 

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of The Secular Franciscan Companion for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts. 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.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Auschwitz

June 4, 2011 § 6 Comments

Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of AuschwitzTime for another Catholic book review!

St. Maximilian Kolbe, my confirmation Saint and Patron, seems to have chosen me more than I chose him. I visited a friend in Poland back in the late nineties, where I fell in love with the Polish people and culture, and had a powerful spiritual awakening one day while visiting St. Mary’s Church in Gdansk. Upon my return to America, I found myself wandering the stacks at the local library one day, as I’m wont to do, and stumbled across this book. The details of his life and death, along with his patronage of drug addicts and prisoners (I have been both), had a profound effect on me, and greatly influenced my decision to convert to the Catholic Church.

The book, Maximilian Kolbe, Saint of Auschwitz by Elaine Murray Stone, published by Paulist Press in May, 1997, though written for younger readers (preteens), serves as a great introduction to the life, works, and martyrdom of St. Max. Every facet of his life is touched upon, from his visitation by the Blessed Mother, to his founding of the Militia Immaculata and Niepokolanów, “City of the Immaculata”, as well its Japanese counterpart, his helping of the Jewish population in Nazi occupied Poland, and his work in disseminating the Rycerz Niepokolanej (Knight of the Immaculata) magazine and its moral content which ultimately landed him in the death camp at Auschwitz. We see St. Maximilian’s faith in Christ and Our Lady throughout, unshakeable even amid the horrors of life at Auschwitz. His positive attitude and selfless actions had a profound impact on his fellow prisoners, especially the one for whom St. Max ultimately gave his life- an innocent Jewish family man for whom the Saint volunteered to die when ten of his fellow prisoners were selected for a slow death in the starvation block because of an escape by one of their number.

The author doesn’t diminish St. Maximilian’s Marian spirituality, as some even in his own Militia Immaculata have done. St. Maximilian was not ashamed of his love of Mary Immaculate; devotion to her was the point of everything he did, and this shows in the book. The author makes no attempt to explain away this Marian devotion, but rather factually recounts it and leaves the reader to discover how such devotion to Mary is ultimately centered on Christ her Son. I recommend this book for any Catholic who wants to know more about this Saint who Blessed John Paul the Great called the Patron of our difficult century, and especially for Franciscans (St. Max was a Franciscan), MI members, all who wear the Miraculous Medal (required for every MI member), and anyone interested in World War II history, Polish people and culture, or Marian spirituality.

I wrote this review of Maximilian Kolbe for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, a wonderful program created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts. 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. If you love Catholic books, visit Tiber River to find reviews by other Catholics. You might discover a few good books you never would have otherwise, and you can rest assured that the moral content of the reviewed books has been confirmed by other faithful Catholics.

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

True Tradition

May 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

One of the main things that drew me, at an early age, toward the Catholic Church, was the incredible solemnity, beauty, and reverence of the Mass. Not just any Mass, but the one that they still celebrated in my grandfather’s parish- the Latin Mass. Eventually, the ‘reforms’ brought about due to confusion about the meaning of the Second Vatican Council, took away the high stone altar, the communion rail, the beautiful Latin prayers, and the reverence of the Mass. My grandfather hated the changes and, though he remained a faithful Catholic to his death and assisted at Mass every Sunday, he never again felt the pure joy that he used to feel at Mass. I didn’t even know about any council or changes- I was not Catholic. My mother was a lapsed Catholic, and my father a Southern Baptist. It was my father’s church that I was raised in and taught about. The only experience I had at a Catholic church was when I would visit grampaw in the summers. He would take me to Mass every Sunday, and these times were my favorite part of my visits. I stopped visiting every year for financial reasons (we lived several hundred miles from El Paso, where my grandparents lived), but I never forgot the beautiful liturgy of the Catholic Church.

During my teenage years I gave up on religion. I had no use for it. I was a teenager, after all- I knew everything, and I knew religion was a sham. However, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of my Bible, or to outright condemn religion. And I, thinking myself learning of all the fallacies of religion, began an in-depth study of the Scriptures. Later, in my mid-twenties, I joined a very fundamentalist, evangelical church. I couldn’t find peace there with their doctrines. Though they held the Bible up as almost a Eucharist, Christ in the form of a book, their doctrines were based on a few cherry-picked verses and were negated by the  very book which they seemed to hold in such regard. So, after much reading about Christian history, and especially the Catholic Church, and, helped along by God’s word, I had a renewal of faith, and decided that Christ lived, and that He resided in the Holy Catholic Church. So I decided to convert. That was the beginning of my struggle. Upon going to Mass for the first time since my youth, I didn’t recognize the Church. It was not the same Mass that I remembered with such fond affection. There was no Latin. There was little reverence. Guitars and drums distracted me from the state of worship I tried to maintain. I honestly didn’t like it.

Nowhere in this new church could I see the signs of those things I had read about in classic works by the Saints and other Catholics, nor even the Catechism. Reverence for Christ in the Eucharist was gone, almost as if nobody knew the doctrine of the Real Presence. In fact, there was little reverence at all. People came in dressed as if they were ready to go and enjoy their weekend- as soon as church was over. Jeans, football jerseys, short skirts- all the clothing we wore to our evangelical church, because, hey, God doesn’t care what you look like, man! Maybe not, but I do, and I want to look my best for Him. But whatever, I kept it up, and entered RCIA. It was in RCIA that I discovered the instructors didn’t even understand the Church! I continually found myself having to correct the teachers! Our class was told that baptism was just a symbolic thing, for instance. They did still understand the Real Presence, but in a kind of watered down form. They knew nothing of traditional prayers and beliefs. I wanted to quit. This wasn’t the Church I had learned about and been drawn to!

But I didn’t quit, because, like it or not, the Church is, and will always be. Just like in the days of Luther, the church was in turmoil, with Satan trying his hardest to divide it. That same Satan that my RCIA instructors laughingly said was more of a “symbol of evil” than an actual entity bent on the destruction of Christ’s church. But, just as in the days of the misguided monk, were I to leave the Church, to give up on her, I’d only be doing the Devil’s work for him. You see, the Church in Luther’s time had problems, just as she has had since day one. But she was already in the process of reforming herself. Luther, had he taken an example from St. Catherine of Siena, could have worked for change while still being loyal to Christ and His Church. Instead, he gave the Devil a hand and left, taking millions of misguided souls with him, their itching ears wanting to find an easier way to Christ. So I realize that being a “traditional” Catholic means remaining loyal to the magisterium, the pope, and the Church. After all, Christ promised that Satan would never destroy His Church. Don’t I trust Christ? Of course I do. That’s why I patiently wait for the Church to reform herself again, ridding herself of the taint of the Satan-inspired few who, misunderstanding the documents of Vatican II, proceeded to Protestantize the Church. And it’s going along nicely, I think. Our Holy Father, Benedict, is bringing back the traditional Mass for those who want it, just as his predecessor had begun. The dogmas of the Church are still set in stone, just many Catholics are no longer educated about what it is the Church actually believes, and this is in part due to the influence Satan has exerted over many Bishops and priests. Child molestation is a fruit of the spirit of Vatican II, for example. As is an ecumenism that doesn’t attempt conversion, and a modernism which leaves sound doctrine on the bookshelves. But if I want to be truly Catholic, I must be like St. Catherine, not Martin Luther. There is a reason that Luther is called a heretic and Catherine a Saint and Doctor. St. Catherine worked for change from within, guided by the Holy Spirit and trusting in Christ, while Luther did the Devil’s work and caused a schism that the world still reels from. I do want the Church to return to the right path. But I want to guide her and help work for change from within, rather than be another source of division. That, in my opinion, is true traditional Catholicism.

John Paul the Great finally beatified

May 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

John Paul II was the only pope I knew for the majority of my life. And I must admit, he is the primary reason that I finally got confirmed in the Catholic Church. There are probably thousands more who converted to the Catholic Church because of the holy example set by this great pope. From what I understand, he was one of the first modern popes to be totally accessible, down-to-earth, and humble about his role as the Servant of the Servants of God. He refused to be carried upon the papal throne as his predecessors were, like some haughty king looking down upon his minions. He laughed and smiled, showed true Christian character by welcoming people of all different religious backgrounds to engage in conversation, actually listening to them and respecting their differences. He was truly a ‘people’s pope’, and it is for this reason that even many Protestants, atheists and people of other religions hold him up as an example of Christlike action. I know many non-Catholics who have a deep respect for John Paul; they simply know that he was a holy man, that he lived his life in service to Christ and his fellow man. That’s why it was no surprise to me that the five-year waiting period was waived to immediately begin his cause. To do anything less would be an insult to billions of faithful who, sinners though we are, could so easily recognize Christ in him.

But his welcoming attitude and ecumenical demeanor did not cause him to back down from sound Catholic doctrine. He managed to remain fully Catholic while still drawing people of all faiths closer and showing them the best of the Catholic Church. He did what he could concerning the child abuse scandals, though he certainly was not some emperor with absolute power, as many critics expected him to be, nor is any pope. He, like a good CEO, relied on his subordinates, the Bishops, to deal with cases within their own dioceses. Perhaps there are times when he should have stepped in and dealt directly with a particular bishop. But let us remember that, according to a study by the top insurance companies for many protestant denominations, as reported by Fox news, protestant churches face over three hundred allegations of child abuse every year- much more than the Catholic Church. Their lack of hierarchy probably makes this seem less important than the allegations faced by the Catholic Church, but a fact is a fact. People love to bash the Catholic Church for her vast financial resources and political power- mostly, I would assume, out of jealousy. I know many a protestant mega-church pastor who would love to have the pope’s power!

But through it all, even his detractors must admit that their was something very different about Pope John Paul II, and I’m sure a second, third, fourth miracle will soon be worked through his intercession, and soon we can all happily call this great saint a Saint.

Secular Franciscan Companion

April 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’ve been trying to become a Secular Franciscan for a while now, but there is no community in my area, and none of those nearby have responded to my inquiries. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still live as a Secular Franciscan. The Secular Franciscan Companion is used by all Secular Franciscans as a companion on their spiritual journey, but one needn’t be religious or a third order member, or even Catholic, to benefit from the wisdom of one of history’s most popular and well known saints.

The Secular Franciscan Companion is filled with prayers, devotions, litanies, offices, and a wealth of Franciscan Spirituality. Prayers by and to St. Francis and St. Clare, the Office of the 12 Our Fathers, Crown Rosary, a calendar of Franciscan Saints; all kinds of wonderful Franciscan prayer on all 280 plus pages of this book. All of this in a pocket-sized, lightweight format that still has a good-sized, readable font. I definitely recommend this book to any Catholic who wishes to strengthen their spiritual walk the Franciscan way. Even Protestants can find a wealth of spiritual edification in this book by a Saint many of our separated brethren know and respect. The best part is, this little big book comes at an amazing price. Try Aquinas and More for your purchase, and support Franciscan spirituality.

John Paul was holy, not just popular

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

John Paul IIHis eminence Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, recently addressed concerns that the fast-track to sainthood the Venerable Pope John Paul II has been placed on, is merely a result of his popularity. Cardinal Amato reaffirmed the fact that John Paul’s cause is based on the sanctity of his life, not merely his popularity, long reign or political achievements. Though the voice of the people carries much weight, the Congregation and the Church will never simply canonize a saint due to popularity.

“In the course of a beatification cause, there is the vox populi,” he said, which must be “accompanied by the vox dei (voice of God) — the miracles — and the vox ecclesiae (voice of the church),” which is the official judgment issued after interviewing eyewitnesses and consulting with historians, physicians, theologians and church leaders to verify the candidate’s holiness.

Cardinal Amato said, “the pressure of the public and of the media did not disturb the process, but helped it” because it was a further sign of Pope John Paul’s widespread reputation for holiness, which is something the church requires proof of before it moves to beatify someone.

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