Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

Order 'Evolution for the Catholic Student' - Click on the image above

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Link - Standing Up for Our Children

Link – Standing Up for Our Children

          The link below is to the story of a father standing up for his son with Trisomy 18, a condition similar to Down's Syndrome, and the same one that Rick Santorum’s daughter Bella has.  He shares his experience with members of the medical community who did not feel his son’s life was worth fighting for.  It is an important reminder for all parents of children with special needs that our children are counting on us to defend them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'The Greatest Miracle' on DVD

The Greatest Miracle 
on DVD

          An English-language version of The Greatest Miracle is finally available for pre-order on DVD.  Here’s the review I wrote of the film during its brief run in theaters.
          The Greatest Miracle, from Dos Corazones Films (makers of Guadalupe), hit theaters last Friday, December 9.  It is unlike anything else you have seen in a movie theater.  This animated film (also available in 3D) is a theological walk through the Mass.
          The movie follows the story of three main characters, each dealing with personal struggles, who all find themselves at Mass one Saturday thanks to the help of their guardian angels.  It then progresses through the Mass and the characters are inspired to delve into it more deeply as their angels open the doors to an amazing spiritual world they had never really contemplated before.
          The beautiful thing about this movie is that it not only tells the viewer what each of the parts of the Mass is about, it also reveals invisible realities that we are often unaware of when we come to Mass.
When we come to Mass, we don’t just sing a few songs, say a few prayers, and try to think about God for an hour.  We take one step into Heaven.  The Communion of Saints is there, Our Lady is there, the Choirs of Angels are there, and most importantly, Our Lord is there, truly present.
The Greatest Miracle does a beautiful job illustrating all this.  As the Mass progresses, the characters learn how to truly prepare for the Sacred Mysteries, and offer themselves at Mass.  They see angels guiding souls to the Lord.  They watch as Jesus Himself, through the priest, forgives sins in Confession, and offers Himself to the Father, and then to us in Holy Communion.  The connection between the Eucharist and the Cross is powerful.  They see the elevation of a soul from Purgatory as it benefits from a worthy Communion offered by a pure heart.
The format the film uses keeps the audience engaged and successfully integrates the Mass with the stories of the main characters.  It challenges adults to approach Mass with wonder and love, and be conscious of everything that happens there, both seen and unseen.  It will also be an incredible teaching tool for parents and religious educators.  I will certainly be awaiting its video release, but it is worth seeing in the theater while you have the chance.  However, it may be difficult to do with a child, at least a young one, because it would probably need a lot of explaining and lead to a lot of discussion.  Perfect, of course, for home or in a classroom.
The film is not without its flaws.  First, considering we are just adopting the new translation of the Roman Missal, it would have been nice had that been in the movie.  But if you’re already nostalgic for “and also with you,” or “Lord, God of power and might,” you’ll find them here.  Also, there is a part in which we see little devils trying to distract people and keep them from making good Confessions.  That may be a little scary for younger kids.  In one instance a devil even becomes a voluptuous, scantily clad woman in order to tempt a man to lust.  Even with an animated film, those of us trying to guard our senses won’t really appreciate that.  A priest friend of mine pointed out that it was slightly inaccurate demonstrating the moment of transubstantiation, as well.
Still, it is an enjoyable and edifying film.  What’s even more beautiful is that a film whose main purpose is to explain and inspire devotion for the Mass is being shown at mainstream movie theaters.  We can all pray that more Catholic filmmakers will use their talents to honor and serve the Lord.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Render Unto Caesar, Or Render Unto God?

Render Unto Caesar,
Or Render Unto God?

          This is a powerful homily that will challenge all of us.  It’s about 18 minutes, but worth the watch.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cultural Decline

Cultural Decline

          “It is when the first faint warnings [of cultural degradation] come that one has the best chance to save himself; and this, I suspect, explains why medieval thinkers were extremely agitated over questions which seem to us today without point or relevance.  If one goes on, the monitory voices fade out, and it is not impossible for him to reach a state in which his entire moral orientation is lost.  Thus in the face of the enormous brutality of our age we seem unable to make appropriate response to perversions of truth and acts of bestiality” - Ideas Have Consequences.
          Those words were written by Richard Weaver in 1948.  They were certainly timely, shortly after the Second World War, but I wonder what Weaver would write about our own time.  If, in 1948, the West was unable to make an “appropriate response to perversions of truth and acts of bestiality,” what could possibly be said about us in 2012?
          Weaver also argues in his masterpiece that “cultural decline is a historical fact,” and that the challenge is to demonstrate that fact to people who need to be awakened from a “hysterical optimism” that believes that every advance in any field (other than philosophy, theology and morality) is progress, and that all progress is good.
          So let’s take a trip back to that degraded time of the late 1940s and compare today’s culture to that and see if we progressed.  I wonder if any American in 1948 could have predicted our culture in 2012, and what they would think of it.
          Would anyone in 1948 have felt at home in a world in which nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce, including 40% of first marriages?  Could anyone in 1948 have predicted that over 40% of children would be born to unwed parents?  Would anyone in 1948 have even conceived of the idea that in the United States of America the most dangerous place to be, statistically speaking, could be your own mother’s womb?
          I think if you told most people, in 1948, that this was to be the America of 2012, they would have told you that you were crazy.  It is impossible that this could be true.
          Could it be true that in less than 65 years, people would use technology to conceive children without a physical partner?  Would it be at all realistic that the major social question might become whether both a man and a woman (or even whether only a man and a woman) are necessary for a marriage?  Could it be possible that pornography would become a multi-billion dollar industry, marketed to and featuring children?  Could the Catholic Church, of all organizations, be demanded, by the President of the United States, to provide abortion-inducing drugs?  Would that President send millions in taxpayer money to help pay for the destruction of innocent children overseas?  Would he defend the killing of children simply because they are girls?  Is it even conceivable to the 1948 mind that human beings would be created, only to be destroyed through scientific experimentation?
          These things would certainly have been conceivable to people in 1948.  The Nazis had just been defeated three years earlier.  But certainly, to them, this could never happen in the United States.  We were still celebrating the heroes who sacrificed their lives to spare Europe of this nightmarish scenario.
          I’m not suggesting American culture has seen no improvements since 1948, the most notable being racial justice.  But if I had lost a son or a brother or a buddy in World War II, I would be furious to know that my country would abandon so fiercely those values that he died to defend.
          Richard Weaver assessed his own time correctly when he wrote his book.  I wonder if even he envisioned where things were going.  Ironically, there were a few things happening in 1948 that would have lasting and devastating consequences, and lead to the evils just discussed.  Margaret Sanger founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1948, which has been possibly the most destructive social force worldwide in the last 65 years, if not all of human history.  And the destruction of cultural morality was also assisted by Alfred Kinsey’s piece of trash, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, published in 1948.
          Richard Weaver said that it is at the beginning of cultural decline that a people are still sensitive enough to it to potentially save themselves.  He believed that in his time the West may have already passed that point.  If it wasn’t true then, it certainly is now.
          What do we do, then, throw up our arms in failure and find a safe hiding place to await the Apocalypse?  Well, we all have to prayerfully decide how to prepare for a future that may be quite perilous.  But Jesus said that one does not light a lamp and put it under a basket.  We are the light of the world, and we still have a responsibility to try to reclaim and rebuild this culture.
          In the film The Return of the King, King Theodin is preparing to lead his men to battle when he is advised that he can not defeat the armies of Mordor.  “No, we can not,” he acknowledges, “but we will meet them in battle nonetheless.”
          We may sometimes believe that the culture war is one that we can not win.  But we are called to fight the battle nonetheless.  And we must never forget that the King at the head of our army is the King of Kings. 
Win?  We will win.  Christ has risen.  As Father Frank Pavone likes to say, victory is our starting point.  One way or another, we will be victorious.  And, God willing, we will lead many to the field of victory with us.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Our Shepherds Speak: Cardinal Dolan

Shepherds Speak:
Cardinal Dolan

The following is part of the text of the keynote address Cardinal Timothy Dolan gave at the States Dinner during the Knights Of Columbus 130th Supreme Convention August 7.

We Catholics are hopeless romantics, you know, when it comes to married love.
Against all odds, we still believe that when a man and woman vow that they will love and honor each other “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part,” they really do mean it.  We still hold fast to the teaching of the Bible that God so esteems marriage that he compared his personal, passionate, eternal love for Israel to that between a husband and a wife.  St. Paul likewise tells us that the love of Jesus for us, his Church, is just like that of a groom for his bride.
We still have in our gut the Church’s timeless “Valentine’s Day card”: that the love between a husband and a wife has the same characteristics as the love that God has for us.  It is faithful; it is forever; and it brings about new life in children.
We are such hopeless romantics that we contend that the best way to get a hint of how God loves us now, and in eternity, is to look at how you, married couples, love one another.  “The love of a man and woman is made holy in the sacrament of marriage and becomes the mirror of your everlasting love,” chants the Preface in the nuptial Mass…
In the noble American project of ordered virtuous democracy, government exists not to invent, define, grant or impede genuine freedom – the “first and most cherished” being freedom of religion – but to protect liberties that come not from any human whim but from the Creator.  That’s about as American as Yankee Stadium; and a government that presumes to redefine marriage is perilously close to considering not God, but itself, as “the Almighty.”…
The most effective guarantee of a civilization of love, rather than the survival of the fittest; the culture of life over the culture of death; the law of the gift rather than the law of the “get;” and solidarity rather than selfishness, is precisely traditional marriage and family.  When that goes, we all go.