Tag Archives: Catholic

Story of Jesus perfect for 4-to-8 year olds

May 12, 2014

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Jesus coverLittle children run to Jesus on the cover of this Eerdmans Book for Young Readers, a wonderful image to draw the target age group — 4-to-8 years — into the story of Jesus’ life.
Benedictine Anselm Grün’s retelling of Gospel events is true to Catholic teaching, from the visitation through the nativity and more than a half-dozen highlights of New Testament stories up through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The translation by Laura Watkinson keeps the language simple and age-appropriate, and Giuliano Ferri’s colorful artwork adds to the storytelling, bringing to life the calling of the disciples, for example, the stories of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the Prodigal Son, and the Last Supper.
Parents and teachers will find “Jesus” an excellent choice reading to children in a home schooling setting or early faith formation.

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‘Brother Hugo and the Bear': cute and informative

May 8, 2014

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brother hugo and the bearAuthor Katy Beebe has crafted a cute story from a sliver of what may or may not be a true anecdote from the 12th century. Did a bear really devour much of one monastery’s copy of St. Augustine’s letters to St. Jerome?

Beebe’s fictional Brother Hugo gets the task of replacing it, and a good chunk of the tale illustrates how manuscripts were created by the monks in those monasteries in the Middle Ages.

Illustrates is the perfect word, too, because artist S.D. Schindler’s superb use of the style of those medieval illuminators adds a whimsical period touch that puts the story into the proper historical timeframe.

This is not just a good tale for young readers but an educational one as well.

There’s church and human history embedded in the Eerdmans book, with salutes to those ancient monasteries, the Benedictine’s Cluny and the Cistercian’s La Grande Chartreuse, and even a glossary that includes both church and manuscript making vocabularies.

What a nice idea, and nicely done.

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Murder of John Paul I — from the inside?

April 25, 2014

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UnknownThe pages are yellowing in the this English-translation of “The Last Pope” that I couldn’t resist in an antique store, and the copy looked as though it had never been touched.

That should have been one tip that “The Last Pope” was no “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” but the glossy cover of the hardback claimed it was an international bestseller, so I sprang for the $7.

“The Last Pope” was probably worth the $7, but not a cent more. Its premise is that rather than dying in his sleep, as is the official word on the passing of the former Cardinal Albino Luciani, the man who was pope for only 33 days in 1978 was killed because he had made plans to remove high-ranking Vatican officials. Several cardinals from that era are implicated in ordering the pope’s death.

In the story, copies of John Paul I’s supposed plans have made their way out of the Vatican archives, and the bad guys are killing folks to get them back. A beautiful female reporter and a mysterious “Rafael” get involved, and, well, no spoilers here.

What the novel by Luis Miguel Rocha is, of course, is a vehicle to paint the Vatican Curia as corrupt and the church itself as behind-the-times on all kinds of contemporary issues. John Paul I was going to change all that, so the story goes, and the usual Catholic punching bags — birth control, homosexual relations, priestly celibacy, female priests — take their lumps.

That’s too bad, because “The Last Pope” isn’t a bad novel. But it does explain why the eight-year-old copy was sitting untouched in an antique store.

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Families are Messy…

November 25, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

As we approach Thanksgiving and our opportunities to be with extended family, there is one thing we need to remember – families are messy.

I am not talking about Uncle Bob who never does the dishes or the spilled gravy at the kids table; I am saying that family relationships are messy.  Some families have a no politics and no religion rule on conversations at their family gatherings.  That may help with the tension of hot button topics like same sex unions and abortion, but as people of faith we cannot put on and take off our religion at will like a sweater.  We wear our faith all of the time!

How do we deal with some difficult situations this Thanksgiving like -

Your sister and her boyfriend, who are living together,

Your uncle who is in a same sex relationship,

Your cousin who complains about the church’s teaching on contraception,

Your nephew who has left the church because of the current Clergy abuse scandal in the news…

Jesus had the answer – He loved more!

Since I have a fondness for food and mentions of food in the bible – I am taken by this quote every Thanksgiving…

Matthew 11:19, The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

I think the most important thing to remember in this passage is that WE all are the sinners.  If our church only let perfect Catholics in – the pews (and the pulpits) would be virtually empty.  I am so grateful that Jesus (and my family ) eats with me!

So set the tone with a prayer of humility and gratitude and respect and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your messy family and LOVE MORE!

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Catholic writer J.F. Powers remembered through his letters

November 22, 2013

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“Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of a Family Life: The Letters of J.F. Powers, 1942-1963,” edited by Katherine A. Powers. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, 2013. 450 pp., $35.

powers cover

Spending the last few weeks peeking into the life of the late Catholic writer J. F. Powers through a collection of his letters made me wonder, does anyone write letters like these any more?

Powers, the long-time professor of English and writer-in-residence at St. John University in Collegeville, used his gift for the language in frequent missives to friends and colleagues, which makes this collection of his letters read much like a memoir, or better yet a novel.

Perhaps cyberspace holds all the emails and social media messages we peck out nowadays, and perhaps and a tech-minded historian will be able to pull them down and gather them into book form. But I’d be surprised if any achieve the literary quality of those that Power’s daughter Katherine A. Powers has adroitly edited and packaged.

Take this sample from a letter in which he describes the long-time leader of St. John’s Abbey, Benedictine Abbot Alcuin Deutsch:

“He is a good man, but his last name is Deutsch, and if he’s like a lot of other Germans, and I think he is, he expects to get to heaven for not having made any impractical moves during his stay on earth. I have often wondered why they didn’t try to prove, somewhere along the line, that Jesus Christ received a gold watch for 33 years of service.”

That Powers ended up living much of his life in Minnesota’s German-plentiful Stearns County and working for the German Benedictines at St. John’s is just one of the ironies of the man’s life.

An good writer, but a poor one

“Suitable Accommodations” makes for interesting reading because it takes us into the mind of this unique character, a man author Evelyn Waugh tabbed “one of our greatest storytellers,” an author who won the National Book Award for his first novel yet never achieved the success he felt was his destiny.

Perhaps because his specialty was priests his was a limited audience and not populist fare.

The award-winning “Morte D’Urban,” the novel about a charming Midwestern priest who is as much a man of the world as he is a man of God, sold only 25,000 copies or so, and failed to receive the kind of promotion one might expect from a publisher like Doubleday.

Many of even the earliest letters — the collection covers 1942 to 1963 — foreshadow the life James Farl Powers was to live.

He refers to a steady job as “prostitution . . . masking itself as ‘honest labor.’ ”

He decries people who take the “safe” way through life with “a good position” or “in business for himself” with “nice homes.”

The irony, and it’s in the title of this collection, is that Powers was consistently writing in his letters about trying to find “suitable accommodations” both for his then-growing family and for a place with the peace and quiet to allow him to write.

Every so often he leans for money on his good friend Father Harvey Egan, pleading to the priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for funds to keep the wolf from the door until the mail brings a much-anticipated check for a short story he has submitted to The New Yorker or to one of the small-circulation literary magazines that have purchased his work over the years.

The late Father Egan, a one-of-a-kind himself as the pastor in later years of ultra-progressive St. Joan of Arc Parish in Minneapolis, gets credit for preserving many of Powers’ letters.

None of which fits, however, when you read in a 1947 letter to Father Egan that Powers’ tastes in liturgy lean toward the conservative. Living in Avon, not far from where Powers is teaching at St. John’s University, he writes:

“We like to go to St. John’s [Abbey Church] because there is no lay participation, or I do. I am only slowly getting the idea that I am surrounded by people who are working night and day for things like the dialogue Mass. Imagine my dismay at the discrepancy between the party line and my own feelings in these matters.”

Later he’ll refer to himself as “anti-laical” but also “anticlerical.”

Along with letters Powers wrote, his daughter has included a handful of entries from his journal. Often they show a man in despair: “May 18, 1959: Out of gas — creatively . . . I feel absolutely powerless these days to prevent financial ruin. Ideas for stories don’t come.” And just eight days later: “Money, money, money — this is the answer to every question confronting me.”

Man of many interests

Scraps of Powers’ varied interest show up regularly. He’s fond of playing the horses, especially during the family’s several stints living in Ireland.

He follows the minor-league St. Paul Saints baseball team, keeps abreast of the gossip surrounding the design of the new Abbey Church at St. John’s, chimes in a number of idea for names of the new National Football League team being established in the Twin Cities in 1961, would have preferred the Democrats had nominated his friend Eugene McCarthy instead of John F. Kennedy to run in the 1960 presidential election.

“I did not, and do not, like Kennedy. That doesn’t mean he’s no better than Nixon. . . . Gene McCarthy nominated him . . . in the best speech of the convention. Too bad it isn’t Gene instead of Jack, if we have to have a Catholic. I understand Pope John’s already packing. I think we can use him, too.”

He refused military service during World War II, was imprisoned for it and released to do compulsory work at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul.

A curmudgeon if there ever was one, he  was against the Legion of Decency (which rated movies for decades according to Catholic morals), wasn’t thrilled that fasting regulations were eased, agreed with author Evelyn Waugh that he was more of a short story writer than a novelist and presciently had this to say about Calvin Griffith, the tight-fisted owner of the then new Minnesota Twins baseball team: “I do not think Cal will ever put our welfare before his own.”

It’s such good writing you’ll be disappointed that the letters end with 1963. You’ll want to know the rest of the J.F. Powers story, but daughter Katherine explains well at the volume’s end why that won’t happen.

That epitaph one should read on one’s own…bz

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Pray With Us

October 23, 2013

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Madonna and Child ~ Licensed under Creative Commons

Madonna and Child ~ Licensed under Creative Commons

Praying Together for Our Church

Below is a letter from Jeff Cavins to the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute inviting us to pray.  Let us all join in this beautiful novena.

In times of difficulty I have learned to turn to Mary.

For those of you who do not know of the Catechetical Institute – I urge everyone to look into it.  I am an alumni. Go C.I.

Thank you Jeff.

 

 

Dear Friends,

 

We would like to invite you to something very special that those associated with the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute are doing in response to recent news in our archdiocese.

 

As many of you know, the Catholic Church is going through some extremely difficult times. As graduates and current students, you know that we, at the Catechetical Institute, are not only learning “what” to believe, but we are learning how to “live out” what we believe. It is difficult times such as these that call us to live what we have learned—to truly live as disciples of Jesus Christ, as witnesses to the Gospel, as Christians. This is not an easy task.

 

As Catholics, we are blessed to follow in the great biblical tradition of the heroes of faith, men and women who responded to trials with prayer, praise and thanksgiving. As a united Catechetical Institute, we are doing just that and extending an invitation to our CI community to pray together for every member who makes up our archdiocese; for, the archdiocese is not the structure, it is the people, all of us together. We are inviting you to join us in praying for the entire body of Christ and all who are suffering right now during this arduous time.

 

We are beginning an extraordinary novena, one that happens to be a favorite of Pope Francis. The novena is called, “Mary, Undoer of Knots” and has a beautiful and rich tradition.

 

This novena will begin on Wednesday, October 23rd and conclude on the eve of the Feast of All Saints. If you do not own the small booklet that explains and walks you through the novena, you can find the daily prayers at http://www.cistudent.com.

 

As mature Catholic believers, we must always ask ourselves, “What is the responsible, charitable and right way to proceed?” No doubt, many people have asked you questions about what they are hearing in the media. Our response does not merely represent our own opinion, but it represents the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ, and as such we need to always ask, “What would Jesus do?”

 

Therefore, let us ask the Holy Spirit to season all our words with love, mercy and compassion. This is not only our response to our fellow Catholics, but also the response to those who appear to be attacking the Church. The guilty, the innocent, the accused and the accusers should all be treated with dignity and love. This is what it means to truly live the faith. This is what it means to be a Christian.

 

Thank you for uniting your prayers with ours at the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute. Let us together turn to Mary, Undoer of Knots, invoking her to ask her Son to grant us pure, humble and trusting hearts.

 

In Christ,

 

Jeff Cavins

 

 

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Something Beautiful…

October 14, 2013

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Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful

Last week a speaker/entertainer came to speak at the Champions for Life luncheon.  Danielle Rose, a music missionary sang from her prolife CD and spoke about her missionary work in China.  Because of the one child only policy and the poverty of most of those who live there, many families abort their daughters in favor of having a son who can care for them in their old age. As she was explaining this horrible reality, she described that this country had 20 million young men who will never have a wife and family.

 

What happens in a country where you have millions of young men with no future?

 

With such hope and innocence she said.  “Maybe God will raise them up to become priests.”  I am sad to say that most of us in the audience chuckled at that statement.  Maybe we have become so cynical that we don’t believe God can really do such things. China is, after all, an atheist country where it is illegal to evangelize.  Then, Danielle caught our attention and said compellingly “No, really! God can make something beautiful.”

 

At that moment, Danielle asked the Holy Spirit to help her find the right words to say.  I wish I could remember her exact words but she went on to compare Christ’s passion to the situation in China.

 

 

She said, “God can take something ugly and sinful and horrible and make something beautiful happen from it.” Of course I know this; I just need to be reminded.

 

I don’t know about others in the audience, but I wasn’t thinking about the situation in China.  I was thinking about situations in my own heart, situations closer to home.

Her words reminded me to hope and trust that “God really can make something beautiful!”

 

Here is to something beautiful!

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First Friday devotion–a dialogue between two hearts

September 6, 2013

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Jesus pours out many blessings on those who have devotion to Him in His Most Sacred Heart. Photo/San Antonio Abad Parish Maybunga, Pasig City.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

Jesus pours out many blessings on those who have devotion to Him in His Most Sacred Heart as part of the First Friday devotion. Photo/San Antonio Abad Parish Maybunga, Pasig City. Licensed under Creative Commons.

The Catholic Church has no lack of devotions. We can choose from dozens of novenas, prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for the intercession of the Blessed Mother or almost any saint. But whether we lack devotion–the whole point of praying the prayers—is another question.

For a long time I bypassed the First Friday devotion. When the first Friday of the month came up–like today–It just seemed like another thing to keep track of when I had enough trouble getting to Mass on time (still do) and making time for prayer.

First Friday devotion, I’ve learned, is about Jesus. He should be the main focus of our love, so a devotion that centers on Him and His Sacred Heart is set apart from other devotions, according to the Sacred Heart Legion. First Friday devotion started in the 1600s when Christ began appearing to a French Visitation nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

So what exactly is the First Friday devotion? Most simply, it calls for receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist on the First Friday of nine consecutive months in honor of His Sacred Heart. That sounds easy enough, but along with that we should have:

  • A true love of Jesus Christ and His Sacred Heart, the source of His excessive mercy, help, graces and blessings.
  • Special respect for, and veneration of, the Blessed Sacrament.
  • A desire to make Reparation for the neglect, indifference and ingratitude of the majority that results in Jesus Christ being left alone, abandoned and forgotten on our altars, never visited to offer consolation for such neglect, though He has given us the miracle of His Divine Presence in the Blessed Sacrament as a supreme gift to us in His desire to be always with us. (Acts of reparation to pray on First Friday are available to download.)

If necessary to receive communion in a state of grace on First Friday (or any day), we should go to confession before Mass.

Many graces available

The Lord offers many graces to those who have devotion to His Sacred Heart. As Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical Haurietis Aquas, (On Devotion to the Sacred Heart):

It is altogether impossible to enumerate the heavenly gifts which devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has poured out on the souls of the faithful, purifying them, offering them heavenly strength, rousing them to the attainment of all virtues.

Among these heavenly gifts, the Lord gave St. Margaret Mary 12 promises for those who are faithful to the First Friday devotion:

1.“I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.”
2. “I will establish peace in their homes.”
3. “I will comfort them in their afflictions.”
4. “I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in death.”
5. “I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.”
6. “Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.”
7. “Tepid souls shall grow fervent.”
8. “Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.”
9. “I will bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.”
10. “I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.”
11. “Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.”
12. “I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”

Evidence the Lord reaches out to us

The point of First Friday devotion is to show real devotion to Jesus and His Sacred Heart but the promises are an added incentive. They are evidence that the Lord is reaching out to us in our busyness and indifference.

Biographer Rt. Rev. Emile Bougaud wrote about this in his “The Life of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque,”

“Every new evidence of coldness on the part of man causes God to descend a degree in order to touch the heart from which He cannot succeed in detaching Himself.”

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A few good apps

June 27, 2013

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I’ve recently pruned my apps on my phone and after some thought this is what I consider essential in my Catholic folder:

Laudate
This has way too much to cover. I use it primarily to preview the readings before Mass.
iTunes
Play

Missio
The Pope actually launched this himself. That alone is reason to have this app.

Confession
This app provides a customized examination of conscience and step by step guide through the sacrament along with a place for reflections, etc. It does come at a cost of $1.99.

Rediscover: App
Rediscover your Catholic faith. “There is a path to meaning and purpose, a sense of belonging, inner strength, true freedom and deep peace. It’s a path you know.”

Geo-locate a parish for Mass times or adoration hours or times of confession in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

400+ short articles and videos on everything from God to culture

The Pope App
Homilies, general audiences. Follow the pope as closely as you would like.
iTunes
Play

Divine Mercy
Lots of info on the devotion and an easy-to-use set of virtual beads to pray with

iBreviary TS
The Liturgy of the Hours and more

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Minnesota Catholic Writers

June 24, 2013

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"Writing" - Licensed under Creative Commons

“Writing” – Licensed under Creative Commons

 

As we mourn the loss of Vince Flynn, I started to reflect on a few of the Catholic writers we have in Minnesota. Whether it is fiction, nonfiction, historical or other genres; is there something about our faith and something about Minnesota that helps to feed this talent? Immediately I can think of a few Minnesota Catholic authors. F Scott Fitzgerald and  Ralph McInerny come to mind,  but others like  Timothy Drake, Elizabeth Kelly and my very own dear cousin Fr. Marvin O’Connell are those I know personally.  And then there are aspiring novelists like Kathy Schneeman who, along with raising her nine kids and wrote so eloquently of Vince Flynn’s passing in her blog, is also working on her first novel.  I know if I were to search, there are many more Minnesota Catholic authors. (If you have a favorite Minnesota Catholic author,  share who it is and why in the comments below.) Some followed their faith more closely than others, some are better or lesser known but they share two things, Minnesota heritage and the Catholic faith.

Is it the Minnesota long winters that turn us to storytelling? Is it hearty Irish or other ethnic back grounds that causes us to tell tales? Is it a rich heritage of folklore that causes us to think in terms of fantasy?  Is it a love of the outdoors that causes us to notice details in the changes of the seasons and the rhythm of the earth that bring forward observations and hone our writing skills?

 

Or is it the gift of our faith that feeds the talent?

 

In the introduction to The Catholic Imagination,  Fr. Andrew Greeley writes: “Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation.”

I wonder often about that, about how Catholics see the world. We believe that there is something more than what we see and in a deep prayer and meditative life God uses our imagination to draw us closer to him. Try saying the Rosary, it becomes and exercise in imagining the life of Christ while repeating the prayers we know by heart and it somehow brings us closer to Christ.

 

There is always something happening beyond what we see. 

 

Fr. Robert Barron uses this sacramental sensibility in many of his talks, books and through the use of the Catholocism series.  It takes our imagination to even enter into thinking about how our sacraments work. I once asked my spiritual director about a certain experience I felt in prayer,  I asked if it was just my imagination. Her response caused me to reflect even deeper, saying “Don’t you think God uses everything to draw you closer to Him, even our imagination.” It is true, God made us the way we are and we are creatures uniquely made to worship Him.

It might not then be unusual that Catholics may have a jump start on imagination, storytelling and the world that can’t be seen.

On a couple of occasions I joined a group of Catholic writers. The group called itself The Minnklings — a Minnesotan take-off on C.S. Lewis’ and J.R.R. Tolkien’s writer’s group The Inklings. The group would meet at O’Gara’s bar in St. Paul to share work and offer encouragement. Tim Drake, then Senior Writer of the National Catholic Register led the group. I think it was a special place to explore the unique way in which Catholics aproach the world and aproach writing.   I don’t believe the group has met in recent years but I have been running into aspiring Catholic writers and I am hoping we can revive the concept again.

If you are a Catholic Writer, whether you are writing overtly on Catholic themes or if your faith guides your writing in less overt ways, contact me and maybe we can get revival of the Minnklings started.

 

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