Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas is Coming: But Don't Neglect The Advent Season!

In case you missed it, yesterday (Sunday) was the First Sunday of Advent. I kind of had these grandiose ideas of putting up a profound and inspiring post for the beginning of the liturgical season of Advent but, what with the Thanksgiving traveling and all, I'm reduced to giving kind of a reminder/slash/roundup of all the resources that are available for the spiritually conscientious Christian to fruitfully prepare for the pinnacle of this season of preparation, Christmas Day (Advent isn't only a Catholic practice, by the way. Lutherans, Anglicans and many other Christians also observe some form of it).

I suspect that most of us aren't really clear on the significance of this special time in the Church's worship calender. Most of us are already stressing out about a single day at the end of December, the day of Christmas (now less than a month away). Oh sure, those of us who are regular or semi-regular communicants or church-goers are aware of something called Advent -- we see the purple and rose vestments and candles, the change in the emphasis of the prayers, readings and hymns -- but most of us might see it as just so much background clutter to distract us from the real work of preparing ourselves and our families for Christmas -- i.e., the shopping, cooking, eating, socializing and traveling business that leaves us worn out and broke (and, all to often, spiritually empty).

But, in fact, the Advent season is a time of (potentially) great spiritual growth and graces. It is something akin to the liturgical season of Lent (though not as penitential in tone) with it's Great Theme being the work of preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. This is done on three levels: (1) Where we look with God's chosen people in the Old Testament toward the first coming of the Messiah, a coming that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ; (2) As we look forward to Christ's continuous coming into our lives every day as Lord and Savior; and (3) As we look forward in joyful hope to Jesus' Second Coming either at the end of time, or at the end of each of our earthly lives (whichever comes first). Advent is all about being a season of anticipation and fulfilment. Religiously speaking, in a very real sense, Christmas has very little meaning without Advent, any more than a trip to Disneyland is arguably less meaningful without the giddy air of expectation leading up to it.

Over at the blog of First Things, Joseph Bottum writes the essay that I would have liked to have written, The End of Advent. It is absolutely worth the read.

Having said all that, it's not to late to get into the spirit of things and start celebrating Advent now. As in today.

For more information about the origins of Advent, I'd recommend viewing this very informative post over at the Canterbury Tales blog, Top 10 Things to Know About Advent.

For information about Advent traditions you can celebrate with your family to make the season more spiritually fruitful (and fun), please see the article Catholic Traditions for Advent and Christmas.

A number of excellent resources for Advent can be found at Don Schwager's web page, Readings and Prayers for Advent.

A good way to prepare during Advent is to meditate on the daily Scripture readings from the Mass. You can find those at the website of the U.S. bishops. If you want to listen to some wonderful daily reflections on these readings, they can also be found at the bishop's site, or by downloading or subscribing to the daily Food For the Journey podcast by Sr. Ann Shields at Renewal Ministries.

I'll be posting more resources (and perhaps reflections) all through Advent. In the meantime, find a way to make this the most blessed, peaceful and spiritually fruitful Advent ever for you and yours, and be prepared to meet Our Lord with authentic joy on Christmas Day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Viva Cristo Rey!" -- The Martyrdom of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro

Today, November 23, is the Feast Day (on the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church) of Blessed Miguel Pro.

The life of Father Miguel Agustin Pro, a Catholic priest, had been as heroic as would be his martyrdom because of his love and faith in Jesus Christ. In losing his life for the sake of Christ, he exchanged his earthly life in hopes of attaining eternal life with God.

I. Blessed Miguel Pro's Life And Work

Born in Mexico, January 13, 1891, Miguel Pro grew up in a large family with six brothers and sisters. Inspired by two of his sisters who entered the religious life, Miguel at the age of twenty, prayed to God in order to learn what God's will was for his own life. Because of his great love for God, and his desire to follow His will, Miguel entered the Jesuit order at the Hacienda El Llano so that he might devote his life to the service of God.

Under the terror of the Mexican regime of the time of Calles' and Obergon's rule, came years of political and religious persecution. During this period, the Pro family suffered great great financial and personal hardship. Meanwhile, Miguel and the other novices of the Jesuit order were also under severe threat of persecution, as Catholic priests and religious were among the targets of the Mexican government reign of terror. After a raid of the religious' house, their superiors ordered Miguel and the other novices to escape from Mexico. Miguel's travels took him to diverse countries such as the U.S., Grenada, and eventually Belgium where he was ordained a priest on August 21, 1925. Even though his family could not be physically present at his ordination ceremony, Father Pro was spiritually present with them; blessing their individual photographs one by one.

Even though he sought to make his internal and physical turmoil hidden from those around him, Father Pro suffered great emotional pain over the constant worry he felt over his family and the physical pain which was caused by stomach troubles. Those around him even noted that at the times he felt the most pain; physical or emotional, that he would seem the most cheerful. Father Pro's physical health weakened despite several operations. In hopes of helping Father Pro to regain his health, his superiors granted his wish to return home to Mexico to be nearer to his family. Little did his superiors realise the extent of the trouble that the Church in Mexico faced.
In 1926, Father Pro returned to Mexico during the height of political terror; at a time in which the Catholic Church faced great opposition as a result of constitutional amendments and legislation which severely restricted public worship. Any Catholic priest who would dare to continue to serve the sacraments such as communion, baptism, confession, confirmation and marriage risked persecution, torture, arrest and even execution!

And so began Father Pro's adventure for God, evading police in any way possible in order that he might minister to the physical and spiritual needs of all people which included the poor, the rich, workers, laborers, business and even Socialists and Communists (who were often openly hostile to Catholic priests and the Church).Traveling via bicycle, and donning disguises such as that of a mechanic, a servant and even that of a cultured man of the world, he was able to carry out his duties for his people such as administering the sacraments and attending to the needs of people. In the spirit of Paul, the apostle, he literally became all things to all people for the sake of Christ. He won souls for Christ through prayer, humor and also through physical and spiritual aid.

While the solders and the police had their guns and rifles, Father Pro had the greatest of all weapons as he had once stated in reference to the crucifix: "Here is my weapon. With it along, I have no fear of anyone."

II. Father Pro's Martyrdom

"I am ready to give my life for souls, but I want nothing for myself. All that I want is to lead them to God. If I kept anything for myself, I should be a thief, infamous; I should no longer be a priest."

In November 1927, Father Pro, along with his brother Humberto, became the scapegoat for an assassination attempt on the corrupt future president. The government authorities linked the Pro brothers to the crime through an old used car that had belonged to one of the brothers. Even though the authorities were well aware of the fact that the brothers were innocent, they were both guilty for being Catholic priests. Because priests were considered to be enemies of the regime, the government had an ulterior motive for convicting Miguel and his brother. Without due process or trial, the brothers were condemned to die. Innocent of any crime, they were only guilty of being Catholic priests.

On the morning of November 23, 1927, Father Pro was led from his cell to the location of his execution. It did not matter to the police and soldiers that beyond the wall, within earshot, a man was shouting that he had in his hands a stay of execution that would free the brothers. The shouts were ignored and Father Pro was lead to his death. As they did so, one of the policemen responsible for his capture asked for his forgiveness which Father Pro freely gave. Just minutes before he was to be executed, Father Pro asked to be able to pray as a last request. During this short amount of time, he kneeled upon the hard, uncomfortable ground, near the bullet riddled wall where he would soon be executed. In submission to God's will, he accepted his fate, stood up, stretched his arms out wide in the shape of the cross in preparation for his death. After forgiving his executors, and as the squad raised its weapons, Father Pro shouted in a clear and loud voice : "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Which means "Long live Christ the King" in Spanish.) With humility and bravery, Father Pro met his martyrdom.

On September 25, 1988, Father Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II. His feastday is November 23.

A Kennedy [Finally] Gets Put In His Place

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Roman Catholic bishop of Rhode Island said Sunday that he asked Rep. Patrick Kennedy in a 2007 letter to stop receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, because of the congressman's public stance on moral issues.

Bishop Thomas Tobin divulged details of his confidential exchange with Kennedy after the Democratic lawmaker told The Providence Journal in a story published Sunday that Tobin had instructed him not to receive Communion. The two men have clashed repeatedly in the past few weeks over abortion.
See article here.

Hooray for Bishop Tobin! Rich, powerful fat-cats like the Kennedys have for too long relied on their demigod status among the liberal and the mis-informed to collectively and individually (excepting, perhaps, the late Eunice, may she rest in peace) thumb their noses at the teaching of the Church they profess to follow. Their behavior has been the source of scandal for ordinary Catholics and a scoundrels refuge for other Catholic politicians since Teddy (may he rest in peace) turned pro-abortion at the birth of Roe v. Wade. You may remember a similar post of mine on this topic, found here.

Now if only the bishops of Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Kathleen Sibelius, etc, etc, would quickly follow suit, what a wonderful world this would be.

Friday, November 20, 2009

American Thinker Blog: San Francisco booksellers would rather lose money than go 'Rogue'

LOL. What hypocrites. Add Sarah Palin's book to the list of "Banned Books." Might be too late, however, as it sold out of its first printing and had sales of 300,000 its first day.

Despite San Francisco Bay Area bookseller claims that Sarah Palin's new book "Going Rogue" is "not for thinking people", the Amazon numbers say otherwise.

On a mission to show that Palin's book is selling much worse than, say, the idea of reading Osama Bin Laden his Miranda rights, the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed several local booksellers to find out how well sales of "Going Rogue" were not going:

"Our customers are thinking people," said Nathan Embretson, a bookseller at Pendragon Books in Oakland. "They're not into reading drivel."

"Anything like that we wouldn't carry," said clerk Emily Stackhouse at Cover to Cover Books in San Francisco. "We're a small store and it would probably gross us all out. Some things you carry because of freedom of speech, but a book like that is just gross."

Just gross? Have you ever seen some of the inane, hateful and downright disgusting titles they typically carry at independent bookstores? I always feel I need to take a shower after I wander into one of those places. It is also highly ironic that the website of the bookstore where Ms. Stackhouse works, Cover To Cover Booksellers, is currently highlighting this quote by writer Max Lerner "The crime of book purging is that it involves a rejection of the word. For the word is never absolute truth, but only man's frail and human effort to approach the truth. To reject the word is to reject the human search."
Besides, “thinking people” prefer making their own decision to read, or not read, the book. Real “thinking people” would be perfectly capable of reading the book for themselves and forming an opinion of it, not having it decided for them by wanna-be cultural elites.

I'm confident these highly knowledgable and open-minded booksellers read Palin's book before making such an impartial decision to not carry such an obviously popular and arguably politically relevant book.

"Apparently the job of a "bookseller" in and around San Francisco is not so much to sell product, but rather to give comfort to like-minded ...individuals and convert the remaining unwashed masses to lockstep ideology."
The entire blog can be viewed here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Modesty: Leave Something to the Imagination, Girls

Doris Roberts to Young Women: Provocative Dressing Leads to Trouble, Invites Violence Against Women
The "Everybody Loves Raymond" star has a message she wants to give to young women

Nicole Kidman recently hit headlines when she came out with her opinion that Hollywood probably contributes to violence by portraying women as sex objects, and “Everybody Loves Raymond” star Doris Roberts couldn't agree more. According to Doris, ladies need to leave a little more to the imagination.

“You've got to start with the dolls that are out. We are more than breasts and rear ends, and if you're a child and that's what we're trying to emanate you think that's all we are,” Roberts told Tarts at the recent “Peace Over Violence” event in Los Angeles which was aimed at building support for female victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

Roberts even went on to say that young girls who flash a little too much flesh are perhaps sending an open invitation to danger.

“I'm not a prude. I really am not. But if you're going to dress provocatively, you're going to get into trouble,” she added. “Kids, right now, 12 year olds, 11 year olds, they're dressing and trying to emanate what they see on television or in movies. When you do that, you're judged, and even if you're not selling that, it appears like you are. That is not very good.”

Meanwhile fellow film starlet Rene Russo believes there are many more outlets to blame asides from Tinseltown for the abuse so many women suffer.

“I don't know if I would go as far to say that it's just Hollywood, it's advertising, it's everywhere, it's everything. It's sort of in the fabric, unfortunately, of our society,” Russo said. “I think about it a lot and I'm not really sure what the answers are. Little by little we all need to try to make a difference and get out and support organizations like this because it is a problem. I don't think it's just Hollywood.” (Source)

Surprising talk, especially coming out of Hollywood. Ms. Russo is right on: the influences and forces converging on the innocence of girls in our day are simply oppressive: everything from advertisements, movies, television, pop novels and manga, music -- even the schools and the ever-present peer pressure. Now you have everything from toddler glamour shows to little girls with "Pink" flashed across their rears. Which of course means parents are complicit in this over-sexualization of their little girls, when they should instead be perserving their innocence as long as possible. Are we talking about going Amish or wearing burkas? Of course not, and that quick and cheap comment that always comes up in discussions of this sort is the knee-jerk refuge of the unthinking and those with a guilty conscience.

Let's raise our girls to be wise and to make good choices, certainly, but what's the hurry to expose them to the coarseness of our fallen culture?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mayhem spreads throughout Chicago overnight after meetings to end violence

You can't make this stuff up, folks:

After community activists pleaded Saturday for a day without killing, violence erupted throughout the city after the stroke of midnight on Sunday, leaving at least two people dead and several injured.

At about 12:06 a.m., Frederick Evans, 20, of the 6800 block of South Ada Street was found shot to death in an alley in the 500 block of West 58th Street. He was shot in his back and chest.

Witnesses told police Evans was involved in a dice game shortly before midnight, according to Chicago Police News Affairs Officer JoAnn Taylor. Evans was seen being chased by a unknown person who opened fire, Taylor said. He ran to an alley to take cover before collapsing.

A handgun was recovered from the scene, Taylor said.

Minutes later, a 32-year-old man was shot at about 12:13 a.m. on Chicago's West Side in the Lawndale neighborhood. Police said he was shot after he watched a fight in the 3900 block of West Ogden Avenue. He suffered wounds to his leg and thigh, police said.

At about 2 a.m., Howard Hodges, of Park Forest, was shot and struck by a car near a lounge in the Chatham neighborhood. Hodges, 34, was pronounced dead on the scene.

Another man also was shot in front of the lounge located in the 8300 block of South Vincennes Avenue, but he was taken to St. Bernard Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police said he suffered a wound to his shoulder.

Later, two other people were stabbed in the Englewood neighborhood at about 3:15 a.m. in the 6600 block of South Carpenter Street, and three people were shot in the Brighton Park neighborhood at about 5 a.m. near 47th Street and Homan Avenue, police said.

Several community activists and teens met throughout the city Saturday to discuss ways to end the violence in Chicago neighborhoods.

Wait a minute--I thought President Obama community activist-ed the heck out of this place before he moved into the White House? And isn't this the place where an honor student was recently beaten to death with railroad ties by a gang of young thugs while others cheered them on? Oh yeah, here's the story right here. Maybe it's the 11% unemployment in Chicago (compared to 6.9% last year). Maybe it's the city ban on handguns. How's that Change workin' for ya?

No slam on the doubtless many decent and law-abiding people who live there, but I can't imagine why, despite Mr. Obama's best efforts, this town FAIL!ed to get the bid for the Olympics.
hmmm...Somehow, some way, this must be George Bush's fault.

7th Annual West Coast Biblical Conference, January 22-24

The folks over at St. Joseph's Communications and The St. Paul Paul Center for Biblical Theology are again offering their premier Bible conference for those who are interested in gaining in their knowledge and love of God's Word. The three speakers are top-notch, and these events are always fun and spiritually fruitful, with lots of great Bible study material available for your buying pleasure.

This years conference is focused on the Gospel of John. Concurrently, The St. Paul Center is offering a free online mp3 on that Gospel. Check it out here (on the right hand side of the page).

The basics:
7th Annual West Coast Biblical Conference
John ~ The Sacramental Gospel
Riverside Convention Center - Riverside, CA
January 22-24, 2010
Speakers:Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Brant Pitre and Prof. Michael Barber

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"We Will Never Remove Our Crosses!"

As Europe as a whole continues to descend into a post-Christian, secular morass, two countries --first Italy and now Poland --are at least trying to kick against the goad:

WARSAW, Poland — Heavily Catholic Poland has joined the Vatican in criticizing a European court ruling against the display of crucifixes in Italian schools.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski said his country will never agree to remove crosses from its schools.

The Nov. 3 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights does not require that Poland remove the crosses that hang in most public schools. It could, however, eventually force a review of the use of religious symbols in government-run school across Europe.

The decision touched a nerve in Poland, where religious symbols were banned from public buildings under communist rule but embraced with the return to democracy 20 years ago as an expression of national sovereignty.

During Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday in Warsaw, Kaczynski said that "nobody in Poland will accept the message that you can't hang crosses in schools."

"One shouldn't count on that. Perhaps elsewhere, but never in Poland," said Kaczynski.

Lech Walesa, the pro-democracy dissident and former president — himself a believer who often wears a pin of St. Mary on his lapel — also defended his country's right to display a symbol central to the nation's Christian heritage.

I love Walesa's line here, a common sense blow to political correctness gone amok:

"Minorities must know their place," Walesa said on Thursday during an interview with a TVN24 television station. "We must respect minorities but also protect the rights of the majority."
November 16 UPDATE on this story can be found here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Report Details Harassment and Anti-religious Bigotry Since Prop. 8

Sacramento, Calif., Nov 3, 2009 (CNA).- A think tank has compiled and analyzed reports of the harassment, intimidation, and “gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry” shown in reaction to the successful passage of Proposition 8. If partisans of marriage redefinition continue to increase in power, the analysis warns, those who seek the preservation of marriage as a union of man and wife may risk paying a price legally, socially and economically. The Heritage Foundation’s Oct. 22 report “The Price of Prop 8,” authored by researcher Thomas M. Messner, said that many individuals and institutions who defend the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman have paid a “heavy price.”

Militant opponents of Prop. 8 targeted supporters with a range of hostility, including “harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry,” the report stated.

Vandalism included a brick thrown through the window of an elderly couple who put a “Yes on 8” sign in their lawn. Another senior citizen with a pro-Prop. 8 bumper sticker had her car’s rear window smashed.

A statue of the Virgin Mary outside one church was vandalized with orange paint. Swastikas and other graffiti were scrawled on the walls of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco. At Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Riverside, signs were twisted into the shape of a swastika.

A heavy object wrapped with a “Yes on 8” sign was used to smash the window of a pastor’s office at Messiah Lutheran Church in Downey.

Sign theft targeting Prop. 8 supporters was significant, with one source estimating about one-third of the 25,000 signs distributed were stolen or vandalized before the end of the campaign.
Phone calls, e-mails and mailings also targeted supporters of Prop. 8. The messages made accusation of bigotry and used vulgar language. One e-mail threatened to contact the parents of students at a school where a particular Prop. 8 supporter worked.

One individual supporter was the subject of a flier distributed in his town. The flier included his photo and name and the amount of his donation to the pro-Prop. 8 campaign. It labeled him as a “bigot” and reported his association with a particular Catholic church.

Increased support for Prop. 8 among African Americans and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as Mormons, also resulted in their communities being targeted.

Racial epithets were used at anti-Prop. 8 protests, while Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign, targeted the Mormons.

On the Dr. Phil show, responding to a Mormon questioner, he replied: “We are going to go after your church every day for the next two years unless and until Prop 8 is overturned.”

An anti-Prop. 8 advertisement depicted two Mormon missionaries invading the home of a lesbian couple, ransacking their belongings and tearing up their marriage license.

“Anti-Mormon malice reached a new level when someone mailed packages containing suspicious white powder to Mormon temples in California and Utah,” Messner said.

Jose Nunez, a new U.S. citizen, was waiting to distribute signs outside his Catholic church when a man grabbed several signs and fled. He pursued the thief, who reportedly yelled “What do you have against gays?” and punched him in the face.

Nunez suffered a bloody eye and wounds to his face and required 16 stitches under his eye.

Employees of businesses were targeted by some protesters. Some employees resigned, while others took leaves of absence. Some business owners lost business because they had donated to support Prop. 8.

While deeming boycotts a “time-honored form of activism,” the Heritage Foundation’s report commented: “No individual should be compelled to choose between making a living and participating in democratic processes affecting fundamental matters of public concern, such as marriage.”

California law requiring the disclosure of personal information of individuals who donate $100 or more to a ballot measure campaign have made such displays of hostility easier, the report said.
Several websites were designed to use the information to identify and target Prop. 8 supporters.

While acknowledging that many Prop. 8 opponents have rejected such abuses, Messner argues that the ideology underlying the outrage is a cause of hostility.

“Arguments for same-sex marriage, although often couched in terms of tolerance and inclusion, are based fundamentally on the idea that limiting marriage to the union of husband and wife is a form of bigotry, irrational prejudice, and even hatred against homosexual persons who want the state to license their relationships. As this ideology seeps into the culture, belief in marriage as the union of husband and wife will likely come to be viewed as an unacceptable form of discrimination that should be purged from society through legal, cultural, and economic pressure.”

“Individuals or institutions that publicly defend marriage as the union of husband and wife risk harassment, reprisal, and intimidation—at least some of it targeted and coordinated,” Messner continued.