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Happy Easter!

I want to wish a happy Easter to everyone!

I never thought I’d have so many followers and readers for this blog.  Thank you all so much and my God bless you during this joyous season!

Now one of my favorites form Catholic Memes:

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A Joy Like No Other and a Chance for Renewal

This year at the Easter Vigil I will have a completely new experience.  I will become a Godfather.  I’m sponsoring a catechumen who will enter into the Church.  I can’t explain the honor and joy that I feel in anticipation of this moment.

For the past year and a half I’ve watched a close friend make one of the most difficult decisions of her life: to become the lone Catholic in her family.  It is a decision that I can only hope that I would be strong enough to make.  It was just around a year and a half ago that we were sitting in a bar together and she told me that she was wanting to join a church and was interested in Catholicism.  We had a brief conversation, then another one.  Eventually I gave her a prayer book and a rosary, and told her to listen to Catholic Answers Live on the radio to see what she thought.  Over time I watched as she grew in her faith.  I remember when she first told me that a priest would be starting her private instruction, the conversations that we would have over theology, I watched her engage in Facebook battles with friends, but what struck me the most was the stories of how her family was struggling with acceptance of her new faith.

Her siblings and parents all reacted differently, and from her descriptions none were too positive.  I could tell that her conversion caused pain as she lost friends and continued to squabble with her siblings, but above it all there was joy.  Watching these events unfold got me wondering: would I have the strength to undergo all of these tribulations for a completely new found faith?

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I’ve already shared parts of my own journey to a deeper appreciation of the faith, but it is a completely different story.  I was already Catholic.  I had a base understanding of the faith.  I was brought up going to Catholic school, and attending mass faithfully every week.  So even if I had reached a place in my life where I didn’t completely appreciate the Catholic faith, at least I knew what the faith was and I knew the history of how people had fought and died for it.  She on the other hand had no background in the Catholic Church.  She was going through pain and loss for a faith that is completely new to her.  All throughout what should have been a painful experience she was bursting with joy.

I’ve decided to turn these events into a chance for my own spiritual renewal.  As she grew spiritually I saw her start reading books and discovering devotions that I had never considered.  It is because of her that I’ve taken to reading classics like Dark Night of the Soul or The Interior Castel.  It is because of her that I’ve started praying the psalms with the Liturgy of the Hours, It is because of her and her faith in the face of adversity that I am a better Catholic.  Her faith has renewed me.  It gave me a completely new perspective.  In attempting to look at the Church through her eyes I’ve begun to see the Church with a completely new lenses of joy.  Joy for the faith.  Joy in completing God’s will.  Joy.

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Lent is a time of spiritual renewal.  We don’t just give up things for the sake of penance; we do so to grow closer to God.  As Catholics we are very good at focusing on the cross.  We are very good at stating at the crucifix and thinking of the suffering Savior.  This lent I’ve had an amazing renewal because I’ve been reminded that there is more than just Good Friday.  The cross is important.  Without Christ’s death on the cross we would have no salvation, but it didn’t end on Good Friday.  Good Friday is pointless without the Easter that follows.  Sometimes I think we need this reminder.  I wish everyone was as lucky as I was this lent to experience Catholicism through a completely new lens.

Essential Catholic Library

My very best friend is a Lutheran. Specifically he is a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). For those not familiar, this is a fairly conservative denomination of Lutherans. They have a traditional worship service that would be recognizable to most Catholics; the denomination also has a male only ordination, clearly defined liturgical seasons, and closed communion. Of course there is a lot that Catholicism has that is lacked in the LCMS. This, however, is not what my post today is focusing on.

Instead I’d like to focus on a set of books that several of my Lutheran friends own. Its called “The Essential Lutheran Library”. The set is published by Concordia Publishing House, a LCMS publisher. The set of books is quite attractive. All of the books have the same leather binding and matching spines so they sit together on a shelf beautifully. For someone like me who has some OCD tendencies; I long for a similar Catholic version of the set.

The standard set contains nine books that are considered the foundational texts for any traditional Lutheran household. When looking at advertising materials for the set; it is billed as a collection of books that will give “the shape and definition of the Lutheran faith”. The set includes nine books: A study bible, service book, hymnal, Luther’s confessions and catechism, two additional scriptural studies, a prayer book, and a book of prayer similar to a breviary.

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This background brings me to my question. If a Catholic publisher were to publish an Essential Catholic Library containing nine books: What books would the set include. Like I said earlier I have OCD tendencies and there is nothing that I’d like better than a matching set of all of the masterpieces of the Catholic Faith.

I’ve come up with a list of books, but first I want to go through my process of choosing what books I’d include. The set would have to include a range of books that are considered essential to the formation and understanding of the Catholic faith for laypeople. With this being said I did not include several books that are considered masterpieces of faith, but are really aimed more toward seminarians and priests; this would include books like The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Summa Theologica, and Catena Aurea.

When compiling the list I decided to start by finding equivalent of the books in the Essential Lutheran Library set. It was then that I realized something: The Catholic faith has so much more to offer in writing that any Protestant denomination. There is no possible way to diffuse the Catholic faith into just nine books. I realized my list had to grow, but coming up with a reasonable number of books that could be made into a manageable set is still possible.

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Eventually I was able to come up with a list of 18 books that one could, with regular sacraments, could help any lay Catholic form a strong foundation of faith.

I’ve broken my list into categories: The first of which is of course scripture, then liturgy, prayer, devotion/meditation, and spiritual classics. The list is for Latin Rite (Roman) Catholics. Tell me what you think.

  1. Study Bible (An orthodox bible is mandatory for spiritual growth. Haydock’s Bible Commentary from 1859 using the Douay Rhimes Bible is a standard. I’d also consider the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible edited by Scott Hahn once it is completed.)
  2. The Roman Missal (A hand missal of The Roman Missal 3rd Ed. Good for study, meditation, and prayer. This is the missal used in the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite mass. I’m a fan of the one by Midwest Theological Forum.)
  3. Missale Romanum (Catholics of the Latin Rite should be familiar with both forms of the Latin Rite mass. Baronus Press makes the only re typeset version with an imprimatur, although the SSPX’s Angelus Press also makes an attractive edition.)
  4. Liturgy of the Hours (The official prayer of the Catholic Church. Prayerful reading of the Psalms is an ancient practice. For lay people I’d suggest one volume Christian Prayer as most lay people only pray the major hours while clergy pray all hours in the four volume edition.)
  5. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Need I say more?)
  6. Manual of Indulgences (A list of current indulgences with explanation and conditions published by the USCCB.)
  7. Prayer Book (As an owner of over 50 prayer books, favorite is Midwest Theological Forum’s Handbook of Prayers. If you frequent the Extraordinary Form of mass I’d suggest Blessed Be God as it contains older forms of prayers and an EF missal.)
  8. Imitation of Christ (By Thomas À Kempis, As we enter the devotional section of this list we should acknowledge what is possibly the greatest devotional of all. This book is second only to the Bible in terms of editions printed. I’d suggest an older translation opposed to a modernized one. Baronius Press makes a wonderful leather cover edition.)
  9. True Devotion to the B.V.M. (By Saint Louis-Marie De Montfort, The greatest work on Marian devotion. Can also be used to consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary. Again Baronius Press makes a beautiful leather edition.)
  10. Divine Intimacy (By Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., Hands down the best “daily devotional” published. The book follows the precollicular liturgical calendar. It is like having a spiritual director on your bookshelf. Fine editions are available from TAN and Baronius Press.)
  11. Lives of the Saints (By Alban Butler, A book that contains a short biography and meditation on saints of the liturgical calendar. Various editions are available on both the OF and EF calendars.)
  12. The Holy Mass (By Dom Prosper Guéranger, A very short volume that is possibly the greatest short treatment on the Latin Rite mass. Read it and you will find new appreciation in the construction and flow of the mass. You are probably seeing a pattern, but Baronius Press publishes a leather bound edition.)
  13. The Rule of St. Benedict (The basis of western monasticism. Not the first monastic rule, but the most influential. A lay person can not implement every law into thier lives, but you will be able to find loads of spiritual benefit in this volume. This volume is available by a number of publishers, but as you can tell I prefer leather bound editions.)
  14. Introduction to the Devout Life (By St. Francis de Sales, A wonderful volume written by the saint for laypeople. A list of ways that great saint suggests to improve your spiritual life. Sadly, no leather bound edition is currently available. Not even a hardback. Never the less TAN makes a nice paperback edition.)
  15. Spiritual Exercises (By St. Ignatius of Loyola, This book, written by the Jesuit founder, is the basis for the famed Jesuit 30 day Ignatian retreats and Jesuit spirituality. A paperback by TAN is my personal favorite.)
  16. Dark Night of the Soul (By St. John of the Cross, A volume that is hard to sum up in a sentence. John shows us how to derive a closeness to God though the pains of life. I’m defaulting to Baronius Press’ lether bound edition as my favorite edition.)
  17. The Way of Perfection (By St. Teresa of Avila, A 16th Century volume written by a superior to her sisters on how to develop a deep prayer life. Baronius Press’ edition uses both traditional language and comes leather bound.)
  18. The Story of a Soul (By Therese of Lisieux, From 1899 this volume is the autobiography of a Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church who gave her life to the service of others through charity and spirituality. Available leather bound by Baronius Press)

So… This is my list. My Essential Catholic Library. Of course with more than 2,000 years of theological and spiritual classics it is hard to make a one size fits all list for Catholics. If I were a Catholic publisher (or if any are out there listening) this is my dream list.

Just imagine how different the Church would be if every Catholic layman were to read and study the books above.

Now that I have given you my list, and likewise now that I am tired of writing; I must ask a question. What books are on your list? What would you add or delete?

 

*Please note that I am not affiliated with any publisher. I do have favorites and my suggestions on particular editions listed above only represent my personal tastes.

 

 

Let us pray for Francis, our Pope!!!!

Let us pray for Francis, our Pope.

May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the Earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.

(Say one Our Father and One Hail Mary)

Let us Pray: O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example he may edify those over whom he hath charged, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Habemus Papam!!

We have a Pope!!!!!!

Big Smoke

Lent So Far: When You Fall Pick Yourself Up

Like most Catholics I try to give up or do something for Lent.  When I was young it was always something like giving up candy.  Now I understand that what I’m supposed to do isn’t just give up something, but instead do something that will make me grow closer to God.

Now I;m not the best Catholic in the world, but I’m a lot better than I used to be.  A few years back I was faced with a decision to stay with a woman that I loved dearly and was sure to marry or to stay with my Catholic  faith.  Interestingly enough this decision fell during the season of Lent, so I decided to attend mass daily during the season.  The experience of receiving the Eucharist daily changed my life.  I quickly returned to the sacrament confession, started praying a little more regularly, and eventually decided to make the most difficult decision of my life and stay with the faith.

Over the past two Lenten seasons I’ve made resolutions that will help me grow closer to God, but I don’t always succeed.  This year I’m doing horribly.

A little background: Over the past year I’ve become a lot busier in my personal, professional, and volunteer life.  Sadly I’ve abandoned daily mass telling myself that “I’m too busy”, the next brick in my faith life to fall was the LOTH, then confession, and finally, as horrible as it sounds, I hadn’t even been taking time to pray daily.

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Sensing a need for a faith tune-up I’ve tried to reincorporate all of these elements into my faith life.  It hasn’t been easy.  I’m really doing quite poorly in all actuality.  Getting up for daily mass has been my biggest stumbling block.  I’ve been very streaky; going to mass for a week and them missing several days in a row.  Like my life over the past six months I find that when I miss mass I also fail to pray the breviary and often times pray a rosary.

So the question before me is: Since I’ve fallen so many should I write this Lent off as a failure?  No, Lent is a time of spiritual preparation for the holiest feast of the year.  If we fall we should pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off and try again.  Lent isn’t an all or nothing endeavor.  The goal of perpetration isn’t to be perfect right from the start as long as we’ve made progress towards sainthood along the way then we have done well.

If you are like me than you have failed in your Lenten promise.  So why don’t we help each other up, encourage each other, and try harder tomorrow.   Even though we’ve fallen we can still make it to the finish line with pride.

We Are On Facebook! Give us a ‘Like’!

Now that I’m getting into the swing of posting again I thought I’d start a Facebook page for the blog.

Check it out and give us a like.

http://www.facebook.com/ALayCatholic

My 40 Days For Life Experience

I had the day off work today and I could  think of no better way to spend it than by going to noon mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis then heading over to join my fellow St. Francis de Sales Oratory members at Planned Parenthood to protest and pray during the ongoing 40 Days for Life campaign.   I was happy to see that the group consisted of more than just the three oratory members that had signed up to be on site between 2:00 and 3:00, but we were also joined by four seminarians from St. Louis’ Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and a group from a local university.

I didn’t take pictures because I’ve been told that the Planned Parenthood people complain if one takes too many photos of their facility.  I also thought it common courtesy to not take pictures near the clinic where people’s cars may be recognized.

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My time at the clinic was spent praying the rosary while holding a 5 -foot sign at a busy intersection in front of the clinic.   This is not the first time that I spent time praying in front of St. Louis’ only Planned Parenthood abortion clinic (there are other PP sites, but this is the only one with in-clinic abortion services), but it was the first time I’ve been there on a weekday when young women were actually showing up for procedures.  I was ready to spend my hours praying a rosary or two, chat with my fellow parishioners, and receive honks of appreciation and distant from passing motorists; afterwords I’d return home and continue my day.  This was not the case.

I was not prepared for the way that  I was effected by seeing women leaving the clinic.  From my vantage point at the intersection there were several instances where a young woman leaving the clinic, often with parents driving, would get stopped directly in front of my by the red traffic signal.  Occasionally one would look up to me as I held the stand up sign while visibly praying my rosary.   I was not mentally prepared for the range of emotions that I observed.

Some of the women had a true look of sorrow on their faces, visibly sad or even shaken.  Others were nonchalant; they were fiddling with their cell phone or singing along with a song on the radio.  I’m not sure which reaction effected me more.  Even now, five hours after the experience I’m still pondering my experience.

I can’t say for sure if we changed anyone’s mind today, but what I can say is that I was touched in a way that I wasn’t expecting.

I’ll close with a quote from Bl. Teresa of Calcutta:

“America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts — a child — as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters” (From the Wall Street Journal February 25, 1994)

Help Save Aquinas and More Catholic Goods

If you purchase a lot of Catholic books over the internet like I do than you’ve probably visited Aquinas and More.  I’ve visited the site often over the years to purchase bible, books, and even a medal or two.  They also sell church supplies, rosaries, statues, and other Catholic media.

Aquinas and More is know for selling products and books that fully conform with Catholic teachings.  If a customer is in doubt; the website posts their Good Faith Guarantee and Imprimatur information on many product pages.

Unfortunately Aquinas and More is in trouble and had planned to close.  When this was announced it generated enough buzz that the owner decided to appeal to his loyal customers for donations to keep this online store alive.

They have started a Gofundme account to help raise money for their Aquinas Angles fundraiser.  If you can please donate HERE.

To date Aquinas and More has raised $27,997.

In these tough times that the Church is facing it is important to have a place for Catholics to go and be sure that they are purchasing reliable Catholic media.  I always try to support Catholic stores over sites like Amazon.com for just that reason.  Catholic media sellers are also a source for many smaller market materials that just aren’t available from secular sites.  If you can’t afford to give a donation than give the site a visit and purchase a book to show support.  Aquinas and More is too important of a resource to let fail.

*I am in no way affiliated or am receiving compensation from Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Meanderings on the Year of Faith

In the Catholic Church from October 2012 until December 2013 we celebrate the Year of Faith.  I believe that in declaring the Year of Faith that Benedict XVI has found the perfect way to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

For years I’ve been wondering how to celebrate an event that is so loved and so despised by various groups within the Church.  In one corner you have those who believe that the council either should have gone farther in its sweeping reforms.  In the other you have those who believe that the council was at best a failure, and at worst heretical (does the name Archbishop Lefebvrev ring any bells?).  In between these two camps you have misinformation and millions of confused Catholics who aren’t sure what to believe.

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Enter the Year of Faith.  The Holy Father has now given us not only what I believe is a great opportunity, but a direct challenge to seek the truth of the last ecumenical council.  In this year we are encouraged to transform our faith by finding for ourselves what the council said.   This is our opportunity to find out for ourselves.

… but how are we to find this information?  There is so much noise out there about what happened when the bishops of the world converged on Rome fifty years ago.  A quick Google search of “Vatican II” gives one thousands of results.  You can find anything from appeals for women clergy “in the spirit of Vatican II” to sedevacantists who claim that the council was hijacked by Freemasons  or the KGB, or maybe both in cahoots Martians who all wanted to destroy the Church.

For those of you that are confused I have a suggestion.  Stop reading this blog (after you’ve finished this post of course), and start reading the source materials.  Are the documents heavy?  Yes.  Might you need a dictionary to look up the occasional word?  Yes.    But what in this world that is worth having is easy?  Did God say that following him would be easy?  [Luke 14: 25-27]

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This is what the Holy Father is calling us to:  To celebrate the council by reading its documents, reading the bible, and reading what is the crowning achievement of 20th century theology, The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Imagine that.  Exploring the truth of our faith by getting down to basics.  Isn’t it a simple concept?  Remember as we grow in faith we grow in grace.

I’ve made some personal reading goals for this Year of Faith.  First I’d like to get through the Catechism of the Catholic Church along with it’s simpler companion document, the Compendium.  Next I’d like to finish off the amazing Ignatius Catholic Study Bible.  I’ve been working on the study bible off and on since Lent.  If I keep to my reading schedule I’ll be finished with both by the end of February.  Once I’ve refreshed myself with these cornerstones of the faith I want to move on to the council documents.  Image Books recently released a volume titled Vatican II The Essential Texts.  This volume contains six of the sixteen concillar and post-concillar documents.  Is this an easy reading list?  No.  Will it be a lot of work?  Yes.  In learning about the faith will you find uncomfortable truths?  Yes.   Will you be a stronger person for it?  Yes.

Like the good doctor Bob Kelso said “Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy”.