Friday, June 22, 2007

Religion & Entertainment: My Review of Champions of Faith

I had first heard the story of Jeff Weaver and Mike Sweeney's baseball brawl from Fr. Francis Mary Stone, a Franciscan Missionary of the Eternal Word, and the host of "Life on the Rock" on EWTN. Fr. Stone brought the incident up during a talk he gave at a day of prayer for men at the Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark, NJ, home of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Fr. Stone used the story in the context of accountability for our actions; Sweeney called Weaver a few years after the brawl and they made peace with each other.

I heard it this time from the mouth of Mike Sweeney himself on the DVD Champions of Faith, produced by Catholic Exchange. This 65 minute DVD focuses on a handful of Major League baseball players and coaches; more specifically, it focuses on their Catholic faith in Jesus Christ which has helped them in their hardest times and given them the strength to excel in their passion, baseball. Sweeney's story is only one of the heart-warming (and sometimes tear-inducing) testimonies to Christ in Champions of Faith. Another truly touching account recalls God’s power to work across time and space to give a terminally-ill young woman words that would strengthen the faith of her family after her death.

In addition to the in-depth personal accounts of players and coaches, the DVD also covers aspects of the faith, such as the Eucharist – the Real Presence of Jesus Christ – attending Mass, and the importance of prayer. On the topic of the Real Presence, Mike Sweeney says, "a lot of people say, 'well, how can you believe that?' and I'm gonna say, 'well, why can't you believe that?'" Numerous players mentioned the temptation to skip Mass with their busy schedules, but that making that sacrifice to wake up an hour earlier or drive a little further is always worth it. They all recognize the worth of prayer and its role in their lives.

The DVD is inspiring for youth and adults. It encourages the younger generation because they can see their baseball heroes professing the same faith they themselves are growing in. It encourages adults because they can see busy professional baseball players finding the time and the courage to live out their faith in their public lives. All in all, I give the DVD 4 out of 4 stars, based on its content, its effectiveness, and its truth to the gospel of Jesus Christ upheld and proclaimed over the centuries by the Catholic Church.

See also the Italian Catholic's review of Champions of Faith.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Personal: The Wedding is even Closereth

Only three days left! I'm not anxious or nervous, just ready. :)

I don't expect to be online at all during the honeymoon (duh) so this is going to be the penultimate post of mine before the wedding. The last post until I get back will be a review of Champions of Faith, the DVD about Catholic professional baseball players.

Thanks for your prayers and comments. God, in His providence, supplied New Jersey with plenty of rain last night and today so that we won't need rain on Saturday. He also deemed it appropriate to give me a head cold Monday night, which will certainly have run its course by Friday, leaving me healthy and fresh for the wedding and the honeymoon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Personal: The Wedding Approacheth

In only 10 short days (well, long days, since it's almost Summer), Kristin and I will finally be married. It's been 7.5 years in the making... in fact, tomorrow is our 7th year and 6th month anniversary since our first date. Do the math, we started dating on January 14th, 2000. It made Valentine's Day our first month anniversary, so I'll never forget the day.

We're getting married in the parish I grew up in, having the reception at the banquet hall all my married siblings used, and then bookin' it to Hawaii the next day.

Tonight we have a dance lesson, so she can learn the Waltz and I can brush up on it. Maybe we'll have another lesson on Friday. Saturday is her bachelorette party, which as far as she can tell, is going to include a scavenger hunt and a trip to NYC for some clubbing. Monday night is my bachelor party, which is pretty much set in stone: dinner at a restaurant I suggested, and then a couple rounds of beers at a bar I suggested.

Monday night I'll need to show my Best Man where he can live for the week. Then the Thursday of that week is my first Parish Pastoral Council meeting. I'm picking up the tuxes before that, and going up to my hometown afterwards.

Sigh. And somewhere in there I need to re-do the wedding programs and print them out.

Prayers wanted. Inquire within.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Convert: Marcus Grodi (1994)

Wow, read Marcus Grodi's conversion story at the Coming Home Network. A Presbyterian most of his life, he was confronted with some serious questions and deficiencies of the Protestant theology he'd grown up adhering to. I think the best part of his story is just about half-way through, when he tells about his decision to leave the Presbyterian church in search of the right one:
Marilyn and I knew we had to leave the denomination, but where would we go? This question led to another: Where am I going to find a job as a minister? I purchased a book that listed the details of all major Christian denominations and began evaluating several of the denominations that interested me.

I’d read the doctrinal summaries and think, “This one is nice, but I don’t like their view on baptism,” or “This one is okay, but their view of the end times is a bit too panic-ridden,” or “This one sounds exactly like what I’m looking for, but I’m uncomfortable with their style of worship.” After examining every possibility and not finding one that I liked, I shut the book in frustration. I knew I was leaving Presbyterianism but I had no idea which was the “right” denomination was to go into. There seemed to be something wrong with each of them. “Too bad I can’t customize my ‘perfect’ church,” I thought to myself wistfully.

Around this time a friend from Illinois called me on the phone. He, too, was a Presbyterian pastor and had heard through the grapevine that I was planning to leave the Presbyterian denomination.

“Marc, you can’t leave the church!” he scolded. “You must never leave the church. You’re committed to the church. It shouldn’t matter that some theologians and pastors are off the wall. We’ve got to stick with the church, and work for renewal from within! We must preserve unity at all costs!”

“If that’s true,” I replied testily, “why did we Protestants break away from the church in the first place?”

I don’t know where those words came from. I had never in my life given even a passing thought as to whether or not the Reformers were right to break away from the Catholic Church. It was the essential nature of Protestantism to attempt to bring renewal through division and fragmentation. The motto of the Presbyterian Church is “reformed, and always reforming.” (It should add: “and reforming, and reforming, and reforming, and reforming, etc.”)

Another great section is when he's attending a talk by Scott Hahn (the same Scott Hahn he'd known from Gordon-Cornwall Theological Seminary in the 80's, the staunch anti-Catholic Calvinist). He writes about his discomfort at entering the church where Scott was presenting:
I was nervous as I pulled into the parking lot of the huge gothic structure. I had never been inside a Catholic Church, and I didn’t know what to expect.

I entered the church quickly, skirting the holy water fonts, and scuttled down the aisle, unsure of the correct protocol for getting into the pew. I knew Catholics bowed, or curtsied, or did some sort of jig-like obeisance toward the altar before entering the pew, but I just slipped in and scrunched down, happy not to have been recognized as a Protestant.

Such honesty and humor. It's a great read, really.

Politics: Pope Leo XIII intercedes during Republican debate

First, watch this clip from the Republican debate in which Rudy Giuliani was asked "how does that make you feel?" (such a hard-hitting political question, I might add) regarding a Catholic Bishop equating Giuliani's laissez-faire attitude towards abortion with Pontius Pilate's allowing Jesus Christ to be crucified. (I love the still image from the video here: it looks like Rudy's declaring some truths to be self-evident or something.)
Yes, that was lightning strikes causing the microphone system to cut out occasionally. Giuliani cracked jokes about it, but since the question he was asked was one about how he felt (subjective) and not morality and right-and-wrong (objective), everyone had a laugh and moved on.

I'm reading an encyclical from Pope Leo XIII, Mirae caritatis ("Wondrous love", On the Holy Eucharist), from 1902. Paragraph 17 is rather timely, given the number of politicians (Republican, Democrat, or otherwise) who prefer to give their moral consciences the back seat in matters of public policy:
Most abundant, assuredly, are the salutary benefits which are stored up in this most venerable mystery, regarded as a Sacrifice; a Sacrifice which the Church is accordingly wont to offer daily "for the salvation of the whole world." And it is fitting, indeed in this age it is specially important, that by means of the united efforts of the devout, the outward honour and the inward reverence paid to this Sacrifice should be alike increased. Accordingly it is our wish that its manifold excellence may be both more widely known and more attentively considered. There are certain general principles the truth of which can be plainly perceived by the light of reason; for instance, that the dominion of God our Creator and Preserver over all men, whether in their private or in their public life, is supreme and absolute; that our whole being and all that we possess, whether individually or as members of society, comes from the divine bounty; that we on our part are bound to show to God, as our Lord, the highest reverence, and, as He is our greatest benefactor, the deepest gratitude.

But how many are there who at the present day acknowledge and discharge these duties with full and exact observance? In no age has the spirit of contumacy and an attitude of defiance towards God been more prevalent than in our own; an age in which that unholy cry of the enemies of Christ: "We will not have this man to rule over us" (Luke 19:14), makes itself more and more loudly heard, together with the utterance of that wicked purpose: "let us make away with Him" (Luke 20:14); nor is there any motive by which many are hurried on with more passionate fury, than the desire utterly to banish God not only from the civil government, but from every form of human society. And although men do not everywhere proceed to this extremity of criminal madness, it is a lamentable thing that so many are sunk in oblivion of the divine Majesty and of His favours, and in particular of the salvation wrought for us by Christ. Now a remedy must be found for this wickedness on the one hand, and this sloth on the other, in a general increase among the faithful of fervent devotion towards the Eucharistic Sacrifice, than which nothing can give greater honour, nothing be more pleasing, to God. For it is a divine Victim which is here immolated; and accordingly through this Victim we offer to the most blessed Trinity all that honour which the infinite dignity of the Godhead demands; infinite in value and infinitely acceptable is the gift which we present to the Father in His only-begotten son; so that for His benefits to us we not only signify our gratitude, but actually make an adequate return.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Apostolic C: Drive

Sometime in the not-too-distant future (I'm getting married in less than three weeks, remember!) I will be moving the magisterial document content from this blog to a new blog created specifically for that content, which I've called The Apostolic C: Drive.

I'll wait for the applause to die down.

Vatican and USCCB and ITC (and other) documents will be available from The Apostolic C: Drive as blog posts as well as MS Word documents suitable for booklet-style printing. People can offer commentary on or ask questions about the documents. I might eventually open the door for entire posts about documents (rather than restricting user input to just the comment boxes).

Anyway, that's all for now. I've got a massive new set of documents on my reading list. I'll need something to do on the plane trip to Hawaii to keep myself from causing a scene with Kristin.

(As she pointed out, we're getting married on Saturday... and then getting cooped up on a plane for 8 or so hours on Sunday. You do the math.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

News: Dr. Beckwith speaks to NCR on his return to Rome

From National Catholic Register, May 29, 2007:
Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I believe that the Church’s weakness was presenting the renewal movements as something new and not part of the Church’s theological traditions.

For someone like me, who was interested in both the spiritual and intellectual grounding of the Christian faith, I didn’t need the “folk Mass” with cute nuns and hip priests playing “Kumbaya” with guitars, tambourines and harmonicas. And it was all badly done.

After all, we listened to the Byrds, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and we knew the Church just couldn’t compete with them.

But that’s what the Church offered to the young people of my day: lousy pop music and a gutted Mass. If they were trying to make Catholicism unattractive to young and inquisitive Catholics, they were succeeding.

What I needed, and what many of us desired, were intelligent and winsome ambassadors for Christ who knew the intellectual basis for the Catholic faith, respected and understood the solemnity and theological truths behind the liturgy, and could explain the renewal movements in light of these.

Friday, June 01, 2007

CRC #5: June's Articles

I'd like to thank all those who wrote posts for the fifth installment of the Christian Reconciliation Carnival. In an effort to increase our readership and authorship, I ask each person reading or writing to invite at least one friend to write for or read future installments of the Carnival. (I could get ambitious and request two friends each. The population of the Earth is around 6 billion, so if one person tells two people, and those two people tell four people, and those four people tell eight people, then somewhere between the 31st and 32nd set of people, the whole world would know about this Carnival!)

If math is not your preference, then perhaps Pseudo-Polymath is more up your alley. Mark, an Eastern Orthodox (OCA), writes on this Carnival's topic in sharing with us his Ecumenical Reading Lists. The topic, if you remember, was on how your understanding of the divisions in Christianity has changed after you read books or articles by Christians of another denomination and found yourself agreeing with much of the author's content. Mark asks "how could one restrict one's reading to just that produced inside one's denomination?" and goes on to share his own experiences with literature that answered some questions (and asked more).

Mark also tells us What He'd Pay To See. He describes an intelligent, calm, and Socratic approach to debating. Hat-tip to Anne who asks, "Anybody interested in picking a topic and giving it a try?"

Tim, the God-Fearin' Fiddler, addresses the topic as well, in his post Jesus and the Victory of God. Tim, a Roman Catholic, talks about the book of the same name by the Anglican scholar N. T. Wright (also the Bishop of Durham). A friend of Tim's, an elder at a nearby Presbyterian Church of America, had recommended Wright for Tim's reading list. In writing about Wright's quest to find both a historical and Scriptural Jesus, Tim says "it is refreshing to see such a well studied and respected scholar put all of these secular fantasies firmly to rest".

Bonnie, from the group-effort blog Intellectuelle, shares a post she wrote on an early May event that attracted a great deal of attention in the Christian blogging circuit. In Francis Beckwith has returned..., she writes (from a Protestant perspective) on the reaction to Dr. Francis Beckwith's return to the Catholic Church after several decades away from it; his return ended his presidency of the Evangelical Theological Society, and sparked some hot debates. Bonnie asks, among other things, "why must someone be Protestant to be considered an Evangelical?"

At her blog, Proto-Catholic where she chronicles her ongoing journey to Catholicism, Gretchen writes on this month's topic about her experiences with Catholic literature from her Protestant perspective. In The Lost Presence, she muses on her own prodigality in relationship to the Lord's Supper. She also copied one of C. S. Lewis's poems from Spirits in Bondage entitled In Praise of Solid People. I've abducted it for the Carnival.

Darrel (Dr. Platypus) also writes on this month's topic in his post on Morton Kelsey's Ecumenical Appeal. Darrel, who describes himself as "mostly Baptist", explains how Kelsey's book Healing and Christianity "expanded my horizons by allowing me to find common ground with whole swaths of Christian tradition", "helped me to articulate my own beliefs about divine healing", and "challenged my assumptions about what a 'Christian worldview' might look like".

Anne, the Weekend Fisher, also addresses this month's topic, in which she introduces us to The Wider Church on My Bookshelf. Having read her blog, Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength, for some time now (probably a year at least), I can attest to her love of J. R. R. Tolkien, especially his masterpiece The Lord of the Rings. In her post for the Carnival, she talks about how her first Lutheran pastor introduced her to the works of Thomas Merton and encouraged her to read C. S. Lewis. This pastor "had a vision of the Church that transcended divisions". She also relates to how her own transition within the Lutheran church -- from a more liberal church to a more conversative one -- affected her perception of the differences that exist between us: "I discovered that each side misunderstood the other badly, misrepresented the other badly, and resisted the idea that it was behaving unjustly and uncharitably toward the other."

Guess on which topic I, Jeff, your host for this month, wrote? Yes, the topic of the month. Here on The Cross Reference, you'll find a post about C. S. Lewis and Ecumenism. I lay bare (some of) the ignorance I had in my youthful Catholicism of the entirety of the Christian body: "I knew that Lewis was not a Catholic [...] that meant he was 'a Protestant', which in turn meant he was 'a Baptist or something'." My post is primarily about the effect mere christianity had on me; I praise it as "an ecumenical work [...] with which so many Christians can identify [and] a foundation on which to build more serious, more intelligent, and more charitable dialogue" for Christian reconciliation.

In addition to the proferred posts above, there are also some "drifters", posts that our readership (ok... Anne) has come across this past month that may pique our interest. In no particular order, here they are:

My Flesh Is True Food, in which an "Augsburg evangelical" presents his view of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist.

Encounters with Tradition, a new series by Ben Myers, at Faith and Theology.

In How to Begin to Live as a Saint, Mark Roberts discusses the God-centered holiness, faithfulness, and love to which all Christians are called.

Two articles related to Scot McKnight. At his blog, Jesus Creed, he reviews Pope Benedict XVI's book Jesus of Nazareth. Meanwhile, the Internet Monk interviews Scot on Evangelical Christians and Mary.

Proclaiming Softly has an article, Falwell and Fire, which comments on Jerry Falwell's passing and the strong reactions it drew.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost discusses the strict teetotalism of the Southern Baptist Convention in his article What Would Jesus Drink?: Alcohol, Ethics, and Christian Liberty.

Lastly, with a hat-tip to Hyperekperissou's Patristics Roundup, we find an article from The Way of the Fathers titled Hindu Traditions of St. Thomas, which comments on lesser-known evidence of St. Thomas the Apostle's missionary journey to India.

If you leave a comment on the "guest articles", please let them know you found their blogs through the Christian Reconciliation Carnival, and offer them an invitation to become regular (or at least witting!) contributors.

Finally, if you are interested in hosting next month's Carnival (and I know you are), please contact Anne from Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength (or me, but I'll probably just forward it to Anne). That email address is: That's also the article-submission email address.