Friday, February 12, 2016

Music For Lent: Miserere Mei by Antonio Lotti

"King David Does Repentance" by Albrecht Durer
   As we begin the penitential Season of Lent, it seems a good time to look at some the numerous musical settings for Psalm 51, which is traditionally held to have been written by King David as an expression of repentance after he engineered the death of Uriah the Hittite in order to steal his wife, Bathsheba.  
     The most famous musical treatment of this psalm was composed by Gregorio Allegri in the 1630's, various performances of which I have posted over the last few years (most recently here). Last year I also posted lesser-known (but still powerfully beautiful and moving) renditions by Pergolesi and Josquin des Prez.  I'm continuing that tradition this Lent by posting Antonio Lotti's Miserere below, and Jan Dismas Zelenka's setting of the 51st Psalm on the blog Nisi Dominus.
     Lotti Lived from 1667-1740.  He spent his entire musical career (except for a brief period in Dresden from 1717-1719) at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice as a singer, organist and, eventually, maestro di cappella. may not be well-known today (at least to those of us who, like me, are not experts), but he was an important and influential composer and teacher in his day. His Wikipedia entry tells us that

     Lotti is thought to have influenced Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Johann Dismas Zelenka, all of whom had copies of Lotti's mass, the Missa Sapientiae.
     Lotti was a notable teacher, with Domenico AlbertiBenedetto MarcelloGiovanni Battista PescettiBaldassare GaluppiGiuseppe Saratelli and Johann Dismas Zelenka among his pupils.

In the clip below the piece is performed by the UCLA Early Music Ensemble, conducted by Alexandra Grabarchuk.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What Adam Ate Brought Death, The Food Christ Offers Brings Eternal Life

(An earlier version of this Throwback Post was published on 20 February 2015)

Sin Is Our Free Choice

     My family and I attended a beautiful Extraordinary Form Mass on Ash Wednesday.  The holy priest in charge of the Latin Mass Chaplaincy here in Maine (which is to say, the priest who is the Latin Mass Chaplaincy) is a wonderful homilist, and so not surprisingly he provided some food for fruitful thought on this occasion (I hope, by the way, he didn’t think it too odd to see me taking notes during his sermon).
     Father was pointing out that Adam’s first sin isn’t only Adam’s sin: we are asking mercy “for what Adam and Eve did, and what we continue to do.”  We can’t blame Adam, because, like our first ancestor, we also choose time and again to “turn our backs on God and say, ‘I don’t need you.’” Sin is something that we freely choose, and therefore Hell is also a free choice, not something imposed or inflicted upon us.  He pointed out that, in the Garden of Eden, God doesn’t say “Eat this and I’ll kill you,” He says “Eat this and you will die” (Genesis 2:17). 

Be Careful What You Eat

     After Mass, my lovely bride told me that she had experienced the proverbial light going off in her head at that moment: she saw, on the one hand, the first Adam being told “eat this and you will die,” and on the other hand Christ, the Last Adam (Corinthians 15:45) saying to his disciples, in effect, “eat this and you will live forever” (see John 6:47-56). The connection between the two passages seems fairly obvious, and I’m sure it has been noted many times, but it had never occurred to me, and neither of us could remember ever hearing or reading about it before.  But there it is: Adam’s selfish choice brought death to mankind, while Christ’s self-sacrifice brings life; when we eat the Body of Christ, we counteract what Adam ate.
     That, of course, is why Lent is a hopeful season (see “Ash Wednesday, A Symbol Of Repentance, A Sign Of Hope”), but not a happy season.  To return a last time to father’s Ash Wednesday homily, we are to “bring to mind, but not celebrate” the Fall.  Satan tells Adam and Eve that “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5), but he is pretending to offer what they already have: God created them in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27), with the word “likeness” meaning the potential to be like God.  The loss of that potential was a real loss, and a real evil; it brought about true suffering for all humanity, and the tremendous suffering endured by the God-Made-Man Jesus Christ was likewise all too real.

Made in the Image and Likeness of God

     We can’t skip over the reality of that suffering in our haste to get to Easter, and we can misunderstand what is meant by the term Felix Culpa, the “Happy Fault”, which is sometimes applied to Adam’s Fall.  Felix means happy in the sense of “fortunate, lucky,” but certainly not “happy” in the sense of joyful; its opposite, infelix, can mean “accursed.”  Adams’ fall was fortunate in that, in the end, we were rescued from its logical consequence by God’s favor (Grace) in the form of Christ’s sacrifice for our sake on the Cross; it is fortunate in that we were saved from the curse.  We need to remember and acknowledge the curse, but  save the celebration for Christ's saving Love.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday - Symbol of Repentance, Sign of Hope

The Repentant King David (artist unknown, c. 1650)

       I've noticed a curious thing about Ash Wednesday.  We all know people whose connection to the practice of the Faith has become somewhat tenuous.  You will rarely see them darken a church door on an ordinary Sunday, although they will put in an appearance at Christmas, and maybe Easter.  Interestingly, I see a significant number of these occasional Catholics show up in church on Ash Wednesday as well, or encounter them wearing the ashes of penitence on their foreheads as they go about their daily business.
     As I said, it’s curious.  The appeal of the joyous feasts of Christmas and Easter is obvious, but why should someone who is, in all other respects, a rather lukewarm Catholic seek out a public proclamation of unworthiness, a sign in the middle of his face saying “I’m a sinner!”  What is the appeal?
     I think it starts with the fact that, on some level, we all know we’re sinners, we all have moments when, at least in our hearts, we can identify with the voice of King David in Psalm 51:

For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me,
To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee:
That thou mayst be justified in thy words and
Mayst overcome when thou art judged.
For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and
In sins did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5-7)

     We are not all equally willing to recognize the knowledge of our own unworthiness, but even those who consciously reject God have at least a lurking awareness of their own finitude and imperfection (and the rejection of God may itself be an attempt to escape that awareness).  If that’s the end of the story, then a man is a wretched thing indeed.  That’s not the end for King David, however, who goes on to say:

Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and
I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me,
And I shall be made whiter than snow.
To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and
The bones that have been humbled shall rejoice. (Psalm 51: 9-10)

He trusts that the God who made him, who is all goodness and all perfection, can save him from his own imperfect self.
     We who are Christians have that and more.  Pope Francis says:

Christian hope is not simply a desire, a wish: for a Christian, hope is expectation, fervent, passionate expectation for the final and definitive fulfillment of a mystery, the mystery of God’s love, in which we are reborn and in which we already live. And it is the expectation of someone who is about to arrive: it is Christ the Lord who makes Himself ever closer to us, day after day, and who comes to introduce us finally into the fullness of His communion and of His peace. (General Audience Catechesis, 15 October 2014)

We know that Christ has already died for our sins and risen to new life.  All we need to do is pick up our cross and follow him.  Ash Wednesday represents the first step on that journey.
     We can see a reflection of this same idea in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (derived from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola), through which an untold number of alcoholics have been rescued from their addiction over the past eight decades.  The first step is to admit that our life is out of control, that we are not in charge. Hiding from our problems and trying to cover up our failings takes up a lot of time and effort, all of it wasted on an impossible task.  When we can stand up in front of a room full of people and say “I am an alcoholic,” or whatever our particular downfall might be, it gives us an incredible feeling of freedom.  Yes, our life is still a mess, but now, at least, we can really begin to do something about it.  In the Twelve Steps, that means coming to believe that a higher power can restore us (step 2), turning our will and lives over to that power (step 3), and so on, through nine more steps which will look very familiar to anyone who knows the Gospels and the Catholic Tradition.
     Ash Wednesday is like that first flush of freedom, our own First Step.  It’s somber, because sin is an ugly reality in our lives, but it gives us a glimpse of Salvation as well: beyond the Via Dolorosa and the pain of Calvary, we can see the Empty Tomb and the glory of the Resurrection.  We know that the long, hard journey ahead need not lead to futility. He know that the Higher Power who loved us so much that he took on our flesh, suffered in it, and rose again can indeed restore us, if we are willing to turn our lives over to Him.
     And so we should be happy to see our less devout brethren in church on Ash Wednesday.  St. Paul tells us:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let  each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.  For Christ did not please himself . . . (Romans 15:1-3)

We should welcome them, encourage them, and pray for them, in the hope that they go beyond that first step.  And we should ask them to pray for us as well, because we, too, are often lukewarm in our faith; we, too, are dust, and to dust we shall return.

(Please see also "Remember, Man, That Thou Art Dust" on Nisi Dominus)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Life Sells Chips (or, Chips Sell Life)

If you want to sell something, what better place than the most-watched television program of the year?  That, as those who follow American football or American pop culture could tell you, would be the Super Bowl, the National Football League’s annual championship game. Small wonder that advertisers spend millions of dollars for a single 30 second ad during the broadcast. Most often these ads are for things like beer, cell phones, cars, insurance, etc., but sometimes something a little different shows up.  Six years ago, for instance, Focus on the Family ran a pro-life ad featuring the mother of college football star Tim Tebow, which created a lot of discussion about the cause of life and, as I detailed in this post last week, saved at least one life.

Freddy Carstairs appearing in Doritos Super Bowl Ad (image from youTube)

    A Super Bowl ad promoting human life made waves again last night . . . but not in quite the same way as the Tebow ad did.  The commercial in question was advertising Doritos tortilla chips.  In this one, we see a mother happily looking at an ultrasound image of her late-stage unborn baby on a monitor; the mother then turns to her husband, who is contentedly munching on Doritos.  To the mother’s increasing annoyance, the father waves one of the salty snacks in front of the screen, where we can see the unborn baby reaching for the chip.  Finally, the exasperated mother grabs the chip from her husband’s hand and hurls it at her feet, at which point the unborn baby on the monitor, apparently eager to eat the chip, appears to dive for the “exit”, at which point the mother goes into labor.
    First of all, it’s a pretty sure bet that this ad is not intended (certainly not by Frito-Lay, the producer of Doritos) to make a pro-life statement.  According to an article that ran a couple weeks ago on, the creator of the ad, an Australian filmmaker named Peter Carstairs, came up with the idea when he saw ultrasound images of his unborn son Freddy (who was born last year). There is no indication that Carstairs was looking to make a pro-life statement; he did find the concept funny.  Frito-Lay chose Carstairs’ ad, no doubt because it tested well, and was unusual enough to stand out from the the welter of weird and ridiculous ads striving to make an impression upon Super Bowl viewers.

Ultrasound baby reaching for chip (image from Youtube)
    And make an impression it did, in some cases positive, in some . . . less so.  Apparently, NARAL PRo-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League) found this tortilla-affirming commercial to be guilty of the shameful “antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses” (see article here), demonstrating yet again that pro-abortion fanatics cannot abide any suggestion that unborn humans are, well, human.  That’s why they insist on using dehumanizing terms like “fetus”.  That is also why they despise ultrasound, because sonograms make unavoidably obvious the already irrefutable scientific fact that unborn babies are not just “clumps of cells”, but little people.  Their objection to this particular commercial is not so much that the “fetus” is doing things that an unborn baby can’t do, but that the ultrasound image is being shown at all.  That’s why they fight tooth and nail against laws mandating that women seeking abortion first be shown an ultrasound of the “product of conception” in their womb: because ultrasound changes minds, even ordinary ultrasounds of unborn humans doing ordinary things.  As I detail in my post “The Truth Is Our Ally In The Fight For Human Life”:

    The abortion providers can only argue that simply requiring them to show truthful, unaltered pictures of what (or more accurately, as the images show, who) is being aborted will dissuade some of their customers.  A federal court, in striking down one of these laws in North Carolina, said in its decision [according to pro-life attorney Howard Slugh] that the law “explicitly promotes a pro-life message by demanding the provision of facts that all fall on one side of the abortion debate.”  Notice that the law does not require the suppression of “facts” that fall on the other side of the debate: it simply requires that the mother know all the facts before undergoing abortion, and the facts happen to be pro-life.  And so the abortionists are reduced to asking the court to help them hide the plain, incontrovertible truth.  As Slugh notes:

All these sources agree that the more a mother knows about her child, the less likely she is to abort him.  This is not because ultrasound images are misleading or politicized; it is because they supply a mother with truthful information necessary for making an informed choice.

Champion of Human Life?
    Last night’s silly little Doritos ad, has (most likely unintentionally) reminded millions of people about the truth of human life in the womb. I doubt that Frito-Lay was trying to make a pro-life statement with their ad: they probably saw it as just a funny take on an everyday experience that would help them sell chips.  It’s quite possible that, if they determine that the unfavorable attention from abortion promoters is hurting the bottom line, they may issue an apology and pull the ad from the internet (if YouTube doesn’t do it first).  Let’s hope not; we shouldn’t allow the abortion industry and its apologists to silence the Truth.  It might even be worth buying a bag of Doritos . . .   

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Tim Tebow
This coming Sunday, as Americans and those who follow American football will know, is “Super Bowl Sunday”, when the National Football League has its annual championship game.  Since this sporting event typically has a larger television audience than any other program, advertisers pay enormous amounts of money for advertising time during the game. Over the years they have concocted increasingly bizarre commercials in order to catch the attention of that massive audience: twenty years ago an ad featuring an alligator and some frogs stealing a case of beer to the tune of Bob Marley's "Jammin'" [here] was a big hit; this year there will be an ad for ketchup and mustard [here] featuring dachshunds running around wearing hot dog buns (I'm not sure how appetizing most people will find it); over the past few decades there have been countless commercials that have gone as far as possible to employ the old advertising maxim, "sex sells" (sorry, no link to those).  The curious result has been, at least in years when the action on the field hasn't been particularly arresting, most of the chatter the next day is about the ads and not the game itself.

     Interestingly, the most discussed commercial six years ago was not bizarre at all: it simply showed a mother talking about her son [here] (o.k., he does appear to tackle her at the end, but that’s pretty tame for a Superbowl commercial).  The mother was Pam Tebow and her son, Tim, had just compiled one of the most spectacular college football records in memory (which, unfortunately, would not translate into comparable success as a professional).  The reason why this ad was more controversial that all those others ones filled with innuendo and grotesquery is that it was a pro-life ad.  Mrs. Tebow was talking about why she did not follow doctors’ advice and abort the baby who later became one of the most celebrated college athletes ever.  That, apparently, was shocking.

Avita Grace Wood
     Now, a few years later, comes the story of another child, Avita Grace Wood, whose life was saved by the same commercial.  Her mother, Susan Wood, had agreed to abort the unborn Avita, at the insistence of her boyfriend, the child’s father.  After seeing the Pam Tebow commercial, however, Susan changed her mind and chose life (full story here). As in the case of the numerous accounts of women who chose not to abort because of 40 Days for Life and other pro-life efforts, we are reminded that our faith, prayer, and witness can change hearts and save lives.  We just need to keep moving the ball down to the field.

(This Throwback is an updated version of a post that was first published as part of my Sunday Snippets post on 1 February 2015)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Presentation & God's Strong Hand

"Moses Striking the Rock", by Francesco Bacchiacca
    Today, forty days after we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas, we observe the Feast of the Presentation, when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate Him to God, as was the Jewish custom with first-born sons. We read a description of the event in Luke 2:22-40, which is the Gospel reading at today’s Mass.  The Scripture passage in today’s Office of Readings, however, is from the Book of Exodus.  There we see the origin of the mandate that Jewish families offer up their eldest male child to the Lord:

And when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstlings of your cattle that are males shall be the LORDs. Every firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every first-born of man among your sons you shall redeem. And when in time to come your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' you shall say to him, 'By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man and the first-born of cattle. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb; but all the first-born of my sons I redeem.'  (Exodus 13:11-15)

    The injunction to consecrate the first-born males sends a powerful, and serious, message: that the chosen people were saved not through any virtue of their own, but through the favor, and by the power, of God.  By dedicating to the Lord their eldest sons, who will someday become the head of their families, they are putting God at the head of every family.  It is a reminder that future generations are in God’s hands as much as the generation that he liberated from Egypt.
    As we commemorate the Presentation of Jesus, we might also want to consider the passage above in its larger context in the Book of Exodus.  The Hebrews have just been released by Pharaoh, but their struggle is just beginning; they have a long road ahead of them.  Here are the verses that immediately follow the reading in today’s Office:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest the people repent when they see war, and return to Egypt." But God led the people round by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. (Exodus 13:17-18)

The Israelites will not be able to simply walk in and take up residence in the land the Lord is giving them; they will need to fight, but God knows they’re not ready for that yet.  Before that time they will be prepared and tempered by a close escape from Pharaoh’s army (again, only by the “strength of hand the LORD”), and forty years of struggle and hardship in the Sinai desert, punctuated by transcendent reminders of God’s Grace (Manna, Water from the Rock, the Ten Commandments). God makes his Grace available, but they are expected to cooperate actively with it.
    Now let’s look at Luke’s Gospel.  God has shown his strong hand again, in the birth of Jesus.  The Holy Family encounters a prophetic old man in the Temple named Simeon, who says:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to thy people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)

And yet, as was the case with the escape from Egypt, this is only the beginning.  He also tells Mary:

Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)

"The Presentation", by Hans Holbein the Elder
Simeon says that he can die content now after seeing the Savior, but also reveals that, here as in Moses’s day, salvation can only come after trial and suffering.
    We can see this reality reflected in the Liturgical Calendar, particularly in a year (like this one) in which we have an early Easter: today is our last glance back at the Christmas Season, and one week from tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  We can’t separate the Incarnation from the Via Dolorosa and Calvary.  And it’s no different from any one of us: God doesn’t make his Grace available to spare us our forty years in the desert, or release us from our own Way of the Cross.  Rather, it is to help us through them, because there’s no other way to get the Promised Land beyond.

(See also "The Presentation, Atheism, And The Problem Of Suffering" HERE on Nisi Dominus)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Laudamus Te - Antonio Vivaldi

What a joyful song of praise! "Laudamus Te" from a Gloria by the incomparable Antonio Vivaldi.  Next Sunday is the last before we put on the more somber garb of the Season of Lent, so let's enjoy it while we can!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Merton's Parable: Christ Is The Only Sure Foundation

An earlier version of the this Throwback post entitled "Merton's Tale of the Trappists vs. the Icarians" was published on February 13th, 2015

Thomas Merton at Gethsemani Abbey
A  piece by Carl Olsen at Catholic World Report (“More on Merton”) brings to mind one of the more interesting and controversial Catholic figures of the Twentieth Century:  Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton.  The Seven Storey Mountain, the autobiography he published in 1948, is the beautifully written and compelling story of his conversion to Christ and to Catholicism.  He was not without his failings, however, some of them rather serious. Not only that, but toward the end of his life in the mid to late 1960’s he became increasingly enamored of Zen Buddhism, and it was not clear that he could still be truly considered a Catholic at the time of his unexpected death in Thailand in 1968.

The Founding    

      Prior to his later turn toward Buddhism, however, most of Merton’s writing was thoroughly Catholic and often inspirational.  One of my favorite pieces, from his 1949 book The Waters of Siloe, is his account of the founding of the monastery in which he was living, Gethsemani Abbey, which had been established in Kentucky by French monks a century earlier.  The tale starts with the departure of the founding monks, in the dead of night in the pouring rain, from their monastery in France; it details their many adventures in getting to, and then across, the Atlantic Ocean, and finally their arrival at their new home in the rolling Kentucky hills.
     I had at one time hoped to write a children's book drawing on Merton’s story (which is itself based on a contemporary account in the monastery’s records).  My own kids liked the idea, but, sadly, the late monk’s  literary trustees did not share our enthusiasm for the project, so it was not be.  Too bad.
     Nonetheless, it’s worth reading Merton’s version of the story.  He has a wonderful way with a narrative, and makes the most of some of the amusing twists in the story, as when the reclusive Trappists lose their luggage in the worldly sprawl of Paris, or when (again in the pouring rain) the “Silent Monks” need to find a way to wake up the Jesuits under whose roof they were planning to spend their first night on their arrival in Kentucky. 

The Parable of the Icarians

Gethsemani Abbey as it looked during
Merton's residence in the 1950's
     What most strikes me in Merton’s story, however, is a little parable which he weaves into the larger narrative.  As it happens, among the other passengers on the ship that carries the Trappists to America  are members of a secular communal group called the Icarians.  Merton doesn’t miss an opportunity to contrast the peace and order of the Trappists, whose little society is founded on Jesus Christ, with the Icarians, who follow the ideas of the socialist utopian Etienne Cabet: the trappists feed the other travelers, including the Icarians, from their mobile kitchen, while the Icarians prohibit their members from taking spiritual sustenance at the monks’ masses; the Trappists “owned all their property in common.  They were, in fact, vowed to the most uncompromising poverty, forbidden to possess anything as individuals,” whereas when the Icarians decide to divide up their wealth one member attempts to make off with all of it and another “wrote a letter of delirious invective against Cabet and then blew out his brains.”  The Trappist superior is shocked when one Icarian, who had fallen overboard, confided that he was prepared to stab himself to death rather than drown if nobody came to save him; later, the monk is bemused to discover that another Icarian, who is asking to join the Trappists, is in fact a married man.
     Merton himself explains the difference between the two groups as follows:

. . . the monks had Christ living and working in them by faith, by charity.  The monks were united by the Holy Spirit in the peace of God, which tames and dominates and sublimates man’s nature and ordains it to the highest possible ends.  But the Icarians were united only by the frail bonds of an “armed neutrality” of insatiable animal appetites.

     Merton’s thesis is a simple one (which I address from a somewhat different angle in my recent  post :"What Would Darwin Do? Random Selection Favors Religion"): Jesus Christ is the foundation of all truth, and a society built on Christ will be orderly and flourishing; a society that relies exclusively on human wisdom is doomed to futility and disintegration.  The Icarians (who were actually more successful than most such groups: their last community didn’t disband until 1898, fifty years after they began) are neither the first nor the last example history offers.  Merton saw it himself in his own history, in the contrast between the disorder and unhappiness of his early, worldly, life, and the joy that he found in the Christ-centered world of the monastery (and one hopes he found his way back to the Lord before the final end).  His tale of the Trappists and the Icarians is just one more illustration that only the house built on the Rock (see Matthew 7:25) will stand.

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.  Please also see "St. Thomas Aquinas And Conscience: A Sin Is Still A Sin" HERE at Nisi Dominus

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Saints - All That Matters In The End

St. Francis De Sales

Christ established his Church almost two thousand years ago.  The last two millennia have been filled with countless holy people, many of whom we honor with a feast day on the Liturgical Calendar.  Today, for example, is the feast day of well-known and well-loved saint, St. Francis De Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church.  St. Francis, who died almost four centuries ago, was ahead of his time in his concern for the devotional life of laypeople. I'll have more to say about this wonderful Saint in the future.
    Today we also honor some less well known saints. For instance, we find the following in Butler’s Lives of the Saints:

St. Macedonius: Hermit of Syria, called Kritophagus, the barley-eater. He lived forty years on barley moistened in water, till finding his health impaired, he ate bread, reflecting that it was not lawful for him to shorten his life to shun labours and conflicts, as he told the mother of Theodoret; persuading her, when in a bad state of health, to use proper food, which he said was physic to her. Theodoret relates many miraculous cures of sick persons, and of his own mother among them, by water on which he had made the sign of the cross, and that his own birth was the effect of his prayers, after his mother had lived childless in marriage thirteen years. The saint died, ninety years old, and is named in the Greek menologies.

St. Macedonius may not be as well known as St. Francis de Sales, especially not in the western Church, but important details of his life have been preserved.  We can see that his story shows us a model of holiness, but also provides a salutary lesson about the importance of respecting the physical bodies God gave us, and also about the efficacy of prayer.
    In some cases, however, we know little beyond the names of some of the holy men and women who appear on the liturgical calendar.  Today, for instance, we also honor:

St. Mardonius: Martyr of Asia Minor with Eugene, Metellus, and Musonius, burned at the stake at an unknown location. (from

That's pretty scanty compared to what we know about St. Francis de Sales, or even St. Macedonius, but it is more than we know about Saints Thyrsus and Projectus.  Their biography at Catholic Online [here] is rather brief; it reads, in full:

Martyrs of an unknown year and location. Their Acts [i.e., histories] are no longer extant.

That’s it.  We don’t know when they lived, where they lived, or what they did. All we know is that they are Saints . . . which is really all that matters in the end.  St. Paul says:

. . . Run so as to win.  Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.  They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

That crown is the crown of sanctity. We are all called to be Saints with God in Heaven, but we can’t all be a St. Francis De Sales, of even a Saint Projectus or Thyrsus.  Most of us, even if we persevere to the end, will be just like the vast majority of saintly Christians through the centuries, forgotten a few generations after our passing from this world.  All the things that seem so important to us today will likewise have disappeared.  And that’s fine, because there’s only one thing that ultimately matters, that eternally matters: that, by the Grace of God, we be Saints.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Abortion Myth # 13

I'm re-posting "Abortion Myth # 13" today on the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, which made abortion-on-demand the de facto law of the land.  Legal abortion is often presented by its supporters as necessary for women's rights; that claim doesn't stand up to scrutiny:

MYTH: "Legalized abortion is necessary for the protection of women’s rights."

TRUTH: Abortion demeans and exploits women.

-Pregnancy is a natural, healthy state for women; it is the most significant difference between women and men.  Treating pregnancy like a disease implies that there’s something wrong with the nature of women's bodies and therefore with simply being a woman.  The group Feminists for Life says in their Debate Handbook:

When women feel that a pregnant body is a body out of control, deviant, diseased, they are internalizing attitudes of low self-esteem toward the female body.  These attitudes contradict the rightful feminist affirmation of pregnancy as a natural bodily function which deserves societal respect and accommodation.

-It is also natural for women to want to protect and nurture their children; to destroy their own children when they are most in need of protection violates an essential part of women's nature.

Mother and Child, by Frederic Leighton

-Abortion denies the most basic right, the right to life, to hundreds of thousands of unborn women every year.

-Most women who abort do so because they believe they have no choice: many are coerced, and they are often abused and threatened with violence, with loss of employment or educational opportunities, or with other adverse consequences if they don’t abort (see ). Shouldn't we protect a woman's right not to be forced to kill her own children?

-Legalized abortion empowers irresponsible men, because it enables them to exploit women sexually without having to accept the responsibilities of fatherhood.

-Pro-abortion activists fight strenuously at every turn against laws requiring women be given information about abortion and its alternatives.  What about women's right to make informed choices?

-The original feminists (Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, for instance) opposed abortion on the grounds that abortion was a crime against women as well as their children.  Alice Paul said “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”


Essential Pro-Life Resources:

Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments (link)  

The Elliot Institute (link)  

National Right To Life Committee (link)  

Care-Net (link)

The Nurturing Network (link)

To See The Entire Abortion Myths Series Click HERE