BPI: Divine Mercy Sunday

Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity… tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.

– Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska in Diary

This coming Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, the most important BPI of the year.  Divine Mercy Sunday originates from a request by Jesus to St. 200px-FaustinaFaustine Kowalska in the early 1900s.  Devotion to the vision of Jesus’ Merciful Divinity was promoted by Blessed John Paul II, and Divine Mercy Sunday was formally placed on the General Roman Calendar in 2000.  In recognition for what might become his most important accomplishment, Blessed John Paul II was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on  Divine Mercy Sunday 2011.

I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it.

– Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska in Diary

Those who fulfill the necessary conditions receive a full remission of all temporal punishment.  The faithful must (1) receive Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday (alternate ways to satisfy this requirement are available for those physically unable to comply), (2) make a good confession within a few days of Divine Mercy Sunday, (3) pray for the Pope, and (4) not be attached to sin.

Divine Mercy Sunday therefore acts as a plenary indulgence.  Many wonder what it means to be detached from all sin, even venial.  We should all strive to be detached from all sin, but specific questions regarding specific situations are best directed to your pastor or spiritual director.  For now, we merely suggest that detachment from sin might be envisioned as an unwillingness to compromise with our human weakness.  Do we allow ourselves small sins in compromise for the good works we accomplish or as a reward for avoiding graver sin?

For those who have never attempted an indulgence before, this would be one of the “easiest” ones to earn as its principle requirement coincides with the Sunday obligation.

Awake, O sleeper


From the second reading of today’s Divine Office, an ancient homily on Holy Saturday:

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Man Skills: Making a Table


There’s nothing more romantic than making something for a woman using your own two hands, especially if that something ends up looking better than what you could buy at a department store.  I first got the idea to make a table for my wife while reading the excellent blog The Art of Manliness.  If you aren’t a frequent reader over there, you probably should be.  With very little woodworking experience (I once made a recipe box) and the generous use of a colleague’s garage, I made the table at which, God willing, my wife and I will feed our future children and grandchildren for years to come.

I modeled the base of the table off the plans I found at the Art of Manliness website.  The plans are extremely easy to follow, even for someone unnamedwithout any woodworking experience.  Taking a table saw, I cut notches in the legs and crossbeams so that the pieces would fit together and hold upright even without the use of screws.  Because my wife and I will probably move a few more times before we settle down in a house for good, I added a nut and bolt combination so that I could break down the entire base into a few pieces  without stripping the screw holes.  If you look closely you can see the holes for the bolts in the rails to the right.

My friend talked me into making the tabletop slightly more complex than I planned.  Instead of screwing the boards together like they did over at the AOM, I used glue and clamps to put four boards together and then made breadboard ends using two more boards, a few scraps of  wood, and 1/2 inch dowel.  I found this process pretty difficult given my inexperience, but the end product looks much better for it.

Finally, I did not stain the table, instead opting to slop on some linseed oil to preserve the natural color of the wood.  I made the table using construction grade lumber, going to Home Depot and simply picking out the cheapest, straightest boards I could find (this entire thing cost less than $200), but I still could not bring myself to stain the completed project.

I learned two extremely valuable lessons during the few weekends I spent working on my table.  First, I learned how to use some basic tools under the supervision of a more experienced woodworker.  Every man should know how to use a saw, drill, and belt sander.  Second, this project redefined what I perceived a possible do-it-yourself project to be.  When I first picked up the wood for the table in September, the salesman at Home Depot immediately knew that I had no idea what I was doing, what I needed to finish my project, or how to actually build the table I was buying wood for.  He was extremely skeptical of my prospects for success.  By Halloween, the chaperons at my brother-in-law’s high school Halloween party were paying visits to my in-laws’ garage to check out what I had built.  A little perseverance and a big leap of faith can go a long way.

BPIs: Tenebræ

Tenebrae hearse

Tenebræ, meaning “shadows,” is the name used for the praying of Matins and Lauds on each of the last three days of Holy Week. The hours are prayed following Compline the evening before, and during the chanting of the psalms the candles are extinguished one by one until the sanctuary is in total darkness after the final candle is removed. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

[T]he Office of these three days was treated as a sort of funeral service, or dirge, commemorating the death of Jesus Christ. It is natural also that, since Christ by convention was regarded as having lain three days and three nights in the tomb, these obsequies should have come in the end to be celebrated on each of the three separate occasions with the same demonstrations of mourning.

The Tenebræ liturgies are opportunities for the faithful to be reminded of the solemnity of these three days during which the Church mourns the passion and death of our Lord.

Image: Source (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Catholic Gentleman: Linguistics and Vocabulary

We very often speak of logic as the rules of the cultural-debating game, perhaps mistakenly so given society’s rejection of logic, but linguistics, the way in which logic, thought, and ideas are conveyed, represent the tools necessary to win the game.  It is no coincidence that the clearest Catholic thinkers, including G.K. Chesterton and Cardinal Newman, had an exceptional knowledge of the language in which the wrote and spoke.  The further we remove ourselves from a deep understanding of the meaning of words and the distinctions between definitions, the easier it is for terms to be manipulated for the benefit of those against Catholic thinking.  The Holy Father recently remarked with some urgency that modern education contains the “horrors of manipulation” by pushing the “dictatorship of one form of thinking” in the name of “modernity.”

Many of the contemporary cultural battlefronts are littered with twisted words and meanings.  Consider the popular gay-marriage sign “Equality for all!”  How 486px-Gilbert_Chestertonone defines “equality,” “freedom,” and “rights” is often indicative of where one stands on the non-negotiable Catholic issues of our day.  Explaining why humans do not have the freedom to marry whoever or whatever we choose inherently entails an analysis of what it means to be free.

A strong knowledge of the English language is what makes writers such as G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis so effective.  Chesterton’s book on Aquinas is barely 100 pages and yet he systematically draws distinctions between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Protestantism and Catholicism, Eastern mystics and Catholics, and modernists and Catholics.  In each distinction, he describes the philosophies and methods of the respective religion, articulately explains the definitions of the labels he employs, and applies the definitions to the philosophies and methods.  In this manner, for example, he labels Catholicism as “optimistic” with respect to human nature and Protestantism as “pessimistic.”  An excellent knowledge of the English language allows Chesterton to succinctly (and soundly) make arguments and apply labels which would be widely decried by scholars knowledgeable of Christian religions and yet ignorant of the definition of a word as simplistic as “optimistic.”

There are several ways the Catholic Gentleman can improve his handle on the English language.  First, many of the cultural debates raging today truly began over 100 years ago.  Reading Chesterton takes us back to the time when words such as “optimism,” “freedom,” and “rights” were first being manipulated in the name of modernity.  I think that Chesterton would be very much at home debating today’s culture, and a careful read of his works reveals a plan for confronting these very issues.

Second, becoming proficient in other languages will help the Catholic Gentleman understand the roots of his own language.  For example, most English words contain roots stemming from either Latin, German, French, or even old-English, not to mention the theoretical concepts added by the philosophical contributions of the ancient Greeks (the proper definition of “justice”, for example, might be found in Plato’s Republic).  Catholic high schools and colleges have moved further and further away from these building-block languages, and our conceptions of the philosophical concepts implicit in words has suffered as a result.  It is no coincidence that nearly all theologians and philosophers of note speak at least two languages.

When discussing Catholic concepts, especially concerning the non-negotiable social issues of the Faith, the Catholic Gentleman should ensure that he is speaking the same language as those around him.  Defining the words upon which our culture places a degree of importance is especially important.  Protecting our culture begins with protecting the words we use to convey our ideas, thoughts, and identity.

St. Albertus Magnus, Ora pro nobis!

Whiskey Men: The U.S. Bishops

Rarely have the U.S. bishops had as good of a two week run as the one they just had.  Three bishops, in particular, stood out for their courage in confronting social and pastoral issues, each in firm a, clear-headed manner.  These three men exude the continuity of leadership the John-Paul II, Benedict, and Francis appointments have brought to the episcopate.

Bishop Jugis (appointed by John-Paul II): Crisis descended on the Diocese of Charlotte this week after Sr. Jane Laurel, OP, gave a talk to high school students about aspects of the Church’s teachings on sexuality.  Her talk included evidence drawn from scientific studies in an effort to demonstrate that the natural world reflects the supernatural reality.  Parents and members of the Catholic community in Charlotte hotly contested both the presented studies and the moral teachings she conveyed straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  A town hall meeting was called, which descended into the public smear and shaming campaign familiarly directed at those who dare to dissent from modernist sexual ethics.

Bishop Jugis responded not only by defending the teachings of the Catechism, as well as Sister’s efforts to convey them to high school students, but also by condemning the uncharitable way so many treated Sister’s reputation, both at the town hall event and on social media.  Instead of groveling for the acceptance of society through “further dialogue” or issuing an apology to those who “may have been offended by their interpretation” of what Sister said, Bishop Jugis stood his ground and refused to give the laity a blank check to abuse those in the consecrated life defending the catechism.

I am shocked to hear the disturbing reports of a lack of charity and respect at the parents’ meeting, and outside the meeting in conversations and in social media. There simply is no room in the Catholic Church for such displays of uncharitableness and disrespect. If we have failed in this regard let us make amends to God and neighbor. Even when we disagree, that disagreement should be expressed respectfully in love.

Far too often have orthodox priests and religious been left to fend for themselves, and the good bishop’s unwavering support is a sign of hope.

Bishop Paprocki (appointed by Benedict XVI): Bishop Paprocki is no stranger to being dubbed a Whiskey Man.  In yet another instance of a bishop backing up a religious despite the howls of society, Bishop Paprocki supported a priest in his diocese who preemptively denied the Sacrament to pro-abortion Senator Durbin.

The prudential and pastoral concerns of Canon 915 are exceedingly complex, however one factor which must be weighed is the grave scandal caused to Catholics and non-Catholics alike by the apparent ratification or mitigation of public dissent from Church teachings, regardless of whether such ratification is real or imagined.  Time and time again Bishop Paprocki has proved that he has the courage and prudence to do what is necessary, regardless of the public fallout.  This is a man truly worthy of his office.

Bishop Barber (appointed by Francis): Bishop Barber has risked the ire of liberals everywhere (California liberals nonetheless) for removing an openly homosexual priest of the Paulist Fathers from his post at UC Santa Barbara.  Including widespread accusations of liturgical abuse, the parish regularly engaged in activities such as “dance ministry and Taize prayer.”  Not only is the Bishop’s courage admirable, but his prudence is impeccable.  Knowing that the “Spirit of Francis” was likely to be invoked, Bishop Barber explained that the reason for the change was to “totally reinvigorate our evangelization efforts for the University Community at Cal Berkeley,” and “reinvigorate and expand our mission ‘to the periphery.’”  His detractors were left with the sorry argument that the Bishop could not understand the needs of the parish as a non-parishioner.  Bravo.

Continuity marches on. . .

Of Bishops and Palaces


Something of a controversy has erupted over the past several months about, of all things, the living accommodations of bishops.  The Archbishop of Atlanta announced last week that he will sell a $2.2 million building which recently finished construction after several complaints from parishioners.

By way of background, I sporadically worked for the Church during my time in college and law school.  During one summer I worked at an Archdiocesan office and during another I worked at a religious order’s general directorate in Rome.  Not only is it typical for ecclesiastical superiors to want to live in the building which serves as the nerve center for their diocese or religious order, but doing so increases their efficiency and likely saves the Church money in the long run.

Many, but not all, bishops like to live in the building which serves as the administrative center of their diocese.  Simply put, we live in an age where the bishop is expected to act as the CEO of the diocese, which places a near-crushing amount of responsibility on one man’s shoulders.  In addition to saying Mass, writing homilies, and frequent prayer, we expect bishops to be doctrinally sound, keep up on current events, participate in corporal works of mercy, raise enough money to keep the diocese running smoothly, and keep a vigilant eye on the priests working under his watch (often to the point where we expect bishops to be personally involved with investigating complaints of abuse).  During my internship it was not uncommon for me to receive e-mails time-stamped 4:00am or earlier because the archbishop was already at work in his office.  Allowing the bishop to live at the diocesan offices eases the burden of commuting, allows him to work longer hours, and increases his immediate availability when a crisis inevitably arises.

A vast portion of the space in a diocesan office is dedicated to the necessary functions of a diocese.  I have not polled the bishops in the United States but I suspect that most of their living quarters consist of a bedroom, living room, modest dining room, and kitchenette.  This is not exactly living fast and loose.  When the press mentions large function rooms and complete kitchens, what they are usually referring to are spaces dedicated to diocesan fundraisers.  I can assure you that bishops have much better things to do than roam around large empty spaces pondering their worldly spoils.  Instead, someone at the diocesan level (someone with a brain and a calculator) figured out how much money the diocese could save by adding function rooms to the bishop’s residence instead of renting out a venue month after month for fundraisers.  What a strange world we live in where the bishops must spend more to show how frugal they are.

Finally, let’s consider the source of the criticism here.  Most Catholics who submit fully to the Church have no problem with the bishop’s prudential judgment concerning where to reside.  Most of the “concern” or complaints come, I suspect, from those who wish to reduce the role of the bishop to “social worker in charge.”  Those who see the bishop as a man who should simply minister to the poor, who do not accept the fullness of his mission — to save souls, lead his flock on social issues, and bring society closer to Christ — wish to weaken him by de-emphasizing certain of his responsibilities.

Among the greatest causes of scandal in the modern Church — widespread use of contraceptives, frequent disregard of Church teachings, and neglect of the sacraments — the residences of the bishops seem minor by comparison.  Radical poverty can be a source of good, but poverty in and of itself is not, and not all men are called to such a lifestyle.

Less complaining and more praying on rosaries!

Whisky Review: Clynelish Distiller’s Edition


My in-laws gave me a bottle of Clynelish and Chesterton’s book on St. Francis for my birthday.  I’ll leave it to our readers to determine whether I have the best in-laws in the world.  I was not familiar with Clynelish prior to receiving the bottle.  Clynelish is something of a hidden treasure because a large portion of the distillery’s output is bought and used by Johnny Walker Gold.  Traditionally, the brand did not seem committed to marketing its own product and labels but rising demand and consistently excellent reviews encouraged the distillery to announce major capital investments earlier this year.  As a result, the distillery expects to double output once the improvements are complete (of course, we then have to wait 15 years for the aged products to hit shelves).

The Clynelish Distillery itself is off Road A9 in northeast Scotland, a two lane highway which runs up the eastern shore of the highlands.  Mostly barren, the road is photo 3hilly and spotted with small beach towns and sheep ranches.  My wife and I had the pleasure of driving it on our honeymoon.  It was simply a beautiful drive, especially early in the morning, and I remember that we listened to Scottish radio while passing by remote cottage after remote cottage, watching the sun rise over the water.  Like much of Scotland, I believe that the eastern shore of the Highlands would be the perfect place for a retreat; surrounded by the beauty of nature, many sheep, and very few people.

Knowing that I needed a special occasion to open the Clynelish, I waited until a priest from St. Mary’s Cathedral came to say Mass in our apartment (ad orientem).  As Father was packing up his Mass kit, I asked him if I could shoot a few pictures of the bottle surrounded by pieces of the kit, and he graciously agreed.  After dinner, he gave the whisky an extremely high rating and I couldn’t agree more.

Type: Highland
Proof: 92
MSRP: $101

Color: Bronzed straw
Aroma: Complex.  Seaside aromas and peat-smoke are hidden behind honey and a perfumed aroma I could not identify.
Palate: Initial taste is dominated by honey with hints of blackberry and cherry.  Middle taste merges initial taste with seaside flavors such as sea-salt and seaweed.  Finish has peat-smoke and salted caramel.

This was the most complex whisky I’ve ever tried, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Father and I noticed that the whisky had three distinct tastes among the initial, middle, and finish.  That said, the transitions were beautiful and the complexity of the drink did not take away from its overall beauty.  Instantly one of my five favorite whiskies.

Verdict: Primum Mobile, the 9th level of Paradiso

Queen Visits: Gives Pope Balmoral Whisky


It has been a pretty busy few days for the Holy Father with visits from the President of the United States and the Queen of England.  I do have a few observations about the gifts to the Holy Father.  You give seeds when you’re a hippy elementary school teacher trying to help kindergartners understand that great things can come from small people.  You give whisky to a man you respect.  Do world leaders see the Pope as a rich man’s Dalai Lama or something more?

There frankly is not much out there from sources I trust on Balmoral Whisky, other than the fact that it is supposedly pretty good.  Balmoral is produced by the Lochnagar Distillery, which resides on the royal lands of Balmoral.  Most of the whisky produced by the distillery is sold to Johnny Walker black and blue labels.  Some of the remaining whisky is then bottled and marketed under the umbrella name “Royal Lochnagar” (in addition to several special releases, Royal Lochnagar issues bottles ranging from 12 to 17 years in age), which generally receives excellent reviews.

Balmoral Whisky, from the limited information I could find, seems to be something of a special release for the Balmoral gift shop, which offers a sampling of the goods produced on royal lands in the area.  The gift shop not only serves as a spot for souveniers, but also as the exclusive way to get many of the goods produced for the royal family, including “postcards, china, crystal, kitchenware, pewter products, [and] clothing.”  Whereas most of the goods sold may only be purchased through the gift shop, Royal Lochnagar has a wider market, which is conveniently solved through the Balmoral special release.  Specifically, Balmoral Whisky is pitched as:

A perfectly balanced medium bodied single malt with a fresh bouquet of fruit and oak. Distilled uniquely for Balmoral Estates at Royal Lochnagar Distillery.

What I suspect happened is that someone in the Queen’s household came up with the idea of offering the Pope a sampling of the goods produced on royal lands, got approval for the idea, and called the various gift shops serving royal lands to order a sampling of products.  No matter how it happened I’d rather have whiskey and eggs laid by royal hens over some stupid seeds.

Communion Rails: An Equal Access Issue


The relatively new norms promulgated by the USCCB have allowed greater freedom for the faithful to receive the Sacrament kneeling.  Communion rails are necessary to protect the ability of many Catholics — including the elderly, pregnant, and infirm — to exercise and follow the new norms.

Under the prior translation of the Mass used in the United States, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal stated:

The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.

The purpose of this norm was not to disallow kneeling for the reception of the Sacrament because standing either (1) constituted a more pious act or (2) connoted a great sense of continuity with early Christians.  Instead, the norm was issued because the USCCB judged that the benefits gained through uniformity (by encouraging all to stand for communion) outweighed the benefits of allowing personal pious actions such as kneeling.  This judgment was at least arguably at odds with Redemptionis Sacramentum depending on how one parsed the language.

A new General Instruction of the Roman Missal has issued with the new translation.  The new GIRM clears up any confusion and states:

The norm established for the dioceses of the United States of America is that holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.

There is an extremely complex and detailed back-story here (including statements by Cardinal Arinze and the fact that the USCCB promulgated the first norm through the reception of an indult, or privilege to deviate from the liturgical norm found in the Latin Church, an indult which may have been conditioned on the continued right of the faithful to receive kneeling if they preferred) which I am glossing over in the interest of time and space.

The main point is that the norm for the faithful who wish to receive kneeling is to receive kneeling.  For many of the faithful, the desire to receive kneeling is not a matter of personal taste but rather the result of deeply held beliefs, beliefs which originate from a desire to respect the Eucharist, the center of the Catholic Faith.

One main objection many Catholics have with respect to standing and receiving on the hand is that the gesture does not connote the proper respect due to the Sacrament.  From Archbishop Schneider’s Paper Holy Communion- The Hidden Majesty of Divine Love, given in Hong Kong:

A gesture as one treats common food, that means: to pick up with one’s own fingers the Sacred Host from the palm of the left hand and put It by oneself in the mouth. A habitual practice of such a gesture causes in a not little number of the faithful, and especially of children and adolescents, the perception that under the Sacred Host there isn’t present the Divine Person of Christ, but rather a religious symbol, for they can treat the Sacred Host exteriorly in a way as they treat common food: touching with his own fingers and putting the food with the fingers in one’s own mouth.

The practice of kneeling, therefore arises from (1) a deeply held desire to show respect and devotion to the Sacrament and (2) the desire to fulfill the norm announced by the GIRM.  A most generous interpretation of the GIRM would hold that the language encourages those who wish to receive kneeling to actually do so by making kneeling the norm for those who inwardly desire to kneel.  The addition and use of communion rails would help the elderly and those pregnant fulfill the norm by making it more  accessible to those most likely to have difficulty kneeling and rising on a common floor (not to mention the fact that most churches seem to have tile floors, which only adds to the discomfort and difficulty of those least able to fulfill the norm because of age, infirmity, or pregnancy).

Should the elderly and those pregnant not have the same access to the liturgical norms for receiving communion as other Catholics?  In my view this is one of the most overlooked deficiencies in many parishes, but progress could certainly be made at the parish council level if more of the faithful speak up for the rights of all to fulfill the norms outlined in the GIRM.