G.K. Chesterton on the “Myth of the Mayflower”

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From “The ‘Myth’ of the Mayflower”, Fancies Versus Fads (1923):

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 12.32.57 PMhe “Mayflower” is a myth. It is an intensely interesting example of a real modern myth. I do not mean of course that the “Mayflower” never sailed, any more than I admit that King Arthur never lived or that Roland never died. I do not mean that the incident had no historic interest, or that the men who figured in it had no heroic qualities; any more than I deny that Charlemagne was a great man because the legend says he was two hundred years old; any more than I deny that the resistance of Roman Britain to the heathen invasion was valiant and valuable, because the legend says that Arthur at Mount Badon killed nine hundred men with his own hand. I mean that there exists in millions of modern minds a traditional image or vision called the “Mayflower,” which has far less relation to the real facts than Charlemagne’s two hundred years or Arthur’s nine hundred corpses. Multitudes of people in England and America, as intelligent and sympathetic as the young lady in Mr. Wells’s novel, think of the “Mayflower” as an origin, or archetype, like the Ark or at least the Argo. Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say that they think the “Mayflower” discovered America. They do really talk as if the “Mayflower” populated America. Above all, they talk as if the establishment of New England had been the first and formative example of the expansion of England. They believe that English expansion was a Puritan experiment; and that an expansion of Puritan ideas was also the expansion of what have been claimed as English ideas, especially ideas of liberty. The Puritans of New England were champions of religious freedom, seeking to found a newer and freer state beyond the sea, and thus becoming the origin and model of modern democracy. All this betrays a lack of exactitude. It is certainly nearer to exact truth to say that Merlin built the castle at Camelot by magic, or that Roland broke the mountains in pieces with his unbroken sword.

For at least the old fables are faults on the right side. They are symbols of the truth and not of the opposite of the truth. They described Roland as brandishing his unbroken sword against the Moslems, but not in favour of the Moslems. And the New England Puritans would have regarded the establishment of real religious liberty exactly as Roland would have regarded the establishment of the religion of Mahound. The fables described Merlin as building a palace for a king and not a public hall for the London School of Economics. And it would be quite as sensible to read the Fabian politics of Mr. Sidney Webb into the local kingships of the Dark Ages, as to read anything remotely resembling modern liberality into the most savage of all the savage theological frenzies of the seventeenth century. Thus the “Mayflower” is not merely a fable, but is much more false than fables generally are. The revolt of the Puritans against the Stuarts was really a revolt _against_ religious toleration. I do not say the Puritans were never persecuted by their opponents; but I do say, to their great honour and glory, that the Puritans never descended to the hypocrisy of pretending for a moment that they did not mean to persecute their opponents. And in the main their quarrel with the Stuarts was that the Stuarts would not persecute those opponents enough. Not only was it then the Catholics who were proposing toleration, but it was they who had already actually established toleration in the State of Maryland, before the Puritans began to establish the most intolerant sort of intolerance in the State of New England. And if the fable is fabulous touching the emancipation of religion, it is yet more fabulous touching the expansion of empire. That had been started long before either New England or Maryland, by Raleigh who started it in Virginia. Virginia is still perhaps the most English of the states, certainly more English than New England. And it was also the most typical and important of the states, almost up to Lee’s last battle in the Wilderness. But I have only taken the “Mayflower” as an example of the general truth; and in a way the truth has its consoling side. Modern men are not allowed to have any history; but at least nothing can prevent men from having legends.

We have thus before us, in a very true and typical modern picture, the two essential parts of modern culture. It consists first of false history and second of fancy history. What the American tourist believed about Plymouth Rock was untrue; what she believed about Stonehenge was only unfounded. The popular story of Primitive Man cannot be proved. The popular story of Puritanism can be disproved. I can fully sympathize with Mr. Wells and his heroine in feeling the imaginative stimulus of mysteries like Stonehenge; but the imagination springs from the mystery; that is, the imagination springs from the ignorance. It is the very greatness of Stonehenge that there is very little of it left. It is its chief feature to be featureless. We are very naturally and rightly moved to mystical emotions about signals from so far away along the path of the past; but part of the poetry lies in our inability really to read the signals. And this is what gives an interest, and even an irony, to the comparison half consciously invoked by the American lady herself when she asked “What’s Notre Dame to this?” And the answer that should be given to her is: “Notre Dame, compared to this, is _true._ It is history. It is humanity. It is what has really happened, what we know has really happened, what we know is really happening still. It is the central fact of your own civilization. And it is the thing that has really been kept from you.”

Notre Dame is not a myth. Notre Dame is not a theory. Its interest does not spring from ignorance but from knowledge; from a culture complicated with a hundred controversies and revolutions. It is not featureless, but carved into an incredible forest and labyrinth of fascinating features, any one of which we could talk about for days. It is not great because there is little of it, but great because there is a great deal of it. It is true that though there is a great deal of it, Puritans may not be allowed to see a great deal in it; whether they were those brought over in the “Mayflower” or only those brought up on the “Mayflower.” But that is not the fault of Notre Dame; but of the extraordinary evasion by which such people can dodge to right or left of it, taking refuge in things more recent or things more remote. Notre Dame, on its merely human side, is mediaeval civilization, and therefore not a fable or a guess but a great solid determining part of modern civilization. It is the whole modern debate about guilds; for such cathedrals were built by the guilds. It is the whole modern question of religion and irreligion; for we know what religion it stands for, while we really have not a notion what religion Stonehenge stands for. A Druid temple is a ruin, and a Puritan ship by this time may well be called a wreck. But a church is a challenge; and that is why it is not answered.

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Review: Thomas More’s Prayer Book

Hans_Holbein,_the_Younger_-_Sir_Thomas_More_-_Google_Art_ProjectToday, June 22, is the feast day for St. Thomas More, “the King’s good servant, but God’s first,” who is my patron saint in confirmation, the patron saint of lawyers and statesmen, and the patron in baptism for our first son. In other words, St. Thomas More is important in our house, as an exemplar for how to persevere in the cause for religious liberty, and for steadfast Catholic faithfulness in a culture that is awash in relativism. And, he’s English.

Recently I was able to lay hands on a copy of the out of print book published by Yale University Press entitled Thomas More’s Prayer Book: A Facsimile Reproduction of the Annotated Pages (1969). This book is a treasure. Not only does it contain a facsimile of every (surviving) page from More’s breviary which he used to pray the office while imprisoned in the Tower of London prior to his martyrdom, but it is also annotated by a rather expanded scholarly introduction, and contains for its final section a transcription and translation of More’s notations in the margins of his prayer book.

FullSizeRender 14The Introduction explains that More’s prayer book is actually two books bound together — a liturgical psalter and book of hours — dating from sometime between 1530 and 1540. The text is in Latin, and the printing includes a series of fine woodcuts of various scenes that illuminate the pages, and which are well reproduced (and beautiful).

Short of making the necessary arrangements to view the original breviary (which I believe is still in the possession of Yale University), the facsimile pages provide a very tangible connection with the saint. His notes are shown throughout the book, and he composed a prayer in paired lines above and below the pages in the book of hours, sometimes referred to as More’s “Godly Meditation“:

Give me thy grace, good Lord,
To set the world at nought;

To set my mind fast upon thee,
And not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;

To be content to be solitary;
Not to long for worldly company;

Little and little utterly to cast off the world,
And rid my mind of all the business thereof;

FullSizeRender 13Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant;

Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help;

To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love him;

To know mine own vility [vileness] and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;

To bewail my sins passed;
For the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;

Gladly to bear my purgatory here;
To be joyful in tribulations;

To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life,
To bear the cross with Christ;

To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand;

To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;

To pray for pardon before the judge come,
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered  for me;

For his benefits uncessantly to give him thanks,
To buy the time again that I before have lost;

To abstain from vain confabulations,
To eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;

Recreations not necessary — to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at right nought for the winning of Christ;

To think my most enemies by best friends;
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds [thoughts] are more to be desired of every man than all the treasure
of all the princes and kings, christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all upon one heap.

More composed his Godly Meditation in English, but most of More’s writings in the margins of the psalter of his prayer book are in Latin, and brief, but valuable too.

For example, alongside Psalm 70:6 (“Thou hast upheld me from birth, thou hast guarded me ever since I left my mother’s womb; ever in thee was my trust”), More writes, “in tribulation with disgrace” and at verse 9 (“Do not cast me off now, in my old age; slowly my strength ebbs, do not thou forsake me.”) he writes, “senectus segnis est / old age is sluggish”. We get, in addition to More’s piety, a glimpse of his sense of humor as well.

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Throughout the psalter we are invited to spy the mind and soul of More, and his favorite references to certain psalms for specific prayers or prayer intentions. At Psalm 41, which begins “O God, my whole soul longs for thee, as a deer for running water…”, More writes, “Happy the man who can say this from his soul.” He also notes psalms useful pro rege, or “for the king,” who in More’s case, was the same king who had him imprisoned there in the Tower.

There are entries on facing tribulation and false accusation, specific prayers against the torment of demons, dealing with scruples in confession, having faith, hope and trust, and an array of others. I find these notations so valuable, that I’ve undertaken to systematically begin inserting them into my own breviary as I pray it each day, so that I am not far from my patron as he prayed the same psalms that we pray today.

When we consider martyrs, we are frequently presented an image of a person with unquenchable faith, by which the faithful (but unsaintly) people of God are somewhat challenged, because we do not recognize such capacity for martyrdom in ourselves. We are fearful and suspicious that our faith will not carry us through any such final test.

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Anecdotally, we know that St. Thomas More was willing to die for Christ, but afraid that his human weakness, suffering under pain, would break him (“…that I wot well my lewdness hath been such that I know myself well worthy that God should let me slip, yet can I not but trust in His merciful goodness that… if I shall suffer, His grace shall give me the strength to take it patiently…”). We too, can benefit from seeing the struggle that accompanies such a path to Heaven.

Without a doubt, St. Thomas More’s prayer book belonged to a saint, but an entirely fallible human one, who struggled under much the same types of oppressions, who feared for his well-being and his family, but surrendered these fears to God through earnest prayer. I am comforted to think that as he suffered, he continued his prayers for the king and the system that unjustly accused and martyred him, as he no doubt continues to do today as the fight continues here on earth. We would do well to follow his example in much the same way.

The Devil Is Real

FullSizeRender 4Yes, he is. Having recently received my copy of the Manual for Spiritual Warfare, I’ve been meaning to write a short review on it. But I’m late to the party and Russell Shaw over at OSV has already done the heavy lifting for you.

Attacks from the Enemy can become even more intense as you progress in sanctity. This is why we see a multiplicity of examples from the lives of the Saints where the Devil is enraged whenever anyone becomes close to God, and he works even harder — and more overtly — to bring about spiritual destruction. Consider the Cure of Ars (St. John Vianney) as just one example. Other examples abound.

In other words, no one is immune to these attacks, which means that we must be vigilant, and receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist with frequency. A good regular (daily) examination of conscience is also helpful. And, as St. Padre Pio would say, a rosary in the right hands is a very powerful weapon. A rosary is an irritation to the Devil even if it stays in your pocket the entire day.

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Carroll’s “1917”: An Important Read for the Moment

On Saturday evening, Fr. A came over for a late dinner following the vigil masses, bearing a small white padded envelope that he was excited to tear open. Drawing out the contents, he gifted me with a copy of 1917: Read Banners, White Mantle (Carroll, W.H.; Christendom Press, 1981)(Amazon link), telling me that it was a “must read”.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 6.18.08 PMI started it yesterday, and couldn’t put the book down until I finished it today. Thankfully, it is short. But I would wholeheartedly recommend it even if it were twice as long.

According to the back cover, Warren H. Carroll, Ph.D. is a Columbia University-trained historian and Chairman of the History Department of Christendom College. He has also published a six-volume work on the history of Christendom, which, judging by the quality of 1917, is worth investigating.

Carroll’s fundamental premise is that the world events surrounding the beginning of the Twentieth Century, most specifically 1914 to 1918, cannot be properly understood without looking to several key (arguably supernatural) connections that were profoundly felt by all of Western Civilization, even if not exquisitely understood.

Carroll’s history does not neglect detail when it comes to identifying the central figures of the global crisis that was World War I, but it centers on a few prime characters: the saintly last Emperor of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Charles II; the last Tsar and Tsarina of the Russian Empire; the impossibly demonic figure of Gregory Rasputin; His Holiness Benedict XV; Lenin and Stalin.

We also learn about Lucia Adobora, Jacinta and Francisco Marto — three young Portuguese shepherds — the oldest of whom (Lucia) was only 10, who were visited by Our Lady at Fatima over the course of the months of 1917, leading up to the “Miracle of the Sun” on October 13, 1917, described as the “most witnessed” miracle in history, because thousands of people attested to what happened.

Some of the connections that Carroll draws are beyond belief, and yet, from the Catholic perspective, are unmistakably true. For example, we are somewhat taken with apparitions such as Divine Mercy or Fatima, without always recalling their time and place in history. We can and sometimes do forget the context that would have been readily apparent at the time.

As Carroll points out, the visitations of Our Lady on the hillside near Fatima occurred at the height of armed conflict that was producing tens of thousands of casualties every month. Millions of soldiers died over what amounted to mere hundreds of yards (in best cases) of gained (or lost) territory.

Benedict XV was not soft-spoken about the terrors brought on by such violence, and he publicly prayed for the intercession of Our Lady. Carroll suggests Fatima constituted a response to those (and other) prayers. However, suggestion is not persuasion. The presentation is with an eye to historical accuracy, giving citations for basis. One can draw one’s own conclusions.

In another unforgettable example, Carroll describes a mangy fortuneteller/monk of sorts, who wormed his way into the good graces of the Last Tsarina of Russia. The man, usually filthy and reeking, with an unkempt beard and wildly penetrating eyes, was Gregory Rasputin (introducing him, the author pointed out: “early in his adult life his sexual promiscuity and prowess gained him the surname Rasputin, the Dissolute”).

Look for Rasputin's eyes

Look for Rasputin’s eyes

Carroll goes on to describe Rasputin’s disgusting behavior — exposing himself in public, speaking loudly in vile obscenity, seducing women of the court, habitual drinking and debauching). Yet, the Tsarina grows entirely dependent on Rasputin, who ingratiated himself by demonstrating capability in protecting the hemophiliac heir — Alexis — from physical injury. Through this opening, Rasputin becomes second only to the Tsar in wielding imperial power at the end of the Romanov’s reign.

The means Rasputin used to achieve this are unclear, and again, Carroll suggests, but does argue for the supernatural. But when one considers the account of Rasputin’s death provided by Carroll, and Rasputin’s own wild statements leading up to his murder, and finally, the shocking effects of Rasputin’s involvement in tearing down imperial Russia and ushering in Communist Revolution, a Catholic perspective would permit the inference of demonic forces. 

1917 was originally published in 1981, and while the latest printing occurred in 2000, it has not (apparently) been revised to reflect the new post-Cold War reality. It still very much reads like a story unfolding, where several intervening events have occurred (i.e., the release of the Third Secret of Fatima, the fall of Soviet Communism, the consecration of Russia to Our Lady). Thankfully, the book holds up and the time lock does not diminish the connection it draws.

Now that it’s been a full century since the events described in 1917, the book takes on a heightened tone of prophesy. Of particular significance to Catholics, it provides the context that forms the next major European conflict in the rise of national socialism, manifesting the demonic in the form of ethnic and ideological hatred that continues to confound and perplex, if for no other reason than that it is still going on.

Which is why, even though 1917 ably sets the table for World War II, and anticipates the not-yet-fully-baked dessert that was the 1989-1991 period that

ended the Soviet Union, Carroll’s work is most relevant now, because we see Europe once again at a new transition point, involved in a growing Islamization, where European communities and regions do exist that are impassible by infidels and unprotected by Western law.

This is the current moment, where the West threatens to cease being the West, and the threat is from within. Our failure to observe the refraining message found in 1917 dooms us — as they say — to repeat the same painful lessons. It wouldn’t hurt to heed the warning (considering the source credited by the book): “Repent! Repent! Repent!” And it wouldn’t hurt to take another lesson to heart: turn to Our Lady in times of crisis!

My Favorite Literary Antagonist…..

14765271163_da71e3321f_o…..Hands down, is Captain Nemo from Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I’ll tell anyone who will listen that I aspire to have my very own submarine so I can park on the ocean floor where I can sit quietly, enjoy a sandwich in peace and air conditioning, and remain entirely undetected (by humans). For the stay-at-home, homeschooling father of four, there aren’t many (any) places in the world that are quite as enticing as a submarine. Naturally the kids would likely stow away and so then it’d be just like it is now except then I’d have no fantasy escape plan. So I’ll just keep my billion dollars in the bank for the time being.

But going somewhere on this list would be super fun.

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Greene’s “Power and the Glory”: Catholic Priesthood is Vocational Sacrifice

powergloryWe just finished reading Graham Greene’s masterpiece entitled The Power and the Glory. In it, the reader follows an unnamed cleric, identified only as the “Whisky Priest”, who clutches to life in the Mexican state of Tabasco around the 1930’s, when the Mexican government was actively suppressing the Catholic Church there.

The story is true to its title, and without revealing anything about the ending, I want to share a theme from the book and discuss its centrality to the vocational aspects of the Catholic priesthood.

Today there is much discussion concerning the question of clerical celibacy. We Catholics within the Latin Rite are aware that nearly all of our priests have taken a vow of celibacy. In fact, for most of the Church, clerical celibacy is the rule, while there are a few exceptions (the most notable example of which is the Anglican Ordinariate).

Clerical celibacy is a long-held tradition of the Church, but admittedly there is nothing that prevents the Church from ordaining married men. Pope Francis has confirmed this recently, indicating that the “door is always open” to the possibility of a larger number of married men being ordained to the priesthood.

But while many of us would like to see more married men a part of the priesthood, I still think that a celibate priest is the best kind, because of what priesthood is.

In The Power and the Glory, the Whisky Priest is on the lam. He must evade “The Lieutenant” — the archetype of the rigid, ruthless socialist ideologue — and his police minions, whose charge it is to rid all of Mexico of every last priest.

As the circle tightens around the Whisky Priest, his options run thin when it comes to where he can run. The Whisky Priest’s friends and former parishioners risk their own death by assisting him, forcing the Whisky Priest further and further into the wilderness without anything at all to sustain him.

14751039802_20759b1852_oThe Whisky Priest sees himself not as a good priest, but an exquisitely bad one, in part due to his addiction to alcohol, among other things. He does not consider himself worthy to even be a priest; he is an errant and disobedient servant.

And yet, he is a priest, and there’s nothing he can do with the indelible mark placed upon his soul in ordination, other than to continue to follow where God leads, however imperfectly he does so. The circumstances that the Whisky Priest finds himself in, and the things that separate him from his own escape, are signs of the sacramentality and sacrifice of the priesthood.

When, at the beginning of the book, the Whisky Priest has an opportunity to board a ship at port and sail away, he is called (by a little child) to another village in the opposite direction so that he can bring Last Rites to a dying person:

He said sadly, ‘It always seems to happen. Like this.’

‘You’ll have a job not to miss the boat.’

‘I shall miss it,’ he said. ‘I am meant to miss it.’ He was shaken by a tiny rage. ‘Give me my brandy.’ He took a long pull at it, with his eyes in the impassive child, the baked street, the vultures moving in the sky like indigestion spots.’

******

‘Vamos,’ the man said to the child.

Similarly, toward the end of the book, the Whisky Priest is once again presented with a situation that could be avoided by anyone other than a priest: another terrible sinner, near death, who needs to confess his sins before he dies.

If he ignores the call, the Whisky Priest will carry another sin to his own grave: potentially denying a man his salvation. And, since all the other priests have been wiped out, he is denied what he himself carries; there is no way for him to absolve his own mortal sins.

But the Whisky Priest is not so hollowed out by his own sins that he would look the other way when there is a person who needs the sacraments. Throughout the book, he recognizes the power of what he carries, which also leads him to so much guilt and despair. He is so unworthy, and yet, time and again there is no one else.

It is in the Whisky Priest’s promised celibacy that he is free to carry out his vocational calling of sacrifice. He is free to respond to the call which may ultimately lead to his own personal mortality. He is free to bring what he brings, however imperfectly he does so. He is free to be a true Father to his people, in the same way that a father is free to be present to his own natural family.

If the Church were composed primarily of married priests, we would lose some of this vocation of sacrifice. A married man is called to sacrifice for the good of his own family, but how does a married priest bring this conflict — between his parish/flock and his family — into resolution? How does a married Whisky Priest, aware that his wife and children wait for him at home, or within the safe boundaries of a more friendly country, resolve a response to a desperate call for mercy?

A priest is a pastor, but he is not merely that. A priest is a visible sign of the sacramental nature of the Church. He is concerned, first and foremost, with delivering the superabundant graces poured out from the sacraments to the faithful. He does this in a sacrificial way; he recognizes, this is a good, not just for me, but also (and even primarily) for the people entrusted to me.

Which is why we should not be so quick to suggest — in response to the repeated claims of the “vocations crisis” — that a married priesthood is capable of replacing a celibate one. Doing so overlooks the great gift borne to us out of a millennia or more of sacrifice.

We should first consider the great gift from God to us in the celibate priesthood, and look for ways to encourage other men who are discerning their vocations. And finally, we must support the many wonderful, excellent, celibate priests that grace God’s Church.

Souls are saved even at the hands of the Whisky Priest.

Book Review: “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” by Vinny Flynn

As some of you already know, earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a mission trip to San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala. Most of our number were from Northern California, but we were privileged to be joined by renowned Catholic author and speaker Vinny Flynn, his wife Donna, and two of their teenaged grandkids.

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Donna and Vinny Flynn visiting Unbound Headquarters

Apart from these folks being the closest thing that laypeople can get to “Catholic Celebrities” (perhaps you’ve seen Vinny and his family reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet on EWTN, or maybe even attended one of Vinny’s popular talks), what struck me most about them is their earnest devotion.

This family is the real deal, and Vinny and Donna head it as patriarch and matriarch. And it’s generational, which calls to mind that by one’s fruits we will know the work of the Holy Spirit; one only need look to their legacies for living proof of Christian discipleship. But in addition to raising an awesome family (and I use this word with great care), the Flynns have been blessed to benefit the greater Catholic community, inspiring others with their music CDs, books and audiobooks, and lectures on Catholic topics.

7eucharistShortly after my return home from Guatemala, I received a shipment from MercySong, the Flynn’s media company, containing a sampling of their books and CDs (Vinny records his own audiobooks with the assistance of his family), including the first of his “7 Secrets” series — 7 Secrets of the Eucharist.

Vinny makes clear that these are not “secrets” in the conventional sense, but rather aspects of teaching on the Eucharist that many everyday Catholics have not been taught in catechism. Each of the “secrets” are aimed at deepening the understanding of the reader, in a clear and conversational style, so that one can be guided a bit deeper into the mysteries of the Eucharist.

Vinny draws from a number of primary sources to support his points. I particularly liked his references to the writings of Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He also quotes the diary of St. Faustina to connect the Eucharist with Divine Mercy.

Incidentally, I had the opportunity to sit next to Vinny on the plane ride returning to the U.S., and we talked a bit about Divine Mercy and our shared view that God’s mercy knows no limits. I think his connection between the Eucharist and Divine Mercy is powerful and important teaching.

Without ever delving into a lecture or finger-wagging, in “Secret 6: Every Reception is Different”, Vinny discusses the Church’s teaching on “worthy reception” of the Sacrament. He points out that “The more I am able to enter into communion, uniting myself with Jesus, the more fruitful my reception will be.” I take this as the “positive approach” to teaching on mortal sin and the things that separate us from God.

He cites St. Thomas Aquinas: “In a false person, the sacrament does not produce any effect.” Though not directly cited in Vinny’s book, there is similar teaching on plenary indulgences, for example: the soul can receive the graces it is disposed to receive; a very holy soul in close communion to God is disposed to receiving even more of what God has to pour out. This is logical, and true, but it does not affect the reality of what the sacrament actually is:

[Quoting Aquinas:] We are false when the inmost self does not correspond to what is expressed externally. The sacrament of the Eucharist is an external sign that Christ is incorporated into the one who receives him and he into Christ. One is false if in his heart he does not desire this union and does not even try to remove every obstacle to it. Christ therefore does not remain in him, neither does he in Christ.”

This secret, along with the others, encourages the reader to “draw close” to Communion in the Eucharist, and provides the underlying theological bases. 7 Secrets of the Eucharist is an excellent primer on what’s actually going on “behind the veil,” presented with citations that clearly encapsulate and help the reader to understand these teachings on deep mystery. Whether you are a trained theologian or just a “regular pew-sitter”, there is something in this book that will illuminate your approach to the Lord.

My advice is to purchase two copies, because as soon as you read it, you’ll want to give it to someone else.

Book Review: Liturgy of the Hours

This year, for Father’s Day, I received a new set of the Liturgy of the Hours. I was permitted to choose what type of breviary I wanted, and I was seriously tempted to purchase the Roman Breviary, which thanks to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Summorum Pontificum is once again an approved form.

20140624_101706_AndroidHowever, the people who we know who would pray the liturgy with us do not use the pre-Vatican II breviary, and so I would be choosing not to pray in a community setting when I have the opportunity. For example, in less than a week I am embarking on my first international mission trip (more on that in coming days), and received an e-mail addressed to the group reminding us to bring our breviaries for morning and evening prayer.

20140624_101849_AndroidBecause of this, I selected the Liturgy of the Hours in black leather published by the Catholic Book Publishing Corp., available from Adoremus Books here. I received the set yesterday.

My initial impression is that this is a well-made and attractive set. The binding is natural leather, and flexible — which is nice for a prayer book that gets tossed in bags. My only complaint against my Daily Missal (from MTF) is that the cover is leather over cardboard, and therefore somewhat inflexible. Each book has a set of six colored marker ribbons. The pages have gold edging. The type is clear and readable, a nice setting.

20140624_102028_AndroidOne easy way to get started praying the Liturgy of the Hours is to download an app, like iBreviary. An app makes it easier to follow because you don’t have to flip around in the book. The set included some aids for learning to pray the liturgy. The aids included: (1) a handy guide for 2014 that tells you the page numbers for each day of the year; (2) an outline of each hour and the format of the various offices on nice card stock; (3) a card with common texts; (4) a card with common texts for solemnities and feasts; (5) a card with invitatory psalms as alternatives to Psalm 95; (6) a card outlining Night Prayer; and (7) a Liturgy of the Hours Supplement for newer feasts and memorials (e.g., Bl. Junipero Serra, Bl. Maximilian Kolbe, etc.).

20140624_102205_Android 1At $179, this set is not inexpensive but it is definitely worth the money. It would also make an excellent gift for a newly-ordained priest or deacon (or religious) who is obliged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.