Mixing It Up With Episcopalians

May 31, 2007

Here we are at the 16th annual Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (RBTE) in Chicago. This is, according to the organization, “gathering the religious marketplace for Catholic, Episcopal and other liturgical traditions.”

To get here we had to get up at 3am on Tuesday (after I had gotten back the night before from a four-day family road trip in our new van) and drive to Denver to catch our plane. Unfortunately, we missed the flight cutoff by eleven minutes and had to sit around the airport on standby until ten. I got on but Mike, our sales manager, didn’t. This was a problem since the next flight to Chicago wasn’t until seven pm. We pulled away from the gate, I started praying a rosary and suddenly we were turning around and going back to the gate.

Someone had some medical problem on the plane and had to be taken off before we took off and Mike was able to get on the plane. Would it be wrong to say that our prayers were answered? This seems like Twilight Zone episodes where someone gets wishes and they all come true but not the way you wanted.

We flew Frontier so our flight was sponsored by “Chocolate the Moose”. He’s a whole different animal according to Frontier. The flight was fine and every seat had a tv in it so you could get Direct TV or watch the progress of the flight on Mapquest.

I haven’t been to Chicago since I was in second grade so I only vaguely remember visiting the Aquarium and going to the top of the Sears Tower. My initial impressions:

  • Chicago is hazy. Everything, I think because of the humidity, is wrapped in gray mist.
  • The Sears Tower completely dominates the Chicago skyline. There isn’t anything close to it in size and all the other skyscrapers seem to be set farther apart from it than each other.
  • Chicago is full of Catholic churches. There seems to be one on almost every block and these aren’t your average parish church, these are larger than most cathedrals. Too bad they are being turned into apartments or torn down.
  • The city is very compact. It took us less than half an hour to get from Midway airport to downtown.
  • The streets are very narrow. I have no idea what they do with snow when they need to plow. It must really be a problem.
  • The city is tired. the “El” is very dirty and the stations aren’t maintained.  Bridges are being held up by rows of 2x4s in between the metal girders.

johncantius.gifAnyway, we got to Chicago, got our car and with only one of those large pieces of paper called a “map” drove off to downtown Chicago to find St. John Cantius Church. This amazing parish was ready to be demolished when the Cardinal turned it over to a new religious order (the Society of St. John Cantius). The society is dedicated to the restoration and promotion of sacred music, liturgy and art and has developed quite a national following. They offer both Tridentine and Novus Ordo Masses and have turned the parish around.


As we walked into the church, we heard the organist practicing and the view of the interior was just magnificent. The church is still undergoing restoration but what has been finished is wonderful. The stained glass is detailed European art. The floor is a new wood inlay. The statues are larger than life. The communion rail is still intact. The ceiling is stenciled and the choir loft is actually two balconies. They also have a copy of a famous altar piece in Poland in a side chapel.

saintnicholasukraniancathedral.gifWe also tried to visit St. Nicholas Ukrainian Cathedral but it was locked and the staff at the school next door was very suspicious of us, watching us from the school while we knocked at the rectory and eventually drove away. More tomorrow…

I Love Large, Homeschooling Families

May 31, 2007

If you have absolutely nothing to do for a while, and you feel like getting fired up, I recommend reading the prequel to this post, here.

“I Hate Large, Homeschooling Families” is, I think by far, the most read and answered post ever on this blog. I hope Ian doesn’t mind my using his title to tell a small story.

I come from a large, homeschooling family, and I certainly wasn’t offended reading Ian’s post, even though I know that I’m guilty (a few times, as a child) of some of the things that Ian would use as examples for his point. In my parents’ defense, I will say that as far as behaving in public went, I never got away with anything (that they knew about).

Now I’m a little older, and I enjoy seeing large families around; they remind me of my childhood. I came across just such a family today, as I prepared to enter the drive-through lane of the Taco Bell close to the store here. The family was in a big, gray Chevy Astro. From my point of view, they got to the drive-through just before I did, so I motioned for them to go first. I noticed just after pulling in behind them that there were a couple decals on the rear window – one of a couple children kneeling and praying before a cross (I see these often now), and the other proudly proclaiming that they are “Jesus Freaks”.

I envisioned myself in my head just then getting out of my car for a second to ask them if they were Catholic, but I decided against it. The driver was a woman, and I might’ve scared them doing that. Now I wish I did, because when I pulled up to the window to pay for and get my food, I was informed that the people in front of me paid for my meal; their reason for doing so was because I let them go before me. So in the end I learned that if they weren’t Catholic, they were at least good Christians, which are hard to find these days, even among Catholics.

The best reason that I can come up with for this surprising action is that they wanted to reward a tiny act of kindness, and in so doing help cultivate a spirit of charity. After I left Taco Bell with my food, I looked around a little for that vehicle so I could thank them, but I didn’t spot them again. So this is me saying thank you, and trying to make the most of their generosity by sharing the experience with our readers.

Announcing the Catholic Summer Reading Program

May 29, 2007

For decades, secular bookstores throughout the country have been enormously successful at developing summer reading programs which feature popular and affordable paperbacks that can be easily carried and casually read while on vacation or simply enjoying some “downtime” during the summer months.

Now, leading Catholic internet retailer Aquinas and More Catholic Goods www.aquinasandmore.com has announced a new and distinctly Catholic version of the popular summer reading programs with which we are all familiar.

The program, launching May 29, urges Catholics to “not leave the Faith behind” when heading off to the beach, to Disneyworld, or to that proverbial cabin in the woods. The selection of 64 paperback books includes both fiction and non-fiction works and all have distinctly Catholic themes.

“Many Catholics are not aware that there are extraordinary works of fiction (novels) on Catholic themes which are edifying, informative, engaging and inspiring. At the same time, fiction is not everyone’s “cup of tea” so the summer reading program offers a solid selection of books in the subject areas of education, history, comparative religion, military interest, family issues, popular culture and more.” says Ian Rutherford, President of Aquinas and More.

Along with principal publishing partners, Ignatius Press and Loyola Books, the program is offering a pre-selected free item with every two books that are purchased to encourage both interest and participation. Many of the featured titles also come with discussion guides to facilitate book clubs or book discussion groups that form around the books being offered. Online book discussions will also take place at www.catholicbookdiscussion.com. Catholic bookstores in your community may also be sponsoring local book groups.

“Parishes might want to consider forming summer book discussion groups centered around the summer reading titles to offer parishioners some “lighter fare” in the off-season summer months. Many Catholics will find the program more accessible than some other alternatives which can be more time and commitment intensive.” says Mike Davis, Sales and Marketing Manager at Aquinas and More.

At the website www.catholicsummerreading.com readers are encouraged to vote for the “top three official Catholic books of summer.” Downloadable book discussion guides for the top titles will be available there. Regularly updated, this site will feature more information on the summer reading program throughout the summer months. A guided summer reading program for young readers will also be available there.

Eight featured titles will kick-off the Catholic Summer Reading Program when it launches on May 29. The titles are:

Another Sort of Learning,” by Fr. James Schall, from Ignatius Press, paperback $14.95, a collection of short essays. “This is a book for those who like to read and to think about the ultimate questions of existence and essence – about time and learning, about humor and wonder.”

Canticle for Leibowitz”, by Walter Miller, from HarperCollins Books, paperback $13.95, a novel that is considered one of the greatest works of speculative fiction ever. Set in an apocalyptic future, a group of cloistered monks attempt to recover and rediscover civilization.

Cosmas, or the Love of God,” by Pierre De Calan, from Loyola Books, paperback $12.95, a novel set in pre-war France featuring the mysterious vocation story of pious young Cosmas, a novice in a Trappist monastery. A book full of wonder and sadness and love.

The Man Who Was Thursday,” by G. K. Chesterton, from Ignatius Press, paperback $17.95, Chesterton’s classic novel, a mystery, and an allegory of Good and Evil.

Mr. Blue,” by Myles Connolly, from Loyola Books, paperback $11.95, a novel about a contemporary Saint Francis figure that has moved generations of readers.

Strangers and Sojourners,” by Michael O’Brien, from Ignatius Press, paperback $17.95, an epic historical novel set in turn-of-the-century rugged and wild British Columbia which follows the lives of a family of “exiles.”

Swimming with Scapulars,” by Matthew Lickona, from Loyola Books, paperback $12.95, subtitled “Reflections of a Young Catholic” this book is a non-fiction work and is, according to the publisher, “a story of pre-modern faith lived with a postmodern sensibility.” Witty and insightful.

Those Terrible Middle Ages!” by Regine Pernoud, from Ignatius Press, paperback $12.95, follow renowned historian Regine Pernoud as she examines the considerable misconceptions about Medieval times. An eye-opening and myth-busting tour de force.

Catholic Financial Services Update

May 23, 2007

Update: Back on May 9th Catholic Financial Services acknowledged receipt of our completed forms and said that our withdrawal request was being resubmitted. Today (May 24th) we received all of our paperwork back from the post office unopened with an “unclaimed” note attached. This means that a) CFS lied about getting our mailed paperwork and b) They haven’t checked their P.O. Box for about three weeks.

Following up on our dealings with Catholic Financial Services (Catholic Online) here and here, shows that things haven’t changed a bit with the company. A month after we started asking for a reason why we weren’t getting our money we received a note that a $2 transaction had been revoked by the sender and that was holding up our transaction of several thousand dollars. When I said that we would be happy to have the transaction decreased by that amount so we could get the rest of the money, we were told that we had never filled out all the paperwork for our account.

I filled out the paperwork and overnighted it to them as well as faxed it. Then I waited. No response. I sent them a couple of notes and was told that our transaction was being put back in process. That was on May 9th. It is now 22 days later and follow up requests for a date when we will receive our money have been ignored. I filled out their official dispute resolution form last Sunday and received an automated reply that I would here back within 48 hours. It has now been three days.

The only other correspondence I have received from them is a threat to legal action against our company for posting about our experience dealing with them.

If you currently advertise with Catholic Online I strongly suggest stopping. If you were thinking about it, think again. This company is bad news.

Ever Wonder How a Saint is Made?

May 23, 2007

We’ve got the goods.

St. Catherine of Sienna's Head in a box

I’m Glad Our Products Don’t Help Pay For This

May 22, 2007

Since we started our company we have had a policy that prohibits carrying Chinese made products. Every time I read an article like this I am glad we instituted it.

I realize that it is almost impossible to not buy Chinese products in some way but if you are careful you can avoid them in almost everything. You just have to care enough to take the time.

Not bothered enough? How about the harvesting of organs from live political prisoners? (H/T Abbey Roads)

The Holy Father’s New Book is Here!

May 22, 2007

Here is an excellent review and some comments about Pope Benedict XVI’s new Book Jesus Of Nazareth which was released in the U.S. just a few days ago.

Review and comments of Dr. Jeff Mirius, Founder of Catholic Culture:

Benedict’s New Book

by Dr. Jeff Mirus
May 18, 2007

My parish church is blessed to have a very enthusiastic priest who recommends many excellent books from the pulpit. At morning Mass on the day on which Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth was to be released, he described how he had tried to get an advance copy the evening before at the local Barnes & Noble. But it hadn’t yet arrived, so it wasn’t until the next day that he began his homily by kissing Benedict’s book.

My own copy had been on advance order from Amazon for some time, and it arrived on my doorstep just an hour too late for me to hold the book up gleefully from the front pew while our priest was explaining how hard he had tried to get it. (Oh well, into every life, a little rain….) But I share his enthusiasm for this wonderful book.

Part One: The Public Ministry

The foreword of Jesus of Nazareth discusses, among other things, the Pope’s methodology. While very good, this can readily be skipped by those uninterested in the various twists and turns of Biblical scholarship over the past century. However, Benedict also tells us in the foreword that this is the first volume of what he hopes will be a two-volume work:

As I do not know how much more time or strength I am still to be given, I have decided to publish the first ten chapters, covering the period from the Baptism in the Jordan to Peter’s confession of faith and the Transfiguration, as Part One of this book.In Part Two I hope also to be able to include the chapter on the infancy narratives, which I have postponed for now, because it struck me as the most urgent priority to present the figure and the message of Jesus in his public ministry, and so to help foster the growth of a living relationship with him.

After the foreword, the book opens with “An Initial Reflection on the Mystery of Jesus” before entering into its ten chapters, which cover the following topics: Jesus’ Baptism, His temptations, the Kingdom of God, the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, the Disciples, the Parables, John’s gospel, two milestones (Peter’s Confession and the Transfiguration), and Jesus’ declaration of His identity.

Chapter One: The Baptism

I will have more to say in future columns about this important book, combining as it does impressive scholarship, deep faith, and pastoral care, but let me provide an inkling of its riches here from the very first chapter. In his exploration of Jesus’ baptism alone, Benedict touches on several themes which already begin to unlock the richness of our relationship with Christ. For example, he notes that unlike Matthew, who begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus, Luke couples the genealogy with the baptism, tracing Jesus back to Adam. “This is a way of underscoring the universal scope of Jesus’ mission,” Benedict points out. “He is the son of Adam—the son of man. Because he is man, all of us belong to him and he to us; in him humanity starts anew and reaches its destiny.”

A reflection on the meaning of Jesus’ baptism is, of course, the centerpiece of this chapter. When John objects that Jesus has no need to be baptized, Jesus replies, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). Benedict traces the meaning of “to fulfill all righteousness” to the Torah, where it signifies the acceptance of God’s will or, as one expression has it, the bearing of the “yoke of God’s kingdom.” He then offers this beautiful reflection on what it means for Jesus to have undergone John’s baptism of repentance:

The act of descending into the waters of this Baptism implies a confession of guilt and a plea for forgiveness in order to make a new beginning. In a world marked by sin, then, this Yes to the entire will of God also expresses solidarity with men, who have incurred guilt but yearn for righteousness. The significance of this event could not fully emerge until it was seen in light of the Cross and Resurrection. Descending into the water, the candidates for Baptism confess their sin and seek to be rid of their burden of guilt. What did Jesus do in this same situation? Luke, who throughout his Gospel is keenly attentive to Jesus’ prayer and portrays him again and again at prayer—in conversation with the Father—tells us that Jesus was praying while he received Baptism (cf. Lk 3:21). Looking at the events in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what had happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross. He is, as it were, the true Jonah who said to the crew of the ship, “Take me and throw me into the sea” (Jon 1:12). The whole significance of Jesus’ Baptism, the fact that he bears “all righteousness,” first comes to light on the Cross: The Baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out “This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection. This also explains why, in his own discourses, Jesus uses the word baptism to refer to his death (cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50).

A Papal Book?

“It goes without saying,” Benedict remarks near the end of his foreword, “that this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium…. Everyone is free, then, to contradict me.” A papal book is a relatively new means of communication, begun by John Paul II, in which popes publish their own works of scholarship and personal reflections as private persons. One can, I suppose, doubt the wisdom of this development, as it provides something of a key to a pope’s thought without having any magisterial right to be used even as an interpretive tool. On the other hand, the same issue exists with any pope’s private comments or allocutions to individual groups, since magisterial authority extends only to what the pope intends to teach by virtue of his office to the whole Church.

In reality, there is no new blurring of the lines of authority here, but rather a great benefit in permitting some of the most brilliant and faith-filled Catholics to continue offering their human wisdom to the Church even after their election as pope. Except when the papal office has been tied to secular politics, the human quality of the popes has been consistently and remarkably high. Joseph Ratzinger’s Jesus of Nazareth is a great gift which, precisely because it has been written as a private person by one who is also the pope, will have a disproportionate influence on how other scholars approach Sacred Scripture and the person of Christ. One can read this profound book either for scholarship or for faith, for study or for meditation. It should in fact be read for both reasons. It is truly Athens and Jerusalem all in one.