Saturday, December 28, 2013

2nd & Charles


"Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence..."

I had a great time at the new used bookstore this afternoon. I was browsing the Bible shelves...rolling my eyes at the study notes in them: "Oh wow, that was easy...Jesus couldn't possibly mean what he said." A couple were next to me, the man had a huge book in his hands. He and she were talking about what it was for, how to use it. I turned toward them to go, and they asked me if I knew about the book: Strong's Concordance. Wow, I love Strong's Concordance! Yeah, lemme show ya how it works! If you're wanting to learn more about how the Bible thinks, ya want this book (or the online equivalent). And I asked them some questions like I do my Catechism class kids, such as, "Y'all tell me why Sarah and Abraham were unhappy...yep, and then...uh huh, and what did Sarah do...laughed, that's right..and they named him...Isaac. Yes, so we check Strong's like so and see that Isaac means...and why does that matter? Yes. And so when God wanted Abraham to kill Isaac...yep! See, and without knowing the Hebrew you miss that very human and pro-life part of the story!" And we went through a couple more examples, and how the Concordance shows how similar Hebrew words share a common root, and that sometimes their meanings overlap in ways that matter, but won't show up in English or Greek, like Adam and Ground. Where do I go to church? St. Mary's? That's Catholic right? The man was a former Catholic and now a deacon at his non-denom. We talked about growing up with the Latin Mass, how that alienated him, and how I loved reading the Latin and English out of my father's Missal. Talked some more about faith journeys, other Bible bits, what some other Hebrew names mean, such as Elizabeth. Discussed our decisions to take Jesus seriously. So we had a great time faith sharing without arguing, and without me selling Catholicism the least bit short.

Image from 2nd & Charles in case you were wondering. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pitchers 18: Teach and Draw

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
Board from the December 11 Class. Click to Enlarge.

Stuff on the board was drawn in more-or-less chronological order. Not everything covered in class was drawn on the board.

1. Christmas. The Nativity. A bit of Spanish: Navidad.

2. Isaiah, the Christmas Prophet: virgin, tidings, star, shepherds, sheep, kings, gold, incense, Dromedaries, ox, ass, manger, and the manger's master. A bit of Old English: tidings. A bit of Luke: myrrh. A bit of French: manger. A bit of Greek: aggelos, evangelion.

3. The Flight to Egypt. Maybe to Alexandria where young Jesus, like you kids, would learn some Greek.

4. Isaiah, Jeremiah, the boy Jesus, and the adult Jesus all at the Temple. A bit more Spanish: escribir.

5. John the Baptist at the Jordan, site of water miracles. The Jordan runs from Galilee to the Dead Sea. More Greek: baptizo. Still more Greek: dromos = run, race. Like a fast camel: a Dromedary. John is the Prodromos, the Forerunner, the herald. As John's father Zechariah prophesied: "you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways." 

Not just words in books. Proclaim. Write. Act. Sing. Draw.

Photo by Guest Bouncer John Biediger

Saturday, December 7, 2013


This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets and Convert Journal

 Size doesn't matter

Up until I was eight years old I belonged to St. Francis de Sales parish in Houma, La., whose church is a lovely Gothic revival structure completed in 1938. My Catholic imagination was well-nurtured by its elegant proportions; the Bible stories vividly presented in the stained glass windows; and a dove whose wings overshadowed the crucifix, tabernacle and altar.  The dove was painted on the green underside of a gracefully arched canopy which was cantilevered from the wall just above the crucifix.

Of course I knew the dove represented the Holy Spirit. But the canopy made the point, not the bird. It emphasized and protected Jesus on the cross; and also in his little house, the Tabernacle. It was clear to a kid: what's under the canopy is more worthy of attention and protection than what's not under it. I didn't understand until decades later that the canopy was yet another expression of Biblical-liturgical overshadowing; and that the little canopy was properly called a baldacchino.

At Mass, I'm frequently reminded of that green canopy during the Epiclesis:

Roman Missal 3rd Edition, Eucharistic Prayer II:  "Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ."

Roman Missal 2nd Edition, Eucharistic Prayer II: "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ."

I remember the canopy not so much because of the words, but because of the gesture which accompanies those words:

Is the priest making a little canopy over the gifts? I think it's implicit in the gesture. More specifically, I think he's overshadowing the gifts. I know, the prayer doesn't say that. I'm conflating "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts..." with this bit of Luke 1: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." That is, at the moment of Mary's overshadowing, God became physically present in her womb. And at the Epiclesis, God becomes physically present in the accidents of bread and wine. So I like the overshadowing gesture; and if I had been in charge of the New Translation, that bit would be something like "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy; and let your power overshadow them, that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ." But I can't find any Mass in Latin that mentions overshadowing even once; so it'd be going beyond the Latin to include any explicit mention of it.

But Christianity is bigger than the Latin Church. And the Eastern Christians usually embrace mystery with an enthusiasm that often escapes the rational West. Are any of them explicit about overshadowing in their Divine Liturgies?

At least one is, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In the opening prayer of its Divine Liturgy we hear, "How awful is this day and how marvellous this hour wherein the Holy Spirit will descend from heaven and overshadow and hallow this sacrifice. In quietness and in fear, arise and pray that the peace of God be with me and with all of you." I like that.

And at the epiclesis the priest says, "We pray thee and beseech thee Lord, that thou wouldest send the Holy Spirit and power upon this bread and upon this cup." I think the couplet of 'Holy Spirit and power' alludes to Luke 1 as well, but a bit more explicitly than the Latin Masses do.

So in April of next year, when we are discussing the Epiclesis in Catechism class, I'll make the same gesture as the priest. And then I'll get the kids to figure out what it means, and connect it to other overshadowings they're already familiar with. Time permitting, I'll draw the old canopy at St. Francis and a baldacchino; and have the children tell me how they relate to the priest's overshadowing hands.

This material is also covered in this short audio file.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fine Art 11: Die Maria Schützt Euch

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Let's jump right in: I read Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke for the first time in 1982. Here's the backstory, but you don't have to look at it. All you need to know is that the Cornet is a prose poem in German, and an elegant introduction to the language.

Yesterday I was admiring Hans Holbein's portrait of St. Thomas More:

So much of who I think More is comes from this painting. And the same is true for Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII. And Erasmus. And Anne of Cleves. So I started aimlessly browsing all the Holbeins I could find, because you can often see a lot just by looking. By and by I came across this one:

It's called the Darmstadt Madonna. It follows a standard formula in which the patron (in this case, Jakob Meyer, mayor of Basel, Switzerland) is at the right hand of Jesus, the Trinity, or a saint; and other members of the family, both dead and alive, are distributed starting at the central character's left hand. Notice in this case that although Mary is physically dominant, nobody looks at her: the patron focuses his gaze on baby Jesus, as does Mary herself. That's a little Catholic digression about a content-packed painting which is not the subject of this post.

But what struck me is Mary's cloak resting on Jakob's shoulder...a type of overshadowing I hadn't ever noticed before. Mary is protecting Jakob by 'spreading her wing' over him, recalling numerous Bible and liturgical examples of protective overshadowing. I assume that Jakob will extend this protection over his family, and that's why Mary's cloak doesn't overshadow to her left. This image of Mary's protection reminded me of a line from the Cornet, when two soldiers go their separate ways:

"Kehrt glücklich heim, Herr Marquis. > Return happily home, Herr Marquis."
"Die Maria schützt Euch, Herr Junker. > The Mary protects you, Herr Junker."

So then I wondered if that was a standard German idea, to seek or enjoy Mary's protection. A quick search on "schutz maria" turned up a town called Maria Schutz in Austria, but I was looking for piety, not places. Tried "schutz madonna", got Schutzmantel Madonna right away, which simply means Protection-cloak Madonna. It's a very common Catholic image in German-speaking cultures:

Looks just like his Momma.

Is the Son's swaddling cloth overshadowing his Mom?

Both the Queen Mother and her Son the King wear crowns

Even popes and bishops want in.

The Schutzmantel Madonna is such a vivid image that I want to get a statue like these for catechism class. It'll fit right in with our recurring theme of overshadowing. Yeah, I could print off a nice lettersize handout of one of these photos (and I may do so regardless) but a 3D teaching tool works better than its 2D version.

And the Schutzmantel isn't just a religious concept. The traditional way a German man would legally demonstrate his adoption (or legitimization) of a child was to publically extend his mantel over the child; so Mary isn't simply protecting a bunch of people- she's adopting them as her children. There's just something about a statue that'll make that point better than a picture. But for class we'll first do a quick skit of Mary extending her beach towel mantel over a couple of her peers. Once the kids figure out its significance, then I'll pull out the statue, we'll discuss some of the German history behind it, and connect it to the Bible examples we've already covered. Then right before class is over I'll distribute a Schutzmantel Madonna handout, and have the kids explain to me how they are going to explain it to their parents for homework.

Figure no more than 5 minutes on the skit and statue; no more than 2 minutes on the handout and quick review.

This material is also covered in this short audio file.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Sun Poured In

Thanksgiving Day was cold and clear, and My Fabulous Wife was adding Blondie ingredients to a mixing bowl on the kitchen island. There's a big skylight over the island, which was lit up like all outdoors. I idly watched Janet pour in a bag of little tan goobers. What's that stuff? "Butterscotch." Huh- you put butterscotch in Blondies? "Yep." Huh...and I was seeing the sunlight all over her and the bowl, and trying to recall something about the sun and butterscotch that for a few seconds gave me that Jesus-kill-me-now good feeling.

Later that night I was still trying to make sense of sun and butterscotch. Searched online for "sun butterscotch" and found:

And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses.

Oh that's right, it's from Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell. I probably first heard it sung by Judy Collins on the radio in 1968, when I was 11, then later on by Joni. Chelsea Morning has always colored my image of Manhattan: bright, busy, full of possibility. And it also influenced my idea of romance.

So I listened to it again; and at 56, it moves me more today than it did when I was young. For as well as the lyrics hinted at the love I imagined as a teenager, they better describe the real love I have now. 'Cause in my life, every morning is a Chelsea morning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I heard
Was a song outside my window, and the traffic wrote the words
It came a-reeling up like Christmas bells, and rapping up like pipes and drums

Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
And we'll wear it 'till the night comes

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw
Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall
Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon

Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
There's a sun show every second

Now the curtain opens on a portrait of today
And the streets are paved with passersby
And pigeons fly
And papers lie
Waiting to blow away

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses
Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
And we'll talk in present tenses

When the curtain closes and the rainbow runs away
I will bring you incense owls by night
By candlelight
By jewel-light
If only you will stay
Pretty baby, won't you
Wake up, it's a Chelsea morning

Chelsea Morning lyrics © Joni Mitchell/Crazy Crow Music/Siquomb Music, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Liturgical History in Four Hours

 Maybe not this exact style

Today I gave the last of four 1-hour presentations at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church here in Greenville, S.C.  The overall subject was liturgical aspects of a Catholic church, divided into 4 threads:

1. The Biblical concept of overshadowing. Overshadowing was traced from Exodus through the Acts of the Apostles, and into the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I also explained the symbolic overshadowing function of a baldacchino.

2. The Bible history of food miracles: from Manna and Quail in the desert, through the Last Supper, and into the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

3. The Bible history of Arks and Tabernacles: from Noah's Ark through the Tabernacle in a Catholic church, and from there to the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation.

4. The Bible history of offering sacrifice: from Abel's lamb, through the Book of Revelation, and into the Liturgy of the Eucharist. 

The process included some Hebrew and Greek; audience participation; sacred art handouts; lots of drawing; lots of Bible; lots of learning; and based on comments, lots of fun.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
At about this time every year in Wednesday Sunday School, we finish the Old Testament. Before beginning the New, we learn and review some big-picture ways to envision the Two Testaments, such as:

1. The Bible is an iceberg; the small part, the NT, is easily seen. But it's supported by the less-obvious OT. Be aware of the whole iceberg, not just what sticks out.

2. The Bible roughly divides into books written before Jesus was born; and books written after he was born. But the whole thing is about Jesus.

3. Two women personify the Testaments and their separate, but related plotlines: Eve, who freely cooperated with the Devil; and Mary, who freely cooperated with God. Every year we do a skit of sorts with two girls and analyze some sacred art featuring these two women. I always refer to the break between the Testaments as an intermission, or a hinge, and I open and shut my held-up Bible at the titlepage of the NT to make the point.

So last week I was looking at the lesson plan and thinking about the Hinge Thing, and how my Bible, the book itself, doesn't really have a literal hinge, since it "hinges" at every page. Which gave me an idea. I bought a nice, heavy 4" hinge at the hardware store with a removable pin. I needed the pin to slide in and out easily, so I filed the thick part down around the top until it did so. This Wednesday when we got to the end of the OT, we did the Iceberg Bit as usual. But then:

"Hey y'all I need two girl volunteers! Me! You aren't a girl. I want real girls. Yes, you two real girls come on down! Daughter One, stand here, and [I give her a hinge leaf] hold this in your left hand, out where we can see it. It's the leaf of a door hinge. You're the Old Testament. Daughter Two, what are you? The New Testament. Yes, and hold this leaf in your right hand..... Well? Well what? Well, do something! This is a skit! [They try to align the two hinge leaves. It's hard without the pin.] Whassamatta wit' y'all? Can't you Testaments get together? They need the stick thing! Yes, they need the pin. [I bring it out and slide it into place.] There y'all go. So tell me about them now. They make the Bible! Yes. And what is the pin? It''s Jesus! Yes, genius, the pin is Jesus. What holds the the leaves together? The pin! And all three together make...a hinge. Yes. But if I take the pin so...then it doesn't work. Yes, so in Bible terms, the two Testaments hinge upon...Jesus. Yes. OK, let me have the leaves...but don't sit down yet! Class, tell me: this girl is the...Old Testament, yes and she's...the New. Yes. But they aren't just Testaments-  they're also two particular women in the Testaments....." And we segued into item 3.

Some teaching points:

1. This is better than my old way of just telling the kids Jesus forms the hinge between the Testaments. This new way the kids have to figure it out instead of being told.

2. It's better when they figure out an abstract concept through something physical than without something physical.

3. The hinge is like a book even though it didn't come up.

4. I could also have done this by simply pointing to a hinge on the door to the classroom. But it's better to have the kids physically participate; and it's better for them to see there is no hinge unless the pin holds the leaves together.   

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Transformation vs. Multiplication

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets and Convert Journal

Y'all know the Cana miracle, right?

 1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine was almost gone, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They are almost out of wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now a stone jar was standing there, able to hold twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, "Pour the last of the wine into the jar." Then He said, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. 9 When the steward of the feast tasted the wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." And they distributed it to those who were seated; as much as they wanted.  And when they had drunk their fill, there was wine left over.

OK-  I'm teasing: that's not how the miracle goes, although my version might seem plausible. Typically somebody doesn't have enough bread, or water, or flour, or oil; and a little bit miraculously goes a long way. But unlike other food miracles in the Bible, Cana's miracle is about transformation, not multiplication, and thus more impressive: making wine out of water is more remarkable than say, Elisha making twenty loaves of bread feed a hundred men.

Why does this matter? Because by miraculously transforming water into wine, Jesus sets a precedent for His invisible transformation of wine into blood. That is, a dog miracle* prepares us for a faith miracle.

Audio based on the above text here.

*And what's a dog miracle? It's one that can be accepted with little-to-no faith. For example, at Cana even a dog could have tasted and seen that water went in and wine came out. People will easily believe what they perceive with their own two eyes or other bodily senses (well, most of the time: John 9) . People love visible miracles, such as making the paralyzed walk...they don't require much faith. It's the invisible ones, like forgiving sins, that are tough.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review 6: Y'all Do What Ya S'posed T'Do

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Liguori Publications has recently published Classroom Management for Catechists by fellow South Carolina catechist Jennifer Fitz. I received a review copy which I have now thoroughly marked up. I've been catechizing since 1998, so I have lots opinions about running a classroom, and love to compare them to what other catechists think. Here are some of my observations on a chapter-by-chapter basis (but not necessarily using each chapter’s title):

1. Your World as a Catechist

You're a volunteer and an amateur. Yikes! Angst! No! Don't be afraid; and don't forget why you're a catechist. You know- "because you want to share Christ with your students." Umm...yes! That pretty well covers it. And being a volunteer amateur gives you a lot of discretion as to how you'll teach. You know about the Holy Spirit and the charism business, right? You got some gifts, so figure out what they are and then use 'em.

2. The Elements of Discipline

Oh yeah- just say it out loud: DISCIPLINE. 'Cause if the little pagans don't behave, there won't be much Christ-sharing going on. Right away Jen notes that "vague admonitions...don't really mean much," and proceeds with "The Six E's." I won't cover all of them, but then that's why there is a book.

Set an Example: I do set an example, but hadn't quite put it in these pithy terms: "This is how Christians behave; this is how you should behave." But mos def the kids will never take class more seriously than you do. So act and look serious.

Environment: Uh-oh. There's a ton of stuff in here which I think applies more to littl'uns than the proto-teenagers I have in 6th-grade. But I do follow this advice: "Remove Temptations." Like Jen, I "bring visual aids and props," and if that stuff isn't out of sight until the instant it's relevant, it's a distraction.

Keep 'em Engaged: "If your students have nothing to do, they will think up something to do." This ties into having a lesson plan that will fill the whole class period. But if it doesn't, Jen offers some easy quick fixes. I know from experience they work.

But to keep the YouTube Generation engaged doesn't require Technology In The Classroom: "...stand out by offering human interaction." Ask leading questions, guide discussion, encourage the kids to take an active role in their own learning experience.

Enforce: I like the sound of that- ENFORCE. But Jen first points out that "You cannot control your students. You cannot." A timely observation: just this week I experienced the oddest behavior I've ever seen in a classroom in my entire life, and we just worked around it 'til class was over. Anyway, Jen lists about 10 discrete problems and solutions from her own classroom; and to the extent that I have those problems, my solutions are virtually the same.

Encourage: Jen has about a half-dozen ideas here. My favorite is Personal Encouragement: praise the kids out loud when they do well, and encourage them to keep trying when the answers are wrong. I generally think of the kids in class just like I think of my own kids: I love them and want to maintain an environment in which they can do well.

3. Rhythm and Routine

Oh man I am so thankful I don't teach younger kids. Jen has all kinds of good, concrete recommendations about ways to structure classtime...I don't do this stuff...I'm tired now.

4. The Young and the Restless

This chapter is so spot on. Love the kids; ask serious questions; ask silly questions; let 'em talk; don't dumb it down; don't flinch from teaching the big words; say things opposite; use props; pretend. Every bit of this I use all the time because all of it works all of the time.

5. Teaching Beginners and Advanced Together

I have to do this every year for the whole year. Everything Jen says I agree with, and I follow most of her recommendations. Truly, I like having to teach such that for any topic (e.g., Baptism) we start at the very bottom and work our way up to the big picture; because even if some kids know a lot, they rarely see how the all the parts fit together into a bigger whole.

6. Include Every Student

I get quiet kids, and shy kids, and kids that are unchurched; with respect to those kids, Jen’s remarks are spot on.  I haven’t ever had a child with any kind of disability that required the type of accommodations that she also covers, but what she says makes sense.

7. More Than One Teacher

A few pages about coordination, who does what and when…I don’t team-teach…I’m getting tired again.

8. Class Plans

At first I thought, “oh yeah, lesson plans, I know all about it,” but this chapter is less about lesson plans, and more about the catechist’s dynamic use of available space and time. Interesting. I can see how this applies more to younger kids, where one must plan for craft logistics, physical space for games, that sort of thing. Regardless, Jen emphasizes that the plan is a plan. Or as Feldmarschall Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke would say, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” So between Jen and von Moltke, plan on making changes to your plan, which will make your life easier next year. You heard me: next year. And the year after that.

9. Conclusion

I haven’t mentioned this yet because it’s implied in the last two pages: this book isn’t about Class Management per se. It’s really about how you are going to evangelize the children that the Church has entrusted to you. Jen says, “This is the most important subject your students will ever study.” I agree it is. So the parents put soccer above Sunday School? So the kids are tired and inattentive? So catechizing takes up too much of your time and energy? So what? God put you in front of those kids for a reason: To Change the World.  So- change it.
This book will help.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Conversations at Night

I've been reading this shortstory about every other year for 40 years. It just occurred to me today that it's my favorite romance.

Conversations at Night 

And this one by the same author shaped how I think about abortion before I had even thought about abortion:

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sheep vs. Beached Whales

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets


I read something recently about lackluster homilies, which touched on one of my favorite topics, the two major Catholic subgroups:

A. Priests.
B. Their critics.

I'd say in general we have a D laity and a B+ clergy. So when I hear griping about how Faddah ain't doin' thus and so, my first reaction is well, what are you doing? Are you knocking yourself out for Jesus' church? If you are, great. I reckon you've earned the right to criticize the priest for whatever he ain't doing, such as delivering vibrant homilies. But after the crit's done, then what? And although I do hear excellent homilies, they comprise maybe 15% of my faith formation. As an adult Catholic, that's my responsibility. It ain't Faddah's job. A sheep ain't a beached whale.

Now here's what I think about bad homilies, in case nobody imagined I had an opinion! Dull homilists aren't likely to improve unless Jesus knocks 'em slap off their horses. But I wouldn't count on it. What I count on instead is individuals within the Catholic laity responding to the Holy Spirit's prodding; and then renovating the Church from the bottom up. Like democracies, the laity tends to get the priests it deserves. So it's up to the laity to act like grownups and take charge of themselves. Father's job is to treat his adult children like adults, not to be a spiritual spoon-feeder and butt-wiper. And if the laity goes from an F for effort to say, a C+, and raises up a generation of faithful, knowledgeable, orthodox, energized Catholics, then they'll also raise up priests who can smack a homerun from the pulpit most Sundays.

Ram photo by Alexandre Prévot. Whale via Treehugger & Globo.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review 5: Covenant and Communion

Guest-posted at Standing on My Head and linked to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

I have to admit I don't know one person's theology from another. I thought theology was theology, and it did not come in flavors. So this little book was a pleasant surprise: first, it's an overview of how Benedict XVI thinks about God; and second, it shows how Benedict thinks about God through the Bible.

I have to digress already. Last year I had this book fall into my lap:

What an unexpected delight! B16 takes the reader through a conversational exegesis of all the Bible bits concerning young Jesus, from the Annunciation of John to Jesus in the Temple. I thought it was terrific, and I still re-read parts of it. So I had a good idea about how the pope approached Scripture before I started on Covenant and Communion, which is a more learned and demanding book than The Infancy Narratives. If you're an unschooled layman like me, I'd recommend reading one of the Jesus of Nazareth books first. It will make it easier to grasp what Scott Hahn wants us to know about B16's thinking in Covenant and Communion.

In C&C, the author condenses what must be well-over a million words and several decades of Benedict's God-thinking into about 200 pages. Hahn quotes St. Jerome in the opening chapter's title: Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ, and writes, "How we read and interpret the Bible directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, the sacraments, and the liturgy." The rest of the book shows us what Benedict understands about those things, and also how the Bible shaped his thinking. Hahn provides just enough commentary and guidance such that the reader can understand big chunks of the Pope's original prose on its own terms. At the same time, by following Benedict one sees how he directly uses the Word itself as the primary written testimony of Catholic faith- say, as opposed to the Catechism, or a Bible study guide, or any number of other books that often mediate between an individual and Scripture.

And Benedict thinks big: C&C isn't about apologetics, doesn't focus in detail on discrete topics. Its God-scope is universal, as broad and deep as can be managed in a small package. It's the whole Faith; the whole Bible; the whole time.

Read Covenant and Communion: it's not the usual.   

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Never Noticed This Either #2


Last night I attended a mission at Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, SC. The speaker was Michael Cumbie, whose faith journey is not the usual; I was pleasantly surprised by both the plot and the content of his 90-minute presentation (the 2nd of 3).

One of the Bible stories he covered was the Road to Emmaus, per Luke 24. I'm editing a bit:

"That very day two of them were going to Emmaus and talking about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding?" 18 Cleopas answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened?"  "What things?"  "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, and how our chief priests and rulers crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive." 25 And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."

In catechism class I always thump on that last line. It reminds us that the disciples were average guys; and unlike scribes and Pharisees, didn't have wads of Scripture committed to memory. They didn't spend their workdays thinking about Isaiah; they thought about, oh, catching fish. Nor would it be obvious to even an expert that golly, Jesus sure has fulfilled an awful lotta Scripture on this, the very first Easter Sunday! So Jesus had to explain it all from God's viewpoint as they were walking; and he probably needed every minute of the journey to do so.

"So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, 29 but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. 30* When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight."

And I jump on that as well, and y'all are familiar with  it. The bread-breaking is a big deal, because that's the moment Jesus was recognized, not merely seen. In other words, anyone can see, but does everyone understand what they are seeing? Of course this alludes to Mass, and the necessity of not just seeing what things may look like, like, you know, bread; but recognizing what they are.

But Cumbie also pointed out that not only was Jesus recognized when he broke bread, but that he was not recognized during hours of Scripturally enlightening the two disciples about himself. And the two disciples seem surprised at that: "They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" Yeah....wouldn't that have been the time for recognition? Nope. They knew Jesus when he broke bread; not when he showed them how all Scripture had been fulfilled in himself. Huh.

I never noticed. But boy howdy am I using it in catechism class when we cover this passage in March. I expect to Go Negative, like so:

"Later on Easter Sunday, Jesus ran into a couple of sad disciples. Why would they be sad? 'Cause they thought Jesus was dead. Yes. Let's listen to Luke's Gospel: "That very day two of them were going to Emmaus and talking about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking, Jesus himself drew near and went with them." But y'all just said Jesus was dead. He's alive again, it's Easter! Oh, oh yeah, that's right. "But their eyes were kept from recognizing him." Who kept them from recognizing Jesus? Umm, I guess Jesus did. Yes, why? I don't know. That's ok, let's see if you can figure it out. Then Jesus said, "What is this conversation which you are holding?" 18 Cleopas answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened?"  "What things?"  "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, and how our chief priests and rulers crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company were at the tomb early in the morning 23 and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive." Who are they telling Jesus about? They're telling him about himself! Yes! Do they know who he is yet? No! Right! And Jesus said, O foolish men, y'all don't understand all the stuff the prophets predicted! Prophets like who? Isaiah! Yes. But are these guys Bible experts? No! Right, they need a little help: "And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Now once Jesus explained everything to them, did they recognize him? Yes! No! Trick Question! Jesus walked with them most of the day explaining how he fulfilled all those prophecies, but they still didn't know who he was!

"So they drew near to the village to which they were going. The disciples said, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight."

"So tell me about it. They knew he was Jesus. Yes of course, but tell me how they knew. Jesus let them see. Yes, but why did Jesus let them see now? Why didn't he do it when they were having Bible Study all day [going negative]? OK, hard question? Y'all listen again and tell me why he waited:  "he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes-" It's like at Mass! Yes; what's like at Mass? That's what we say at Mass. Yes, what the priests says. So try again: why didn't he do it when they were having Bible Study all day? He wanted to wait until the bread stuff. Yes, good. Now can y'all recognize Jesus in the Bible? Yes. And can you recognize him at Mass? Yes. But which one of those ways is Jesus emphasizing in the story? Mass! Yes! And even the disciples are surprised: "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" See, even they notice that Jesus didn't let them recognize him until he "blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to them."

The Bible never runs out of Catholic ideas.

Friday, September 27, 2013

King Kong

This post links to Convert Journal.

At a recent online discussion, someone asked "how the pastor could take the Scripture readings and leach all the dynamism out of them in his sermon."

I think it comes from the way we learn Scripture. The Bible gets domesticated by the assorted processes through which Scripture is taught to Catholics (and maybe others as well). But if one simply reads the Bible directly, without filtering, on its own terms, then it stands alone in the history of literature as a compelling work. Think of King Kong in the jungle; compare that to King Kong in chains on the stage in New York. See? 

So you don't like me likening the Bible to a giant movie ape. Try this instead:



Don't experience the Bible only through veils and screens; repackaged, edited, condensed, mediated and managed. Pick it up and read it yourself. You don't need a reason, or an agenda, or a guide, any structure, or any preconceptions. Just read it, and don't quit reading it. It's not conveniently organized? Hard to understand? Good: it's not supposed to be mannered or easily tamed.

Let the Bible loose in your life and it will roar.

Gorilla by David C Berliner
Roaring Lion by Paul Fisher
Caged Lion from onearth  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letter to Parents 2013

Wednesday Night Sunday School has changed a lot in the last 2 years, figured it was time to update my letter to the parents:

September 4, 2013

Dear Parents of 6th Grade Religious Ed Students,

1. You are invited to come to class anytime. Parents who do come tend to enjoy it, and every additional adult in the room improves the learning environment.

2. There's no book for this class, and no homework. Isn't that great? This year we'll cover the whole Bible, from Genesis through Revelations; and follow that with the Mass, and how the Bible relates to Mass. So if you've never looked at the Bible in one big sweep, now's your chance.

3. On the other hand, every week builds on the prior weeks' information, so the more your child comes to class and participates in discussion, the easier it is to keep up and have fun learning.  Encourage your child to pay attention, participate, and not interfere with other students' learning.

4. Sometimes the children will bring home color handouts of fine art that we use to spark discussion in class. Have your child explain what he or she learned about those handouts. Now that I think about, make them tell you what they learned after every class, handout or not. Explaining to you what they learn is part of their evangelization practice.

5. We take attendance; please have your child come to class regularly and on time.

6. Encourage your child to contribute to discussions, and to ask questions. At the start of each class students can ask any question about God/ religion/ Christianity/ Catholicism/ current events/ encounters with non-Catholics/ you name it. We want the kids to get answers to their faith questions; if they don't ask 'em, we can't answer 'em!

7. Encourage your child to sit toward the front; it's the easiest place to learn, and harder to be bored there.

8. You can contact me at 123-4567 or with any questions or comments.

Thanks for your support,

Christian LeBlanc      

Monday, September 23, 2013

Catechists' Workshop

Demonstrated some of my favorite Bible-based catechizing techniques twice at a diocesan event this past weekend.  Had 75 minutes to work with each time, cut into five 15-minute units:

1. Drawing as a teaching tool

2. Using skits as a teaching tool.

3. Teaching through learning bits of New Testament Greek.

4. Using fine art as a teaching tool.

5. Using props as teaching tools.

I presented the first four methods the same way as I did last March at another event. A synopsis of that 60-minute session is here: Teachers' Conference.
For the 5th unit, I used a balloon, a rubber fetus, two beach towels, three volunteers, and an umbrella to make a few observations about Mary's perpetual virginity. The essential content is here.

It was the quickest 75 minutes of my life, and I'm ready for another gig.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


 This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
Originally posted at New Evangelizers

Y'all know how the New Evangelization means you have to actually speak to, well, people. Sometimes people you don't know. Standing in front of you. About religious stuff. Aack. It's not for everybody.

Or is it?

I try to meet someone I don't know after Mass at least every couple of weeks. I have terrible social skills, but I do find people interesting. So it’s easier for me to ask questions at first instead jumping right into an impromptu conversation with strangers. This is typical:

"Hey, I don't know you from Adam, I'm Christian; that blonde over there is my wife Janet. Who are y'all? Hello...nice to meet you. Where ya from? Ya married, rite? How'd y’all meet? When did ya first consider him marriage material? Ha! And how did you propose? Wow. So what's your maiden name? Izzat Czech? Oh, Hungarian. What generation American are you?  Where were ya born? How’d ya'll wind up here? Are y'all Catholic or just visiting? Catholic? Cradle or convert? You're cradle...did you grow up in an ethnic parish? And you're a convert.  Janet's a convert, I'm cradle. So tell me a little bit of your conversion story...uh-huh...uh-huh. How's ya faith journey doin' since ya been Catholic? Yeah, there's a lot to learn. How’d ya pick this parish? How long ya been inna parish? Still suits ya? Did you do RCIA here? How'd you like it? Who taught it? How was he? Did you learn anything that was surprising? Yeah...uh-huh. Ya been ta da parish breakfas' yet? No? Ya wanna try dat, the food is way good an' not jus' coffee'n'flapjacks: eggs Benedict, omelets, way cool. Plus ya get some Cath'lic fellaship...yeah it's weird, idnit? But people like it. And kids eat cheap. These are yours, rite? So how old are y'all? Are y'all in catechism? Yeah? I teach 6th grade, you'll get me if I live another couple of years. This ya regular Mass? Yeah I like it too, I like all the singing. So it's been a couple of years, how's the New Translation suit ya? Yeah, I like it better too but I still hafta read the Creed..."

It's not a template like cold-callers use, but it's an approach that works for me. Maybe something similar would work for you. Be not afraid.

*Ледокол, Ledokol, Icepick, Icebreaker...geddit?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

To the Parents of the World

 This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Every 6th-grader on the planet should be in Wednesday Night Sunday School: Catholic, Christian, Cossack, Cathar, I don't care. I don't care if the parents won't make cookies, are bad Catholics, non-Catholics, Atheists, the Worst Scum of the Universe, or the Antichrist. I don't care if they ever go to Mass, or Confession, or if they Live in Sin. I don't want any parent anywhere who could bring their child to my class to have a single reason not to do so.

To the Parents of the 6th-Graders of the World: just bring ya kid t'class. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

"Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." And he laid his hands on them and went away."

Bible + Mass = 2 Hours

Had a great day yesterday at a high-school youth group retreat. Two 1-hour sessions evangelizing teens through the subject of Sacrifice/ Worship History. I know what I can cover in 30 about 2 hours?

Rough outline:

Genesis: quick account of Creation. No sacrifice in Eden. Worship apparently a matter of obeying a few commandments: be fruitful and multiply; don't eat meat; don't eat the fruit. Of course, the notion of "worship" is a poor description of hanging out with God 24/7 in a sin-free world.

After the Fall, Abel and Cain are offering sacrifice; in Abel's case, killing and offering sacrifice. Why are they offering sacrifices? What do Cain and Abel offer? Why does it matter?

Noah and a new covenant. What is an ark? Why is it ok to eat meat now?

Abraham and a new covenant. Abraham arrives in Canaan, builds an altar, offers a thanksgiving sacrifice. What's with the altar? Why bother with one? The Greek word for giving-thanks is Eucharisteo. Why does that matter?

Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and the sacrifice of only-begotten Isaac. Why isn't everyone more upset? Why on a mountain? God provides a ram- why?

Baby Moses and his ark; Moses, Pharaoh, Passover. Family elders sacrificed the lambs whose blood was sprinkled and whose flesh was eaten. Why was blood used to mark Hebrew houses? Why did the lambs have to be eaten?

Moses and a new covenant. In the wilderness Moses offers slain bulls to the LORD, sprinkles half of the blood on the altar, half on the people. Why? What kind of offering is this?

Starving in the wilderness, Israelites complain that in Egypt they had plenty of bread, and "fleshpots" to eat meat from. God provides miracle bread and flesh in the form of manna and quail.

The Golden Calf.  Elders are no longer fit to handle their families' sacrifices. From now on, only Levite priests will do this (elder-presbyteros-priest). Established rituals for confessing sin, making atonement, and obtaining forgiveness. But will this get a forgiven sinner into Heaven? Why not?

Other rituals involve sprinkling of blood and water mixed together to provide cleansing (e.g.,of leprosy) and atonement.

God instructs Moses to provide him with a tent so he may dwell among his people. God's earthly home is patterned on his heavenly home. It's very glamorous. He also instructs Moses to build an ark. Plan of Meeting Tent and Ark of the Covenant, and how they work.

After crossing the Jordan, the Israelites settle down. The Tent resides in Shiloh. Due to Israel's sins, the Ark is captured in battle. Later Israel gets the Ark back, but God never dwells again in desolate Shiloh.

King Saul isn't working out. Samuel is sent by the LORD to anoint one of Jesse's sons as Saul's replacement. He journeys to little Bethlehem, and surprisingly pours the oil on the youngest and least significant of the lot: David.

King David captures Jerusalem, brings the ark into the city. He plans to build the LORD a permanent house, as the Israelites are no longer nomads. But David's serious sins involving Bathsheba make him unworthy to do so. David repents of his sins and receives forgiveness. Yet their firstborn is taken by God as atonement.

David writes the Psalms which become standards for prayer and worship, both sung and spoken. David's son Solomon builds the Temple, whose plan is based on the Meeting Tent, which was based on the pattern in heaven. Israel glorifies God by building a glorious house in which he'll dwell among his people.

Israel now has a stable system for sacrifice and worship. The Temple is mainly for sacrifice because God dwells there; and at synagogues the faithful sing hymns, pray, listen to the Scriptures be read aloud, sing Psalms, and listen to commentary on the Scripture readings.

After Solomon, the kingdom fractures into Samaria and Judea. Henceforth, a succession of bigger enemies conquer them or require tribute. Babylon destroys the Temple and takes the captive nation away to Mesopotamia. Years later they return, and rebuild the Temple.

Elijah scolds King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel for allowing the people to worship false gods. Elijah flees for his safety into the wilderness. A raven supplies Elijah with miracle bread and flesh.

The people yearn for a savior to restore the  Kingdom. They want another David, an Anointed One. They use an old Egyptian word for this person upon whom oil is ritually poured: Msha > Mashiah > Messiah. Or in Greek, the Chrismated One: the Christ.

Isaiah has a vision of the heavenly worship:  "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." Ya ever heard that before?

God chooses Isaiah to speak for him. Isaiah says to straighten up: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain."

Because to tell the truth, God is fed up with hard-hearted people going through the motions: "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me." Uh-oh.

The people want another David, but Isaiah prophesies otherwise: "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse...he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked." What's this "Messiah" gonna do- kiss his enemies to death?

And the Messiah won't provide for just the Chosen Ones: "On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things full of marrow, of wine well-refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces..."

And everybody knows messiahs aren't meek- what Isaiah's problem? "He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench...many were astonished at him-- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men-- so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him.' Remind me about sprinkling, please.

And messiahs are popular: "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." Wrong again, Isaiah.

And messiahs aren't sacrifices, either: "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed."

And Isaiah, messiahs don't die like little lambs: "...the LORD has laid on him the sin of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."

Poor Isaiah- so confused.

The Chosen People continually backslide, and are chastised by prophets for their worship of false gods and the sacrifice of their firstborn to them. Jeremiah reminds them that God may abandon the Temple as surely as he abandoned Shiloh: "Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--only to go on doing all these abominations? I will do to the house which is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh." Uh-oh. Tell me what eventually happened to the Temple? Who did it?

Jeremiah also prophesies a New Covenant: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

But it sounds like the ark's days are numbered regardless: "Return, O faithless children, says the LORD; for I am your master; I will bring you to Zion. 'And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the LORD, they shall no more say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD." It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; it shall not be made again."

Ezekiel riffs on Jeremiah: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh...And you shall be my people, and I will be your God." If law is put in your heart instead of on stone, what's it based on? And remind me again about sprinkling, please.

Malachi scolds the people for their half-hearted offerings: "When you offer blind, lame or sick animals, is that not evil? I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand."

Malachi predicts that someday the temple might not be needed either:  "For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering."  That can't be right: there's no such thing as a truly "pure" offering; and sacrifices and incense can only be offered in the Temple, not "in every place from the rising of the sun to its setting."

Micah, having something nice to say, expects the Messiah to come from David's hometown: "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days."

God's upset. The people are upset. When are they gonna get their Messiah?

Jesus is born in li'l old Bethlehem. When he and Jesus are grown up, the famous bug-eater John the Baptist quotes Isaiah to get people fired-up: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God."

John makes a fuss over Jesus in front of everybody: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Does God need a lamb? Does God need to offer sacrifice to himself? If Jesus is a lamb, whom is the lamb for? Can a single lamb atone for "the sin of the world?" Like Isaiah, John must be confused. Probably too much sun.

Jesus begins to lay a foundation for a new way to offer sacrifice and to glorify God.

At the wedding at Cana, he transforms water into a whole lot of wine. That's not the usual food miracle; say, like Elisha multiplying twenty loaves of bread into enough bread to feed a hundred men.

Jesus later feeds thousands by multiplying a very few loaves and fish. Everyone says, "Wow, Jesus is cooler than Elisha." [I draw the story on the board and we discuss: it works like Mass.]  When the people chase Jesus down the next day, instead of another tummyfull of free bread, they get an earful of nonsense: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh...he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life...For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." But hey: Bread and Flesh- where have you heard of that before? Could Jesus actually, you know, mean something?

Y'all know about the Last Supper. Tell me: what do they eat and drink? Where have you seen that combo before? What do you typically eat at a Passover meal? Where is the lamb at this meal? What did Jesus say? What was offered? What was sacrificed? When? By whom? Bread, wine, flesh, blood, Lamb: how do they fit together? Tell me when you first heard of those elements today. Jesus also said "...this is my blood of the covenant"...what covenant? Who prophesied about it?

Jesus is crucified. When the soldier jabs Jesus with his spear, what comes out? Yes. Where is this from in the Old Testament? What does the water do? What does the blood do? In the movie The Passion, the soldier is sprinkled by the blood and water. Remind me yet again about sprinkling, please. Tell me how Jesus fulfilled some of the prophecies you've heard.

Jesus resurrects, visits a few people, then ascends into the clouds. The Holy Spirit fires-up the men Jesus put in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven, and they go about setting up the Church. There are many new Christians; and they still go to synagogue and Temple, while remembering the Last Supper on Resurrection Day, Sunday. Eventually they're driven away from Temple and Synagogue.  The Christians create churches, which combine both the synagogue and Temple functions: what we call the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

[I draw a church plan under the Meeting Tent plan: they are very similar. The church plan is simply the Meeting Tent updated to New Covenant standards.]

Y'all look at this and compare the two. Altar? Incense? Offering? Washbowl? Levite priests? People? Bread? Ark? New Covenant ark? Candles? Cherubim? Any sprinkling? Tell me about it. Which building does God physically abide in? How about the high priest? Uh-oh, there isn't one in a church. Or is there?

Back when the Church was very young, some Jewish Christians were worried about whether they should still eat Kosher food, go to the Temple to offer sacrifices, that sort of thing. In the Letter to the Hebrews we learn that they didn't have to visit the Temple anymore, because the offering in church connects directly to Heaven through Jesus: "...we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God... a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek." Tell me about Melchizedek...what did he offer? And Jesus?

So Jesus is the high priest; not in an earthly copy of what's in heaven, but "a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord."

Look at the plans again. Where's the high priest in a church? Right- Jesus is in heaven, not the church. And we can't see Jesus, just like you couldn't see the high priest in the Holy of Holies in the Meeting Tent. The veil that blocks our view is sin.

So what's going in Heaven that Mass connects to? Revelations tells us a bit [I draw]: "a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clad in white garments...And round the throne are four living creatures, each of them with six wings, and day and night they never cease to sing, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" ...the twenty-four elders fall down and worship him, singing...I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain...the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense." Look at the picture: who's on the throne? Who's the Lamb? Why is he bloody? How is this like Mass so far?

[Now I draw below all that an altar and priest on Earth] What's this? What did we bring up at the Offertory? Who's this? What's he do? Then what happens? At Mass we hear: "command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high." Tell me how Mass connects to Heaven at this point. What do we eat and drink? Where did it come from? How did it get here?

Y'all remember Malachi said "in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering."  What's the pure offering? And how is it offered "in every place"? And how is it offered "from the rising of the sun to its setting"?

And Jeremiah said, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD...shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; it shall not be made again." Tell me about that. What do we have instead of the ark? Which is better? Why?

Many of the means to glorify God, to worship him, and to offer him sacrifice have been gathered together in Mass, going all the way back to Abel, Melchizedek, Abraham, and Moses. But because Jesus participates with us as a perfect offering and a perfect high priest, the Mass is much more powerful. 

The Mass will continue until the Second Coming, when the old Heaven and Earth are swept away. The saved will be bodily resurrected, and live in the New Jerusalem with God forever, sort of how Adam and Eve lived with God in the first place.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week 13: Expect Conversion

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets 

 Week 13; y'all go see other peoples' responses here.

Have you ever felt isolated in your quest to follow Jesus?

Umm, no. Never. I simply can't imagine such a thing. My world would have to be upside down for that to happen.

What are ways you have built a community of spiritual companions?

I live in the Bible Belt where lots of Catholics tend to be fired-up. My wife and I are friends with so many like-minded Catholics that last time we had a Christmas party for them (2011), we had to throw two parties to invite all hundred or so of them. We meet more at parish breakfasts, parties, lectures, after Mass, on the internet, workshops, lifechain, KofC's easy. For example, I just got back from a parish catechists' workshop, where I sat with a married couple. The husband will be the bouncer in my 6th-grade class, and his wife will teach third grade. I asked them right away if they were cradles or converts; they had converted from the Southern Baptist denomination a few years ago. We discussed their faith journey, their dissatisfaction with "Bible churches" they'd attended, their RCIA experience, why they converted to Catholicism in particular, why they were at our parish, how Catholicism suited them, their motivations and expectations for catechizing, etc. Then we talked with a cradle Catholic preschool catechist from Michigan, who commented on the number of proselytizers who came to her door. We discussed seeing those visits as evangelizing opportunities, and I said that preparing my 6th-graders to evangelize is a big part of class. Finally I invited them all to give the monthly parish breakfast a try: it's affordable, restaurant-quality food with a wide selection of dishes, and a chance to experience some Catholic Fellowship (yikes!) and plug into the parish family. It was a very agreeable and affirming evening- and not at all unusual.

You’ve put a lot of energy over the course of this study into learning about the need for evangelization and discipleship, and how to fulfill that need. Do you plan to take action? In what way?

I know this will make me sound like a smug spoilsport, but evangelization has been my second job since about 1998.

And regarding the post (and chapter) title: yeah, I expect conversion. I see it all the time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Expecting a different result?

Bumbling around today I stubbed my toe on this 1991 quote by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:

"The new evangelization we need so urgently today is not to be attained with cleverly thought out ideas, however cunningly these are elaborated: the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis is all too obvious. It is only the interaction of a truth conclusive in itself with its proof in the life of this truth that can enable that particular evidence of the faith to be illuminated that the human heart awaits: it is only through this door that the Holy Spirit enters the world."

I'd be curious to know if anyone who was catechizing back then can say that we're catechizing any differently now.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Well- How Did I Get Here?

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets


I ran into a lotta good content over here and decided to answer some of the questions.

How would you describe what your spiritual gifts are (or might be)?

Very briefly, and fueled by a gin & tonic: I was raised to have a Catholic imagination, have been curious about everything since I was little, and am a voracious reader of (mostly) nonfiction. First I loved history, maps, science fiction, and Ross MacDonald detective stories; then I discovered languages and classical music; in college I was fascinated by opera, art and architecture; then I married a relentlessly-curious woman and had kids, which explosively expanded my existential worldview; then God became an all-consuming interest about 25 years ago, and still holds the #1 position.

Out of the blue one day I was asked to teach Adult Ed- and it was terrific. Then RCIA- the same. Then 6th-grade Catechism, which has been, well, transcendent. I do believe my whole life has been a preparation to teach kids about God. So my charisms are: to see the biggest possible picture of anything in its smallest detail; to understand everything in relation to everything else, and see God in all of it; and to communicate the whole mess to 11 year olds.

In what ways could you evangelize or disciple others using those gifts?

Well, if you can explain something to 6th-graders you can explain it to anybody.

Think for a moment about the other members of your parish.  Who do you know who seems to have a very evident gift for some type of ministry, but perhaps is not aware of it? 

I know of a dozen or so who stand right at the end of the diving board and won't take the leap of faith. I ask 'em and they demur. Asking people in a way that gets results is clearly not one of my charisms.

Think for a moment about the lay leaders of your parish.

Huh...I don't think of my parish as having lay leaders. I think of the parish as having a critical mass of motivated Catholics who get on with the business of the Church without being led.

 Well- How Did I Get Here?