Devotional Bible reading Part Four

“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” said St. Jerome. So let’s look at this foundational step toward a devotional life: a daily devotional reading of Scripture.

I’ve already discussed choosing a translation here, and choosing a Bible here, and there’s nothing I’d change about that, really. If you’re a Protestant, I know the NIV is very popular right now, but the NASB (New American Standard) ranks better on translation accuracy, is also a pleasure to read and is easy to navigate. There are still the die-hard King James adherents, but even in the nearly-200 years since what we know as the KJV was updated, language has undergone enormous shifts which can be misleading:  I once heard a preacher give a sermon on “The Prodigal’s other son” — he didn’t realize the Prodigal Son (not Prodigal’s son) was about the younger son, or that a “prodigal” is another name for a money-waster.  “Suffer the children to come unto me” is another example, as “suffering” means something completely different there than in our modern usage.  No, if you’re going to read the Scriptures, you’d better know the words it contains, so unless you’re a language or literature scholar, I’d bypass the KJV.

So how to begin?  A lot of people follow a Lectionary schedule, and read the passages marked for the day’s Mass readings.  This is a good place to begin –

However, I believe we need to have a sense of Scripture in context, of a Book as a whole, which is how it was written — which means we need to engage in a Book study.  Each Book of the Scriptures (and Bible comes from the word biblia, which is the root for most European language’s word for library: bibliothèque) was written independently of all the others.

So I’d recommend you choose a Book of Scripture, begin with Chapter 1, Verse 1, and read it through. Start with one of the Gospels, perhaps, or one of the shorter books of the New Testament. And get a sense of the whole message contained in each Book.

I suggest you read the Psalms and Wisdom Literature separately.  The Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, is built from the Psalms; you might read a Psalm a day (or a part of a long Psalm), and a chapter or a set number of verses in your other reading.

For the time being, I recommend avoiding, in the Old Testament, the Books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (which are the Law, the Census, and speeches of Moses), while you get a stronger sense of the drama of the Historical narratives (Genesis, Exodus, Joshua-Esther). The Wisdom literature and Prophets are easier to keep focused on, too.  As you are becoming grounded, you can read a few verses of Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy as an introduction, or for research — I just suggest you postpone reading straight through those, for the present; because they’re not narrative, they can be discouraging — just what you do NOT want to encounter, early on in your reading!

In the New Testament, I would likewise suggest waiting before tackling Revelations.

I also recommend you pace yourself. I believe it’s better to read for comprehension and retention, and a “Read the Bible through in a year” program just doesn’t lend itself to those.

Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be daunting or intimidating or mysterious; in fact, it’s quite a thrilling endeavor.

New Year, Resolutions?

January 1, 2019. Another year, and the push to make new resolutions for a “New Year, New You” for the coming twelve months, mixed with the jokes about broken resolutions and the unending cycle of same.

For us as Catholics, the year begins with Mass – not for a new year, but to honor the power of the Incarnation through the fiat of Mary, in a grand Solemnity. I cantored for a local Mass last night, and played at the chapel for another, this morning. This is a very good way to begin.

We are in a grave time of crisis, and we have important choices to make. Our culture is running mad. Children are being exploited as sex objects, even applauded for being transgender or a drag queen on national television, for all our children to see and to think should be imitated or looked up to.  Local libraries and bookstores are promoting reading hours with drag queens — again, to influence our children and to lure them into a false glamour, to rob them of their innocence.

There is an increasing push to criminalize reparative therapy:  the gay lobby insists, very loudly, that it is impossible to change one’s gender preference and that reparative therapy is abuse of a criminal degree — while they insist that one can overcome biology to change one’s own gender.

Public schools are promoting these ideologies, and even taking children to begin the process of “transitioning” — without parental consent.  Parents who oppose these manipulations of their children are being charged with criminal acts and losing their children to the State.

It’s being reported than nearly 14,010,000 babies were aborted in the past year.

The hallmarks of paganism are human sacrifice and sexual depravity.

More and more, Christians and those who hold traditional moral and social values are being scorned, persecuted, punished in the public square.

And even our beloved Church, which is supposed to be the safeguard of all things holy, and the example of sanctity in the world, is embroiled in one controversy and crisis after another — as princes of the Church protect one another from accountability for grave misdeeds, and promote individuals who defy Church teaching in order to promote deviance in the name of “love” and “acceptance.”

We can’t even take our own pontiff seriously, any more, for whatever words he might utter about homosexuals being kept from the priesthood, he promotes and protects the apologists for the homosexual lifestyle and punishes those who actually hold faithful to the Magisterium.

So, in this coming year, I propose that we must be resolved:

  1. to make an oblation, an offering, of our lives to God.
  2. to live faithfully to Christ, even in isolation, even in defiance of the tsunami of atheism and insanity that is pouring in on us.
  3. to know our Faith better, day by day, through diligent study of the Scriptures and works of the Magisterium (beginning, in conjunction with the Scriptures, the Catechism)
  4. to foster a greater love for Christ, through an increase in prayer and devotional time, so that the whole of our life might be a continual, unceasing prayer and praise
  5. to practice the Works of Mercy – which includes the often-uncomfortable Works of rebuking sinners and instructing the ignorant
  6. to guard our minds and hearts against the influence of the Evil One
  7. to do all in our power to protect our homes and families from evil influence
  8. for those who are married to pray together as a couple, and those with children to incorporate the family rosary and prayer in your daily routine
  9. for those who are not married to find prayer partners with whom you will unite in prayer and service, holding one another up to God and to accountability
  10. to serve faithfully in the Church Militant in that sphere of life to which we are called, and in which we daily live.

Frankly, I think our culture has gone past the point of no return. I don’t believe we can recover the innocence and purity of past generations.  I believe we are now on a Search And Rescue mission.

Let us do our very best.

Vivat Christus Rex!

From Elisabeth LeSeur –

September 25, 1899 — No one knows what passes in the profound depths of our soul.  To feel God near, to meditate, to pray, to gather all our deepest thoughts so as to reflect on them more deeply: that is to live the inner life, and this inner life is the supreme joy of life.  But so many moving thoughts and ardent desires and generous resolutions should be translated into deeds, for we are in the midst of human life and a great task lies before us.

It is time for painful effort: one must tear oneself asunder, forsake the realm of thought for that of reality, face action, know that one will either not be understood or be understood wrongly; and that one will perhaps suffer at the hands of humanity for having willed the good of humanity.  We must already have drawn from God an incomparable strength and armed our hearts with patience and love, in order to undertake day by day and hour by hour the work that should belong to every Christian:  the moral and material salvation of his brothers.

(Leseur, Elisabeth. My Spirit Rejoices. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1996.)

The HHS Mandate

Every blogger in Christendom has addressed their reaction to the Health & Human Services mandate for religious institutions to fund contraception and abortion in their insurance packages. I think I’m ready to post mine, now. Goodness knows, I’ve commented on enough blogs and Facebook posts, this week.

Obviously, I do NOT support the Obama administration’s move. Sure, there are exceptions. If you only hire members of your church, and if you only serve members of your church, you’re exempt. But what church do you know of that is so self-limited and self-contained as that? Every church I know of, Catholic and Protestant, hires people outside its own membership. Most Catholic parishes have to hire nonCatholic musicians because there aren’t enough musicians to go around any more. Right now I have the pleasure (heightened by my delight in the irony of it all) of being a Catholic filling in for a nonCatholic church’s pianist while she recovers from surgery. Many churches have support staff not from the membership, for a variety of reasons – if nothing else, many hire cleaning teams.

Every church daycare I know of serves families not of its membership. Every charitable outreach, whether food pantry, clothes closet, or whatever, is extended to the larger community, not limited to that narrow congregation. Catholic hospitals comprise some 25% of medical services in this country – and they don’t limit their hiring or their caregiving to Catholics.

So the exemptions are worthless.

Right now, Catholics are being named as the target population being affected by this mandate, but let’s not fool ourselves, Mr & Mrs America: many, many nonCatholic Christians find this mandate a violation of their own religious sensibilities. Every Protestant Church I was ever part of – Methodist, Baptist, Christian & Missionary Alliance, FourSquare, Pentecostal Holiness – taught that abortion is wrong, that it is murder of an unborn child and therefore unconscionable to a Christian community. Many, many of those churches taught against certain types of contraception which act as abortifacients (IUD and the Pill). They, too, are being held in contempt by this Administration in this mandate.

We must band together in fighting this threat to our Constitutional liberty and to the salvation of souls. What’s more, we must learn to band together to fight the even great threat to souls: the paganization of our culture.

We’re told that we, as Christians, have an obligation to sit down and shut up and quit trying to manipulate the culture. This is a lie straight from the pit of Hell. Our obligation, friend, is twofold:

We are obligated, mandated, to carry the Gospel into the highways and byways, the marketplace and where we are often the only representatives of the Gospel encountered by our fellows;

And we are obligated, mandated, called by Christ to infuse that world with Gospel values.

If we sit, silent, and let a government agency that is hostile to Faith call the shots, if we sit silently by while our neighbors, coworkers and very family members wallow in grave sin, then we not only are failing to achieve our calling – we are bloodguilty of their souls through our silent complicity in their sins.

That’s serious business. That’s scary business.

And this “accommodation” of mandating insurance companies to cover things objectionable to thinking Christians? Just a wicked ploy to force a diabolical mentality on us. If I had a dollar for every time I encountered the argument that we Christians need to get out of the abortion debate “because it’s legal, so shut up,” I’d be a rival to Bill Gates in wealth. People really do think that because something is legal, it’s acceptable. (And point out that owning human beings through slavery was legal, or that all the atrocities of Hitler’s Germany were legal, and listen to the screams of indignation.)

We know better. Or we’re supposed to know better.

So I oppose this mandate as the forcing of a pagan values system on a nation that was founded on a premise of Christian moral and social values. I oppose the coercing of our children and our young adults to be desensitized to the utter wrong that is abortion and the contraception mentality – the divorcing of sex from love, commitment, respect and family life. Okay, from procreation. But that’s another blog post.

The American Catholic bishops have stood up and howled – a bit late; they should have begun standing like this when President Bush’s conscience protections were overturned almost as soon as Obama got into the Oval Office, and they should have stood united to defend Catholic Social Services when that fine organization, in several states, quit handling adoptions rather than yielding to new state “laws” that mandate serving gay couples in the adoption process. But they didn’t. Now they’re standing – and I hope they will continue to stand and give us leaders to be glad of, to rally with.

But if they fall flat on their faces, we the Faithful must continue the fight.

In life we are in death…

So reads the a line from the old Requiem Mass. It certainly has been a vivid reality during the month of March, when several of my friends lost close loved ones and my own life was touched by the deaths of my dear friend Nora, and my friend’s Uncle Theo (written about, below).

I think about the nature of death – I’m not so much afraid of death as I am of dying (how it could happen, that is). My maternal grandmother had a deep dread of becoming incapacitated and winding up in a nursing home, where she had seen so many family members wind up – “I just hope it’s quick,” she said. And when the time came, it was. She sent my grandfather out to the garden to get an eggplant for lunch, and while he was out there she suffered a massive event of some description; she died moments after Papa found her lying on the hallway floor.

The fact is, we take what we’re given. God hasn’t spoiled us yet by sending us emails and polls asking us how we prefer to go – He determines the time and the method, and that is it.

What we have to do between now and then is to prepare. And one of the ways we prepare is by visiting the sick and dying, which is a Work of Mercy. It’s an obscenity that any of our family members should approach death alone, untended and unsupported by our love.

“I want to remember Granny as she was,” is just a flimsy cover for abject selfishness. We owe our parents, our siblings, our extended families and our friends – even strangers, if we happen to have them placed in our paths – with the very tenderness and compassion that we, ourselves, would have extended to us as we approach the hour of meeting God face to face.

Death is a part of life – it’s the end of the finite and the beginning of Eternity. We experienced its parallel in being born – dying the security and familiarity of the womb to be born into our life as independent creatures. This is only the prep school for Eternity, after all.

No need to be squeamish. No need to recoil. Comfort the afflicted – visit the sick and dying.

Tria munera

Literally, Three Gifts –

And those gifts are our sharing with Christ His identity as Prophet, Priest and King. These gifts are given to us at the time of our Baptism and Chrismation, whether we’re infants or adults.

Now, the thing is, we don’t hear an awful lot about these gifts except in the context of the Baptismal Rite, but we need to give them some thought –

They’re not just a nice idea, or some other-worldly notion. They’re our mandate.

This is what is holding me up on my work on Pray, Study, Work: doing research on what this identity means, and how we’re supposed to live out these roles in the living of our common priesthood.

Quite the challenge, yes?

An Open Letter to friends – on Marriage

Dear M.,

I see on Facebook that you were married yesterday, and I want to write to share with you my best wishes for your greatest happiness.

I also want to share with you my very grave concern that you have chosen to marry outside the Church. By not waiting until your boyfriend’s prior marriage was resolved through the proper channels of the Tribunal, by being married by a nonCatholic minister, you have entered into a marriage which is both invalid and illicit.

This means that you and your new civilly recognized spouse. have removed yourselves from full Communion with Mother Church, and you cannot receive any of the sacraments until P’s prior marital bond has been resolved –

IF it’s resolved. Declarations of nullity are not a right, nor are they guaranteed. Even where indisputable grounds exist, those grounds still have to be adequately demonstrated to the Tribunal. Without such demonstration, the Tribunal cannot declare affirmatively in the case, and you’re going to be slap flat-out sunk.  Canon 1100 warns that private opinion doesn’t eliminate the possibility that nuptial consent was actually present.

You also need to consider what impact, what influence, your decision to marry outside the Church is going to have on your friends and relatives. You have received scores, at least, of congratulations from people who don’t understand the gravity of what you have done, here. Your actions make it look as if it doesn’t matter that a nonCatholic minister is not approved for Catholic Sacraments, that a nonCatholic minister’s ordination bears the same weight of authority and authenticity as a Catholic priest’s.

In other words, you’ve added scandal to the mix.

I never would have thought you would have taken such a dangerous, even irresponsible step. Too often, in our acquaintance, I’ve seen you speak affirmatively of the Church’s requirements, and labor with those who would treat those requirements carelessly. Now you’ve followed the same path, and from your announcement it appears that you feel your particular personal circumstances justify willful rejection of the very rules I’ve heard you defend repeatedly as long as I’ve known you.

Marriage is not the civil contract you have treated it to be. It is a sacrament, and as such under the rightful authority of Christ’s Church. You cannot in seriousness ask God to bless and reward such disregard, nor expect such scorn for the wisdom of the Church to be shrugged off as inconsequential.

You’re off to a very bad start, and I’m sorrier for it than I can say. I hope you will at least possess the integrity to not present yourself for Communion until your civil union can be convalidated, and I hope that the spiritual communion open to you will teach you renewed and greater respect for the Magisterial authority of the Church.

Laura