9 Quotes on the Dignity and Value of Women in the Catholic Church

Listers, the Catholic Church has often been accused by her opponents as a misogynistic institution; however, this false accusation can be easily refuted by a careful look at what the Church actually teaches on the dignity of women. I believe that the reason for this misguided accusation streams from a faulty view of service and vocation, and the perpetuated ideal that man and woman are in competition for God’s love.

For some reason, since the Fall man and woman have been fighting this ridiculous and fruitless “battle of the sexes;” however, “in the beginning it was not so.” God created man and woman not for competition for His love, but as a service to one another as they grow in relationship with God. The song “Anything You Can Do” has become a mantra of the secular feminist movement, and it also shows that once again the secular feminist movement has completely missed the point. In this age after the Cross, there is no competition between man and woman. There is only love expressed through true vocation and the selfless act of service. Perhaps that is why they cannot understand the Catholic Church’s stance on the dignity of women. What we see as the beautiful and freeing defense of women’s exclusive and honored place in the Church as “mother” and “virgin”, the world sees only as another doctrine that limits and atrophies the abilities of women.

I personally believe that it is the secular feminist movement that is prevalent in today’s society that has enslaved modern women to be female eunuchs serving the false idol of “sexual freedom.” For me it does not make sense that to be sexually free we must deny what makes us women by prohibiting our fertility, regretting our children, and demeaning our men. To be free, women must deny what makes them inherently women? Women must begrudge themselves their distinctiveness in order to be truly free? It just does not follow. This issue, of course, cannot be completely refuted in matter of two paragraphs. For a more thorough and theological look at the Church’s teaching of the dignity of women, I ask you all take a gander at Blessed John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem. Now on to the quotes:

1. Women of Grace, Brave and Invincible

I feel an indescribable pleasure in reading the Acts of the Martyrs; but when the Martyr is a woman, my enthusiasm is doubled. For the frailer the instrument, the great is the grace, the brighter the trophy, the grander the victory; and this, not because of her weakness, but because the devil is conquered by her, by whom he once conquered us. He conquered by a woman, and now a woman conquers him. She that was once his weapon is now his destroyer, brave and invincible. That first one sinned, and died; this one died that she might not sin. Eve was flushed by a lying promise, and broke the law of God; our heroine disdained to live when her living was to depend on her breaking her faith to Him who was her dearest Lord. What excuse, after this, for men, if they be soft and cowards? Can they hope for pardon, when women fought the holy battle with such brave, and manly, and generous hearts? — John Chrysostom, Homil. de diversis novi Testamenti locis, quoted in Alice von Hildebrand, Man and Woman: A Divine Invention, 61. 

 

2. Women Are the Reflection of Loftiest Goals of All Human Hearts

This Marian dimension of Christian life takes on special importance in relation to women and their status. In fact, femininity has a unique relationship with the Mother of the Redeemer, a subject which can be studied in greater depth elsewhere. Here I simply wish to note that the figure of Mary of Nazareth sheds light on womanhood as such by the very fact that God, in the sublime event of the Incarnation of his Son, entrusted himself to the ministry, the free and active ministry of a woman. It can thus be said that women, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement. — Blessed John Paul II Redemptoris Mater (46)

 

3. The Church Is Primarily Feminine

The Church is primarily feminine because her primary, all-encompassing truth is her ontological gratitude, which both receives the gift and passes it on. And the masculine office, which has to represent the true giver, the Lord of the Church (albeit within the Church’s feminine receptivity), is instituted in her only to prevent her from forgetting this primary reality, to ensure that she will always remain a receiver and never become self-assertive possessor and user. From a certain point of view, the Church’s structure is primarily matriarchal and only secondarily patriarchal, although these sociological categories can be applied only in a very loose sense to the Church. We use them here because there can be a demand for ecclesiastical office only when there is a failure to appreciate the real dignity of women in the Church (as the Church). — Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Mary: The Church at the Source, page 140)

 

4.The Exclusive Male Role of Priesthood in No Way Detracts from the Value of Woman but Underscores it

In this perspective of “service”-which, when it is carried out with freedom, reciprocity and love, expresses the truly “royal” nature of mankind-one can also appreciate that the presence of a certain diversity of roles is in no way prejudicial to women, provided that this diversity is not the result of an arbitrary imposition, but is rather an expression of what is specific to being male and female. This issue also has a particular application within the Church. If Christ-by his free and sovereign choice, clearly attested to by the Gospel and by the Church’s constant Tradition-entrusted only to men the task of being an “icon” of his countenance as “shepherd” and “bridegroom” of the Church through the exercise of the ministerial priesthood, this in no way detracts from the role of women, or for that matter from the role of the other members of the Church who are not ordained to the sacred ministry, since all share equally in the dignity proper to the “common priesthood” based on Baptism. These role distinctions should not be viewed in accordance with the criteria of functionality typical in human societies. Rather they must be understood according to the particular criteria of the sacramental economy, i.e. the economy of “signs” which God freely chooses in order to become present in the midst of humanity.

Furthermore, precisely in line with this economy of signs, even if apart from the sacramental sphere, there is great significance to that “womanhood” which was lived in such a sublime way by Mary. In fact, there is present in the “womanhood” of a woman who believes, and especially in a woman who is “consecrated”, a kind of inherent “prophecy” (cf. Mulieris Dignitatem, 29), a powerfully evocative symbolism, a highly significant “iconic character”, which finds its full realization in Mary and which also aptly expresses the very essence of the Church as a community consecrated with the integrity of a “virgin” heart to become the “bride” of Christ and “mother” of believers. When we consider the “iconic” complementarity of male and female roles, two of the Church’s essential dimensions are seen in a clearer light: the “Marian” principle and the Apostolic- Petrine principle. — John Paul II “Letter from John Paul II to Women.” (11)

 

5. The Gateway to Redemption

The feminine sex is ennobled by virtue of the Savior’s being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to humankind. — Edith Stein (aka St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) “Vocations of Man and Woman” Essays on Woman (70)

 

6. All Women Are Called to the Religious State at All Times

Women just as men have been called to the religious state at all times. And when we consider the manifold ramifications of contemporary religious life, when we acknowledge that the extremely diverse works of charity in our times are practiced by the feminine Orders and congregations, we can see only one essential difference which still exists in reality: The actual priestly work is reserved for men. This introduces us now to the difficult and much debated question of priesthood of women.

If we consider the attitude of the Lord Himself, we understand that He accepted the free loving services of women for Himself and His Apostles and that women were among His disciples and most intimate confidants. Yet He did not grant them the priesthood, not even to His mother, Queen of the Apostles, who was exalted above all humanity in human perfection and fullness of grace. — Edith Stein (aka St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) “Vocations of Man and Woman” Essays on Woman (83)

 

7. All Women are Called to Be Mothers

Finally, woman’s intrinsic value can work in every place and thereby institute grace, completely independent of the profession which she practices and whether it concurs with her singularity or not. Everywhere she meets with a human being, she will find opportunity to sustain, to counsel, to help. If the factory worker or the office employee would only pay attention to the spirits of the person who work with her in the same room, she would prevail upon trouble-laden hearts to be opened to her through a friendly word, a sympathetic questions; she will find out where the shoe is pinching and will be able to provide relief. Everywhere the need exists for maternal sympathy and help, and thus we are able to recapitulate in the one word motherliness that which we have developed as the characteristic value of woman. Only, the motherliness must be that which does not remain within the narrow circle of blood relations or of personal friends; but in accordance with the model of the Mother of Mercy, it must have its root in universal divine love for all who are there, belabored and burdened. — Edit Stein (aka Teresa Bendecita of the Cross) “Woman’s Value in National Life” Essays on Woman (264)

 

8. The Level of Woman = The Level of Civilization

The level of any civilization is always its level of its womanhood. In as much as woman is loved, it follows that the nobler a woman is, the nobler man will have to be to be deserving of that love. That is why the level of any civilization is always its level of its womanhood. — The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen “Women Who Don’t Fail.”

 

9. Women Were Made to be Mothers

Every woman in the world was made to be a mother either physically or spiritually. Here we are not talking of physical motherhood, we are speaking of spiritual motherhood. A women in professional life is happy when she has the occasion to be feminine. The man is the guardian of nature, but the woman is the custodian of life. Therefore in whatever she does, she must have some occasion to be kind and merciful to others […] The women who does not fail in the professional life, is the woman, therefore, who manifests this feminine quality that we call equity. — The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen “Women Who Don’t Fail”

8 Prayers to Help You through the Workday.

Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …

Listers, Ora et Labora (“Pray and Work” to the layman), the motto of the Benedictine order shouldn’t just be used for those called to the consecrated life, but it needs to be ascribed for all Catholics in every walk of life, especially those in the workforce. I recently entered into the realm of the working mother, and I can honestly say that I have never been so busy in all my life. Being a working mother I have discovered that balancing the various duties I have between work and home can drive a woman to the point of screaming at the top of her lungs “SERENITY NOW!!!!” (If you are a Seinfeld fan you know what I am talking about).

I realize that this is not a original revelation, but I certainly never had to experience it firsthand until now. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and I really love being a wife and mother, but in between the sales reports, the housecleaning, the emails, the volunteering at my boys’ school, the texts, the cooking, the phone calls, etc. I found it hard to be present in the moment without wondering what I have to do next. I found that my prayer life suffered heinously because even if I made time to pray I worried about all the other tasks I had to do while I prayed. This is not the best mindset to have when trying to have quiet time with God. Clearly my priorities were out of order, because I was treating prayer time as something I squeezed into my schedule rather than making prayer the centerpiece of my existence. Quite simply, I was not living a liturgical life, and I suffered for it. I started looking into prayers that I could incorporate throughout the day to keep me focused on God. Here is what I found (This prayer list is constantly growing, so if you have any recommendations, LISTERS, please list them):

1. To Start Your Day: “Good Morning, Heavenly Father”

Offering your day up to the Lord is an exceptional way to start your day. I try to say this along with the Angelus when I wake up, so that I start my day with a humble heart

Thank You dear Lord,
for protecting and preserving me during the night
and for giving me this new day.
Good morning Heavenly Father,
and thank you for the glory of the sun.
And thank you for the health I have to get my duty done.
I shall devout the hours of this golden day to You,
by honoring Your Holy Name in everything I do.
I shall pursue my daily art without complaint or fear
and spend my every effort to be friendly and sincere.
I know there have been many days that I have wiled away.
But this is one that I will try to make Your special day.
And so once more,
Good Morning Heavenly Father.
And please depend on me
because I want to honour you for all eternity.

Amen.

2. For the Commute: The Rosary

I know that it doesn’t sound like the typical venue for praying the Rosary, but praying the Rosary while driving is a very good thing (just don’t shut your eyes). Instead of filling my head with a bunch lyrics about “calling somebody maybe?” or other such drivel, the Rosary is immensely helpful to start my workday with the Gospel. Also, it helps me from screaming at the so-and-so in the black sedan who just cut me off! If you don’t know how to pray the Rosary, here is a helpful pdf brought to you be by newadvent.org:

3. For When You Sit Down at Your Desk: A Prayer for Success

I just heard about this prayer while I was at sales conference of all places. It struck me as precisely what I need to say when I sit down at my computer to begin my work. It is extremely beautiful. My favorite part is “Show me how to give my best, and let me not despise the toil that is necessary to complete it.” Here are the words:

Almighty God, whose hands hold all matters of life,
give me grace of success in the work that I do.
Help me to give it the careful thought
and the strict attention that will lead to success.
Watch over me and govern my actions,
that I may not mar its perfection.
Show me how to give my best,
and let me not despise the toil that is necessary to complete it.
Make my life a successful one,
in that every duty you give to me,
I do it well.
Give me the blessing of your help and guidance,
and suffer me not to fail.
In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

4. Throughout the day: The Angelus

Odds are most of you, listers, know this prayer by heart, but if you are new to the Catholic world, this is a prayer that will change your life. The Angelus is a prayer that focuses on the Incarnation. It is said three times a day: 6 am, Noon, and 6 pm, so that you can begin, continue, and end your day with Incarnation as the focus of your day. You may find it Latin in SPL’s 8 Prayers Everything Catholic Should Know in Latin and in English here.

5. In Times of Chaos: The Serenity Prayer

I know this prayer is written by Protestant Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take it for our own nor does it mean that words are less true. I use this now and then when everything seems to be going wrong, and when all I want to do is punch a hole through the screen of my laptop. Here are the words:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

6. To Help to Admit when You Have Made a Mistake: The Humility Prayer

Robert Burns says in his poem “To a Mouse” “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Nothing can be more true yet more irksome to someone who is a perfectionist. I have quite the talent of being organized and take pride that my work is precise and consistent. However, with my tight schedule I do make mistakes. So, when my usually consistent work doesn’t pass muster or if I let something slip through the cracks, I find it hard to admit that I had made a mistake. The old pointer finger is just itching to blame someone else for my own flawed humanity. The Humility Prayer has become my go-to prayer to inoculate me from the folly of pride. Here are the words:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

7. A Prayer for the End of the Day

Eternal Father,
I desire to rest in Thy Heart this night.
I make the intention of offering to Thee
every beat of my heart,
joining to them as many acts of love and desire.
I pray that even while I am asleep,
I will bring back to Thee souls that offend Thee.
I ask forgiveness for the whole world,
especially for those who know Thee and yet sin.
I offer to Thee my every breath and heartbeat
as a prayer of reparation.

Amen.

8. A Prayer to St. Joseph, the Patron Saint of Workers

I am now including a prayer to the Patron Saint of Workers, Saint Joseph. Afterall, no list about work would be complete without him. I think that it is often hard for us “look at our work with the eyes of faith.” I believe if we looked at our work in this way, whatever it may be, then perhaps we might do a better job.

Joseph, by the work of your hands
and the sweat of your brow,
you supported Jesus and Mary,
and had the Son of God as your fellow worker.

Teach me to work as you did,
with patience and perseverance, for God and
for those whom God has given me to support.
Teach me to see in my fellow workers
the Christ who desires to be in them,
that I may always be charitable and forbearing
towards all.

Grant me to look upon work
with the eyes of faith,
so that I shall recognize in it
my share in God’s own creative activity
and in Christ’s work of our redemption,
and so take pride in it.

When it is pleasant and productive,
remind me to give thanks to God for it.
And when it is burdensome,
teach me to offer it to God,
in reparation for my sins
and the sins of the world.

Amen

St. Joseph the Worker, Pray for us!

 

More SPL Lists on Prayer
8 Prayers Every Catholic Should Know in Latin
3 Prayers for Catholic Lawyers
4 Prayers Before You Receive the Eucharist
More lists on prayer…

Spiritual Things in Material Things: 5 Quotes from St. John Chyrsostom on the Sacraments

The sacraments are an essential element to the birth, growth, and transformation of every Catholic believer. We are in some way affected by each of these sacraments every day of our lives.

Listers, the sacraments are an essential element to the birth, growth, and transformation of every Catholic believer. We are in some way affected by each of these sacraments every day of our lives. We are reborn in baptism, we are overshadowed by the Holy Spirit at confirmation, we are fed by our Lord in the Eucharist, we are made into one flesh by marriage, we are given the sacraments by Christ through the hands of our priests, we are made well by the chrism, and we are forgiven in confession. In St. John Chyrsostom’s day, the theology of the sacraments were not so clearly defined as they are now, but these sacraments even then existed more or less in the lives of the early Christians.

Let us now look at how St. John Chrysostom described these essential elements of the Christian life. The following quotes are how Chyrsostom perceived those spiritual things given to us through material means:

1. Baptism / Confirmation¹

“For Christ has given nothing sensible, but though in things sensible yet all to be perceived by the mind. So also in baptism, the gift is bestowed by a sensible thing, that is, by water; but that which is done is perceived by the mind, the birth, I mean, and the renewal. For if you had been incorporeal, He would have delivered you the incorporeal gifts bare; but because the soul has been locked up in a body, He delivers you the things that the mind perceives, in things sensible.” —Homily 82 from Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew 

2. Eucharist

How shall we receive this with so great insolence? Let us not, I pray you, let us not slay ourselves by our irreverence, but with all awfulness and purity draw near to It; and when you see It set before you, say thou to yourself, Because of this Body am I no longer earth and ashes, no longer a prisoner, but free: because of this I hope for heaven, and to receive the good things therein, immortal life, the portion of angels, converse with Christ; this Body, nailed and scourged, was more than death could stand against; this Body the very sun saw sacrificed, and turned aside his beams; for this both the veil was rent in that moment, and rocks were burst asunder, and all the earth was shaken. This is even that Body, the blood-stained, the pierced, and that out of which gushed the saving fountains, the one of blood, the other of water, for all the world […] This Body has He given to us both to hold and to eat; a thing appropriate to intense love. For those whom we kiss vehemently, we oft-times even bite with our teeth. Wherefore also Job, indicating the love of his servants towards him, said, that they ofttimes, out of their great affection towards him, said, Oh! That we were filled with his flesh! Job 31:31 Even so Christ has given to us to be filled with His flesh, drawing us on to greater love. — Homily 24 On First Corinthians

3. Holy Orders

Observe how he avoids all that is superfluous: he does not tell in what way it was done, but that they were ordained (ἐ χειροτονήθησαν) with prayer: for this is the meaning of χειροτονία, (i.e. putting forth the hand,) or ordination: the hand of the man is laid upon (the person,) but the whole work is of God, and it is His hand which touches the head of the one ordained, if he be duly ordained. —Homily 14 in Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles

4. Reconciliation²

For they who inhabit the earth and make their abode there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in Heaven, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For it has not been said to them, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven. They who rule on earth have indeed authority to bind, but only the body: whereas this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of his servants. For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, Whose sins ye remit they are remitted, and whose sins ye retain they are retained? What authority could be greater than this? The Father has committed all judgment to the Son? But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son. —On the Priesthood 3:5

5. Marriage

Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they two shall be one flesh? So that they are no more two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. Matthew 19:4-6

See a teacher’s wisdom. I mean, that being asked, Is it lawful? He did not at once say, It is not lawful, lest they should be disturbed and put in disorder, but before the decision by His argument He rendered this manifest, showing that it is itself too the commandment of His Father, and that not in opposition to Moses did He enjoin these things, but in full agreement with him.

But mark Him arguing strongly not from the creation only, but also from His command. For He said not, that He made one man and one woman only, but that He also gave this command that the one man should be joined to the one woman. But if it had been His will that he should put this one away, and bring in another, when He had made one man, He would have formed many women.

But now both by the manner of the creation, and by the manner of lawgiving, He showed that one man must dwell with one woman continually, and never break off from her. —Homily 62 in the Homilies of the Gospel of St. Matthew

St. John Chrysostom, Pray for us!

¹In the early Church Baptism and Confirmation took place at the same event. The catechumen was baptized and then when they came out of the water, they would be anointed with the oil.

²Confession was totally different back in Chyrsostom’s time. It was a public event. It was not behind closed doors, but before the public.

“Who is the Catholic Writer in America?” and 10 Other Questions with Tuscany Press

In a world where the Catholic perspective of life is seen as illegitimate or wrong, Tuscany Press is providing a means in which the Catholic writer who is “anonymously toiling” to have an opportunity to be read and seen.

Listers, recently I have discovered a new outlet of Catholic media that is fighting against the current crisis of Catholic authorship. In a world where the Catholic perspective of life is seen as illegitimate or wrong, Tuscany Press is providing a means in which the Catholic writer who is “anonymously toiling” to have an opportunity to be read and seen. When I received word that Tuscany Press existed I immediately scrambled to their website and discovered that they have great potential to help Catholic writers produce quality and faith-filled or “Christ-haunted” stories that share their perspective to the world. I have recently had the pleasure of having a conversation with Peter Mongeau who is the founder and publisher of Tuscany Press and Christus Publishing. He shared with me some of his insights about the real state of Catholic authorship. He shared with me the amazing opportunity they are now giving Catholic writers, as well the major project they working on right now called the Tuscany Literary Prize. Now on to the interview:

1. Tell us about Tuscany Press.

I was a coordinator in Catholic book club in our parish, and we were always looking to read Catholic fiction. But, we really couldn’t find contemporary Catholic fiction. We could find Catholic fiction, but we had to go back to the mid-twentieth century with Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy or even further back to the early twentieth century with Tolkien and Chesterton. I have a Catholic spirituality publishing house called Christus Publishing, and I was looking to expand it. I knew there had to be some good Catholic fiction out there and we were looking for it, but we couldn’t find any stories that were contemporary. I talked to publishing executives. I talked to literary agents. I talked to writers and other small publishing houses. Basically anybody in and out of the Catholic publishing world. When I did the analysis of the publishing world, I realized that there was no publishing house that was dedicated solely to Catholic fiction. And so, we decided in the springtime to start Tuscany Press. We also noticed that there wasn’t a prize for Catholic fiction. I said “Well, we should create one. Because there needs to be some sort of recognition for great Catholic writers.” So that’s when the Tuscany prize started as well

2. Why Contemporary Catholic Fiction?

When we started Tuscany Press, we want to reaffirm our perspective of the world, but we also want to help evangelize our culture. Tuscany press is devoted to great Catholic writers. We have a great responsibility to encourage them and help them write fiction that is infused with our Catholic worldview. As Catholics we know we live in a world with a living God. Our stories should reflect that reality, that fact, that we live in a world with the living God and that his grace breaks into this reality in which we live. Our stories should reflect these facts. That is how we came about creating Tuscany Press and the Tuscany Prize. I don’t think the fiction publishing world appreciates the Catholic perspective. It once did, but I don’t think it appreciates it today […] There are some good to great Catholic writers out there waiting and wanting to be published, and they have not been able to be published. So Tuscany Press is there for them and for all of us to find these stories.

3. You said that you were seeking out good quality Catholic literature. What makes Catholic literature “good”?

There are three things, generally speaking, that make literature good: 1. Is it well written? How much editing does this need? Has the author spent time and energy looking over how they have written the story? Have they taken care to create strong structure, character development, and themes? 2. Is the story interesting? There are some well written bus schedules, but they aren’t going to get published. There are also good stories that aren’t well written. Another question to consider is: Does it capture the imagination of the reader? 3. Is it filled with the presence of God? The Catholic writer knows that world is filled with the presence of God. It is not a truncated view of the world, but an expanded view of the world. It is a view that encompasses everything including the transcending God. That is what makes Catholic fiction so special. It’s not a narrow focus, it includes God, the presence of grace and how it operates in nature […] This can happen either subtly, symbolically or deliberately.

4. Who is the Catholic writer?

There seems to be three different types of Catholic writers out there in general: 1. There is a group of writers who are over the age of 60. They have a totally different experience than most Catholics in America. 2. Then, there is this lost generation in their early 30s to 60s. These Catholic writers were lost in lieu of their culture. 3. Then, there are the young 30s and younger. These Catholic writers feel the most under-siege culturally. They live in a younger culture that does not espouse many Catholic ideals. The literature coming from these people are sharp-edged and jagged, which reflects what it’s like to be a young Catholic trying to live in this world. The Catholic Church has such a various mix of writers, which has been such a fantastic surprise for us.

5. Is there a chance that the Catholic writer can effect the contemporary world of literature right now?

Absolutely! The Catholic writer can definitely effect the contemporary world around them. The experience of most Catholics today in the world is so different. They know that there is a living God, but the state of current fiction is devoid of this fact. These themes hardly ever show up in contemporary fiction. The Catholic writer can bring these themes back to the world of literature. We know as Catholics that we have restless hearts, so it will speak to the restless hearts. Today’s secular world is a world that is fragmented and meaningless to most Catholics. It’s a world that looks upon the people around and doesn’t see the workings of God. The Catholic fiction writer can tell stories and show where grace appears.

6. Catholic writers have this great gift to give the world, but it seems that it is almost impossible for the Catholic writer to break through into the secular arena. What kind of difficulty does the Catholic writer have then?

The publishing world does not appreciate the Catholic perspective. I hope that Catholic fiction writer can find a home at Tuscany Press. That is my goal. However, I also believe that Catholic writer should go to any and all publishers. I don’t believe that they should limit themselves, but I do want them to know that they have home at Tuscany Press. We hope that we can provide a home for them. It will be difficult to break into the secular publishing houses, but if we can prove (and I think Tusacany Press will) that Catholic fiction has a place not only in the marketplace but in the world of culture, then the secular publishers will turn back to the Catholic writers.

7. What happens if a person claims that a book is too Catholic?

My personal response is that no book is ever “too Catholic.” These books are not going to be about good Catholics doing good things, because that is not necessarily good literature. It’s unrealistic, and people cannot relate to them. We are are fallible creatures, and our stories contain fallible creatures.

8. So, some of the content of the books will be gritty?

I don’t know. We have recieved some gritty manuscripts. We have received some not-so gritty manuscripts. We have received fantasy manuscripts. We have received some murder-mystery manuscripts. We have received manuscripts across all genres. We will choose the best though. I will tell you the short stories are great. I am excited about the short stories. The book that wins the prize will be what we consider be the best manuscript, but it might be from a genre that some people might not expect. It could be historical fiction or contemporary fiction. It could be a murder mystery or it could be a fantasy. We have received all types. We won’t know what will be published specifically until we get all the manuscripts in. We had some submissions from some very rural areas in America. Also some of our submissions are from some big cities. East coast. West coast. Mid-America. It is coming from all over.

9. Do you have a date set for your next novel to be printed? Or are you still looking for more manuscripts?

Well, we have the Tuscany prize. The Tuscany prize will end September 30. Our goal will be that we publish the Tuscany prize winners by the Christmas season. We hope to launch some in the spring who are not Tuscany prize winners but who are worthy of being published. Then we plan on launching the Tuscany prize again in 2013 and to have that deadline set around May 31st.

10. What are the future plans for Tuscany Press?

Not only are people looking for contemporary Catholic fiction, but we have discovered that parents are desperate for good Catholic young adult fiction. They are desperate for it. They want their children to read, and they want their children to read good Catholic books. The young adult fiction out there is so desperate, its so awful, and we have discovered that Catholic world, actually the entire Christian world, is looking for good young adult Catholic fiction. We are going to be doing Catholic young adult fiction and we will probably expand the Tuscany prize to include a young adult fiction in 2013. We trying to satisfy the need for contemporary Catholic but also the need for contemporary young adult Catholic fiction.

11. What would encourage the our Listers do?

I want to encourage people to send in their short stories, their novels, and novellas.

The Tuscany Prize, which is Tuscany Press’s first major project, is still going on. Peter Mongeau asked St. Peter’s List to encourage all Catholic writers who perhaps have a short story, novella, or novel sitting on their desks to submit it to the Tuscany Prize by September 30th. However, if you are still working on something that is not finished, you can participate in their next prize next year as well. For more information you can check out the Tuscany Press website at www.tuscanypress.com. All I can say is I am extremely anxious and excited to see what will come from Tuscany Press. I am thankful Tuscany’s mission, and I pray that they get lots of success in their endeavor to assist the real starving artists in the world, Catholic writers.

Saint Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of all writers, pray for us!

Pre-Cana with St. John Chrysostom: 7 Tips to a Successful Marriage

In this stream of thought, I am going to list 7 quotes from the man who possibly saved my marriage before I even met my husband.

Listers, next to converting to Catholicism, the second best choice of my life was marrying my husband. Before I converted and before I met my husband, I did not believe that marriage was a sacrament. Not recognizing this great mysterious gift as one of the major sources of grace caused me to think all sorts of other errant nonsense. For example, I believed that divorce was okay and that contraception was not only permissible but essential to a happy marriage. Fortunately I met St. John Chrysostom before I met my husband.

There was a stat floating around on the internet that said that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Whether that is true I am not sure. However, it got me thinking. If this stat is true, then why is this the case? I think that part and maybe the whole problem of it is most people don’t understand how serious marriage is. We see youtube videos of these kind of goofy weddings where people are dancing hamfistedly down the aisles, but as cute and adorable and unique as that may be it’s not serious enough for what the occasion is all about. Marriage is a sacrament. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about what that means.

In this stream of thought, I am going to list 7 quotes from the man who possibly saved my marriage before I even met my husband.1

1. Pick Virtue Rather than Riches When Selecting a Good Husband

First, look for a husband who will really be a husband and a protector; remember that you are placing a head on a body. When your daughter is to be married, don’t look for how much money a man has. Don’t worry about his nationality or his family’s social position […] When you are satisfied that the man is virtuous and decide what day they will be married, beseech Christ to be present at the wedding. He is not ashamed to come for marriage is an image of His presence in the Church. Even better than this: pray that your children will each find such a virtuous spouse; entrust this concern of yours into His hands. If you honor Him in this way, He will return honor for honor. — Sermon on Marriage

2. Advice on How to Pick a Wife

Since we know all this, let us seek just one thing in a wife, virtue of soul and nobility of character, so that we may enjoy tranquility, so that we may luxuriate in harmony and lasting love. The man who takes a rich wife takes a boss rather than a wife. If even without wealth women are with pride and prone to the love of fame, if they have wealth in addition, how will their husbands be able to stand them? The man, however, who takes a wife of equal position or poorer than himself takes a helper and ally and brings every blessing into his house. Her own poverty forces her to care for her husband with great concern, to yield to him and obey him in everything. It removes every occasion of strife, battle, presumption, and pride. It binds the couple in peace, harmony, love, and concord. Let us not, therefore, seek to have money, but to have peace, in order to enjoy happiness. Marriage does not exist to fill our houses with war and battles, to give us strife and contention, to pit us against each other and make our life unliveable. It exists in order that we may enjoy another’s help, that we may have a harbor, a refuge, and a consolation in troubles which hang over us, and that we may converse happily with our wife. How many wealthy men who have taken rich wives and increased their substance have yet destroyed their happiness and harmony, as they contend in daily battles at table?How many poor men who have taken poorer wives now enjoy peace and look upon each day’s  sun with joy? –How to Choose a Wife

3. The Two-Fold Purpose of Marriage

Marriage was not instituted for wantonness or fornication, but for chastity. Listen to what Paul says: “Because of the temptation of immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her husband.” There are two purposes for which marriage was instituted: to make us chaster, and to make us parents. Of these two, the reason of chastity takes precedence. — Sermon on Marriage

4. Weddings Should Be Christ-Focused

Marriage is not an evil thing. It is adultery that is evil, it is fornication that is evil. Marriage is a remedy to eliminate fornication. Let us not, therefore, dishonor marriage by the pomp of the devil. Instead, let those who take wives now do as they did at Cana in Galilee. Let them have Christ in their midst. “How can they do this?” someone asks. By inviting the clergy. “He who receives you,” the Lord says, “receives Me.” So drive away the devil. Throw out the lewd songs, the corrupt melodies, the disorderly dances, the shameful words, the diabolical display, the uproar, the unrestrained laughter, and the rest of the impropriety. Bring in instead the holy servants of Christ, and through them Christ will certainly be present along with His mother and His brothers. For He says, “Whoever does the will of My Father is My brother and sister and mother.” — Sermon on Marriage

5. Fidelity Is an Equal Responibility in a Marriage

In this passage [1 Corinthians 7:1-2], however, there is no mention of greater or lesser authority. Why does he speak here in terms of equality? Because his subject is conjugal fidelity. He intends for the husband to have greater responsiblity in nearly every concern, but fidelity is an exception. “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does.” Husband and wife are equally responsible for the honor of their marriage bed. — Homily on 1 Corinthians 7

6. Love is More Powerful than Fear

Notice, however, that Paul explains love in detail, comparing it to Christ’s love for the Church and our love for our own flesh, saying for this reason a man leaves his father and mother but he does not elaborate concerning fear. Why so? He would much prefer love to prevail, because where there is love, everything else follows, but where love is absent, fear will be of no use. If a man loves his wife, he will bear with her even when she isn’t very obedient. How difficult it is to have harmony when husband and wife are not bound together by the power of love! Fear is no substitute for this. That is why he speaks at greater length about the stronger force. So if you think that the wife is the loser because she is told to fear her husband, remember that the principal duty of love is assigned to the husband, and you will see that it is her gain. “And what if my wife refuses to obey me?” a husband will ask. Never mind! Your obligation is to love her; do your duty! Even when we don’t receive our due from others, we must always do our duty. –Homily on Ephesians 5:22-23

7. The Love between a Husband and Wife is a Vital to the Success of Humanity

The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. Men will take up arms and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of this love. St. Paul would not speak so earnestly about this subject without serious reason; why else would he say, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord?” Because when harmony prevails, the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down. –Homily on Ephesians 5:22-23

For all married couples, St. John Chrysostom, pray for us!

N.B. Keep in mind that St. John Chrysostom lived from 347-407 AD, so this was clearly a different age and different part of the world. Arranged marriages were a more common place occurrence. Also, the structure of marriages were different in those days. So, please hear out all of what St. John Chrysostom has to say because his intent is not misogyny but to help married couples flourish in their vocation.

 

More from SPL:
Splendor of the East: 5 Byzantine Hymns All Catholics Should Know
8 Quotes from St. John Chrysostom on How to Raise Children
6 Things You Should Know About the Melkite Catholic Church
Lists referencing “Holy Matrimony”
More lists with recourse to the Early Church Fathers

  1. All quotes were taken from the following compilation of Chrysostom writings:
    Chrysostom, St. John. On Marriage and Family Life. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986. []

6 Catholic Poems that Testify to God’s Love

Poetry is an excellent tool of praise and acknowledgement of all that God has given us. Perhaps not as simple nor as easily entertaining as prose would be, poetry has an added facet that is not as evident in prose.

Listers, the Catholic Church has a vast reservoir of beautiful poetry that testifies to God’s love for Creation and us. Poetry is an excellent tool of praise and acknowledgement of all that God has given us. Perhaps not as simple nor as easily entertaining as prose would be, poetry has an added facet that is not as evident in prose.

The beautiful aspect of poetry that sets it apart from prose is the added rhythm creating another layer of description that goes beyond words. For example, in the poem “The Hound of Heaven” I can almost hear the pounding of footfalls against the pavement. It as if with each step a word from the poem is pounded out against the ground. This rhythm creates a sense of urgency that one would feel in a footrace against God. I would argue that if Francis Thompson’s vision of “The Hound of Heaven” was depicted in prose, it would not have given the readers as much of an emotional impact at the prospect of being pursued by God and finally succumbing to His liberating love.

I have selected six poems by Catholic poets and writers who speak and write about God’s gracious gift of his love for His people. My advice is to read them purposefully and aloud to get the full effect. There are far more poems that are probably greater than these, but I selected some of my favorites (“A Child My Choice” is my particular favorite). Some are just excerpts because some of the poems are very long. For those you want to read the poems in total, you can click on the titles which are linked to the a page with the completed poem. If you are interested in more poems by Catholic or at least “Christ-haunted” poets, I would recommend the book Flowers of Heaven compiled by Joseph Pearce.

Now on to the poems (be prepared to be pursued by love and captured by God’s glory):

1.An Excerpt from the “The Hound of Heaven”

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days:
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine way
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I him from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat — and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet–
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”
–Francis Thompson

2. “A Child My Choice”¹

Let folly praise what fancy loves, I praise and loves that Child
Whose heart no thought, whose tongue no word, whose hand
no deed defiled.
I praise him most, I love him best, all praise and love is his,
While him I love, in him I live, and cannot live amiss.
Love’s sweetest mark, laud’s highest theme, man’s most desired light,
To love him life, to leave him death, to live in him delight.
He mine by gift, I his by debt, thus each to other due,
First friend he was, best friend he is, all times will try him true.
Though young, yet wise; though small, yet strong; though man,
yet God he is:
As wise he knows; as strong he can; as God he loves to bliss.
His knowledge rules; his strength defends; his love doth cherish all;
His birth our Joy; his life out light; his death our end of thrall.
Alas, he weeps, he sighs, he pants, yet do his Angels sing;
Out of his tears, his sighs and throbs, doth bud a joyful spring.
Almighty babe, whose tender arms can force all foes to fly,
Correct my faults, protect my life, direct me when I die.
–St. Robert Southwell

3. An Excerpt from “The Battle of Lepanto”

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that swat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign—
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!
–G.K. Chesterton

4. “The Golden Prison”

Weep not for me, when I am gone,
Nor spend thy faithful breath
In grieving o’er the spot or hour
Of all-enshrouding death;

Nor waste in idle praise thy love
On deeds of head or hand,
Which live within the living Book,
Or else are writ in sand;

But let it be thy best of prayers,
That I may find the grace
To reach the holy house of toll,
The frontier penance-place, —

To reach that golden palace bright,
Where souls elect abide,
Waiting their certain call to Heaven,
With Angels at their side;

Where hate, not pride, not fear torments
The transitory guest,
But in the willing agony
He plunges, and is blest.

And as the fainting patriarch gain’d
His needful halt mid-way,
And then refresh’d pursued his path,
Where up the mount it lay,

So pray, that, rescued from the storm
of heaven’s eternal ire,
I may lie down, then rise again,
Safe, and yet saved by fire.
–Blessed John Henry Newman

5. “Pied Beauty”

Glory be to God for dappled things–
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
for rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
–Gerard Manley Hopkins

6. An Excerpt from “The Quarry”²

1
He wasn’t alone. His muscles grew into the flesh of the crowd,
energy their pulse, as long as they held a hammer,
as long as his feet felt the ground.
And a stone smashed his temples
and cut through his heart’s chamber.
2
They took his body, and walked in a silent line.
3
Toil still lingered about him, a sense of wrong.
They wore gray blouses, boots ankle deep in mud.
In this they showed the end.
4
How violently his time halted: the points on the
low voltage dials
jerked, then dropped to zero again.
White stone now within him, eating into his being,
taking over enough of him to turn him into stone.
5
Who will lift up that stone, unfurl his thoughts again
under cracked temples? So plaster cracks on the wall.
They laid him down, his back on a sheet of gravel.
His wife came, worn out with worry; his son returned
from school.
6
Should his anger now flow into the anger of others?
It was maturing in him through his own truth and love.
Should he be used by those who come after,
deprived of substance, unique and deeply his own?
7
The stones on the move again, a wagon bruising the flowers.
Again the electric current cuts deep into the walls.
But the man has taken with him the world’s inner structure,
where greater the anger, the higher the explosion of love.
–Blessed John Paul II

St. Robert of Southwell, Pray for us!

¹This particular poem I dedicate to all of God’s children who left this world too soon.
²I couldn’t find of the full text of this poem in total, so there is no link to the entire poem.

The Edith Stein Charm School: 3 Lessons from St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross on Being a Lady

In this modern society it is hard for a woman to understand precisely what it means to be a woman. Women are torn between a multitude of different theories concerning what the true feminine vocation is.

Listers, in this modern society it is hard for a woman to understand precisely what it means to be a woman. Women are torn between a multitude of different theories concerning what the true feminine vocation is. When I was younger I felt as if I was being pulled between the “Girl Power” mentality and the supposed “Make me a sandwich” mentality. I know that I hated it when my brothers teased me by saying that I should “Shut up, and know [my] role,” but I also seethed with contempt when some said to me “You go, girl!” while saucily snapping their fingers (clearly, I am a child of the nineties). None of those ideals seemed to work for me. None of these theories were enough. Being a woman had to be more than just being blindly submissive or just being intolerably proud. Both theories seemed either self-deprecating or selfish. By the time I entered college, I was confused and disgruntled because there was no clear answer for me. Then, when I decided to convert Catholicism, the whole game of feminine vocation changed for me. I was directed by my priest (Msgr. Gaalaas) to read a series of essays by Edith Stein. It was then when I started to realize that my role as a woman was to serve…the Lord. That simple truth made all the difference.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (aka Edith Stein) lived a very fascinating and tragic life. She was born a Jew and later converted to Catholicism. She received her doctorate in Philosophy in 1916. She became a Carmelite nun April 21, 1938. She was arrested by Gestapo and was sent to Auschwitz where she died in the gas chamber August 9, 1942. She was canonized May 1, 1987. Her life is very interesting and I recommend reading further on the Vatican website.

Her essays on the vocation and spirituality of women certainly can help guide Catholic women through the muddled mess of the rhetoric and pressure of modern society. She delves into the ideas of the religious and secular life in a balanced and thoughtful manner. She makes a distinction between three kinds of vocations for women:

  1. The Natural Vocation — Wife and Mother
  2. The Other Natural Vocation — Worker in the Secular Arena
  3. The Supernatural Vocation — The Consecrated Life

The following list is three reflections from one of her essays entitled “The Ethos of Women’s Professions” where she discusses the different options to fulfill the feminine vocation. You can find this essay in the book entitled Essays on Woman.¹ Now onto the 3 lessons on being a lady:

1. When in Doubt, Ask Yourself “What Would Mary do?”

Were we to present in contrast the image of the purely developed character of spouse and mother as it should be according to her natural vocation, we must gaze upon the Virgin Mary. In the center of her life stands her son. She awaits His birth in blissful expectation; she watches over His childhood; near or far, indeed, wherever He wishes, she follows Him on His way; she holds the crucified body in her arms; she carries out the will of the departed. But not as her action does she do all this: she is the Handmaid of the Lord; she fulfills that to which God has called her. And that is why she does not consider the child as her own property.: she has welcomed Him from God’s hands; she lays Him back into God’s hands by dedicating Him in the Temple and by being with Him at the crucifixion. Should we consider the Mother of God as spouse, we find a quite, limitless trust which in turn depends on limitless, trust, silent obedience, and obviously faithful communion in suffering. She does all this in surrender to the will of God who has bestowed her husband upon her as human protector and visible guide.

The image of the Mother of God demonstrates the basic spiritual attitude which corresponds to woman’s natural vocation; her relation to her husband is one of obedience, trust, and participation in his life as she furthers his objective tasks and personality development; to the child she gives true care, encouragement, and formation of his God-given talents; she offers both selfless surrender and a quiet withdrawal when unneeded. All is based on the concept of marriage and mother as a vocation from God; it is carried out for God’s sake and under His Guidance. –Page 45-46

2. A True “Liberated” Lady Lives A Eucharistic and Prayerful Life

To have divine love as its inner form, a woman’s life must be a Eucharistic life. Only in daily, confidential relationship with the Lord in the tabernacle can one forget self, become free of all one’s own wishes and pretensions, and have a heart open to all the needs and wants of others. Whoever seeks to consult with the Eucharistic God in all her concerns, whoever lets herself be purified by the sanctifying power coming from the sacrifice at the altar, offering herself to the Lord in this sacrifice, whoever receives the Lord in her soul’s innermost depth in Holy Communion cannot but be drawn ever more deeply and powerfully in to the flow of divine life, incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, her heart converted to the likeness of the divine heart

Something else is closely related to this. When we entrust all the troubles of our early existence confidently to the divine heart, we are relieved of them. Then our soul is free to participate in the divine life […] Therefore, the life of an authentic Catholic woman is also a liturgical life. Whoever prays together with the Church in spirit and in truth knows that her whole life must be formed by this life of prayer. –Page 55-56

3. A Lady is Born to Serve…the Lord

Must all women become religious in order to fulfill their vocation as women? Certainly not. But it certainly does mean that the fallen perverted feminine nature can be restored to its purity and led to the heights of the vocational ethos which this pure nature indicates only if it is completely surrendered to God. Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be a handmaid of the Lord everywhere. So had the Mother of God in all circumstances of her life, as the Temple virgin enclosed in that hallowed precinct, by her quiet work in Bethlehem and Nazareth, as guide to the apostles and the Christian community after the death of her son. Were each woman an image of the Mother of God, a spouse of Christ, an apostle of the divine Heart, then would each fulfill her feminine vocation no matter what conditions she lived and what worldly activity absorbed her life. –Page 52

St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross, pray for us

 ¹All quotes were taken from the following book:
Stein, Edith. Essays on Woman from The Collected Works of Edith Stein Vol. 2. Washington D. C.: ICS Publications 1987.

How I Met My Mother: 10 Reflections from the Book that Changed My Attitude Towards Mary

One of the most misunderstood aspects of our Catholic faith is our fascination and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Listers, one of the most misunderstood aspects of our Catholic faith is our fascination and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I personally struggled against this concept before I joined the Church. After I converted, I still didn’t give our Blessed Mother the due that she deserved; however, that all changed. On my honeymoon I picked up Mary: The Church at the Source by Pope Benedict XVI (at the time of publishing, he was Cardinal Ratzinger) and Hans Urs von Balthasar (who happens to be my favorite modern theologian). By the time I finished it, I discovered a new love, respect, and awe for our Holy Mother. Mary: The Church at the Source is a collection of essays by Pope Benedict XVI and Hans Urs von Balthasar. As it is written by two of the greatest Catholic theologians of the modern era, this book is by no means a quick read. However, each essay teaches something new and something exquisitely beautiful about our Holy Mother. I would compare this book to a fine wine, which must be savored to be better appreciated. I highly recommend that every Catholic should read this book. Therefore, I have given 10 tastes to whet your mariological palate. Now on to the reflections…1

#1 Mary’s Maternity Is More than Just a Matter of Biology

We must avoid relegating Mary’s maternity to the sphere of mere biology. But we can do so only if our reading of Scripture can legitimately presuppose a hermeneutic that rules out just this kind of division and allows us instead to recognize the correlation of Christ and his Mother as a theological reality.” —Page 29 Pope Benedict XVI.

#2 The Necessity of Marian Piety

The organ for seeing God is the purified heart. It may just be the task of Marian piety to awaken the heart and purify it in faith. If the misery of contemporary man is his increasing disintegration into mere bios and mere rationality, Marian piety could work against this “decomposition” and help man to rediscover unity in the center, from the heart.” —Page 36 Pope Benedict XVI

#3 Mary, the Signpost of Hope

This is why Mary, who has given him birth is truly “full of grace” – she becomes a sign to history. The angel’s greeting makes it clear that the blessing is more powerful than the curse. The sign of woman has become the sign of hope; she is the signpost of hope.” — Page 53 Pope Benedict XVI

#4 Mary’s Openess to God’s Word

Mary’s divine maternity and her enduring attitude of openness to God’s word are seen as interpenetrating here: giving ear to the angel’s greeting. Mary welcomes the Holy Spirit into herself. Having become pure hearing, she receives the Word so totally it becomes flesh in her. — Page 72 Pope Benedict XVI

#5 The Incarnation as Hard to Imagine Without Mary

Thus the woman who called herself lowly, that is nameless (Luke1:48) stands at the core of the profession of faith in the living God, and it is impossible to imagine it without her. She is an indispensable, central component of our faith in the living, acting God. The Word becomes flesh – the eternal Meaning grounding the universe enters in her. It needed the Virgin for this to be possible, the Virgin who made available her whole person, that is her embodied existence, her very self, as the place of God’s dwelling place in the world. The Incarnation required consenting acceptance. Only in this way do Logos and flesh really become one. — Page 83 Pope Benedict XVI

#6 Mary as Jesus’s First Teacher

Now, this means that even Jesus himself has above all his Mother to thank for his human self-consciousness, unless we suppose that he was a supernatural wunderkind who should not have to owe this self-consciousness to anyone. But such a hypothesis would jeopardize Jesus’s humanity […] She must have introduced Jesus into the tradition and so enabled him to recognize his own mission in the mirror of the promise. True, Jesus’ personal prayer and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit disclosed this mission to him with increasing depth. Nevertheless, the human contribution – to this process must by no means be underestimated; this, too, would offend against the learning process of a normal child. — Page 103 Hans Urs von Balthasar

#7 Mary’s Naked Faith

The purpose of this constant training in the naked faith Mary will need under the cross is often insufficiently understood; people are astonished and embarrassed by the way in which Jesus treats his Mother, whom he addresses both in Cana and at the Cross only as “woman.” He himself is the first one to wield the sword that must pierce her. But how else would she have become ready to stand by the Cross, where not only her Son’s earthly failure, but also his abandonment by the God who sends him is revealed. She must finally say Yes to this, too, because she consented a priori to her child’s whole destiny. — Page 109 Hans Urs von Balthasar

#8 Mary and the Eucharist

First, the Mass. Does any Christian really know what a sacrifice it is to offer the Father the Son as the world’s redeemer after the Consecration? But those who contemplate Mary’s sacrificial gesture get a glimmer of why, despite all objection, we can and must describe the Eucharistic celebration as a sacrifice (not of Christ alone, but also of the Church). And does any one of us really receive the Son in Holy Communion as perfectly as he offers himself? We are right to pray, “Look not on our sins, but on the faith of our Church”: on that perfect act of faith that was nowhere as undivided as in Mary — Page 112 Hans Urs von Balthasar

#9 The Importance of the Veneration of Mary

The veneration of Mary is the surest and shortest way to get close to Christ in a concrete way. In meditating on her life in all its phases we can learn what it means to live for and with Christ – in the everyday, in an unsentimental matter-of-factness that nonetheless enjoys perfect inner intimacy, Contemplating Mary’s existence, we also submit to the darkness imposed on our faith, yet we learn how we must always be ready when Jesus suddenly asks something from us. — Page 117 Hans Urs von Balthasar

#10 Mary, Mother of the Church

If we are ready to do this, then even today we can see the face of the Church light up with the motherly look and expression that was so obvious to, and so enriching for, the first Christian centuries. It is because we Christians had long lost sight of this motherly aspect that the present Pope (Paul VI) expressed it by giving Mary the title “Mother of the Church.” This title is legitimate, so long as the Church, precisely as an assembly of individual believers, is also seen as the structured social organization that we customarily consider her to be today. If we could make up our minds to penetrate through this understanding of the Church to a deeper level, we could once more realize the “archetypal identity” between Mary and the Church and, from time to time at least, drop the “of the” between “Mother” and “Church.” —Page 143 Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Mother of the Church, pray for us!

 

More on Mother Mary from SPL
St. Peter’s List offers a wide range of lists on the Blessed Virgin. To those Catholics seeking a more biblical understanding of Mary’s roles within salvation and to any protestant readers we’d suggest 4 Biblical Reasons Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant and 6 Biblical Reasons Mother Mary is the New Eve. We also offer a wide range of quote banks concerning Mary, the Rosary, and other doctrinal issues. – HH Ambrose

  1. All reflections are taken from the following book: von Balthasar, Hans Urs and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Mary: The Church at the Source. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005. []

Beyond Here Be Dragons: 17 Questions with Catholic Author David Athey

Seeing books as a means of entertainment or escape is the common misconception of many people because they fail to acknowledge that a book can be very dangerous (sometimes they are dangerous in a good way and other times dangerous in a bad way).

Listers, seeing books as a means of entertainment or escape is the common misconception of many people because they fail to acknowledge that a book can be very dangerous (sometimes they are dangerous in a good way and other times dangerous in a bad way). All books, no matter if it is either light bubblegum fiction or some great masterpiece, have the potential to leave a lasting impression on the minds and hearts of its readers. For example, I realized this the first time I read the The Silver Chair when I was young girl. I ended up bursting into tears because I began to doubt my own existence, thinking that it was a possible that I was part of someone else’s dream (Clearly I was a gullible child). Having the power to leave such ideas, sensations, fears, and passions on their audience, authors, therefore, have a lot of power.

 It follows, then, that it is the audience’s responsibility for their own sake to know who they are allowing to make a mark on their minds. Discernment is essential. I am not saying that they should boycott every single book that has the potential of leading them astray because then they wouldn’t read anything at all. I believe, however, it is necessary to be vigilant in knowing at least in some part what they are getting into and whether they can handle it or not. A great way to do that is by acquainting themselves with who the author is of any particular book they are reading.

As I have recommended to you all, Listers, the book Christopher (a very dangerous book in all the right ways), I feel that it is incumbent upon me to give a little information about the author, David Athey. He graciously has allowed us to interview him.

David teaches creative writing at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He also happens to be an unabashed Catholic poet and author. He has written and published loads of poems including “Celestialness“, which can be found in my favorite literary journal, Dappled Things. He has also written  two novels, Danny Gospel and Christopher. He has a cool website (davidathey.com) that offers daily writing tips, reasons to love the Church, and mystical quotes. You can also view his writing resume on the website as well.

Now on to the interview:

 

#1 How would you describe yourself?

A quirky writer and professor who drives a black pickup that smells like dark-roast coffee.

 

#2 What inspires your work?

As far as I can tell, a combination of God, nature (including human nature) and coffee.

 

#3 Your novel, Christopher, shows the impact great literature makes on a person’s soul. What is your opinion of the state of modern literature, Catholic, secular, or otherwise?

We have a treasure chest of great works (The Canon of Western Literature) that we can enjoy for the rest of our lives. And many great books were written in the 20th century that should end up in that treasure chest. One thinks of the stories of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, J.F. Powers, Walker Percy, etc…. There may be some writers today that will rise to that level—I’ve had a few genius students in my classroom—and so I am hopeful about the state of contemporary literature. However, while we wait for the next Flannery O’Connor to arise (it might take a thousand years) we need to support the writers of today who are crafting excellent stories.

 

#4 How do you think Catholic literature can be improved?

Catholic writers have their metaphysics right, and that is crucial to the making of the highest art. Along with that, the trick is to master the various techniques of fiction so that our stories are enlightening, unique, and entertaining.

 

#5 What do you mean by “mastering the various techniques of fiction”?

Christian writers need to spend less time feeling inspired and more time sweating over the details of setting, character development, plot, dialogue, and overall creativity. There are dozens of good books about the craft of fiction writing. My favorite is The Art of Fiction by John Gardner.

 

#6 Can you give us an example of how modern literature has frequent bouts of flawed metaphysics? How do they get it wrong?

They seem to get it wrong in every way. Look at the New York Times list of bestselling novels. It is rare to find anything that reflects the fact that God has visited this earth, founded a Church, and is with us until the end. Again, we’re not asking for sermons, but merely a sense of reality as taught by the Incarnation.

 

#7 What other reasons are there to supporting good Catholic writers? 

I don’t think there are many patrons out there, willing to donate money to writers because they believe in a certain vision. However, if we can write stories that enlighten and entertain, I believe the audience for that is enormous. The best thing a person can do for a writer, after buying and enjoying a book, is to shout it from the rooftops. And I think rooftops today are blogs. God bless the bloggers. They have the power to change the culture.

 

#8 Do you think it is necessary or even possible for an author to separate himself from work? In other words, can and should he separate his religious inclinations from his work?

I don’t understand how a person can be a Christian in every area of his life, but not when it comes to writing. That doesn’t mean every story needs to be a catechism, but there should be a sense in every story of correct metaphysics. I live in sunny Florida, one of the darkest places on earth when it comes to sin and crime. Authors are free to write about those sins and crimes, and yet I think we are obligated to include, somehow, the fact that God is here, the Church is here, and millions of people are trying to love God and neighbor. Some artists seem to think that holding up a mirror to the world means showing only the shadows. That is not the whole picture. A mirror to the world will include beauty, grace, and glory.

 

#9 The chapters in Christopher are very short compared to the average book. Why did you choose this approach to writing Christopher?

The short chapters are like snapshots, or stepping stones, or perhaps poems that all add up to a partial interpretation of a spiritual journey. We live in a fragmented time, and yet, with eyes to see, we can visualize connections along the path.

 

#10 What specifically inspired you to write Christopher?

The landscape was the first character in the story. The area around Duluth, Minnesota, always inspires me to write. And so my wife and I went on adventures one summer, including going on a harbor cruise, climbing rocky trails, washing clothes in a laundromat that doubled as a bird sanctuary, etc… and I simply gave many of my experiences to Christopher, yet in a way that became his own. I must say, however, that Christopher was not his original name. Through the many drafts, he went from David to Augustine to Dylan to Christopher.

 

#11 You also write poetry. What do you think of the present state of poetry?

As in any form of the arts, there is good and bad in contemporary poetry. I still enjoy reading through various literary journals, seeing what people are doing with syllables and images. Many of the poems should have been merely confessed (to an actual priest) instead of confessed and written. Like the rest of modern society, the shocking is taking precedence over the sublime. And yet I am always impressed by the work of my students. They’ve read the Bible, and I show them Hopkins and the other masters, and so they have a real passion for the sublime. We publish a literary journal at Palm Beach Atlantic University (Living Waters Review) that is as good, I believe, as any campus journal in the country.

 

#12 Do you have any favorite journals besides Living Waters Review? Can you give us a couple examples?

Image has earned its due respect through the years, but I think Dappled Things is just as strong. I like how Dappled Things is overtly Christian while maintaining the highest artistic standards. The poems and stories are theological without being preachy.

 

#13 What role does or should the Catholic Church have in the improvement of secular and Catholic art, literature, and music?

The Church should spend less time condemning bad books and more time promoting good books. Who is that guy on TV who is always yelling at people about anti-Catholic art? He needs to show as much enthusiasm for good art. I really believe that is how the culture can be transformed: by simply putting your money where your heart is. Do you love the True, the Good, and the Beautiful? Then buy books that promote those ideals. And shout your positive reviews from the housetops. That way, the books will get made into TV shows and movies, and we all know the power of TV and film, especially on the minds and souls of young people. I think we need about ten thousand Christian writers, making great poems, songs, novels, scripts, internet content, everything. And then the culture will have more light. I don’t think we can take over the arts and the media, but we can certainly infuse a good amount of truth and beauty.

 

#14 What are your top five favorite books?

What a great and terrible question. I think my answer would change every day of the week, but here is my answer today. And to make it easier, I’m going with five novels, and not in any order.1

Don Quixote by Cervantes
The Second Coming by Walker Percy
All Hallows’ Eve by Charles Williams
Staggerford by Jon Hassler
The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky

 

#15 Is there another novel coming?

I have two more finished, and a third that is nearly complete. I’m looking for a literary agent who is willing to work with a quirky writer and professor who drives a black pickup that smells like dark-roast coffee.

 

#16 Who is your favorite theologian of all time? Why?

One of the things I love about Catholicism is that we can have someone as logical as St. Thomas Aquinas and someone as creative as St. Hildegard of Bingen both considered Doctors of the Church. Some days I love the rational theologians, and some days I love the mystics. St. Augustine is perhaps my favorite theologian, but ask me again tomorrow.

 

#17 Who is your favorite Saint? Why?

Today it’s St. Philip Neri. I love how he took God so seriously that he played the fool and won people over with creative charm.

St. Philip Neri, pray for us

  1. Favorite Books: Links to David Athey’s top favorite books are provided by St. Peter’s List and may not reflect Athey’s choice of translation or edition. []

Et Vidit Deus Quod Esset Bonum: 5 Reasons to Read the New Novel “Christopher”

Listers, the crisis of contemporary literature can only be alleviated by the united effort of the Catholic community. One of my proposed remedies to this grievous situation is by encouraging (nay, beseeching) Catholic media outlets like blogs, television, and radio to give Catholic writers and artists the exposure they deserve. Today I am going to put my money where my mouth is. I am going to review a novel I recently finished called Christopher by Catholic writer, David Athey. This is book is an example of the artistic and literary potential that Catholic Church has within its pews. I hope that SPL will become a place where authors like David Athey have an opportunity to exhibit their work. Now on to my analysis of his most recent book Christopher.

#1 Realistic Plot

Christopher follows the life of a boy named Christopher Lagorio who lives in Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior. Through his spiritually tumultuous journey from prepubescence to adulthood, he encounters three different young ladies who somehow impact his fledgling spiritual formation. With each girl he discovers some new and different aspect about God that sets him on mission for self-discovery and fulfillment. Although this may sound like the typical coming-of-age novel, the plot is bent on maintaining the gritty realism of prepubescence while attempting not to coddle or rationalize poor decisions and bad behavior. Christopher weaves a genuinely realistic tale of faith mixed with lifelike characters, worshipful imagery, glimpses of the Devil, and visions of the Divine without sacrificing the honesty of the hard truths and lessons of life.

#2 Lifelike Characters

One the main elements that makes a story real is if the characters develop in natural way, which is what annoys me about much of contemporary literature, secular or otherwise. Why should we care about a character if there is either nothing much to change or if the character hasn’t a bit of redeeming qualities whatsoever? There are many books in which I honestly hoped that such-and-such character would just be swallowed up by the earth because they were either too good or too bad (I fully acknowledge the wickedness of this thought). In Christopher, many of characters are likable and yet mysteriously flawed. As you read, you desire to understand what motivated them to do a particular set of actions. Just when you think you got one character pegged they do something subtly and yet naturally unexpected. In other words, the characters are wonderfully human, which is refreshingly odd for contemporary Christian fiction.

#3 Worshipful Imagery

In addition to excellent character development, the exquisite and intricate descriptions of Christopher‘s world is certainly a delight to read. The setting is particularly breathtaking. It is centered around the northeast corner of Minnesota near Duluth, which is on the shore of Lake Superior. David Athey’s familiarity of the native landscape is certainly brought to the forefront. The idyllic imagery brings forth the whimsy and wonder of God’s creation in full detail. Christopher is a celebration of God’s creation with all the emphasis on beauty, glory, and grace.

#4 Glimpses of the Devil

Unlike the many modern Judeo-Christian novels, Christopher is a honest portrayal of a teenager who has questions in which answers are hard to find and even harder to accept. The story starts around the age when Christopher can branch out from the beliefs of his upbringing and begin forming his own conclusions about life, love, and faith. None of these three main issues are in my opinion really well depicted in most contemporary Christian literature; however, David Athey manages to describe the contest between God and the Devil for the attention of our young people rather well. He manages not to gloss over the struggles of teenage development for the sake of propriety but addresses the issue directly and in no uncertain terms. The realism may make the more squeamish readers a little hot around the collar with the outright honesty of the hormonal battle between chastity and instant gratification; however, I do not believe that this is a fault, rather I firmly believe that the explicit acknowledgement of the main peril that teens grapple with is what sets this book apart from the rest. Quite simply its acknowledgement of the devil using God’s great gift of sexuality against creation is something that Christian readers need to hear. Sometimes glimpses of the devil is all we need to flee to comforting arms of the Divine. With its heartbreaking realism, Christopher certainly will challenge you with its stark honesty that is uncharacteristic to the average contemporary Catholic novel (I recommend that only high school aged persons or older should read this book).

#5 Visions of the Divine

David Athey has managed to depict the twisted handiwork of the devil; however, that isn’t what makes my favorite part of the book (fortunately for my soul). What makes this story so outrageously beautiful is the constant presence of God in His Creation, His people, and His Sacraments. Throughout this book, God’s presence is certainly evident on every page. While at first this may sound like it would be a bit preachy to a non-Catholic, it is in truth not. God is presented in a different way than the average Christian novel. Instead of having the main character constantly talking about their certainty in “Buddy Jesus” without having an ounce of doubt, in Christopher God is present in spite of overwhelming trials. His presence is subtle and yet deeply moving. The book reminded me time again of what an amazing God we have who makes himself available to us in different ways throughout the stages in our lives. It reminded me of our Catholic belief that God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Christopher captivated my imagination with the visions of the Divine. Obviously, I highly recommend this book and encourage you all to check it out when you get the chance.

Et vidit Deus quod esset bonum!!

*Athey, David. Christopher. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2011 **If you don’t recall or if you haven’t read my thoughts on this Catholic community’s role, you can read my recent list entitled “The Crisis of Contemporary Catholic Culture: 4 Reasons Why You Should Care.

Know Thyself: 10 Reflections from St. Teresa of Avila on the Spiritual Life

St. Teresa of Avila, one of the great doctors of the Church, wrote some of the most beautiful and animated descriptions of the intricacies of the spiritual life.

Listers, St. Teresa of Avila, one of the great doctors of the Church, wrote some of the most beautiful and animated descriptions of the intricacies of the spiritual life. Although some of her ideas and descriptions appear to be strange to the modern mind, her words still have something to give to this present age, an age of narcissism and selfishness. For example, I attended an evangelical school and always snarkily spoke of such-and-such girl who was “married to Jesus.” Little did I know that such an accusation was really a compliment. If only I read St. Teresa of Avila when I was at school perhaps I would have admired such-and-such girl for loving God so completely. Her ideas of spiritual betrothal may appear odd, but perhaps our modern mindset is what really is peculiar. As a mystic some of her archaic (or what appears to be archaic) ideas could truly quench the arid spiritual landscape of this present age. If we surrender our modern sensibilities briefly to listen to her words, then we will have new way of looking at spirituality and a new means of gaining a better relationship with God. As always I have composed a list of 10 reflections. This is only a taste of the great and beautiful things that St. Teresa of Avila wrote about the interior life.

All these reflections were taken from her Interior Castle.1 I recommend the Classics with Commentary version. This particular volume has not only summaries of the text but also questions for reflection. St Teresa’s Interior Castles has been a true blessing in my life. I hope that you find yourself a copy and let the Holy Spirit through her words and reflections transform you. Now for a little sample of the sagacious and holy words of dear St. Teresa Avila:

#1 Know Thyself

I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very crystal in which there are many rooms just as in Heaven there are many mansions[…]Now if this is so –and it is– there is no point in our fatiguing ourselves in attempting to comprehend the beauty of this castle; for, though it is His creature, and there is therefore as much difference between it and God as between creature and Creator, the very fact that His Majesty says it is made in His image means that we can hardly form any conception of the soul’s great dignity and beauty. It is no small pity, and should cause us no little shame, that, through our own fault, we do not understand ourselves, or know who we are. Would it not be a sign of great ignorance, my daughters, if a person were asked who he was, and could not say, and had no idea who his father or his mother was, or form what he came? Though that is great stupidity, our own is incomparably greater if we make no attempt to discover what we are, and only know that we are living in these bodies, and have a vague idea, because we have heard it and because our Faith tells us, that we possess souls. As to what good qualities there may be in our souls, or Who dwells within them , or how precious they are –those are things which we seldom consider and so we trouble little about carefully preserving the soul’s beauty.” Page 41-42

#2 What a Sinner Is Incapable of Doing

I once heard a spiritual man [probably St. John of the Cross] say that he was not so much astonished at the things done by a soul in mortal sin as at the things not done by it. May God, in His mercy, deliver us from such great evil for there is nothing in the whole of our lives so thoroughly deserves to be called evil as this, since it brings endless and eternal evils in its train. — Page 50-51

#3 Humility as the Essential Key to Holiness

Humility must always be doing its work like a bee making its honey in the hive:without humility all will be lost […] As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble. There are two advantages to this. First, it is clear that anything white looks very much whiter against something black, just as the black looks blacker against the white. Secondly, if we turn from self toward God, our understanding and our will become nobler and readier to embrace all that is good: if we never rise above the slough our own miseries we do ourselves a great disservice. —Page 52-53

#4 Imitating Mother Mary

But His Majesty well knows that I can count only upon His Mercy, and, as I cannot apporach God and trust in the merits of His Son, and of the Virgin, His Mother, who habit both you and I unworthily wear. Praise Him, my daughters, for you are really the daughters of Our Lady, and when you have as good a Mother as that there is no reason for you to be scandalized at my unworthiness. Imitate Our Lady and consider how great she must be and what a good thing it is that we have her for our Patroness; even my sins and my being what I am have not been sufficient to bring any kind of tarnish upon this sacred Order. —Page 76

#5 Humility during Times of Trials

Consider carefully, daughters, these few things that have been set down here, though they are in rather a jumbled state, for I cannot explain them better; the Lord will make them clear to you, so that these period of aridity may teach you to be humble, and not make you restless, which is the aim of the devil. Be sure that, where there is true humility, even if God never grants the soul favors, He will give it peace and resignation to His will, with which it may be more content than others are with favors. For often, as you have read, it is to the weakest that His Divine Majesty gives favors, which I believe they would not exchange for all the fortitude given to those who go forward in aridity. We are fonder for spiritual sweetness than of crosses. Test us, O Lord, Thou Who knowest all truth, that we may know ourselves. —Page 79

#6 The Obstacles of the Spiritual Life

How I wish ours [ardent love] would make us dissatisfied with the habit of always serving God at a snail’s pace! As long as we do that we shall never get to the end of the road. And as we seemed be walking along and getting fatigued all the time –for, believe me, it is an exhausting road– we shall be very lucky if we escape getting lost. Do you think, daughters, if we could get from one country to another in a week, it would be advisable, with all the winds and snow and floods and bad roads, to take a year over it? Would it not be better get the journey over and done with? For there are all these obstacles for us to meet and there is also the danger of serpents. Oh, what a lot I could you about that! Please God I have got farther than this myself–though I often fear I have not! When we proceed with all this caution, we find stumbling-blocks everywhere; for we are afraid of everything, and so dare not go farther, as if we could arrive at these Mansions by letting others make the journey for us! That is not possible, my sisters; so, for the love of the Lord, let us make a real effort: let us leave our reason and our fears in His hands and let us forget the weakeness of our nature which apt to cause so much worry. —Page 86

#7 As You Grow in Your Spiritual Life, Remember to Focus on Love (whatever that is)

I only want you to be warned that, if you would progress a long way on this road and ascent to the Mansions of your desire, the important things is not to think much, but to love much; do, then, whatever most arouses you to love. Perhaps we do not know what love is: it would not surprise me a great deal to learn this, for love consists, not in the extent of our happiness, but in the firmness of our determination to try to please God in everything, and to endeavor, in all possible ways, not to offend Him, and to pray Him ever to advance the honor and glory of His Son and the growth of the Catholic Church.–Page 98

#8 Using the Sacraments and Sacred Writings to Grow in Grace.

But to return to what I was saying. The silkworm is like the soul, which takes life when, through the heat that comes from the Holy Spirit, it begins to utilize the general help that God gives to us all, and to make use of the remedies that He left in His Church –such as frequent confessions, good books, and sermons, for these are the remedies for a soul dead in negligences and sins and frequently plunged into temptation. The soul beings to live and nourishes itself on this good, and on good meditations, until it is full-grown –and this is what concerns me now:the rest is of little importance When it is full-grown, then, as I wrote at the beginning, it starts to spin its silk and to build that house in which it is to die. This house may be understood here to mean Christ I think I read or heard somewhere that our life is hid in Christ, or in God (for that is the same thing), or that our life is Christ (The exact form of this is little to my purpose) […] […] We can neither subtract from, nor add to, God, but we can subtract from, and add to, ourselves, just as these little silkworms do. And, before we have finished doing all that we can in that respect, God will take this tiny achievement of ours, which is nothing at all, unite it with His greatness, and give such worth that its reward will be the Lord Himself. And as it is He whom it has cost the most, so His Majesty will unite our small trials with the great trials that He suffered, and make both of them into one On, then, my daughters! Let us hasten to perfrom this task and spin this cocoon. Let us renounce our self-love and self-will, and our attachment to earthly things. Let us practice penance, prayer, mortification, obedience, and all the other good works that you know of. Let us do what we have been taught; and we have been instructed abot what our duty is. Let the silkworm die — let it die, as in fact it does when it has completed the work that it was created to do. — Page 136

#9 How Difficult It Is to Obey the Greatest Commandment Completely

But here the Lord asks only two things of us: love of His Majesty and love of our neighbor. It is for these two virtues that we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly we are doing His will and so shall be united with Him. But, as I have said, how far we are from doing these two things in the way we ought for a God Who is great! May His Majesty be please to give us grace so that we may deserve to reach this state, as it is in our power to do if we wish. The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbor; for we cannot be sure if we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor. — Page 146

#10 The Great Influence of the Saints

I tell you, daughters, I have known people of a very high degree of spirituality who have reached this state, and whom, notwithstanding, the devil, with great subtlety and craft, has won back to himself. For this purpose he will marshal all the powers of hell, for, as I have often said, if he wins a single soul in this way he will win a whole multitude. The devil has much experience in this matter. If we consider what a large number of people God can draw to Himself through the agency of a single soul, the thought of the thousands converted by the martyrs gives us great cause for praising God. Think of a maiden like Saint Ursula. And of the souls whom the devil must have lost through Saint Dominic and Saint Francis and other founders of Orders, and is losing now through Father Ignatius, who found the Company –all of whom, of course, as we read, received such favors from God! What did they do but endeavor that this Divine betrothal should not be frustrated through their fault? Oh, my daughters, how ready this Lord still is to grant us favors, just as He was then! In some ways it is even more necessary that we should wish to receive them, for there are fewer than there used to be who think of the Lord’s honor! We are so very fond ourselves and so very careful not to lose any of our rights! Oh, what a great mistake we make! May the Lord in His mercy give us light lest we fall into such darkness. —Page 154-155

St. Teresa of Avila, Pray for Us!

  1. All the quotes are taken from the following text: St. Teresa of Avila with Introduction and Commentary by Denis Billy. Interior Castle: The Classic Text with Spiritual Commentary. Classics with Commentary. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2007. []

5 Reflections from the Early Church on Saints Peter and Paul

Many modern day academics enjoy setting St. Peter and St. Paul in enmity with one another; however, the over emphasis of Galatians 2:11-14 by modern scholarship fails to acknowledge that even though they had a disagreement their mission of spreading the Gospel was the same.

Listers, on this Solemnity of St. Peter and Paul, it is important to reflect on what their martyrdom meant for the early church. Many modern day academics enjoy setting St. Peter and St. Paul in enmity with one another; however, the over emphasis of Galatians 2:11-14 by modern scholarship fails to acknowledge that even though they had a disagreement their mission of spreading the Gospel was the same. In this spirit, I present to you five reflections by members of the early church on the mutual impact that St. Peter and Paul had on the early church. Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to let St. Peter and St. Paul’s example of faithfulness unto death be your focus today and everyday.

#1 St. Irenaeus on St. Peter and Paul’s Influence in the Church in Rome

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meeting; [we do this, I say] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; also [by pointing out] the faith they preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere. — Against Heresies 3.3.2.

#2 Tertullian on Paul’s Transition from Persecutor to Persecuted*

But how Paul, an apostle, from being a persecutor, who first of all shed the blood of the church, though afterwards he exchanged the sword for the pen, and turned the dagger into a plough, being first a ravening wolf of Benjamin, then himself supplying food as did Jacob, how he, (I say) speaks in favour of martyrdoms, now to be chosen by himself also, when rejoicing over the Thessalonians, he says, “So that we glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations, in which ye endure a manifestation of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be accounted worthy of His kingdom, for which ye also suffer!” As also in his Epistle to the Romans: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, being sure that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh us not ashamed”…

…You see what he decides the bliss of martyrdom to be, in honour of which he is providing a festival of mutual joy. When at length he had come to be very near the attainment of his desire, greatly rejoicing in what we saw before him, he writes in thse terms to Timothy: “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; there is laid up for me the crown which the Lord will give me on that day” — doubtless of his suffering. Admonition enough did he for his part also give in preceding passages: “It is a faithful saying: For if we are dead with Christ, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we believe not, yet He is faithful: He cannot deny himself.” “Be not thou, therefore, ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His Prisoner;” for he had said before: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” For we suffer with power from love toward God, and with a sound mind, when we suffer for our blamelessness. But further, if He anywhere enjoins endurance, for what more than for sufferings is He providing it? It anywhere He tears men away from idolatry, what more than martyrdom takes the lead, in tearing them away to its injury?” — Scoripace, 8.

#3 St. Clement of Alexandria on the Example of Martyrdom

But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience…

…These things, beloved, we write unto to you, not to merely admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. —The First Epistle of Clement, 5-6.

#4 St. Augustine on the Purpose and Value of Marytrdom

What then have all those deaths of the martyrs accomplished? Listen: “As the fatness of the earth is spread over the earth, our bones have been scattered beside the pit.” “The bones” of the martyrs, that is, the bodies of the witnesses of Christ. The martyrs were slain, and they who slew them seemed to prevail. They prevailed by persecution, that the words of Christ might prevail by preaching. And what result of the deaths of the saints? What meaneth, “the fatness of the earth is spread over the earth”? We know that everything that is refuse is the fatness of the earth. The things which are as it were contemptible to men, enrich the earth…. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints.” As it is contemptible to the world, so is it precious to the husbandman. For he knoweth the use thereof, and its rich juice; he knoweth what he desireth, what they seeketh, whence the fertile crop ariseth; but this world despiseth it. Know ye not that “God hath chosen the contemptible things of the world, and those which are not, like those which are, that the things which are may be brought to nought”? From the dunghill was Peter lifted up, and Paul; when they were put to death, they were despised: now, the earth having been enriched by them, and the cross of the Church springing up, behold, all that is noble and chief in the world, even the emperor himself, cometh to Rome , and whither does he hasten? to the temple of the emperor, or the memorial of the fishermen?On the Psalms, 141.

#5 St. Cyril of Jerusalem on the Nobility of St. Peter and Paul

And thus thou wilt be reminded of His pre-eminence, by the thought that a servant of Christ was caught up to the third heaven. For if Elias attained as far as the first heaven, but Paul as far as the third, the latter, therefore, has obtained a more honourable dignity. Be not ashamed of thine Apostles; they are not inferior to Moses, nor second to the Prophets; but they are noble among the noble, yea, nobler still. For Elias truly was taken up into heaven; but Peter has the keys of the kingdom of heaven, having received the words, “whatsoever thou shalt loose earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Elias was taken up only to heaven; but Paul both into heaven, and into paradise (for it behoved the disciples of Jesus to receive more manifold grace), and “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for man to utter.” But Paul came down again from above, not because he was unworthy to abide in the third heaven, but in order that after having enjoyed things above man’s reach, and descended in honour, and having preached Christ, and died for His sake, he might receive also the crown of martyrdom. But I pass over the other parts of this argument, of which I spoke yesterday in the Lord’s-day congregation; for with understanding hearers, a mere reminder is sufficient of instruction. —Catechetical Lectures 14:26.

St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us!

*Tertullian is not a saint; however, his ancient words on the goodness of St. Paul are still excellent to reflect on this holy day.

The Crisis of Contemporary Catholic Art and Literature: 4 Reasons Why You Should Care

Think of all your favorite Catholic authors (Chesterton, Tolkien, O’Connor, Percy, Greene, Powers). Besides being Catholic, what other common similarity do they all share?

Listers, think of all your favorite Catholic authors (Chesterton, Tolkien, O’Connor, Percy, Greene, Powers). Besides being Catholic, what other common similarity do they all share? The answer is: They’re all dead! (God rest them). Now try to think of just one famous Catholic fiction writer who you absolutely love, who you know will make an indelible mark on the history of literature in the 21st century, and who is still alive today. If you are like me, you really have strain to name one off the top of your head. I am sure there are several famous authors who happen to be Catholic, but their personal religious ideals and perceptions are not entirely made known in their writings. However, there are other writers who try to write beautiful stories but can’t get published, promoted, or recognized by the secular or many Catholic media outlets because they are too “religious” and are, therefore, too “unrealistic.” Somehow “religious” has become a synonym for “unrealistic,” but as Catholics we know that is certainly not the case. Our religion is our reality. So, when a Catholic writer wants to write what they know and they want to write about the reality of being a Catholic, they are then told by everyone else that their reality is not “real” enough. If that is not discouraging, then I don’t know what is.

Flannery O’Connor acknowledges the plight of the contemporary Catholic author. She says:

But I don’t believe that we shall have great religious fiction until we have again that happy combination of believing artist and believing society. Until that time, the novelist will have to do the best he can in travail with the world he has. He may find in the end that instead of reflecting the image at the heart of things, he has only reflected our broken condition and, through it, the face of the devil we are possessed by. This is a modest achievement, but perhaps a necessary one. — “Novelist and Believer,” Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000. 168.

I agree with O’Connor that this difference in ideology between author and reader is one of the reasons for the faithful Catholic artist’s plight. I believe, however, that the struggle of the contemporary faithful Catholic writer or artist can be lightened somewhat if the Catholic community and media rallies around them more. Therefore, I have composed a list of reasons why the Catholic community needs to take action against this crisis.

#1 The World Shouldn’t Define What It Means to Be Catholic

For some reason, in the 20th and 21st century, we have allowed the media to define what it means to be Catholic for the rest of the world. It is impossible to watch any sort of movie or television show portray the Catholic Church in the right way. I will never forget watching an episode of Sex in the City (Yes, I do think less of myself, and, yes, I went to Confession over this) where Carrie Bradshaw describes the Catholic Church “as a desperate 36-year-old single woman willing to settle for anyone she could get.” I savagely wanted to lodge my remote control in the middle of my television screen. Every time I read a book where there is a scene of someone in the Confessional, they have some pervy, plump, and puerile character who is suppose to resemble a priest give some trite, borderline heretical piece of advice while wringing his hands and using the phrase “my son” more than is natural for any human being. This misconception must stop or we will have a harder time being taken seriously by the rest of the world.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” So how can we fix this? I believe that faithful Catholic artists and writers must create pieces of art and write works of literature that not only define properly what we are to the rest of world in terms of the universal language of beauty but spread the message of hope in an apathetic world. If our creative members shy away from creating because they are afraid of being ridiculed for the work being overtly religious, then we have no one describing to the world in universal terms what we are all about. However, the creative types in our community are not the only ones responsible for clearing up the the world’s misunderstanding of the Church. The Catholic media outlets need to promote and exhibit zealously the works by these marginalized people, and the Catholic community as an audience needs to seek out these artists and writers by giving them a chance and by supporting their work financially. It is by these means we can show the world what it really means to be Catholic.

#2 The Catholic Church Was Once the Main Source of Art and Literature in the Western World

Any art history aficionado knows that from the very beginning Christians began to express their love of God through the arts. Early on Christians started filling the world with images of the gospel from everything to the carvings of poems on crypts in the catacombs to the music they played and the stories they told. When Rome fell, the Church was left with the responsibility of preserving and protecting the creativity of the past all the while nurturing and developing the art of the future. Lovers of culture must acknowledge that the Church continued and advanced the skill and overall craftsmanship of art. Quite simply without  Christianity art might have not been the same.

When the age of modernity came, the Church began to lose art to secularism. By the time the 20th century came and gone, art produced by the Church or its members became more and more marginalized because somehow hinting or speaking positively about one’s faith became a mark of poor creativity. The world has taken the art that the Church so lovingly cultivated and preserved for everyone and has refused to allow to the Church to continue to participate in its development. Nowadays in literature when Christian lives and practices are depicted in any positive way, somehow that perception although true to the author is deemed less genuine and less beautiful by the rest of the world.

Fortunately Pope Benedict XVI addresses this issue in his 2009 speech to the artistic community:

Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful. — Pope Benedict XVI, “Meeting with Artists: Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI” (November 21, 2009).

Authors and artists must learn once again not to be afraid of creating an image or a story about their deep love and search for the infinite. The members of the Church must make a conscious effort of seeking out these creative, gifted, and faithful individuals. Once they find one such laudable Catholic artist members of the Catholic media should exhibit them, so that the rest of the world might have a slight chance of recognizing once again that the Church has still something valuable to contribute to the cultivation of art and literature.

#3 Catholic Writers Need an Outlet to Share Their Catholic Experience

In the infancy of Christendom, the main way for the Gospel to spread throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world was by word of mouth. Then as the primary witnesses of the Resurrected Christ began to die off, the Church resorted to writing these histories for the sake of future generations. The writing of the New Testament was the beginning of the narrative history of the Catholic Church, but it didn’t just stop with Scriptures. The Church continued to record its history of those who served Christ in each generation. With each new era, histories and legends cropped up about courageous men and women who loved and served Jesus Christ. These histories and legends were beautiful written and were told again and again in different ways creating a tradition of beautiful storytelling.

However, what story is going to be told about our generation of Catholicism? How will future Catholics perceive the state of the Church in the 21st century? I fear that they will see this as the true dark ages or rather the silent ages of Catholicism. The lack of emphasis and development of Catholic culture through the marginalization of faithful Catholic authors and artists has forced many to bite their tongues and say little to nothing about their perception of their Catholic existence. Many writers feel that if they share their experience that they will be accused of “Bible-thumping” or “Rosary Rattling.”

Despite this, I pray that Catholic writers continue to write about the “authentic beauty” that is the reality of the Catholic experience. I suggest that Catholic writers should continue to be bold despite the rules of present day literary fashion and tell it like it is. Pope Benedict XVI writes:

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day. — Pope Benedict XVI. “Meeting with Artists: Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” 2009.

I hope that artists and writers will once again create stories and paint pictures depicting this interaction of the profoundest mystery of all, God, mingling with the common occurrences of human existence. Writers and authors must capture or at least sketch for the benefit of humanity the reality of the sacramental gift of every day life.

#4 Art and Literature Is an Outlet of Worship

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila

Many people, including a great many Catholics, claim that if writers write with the specific intent of worshiping God in their work then they cease making a piece of art. I find this division between art and worship a misunderstanding of both what worship and art actually is. This separation creates a rift between the inspiration of Catholic artists from their actual creations. What if all artists were told that they were no longer allowed to use their muse to inspire them? We would find ourselves with a solemn “Mona Lisa” and not so terrifying “Scream.” For Catholic artists and writers their muse is the movement of the Holy Spirit in the every day moments of existence. To begrudge them from acknowledging the presence of God in their perception of the world around them is downright criminal.

To illustrate my point, I shall summarize The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola, which illustrates my point exactly. (N. B. I highly recommend reading this book) (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) The story is about a boy name Giovanni who grows up to be famous juggler. On his way to a city, he shares his meal with two Franciscan brothers, who say to him “Our founder, Brother Francis, says that everything sings of the glory of God. Why even your juggling.” Giovanni doesn’t understand this concept until one Christmas night when he was no longer a famous juggler but a poor beggar seeking shelter in a nearby Cathedral. He stands before the statue of the Mary and a very solemn Christ child. He decides to attempt to make the Christ Child smile and juggles the best performance in his entire career. He, then, falls dead at the foot of the statue. When the Francisican brothers find the dead juggler at the foot of statue, they at first believe that he committed an act of blasphemy, but they discover that the once solemn statue of the Christ-Child was now smiling and holding one of the Giovanni’s juggling balls (called the Sun in the Heavens). Giovanni who was a master juggler sought the approval of men in his work, but only reached the apex of his career when he performed for God. I believe that like Giovanni Catholic writers and artists must no longer seek the approval of the world but the approval of God in order to achieve true height of their career.

Odds are if a artist or writer actually ceased to care about what the world thought of their work then they would certainly become the typical “starving artist,” but I think this is where we Catholics must start caring once again for the survival of Catholic arts. If only we really supported these artists more with our attention, with our admiration, and (yes) our financial means, then Catholic artists wouldn’t feel the need to separate their inspiration from their creation. Quite simply we would save them from selling out their faith for worldly recognition. I am not suggesting that they should grind their axes or preach Hell and brimstone (although that would be fun to read and would prove to be unique in this day and age). All I am suggesting is that they shouldn’t be afraid to truly express their deep love of God in their work. Catholic writers, artists, and their audience must be like Abel give the first fruits of their labor and their attention to God.

Pope Benedict XVI writes:

Saint Augustine, who fell in love with beauty and sang its praises, wrote these words as he reflected on man’s ultimate destiny, commenting almost ante litteram on the Judgement scene before your eyes today: “Therefore we are to see a certain vision, my brethren, that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived: a vision surpassing all earthly beauty, whether it be that of gold and silver, woods and fields, sea and sky, sun and moon, or stars and angels. The reason is this: it is the source of all other beauty” (In 1 Ioannis, 4:5). My wish for all of you, dear artists, is that you may carry this vision in your eyes, in your hands, and in your heart, that it may bring you joy and continue to inspire your fine works.– Pope Benedict XVI “Meeting with Artists: Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” 2009.

It is in describing their experience with this other beauty that artists and writers are able to at the same time create a great piece of artwork and express in no uncertain terms the greatness of the God of all beauty and truth. The audience of this great artwork and devout act of faith also get to participate in this sacrifice of praise called art by studying it, rejoicing in it, and proclaiming in uplifted voices “Amen!”

5 Quotes from St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s “The Story of a Soul”

“Somehow a celibate little nun who died at the age of 24 was teaching me to be a kinder wife, a more patient mother, and, most of all, a more faithful Christian.”

Listers, many people often say that writings by many saints who were monks and nuns are hard to apply outside of the consecrated life. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, monks and nuns perhaps have more time to sit in active prayer than those who are called to the married life, but that does not mean that the spiritual advice they give is inapplicable to the outside world. For a while, I brushed those works off. I thought that those works had little to no bearing on my life. I thought that even if I were to read those works there was no possible way I could pass muster. However, an opportunity arose to read St. Thérèse of Lisieux when some of my friends decided to form a reading group. These gatherings forced me to sit down and actually listen to this holy woman. By the time I finished reading The Story of a Soul, my whole perception on my vocation completed changed. Somehow her sweet spirit and honest words rocked my world. Somehow a celibate little nun who died at the age of 24 was teaching me to be a kinder wife, a more patient mother, and, most of all, a more faithful Christian. St. Thérèse showed me that I could pass muster even though I was not a nun or missionary. She taught me with her simple words that I should be content in the vocation God gave me and not to be jealous of those who perhaps seem more blessed than myself. In other words, she showed me how to live holier by applying her “Little Way” to my life as a mother and wife. Therefore, I would like to share some excerpts from her book The Story of a Soul that made a particular impact on me.

#1 God Giving Everyone the Right Measure of Happiness

You knew all my intimate thoughts and cleared up all my doubts. I once told you how astonished I was that God does not give equal glory in heaven to all His chosen. I was afraid they were not at all equally happy. You made me bring Daddy’s tumbler and put it by the side of my thimble. You filled them both with water and asked me which was fuller. I told you they were both full to the brim and that it was impossible to put more water in them than they could hold. And so, Mother darling, you made me understand that in heaven God will give His chosen their fitting glory and that the last will have no reason to envy the first. By such means, you made me understand the most sublime mysteries and gave my soul its essential food. —St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 20.

#2 A Flowery Example of the Measures of Grace

I had wondered for a long time why God had preferences and why all souls did not receive an equal amount of grace […] Jesus saw fit to enlighten me about this mystery. He set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers He has created are lovely. The splendour of the rose and whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realised that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wild flowers to make the meadows gay.

It is just the same in the world of souls — which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but He has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever He glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.

I also understood that God’s love shows itself just as well in the simplest soul which puts up no resistance to His grace as it does in the loftiest soul. Indeed, as it is love’s nature to humble itself, if all souls were like those of the holy doctors who have illumined the Church with the light of their doctrine, it seems that God would not have stooped low enough by entering their hearts. But God has created the baby who knows nothing and can utter only feeble cries. He has created the poor savage with no guide but natural law, and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop. They are His wild flowers whose homeliness delights Him. By stooping down to them, He manifests His infinite grandeur. The sun shines equally both on cedars and on every tiny flower. In just the same way God looks after every soul as if it had no equal. All is planned for the good of every soul, exactly as the seasons are so arranged that the humblest daisy blossoms at the appointed time. — St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 2-3.

#3 The Sacrifice of Sanctity

Much later, when I understood what perfection was, I realised that to become a saint one must suffer a great deal, always seek what is best, and forget oneself. I understood that there were many kinds of of sanctity and that each soul was free to respond to the approaches of Our Lord and to do little or much for Him — in other words,to make a choice among the sacrifices He demands. Then, just as when I was a child, I cried: “My God, I choose all. I do not want to be a saint by halves. I am not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing — that I should keep my own will. So take it, for I choose all that You will.” — St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 9.

#4 The Little Way

You know, Mother, that I have always wanted to be become a saint. Unfortunately when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passersby. Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new[…] It is your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven, And so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less. —St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001), 113.

#5 Prayer as an Upward Leap

For me, prayer is an upward leap of the heart, an untroubled glance towards heaven, a cry of gratitude and love which I utter from the depths of sorrow as well as from the heights of joy. It has a supernatural grandeur which expands the soul and unites it with God. I say an Our Father or a Hail Mary when I feel so spiritually barren that I cannot summon up a single worth while thought. These two prayers fill me with rapture and feed and satisfy my soul. — St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 140.

3 Literary Journals to Feed Your Soul

Catholic authors have to toe a very thin line when trying to write works that will testify to the Catholic experience in art and literature. However, this is difficult when trying to appeal to a secular audience.

Listers, contemporary Catholic authors are becoming more and more of an endangered species in the world of literature. Catholic authors have to toe a very thin line when trying to write works that will testify to the Catholic experience in art and literature. However, this is difficult when trying to appeal to a secular audience. The avenues of the exposure and promotion are becoming less and less available to authors who even hint in a belief in Jesus Christ. And, as anti-Catholicism increasingly grows the plight of Catholic expression in the arts becomes more perilous. The Catholic authors who we still cling to like Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and G. K. Chesterton are all dead, but there is seemingly no one left to pick up their standard and carry on the tradition of good literature that still sings (or in some cases, hums) about the grace of God. Or is there?

Blessed Pope John Paul II acknowledges the crisis of contemporary Catholic literature:

It is true nevertheless that, in the modern era, alongside this Christian humanism which has continued to produce important works of culture and art, another kind of humanism, marked by the absence of God and often by opposition to God, has gradually asserted itself. Such an atmosphere has sometimes led to a separation of the world of art and the world of faith, at least in the sense that many artists have a diminished interest in religious themes.–“Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists”

Although the Pope acknowledges the present crisis he calls for authors and artists to continue speaking of the beauty and wonder of creation and of God in their world. He says:

On the threshold of the Third Millennium, my hope for all of you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude– “Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists”

These struggling and rare artists must be supported, but finding efficient and reputable outlets are perhaps even more rare than finding the authors themselves. Therefore, listers, I have compiled a list of a couple of journals that I found helpful in sating my hunger for contemporary Catholic literature. (N.B. I encourage you all to check them out, and if you have the finances to support these or other Catholic publications that support and encourage Catholic expression through the arts please do so.)

1. Dappled Things

Dappled Things is pure Catholic joy. From the moment you open the journal, you will be inspired. Dappled Things includes short stories, poems, essays, and visual art by faith-filled authors, scholars, and artists. The artwork is uniquely exquisite with a wide range of styles from artists you may or may not heard of. My personal favorite of the artwork is the icon Our Lady of Merrimack by David Clayton in Fifth anniversary issue. The essays are edifying, interesting, and, at times, provoking in the good kind of way. However, my favorite aspect about Dappled Things is the editorial board is unafraid of exhibiting authors and poets who have a profound and deep love for Jesus Christ. In a world where it is taboo for an author to share the realities of Catholicism, Dappled Things is a voice crying out in the wilderness. One of my favorite short stories from Dappled Things is “Dirty Little Coward” by Gerald C. Matics in the 2009 Mary, Queen of Angels Issue. Here is a quote from Dappled Things about who they are:

The Psalmist invites us, “Come, let us sing to the Lord, and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us!” We the editors of Dappled Things invite you, our Catholic brothers and sisters, to sing and shout in our pages about our dappled world. Write about spotted trout and brinded cows, or write about the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We ask only that your work be inspired by your love for Him and His Church in the fullness of her Scripture and Tradition, her sacraments, and her communion of saints. –Dappled Things

2. Image


Although not strictly a Catholic journal (it is ecumenical including pieces from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic authors and artists), Image is unafraid of exhibiting and promoting many Catholic authors and artists. Each issue is filled with beautiful images of contemporary artwork. What makes Image really unique is the interviews they have with many of the featured artists in their publications. I have learned so much about modern religious art just by reading these amazing and stimulating articles. As a lover of classical art, Image helped me understand a little about the modern spirit of the contemporary religious artist (I love the interview they did with Marc Quinn in 69th issue). Their ecumenical listing of various authors and poets have helped me understand different cultures, but also led me to some wonderful authors who have been touched by the Christian tradition (especially the illustrious Thomas Lynch, undertaker and poet). They, like Dappled Things, are unafraid of allowing authors to speak about their religious experience, especially Catholics.

Few Christians have applied the concept of “stewardship” to culture itself. While it has been natural for Christians to see themselves as stewards of natural resources, or wealth, or the institutional church, there has been little sense of stewardship over our national culture.

Image speaks with equal force and relevance to the secular culture and to the church. By finding fresh ways for the imagination to embody religious truth and religious experience, Image challenges believers and nonbelievers alike. –Image

3. Pilgrim

Pilgrim is an online Catholic Journal. All of its content is free. But just because it is free, doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. In fact, the content is fantastic and exciting. The website consists of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, paintings, and photography. It not only includes and promotes contemporary literature and art from a Catholic perspective, but it looks back to older pieces of work and analyzes it from a contemporary standpoint. If you need something that will feed your soul, Pilgrim is the perfect journal for you.

How does Christianity, lived in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, affect the way men and women experience life in the world? What would an integrated, Catholic approach to life look like today? In what ways should it draw and depart from historical expressions of Christianity? How should it engage ideas and ways of living traditionally unassociated with the Church? Considering such questions, Pilgrim is committed to helping Catholics grapple intelligently and humanely with challenges posed to them both by the Church and by contemporary society. We explore what it means to sustain a Catholic identity and live Christianity holistically in today’s world. We also provide a forum for Catholics, and those sympathetic to Catholic ideas and approaches to life, to develop their capacities for criticial thought, creativity, and concern for one another and for all God’s creation.

8 Quotes from St. John Chrysostom on How to Raise Children

One of the most important basis for children’s spiritual formation is a strong foundation of faith made by their parents.

Listers, one of the most important basis for children’s spiritual formation is a strong foundation of faith made by their parents. This task is a massive long-term undertaking, which requires the parents to approach their vocation with fear and trembling. St. John Chrysostom was not ignorant of this. In fact mingled in his great orations concerning deep theological matters, he often addressed parents on how to raise their children in holiness. Many people suggest that his ideas on parenting appear to antiquated. Although I believe it would foolish not to at least reflect on his words and find way to apply his teachings from a modern standpoint into our families. The following quotes are some interesting exhortations from the golden-mouthed saint about parenting:

1. On the Naming of Children

“So let the name of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of John or Elijah or James; for, if the name be given with forethought to pay honor to those that have departed, and we grasp at our kinship with the righteous rather than with our forebears, this too will greatly help us and our children. Do not because it is a small thing regard it as small; its purpose is to succour us.” — An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children 50.

2. On Raising Children to Be Courageous

“Let us pass to the despotic part of the soul, spirit. We must not eliminate it utterly from the youth nor yet allow  him to use it all the time. Let us train boys from earliest childhood to be patient when they suffer wrongs themselves, but, if they see another being wronged, to sally forth courageously and aid the sufferer in fitting measure.” -An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children, 66.

3. On Teaching Your Children the Scriptures

“Never deem it an unnecessary thing that he should be a diligent hearer of the divine Scriptures. For there the first thing he hears will be this, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’; so that this makes for thee. Never say, this is the business of monks. Am I making a monk of him? No. There is no need he should become a monk. Why be so afraid of a thing so replete with so much advantage? Make him a Christian.” Homilies on Ephesisans, Homily 21

4. Raising Children Up in Wisdom is Priority #1

“Let everything take second place to our care of our children, our bringing them up to the discipline and instruction of the Lord. If from the beginning we teach them to love true wisdom, they will have great wealth and glory than riches can provide. If a child learns a trade, or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, all this is nothing compared to the art of detachment from riches; if you want to make your child rich, teach him this. He is truly rich who does not desire great possessions, or surround himself with wealth, but who requires nothing…Don’t think that only monks need to learn the Bible; Children about to go our into the world stand in greater need of Scriptural knowledge.” — Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 21

5. Raise Them to Know Psalms and Hymns

“Teach him to sing those psalms which are so full of love of wisdom; as at once concerning chastity or rather, before all, of not companying with the wicked, immediately with the very beginning of the book; (for therefore also it was that that prophet began on this wise, ‘Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly”; Ps. i. I, and again, ‘I have not say in the council of vanity’; Ps. xxvi. 4, Sept., and again, ‘in his sight a wicked doer is contemned, but he honoreth those that fear the Lord,’ Ps. xv. 4, Sept.,) of companying the good, (and these subjects thou wilt find there in abundance,) of restraining the belly, of restraining the hand, of refraining from excess, of not overreaching; that money is nothing nor glory, and other things such like[…]When in these thou hast led him on from childhood, by little and little thou wilt lead him forward even to the higher things. The Psalms contain things, but the Hymns again have nothing human. When he has been instructed out of the Psalms, he will then know hymns also , as a diviner thing.”Homilies on Colossians, Homily 9

6. Teaching Them about Eternal Judgment

“Wherefore, I exhort you, when we receive children from the nurse, let us not accustom to old wives’ stories, but let them learn from their first youth that there is a Judgment, that there is a punishment; let it be infixed in their minds. This fear being rooted in them produces great good effects. For a soul that that has learnt from its first youth to be subdued by this expectation, will not soon shake off this fear. But like a horse obedient to the bridle, having the thought of hell seated upon it, walking orderly, it will both speak and utter things profitable; and neither youth nor riches, not an orphan state, not any other thing, will be able to injure it, having its reason so firm and able to hold out against everything.” Homilies on 2 Thessalonians, Homily 2.

7. Raise Them to Be Chaste

“Youth is wild, and requires many governors, teachers, directors, attendants, and tutors; and after all these , it is a happiness if it be restrained. For as a horse not broken in, or a wild beast untamed, such is youth. But if from the beginning, from the earliest age, we fix it in good rules, much pains will not be required afterwards; for good habits formed will be to them as a law. Let us not suffer them to do anything which is agreeable, but injurious; nor let us indulge them, as forsooth but children. Especially let us train them in chastity, for there is the very bane of youth. For this many struggles, much attention will be necessary. Let us take wives for them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will be chaste after it; and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. ‘All bread,’ it is said, ‘is sweet to the fornicator.’ Garland are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But it captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the garland, since he has been subdued?Homilies on 1 Timothy, Homily 9

8. Raising Your Child Properly Is a Greater Inheritance than Riches

In children we have a great charge committed to us. Let us bestow great care upon them, and do everything that the Evil One may not rob us of them. But now our practice is the reverse of this. We take all care indeed to have our farm in good order, and to commit it to faithful manager, we look out for it an ass-driver, and muleteer, and bailiff, and a clever accomptant. But we do not look out for what is much more important, for a person to whom we may commit our son as the guardian of his morals, though this is a possession much more valuable than all others. It is for him indeed that we take such care of our estate. We take care of our possessions for our children, but of the children themselves we take no care at all. Form the soul of thy son aright, and all the rest will be added hereafter.” Homilies on 1 Timothy, Homily 9.

5 More Short Stories That Every Catholic Should Read

Fiction has a savage appeal to authors and readers because they get entertainment out of some character’s suffering or unhappiness.

Listers, fiction has a savage appeal to authors and readers because they get entertainment out of some character’s suffering or unhappiness. However, to the credit of all fans of the written word, they also derive entertainment in a resolution, but that always means that something must first be resolved. Why are we, members of humanity, so obsessed with this tension between conflict and resolution? I was discussing this very topic with a group of friends recently, and we concluded that the story is not good if it does not capture some aspect of our conflict with sin. Fiction is one way humanity proclaims its utter brokenness. As Catholics we always struggle with concupiscence. Even though Christ died for our sins, we still feel we are unworthy of his redeeming grace. Even some of the words we say at Mass reflect this:

“Lord, I am unworthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Fiction, I think, is a reflection of this struggle between concupiscence and grace. We struggle with sin, which is our conflict, yet we fly to the Lord in the Sacraments and find our resolution. So, our obsession with suffering in fiction exists because we are ever looking for a hope for our redemption. I often wonder about the day when there will no longer be a conflict with sin (i.e. the completion of the Kingdom of God). The conclusion I came to is that fiction will no longer be necessary. The only thing that will exist is the poetry of praise, the great Gloria. However, as we all are still alive in this corrupted world, we still need fiction. We need that brief glimpse of redemption through suffering. Fiction points to this ideal of justice and resolution that people, Catholic or not, perpetually seek.

Therefore, I submit to you all, listers, my promised part 2 of short stories that every Catholic should read (if you haven’t read part 1 of this posting you can view it here ). Please do not presume that all of these authors are Catholic or remotely Christian. However, each of the following stories testify to the human’s struggle with concupiscence and our desire for eternal freedom from sin. Please note that these books are listed in no particular order. Now on to the stories…

#6 “The Hint of an Explanation”

by Graham Greene


Known for his intense writing style and thrilling historical mysteries, Graham Greene is one of the best authors to describe the epic struggle of man against his lesser angels. Many of Graham Greene’s writings are particular provocative, which is probably why Hollywood turned many of his stories into film (so if you read something by him other than this story, reader beware). However, “The Hint of an Explanation” is not so much provocative as it is particularly terrifying for those who love the Eucharist (and probably why Hollywood decided not to make this particular story into a feature film). The story takes place on a train where the main character, an agnostic, starts a conversation with a Roman Catholic stranger about what God allows. The Roman Catholic says that it is impossible to understand why somethings happen, especially occasions of corruption, but he says there are moments in life when there are hints as to why God allows them to occur. He then describes his own personal story of one of these hints. The gripping story the Roman Catholic stranger weaves takes you to a heart-wrenching moment when his younger self  is offered a terrifying and yet tempting bargain.

#7 “Lions, Harts, Leaping Does”

by J. F. Powers

As a married Catholic, I often forget about the struggles of parish priests, monks, and others who live the consecrated life. I mistakenly think of them effortlessly following  the rules of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Sometimes when I read The Imitation or The Interior Castles, I envy their access to God and their relationship with the Almighty. However, when I find myself slipping into this envious mindset, I look to J. F. Powers to set the record straight. Known for his realistic portrayal of priests, J. F. Powers discusses the often ignored topic of the struggles of the clergy. Often addressing the misnomers of clergy life, he describes the issues, the annoyances, the struggles, and the uncertainties that often might plague priests and monks. “Lions, Harts, Leaping Does” is one such story. Brother Didymus, a Franciscan monk, struggles with the issue of false humility when he refuses to go see perhaps for the last time his aging brother. This story is a beautiful tale of the internal struggles of elderly monk. It certainly made me appreciate the precarious line that those of the consecrated life often have to toe. This story has helped me appreciate more fully the sacrifice that our priests, monks, and nuns for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

#8 “The Last Ugly Person”

by Roger B. Thomas


Although not as well known as the rest of the authors in this list, Roger B. Thomas holds his own. His writing style is poignant and emotive, not to mention the fact that the late Dr. Ralph McInerny put his stamp of approval on him. In a country that is so confoundedly image obsessed, “The Last Ugly Person” perhaps is one way to keep yourself inoculated from the temptation of vanity and pride. “The Last Ugly Person” is about a dystopian society where beauty, or rather a certain perception of beauty, is law. Those who don’t fall under the rules of beauty and acceptability, the Uglies, start to mysteriously disappear. As their numbers tick away, the struggling vagabonds are forced to rely on strangers to help them survive their wickedly and deceptively beautiful surroundings.

#9 “The Story of the Bad Little Boy”

by Mark Twain


Like most of Mark Twain’s stories, “The Story of the Bad Little Boy” is written in a laughing, sarcastic, and lyrical manner that upon further reflection will lead you to see a striking and disturbing reality. The story is based on those little Sunday school instructional tracts that churches used to hand out to children about proper behavior. This story refutes the premise of those pamphlets that good little boys are always rewarded and bad little boys are always punished. Upon first reading you will find yourself bursting with laughter at the fiendish misdeeds of naughty little Jim, and afterwards you will marvel that what appears to be exaggeration is really the awful truth: “Nice guys finish last.” I suggest you pair this story with “The Story of the Good Little Boy” because they are both extremely short and the meanings of both are enhanced when read consecutively. My recommendation is to read these stories during the election season.

#10 “The Passing of the Third Floor Back”

by Jerome K. Jerome

This last selection could be described as a situation in which grace collides with human folly. Also written as a widely popular play, “The Passing of the Third Floor Back” is a tale about a stranger who rents a room at a boarding house in London. He discovers that his fellow inhabitants are egregiously twisted in their own personal failures. However, as he meets with each individually, his presence and kind words create a curious effect on them. This beautifully written story testifies to the hope and the promise of grace to the worn and gnarled souls of all who are crippled by sin. I recommend this story to be read a couple hours before Confession.

 

 

 

Listers, please click the title of the short story to view the work on Amazon. Thank you.

The Authors and Catholicism: Although the majority of the authors in this list are Roman Catholic, there are a couple who are not Catholic. Regardless, all of the selected stories’ subject matter fall into line with the Catholic teaching.

Other Lists by JE Foyer
5 Short Stores that Every Catholic Should Read
6 Children’s Picture Books Perfect for a Catholic Family Bookshelf
8 Quotes from Christian Authors about the Importance of Good Fiction

6 Children’s Picture Books Perfect for a Catholic Family Bookshelf

One of the many essential tools to teaching our children about the glory and depth of our faith is the picture book.

Listers, one of the many essential tools to teaching our children about the glory and depth of our faith is the picture book. Children often have short attention spans, and their comprehension skills are still not as developed and refined as adults; however, that should not prevent us from sharing with them the truth, the glory, and the goodness of our Catholic tradition. The picture book is often an excellent tool to use to help remedy this difficult hurdle. When you really consider what makes good children’s literature you will notice a common thread among all the greats. Good children’s literature must be an intricate blend between the following: 1) a thoughtfully laid-out plot using plenty of descriptive language; 2) captivating relevant illustrations created with the intention of capturing children’s attention. When religious content is thrown into this intricate mix, it transforms story-time into an occasion of spiritual formation. But, how do you determine whether one Christian picture book is better than the other? The answer is very subjective, but there are some things I would suggest for you all to consider when selecting one:

  • Does the book’s subject matter line-up with the teachings of Magisterium? (i.e. Is it orthodox? Is it in any way blasphemous?)
  • Is the meaning or subject worthwhile? (i.e. Does it challenge your child to strive to be virtuous? Does it inspire discussion? Is there a moral? Does it teach them about truth in some way?)
  • Is the plot composed in a way that is engaging to children (i.e. is it written in way to make children care about what actually happens)?
  • Do the illustrations captivate children’s imagination (i.e. are the illustrations interesting with beautiful colors, shading, and perspective? Are they composed skillfully and purposefully? Has the illustrator taken great pains to flesh out the plot so that children can get the gist of it by merely studying the pictures?)
  • Is the language stilted and awkward, or is it smooth and descriptive? (i.e. Does it flow? Does it sound like you are reading out of a dictionary?)
  • Are the illustrations and writing appropriate and respectful to the particular subject matter (i.e. Are the serious things illustrated and written in a serious manner? e.g. Jesus should not be smiling on the cross in illustrations, and Jesus should not be described as someone’s “Homeboy”)
  • Is the book re-readable? (i.e. Did the book create and enjoyable or tedious experience? Are the illustrations detailed enough to discover something new each time it is read? Does the story inspire in depth discussion?)

I used this criterion to compose the following list* of good children’s picture books that are helpful in the spiritual formation of children. These books are not listed in any particular order. (N.B. Some of these stories deal with issue of death. I recommend that you read it first before introducing the book to your child, so you can determine whether the subject matter is age appropriate). I also realize that six stories is a rather a short list, but I wanted to make sure I did a good enough review of each of the books’ merits. I fully intend on doing a part 2 and 3, so if you have any books to bring to my attention please let me know.1 Now on to the stories:

#1 The Clown of God

Retold and Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola is easily my favorite children’s author and illustartor. His unique artistic style and striking illustrations rival some of the more beautiful pieces of art in modern culture. The Clown of God is my personal favorite among his numerous books, which include Strega Nona, The Song of St. Francis, and Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland. The Clown of God made a profound impact on me when I was a child. I know, I know, you all are thinking “A story about clown, really?” But trust me, this story will surprise and touch you and your children. The plot is as complex and rich as the illustrations. The story is about a little orphan boy named Giovanni, whose desire in life was to make people happy through juggling. This story is very serious, and I would recommend previewing it first as certain twists in the plot may upset sensitive children. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it because this book quite possibly could be life-changing for your children. It should inspire them to play, to work, and to live in a way that always brings glory to God.

#2The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith

by Josephine Nobisso/Illustrated by Katalin Szegedi

If you have younger children you know that taking them to Mass can be quite an ordeal. However, eventually your children will begin to perceive that Mass is a serious and important thing (so keep it up). In order to illustrate the importance of Mass to your children I recommend The Weight of a Mass to them. I consider this book The Hint of an Explanation for children as it deals specifically about the weighty value of the Eucharist. The story is filled with reverent yet lavish illustrations that certainly will not only pique the aesthetic sensibilities of children but also of adults. It is a tale about a starving beggar woman who tells a baker that she will lift up the baker’s intentions at Mass in exchange for a scrap of bread. The baker is incredulous at first, but then something miraculous happens that saves the baker and the whole kingdom from disbelief. This is book is perfect for bedtime. It will hopefully lead your family into edifying discussion about why Mass is an integral part of the Catholic faith.

#3 Take It to the Queen: A Tale of Hope

by Josephine Nobisso/Illustrated by Katalin Szegedi

Perfect for story-time during the month of May or during any Marian feast day, Take It to the Queen expounds on why praying the Rosary and venerating the Holy Mother is an important part of our Catholic faith. Josephine Nobissio weaves an allegorical tale about a King who marries a woman from a village. In gratitude to the village, the King gives the village many gifts and promises that his firstborn son will help and advise the village council. However, as years pass the villagers forget his kindness and start reviling the king and one another. The village falls under disrepair due to selfishness and deceit, and the villagers begin to starve. However, they remember that the Queen was a fellow citizen and made supplications to her to help them at their darkest hour. Take It to the Queen helps children learn to love our Holy Mother and rely on her holy assistance as they strive to serve God throughout their lives.

#4 The Squire and the Scroll: A Tale of the Rewards of a Pure Heart

by Jennie Bishop/Illustrated by Preston McDaniels

In the present day, our children are bombarded constantly by the various agendas of the world. And more often than not, these worldly things are contrary to the values of the Christian life. One such major tenet of our faith that is under constant attack by the world is the Church’s message of purity. The Squire and the Scroll story is an allegory about this very same conflict. The story is about a kingdom that loses it greatest treasure, the lantern of purest light, to a great enemy, a monstrous dragon. The King of the realm sends all his knights but loses all but one to the unknown perils on the the road to the dragon’s keep. The last knight and his lowly squire are then sent out to face the unknown dangers in order to re-obtain the lost light. The only way for them to keep from harm and maintain their virtue is to listen to the often-neglected yet sagacious wisdom of an ancient scroll. This story is filled with adventure, sorrow, redemption, and joy. It will bring up a great discussion with your children about ways they can avoid temptation through listening to tenets of the faith and relying on the grace and wisdom of Scripture.

#5 The Children’s Book of Virtues

Edited by William J. Bennett/Illustrated by Michael Hague

This compilation of illustrated stories categorizes various fables, fairy tales, legends, prayers, and poems by virtues that are essential to the excellent life (e.g. there is a whole section on courage, charity, and responsibility). Not all the stories are not always overtly Christian or religious, but the stories do underscore various essentials that mark a virtuous person. Many of the stories and fables are familiar to the Western mind (e.g. “St George and the Dragon,” “The Stars in the Sky,” and “The Lion and the Mouse”) while others are not, which allows for growth and familiarity with other cultures (e.g. “The Honest Disciple,” “The King and His Hawk,” and “The Indian Cinderella). Like the other stories in this list the illustrations are done with particular detail and effort which help children to imagine and to dream. As anthologies go, this should be on top of your list as it inspires children to strive in virtue and helps acquaint them with stories and fables of the past.

#6 Can You Find Saints?: Introducing Your Child to Holy Men and Women

by Phillip D. Gallery/Illustrated by Janet Harlow

Being on the more light-hearted side, Can You Find the Saints is the perfect road trip book. It is sort of like Where’s Waldo? but with Catholic subject matter. I know it sounds a little disrespectful, but really it is done in a very tasteful and educational way. The illustrations are filled with the great detail and are very engaging even for the youngest of readers. The illustrations depict the wonderful and vastly different lives of the saints. For example, one whole page in this book is a collage dedicated to Mary. Your child will discover many things about our Holy Mother like different titles she is given throughout world and the major moments in her life. Another particularly interesting aspect to the book is the parent guide in the back. It assists parents to having a more fruitful discussion while their children make new discoveries throughout the book. Each page is packed with illustrations that will make your children discover something new every time they read it. In this book, your children will learn about the ways in which Saints are identified, who many of the Saints are and what they did during their lives on Earth, and how can your children strive to be Saints in our day and our time.

Happy reading!

  1. The Authors and Catholicism: Although the majority of the authors in this list are Roman Catholic, there are one or two of the authors that I am not certain about. Regardless, all of the selected stories’ subject matter fall into line with the Catholic teaching. Also all of the books can be found with most major online Catholic book retail companies. If you all, listers, have any information about this let me know. []

8 Quotes from Christian Authors about the Importance of Good Fiction

Many people undervalue the genre of fiction because fiction is often misconstrued as purely a method of entertainment.

Listers, many people undervalue the genre of fiction because fiction is often misconstrued as purely a method of entertainment. Although this common use is by no means wrong, the exclusive reason why someone chooses to read a book should not be because they want to escape the doldrums of human existence. Fiction, however, should be another way of gaining a new perception on reality without the abstractions of philosophical debate (although fiction may perhaps precipitate philosophical discussion). The following list contains quotes from authors, some Catholic and some not, about the importance and value of the genre of fiction:

1. Flannery O’Connor on the Reality in Fiction

“People are always complaining that the modern novelist has no hope and that the picture he paints of the world is unbearable. The only answer to this is that people without hope do not write novels. Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system. If the novelist is not sustained by a hope of money, then he must be sustained by a hope of salvation, or he simply won’t survive the ordeal.” –“The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1969), 77-78.

2. Blessed John Paul II on the Gospel’s Ability to Inspire Art

“Every genuine art form in its own way is a path to the inmost reality of man and of the world. It is therefore a wholly valid approach to the realm of faith, which gives human experience its ultimate meaning. That is why the Gospel fullness of truth was bound from the beginning to stir the interest of artists, who by their very nature are alert to every “epiphany” of the inner beauty of things” –-“Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists”

3. G.K. Chesterton on the Underlying Morality in Fiction

“This great idea, then, is the backbone of all folk-lore — the idea that all happiness hangs on one thin veto; all positive joy depends on one negative. Now, it is obvious that there are many philosophical and religious ideas akin to or symbolised by this; but it is not with them I wish to deal here. It is surely obvious that all ethics ought to be taught to this fairy-tale tune; that, if one does the thing forbidden, one imperils all the things provided[…]This is the profound morality of fairy-tales; which, so far from the being lawless, go to the root of all law. Instead of finding (like common books of ethics) a rationalistic basis for each Commandment, they find the great mystical basis for all Commandments.” –“Fairy Tales”, All Things Considered, (New York, Feather Trail Press, 2009), 87.

4. C.S. Lewis on What Makes Good Fiction

“I never wrote down to anyone; and whether the opinion condemns or acquits my own work, it certainly in my opinion that a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then.” — C.S. Lewis, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,” The New York Times November 18, 1956.

5. G.K. Chesterton on Teaching Children Fairy Tales

“We all know the people who think it is wicked to tell children fairy tales which they are not required to believe, though of course not wicked to teach them false doctrines or false news why they are required to believe. They hold that the child must be guarded from the danger of supposing that all frogs turn into princesses or that any pumpkin will at any minute turn into a coach and six and that he must rather reserve his faith for the sober truth told in newspapers, which will tell him that all Socialists are Satanists or that the Act of Parliament will mean work and wealth for all. We ourselves have generally found that children were quite sufficiently intelligent to question the first and that grown-up people were quite sufficiently stupid to swallow the second.” –“Dragooning the Dragon” As I was Saying (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1985)

6. Flannery O’Connor on the Levels of Meaning in Fiction

“We all write at our own level of understanding, but it is the peculiar characteristic of fiction that its literal surface can be made to yield entertainment on an obvious physical place to one sort of reader while the selfsame surface can be made to yield meaning to the person equipped to experience it there.” — Flannery O’Connor “Writing Short Stories,” Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1969), 95.

7. Blessed Pope John Paul II on the Necessity of Fiction Conveying the Message of the Gospel

“In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.” — “Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists”

8. Flannery O’Connor on the Necessity of the Supernatural in the Heart of the Author

“Where there is no belief in the soul there is very little drama. The Christian novelist is distinguished from his pagan colleagues by recognizing sin as sin. According to his heritage he sees it not as sickness or an accident of environment, but as a responsible choice of offense against God which involves his eternal future.” –Flannery O’Connor, “Novelist and Believer” Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1969), 167.

5 Short Stories that Every Catholic should Read

The genre of the short story is a particularly extraordinary human invention.

Listers, the genre of the short story is a particularly extraordinary human invention. In a matter of two hours or less, the short story can illustrate some complexities of life without taxing the mind with deep philosophical terms or concepts. As some of us don’t have the proclivity to have intense philosophical and theological discussions on the various nuances of life and faith, the short story provides us with a brief vision on the robust nature of the Christian existence. Many people would suggest that short stories are just for children. However, I would argue that adults need short stories as well. It is one of the few welcome outlets in which adults can hold up a mirror to themselves and observe what they see, warts and all.

In this spirit, I submit to you all, Listers, a modest list of 5 short stories that testify to the beauty and the blemishes of our humanity. I, by no means, believe that this list is a complete one (hence the “part 1” in the title of the posting). I hope to do more postings on great short stories, so please suggest any if you feel a particular piece is appropriate to this list. Now on to the stories:

#1 “Leaf by Niggle” by J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the more recognized and widely read modern authors in the English language. However, due to the vast and well-deserved popularity of The Lord of the Rings, many of his other works like his short stories are not given the attention that some of them deserve. Originally published in a book called Tree and Leaf in 1964, “Leaf by Niggle” is a short story about an artist named Niggle who procrastinates making plans for a necessary journey. However, when his journey abruptly begins without warning he finds himself ill-prepared and thinks of the people and unfinished projects that he has now left behind. My recommendation for this story is to have tissues or a handkerchief close by, not because it is sad, but, because it elucidates a beautiful reality of humanity’s participation in the Kingdom of God.

#2 “The Light Princess” by George MacDonald

It is truly shocking how a lot of people don’t know and haven’t read George MacDonald’s works even though his influence has left an indelible mark on the world of literature. C. S. Lewis honors MacDonald in The Great Divorce by making MacDonald into a character who guides the narrator on a bus ride from hell to heaven. He may not have been a Roman Catholic, but MacDonald’s influence has certainly made a massive impact on Catholic literature. Both J. R. R. Tolkien and G. K. Chesterton admit that MacDonald’s writing made a enormous impact on their lives, their method of writing, and their way of re-imagining the world. “The Light Princess” is, in my humble opinion, the most romantic fairy tale that I have ever read. It is about a princess, obviously, who has had a curse put upon her by an evil witch. I won’t tell you what the curse is because that would rob the story of its whimsy. However, she meets a handsome prince who falls madly in love with her. When the witch takes away something terribly dear to her, a hard decision has to be made. I realize that some of you all might object that I suggest reading a fairy tale, but I assure this is no watered-down Disney production. You’ll find this story not only wildly entertaining, but extremely edifying as MacDonald weaves this tale of true love.

#3 “The Selfish Giant” by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde might perhaps be one of the more controversial authors in the history of Catholic literature due to certain predilections he had in his personal life. However he lived his life, it is certain the Gospel inspired him in some way as many of works reflect a distinct fascination to certain aspects of Christianity. One great example of his deep attraction to Christianity is in Wilde’s collection of short stories entitled The Happy Prince and Other Tales. This book is filled with wonderful stories, including my personal favorite, “The Selfish Giant.” This story is about a giant who had a beautiful garden, and while he was away on extended trip to visit an Ogre, the town children played in his garden happily. But, when he returns and discovers the children, he banishes them from his garden and builds up a wall to prevent their entry, which in turn causes a dreadful consequence. This whimsical fairy tale of “The Selfish Giant” is a lighthearted story of how God’s grace can soften the hardest of hearts.

#4 “The Blue Cross” By G. K. Chesterton

It won’t take you too long when exploring the various posts on St. Peter’s List to notice that many of our contributors greatly esteem the “Prophet of Orthodoxy,” G. K. Chesterton. His wit, his ideas, his stories, and his unabashed passion for reason have inspired many Christians, Catholic or not, to delve deeper into what it means to be truly Christian. His decided use of reason perhaps becomes incarnate in the beloved character of Father Brown, a crime fighting Roman Catholic priest whose only weapons are faith and reason. Father Brown first appears in “The Blue Cross” a story first published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1910. In the story, the head of the Parisian police is trying to apprehend the famous and wicked criminal, Flambeau. Amidst his search for the criminal, he encounters a mild-mannered priest, Father Brown, who at first seems like a easy target for theft as he is carrying a jewel encrusted cross. However, Valentin soon discovers that Father Brown is not your average cleric, but a man who has the happy knack of finding clues to the hardest of mysteries using the most unusual methods.

#5 “Revelation” by Flannery O’Connor”

Flannery O’Connor is one of my literary idols, because she shook the American literary scene with her dark and yet realistically sinister characters. “Revelation” is one such story that frightens me to my very core with its gruesome realistic portrayal of a rather stuck-up, white, middle-class, and “Christian” lady from the South named Mrs. Turpin. Throughout the story she constantly is looking down her nose at the people she is sharing a waiting room with. However, with an abrupt and sudden run-in with an angry young girl, Mrs. Turpin’s elite perception of her life is called into question. WARNING! Flannery O’Connor’s stories are not for the faint in heart. These stories are deliciously gritty. She frequently, yet rightly, uses strong and shocking language to capture entirely the reality of the darkness of human failure and the glorious beauty of the sudden emergence of unmerited grace.

Enjoy!

 

Listers, please click the title of the short story to view the work on Amazon. Thank you.

 

Part II: 5 More Short Stories That Every Catholic Should Read.

6 Educational Online Resources to Inspire Children to Love Their Faith

As a Catholic parent the most important duty for me is to shape my children into being excellent members of the body of Christ.

Listers, as a Catholic parent the most important duty for me is to shape my children into being excellent members of the body of Christ. Although the task is a virtuous one, it can be a bit arduous as younger children have small or non-existent attention spans. Although I am not an advocate of “dumbing” down or making the essence of our faith less serious for the sake of reaching our children, I do believe we have to temper our theologically-charged faith into terms that our children can understand. Perhaps this is a more challenging task than keeping our children still during prayer. Also young children are visual and tactile learners, which means they remember things when they have the opportunity to get to create something. Fortunately, as we all live in the “Information Age” there are many resources within our reach that can help us capture our children’s attention without sacrificing the seriousness of our Catholic faith. These are great resources for godparents and religious education directors too. N. B. I do not advocate these things as a replacement to daily family prayer time, which is an essential element in the day-to-day worship of God in the domestic church, but these websites can help supplement, illustrate, and, perhaps, guide the discussion of faith in terms that children can understand. Here is a compilation of some my favorite websites:

#1 Catholic Icing


Catholic Icing is the perfect place to find projects for those little visual and tactile learners in
your life. Catholic Icing has much of its content centered around the liturgical calendar and saints’ feast days. When Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are coming up, this blog is a great place to find creative ways to get your children or godchildren to start thinking about and preparing for the upcoming season. For example, to teach your children about sacrifices for Lent, you can make a Lenten Crown of Thorns. If they make a sacrifice like sharing toys with their younger brother or sister they are allowed to pull a thorn out of the crown. Catholic icing has everything from coloring pages, countdown calendars, party ideas (especially feast days of Saints), mobiles, gifts, and songs. Also another great aspect of this website is that all the content is free!
www.catholicing.com

#2 Catholic Toolbox


Run by a stay-at-home mother, Catholic Toolbox is geared towards the religious education director type, but it can be used by the more ambitious parent. I highly recommend Catholic Toolbox to parents who wish to home school their children. Most of the website is filled with lesson plans already made, so it takes the guess work out of making up a curriculum for your children. The lesson plans are extremely comprehensive, including suggestions for books to read, songs to sing, and crafts to do on a variety of topics ranging from Bible stories and liturgical celebrations. Like Catholic Icing, there are lists upon lists of amazing projects, crafts, and activities you can do with your children. Another aspect of this website is the list of games that help children memorize prayers, doctrines, and other important facts about our Christian faith. This website is geared to engaging our children in a interactive discussion of our faith.
www.catholicblogger1.blogspot.com

#3 CatholicMom.com


Geared to nurturing the Catholic Mom (hence the name CatholicMom.com), this website also provides some great resources and suggestions on how to raise the best little Catholics straight from the cradle to adulthood. It also links to other Catholic websites that have fun and creative ways to teach children about our faith (they collaborate closely with Catholic Toolbox). Also the contributors make tips for Catholic music, movies, and even travel. The website is a useful tool for lifting up mothers in their lives and in their faith, with helpful blogs about prayer, spiritual formation, vocations, marriage, and basically anything affecting the life of a Catholic mom.
www.catholicmom.com

#4 Fathers for Good


Many of the Catholic parenting websites are wired mostly for mothers, but this one is especially for dads. In society where fatherhood is often put on the wayside, Fathers for Good emphasizes the absolute necessity of fathers being effective heads of the domestic church. It has blog posts about Catholic parenting issues from a father’s perspective. A notable feature on Fathers for Good is the “Reel Reviews,” which reviews currents movies from a Catholic perspective. This website is a rare resource for Catholic men who endeavor to lead their families towards a closer relationship with God. www.fathersforgood.org

There is a role only a father can fill and gifts only a father can give. In a culture that often does not favor fatherhood or masculine virtue, we wish to highlight the unique contributions of men, husbands and fathers. The world would be lacking without them.

#5 Holy Heroes


Holy Heroes is a product driven website. The online store offers a variety of products ranging from well-illustrated coloring books, prayer cds, lives of the saints cds, children’s books, etc. I highly recommend the prayer cds, which range from the different Mysteries of the Rosary, to the Stations of the Cross, to a beautifully sung Chaplet of Divine Mercy, all of which are done reverently by children. These cds are a great tool for teaching children to pray (Godparents! These are perfect gifts!). However awesome the products are, the main reason Holy Heroes is on this list is their free online Adventure series that occurs during Lent, Advent and the Summer. These series are free tri-weekly online videos, mp3s, printable coloring pages, puzzles, and worksheets that are geared towards teaching and preparing your children for those specific liturgical seasons on the Church calendar.
www.holyheroes.com

#6 Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact


And now for something completely different, I bring you The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, a free online archive of amazingly illustrated, public domain Catholic comic books from 1946-1972. This series goes along with the recent resurgence of interest in graphic novels and comic books, and it is not only informative but (now more than ever) extremely entertaining. Originally published by George A. Pflaum in Dayton, Ohio, these books taught children about a variety of topics like science, history, religion, and the social mores of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. What might be of particular interest for you all, Listers, is how these Catholic comic books are filled with hundreds of wonderful retold versions of the lives of the Saints and excellent renditions of Bible stories. There are legends and stories of the origins of particular Catholic customs like “The Legend of Pancake Tuesday” and “The Legend of the Poinsettia.” Also there are instructional segments that describe the history of several doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic faith like the sacraments and the Immaculate Conception. Although they are in comic book form, these books are extremely respectful and enlightening. The illustrations and writing are compelling enough to capture the imagination of children, all the while teaching them in a respectful way about the Catholic faith. This online collection of children’s periodicals can be viewed for free by the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at the Catholic University of America through the Washington Research Library Consortium website.
www.aladin0.wrlc.org/gsdl/collect/treasure/treasure.shtml

Listers, I know there is probably a lot more online resources out there for teaching your children our faith. If there is a website that you think that should be added to the list, please let us know by leaving a comment.

6 Quotes from the Church Fathers on Mourning the Loss of a Child or Loved One

“Recently, a couple members of my extended family lost not one child but two in the span of one year, so I felt like words were not enough. I decided to seek out the wisdom of the Church Fathers, who always know the right thing to say.”

Listers, when there is a death in the family, it is always very hard to find the right words to say. I always struggle with this and end up bumbling through my condolences. In the end, I always feel that whatever I say is trite even though my attempts were heartfelt and well-meaning. It is especially hard to console a family when they are grieving the loss of a child. Recently, a couple members of my extended family lost not one child but two in the span of one year, so I felt like words were not enough. I decided to seek out the wisdom of the Church Fathers, who always know the right thing to say. What I found was not only uplifting but shed some light on how Catholics ought to view death. Whether it is you who might have lost a child or someone you might know, these quotes from the Church Fathers might be of some consolation. This list is a compilation of my findings:

1. Dwell on the wonderful company your child must be keeping

Well, your child may have departed from you, but he has gone to Christ the Lord. For you his eyes have been shut, but they are opened to the eternal light: he is gone from your table, but is now added to the table of angels. The plant was uprooted from here, but planted in paradise . From the earthly kingdom he was transferred to the heavenly kingdom. You see what was exchanged for what. Are you sad because you no longer see the beauty of the face of your child? But this happens, because you do not see the real beauty of the soul with which he rejoices in the heavenly feast. How beautiful indeed is the eye that sees God!  How sweet indeed is the mouth that is adorned with divine melodies!
St. Gregory of Nyssa from A Homily of Consolation Concerning Pulcheria

 

2. Remember that you remain united to your child through Christ

For why should I weep for thee, my most loving brother, who wast thus torn from me that thou mightest be the brother of all? For I have not lost but changed my intercourse with thee; before we were inseparable in body, now we are undivided in affection; for thou remainst with me and ever wilt remain. And indeed, whilst thou wast living with me, our country never tore thee from me, nor didst thou thyself ever prefer our country to me; and now thou art become surety for that other country, for I begin to be no stranger there where the better portion of myself already is. I was never wholly engrossed in myself, but the greater part of each of us was in the other, yet we were each of us in Christ, in Whom is the whole sum of all and the portion of each severally. This grace is more pleasing to me than thy natal soil, in which is the fruit not of nature but of grace, for in that body which lies lifeless lies the better work of my life, since in this body, too, which I bear is the richer portion of thyself.
St. Ambrose Book 1 of “On the Decease of Satyrus

Michelang

 

3.Remember to love God above all things
(Warning! This is one is a bit harsh, but it is something you ought to remind yourself)

Wherefore dost thou lament thy child? Wherefore thine husband? The former , because I had not enjoyed him, you say; the latter, because I expected that I should have enjoyed him longer. And this very thing, what want of faith does it argue, to suppose that thy husband or thy son constitutes thy safety, and not God! How dost thou not think to provoke Him? For often on this account He takes them away, that thou mayest not be so bound to them, so that it may withdraw thy hopes from them. For God is jealous, and wills to be loved by us most of all things: and that, because He loves us exceedingly[…]Love not thy husband more than God, and thou shalt not ever experience widowhood. Or rather, even if it should happen, thou shalt not have the feeling of it. Why? Because  thou hast an immortal Protector who loves thee better. If thou lovest God more, mourn not: For He who is more beloved is immortal, and does not suffer thee to feel the loss of him who is less beloved. This I will make manifest to thee by an example. Tell me, if thou hast a husband, complying with thee in all things, one that is respected amongst all, intelligent and wise, and loving thee, thou being esteemed happy on his account, and in conjunction with him shouldest thou bring forth a child, and then before it has arrived at the age of maturity, that child should depart; wilt thou then feel the affliction? By no means. For he that is more beloved makes it disappear. And now if thou love God more than thy husband assuredly He will not soon take him away. But even if He should take him, thou wilt not be sensible of the affliction. For this reason the blessed Job felt no severe suffering, when he heard of the death of his children all at once, because he loved God more than them…
St. John Chrysostom Homily 6 in his Homilies of 1 Thessalonians

4. Your child is in a better place, as cliche as that may sound.

And sayest thou, How is it possible for one that is man not to mourn? I reply if thou wilt reflect how neither the Patriarch nor Job, who both were men, gave way to any thing of the kind; and this too in either case before the Law , and Grace, and the excellent wisdom of the laws [we have]: if thou wilt account that the deceased has removed into a better country, and bounded away to a happier inheritance, and that thou hast not lost thy son but bestowed him henceforward in an inviolable spot. Say not then, I pray thee, I am no longer called “father,” for why art thou no longer called so when thy son abideth? For surely thou didst not part with thy child nor lost thy son? Rather thou hast gotten him, and hast him in greater safety. Wherefore, no longer shalt thou be called “father” here only, but also in heaven; so that thou hast not lost the title “father,” but hast gained it in a nobler sense; for henceforth thou shalt be called father not of a mortal child, but of an immortal; of a noble soldier; on duty continually within [the palace]. For think not because he is not present that therefore he is lost; for had he been absent in a foreign land, the title of thy relationship had not gone from thee with his body […]
St. John Chrysostom Homily 1 of his Homilies on Second Corinthians

Giotto

5. Honor your child through acts of penance and alms-giving. (This is essential!)

For the honor to the dead is, not wailings and lamentings, but hymns and psalmodies and an excellent life. The good man when he departheth, shall depart with angels, though no man be near his remains; but the corrupt, though he have a city to attend his funeral, shall be nothing profited. Wilt thou honor him who is gone? Honor him in another way, by alms-deeds, by acts of beneficence and public service.
St. John Chrysostom Homily 57 of his Homilies on the Gospel of Saint John.

6. When all other outlets of consolation fail, look to the Resurrection for comfort.

Say not then, “He is perished and shall no more be;” for these be the words of unbelievers; but say, “He sleepth and will rise again,” He is gone on a journey and will return with the King.” Who sayeth this? He that hath Christ speaking in him. “For,” saith he, “if revived, “even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (1 Thess. iv.14.) If then thou seek thy son, there seek him where the King is, where is the army of the Angels; not in the grace; not in the earth; lest whilst he is so highly exalted, thyself remain groveling on the ground […] If we have this true wisdom, we shall easily repel all this kind of distress; and “the God of mercies and Father of all comfort” comfort all our hearts both those who are oppressed with such grief and those held down with any other sorrow; and grant us deliverance from all despair and increase of spiritual joy; and to all we attain, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom unto the Father, together with the Holy Spirit be glory, power, honor,  now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
St. John Chrysostom Homily 1 of his Homilies on 2 Corinthians 

Listers, if you have any more quotes to add to this list let us know.