Saint O’the Day: St. Sebastian (20 Jan)

This is a special saint for me as his memorial day is my birthday.

Please download and share this presentation – PDF

I’ve included a special prayer on the final slide. This is an excerpt from the USCCB “Prayer for Migrant Children” which I found linked through the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s  “Prayers of Light” which were offered on the eve of the US Inauguration. 

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Prayer and Reflection Resources – Advent 2016

Last year , I posted a list of resources for prayer and reflection during this holy season of Advent. It’s time to share what I’ll be looking at this Advent 2016 (or is it 2017 as it’s the new Church Year now?)

Busted Halo is back with their virtual advent calendar  They are also hosting an “InstaPhoto Challenge” with the invitation to post Advent related photos each day. And I’m a big fan of their “Two Minute” videos:

One of my very favorite sites, Creighton U’s On-line Ministry has an outstanding set of resources for Advent including reflections, prayers, excellent audio retreats and talks and much more.

EWTN, USCCB, Crux, Franciscan Media, Loyola Press, and Word on Fire  all have free and paid resources for Advent.

Fr. Felix Just, S.J., known for amazing lists of hyperlinks, has a wide ranging one for Advent which includes a list of Advent carols.

And stepping outside of the Catholic community, let me share an excellent Advent calendar and resources from the good Episcopal brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. 

And check back here daily as I continue to post the Saint O’the Day as well as an “Advent Journey Journal” which I’m inviting my Sophomores to use each day during our meditation and contemplation time.

Happy Church New Year and may your Advent be blessed and bright!

uncommoncommunion and Today’s Border Mass

I introduced my personal blog, uncommoncommunion last summer. Unfortunately, I’ve not had much opportunity to post there in the months since.

Today, in honor of Pope Francis’ historic mass this evening on the Mexico/U.S. border, I’ve posted entitled: “Pope Francis, Today’s Border Mass and St. John Paul’s Letters.” 

Please spend a few minutes checking it out and please bookmark and follow uncommoncommunion as I plan to post there much more frequently.

Resources for Lent 2016

It’s hard to believe that Lent is upon us so quickly this year. Next year, Ash Wednesday will be nearly three weeks later – March 1, 2017! How will you Fast, Pray & Give this year.

Here’s a few resources I’m looking at this year:

USCCB – “Lent 2016: 40 Days of Mercy

Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl – I especially like their weekly, meatless recipes from around the world. Hopefully they will again have videos of Fr. Leo demonstrating each one.

Loyola Press Lenten Resources especially their Online Lenten Retreats & Prayers

Creighton University On-Line Ministries: Praying Lent – I highly recommend this audio retreat presented by the wise Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J.

Other Jesuit Lenten resources can be found at Thinking Faith and the audio-focused Pray As You Go – both from the U.K.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Lenten Resources  (includes a link to sign up for his daily Lenten reflection emails.)

As of today (Monday), Busted Halo hasn’t posted their popular Lent calendar yet. They have a few Lenten themed articles as well as this excellent Ash Wednesday in Two Minutes video:

Last year for both Lent and Advent I found the resources offered by the Society of St. John the Evangelist to be faith and thought provoking.  This year’s theme, which encompasses daily videos, emails and a workbook is entitled: Growing a Rule of Life. It begins with this introductory video by one of the wise brothers:

And it even has a component for use with youth.

In light of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking celebration of God’s Creation, “Laudato Si” how about connecting your Lenten fasting to activities which care for creation. A number of faith organizations offer Lenten calendars with suggestions for each day:

Sisters of St. Joseph Carbon Fast

Michigan Interfaith Power & Light

Carbon Fast – Anglican Communion

St. Francis Cabrini Community

More extensive “carbon fast” programs, including daily emails and message boards, are offered by MACUCC and EcoChurch Southwest (U.K.)

Shifting gears to focus on apps, Give Us This Day is offering a free trial of their app featuring the day’s morning & evening prayers as well as the daily mass.

Finally, props to a great blog site – Catholic Apptitude and their listing of apps and related resources for Lent.

 

 

2015 – Best Things – An Amazing Calendar and More

I’d planned to make this post before 2015 ended, but it obviously didn’t happen. These links, especially to the calendar pictured above are too good to miss. So, let’s pretend it’s a few days ago and we’re looking back at 2015 before (and not after) 2016 has begun.

This calendar from Slate is pretty amazing. Certainly horrible things happened in 2015 – some (the Paris and San Bernadino terrorist attacks) in the final few weeks. Yet, there were far more good things – in fact at least one per day in 2015.

Do check out the calendar. Click on a day and you’ll get more info on what happened that is deemed “good” (at least by the creators at Slate). What if you don’t think something is good on a certain date? Well, you can rate the event on a scale from “Great!” to “meh.”

Here’s, for your perusal, some other “best of lists” and “looks back” from 2015:

The Year in Review in Catholicism (from Crux)

The Best Books We Read in 2015 (from The Week)

The Best Songs We Heard in 2015 (from the Week)

These 14 Characters Stole the Show in 2015 Movies (from the Washington Post)

The Crux 2015 Christmas Book and DVD List

The 13 Funniest TV Shows of 2015

I have some more lists from 2015 to share, but I’ll do so in another post…

 

 

“The Miracle Maker” and NBC’s “A.D.: The Bible Continues” Episode I

A big smile appeared on my face when I saw that Crux featured an article about the greatest Jesus movie that far too many people haven’t seen (or then shown to classes or groups).  I learned about it a few years ago from a theology teacher who mentioned it to the class in passing.  His opinion, with which I concur, is that “The Miracle Maker” follows the stories of the gospels quite closely while telling the story of Jesus in a creative and engaging way.

Take a moment to watch the trailer for it to see if it peaks your interest and curiosity.

Aside from the truly jaw-dropping use of stop-motion animation (be sure to watch the “making of” feature on the DVD after you view the movie), I most like the perspective from which the gospels are told.  The main character, who witnesses almost every moment of Jesus’ ministry from early teaching to Ascension, is Tamar – the fictitious name for Jairus’ Daughter.  She begins the film as a sickly ten year-old, dies and is raised from the dead by Jesus.  The dinner in the Road to Emmaus story is at her home and she is on top of the hill when Jesus ascends.

I’m in the midst of showing “The Miracle Maker” to my sophomores as one third of an assignment (Word version & PDF version) in which I want them to compare and contrast how Jesus is portrayed in a trio of popular films.  The other two films that I use are:

I just streamed the first episode “The Tomb is Open” of NBC’s A.D. The Bible Continues and I was pretty pleased with it.  Here’s my immediate thoughts:

+ The production values, from cinematography to use of CGI effects, are much improved over The History Channel’s The Bible. I show the Old Testament segments of this now two year-old mini-series to my freshmen with this disclaimer – “It follows the OT stories quite well and it shows both the Judges and the Prophets in ways most Bible films do not.  But, I feel it goes too far in both glorifying and sensationalizing the violence and bloodshed in the stories.”

+ The first episode showed the bloodshed and butchery which was a central part of the Jewish Passover ritual in the Temple.  I’ve not seen this aspect (which is referenced in John’s Gospel) in other films.  Unfortunately, the scene is used for exposition on the reasons why the Sanhedrian wanted to eliminate Jesus rather than any explanation of the ritual happening in the background.

+ Jesus and the Apostles are portrayed as they might have actually looked.  Jesus looks more Semitic than he does in previous films, including The Bible. John and Mary Magdalene appear of African descent.  Pilate looks appropriately Roman.  Unfortunately Caiaphas, the High Priest, doesn’t look Semitic at all.

+ Dramatic effects are used a bit too much.  The darkness, earthquake and Temple curtain tearing after Jesus’ death are all described in one or more gospels.  These after-effects of the crucifixion are shown for too long and in a manner bordering on cheesy.  And I think this is the first film to show the actual moment of Christ’s resurrection (spoiler alert – it involves an angel with a sword!)

+ Joseph of Arimathea, also a member of the Sanhedrian, is a central character.  The tension that his request to recover and entomb Jesus’ body likely caused between him and Caiaphas is shown quite convincingly.  The burial itself was interesting.  John the Apostle places Jesus’ body on the slab while Mary, the mother of Jesus, cleans the blood from his face and hands.  Meanwhile, what I assume is a traditional Jewish funeral prayer is chanted by a cantor.

Mark Burnett, producer of the twelve episode series (broadcast on Sundays at 9pm EDT/8 CDT) has described A.D. as “The Bible meets ‘Game of Thrones’ meets ‘House of Cards.'”  This is a ironic way of promoting a broadcast network series – especially since the two shows referenced are watched by millions either via cable or streaming (or both).

I’m looking forward to seeing what that future holds for the coming eleven episodes.  As this first season only covers to about Acts of the Apostles chapter 10, Burnett is hopeful he is given a second season to continue the biblical story.  He goes so far to dream of an annual series premiering each Easter Sunday.

If both the first and second episodes are available for streaming after the broadcast this Sunday, I’m considering showing this movie to my sophomores rather than “The Bible.” If so, I’ll let you know how it goes for us.

UPDATE: A blogger at Patheos posted a quite detailed summary about and reflection upon the first episode of A.D.  He plans to post summaries of the additional episodes after they air.  I’m going to use these summaries as an aid to my students’ viewing of the episodes in class.

What Catholicism & Baseball Have in Common

Happy Easter!  I’ve been away from blogging for a few days as I was visiting family over the holiday weekend.  This week, I’m on break from school, so I’m hoping to post more regularly.

Although I missed posting this great list by Vatican reporter extraordinaire and one of my heroes, John L. Allen Jr. on MLB’s Opening Day, it’s definitely worth checking out:

Baseball Catholic Boy

  • 1. Both baseball and Catholicism venerate the past. Both cherish the memories of a Communion of Saints, including popular shrines and holy cards.

  • 2. Both feature obscure rules that make sense only to initiates. (Think the infield fly rule for baseball fans and the Pauline privilege for Catholics.)

  • 3. Both have a keen sense of ritual, in which pace is critically important. (As a footnote, that’s why basketball is more akin to Pentecostalism, since both are breathless affairs premised largely on ecstatic experience. I’d go into why football is pagan, but that’s a different conversation.)

  • 4. Both baseball and Catholicism generate oceans of statistics, arcana, and lore. For entry-level examples, try: Who has the highest lifetime batting average, with a minimum of 1,000 at-bats? (Ty Cobb). Which popes had the longest and the shortest reigns? (Pius IX and Urban VII).

  • 5. In both baseball and Catholicism, you can dip in and out, but for serious devotees, the liturgy is a daily affair.

  • 6. Both are global games especially big in Latin America. The Detroit Tigers are thought to have one of the most potent batting orders in baseball, featuring two Venezuelans, a Cuban, and six Americans of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Take a look at the presbyterates in many American dioceses, and the mix isn’t that different.

  • 7. Both baseball and Catholicism have been badly tainted by scandal, with the legacies of erstwhile superstars utterly ruined. Yet both have proved surprisingly resilient – perhaps demonstrating that the game is great enough to survive even the best efforts of those in charge at any given moment to ruin it.

  • 8. Both have a complex farm system, and fans love to speculate about who the next hot commodity will be in “The Show.”

  • 9. Both reward patience. If you’re the kind of person who needs immediate results, neither baseball nor Catholicism is really your game.

Baseball Nuns

Baseball Priest

The first part of the article, reflecting on what Christians and atheists have in common in combating religious extremism, is worth reading as well.

FYI: The fact that it is the Cardinals in the image above in no way implies that I’m a fan.  My fandom leans strongly in this direction:

Baseball - Red Sox

Baseball - Red Sox 2

And now that the NCAA Men’s March Madness is concluded, so is Crux’s Saint’s Madness.   And the winner is…

 

 

A Catholic’s Guide to March Madness

Before any of the Catholic basketball teams are eliminated from the tournament, this short piece posted at Crux is well worth reading.  It offers a description of each of the Catholic teams in the tournament as well as a thumbnail history of their founding religious order.  My favorite part of the article is speculation on not whether each team will win, but rather how the charism of the school might influence play.  My favorite quote:

“Gonzaga is named after Aloysius Gonzaga, who gave up great wealth to join the Jesuits and died soon afterward while caring for the poor. This desire for finding spiritual wealth in material poverty might also be linked with St. John’s University’s Vincentienne Fathers, and their allegiance to St. Vincent de Paul. A game between St. John’s and Gonzaga might result in an overflowing of generosity as each team passed the ball to the other in a nod to their histories.”

Update: If you play Kahoot with your students, I’ve created one entitled: March Madness 2015 Catholic Mascots.  

Update #2: The author of the above article has updated his thoughts about the Catholic teams after the first weekend of the tournament. 

Great, Short (60 seconds) Evolution Video to Show in Class

Don’t you love it when something lands in your inbox that you can literally use the next day?  We’ve been talking in my freshman class about the symbolism of the Genesis creation stories.  One fruitful area of discussion is how one can believe in the Deeper Truths of those stories and also what science teaches us about evolution.  Pope Francis got a lot of attention when he affirmed this just a few months ago. As I tell my students: As long as you believe that God created everything and that everything God created was good, then the “how” of creation can include evolutionary theory.

So, thanks to Buzzfeed and Open Culture, here’s the video I’ll be showing tomorrow:

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Access it directly at YouTube.

And I’ll be giving my students this brief article from our local Catholic Times (scroll to left side of page 6)

A Catholic Look Back at 2014

As mentioned in our “About” statement, the three of us teach at a Catholic High School.

As such, we thought it would be meaningful to share a few of our favorite “2014 Review” lists from favorite Catholic websites.

Crux, a relatively new blog related to the Boston Globe and headed by the highly-esteemed John L. Allen Jr. (formerly of the Nat’l Catholic Reporter) has their year-end review here.

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A look back, albeit with a different theme comes from the always engaging and relevant Busted Halo.

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Busted Halo also says good-bye to the show of well known Catholic – Stephen Colbert – selected as the National Catholic Reporter’s “Runner-Up” Person of the Year.  (To see who was the NCR Person of the Year, click here and prepare to not be surprised).

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One last set of data from 2014 – Crux’s summary of 10 telling numbers from faith and religion surveys.