“Change”: This movie will mess you up . . . in a very good way

December 9, 2011 by  
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Watching this short film will be 10 minutes of your busy life  well-spent. One of my Facebook friends reacted this way: “If you do not have the time to make a three day retreat this advent, why not make it a ten minute retreat right here and now?” Personally, I couldn’t help but think of the reality that Jesus Christ is truly present to us in our neighbor, both when we serve Him (Matt. 25:31-46) and when He serves us (Luke 24:13-52). I would love to know your reactions to “Change.” Please watch. Please share.

A look at the biblical foreshadowing of The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2011 by  
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I wrote this article 20 years ago to give an overview of some of the biblical aspects of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Pope Pius IX, who defined this dogma, declared that Our Lady, “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin” (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854).

His face stiffened, and his eyes narrowed to slits. Until now the Calvary Chapel pastor had been calm as he “shared the gospel” with me, but when I mentioned my belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, his attitude changed.

“The problem with you Roman Catholics,” he said, his forefinger stabbing the air a few inches from my face, “is that you’ve added extra baggage to the gospel. How can you call yourselves Christians when you cling to unbiblical traditions like the Immaculate Conception? It’s not in the Bible–it was invented by the Roman Catholic system in 1854. Besides, Mary couldn’t have been sinless, only God is sinless. If she were without sin she would be God!”

At least the minister got the date right, 1854 being the year Pope Pius IX infallibly defined the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, but that’s as far as his accuracy went. His reaction was typical of many Evangelicals. He was adamant that the Catholic emphasis on Mary’s sinlessness was an unbearable affront to the unique holiness of God, especially as manifested in Jesus Christ. . . . (continue reading)

Ah. So that’s where babies come from

December 5, 2011 by  
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Can you guess what’s in your home that costs $65,000 a gallon?

November 28, 2011 by  
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I bet you can’t. But here’s a hint:  It’s in your home right now. In fact, a batch of it is very probably within 3 feet of where you are seated. It’s vastly more expensive than gold. And guess what else: You go to a store  routinely and pay for it. Can you guess what it is? By now, you probably can.

P.S. For more examples of shockingly high mark ups you pay on a 9 other common items, be sure to press the “next” link just below this part of the article.

This unlikely video can teach us Christians something about getting out of our comfort zones

November 28, 2011 by  
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“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:28-33).

And you thought “Black Friday” in the U.S. is the epitome of grotesque and demeaning?

November 25, 2011 by  
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Then you haven’t seen this. For me, the best part of this show (if “best” can properly be used as an adjective in this case, which I don’t think it can) is the sustained expression of disbelief and consternation on the faces of the show’s judges. Oh, and I like the music.

Blessed Miguel Pro’s final, defiant challenge to his atheist persecutors

November 23, 2011 by  
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Blessed Miguel Pro is a prominent example of Christian heroism in the twentieth century. The indefatigable Jesuit priest was martyred by the Mexican government in 1927 for performing his priestly duties.

Born on January 13, 1891, Miguel Pro Juarez was the eldest son of Miguel Pro and Josefa Juarez. His birthplace, the humble central Mexican village of Guadalupe, was especially fitting in view of his intense, lifelong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.

Miguelito, as his doting family called him, was, from an early age, intensely spiritual and equally intense in his mischievousness. From the time he could speak he had the reputation of being a motor-mouth, frequently exasperating his family with his humor and practical jokes, a trait which remained with him into adult-hood.

As a child he had an unbridled precociousness that sometimes went too far, tossing him into near-death accidents and illnesses. On regaining consciousness after one of these episodes, young Miguel opened his eyes and blurted out to his frantic parents, “I want some cocol” (a colloquial term for his favorite sweet bread). Cocol became his nickname, which he would later adopt as a code name during his clandestine priestly ministry. . . . (continue reading)

Three words I never expected to see together in a news headline

November 23, 2011 by  
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“Amish Haircut Attacks.” One might assume it is the name selected by an imaginative garage band or perhaps it’s a lost-in-translation title of a Pennsylvania-German language B movie. But one would be mistaken. In fact, the “Amish Haircut Attacks” in question were a real and quite bizarre series of depredations involving “forcefully cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women.”

Several members of the group carried out the attacks in September and October by forcefully cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women, authorities have said. Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.

The attacks struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. They strongly believe that they must be forgiving in order for God to forgive them, which often means handing out their own punishment and not reporting crimes to law enforcement. . . .

Aside from the Associated Press article’s clumsy and potentially misleading word order (Amish women don’t have beards), another weird element of this sad story is that the surname of one of the principle suspects is, get this, Mullet.


The plan isn’t foolproof. For it to work, certain things must happen.

November 7, 2011 by  
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—The door to the vault must have accidentally been left open by the cleaning woman.

—The guard must bend over to tie his shoes and somehow he gets all the shoelaces tied together. He can’t get them apart, so he takes out his gun and shoots all his bullets at the knot. But he misses. Then he just lies down on the floor and goes to sleep.

—Most of the customers in the bank must happen to be wearing Nixon masks, so when we come in wearing our Nixon masks it doesn’t alarm anyone.

—There must be an empty parking space right out in front. If it has a meter, there must be time left on it, because our outfits don’t have pockets for change.

—The monkeys must grab the bags of money and not just shriek and go running all over the place, like they did in the practice run.

—The security cameras must be the early, old-timey kind that don’t actually take pictures.

—When the big clock in the lobby strikes two, everyone must stop and stare at it for at least ten minutes.

—The bank alarm must have mistakenly been set to “Quiet.” Or “Ebb tide.”

—The gold bars must be made out of a lighter kind of gold that’s just as valuable but easier to carry. . . . (continue reading)

The ancient Christian origins of the feast day of All Saints

November 1, 2011 by  
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The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that All Saints Day is a “solemnity celebrated on the first of November.”

It is instituted to honor all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year.

In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighboring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus.

Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all.

The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407).

At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honored by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established; still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter.

In the West Boniface IV, 13 May, 609, or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for 1 November.

A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on 1 May. Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on 1 November to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84). (source)

Is Everything Up For Grabs? A Catholic critique of moral relativism

October 31, 2011 by  
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the audio of the talk on moral relativism I gave awhile back for the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, before a Catholic audience of approximately 500. It was held at the diocesan center’s super-plush auditorium. It’s always a pleasure to speak in such a nice venue.

“Exorcist” author reflects on Halloween, demonic possession, and faith

October 28, 2011 by  
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I vividly recall my father warning me not to watch “The Exorcist” movie when it came out in 1973. Not that I was old enough, at just 13, to trundle down to the cinema and see it, but he wanted me to avoid it when I got old enough to go to movies on my own and without parental supervision.

My father hadn’t even seen the movie himself, but he had read the novel by the same title upon which the movie was based, and he told me that the book was truly frightening. He didn’t want my imagination to have to cope with the residue of  horrifying mental images he said the book had permanently lodged in his mind.

Roger that, Dad. I followed your advice to the letter. Thank you. Nearly 40 years later, I can report to you that I not only never saw the movie, I never read the book, and I’m glad of it.

I did, however, make the mistake of reading Malachi Martin’s Hostage to the Devil — or, at least, three quarters of it, before I had to put it down.

Martin’s true-story accounts of demonic possession were simply too disturbing for me to continue reading. This is in part due to the fact that, like many people, I just don’t want or need scenes from such accounts playing themselves out in my imagination at the wrong moments, such as when I am trying to get to sleep in an unfamiliar house or hotel when I am traveling.

Back to The Exorcist. Of course, I know the general plot line and am aware, unfortunately, of major shock scenes in the movie, mainly because of how talked-about it was when it first debuted. Kind of like how, years before I ever saw “The Godfather,” I knew all about the infamous “horse head” scene because everyone was talking about it.

Weird. As an adult, when I did finally see “The Godfather” and it came to that scene, it was as if I had already seen it because of how familiar it was in popular culture.  I figure that this is how I came to know a good deal about The Exorcist, not by reading the book or seeing the movie, but by osmosis.

When the movie came out, as I recall, the television evening news was awash in man-bites-dog reports about how freaked out people were by the movie. I saw plenty of interviews with folks coming out of the theaters, having just seen “The Exorcist,” who were truly  terrorized. That was enough, in itself, to dissuade me from wanting to go and do likewise.

A few years ago, I was chatting about this movie genre with my friend Héctor Molina, who had recently seen “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” It didn’t really bother him. In fact, he mentioned how fascinated he was with the theme of God’s grace and redemption in that movie. But for me, there was no chance I’d see it because, as I explained to Héctor, given how advanced the movie industry has become in the science of special effects and CGI technology, I am quite confident that what I avoided seeing in “The Exorcist” would probably be there in chilling abundance in “Emily Rose.” He saw my point and added that a few others who were with him watching the movie were quite scared by it.

And all of that is my roundabout way of getting to the point of this post. I just read a brief news bit written by William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, who, to my surprise, reveals that he hadn’t had the slightest intention of frightening anyone with his work. In fact, he had something altogether different in mind. I’ll let him explain to you what that was.

But for me, at least, I not only will continue to follow my father’s wise advice, I pass it along to you.

Saint Paul said it better:

“[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

That’s what I want for my mind. And for yours.



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