Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

In the final moments of one of television's greatest dramatic series of all-time, "Lost", the character of Ben Linus finds himself in a situation that sums up our understanding of purgatory very well.

He is just not ready to join the rest and move on into the light. Ben is left on the outside of the group, outside the church and the joyous gathering going on inside.

Most people know that this coming Thursday is Halloween, and many are aware that the following day is celebrated as "All Saint's Day", the feast which commemorates all those who have obtained the beatific vision in heaven, and which is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church.

But you may not be aware that it is followed immediately by another very important remembrance day, "All Soul's Day", which is set aside specifically for the cause of the entire Church praying for those souls of the faithful who departed this life, but who were not first cleansed of their venial sins and/or separated from their attachment to mortal sins.

These faithful have not been abandoned by God permanently. They have not been damned to the hell of the lonely desolation that will be the eternal separation from His glory, which is the fate awaiting those who have willfully died as non-believers.

Monday, October 21, 2013

World Series 2013: The Best in Baseball

If over the next 2-3 days someone tries to tell you that they have some kind of special insight into who is going to win the 2013 World Series, then they are simply lying. These are clearly the two best teams in baseball, and you'd do well to simply toss a coin to pick a winner.

Most pundits and talking heads, as well as tons of amateurs and partisans, will indeed try to pick a winner. Some will inevitably end up correct. But going into it, these two teams are so evenly matched that legitimate arguments can be made for either.

The 109th MLB World Series will feature the best team, based on regular season record, from both the National League and the American League for the first time since 1999. Both the Boston Red Sox and the Saint Louis Cardinals won 97 games to pace their respective leagues.

Also, each of the two teams will have reached the Fall Classic after having battled through similar paths, first vanquishing divisional rivals, and then arguably the 2nd best teams in their respective leagues. Saint Louis beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and then the LA Dodgers, while Boston beat the Tampa Bay Rays and then the Detroit Tigers.

This will also mark not only the 2nd World Series meeting between the NL's Cardinals and the AL's Red Sox in the last decade, but will be a matchup between a pair of franchise's that have each won two World Series titles within this past decade.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Most Powerful Prayer

"Give me an army praying the rosary, and I will conquer the world" - Blessed Pope Pius IX

The rosary has been called the most powerful of prayers. In her appearance on May 13th, 1917 at Fatima, Mary herself said that a daily praying of the rosary could bring an end to war. In this month of October, it is an especially good time to review this unmatched prayer experience, since it is also the Month of the Holy Rosary in the Catholic Church.

On October 7th, 1571, the historic Battle of Lepanto took place. In this battle, a vastly outnumbered Christian fleet led by Don John of Austria faced off against and defeated the mighty Ottoman Muslim fleet led by Ali Pasha to halt the Islamist westward expansion in the Mediterranean.

At the time, Christian Europe was being torn apart by internal strife and the Reformation from the inside, and was being threatened by the relentless expansionism of the Muslims from the outside.

The victory in this pivotal naval battle against superior forces was attributed to the fact that on the day of the battle, many rosaries were offered and processions made in Rome to the Blessed Mother for her intercession on behalf of the united Christians. The victory was thus attributed to her, and those rosaries.

In honor of this victory, Pope Pius V instituted the 'Feast of Our Lady of Victory', and following another victory over Muslim forces in 1716, Pope Clement XI extended the Feast to the entire Church, making it the 'Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary'.

In 1883, Pope Leo XIII released the first in a series of encyclicals on the rosary, urging Catholics to increase their devotion to Mary, especially through the rosary, and dedicated the entire month of October to the prayer.

So what exactly is the rosary, how does one say the prayer, and why is it considered so powerful?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Where Do We Go From Here?

The state of modern American political discourse has deteriorated to such a wretched point that there are times where I will hear or read something and feel as if blood is actually going to begin shooting from my eyes.

Even in trying to sit down and type this piece, deciding where to begin, in what direction to take it, the problems are so many and deep that it almost makes me want to stop and just throw up my hands in surrender.

I have said it myself, and I heard it from someone else this morning: American partisan politics have deteriorated to a state of bitterness, rancor, and stalemate. Our nation has reached a point not seen since the Civil War era. We are angry as a people. Mad at the politicians, mad at the media, mad at each other.

There are many culprits, and we can blame those politicians and that media. We can blame lobbyists and special interest groups. We can blame whomever else we choose. But there is another guilty party in this situation. We have reached a point where all of us need to take a look in the mirror and realize that we ourselves have become a big part of the problem.

We all have basic moral, spiritual, and political values developed over the course of a lifetime based on personal experiences. Our internal compass leads us to make the important decisions in our lives, including decisions at the ballot box. We vote for candidates who we believe will best reflect our values. We choose those who we believe will support those values with specific programs and initiatives to further those values.

There is just one problem with our entire line of thinking: it is completely selfish.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Two Things About Bad Things

There are two things that we can absolutely say with certainty about bad things: they will happen to good people, and good people will do them.

The questions that all who want to believe in a loving, benevolent, saving God ask at some point in their lives often revolve around these two ideas. Those questions, of course, are:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do good people do bad things?

In looking at the first question, we need to examine what it is that we are actually asking - what is the allegedly "bad" thing that is happening to the allegedly "good" person. Let's assume the second part of the equation here, that you or whomever you are asking about is indeed a "good" person.

So what is the "bad" thing that has happened? Has someone been injured in an accident? Is someone suffering from a debilitating illness? Has someone become the victim of a crime? Is there some major misfortune being dealt with, such as a house fire, a natural disaster, an inter-personal relationship gone bad? Has someone died?

If any of those things are the supposed "bad" thing then the answer is fairly simple: welcome to the real world.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Republic For Which It Stands

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Every good American knows and has said those words hundreds, if not thousands of times in their lives. Learning and reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance" to our flag is part of our shared civics lesson as citizens.

But do we really think of the detail in those words as we say them? After all, in saying them we are theoretically taking an actual pledge to stand behind it's principles.

One of the most important and least appreciated of those principles is the simple line "and to the republic for which it stands" which speaks to our nation's form of government. Did someone tell you that the United States of America was a democracy? That would be incorrect. America is actually a "constitutional republic", and there is a very big, very important difference, one you should become familiar with if you are not already.

In a true democracy, the majority rules, either by direct voting results or through the decisions of their elected representatives. These are the two basic forms of democracy: direct and representative. The American Revolution was undoubtedly fought in part to form a more democratic society and government, as opposed to the tyranny experienced previously by the former Colonies under the British monarchy.