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Posts Tagged ‘Catholicism’

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Every year during Holy Week, I watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ — and every year I cry; and every year,  I cry at the same scene.

I can watch the betrayal of Jesus by Judas;  I can watch the Sanhedrin trail before Caiaphas; I can watch the brutal scourging;  I can watch Jesus fall over and over, and look-on as people spit on Him and kick Him;  I can keep it together as nails are driven into the flesh of His hands and He is lifted upright on a cross, all without shedding a tear.

However, every time Peter denies Our Lord, my heart and soul weep; my body quakes; and tears flow down my face.

This year, I was prepared.  I told myself that I would not cry as the scene approached, but  again, I could not hold back the tears.

How many times have I denied my Lord in my thoughts and words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do?  More than three!

When I was a boy, I was once told by a priest in my home parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, that there’s a  follower of Christ in scripture who represents each and everyone of us.

For years I thought that I was Thomas, Doubting Thomas, because I have always questioned and studied to not only understand, but to please my hunger for the Truth.

I thought, deep down, if given enough evidence, my faith would never waiver.  Today, I have a library of evidence.

After watching The Passion, annually for the last decade and a half, I have sadly come to realize that I am Simon Peter, Cephas, Kepha.  I am someone who denies the Lord.

Denies, plural and in the present tense.

I so want to be Simon Peter, the Rock, but the sad reality is that I am not, and I may never be.

Who in scripture are you?  Have you ever pondered that question?

Maybe you are Peter, as well? Or Andrew? Or James? John? Philip? Bartholomew? Thomas? Matthew? James the Lesser? Jude? Simon the Zealot? Matthias? Saul? Mary Magdalene? Martha? Mary? Lazarus?

The truth is: The person we are eventually supposed to be most like is Jesus Christ.  And, like my Lord, every time I fall, I pick up my cross and carry on!

As Christians, we carry on even if we need someone else to carry our cross for us!

This Holy Good Friday, maybe you can join me and pray,  “Forgive me, Lord. Have mercy on me and on the whole world” and then pick up your cross and carry on.

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, and two children’s books The Second Prince  and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to teach and write.  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Image by Picography from Pixabay

About five years ago, I had hip-resurfacing surgery.  Though my condition was congenital, I lived a fairly active life until my mid-thirties.

I tried everything possible to heal myself, but could not.  I was nearly crippled by the time I decided to put my fate in someone else’s hands and go under the knife.

My post-surgical transformation has been nothing but miraculous; there’s really no activity I cannot do with my kids.

You can say that I have been physically reborn!

A day doesn’t go by that I’m not thankful to this man who healed me.  Today, I continue to go out of my way to talk to anyone I see on crutches or with a limp, to tell them about this miracle worker and the hospital where he practices.

It made me start to think: Isn’t this how the earlier Christians acted; those who saw Jesus perform His miracles?

Maybe that’s why they were so fearless in their praise and worship?

So, what about us?  Why are so many of us not talking to everybody about the miraculous transformation Jesus’ has had on our life?

Well, maybe you haven’t experienced a miracle in your life?

Okay…

Instead, imagine that this miracle worker just saved a life?   Maybe it’s your life? Or a life of a loved one?

What would you do FIRST?

In the initial moment, I would guess that you would be beyond grateful. Most likely, you’d be thankful to that person for the rest of your life.

I’d suspect that you wouldn’t be afraid to go around telling everybody you could about this person.  You’d most likely tell anyone who would listen how he or she saved you — and not worry if some people weren’t interest in what you had to say or were even put off by it.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if you set aside a day to give that person thanks.  Maybe you might even ask the local government to honor him or her?

Eventually, however, you’ll come to realize that there’s really no way to pay this person back; or anyway to even pay forward on something like this.

Besides the honor and praise, you might start to evaluate your own life.  You might even change your habits.  Eat better.  Exercise.

Love deeper.  Speak sweeter.  Give forgiveness to those you’ve been denying.

You know how the song goes…

But the reality is: beside giving this person the honor and praise they rightfully deserve, there’s nothing you can do to express your gratitude except, maybe, to start valuing life over all other things.

But being human, you may finally feel a need to do something.  So, you might ask that person what they need? Or ask one or two of his or her friends?

These desires are all innate, given to us by the God who created us, as is the natural order of this process that begins with thanksgiving and followed by continuous honor and praise, and ends with the action to please.

As a Catholic Christian, when catechizing our children, I feel that we are no longer properly fostering the natural order of  desire when it comes to the One who saved us.

Instead, we have moved the need to do something, first and foremost, and with that, we have placed the teaching and practice of social justice before the praise and honor of the Savior.

Unlike the Social Justice teachings given to us by Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum and expanded upon by Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno, today’s social justice catechism perpetuates the gross misunderstanding that our Christian life and salvation starts and ends with acts of good works, a teaching supported and promoted by the “good feelings” such acts of kindness bring.

The Church does not teach this — nor has it ever!

In fact, the Church teaches that “[w]e cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved” [Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534]. CCC 2005

We are saved solely by the Grace of God; the God who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Much like our poorly catechized 16th century brothers and sisters, this present-day catechism, taught in many of our parishes across the United States, has appeared to repackaged “good works” under the guise of true social justice.

In today’s social justice catechism, however, there’s little talk about the Son as the Christ who saved us, and therefore, even less discussion on why He deserves our daily devotion, let alone a day of Thanksgiving (Eucharist) during the week where we put aside all things  to honor and praise Him.

When discussing this, I can’t stop thinking about the last scene of Saving Private Ryan.   

After watching Captain John H. Miller, played by Tom Hanks, take his last breath, Matt Damon’s character morphs on screen to the present.   We discover that citizen Ryan has brought his entire family to pay homage — not because they were commanded to come, but because they wanted to join their father in this moment of honor and praise.

As he kneels in front of the stone-carved ivory cross that bears the name of the man who saved him, he humbly states, “Every day, I think of about what you said to me….”  Finally, he turns to his beloved wife and says, “Tell me I’m a good man”.

Absent such honor and praise, Religion becomes nothing more than a venue for service projects that anyone can do anywhere turning our service to  God into a mode of self-gratification — feelings and works — absent of a true reason or holy cause.

This is why, I believe, so many of our young people are leaving the Church in droves.

You cannot proclaim the nature of your service. You cannot say: This is what I will do!  This is how! and when! and why!  [As if] you are trying to match your will with God’s and call it service. [1]

Such service lacks Truth.  You know it and the Nones certainly know it.  And, that’s the  betrayal of the social justice catechism.

The only Truth is that there’s no possible way to pay back the One who has saved you — especially the One Who gave His life while trying to save yours.

All you can do is act like someone who truly believes that your life has been saved.

 

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL

 

1.  Taken from The Staircase (1998) about the Miraculous Staircase of the Loretto Chapel in New Mexico, USA.

 

 

 

 

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Image by PixArc from Pixabay

It was kind of an amazing sight — if anything about being part of a funeral procession could be amazing.

Minutes before, we had just viewed the wake of a close friend for the last time.

For me, she was a friend, a sister, someone I knew since high school.  To my wife, she was a close confidant.  To my boys, she was an aunt-figure who lavished them with love, gifts, and hand-me-downs — bags and bags of hand-me-downs.

She was the stand-in for our first-born’s Godmother, who couldn’t make it north from Nashville — a role that she would voluntarily play on a permanent basis.

After saying goodbye, we left the funeral home with heavy hearts, gathered in our minivan, and joined a long line of cars that followed her hearse from the funeral home down Montauk Highway to Wellwood Avenue, the main street of my home town of Lindenhurst, Long Island.

As we pulled up to the Church, our cars were stopped in the middle of the road by a traffic officer.   Second in this seemingly mile-long procession, we quietly watched and waited as the officer spoke to the driver of the car in front of us.

Shortly after, he slowly approached.

“Good morning,” I greeted him, believing that he was going to point us to an area set-aside to park.

“Just leave your keys in the car,” he politely commanded, seemingly in disbelief.  Then added, “… just in case we have to move your car.”

Park here?  In the middle of Wellwood Avenue? 

Wellwood Avenue is the main artery in and out of my hometown.  When our parents asked where we were heading after school, we would often say “Into town” which meant we were going to Wellwood Avenue.

It’s where we got pizza, ate ice cream, saw a movie.  It was the home to our restaurants, our Church, our local theater.

Only one street went from the shore line of our community to the very end of our town, and that was Wellwood Avenue!  It was, in more ways than one, our main street.

We did as he asked, as did the rest of us in the procession, and slowly exited, leaving our vehicles parked along the double yellow line.

That’s when it hit us all — and we moved forward, like zombies, in perpetual disbelief.

The streets were lined with bystanders.  Elected officials and police officers in dress uniforms stood at attention.  There wasn’t a parking — or standing — spot in sight.

Wellwood Avenue — Main Street — was shut down!

“You only see something like this if a President dies,” I whispered in the ear of my eldest.

My knees weakened as the bagpipes waled, seemingly guiding us all inside Our Lady of Perpetual Church, my childhood parish.

Like outside, the Church was adorned, wall-to-wall, with people from all walks of life.  Elected officials.  Teachers. Parents. Loved ones.  Relatives and friends.

Every parish priest and every deacon was present.  In fact, the officiant of the Mass came all the way from Virginia to serve and honor the deceased.

Absent, however, were news reporters.

You see, on paper, my dear friend wasn’t someone “special”.  She was just a mom, a housewife, and a friend.

She never sought higher office beyond the PTA.  She never sought fame or riches.

All she did was love and love large; so much so, that at news of her passing, a multitude came to pay homage. So many, in fact, that they had to shut down Main Street.

Seeing all this, I struggled, as a Christian, how someone so faithful to Our Lord could be taken so early and so painfully?

Finally, the priest approached the podium to give his homily.  He shared with us all an event that only he and her husband knew:  After being diagnosed with brain cancer, the doctor asked this couple if they had any questions.

“Can you give me three years?” she asked.

“One of my patients lived 20 years,” the doctor professed. “Most live four to 15 months.”

After leaving the doctor’s office, her husband turned to her and asked. “Why did you ask for three years?”

“You and the kids aren’t ready now, but you’ll be ready in three years,” she answered, and three years was the time she was granted.

Jesus, the priest reminded us, only had three years to prepare His family, the world.  Comparing my friend’s mission to that of The Christ, the priest defined Jesus’ mission as Love.

The priest then spoke directly to her husband, “Your marriage presented that Love to all who witnessed it.”

I was a groomsman in their wedding. I witnessed that Love first hand.   In fact, I wanted that same Love in my life, in my relationship with my wife.

I also knew that my dear friend had slipped into a coma only days after her wedding anniversary.

Suddenly, the yoke of my sadness was lifted.

You see, she knew, as the priest explained, that God didn’t make her sick.  She also knew that He can take a tragedy and use it to send a clear message of his Real Presence — and often He uses His most loyal followers to communicate this message of His Love.

Take the death of His Son, for example!

Soon, everyone in the Church and all the people lining the streets, would know what I had just realized…

“And like Jesus’ life,” the priest added, “your marriage, your Love-on-display, lasted 33 years.”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing.  An Irish funeral followed the Catholic funeral at the cemetery, so things might not be exactly as I remember them.

But for all those listening on that day, in that holy place, the veil was lifted and His message was clearly received.

therese-giganteTherese M. Gigante, beloved wife of Gerard; cherished mother of Christina, Gerard, Joseph, Annemarie, and Matthew; loving daughter of Margaret and the late Vincent Moran, caring sister of Ann Massetti, Vincent Moran, Mary Cramer, Margaret Cronin, Elizabeth Lovizio, Bernadette Haffner and Joseph Moran; adoring aunt to many nieces, nephews and, endearing friend to many more, died on November 15, 2019 exactly as she lived her life, sharing the gift of Christ’s Love to everyone she encountered.

Always a giver, she only asked for three things:

  • A Church funeral where we could all pray together.
  • An after-party where we could all drink, love, and laugh together.
  • And for us all to move on.

Well, we did our best and gave her two out of three!  Enjoy the video of her life.  You’ll quickly understand why it won’t be that easy for many of us to move on.

In the end, keeping true to herself, she gave us all a very clear and lasting message:  The only road that matters is the road you take to Heaven!

Rest in Peace, Reese, and may the perpetual light shine upon you!

#ThreeThirtyThree

 

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:  There will soon be a scholarship in Theresa’s name.  To honor Reese’s life in a special way, all my profits from the 2020 sales of my book:  Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, an inspirational novella, will go to that scholarship.  You can find the book on Amazon. com.  God bless.

    ++++++++++++++

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL
James Dobkowski
Today, James lives in UpState New York where he continues to teach.

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Eucharist Priest

Image by Robert Cheaib from Pixabay

Full disclosure: If I was as handsome as Fr. Mike Schmitz (and I’m not) I don’t think I would have ever thought about becoming a priest (and I did).   Let’s face it, he’s the Brad Pitt of Catholicism.

He’s so good-looking, my wife recently admitted to me that she can only listen to his podcasts because his good looks are too distracting.

For Catholic answers, my go-to-guys were always Patrick Madrid, Scott Hahn, Brant Pitre and alike.   Because of this, Fr. Mike’s face kept on popping up in my queue.

I kept ignoring them because, well, he was just too handsome.  

Because of his looks, I just thought that he was just a silly front man for some kind of watered-down ecumenical theological program.  So, for the longest time, I simply ignored him.

One day, I was scrolling through a series of YouTube videos from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, I came across a panel discussion for the “Defending the Faith Conference” with Patrick Madrid — and Fr. Mike Schmitz.

Father-Mike-Schmitz-Dating-Project

So, I listened — and discovered that I was dead wrong about the handsome dude in the Roman collar.  The next time he appeared in my queue, I took the bait. Eventually, I began regularly watching his short vlogs for Ascension Presents.  

Not only did I find Fr. Mike Schmitz entertaining, I also found his vlogs informative, spiritually enlightening and, above all, in line with Church teachings.

A few weeks ago, while going forth from Mass, my boys and I stopped to preview the Catholic Lighthouse Media display at the back of our church for something new.  On the rack, I spotted Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Jesus is… CD.

“I think you might enjoy this one,” I told my boys.

My five-year-old protested when I put it in the CD player in our car as we drove home.  (Yes, our car still has a CD player.)   Fr. Mike, however, immediately grabbed my five-year-old jokester’s attention.

“Let’s start off with a prayer, Amen?”

The crowd replies, “Amen!”

“Alright, that was it.”

That’s all it took! 

Since we’ve listened to that CD so many times that my boys cannot only tell you that a lack of Caribou Coffee causes a headache, they also know the difference between an Objective argument and a Subjective one.

Above all, no pun intended, they can not just tell you who Jesus [truly] is…, they can also tell you who He truly is not!

Once my boys discovered Fr. Mike Schmitz was a YouTuber, his status catapulted him into a totally new sphere of awesomeness. He’s now up there with Zach King, EvanTube HD, Dude Perfect, and Halfway Memes.

Listening to theological podcasts went from something I do to something we do together!  To be more precise, its something my boys want to do together with me.  For that, I am forever grateful. That is why I say …

“Thank you, Fr. Mike Schmitz!”

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, James DobkowskiTwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Every now and then, I get into a religious chat.

And, every now and then, the person I’m talking to will pause in the middle of the conversation, lean forward, and politely ask me, “You really don’t believe the Catholic Church is the One, True Faith, do you?”

The first time that it happened I was caught off guard.

I found it odd that the person thought that under a shroud of secrecy I would come clean and denounce the faith I dutifully promote publicly.

Today, I’m better prepared for the question then I was that day.  However, my response remains the same:

Don’t you believe the church you attend is the One, True Faith? … If not, then why do you belong to it?”

Disagreements, like this, among Christians are not new.

In his Commentary on Galatians, the prolific St. Jerome wrote about a minor squabble between some early Christians in Ephesus and St. John the Apostle.

The blessed John the Evangelist lived in Ephesus until extreme old age. His disciples could barely carry him to church and he could not muster the voice to speak many words. During individual gatherings he usually said nothing but, “Little children, love one another.” The disciples and brothers in attendance, annoyed because they always heard the same words, finally said, “Teacher, why do you always say this?” He replied with a line worthy of John: “Because it is the Lord’s commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient.”

This example of St. John should remind us that we must let our conversations always be full of grace.   As apocryphal as it may be, this lesson taught by St. John is applicable even today.

Simply put, it doesn’t matter what you believe — be it Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone or any other dogma de Fide.   You are only truly of the One, True Faith when your daily practice starts and ends with the simple commandment to Love Alone!

Sola Caritas!  Blessed Pascha!

 

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

 

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

This past week marked the start of Spring.  If you had clear skies, you would have enjoyed a double-header of astronomical events, the first full moon on the night of the Vernal Equinox in 19 years.

Each year on the Spring Equinox, Druids and Pagans gather at Stonehenge early in the morning to see the sunrise above the stones.  According to Stonehenge Tours, the ad hoc celebration has become a popular event that it brings together England’s New Age Tribes with ordinary families, tourists, travelers.

The ritual brings to mind one of my favorite TV shows, Vikings, a series packed with the ancient.

Personally, I believed the series was going to jump the shark after Ragnar was killed off, but much to my surprise, it actually got better.  Maybe because Lagertha, Ragnar’s one-time wife,  has become a much better character post-Ragnar — but that’s neither here or there.

I was introduced to Vikings by a very odd source: Fr. Robert Barron (now Bishop Barren).

Besides his very popular DVD series Catholicism, Bishop Barron also has a vlog titled Word on Fire.   In one vlog episode, Bishop Barron on TV’s “Vikings“, Barron stated:

“At the promoting of some of my younger Word on Fire colleagues, I spent the best part of my vacation watching the History Channel series Vikings because they told me that it was the most religious show on television … and I must say to my surprise that they were right.”

So, at the promoting of Bishop Barron, I started watching Vikings.

Now, in this country, when we think of a “religious show”, we tend to think of something faith-based from the likes of Pure Flix.   However, the religion Bishop Barron was referring to was the mainly ancient Norse religion, though Vikings does also showcase the practice of Muslims and early Christians, as well.

Every character in the show, Bishop Barron stated, has a “sense of the divine” — everyone!  And, he was right.

Today, the faithful may be entertained by Vikings one hand; while, on the other hand, we tend to shutter when we see or hear of the modern practice of pagan rituals — like those that take place annually at Stonehenge.   More often than not, it’s because we associate such worship with the demonic.

However, I say to the neo-polytheists of the world:  Embrace your inner paganism!

A recent Pew poll  has revealed that the fastest growing religion is the Nones, people who don’t hold any formal religion.  Not only do these Nones have no association with any formal organized religion, they have no foundation in any faith.

As difficult as it was for the Apostles and the early Christians to evangelize, they were, at least, evangelizing to world of theists.  No matter where they went on the planet,  missionaries came upon a group of people who had a religion with a belief in the transcendent and on a life after death.

But how do you evangelize a group of people who don’t believe in a God? Consider religion irrelevant? Question most religious teachings? and religious leaders? [1]

So, instead of worshipping at the altar of nothingness, embrace something.

Embrace your inner paganism.

Embrace the divine.  Focus on life after-death.   Build a foundation of Faith.  Journey towards true Love! Celebrate ceremony and rituals, like a modern solstice celebration.

So, embrace your inner paganism. In the long run, we know how the story will end.

In the meantime, there’s always  Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us!

 

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

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“Not unless there was an Immaculate Conception….”

It’s a punchline I hear from time-to-time.  Most often the jokester is implying that something or someone was (or was not) “conceived without sex … like Jesus.”

I usually bite my lip and say nothing.  Often, I’ll wait until the joke-teller is alone; I’ll then try to quietly approach him or her and usually privately say something like this:

“I know you’re an intelligent person and wouldn’t want to tell someone something that isn’t true, but a virgin birth …. ummm … sorry … that’s not the Immaculate Conception.”

Few people are immuned from this dogmatic faux pas.

Religious affiliation doesn’t inoculate one from error.  Unfortunately, Catholics often have to be corrected on this infallible teaching in Catholicism.

Intelligence doesn’t spare one either.

After the 2016 Presidential election, Secretary Hillary Clinton joked, “The things that come out of some of these men’s mouths …  maybe you (these men) were dropped by immaculate conception.”

According to the article, her joke was received with “rousing applause from the audience.”

Reading this truly made me sad.

Not only did the audience, the news reporter, and the editorial team not know the true meaning of the Immaculate Conception, but the woman telling the joke — who is arguably the most prominent woman in the United States, if not the world — didn’t even know that the truth of the Immaculate Conception.

This isn’t a political statement against Mrs. Clinton.  I’m sure I can find plenty of theological faux pas on her opponent’s Twitter account.  The point of reference here is the Immaculate Conception.

The Immaculate Conception is not an it.  The Immaculate Conception is a who.  

The Immaculate Conception is actually a woman!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that this woman was “redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son” (CCC 492).

She was a woman full of grace, kecharitomeneA woman blessed above all woman.  A holy woman who became the Mother of God.

She was conceived just like you and me.  However, when she was conceived, she became and forever remained Kecharitomene.  Immaculate! 

So, it’s not Jesus who was conceived “immaculately”.  His mother, Mary, was!

Sorry for ruining future punchlines.

To learn more about the Immaculate Conception, go to Catholic Answers.  You may also like to the The Science of the Immaculate Conception.

 

James Dobkowski

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘TwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639 0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Women dominate the New Testament. Of the world’s major religions, the Christian scriptures appear to focus the most on women in the ministry of the faith.

So, it begs the question “Why doesn’t the world’s largest Christian denomination allow woman to become priest?”

To address that question and many other issues facing Christianity today, I began writing. At first, Hail Mary was supposed to be a television drama. I scripted a few episodes and a Series Bible that received much praise beyond the typical Hollywood Polish Pass.

However, the content was considered at odds with what the modern television audience. So, I decided to re-write these teleplays in book form and release each individually as I complete the transition from a script to a literary work written in prose.

Though Hail Mary explores controversial Church issues, the series is not an opinion piece. It’s a story – or a series of stories.

Each new book in this series will revolve around Sister Mary Joseph, a former cloistered Irish nun trying to adapt to American life after she becomes involved in solving the many life issues of an urban community – while secretly disguised as a priest.

All Mary Joseph has to guide her, in this role, is her love for the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In this series, many of the issues facing the Church today will be examined and explored with grace and dignity. And, to the best of my ability, resolutions will be based on ecumenically accepted Church teachings. However, I am not a theologian — or even theologically educated. I’m just a storyteller. Nothing more.

American contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Rich Mullins may have put it best when he said, “It’s so funny being a Christian musician. It always scares me when people think so highly of Christian music, Contemporary Christian music especially. Because I kinda go, I know a lot of us, and we don’t know jack about anything. Not that I don’t want you to buy our records and come to our concerts. I sure do. But you should come for entertainment. If you really want spiritual nourishment, you should go to church…you should read the Scriptures.”

Maybe the same applies to contemporary Christian fiction writers? I don’t know. But the quote most certainly applies to this author and the Hail Mary series.

Most importantly, Sister Mary Joseph’s call as a woman to impersonate a priest is NOT intended to be an outward condemnation of Church teachings. Instead, the true intent of Hail Mary is to entertain — and possibly guide the reader to inwardly examine one’s “self.”

Therein lies the central question of Hail Mary – the deep, spiritual question that dwells in every person: Are we truly answering God’s call?

In the first book: Hail Mary: Bread & Wine, Mary discovered a homeless parishioner, named Jesus, who took her on a modern day Passion of the Christ.   In the next book, Sister Mary Joseph’s American parish adventures continue.

Below, you will find the opening chapter of Book II.   In the industry, it’s called a teaser. I hope reading it is an enjoyable and positive experience – and you look forward to the release Hail Mary Volume 2: The Prayer of Saint Francis

 


HAIL MARY 2:1

Source: Pixabay.com | Pixel2013

Have you ever been in one of those situations where your heart races, your hands become clammy, your mouth feels like a sand box and your tongue feels like a paperweight? And somewhere, in the midst of it all, you begin to wonder, “How did I get here?”

Sister Mary Joseph was having one of those moments.

Her hands, positioned for prayer, dripped with sweat and her dried mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton as her focus leaped from one Church image to another; from the Lord, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to all the Saints.

Guilt-ridden, she reached up and tugged on the Roman collar around her neck then began to pray, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

If this was a normal day, she would’ve been praying silently or alone and the Amen that followed would’ve been soft, demure and her own. But today was no normal day. And Sister Mary was not praying silently, nor was she alone.

She was center stage – center altar to be exact – pretending to be a Catholic priest at the eight am daily Mass at Brooklyn’s century-old St. Vincent Ferrier parish

“Amen,” responded the few Collect in attendance.

The People of God, gathered for their daily nourishment of the Eucharist, were unaware that the celebrant before them was really Sister Mary Joseph.

The reasons why the Irish-brogued Sister of the Poor Claires had taken on role of an impostor priest were many. However, defiance was not one of them.

But for now, she was committed to carrying out this mission – even at the cost of losing her soul.

“The grace and the … The grace and — of … of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship — I mean: the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” the impostor priest fumbled through the Entrance Song.  Confused, the congregation respectfully stood in silence as they exchanged awkward glances.

“Oh brother,” Sister Mary quietly lamented.

Later on, Father Tonna and Sister Mary Joseph, still in her public guise as Father Joseph, exited the old Black Forest Bakery.  When the bakery first opened in 1878, it was one of many Mom & Pop stores owned by German immigrants that speckled this Brooklyn neighborhood one hundred plus years ago.

Today, this century old bakery and Otto’s Deli, two shops down, are all that remains of the original immigrant community that settled here at the end of the 19th century.

These businesses are kept alive, mainly, from nostalgic online orders, by those whose families moved out of the city long ago, and from in-store purchases by new immigrants who have developed a fondness for things like Lebkuchen.

Like many who grew up in this neighborhood, Tonna was raised on the bakery’s German delights. Going to the Black Forest Bakery on Sunday was as much a part of their family ritual as going to the nine AM Mass.   Hard rolls, crumb cakes, and Danishes from the Black Forest Bakery were as much a part of the Sunday breakfast as where eggs, bacon and home fries.

With every visit, Peter fondly recalled waiting in a long line with fellow parishioners and feasting on free sugar cookies as mom and dad ordered – a tradition that sadly soon ended after Vatican II changed the pre-Mass fast from midnight to Mass to just one hour before receiving.

“You had to see me. It was horrible,” Mary Joseph moaned as she exited the Black Forest Bakery with Tonna, who held their order of German delights in a 1 lb. white paper bag.

“It couldn’t’ve been that bad,” Tonna contended, trying to be supportive.
“It was worse,” the Irish-brogue priest impostor insisted.
“Here!” Tonna added as he started to unveil their purchase. “This should cheer you up.”
“They’re called Bear Paws?” Father Joseph asked.
“Bear Claws,” Tonna pointed out. “See the claws. Take a bite.”

Ignoring Tonna’s correction, Mary Joseph dug right into the heal of the Bear Claws.

“Mmmmm,” she groaned with a mouthful of pastry. “That’s –”

Suddenly, she stopped as her eyes locked on a mystical vision in the distance. This was the same vision that had been haunting Mary Joseph since that prayerful morning in the Irish Hills.

“What? You don’t like it?” Tonna innocently questioned, not being able to see the angelic apparition.

Now locked in a trance, like one of the visionaries of Kibeho, Mary Joseph advanced forward and unquestioningly followed this mystic image that now guided her forward.

“What the…?” Tonna added, seemingly at a loss of words – or at least kind words. Tonna followed Mary Joseph and finally caught up with her just as the pair turned a corner.

Now awakened from her trance, Mary Joseph peered down the street, in search of the angelic image – but was it gone.

“What was it?” Tonna asked with concern.
“I thought I saw her again,” Mary added.
“Her?”

As they fixedly stared at each other in question, a car suspiciously edged passed the two, slowing as it neared the house across from where they stood.

Only seconds passed before several glass bottles with burning cloth wicks were tossed from the car at the Brooklyn home.  Time appeared to slow as the homemade bombs took flight.

Finally, the bottles landed and violently shattered, spreading terror and flames as the car spun away — but not before Father Tonna caught a glimpse of the teenage driver.

“Luisbi?” he silently sighed.

A sudden scream diverted Tonna’s attention and the pace of time returned to normal for the Brooklyn Diocese priest. In a flash, his old fire-fighting instincts kicked in and the former New York City firefighter rushed forward in to action.

Without questioning, he unraveled a garden hose, and then ordered several neighbors to do the same. As the neighbors scurried to comply, Peter handed Father Joseph the nozzle and pointed to where he wanted his co-cleric to direct the stream of water.

What happened next still has people talking to this very day…

Unshaken, Peter ran into the home as the neighbors surrounded the front of the house and tried to drown the flames, as best as they could.

“Look!” a neighbor shouted. “I see four men walking around in the fire … and the fourth looks like –”
“Peter!” Mary cried at the sight of her new found friend exiting the fiery furnace with a frightened family, huddled under the protection of a wet blanket.

Upon Peter’s command, the family sped forward together, away from the blaze, escaping the flames as the courageous cleric fell to his knees from exhaustion.

Seeing Peter fall, Mary broke the line and ran forward to aside.

“Are you okay, Peter?” she asked once she arrived at Tonna’s side.
“That was so much easier with an air mask,” he added as he gasped for air and coughed uncontrollably. “What an adrenaline rush. Man, I miss that!”

Then, without warning, her Irish rose within Sister Mary Joseph and she socked the winded priest in the forearm.
“What where you thinking!” Mary Joseph growled.
Peter grabbed his left arm and laughed, all the while gasping for air. “By the way, you have a pretty good punch.”

Now far from the flames, the family stepped out from under the protection of the water-soaked blanket as the neighbors crowded around them with concern.

To their amazement the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their clothes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

In worship, the family turned East and gave praise.

“Allah Akbar!”

BUY IT NOW!


James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul and the new book series Hail Mary. For six years, James taught At-Risk kids in Los Angeles. Today, he lives in New York where he continues to write — and teach.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman & McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

 

Hail Mary: Prayer of Saint Francis.  Copyright © 2017 by James Henry Dobkowski. All rights reserved, including the rights to reproduce this book or portions thereof, in any form.

Book design by James Henry Dobkowski.  Cover Photo: Silhouetted of a Nun is used by the permission of the photographer Kjeld Friis. © Kjeld Friis. See more by going to KjeldFriis.dk.

 

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ash-wednesday-corporation-you

Ash Wednesday – Corporation YOU © 2017

Today is Ash Wednesday.

For six years, I lived and worked in Southern California, within the bounds of the largest Catholic archdiocese in United States where I attended Mass and services at the parish of St. Finbar in Burbank.

Almost 5 million Catholics work, live, and worship in the Los Angeles community of 11 million people which prides itself on its embrace of multiculturalism.

Oddly enough, when I lived in So Cal, not one Ash Wednesday passed without someone pointing out that I had “something” on my forehead.

The first time it occurred, I was in a Target. The person was kind and concerned as she approached and expressed her concern.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said. “You have something on your forehead.”
“It’s Ashes,” I replied, believing she would then know what I was talking about. She didn’t. “It’s Ash Wednesday,” I continued. Still nothing. “I’m Catholic,” I added. “We put Ashes on our forehead to mark the beginning of the season called Lent.”
“Wow, that’s cool,” she smiled, then walked off.

I have to admit; though I chuckled, I was equally amazed that she didn’t know. The following year, it occurred again.

My wife and I went to have sushi after receiving ashes to meet our holy obligation of eating fish. (And yes, I’m aware that sushi is not the true intended act of penance imposed by the Church to commemorate the day.)

As we we’re leaving the restaurant, the Japanese-accented Sushi Chef called out to us.

“Thank you for coming,” he said. “Have good day.”
“You too!” my wife and I added in unison.
“Excuse me, you have something on you –,” he added, pointing to his forehead.
“Yes, thank you,” I replied. “It’s ashes. It’s Ash Wednesday.”
“Oh my goodness,” he humbly replied seemingly losing his accent. “I’m a lapsed Catholic.”

We chuckled. First at the loss of the shame-filled Sushi’s Chef’s Japanese accent; but also at the fact that it happened again!

I was equally amazed that he didn’t know.

The most noted case of mistaken ashes came when British Sky News reporters, on Ash Wednesday, thought the dirty mark above the brow of then Vice-President Joe Biden was also just something on his forehead.

It’s quite humorous. The reporter, another self-proclaimed lapsed Catholic, finally realizes three minutes and 10 seconds into the broadcast that Joe Biden’s something is, in fact, ashes, and humbly apologizes.

Take a look at it HERE.

In her defense, and the defense of the others, our ashes often lose their intended shape, that of a cross — especially by the end of the day.  (See below)

Catholic Guide to Ashes

Though I no longer live in Los Angeles, I, oddly enough, miss those awkward Ash Wednesday incidents.

I don’t miss them because they made me laugh — even though they did.  I miss them because they revealed, to me, the true nature of the season of Lent that lives in the heart of those of goodwill.

Lent is a season of Penance, yes; but it’s also a season of Reflection.

But what exactly should we reflect on?

Well, how about we reflect on being more Holy, more Christ-like; we can do this by reflecting His loving character more.

In fact, I’d argue that the motivation behind these well-intended interactions were, for the most part, just as Christian as the act of receiving and wearing ashes.

How so?

Then let me start with this question: If Jesus was walking down the street and he saw a smudge on someone’s forehead, what would He do? What would He say?

I think that Jesus would stop, point, and say, “Excuse me, sir. You have something on your forehead.”

So, if today, if you are stopped by a well-intended non-believer or non Church-goer, simply smile and say, “No, that’s not dirt on my forehead. It’s Ashes … but thank you!”

Maybe, you could even take this opportunity to start a conversation — and possibly take the first step in introducing someone else to the Love of Christ.

 

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

 

Lent Fun Fact:
The Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Friday was the reason for the creation of McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sandwich.

 

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The daffodils that my sons and I planted in the Fall had just started to break through the ground … then the Winter Storm Stella hit dropping over two feet of snow on those budding bulbs extending winter, just as Punxsutawney Phil predicted.

It reminded me of sermon I heard when I was a kid after a very similar late season storm.

That year, the winter was unseasonably warm and the birds, which had began their Spring migration North, got caught off guard.

Standing at the podium, my pastor lamented about trying to save a flock of Canada geese in his yard that were now in jeopardy due to the bitter cold.

“I opened up my garage door and tried to corral the geese inside — to safety,” he said. “The harder I tried, the more the geese ignored me.

“I kept shouting, ‘Don’t you know, I’m trying to save you.’ But they just wouldn’t listen,” he explained. “I must’ve been out there for 30 minutes.

“Finally, I gave up,” he sighed. “As I stood in the garage, I thought ‘If I could only become a goose. I could tell them that I was trying to save them.’ And then it hit me….

“God became human.

“That’s why He became one of us.

“To talk directly to us. To tell us directly that he’s trying to save us.”

Now, all we have to do is start listening.

 

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

 

 

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