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Photo: Ghirella Rosary on Jonathon Roumie’s Facebook page.

In our family, we have a new weekly tradition. We gather for the Rosary and after our prayers, we watch the next version of The Chosen. Immediately, my youngest started calling it “The Chosary.”

First, the Rosary is more than just a series of rote prayers. It is a meditation on the Divine Mysterious of Our Lord.

Depending on what day you watch the latest episode, you journey through the Joyous, Glorious, Luminous, or Sorrowful Mysteries, reflecting on the life and times of Jesus.

The Rosaries and The Chosen go perfectly together. You can also mix it up like we do.

Sometimes we pray the Rosary ourselves, where each person in our family circle prays a decade, and our children alternate reading one of the five Mysteries. Or we pray along with someone reciting the Rosary online. For example, we sometimes pray as we watch The Rosary by Bishop Barron. (My personal favorite.)

Not only is Bishop Barron reverent as he prays, but his sermons on the Mysteries are also a mini-catechism. Further, as Bishop Barron recites the next decade of prayers, the TV screen is filled with a montage of artwork, all focusing on the specific mystery — a storyboard, if you will, of that Divine and Holy scene.

Much like Dallas, you will see how artists for centuries have been trying to interpret the life of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and all the chosen!

There are other online options besides Bishop Barron. You can pray The Rosary with Jonathon Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus on The Chosen. (But of course, you know who he is.) There’s also the Divine Mercy Chaplet Rosary.

Again, you can pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet along with Jonathon Roumie.

Here’s a Divine Mercy Chaplet with great imagery of Jesus’s Passion. If you only have a few minutes before the episode begins, here are two DM chaplets that are less than 10 minutes. (One is by the Franciscan Friars. The other is by Ascension Press.) Finally, if you’re looking for a Gregorian-style Divine Mercy Chaplet, may I recommend this one done by one of our local parish priests.

No matter what you choose, praying the Rosary quiets our minds and perfectly prepares our souls to be focused on the next episode of The Chosen.

So, this week, join me and my family in “The Chosary”.

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

As a writer, James’s appearances include Newsweek, The Inside Success Show, Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, Megyn Kelly, and more.  

Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom — featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and the Los Angeles Times’ Burbank Leader — earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.    James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influence on that student.   As an educator, James also appeared twice on America Live with Megyn Kelly. 

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.   Besides his books, you can follow his musing on this blog Corporation You.

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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Photo credit: By Kancelaria Prezydenta RP – prezydent.pl, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11813191

It’s not constant, but this week we’ve kept ETWN on in our home to watch the coverage of the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict.

Last night, before grace, we prayed for the repose of his soul with little doubt that this philosopher-king has been granted entry into the Eternal. After we prayed, I couldn’t help to notice how different things were this time.

I’ve lived through the passing of four Popes: Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and now Pope Benedict. The difference now, however, is the absence of anticipation of who will be Peter’s successor.

I’m not saying that’s good or bad. Just different.

I remember crying after hearing that Pope John Paul II died. His papacy had such an impact on my life. Maybe that’s why I cried? But I also felt a paternal loss. I cried at the passing of my hometown parish priest, Monsignor James McDonald, and I cried again, recently, when our present parish priest, Fr. Tom Morrette, announced that he was being transferred.

Each time, I felt like my dad had died all over again. However, I didn’t cry when I heard the news about Pope Benedict’s death. As much as I was connected with Pope John Paul II and the other two priests, I identified more with Pope Benedict.

An avid reader of all things Catholic, I felt a much greater connection to the works of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger than the writings of Saint John Paul the Great, which greatly inspired me. And while the election of Pope John Paul II surprised and captivated me (along with the rest of the world), I felt so connected to Cardinal Ratzinger that I predicted his election as Pope and subsequently, defended him throughout his papacy — though he truly needed no defending.

Yet, even though I feel like we have suffered a great loss with his passing, I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry and haven’t cried because I am still torn over the fact that he resigned.

I understand that he was wanting to retire before his election as Holy Father and that, he felt that was getting too old to continue as Pope. Maybe, if I am blessed with old age, and make it to 85, I’ll have a stronger understanding. But right now, I don’t.

Let me make it clear. I’m not judging Pope Benedict XVI. I’m just torn.

Should the successor of Peter be allowed to quit? Priests and bishops are required to retire. Why not Popes?

According to news reports, Pope Francis has a letter of resignation prepared. This is not a Benedictine trend continued by Pope Francis. Pope Paul also had one as did Pope Pius VII and Pius XXII, both were concerned about being kidnapped; and Pope John Paul II wrote two. [1]

The Apostle John, who according to St. Epiphanius lived to 94, appeared to pass the reigns to his successors in his old age.

St. Jerome handed down the story that when Saint John “was no longer able to preach or make long discourses to the people, he used always to be carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples with great difficulty; and every time said to his flock only these words, ‘My dear children, love one another‘.”

Though not the Pope at the time, the office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head. (CCC 1444). So, passing on the keys has to fall under Apostolic Tradition?

So then, what present-day lesson are we supposed to take from this “new” tradition in the reign of Peter? Always the teacher, with Joseph Ratzinger, there always is a lesson somewhere. What is it?

Has he prepared us for a world where the position of the Holy Father is fraught with danger? Where the concern of kidnapping that Popes Pius VII, XXII, and maybe even John Paul II felt become real and possibly constant? Or maybe it’s something simpler? Something paternal and not so apocalyptic?

Fathers, in many of our child-like eyes, appear somewhat invincible like kings who reign mightily until the end.

However, a father’s job is actually a short-lived task. It is to raise strong, faithful Christians and prepare them for adulthood. Most dads, though available when needed, inwardly hope for an early retirement. One enjoyed in comfort with their beloved spouse. He is not a King. For that matter, either is the Pope. He’s a Prime Minister at best.

There is only one True Father and one Reigning King, Jesus Christ Our Lord.

That being the case, then our dearly departed brother Joseph and spiritual father and teacher, Benedict, has carried out his role as Holy Father faithfully and was greeted at the Gate of St. Peter with the heavenly proclamation we all long to hear, “Well done, Faithful Servant.”

So then, why am I still torn? Maybe, just maybe, I’m not ready to cry again.

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

As a writer, James’s appearances include Newsweek, The Inside Success Show, Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, Megyn Kelly, and more.  

Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom — featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and the Los Angeles Times’ Burbank Leader — earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.    James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influence on that student.   As an educator, James also appeared twice on America Live with Megyn Kelly. 

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.   Besides his books, you can follow his musing on this blog Corporation You.

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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December is a great time of year. It also brings us the celebration of Advent, a time to prepare for the birth of Our Lord.

Along with Thanksgiving, Advent is sadly becoming all but a forgotten celebration. What better way to revive Advent and prepare “The Way” than with mini-celebrations as we go forth. It is also a great Catechism, as well as a trip around the World!

Here’s a short list of saintly meals to put the focus back on Advent.

December 5: Saint Nicholas Day Eve

No saint captures the Spirit of Christmas more than St. Nicholas. So, on the Eve of his Feast Day, read a short story to your children about the legend of Old Saint Nick. The St. Nicholas Center is a great resource. Then, before getting nestled in bed, have your kids put their shoes outside their bedroom door to be filled with gold chocolate coins, a candy cane, and an orange or tangerine.

December 6: Saint Nicholas Day

Last night, we had a debate at the dinner table on the BEST way to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. You can choose something more traditional. According to Mango, a traditional table might have Bishop’s wine, bread, St. Nicholas-shaped cookies, and a special main dish reserved for the holiday. In France, that might be pork with mustard and apples. In Germany, you might enjoy Pfannkuchen, or German pancakes. Around the world, there are traditional St. Nicholas pizzas, soups, and pastries.

Since he was the Bishop of Myra, one of my boys asked Alexa for a list of foods eaten in present-day Turkey. You can serve Shish Kebab, Roast Lamb, and White Bean Stew; the list goes on and on. I voted for something personally more cultural, like my grandmother’s Potato Pancakes.

Desserts for Saint Nicholas Day abound. As in my house, Alexa is all too willing to help. You can also go to the Catholic Digest for their list of St. Nicholas cookies like these and also these from Catholic Cuisine. Or celebrate with a fantastic breakfast featuring St. Nicholas pancakes or a cherry cheese coffee cake in the shape of a candy cane. St. Nicholas strawberries are a great treat

Here’s another great list of traditional desserts from the Saint Nicholas Center, including this Biloxi, Mississippi tradition called the St. Nicholas String.

December 8: Immaculate Conception

Taylor Marshall suggested “White food. Our Lady is without stain of sin. She is all pure.” Some meal suggestions: spaghetti with white sauce, chicken breasts, or my favorite Baked Halibut. Or you can just keep it simple with a white cake dessert after dinner or some vanilla ice cream.

December 9: San Juan Diego

You can start preparing the Feast of Our Lady pf Guadalupe on this Feast day. You can begin by buying a bouquet of roses. (Gents, this is a perfect gift for your wife!) It’s also a great way to recall the miracle of the tilma and Our Lady. As you plan for the Feast of Our Lady, you can honor San Juan Diego by enjoying some Xocolatl (Aztec Chocolate). If you want to take a deep dive into this feast, you can purchase the book “Amazing Aztec Recipes: A Complete Cookbook of Native Mexican Dish Ideas!

December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Catholic Cuisine has a lot of great ideas for this Fiesta! So go there and learn more. In our household, we stick with tacos served with Catholic Cuisine’s “A Woman Clothed In Sun” Taco Dip!

Here are other great recipes, as well.

December 13: Saint Lucia

Many of us know the song “Sanka Lucia” which says Christmas lasts until Easter. (Now, you have a faith-based excuse for not taking down your outdoor Christmas lights until March or April.) The Swedish celebration focuses on service. Though in the past, the Feast of Saint Lucia focused on the eldest daughter serving the family. Today is the perfect day to put Mom first — at least in the morning — by getting her morning coffee prepared. Thought the Swedes usually serve coffee and baked goods, such as saffron bread (lussekatter) and ginger biscuits. The s-shaped Stella D’ora Breakfast Treats seem to be the perfect substitute! The

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Though many associate St. Lucia with Sweden, she was born in Sicily. Sicilians celebrate St. Lucia Day, as they celebrate most feasts — large! Folks in Palmero also practice a somewhat somber devotional on December 13. According to Scent of Sicily, in Palermo though the day of Saint Lucy is related to another tradition: every 13th of December everything the locals eat according to the tradition is rice, actually, a special street food prepared with rice, that has become famous all over the world: the arancina. In 1646 Palermo had been hit by an awful famine, on December 13 a bunch of fishermen was praying, asking for the intercession of Saint Lucy, when something happened: a big ship full of corn arrived unexpectedly at the port of the city saving people from certain death. Since then, Saint Lucy Day has been celebrated every year on that day avoiding eating pasta and bread. The tradition of eating corn and rice changed over the years, and at some point, arancina came in. Arancinas are delicious rice balls, fried and usually filled with two typical dressings: butter, mozzarella, and ham (Arancina al burro) or rough Bolognese sauce (Arancina alla carne).

4-formaggi

December 21: St. Thomas the Apostle (Old Calendar)

Here’s another Taylor Marshall suggestion: Since Saint Thomas is the patron of India, it’s a perfect time to eat Indian food. Saint Thomas’ feast was moved to July 3 on the Ordinary Novus Ordo calendar. However, the Latin Mass calendar remembers Saint Thomas on this day. So, if you need an excuse to eat Indian food and you want to feel a little nostalgic (or rebellious), explore Indian cuisine. You can stay at home or go to your local Indian restaurant.

Channukah

We also light the menorah in our household in December. It’s a great way to connect with our Jewish Roots of the Faith and to share the story of the Festival of Lamps or Lights. The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees, which describe in detail the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah, making it a very Catholic story, as well. So, spin a dreidel, enjoy some halvah, and sit back and do as I do — watch the classic movie musical “Fiddle on the Roof.”

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

You can do all of these, just one, or nothing at all. The choice is yours. In trying to decide what works for you, remember to only do that which brings you closer to Our Lord! Special thanks to all the helpful Catholic blogs out there that are trying to keep our traditions alive.

Here’s a great video to watch if you want some more Advent Traditions.

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

As a writer, James has been featured on The Inside Success Show, Bob Salter (CBS Radio),  Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.  

Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom — featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and the Los Angeles Times’ Burbank Leader — earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.    James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influence on that student.   As an educator, James also appeared twice on America Live with Megyn Kelly. 

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.   Besides his books, you can follow his musing on this blog Corporation You.

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

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Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

Pope Francis recently stated in essence that if you don’t believe in Vatican II, you don’t believe in the work of the Holy Spirit.

If you dig deep into the Vatican II documents, I feel there is nothing that any devout Christian wouldn’t agree with.  In fact, my buddy often reads the Vatican II documents to his congregation — which is a non-denominational congregation with a weekly service with little remnants of the Latin Rite liturgy.

How Vatican II was implemented, on the other hand, may be another story — and most likely not the work of the Holy Spirit.

Archbishop Karol Wojtyla appeared to properly prepare the Polish during the implementation of Vatican II — which is probably why the Polish people are so faithfully loyal and reverent.   (Though I’m obviously biased). Pope Benedict XVI believed giving priests “options” in Mass was possibly a mistake. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he stated in an interview in “L’homme Nouveau,” he thought that the door [was] left open to a false creativity on the part of the celebrants. And though the press has focused mainly on Pope Francis limiting the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), he also spoke about abuses in the “New Order” Mass and the need for Masses to be uniformly reverent.

In his letter accompanying Traditionis Custodes, his motu proprio restricting the celebration of the TLM, Pope Francis wrote, “At the same time, I am saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that ‘in many places, the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions.’” [1]

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum on religious rituals.

Many believe they are a hindrance. Some of my closest Christian brothers and sisters completely denounce rituals of any kind. However, they somehow ignore the fact that their worship services are somewhat programmed with weekly familiarity. They also tend to ignore the fact that the celebrations of Christmas and Pascha (Easter) are rituals, deeply rooted in ancient tradition.

So where does that leave things in regard to rituals?

Many of us have had or are in careers where certain steps seem trite or ritualistic, but in the larger scheme, if removed, could cause havoc or possibly a fatal flaw down the road. Think of surgeons, airplane pilots, law enforcement officers, and the daily rituals or safety checks and precautions they carry out routinely throughout the day.

Ritualism, for the sake of ritualism, has little spiritual value — yet, it can still prevent serious error or possible death. 

However, knowing why the rituals were put in place and knowing their importance, leads to greater understanding and an elevation of one’s performance.  This not only applies to both a person’s career — but to one’s spiritual life, as well. So, rituals — especially spiritual rituals — are important!

Sacred rituals given to us by ancient tradition are a gift to be treasured, preserved, and passed on.

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

As a writer, James has been featured on The Inside Success Show, Bob Salter (CBS Radio),  Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.  

Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom — featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and the Los Angeles Times’ Burbank Leader — earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.    James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influence on that student.   As an educator, James also appeared twice on America Live with Megyn Kelly. 

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.   Besides his books, you can follow his musing on this blog Corporation You.

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

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Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Life is not easy and not everyone attains their goals. Trust me, I had some lofty goals — and I came close to attaining many of them. As a father, I hope my boys have lofty goals, as well.

However, the other day, when trying to talk my youngest through a tantrum (a minor one) I let him know about my “ultimate goal.”

“You know what my goal in life is? The only thing I care about?” I asked. “My goal is to get to Heaven. And when I arrive and I open my eyes and see Jesus, I will turn to my left and to my right and look for you … and your brother … and for mommy.

“If you or your brother are not there, then I’ll consider my life a failure.”

Sure, I need to make sure my children have a roof over their heads and food on their plates. However, my ultimate goal in life is to make sure they make it to Heaven!

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

As a writer, James has been featured on The Inside Success Show, Bob Salter (CBS Radio),  Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.  

Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom — featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and the Los Angeles Times’ Burbank Leader — earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.    James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influence on that student.   As an educator, James also appeared twice on America Live with Megyn Kelly. 

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.   Besides his books, you can follow his musing on this blog Corporation You.

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

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

About a year ago, I stumbled across Matt Pratt’s “Pints with Aquinas.” He’s my new late-night go-to entertainment after my wife falls asleep while we watch something on Prime, Netflix, or The Peacock.

Recently, I tapped into his talk with Fr. Thomas Joseph White titled “What is Predestination?”

Though informative, I have to admit that most of it was above my pay grade. About 43 minutes in, however, everything changed. Matt asked Fr. White, “How does this affect our spiritual lives… What would you say to those struggling with scrupulosity?”

Full disclosure, though I had heard of the word scruples, I had to look up the definition of scrupulosity and see how it connected with my Catholic Christian faith.

Fr. White began to describe the no-brainers: Prayers to Christ; going to the sacraments — especially Confession and Communion; and trying to live the moral teachings of the Church with Hope.

Like he said, no-brainers. It all begins here. CLICK.

Things began to change for me when Fr. White said that he tells people that they have to make seven acts of Hope a day.

“What does that look like?” Matt Pratt quickly added to which Fr. White presented a simple scenario.

When you arrive at your desk and before you start your day, you say something like this:

“Lord Jesus Christ, I hope in You, my Savior. I want to devote my day of work to You. I believe in Your Providence. I trust in You. I trust in Your Mercy. I trust in You to forgive my sins. I’m going to try to forgive other people for their sins. I want to live in Your Mercy. I want to hope in You. Everything that happens to me and everything I do can be a means that can conduct me to Sanctification and Salvation.

I’m going to use everything you give me today to try to be conformed to the Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection. I hope in You.

From there, the gems of salvation started to overflow.

  • Hope is the spiritual boxer’s virtue.
  • Develop that boxer’s perseverance stance of Hope throughout the day.
  • If you get punched by the Devil, you hit back with hope.
  • Learn not to talk back to the Devil, but talk to Christ and say “I hope in You.”
  • Hope is the fighter’s virtue that gets you through the fog of war of day-to-day life.
  • Of Faith, Hope, and Charity, Hope is the under-nourished virtue.
  • Dive into the safety net of God’s Mercy.
  • Radically Trust in the Mercy of Christ.
  • Live with the vulnerability that you can’t save yourself!
  • Learn to treat Christ as a person and trust unconditionally in the Mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Wow!

So, starting today: If you get punched by the Devil, get up! and hit back with Hope. Jesus, I trust in YOU! Amen!

Corporation YOU!

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

As a writer, James has been featured on The Inside Success Show, Bob Salter (CBS Radio),  Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more.  

Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom — featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and the Los Angeles Times’ Burbank Leader — earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.    James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar as the teacher who had the greatest influence on that student.   As an educator, James also appeared twice on America Live with Megyn Kelly. 

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.   Besides his books, you can follow his musing on this blog Corporation You.

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

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I recently read an opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter titled “Time to put the ‘catholic’ back in the Catholic Church.”

It’s not necessarily a hit-piece on those who enjoy the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). However, it didn’t paint the TLM movement in a positive light, either.

Born after Vatican 2, I never experienced the Latin Mass in my youth. However, I remember witnessing some of the changes in my parish, such as moving the altar forward, replacing the crucifix with a statue of the Risen Lord. As a cradle Catholic, I just went along with the changes and gave it little thought … until one day, I traveled abroad.

Well, I really didn’t travel abroad. I traveled to Canada. Québec, actually. Montréal to be precise.

During my stay, I attended Sunday Mass at chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, “Our Lady of Good Help”, in the district of Vieux Montreal.

The Chapel was breath-taking and I waited with bated breath for Mass to begin.

Everything seemed to be exactly like what I experienced in my local parish in the States — until everyone began speaking.

Not that I’m a francophobe. I just felt removed — not a part of the parish. Sadly, I didn’t feel “catholic.” In fact, I really didn’t feel “Catholic” either. For the first time, I understood why the Latin Rite was in Latin for so long.

Years passed since I attended a Traditional Latin Mass. My wife and I had recently moved to California. My wife, who was Lutheran at the time, leaned trad.  (Actually, she leaned Orthodox … Russian Orthodox.) Since we often attended different services at the time, we both found common ground with the Mass of the Ages.

Though my wife truly enjoyed it, I again felt removed. I didn’t feel “catholic” (lowercase c) However, I did feel “Catholic.”

After that Sunday, I returned to attending Mass at my parish, Saint Finbar.

It was a multicultural parish in Burbank, California. Founded by Irish, the congregation now also included Latino, Filipino, and Vietnamese parishioners. For the first time as a Cradle Catholic, St. Finbar’s gave me a sense of “being catholic”. The Masses and music were reverent. The Sanctus and the Agnes Die were sometimes sung.

One priest eloquently sang the entire Eucharistic prayer.

I remember the first time I heard it, I rolled my eyes. Is this going to be like Godspell, I remember saying to myself, fearing a contemporary music abuse of the Novus Ordo. It was Southern California and Burbank was in Hollywood’s backyard. However, to my surprise, it was moving. So moving, I would intentionally skip his Masses, from time to time, to make sure that I was attending Mass for the right reason, the Eucharist alone.

Later, as a fundraiser, the parish music ministry put out a CD of their liturgical performances, which included the Eucharist prayers. I would often listen to these recorded prayers when stuck in traffic or on my way to work.

The only negative thing I can say about this “experience” was that many of the Masses were in the native tongues of the parishioners. Except for Holy Days of Obligation and Soup Fridays during Lent, the Church Community of St. Finbar rarely gathered together as one Catholic community.

Yet, the parish never lost its true sense of being “catholic.”

On one of those Sundays where I had no choice but to attend a Mass in Spanish, I never felt removed from the Mass.  In fact, I often preferred the Spanish Mass. The celebration didn’t seem to end. It flowed out of the Church and went forth to the veranda outside the church. Music played as families handed out loaves of bread to anyone in need. It was beautiful.

However, it was helpful that I understood Spanish. Then it happened…

It was Easter Sunday and I was outside the church assisting as part of the Greeting Committee. I felt that I didn’t meet my Sunday obligation and picked up a bulletin to see when the next English-speaking Mass was scheduled.

“Have you ever attended a Vietnamese Mass?” one of the greeters asked me.

“No, they’re usually on Wednesday,” I added.

“There’s one following this Mass,” she continued. “Stay behind and attend. It’s beautiful.”

So, I did.

I had never experienced such a beautiful Liturgy. The entire Mass was sung, from beginning to end, by both the Priest and the Collect. I stood in the back, watching with great awe. And even though I did not understand a word of it, I was captured by its elegance, grace, and reverence — especially for the Eucharist.

I didn’t realize it then, but I was forever changed.

Years have passed and my wife and I moved back to New York after starting a family. Though we started attending Mass together, nothing matched the feeling about being “catholic” that I experienced at St. Finbar.

In an effort to better evangelize, my present parish has embraced a less traditional model of worship taken from the pages of the book Rebuilt.

Though I applaud the efforts made by the parish in Maryland, I am highly skeptical of any Church where I have difficulty finding the word “Catholic” on their website. A second concern comes from their use of the term “service” over Mass and their focus on “tools and tricks” such as building a sense of theater.

Though our Pastor had greatly improved the reverence experienced at Mass, few parishioners appear equally reverent. We are among the few who improve our wardrobe during Mass, often receiving comments (all good) on our boys’ attire and manners.

Last year, I approached my pastor and expressed our possible need to go elsewhere. I’m not a big fan of “Church shopping”, but something had to change.

Speaking of my thoughts about attending a TLM, I harkened back to my Easter Sunday experience and said, “I’d rather go to a Church where my kids didn’t know what was going on and everyone else did than be at a Church where they knew what was going on and those around them don’t.”

Of course, I was referring to the holiness of the Mass.

Since there was not a Diocesan Traditional Latin Liturgy close enough to attend, I confessed that we attended a Saturday Liturgy at the SPX church in our area. After a long conversation, too long to discuss, out of loyalty to the Church,  he kindly asked me not to attend an SPX Mass, but understood my reasons for wanting to go to a Traditional Mass.  

“They’re good people,” he said.  “But some of the things they say about the Pope….”

“There’s a picture of the Pope on the wall when you walk in,” I added.

Pope Francis?” he asked shockingly.

Yes, I nodded.

“Before I was a priest,” he suggested. “I would often worship with my eyes closed at Mass.”

“I do already,” I added with a smile. “Before you were here, the cantor would start the Lamb of God while people were still shaking hands during the Sign of Peace. I’d close my eye so no one could interrupt me while I focused on the Agnes Dei . One time, a woman in the pew in front of me kept smacking my shoulder while I was praying — just so I would shake her hand.”

We both chuckled and moved on to more kinder and gentler topics, like my wife and my boys.  Out of respect to our pastor, I submitted to his authority and continued to worship at our local parish.

On Father’s Day, ironically, our pastor shockingly announced that he was being transferred to a new parish. We were away that weekend, as we are most weekends in the summer, attending Mass at the parish by our summer camp. 

Without an appointment, I visited him at the Rectory and luckily arrived at a time where he did not have an appointment.

In short, we revisited my original concern — specifically with the Rebuilt program.

“If you ever left, our backup plan was at St. Ann’s,” I said with a chuckle in my voice. 

St. Ann’s is Catholic Church in the rural town where I work. Her pastor was well-known for his orthodoxy and reverence. The altar servers still use patens during the reception of Holy Communion, which is rarely seen today in a Novus Ordo Mass. 

“But,” I added. “They transferred him (St. Ann’s pastor) too.”

Though our out-going had nice things to say about the incoming pastor, he gave me his blessing to move on if we felt the need.

“You have to go where you’re fed,” he said. Of course, he met “go where you are fed” within the Catholic Church.

And that was the answer I was looking for.  That’s the answer we’re all looking for! To be fed!

I felt lost in the Mass in Quebec, not because I did not speak French. It was because it appeared perfunctory. I felt disconnected with the Traditional Mass in L.A., not because I didn’t understand the Latin. I do. It was because it appeared methodical.

Now, I’m not saying all the Masses in Quebec are perfunctory. Nor am I saying all the TLM are methodical. Nor am I saying that all Vietnamese Masses are life-changing.

I am saying that a Mass done correctly is life-changing.

So, how do you know when a Mass is done correctly? Trust me, you’ll know. You’ll feel it and see it. You’ll see all the participants: the priest and the people in the pews, the readers and cantors, all the ushers and musicians reverently partaking in the Supper of the Lamb, fully focused on the Source and Summit of our faith, “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

It doesn’t matter what form it’s in. It doesn’t matter what language it is in. It doesn’t matter if it is illicit. All that matters is that the faithful come together with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as God’s Temple. (1 Cor 3:16)

Being “catholic” does not mean that we worship using the same words and music. On any given day (or from Sunday Mass to Mass in larger parishes) one can go to a Mass in Latin Rite Church, in which I belong, and experience a difference in song or celebration.

The New Order Latin Rite is also divided into an ordinary and extraordinary form. That’s not very universal.

Further, within the Latin Rite, there are some other Latin liturgical traditions, such as the Ambrosian (habitually celebrated in the Archdiocese of Milan), the Mozarabic (celebrated in a more restricted manner in Toledo in Spain), and that of the city of Braga in Portugal which is permitted in that diocese but not widely used. [1] Pope Paul VI celebrated the Ambrosian Rite.

Even in the Traditional Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, which has garnered so much attention lately because of Pope Francis’s Moto Propio “Traditionis Custodus“, one can experience a High Mass or Low Mass.

The list of liturgical differences goes on and on. Change the music and the sense and feel of a Mass changes completely. Just by having a different priest and a different homily, the true universality of the Mass is removed.

In fact, the Catholic Church is comprised of six individual rites and within those rites are 24 sui iuris (self-governing) Churches — all with their own unique traditions and treasures.

“In the liturgy, above all that of the sacraments, there is an immutable part, a part that is divinely instituted and of which the Church is the guardian, and parts that can be changed, which the Church has the power, and on occasion the duty, to adapt to the cultures of recently evangelized peoples.” (CCC 1205)

What makes the Catholic Church truly catholic is not only the immutable part in the rubric of its Masses. What makes the Church truly catholic is the power of the Church to adapt to the cultures of recently evangelized peoples.

People are going to go where they are being fed. We all have cultural and social needs and desires.  Rebuilt works for just as many people as the TLM does.   That’s why “[t]he celebration of the liturgy, therefore, should correspond to the genius and culture of the different peoples. (CCC 1204)

The Catechism states: “In order that the mystery of Christ be ‘made known to all the nations . . . to bring about the obedience of faith,’ (Cf. SC 37-40) it must be proclaimed, celebrated, and lived in all cultures in such a way that they themselves are not abolished by it, but redeemed and fulfilled: It is with and through their own human culture, assumed and transfigured by Christ, that the multitude of God’s children has access to the Father, in order to glorify Him in the one Spirit” (CCC 1204)

The Church has been aware of this for centuries. In 1570, the Church declared “[t]he Sacrifice (of the Mass) is celebrated with many solemn rites and ceremonies, none of which should be deemed useless or superfluous.”

So, why this sudden “desire” by Pope Francis “to press on ever more in the constant search for ecclesial communion”?

It seems to me that the more reverent liturgies we have, the more catholic the Church becomes.  In the end, that’s what truly makes the Church “Catholic”.

Watch Dr. Brant Pitre’s Mystery of the Church.

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.   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.

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When I lived in L.A, I belonged to a Christian Men’s Fellowship Group. Weekly, we would meet and study the Word. Since most of us were in the Film Industry, in one form or another, we jokingly referred to ourselves as “The Christian Underground.” (Though, there was more truth in that name than we were willing to admit.)

Before and since, I’ve never belonged to such a rewarding group of Christian brothers — and I moved from Los Angeles over a decade ago.

Most of my brothers in this group were raised Catholic, however, at the time, only two of us practiced Catholicism as adults. Today, I believe, I’m the only member of “The Underground” who still attends Mass weekly.

Though I understand many of the reasons for their exodus — one has to go to where they believe they are being feed — nothing makes me as sad as hearing that one of the Collect has left the Church.

Bishop Fulton Sheen may have put it best when he said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Most people leave the Catholic Church because they have been poorly catechized. (Most. Not all.) Additionally, most wrongly perceive how the Catholic Church worships — including many Catholics.

We don’t solely worship with song and sermon, thought that is an part of our celebration; they’re not truly the part of our worship. We worship with sacrifice; the sacrifice of the Eucharist, to be precise — and it sometimes takes a lifetime to understand that Sacrifice.

Sure, Evangelical services are uplifting. They are filled with great music. Their pastors give moving, powerful sermons. I love Evangelical Sunday services — and that’s why I don’t go to them.

Worship of the Lord is not about us. Worship of the Risen Lord is all about Him — or at least should be.

People often say, “I don’t get anything out of a Catholic Mass.” The retort of many Catholic priests or those of us who study our Faith is usually “Well, you don’t understand what’s going on.”

And maybe that’s so, but that’s not the right response.

Father Mike Schmitz has given the best responses, here and here. In both videos, he explains that there are plenty of things to get out of Mass. However, one does not go to Mass to get, one goes to Mass to give.

On Monday, I would go with anyone to a Tent Revival. On Tuesday, invite me to hear Christian brothers and sisters witness. On Wednesday, we can share in fellowship and study the Word. Thursday: Let’s all answer the Altar Call together and get slain by the Spirit. Friday: We can all quiet our minds and experience Taizé prayer. Saturday, let’s loudly sing contemporary music together in praise. But on Sunday…

Sunday is offered to us so we can disconnect from the world and all its distractions, stand before God and His awe, and simply make a sacrifice — and give. Sunday is all about God. God is Love and Love always demands some kind of sacrifice.

Love calls us to sacrifice ourselves.

In short, if you are not personally getting anything out of your Sunday worship, you’re probably doing it right.

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul,  and two children 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 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.

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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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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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