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Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad)

The latest Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, is about the call to holiness in the world today. Pope Francis released it on Monday 9 April, the feast of the Annunciation and it was given on the Feast of St. Joseph. The document is broken into five chapters.

It begins with Pope Francis stating that this isn’t a treatise or discussion on holiness but rather is to “repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time”. God has called us from the beginning to be holy, God told Abraham to “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1) and this call continues for us today as Francis points out that God wants us all to be saints and echoes the words of John Paul II “Don’t settle for mediocrity”.

The first chapter is on The Call to Holiness, it begins with acknowledging all the holy men and women from the Abraham and Moses to even those of our dearly departed family and friends who are apart of as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it “cloud of witnesses”. Sure these individuals may not always have been perfect in their lives, but despite their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord. One of the key things here is that love is what connects the saints to us. The processes of beatification and canonization recognize the signs of heroic virtue, the sacrifice of one’s life in martyrdom, and in certain cases where a life is constantly offered for others, even until death. This Imitation of Christ is what singles out individuals, but it’s not only those Saints who’ve been beatified/canonized but also our neighbors, since throughout Salvation History the Lord has never saved an individual but rather taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. This “middle class of holiness” is where most of us live our lives as Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.” Now holiness isn’t just limited to the Catholic Church the Holy Spirit raises up individual from all backgrounds Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants Pope John Paul II points to these martyrs as a shared heritage.

Now, Francis says that this is well and good but his primary focus is going to be on the individual call to holiness. In Lumen Gentium we read that we are “called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect”. So we shouldn’t get frustrated by others who seems “more holier” for the “important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts, rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them.” We are all called as witnesses and there are many ways to do this. John of the Cross, famous mystic,  preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all since God’s life is communicated “to some in one way and to others in another.” Francis notes of the genius of women and list a bunch of saints from Hildegarde  and Bridget to Teresa and Theresa. He also notes that there are perhaps several unknown and forgotten who were great imitators of Christ.

For many it seem like you need to be a priest, bishops religious to be holy “we are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.” Holiness can grow with just small gestures like limiting gossip, being patient, taking out and praying a rosary faithfully, or turning to someone on the street and offering some kind words to them.  At times life can get complicated like when Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân, the Archbishop of Saigon, who was imprisoned for 13 year in a communist reeducation camp and then exiled, who strove to accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way. The Bishops of New Zealand teach that we can do this even with love, we are capable of loving with the Lord’s unconditional love even in the midst of our weaknesses. As Pope Benedict XVI taught us “holiness is nothing other than charity (love) lived to the full.” Then Pope Francis calls on us to allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.

Francis says that there are a bunch of distractions in the world today but we are all called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission. He continues by saying to not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. The first chapter ends with a quote from a French writer Leon Bloy “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint” which sort of sums up this universal call to holiness.

The second chapter begins with some talk of some problems that have existed from the beginning of the church and continue today  Gnosticism and Pelagianism. Those two heresies are still around, i guess. Gnosticism is looking for knowledge or experience that solves the mysteries. Those educated members of the church shouldn’t be superior to other members of the church for we all are basically on the same journey. The Lord works in mysterious ways and having knowledge should just motivate us to respond more fully to the love of God. Pelagianism is that sin does not taint human nature and that will is still capable of deciding between good and evil. The Church has continually taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord. We are reminded of the greatest commandment love your neighbor as yourself

The third chapter is where Pope Francis looks at how are we supposed to be holy and what consists holiness. This can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) where the Beatitudes were given, these are the identity card for all Christians as we are called to reflect these values in our daily lives. Next Francis goes through all the Beatitudes and breaks them down pointing out that they run counter to the way the world works. Jesus later on in Matthew’s Gospel expand on the Beatitudes in the twenty fifth chapter adding that “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (25: 35-36), these are the Corporal works of Mercy. Now this call is to recognize Jesus in the poor and the suffering, for we are called to except all  without the ifs or buts and holiness can not exist with out this demand for the beating heart of the Gospel is mercy.

Now there are two errors which Francis sees. First those Christians who forget the mercy part of the gospels. Christanity isn’t some NGO far from the lives of the Saints (Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa) who lived their lives full of mercy yet still reflected on the scriptures and prayer. The other problem is relativistic way that many people look at the world today where nothing is good or bad until I choose who my neighbor is or how to do it. Francis tells us about the Rule of St. Benedict where the monks would welcome anyone and everyone like they would welcome Christ, special care was given to the poor and pilgrims as well.  Let us all keep this in mind whenever we meet anyone. Finally we turn to worship and prayer first of all we do this not for God but ourselves and our neighbors. Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta eloquently put it “…God bends down and uses us, you and me, to be his love and his compassion in the world; he bears our sins, our troubles and our faults. He depends on us to love the world and to show how much he loves it. If we are too concerned with ourselves, we will have no time left for others. ” I hope that we are all able to follow the advice given by Pope Francis to re-read the Gospel referenced earlier, the Beatitudes and Last Judgement, since they can be a benefit to all of us as we all try to embody them. For it will make us happy.

The fourth chapter Francis looks for signs of holiness in the World today, there are five great expressions of love for God and neighbor. The listed expressions are Perserverance, Patience and Meekness; Joy and sense of Humor; Boldness and Passion; In Community; and In Prayer. In each of these expressions Francis gives a deep reflection on each pulling from the Bible to explain some items and pulling from the lives of the Saint for others. The final chapter is on spiritual combat, and this battle can’t be reduced to the struggle against our human weaknesses and proclivities. In case you were wondering the battle is against the Devil, we all need to be cautious and stay alert for the devil is everywhere. We need to also be a bit more willing to discern things, asking for the help of the Holy Spirit when we decide things.

Let us all be able to take some basic things from this exhortation and try to add them into our lives. For this is one of the ways which will bring more happiness and holiness into the world. Sure I began strong and sort of puttered out toward the end but this thing it fairly long and it took several days to get through it and wrote it up. However, if you don’t want to take the time to read the Exhortation yourself this should suffice  These were some nice words from Pope Francis and I hope than many Catholics and sure Christians in general take the key point, living the Beatitudes and corporal works of mercy to heart. This is how we can become a better world.

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Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994)

The final film in the Three Colors trilogy is Red, this is also the final film that Krzysztof Kieślowski ever made. The first one Blue is about Liberty (liberté), the second one White is about Equality (egalité), and Red is about Fraternity (fraternité). Rouge is the anti-romance of the three film. As Roger Ebert put it in his review of Red “This is the kind of film that makes you feel intensely alive while you’re watching it, and sends you out into the streets afterwards eager to talk deeply and urgently, to the person you are with. Whoever that happens to be.” Spoilers to follow.

The film is a bit complicated to explain, the basic premise is communication. The main character is a student in Geneva, Valentine Dussault (Irène Jacob) who is a part time model as well, she has a giant ad for chewing gum (which gets referenced later). She runs over a dog and meets a retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), he owns the dog and doesn’t care what happens with it so Valentine takes the dog to a vet and takes it. Several days later money is delivered to Valentine’s place and she takes the dog for a walk, it runs off back to Kern’s house. Valentine learn that he sent the money and Kern is secretly listening to his neighbor’s phone calls. One of the phone calls that we hear is from one of Valentine’s other neighbors Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit) who is studying to become a judge, talking with his girlfriend. Valentine confronts Kern about eavesdropping on his neighbors. Valentine and Kern develop a nice friendship. More things happen and all the main characters from the trilogy end up on a ferry that capsizes in the English channel and they, Julie and Olivier from Blue, Karol and Dominique from White and Auguste and Valentine from Red, are among the seven survivors. The film is about relationship and how we are all connected and who know when our paths will collide as Valentine and Auguste live across the street from one another but it isn’t until the end when they finally meet. It’s a nice film and provides a happy ending to all three films.  Now to watch one of these film is to put the others on your to watch list.

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Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy by Dante)

I made my way through Dante’s Divine Comedy, you know Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Now this epic narrative poem is considered the preeminent work in Italian and one of the greatest works of all of world literature. The poem is deep in medieval Christian theology and Thomistic philosophy specifically the Summa Theologica some call the poem “the Summa in verse”.  It is said to represent the soul’s journey to God. Now this was a tough slog for me to get through with all the footnotes in the work. Perhaps reading it in Italian might be better.

We begin with Inferno, on Holy Thursday night in the year 1300. Dante is 35 (half the Biblical lifespan of 70 years) and he meets Virgil who will guide him through the 9 circles of Hell until they meet and Satan in the depths of Hell. The various circles of Hell are seen as describing the recognition and rejection of sin, they meet and talk to several people through all the different circles leading up to Judas encased in ice and Satan himself. They pass the devil and make their way to the Southern Hemisphere and the Mountain of Purgatory.

In Purgatorio, Dante continues his journey with Virgil, it is Easter Sunday and they begin climbing up the Mountain of Purgatory which was pushed up from the circles of Hell. The different levels are based on the seven deadly sins.  At the top of the mountain is Earthly Paradise, the Garden of Eden, here Virgil is replaced with Beatrice, who asked for Virgil to get Dante. Beatrice is to whom Dante dedicated all his work.

In Paradiso, it is Dante’s journey with Beatrice we begin back in the Garden of Eden and explores through the 9 celestial spheres of heaven these are based on the cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude) and Theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Love). The journey begins with the moon and then goes through the planets and the sun. Through this journey he meets many saints until he come before the Triune God appearing as three equally large circles occupying the same space, representing Father, Son and Spirit.

It’s one of those work that everyone need to read at least once in their life so you are bound to want to/have to read it at one point in your life or another.

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The Ascension

The second Glorious mystery is The Ascension it is found in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke. Forty days after Easter Jesus and the Apostles gather on the Mount of Olives and Jesus ascends into heaven and tells them to not leave Jerusalem until after the Holy Spirit comes. The fruit of the mystery is Hope and Desire for ascension to Heaven. Hope is something we all can have and we all hope for more than we can get. We also have a desire for all of us to go heaven in the long run.

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The Resurrection

The first Glorious Mystery is The Resurrection. It appears in all the Gospels and I am positive that it is mentioned in a couple of other New Testament books as well. The fruit of this mystery is faith. Jesus after dying on Good Friday and being placed in a tomb on the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath, women came to anoint the body, but the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. They were told to go tell of the good news. We should be reminded of the Story of Doubting Thomas, who wouldn’t believe that Jesus had risen until Thomas himself could see the hands and put his hand in the side. When Jesus finally appeared that second time with Thomas in the room Jesus said to him “because you’ve seen you believe. Blessed are those who have not see but believe.” This is faith, it is one of the theological virtues written about in the Encyclical Lumen Fidei.

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Justice League (2017)

Justice League the DC Extended Universe version of the Avengers is assembled at least the beginning of it. The DC Comics movie universe is the second one to get off the ground with Marvel having started a decade ago and basically owning movie theaters for about the same time. DC Comics movie universe has only been around for five years and that is the same amount of time that the MCU had before the Avengers showed up. So I don’t see the big deal with them going this quickly sure they only dealt with Superman and Wonder Woman along with Batman sort of however those are the biggest name from DC Comics so why not team them up the basically did it in the second movie (BvS:Dawn of Justice). Spoilers to follow, although we basically all know how this movie was going to end before it was made it’s the title.

Now, remember that in Batman v Superman, Superman died and was buried. Batman is doing his thing in Gotham, and Wonder Woman is restoring art or something in Paris. The film begins thousands of years in the past with Steppenwolf trying to turn Earth into his home world, by pushing together three “mother boxes” Steppenwolf’s plan is foiled by a group of Olympian Gods, Amazons, Atlanteans, mankind, and the Green Lantern Corps.  They separate the three boxes one going to the Amazons another to the Atlanteans and the third hidden somewhere on Earth by men. Steppenwolf returns and takes the box from the Amazons. Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince go about getting a crew together to try to stop Steppenwolf from getting the other boxes. Bruce Wayne makes a trip to find Arthur Curry (Aquaman) and Barry Allen (The Flash) asking them to join up while Diana Prince goes to find Victor Stone (Cyborg) and asks him to join. Out of this first go round only Allen agrees to join up. Aquaman goes back to Atlantis where Steppenwolf is attacking and takes the second box. This prompts Aquaman to join the fight. Cyborg reluctantly joins after his father and other S.T.A.R. Labs employees are kidnapped by Steppenwolf to try and find the last box, the one hidden by mankind.

With the team assembled they learn that Cyborg’s dad used the mother box to save his son. Bruce Wayne decides that the mother box could be used to resurrect Superman. So Superman is back after a grand total of a movie being dead. There is more but it’s just what you’d expect Superman is revived and joins the team Bruce and Diana get a Justice League HQ and Lex Luthor show up at the end and prompts the idea of a Legion of Doom.

The movie isn’t as bad as many people make it out to be. It is a decent film and has some highlights Gal Gadot  shines as Wonder Woman yet again and Ezra Miller is pretty funny as Barry Allen. Sure Batfleck seems over it all already in only his second film. The biggest problem the film has is that it has to try and straighten the course after the disappointing previous movies were blown out of the water by the mega blockbuster Wonder Woman, making it a bit lighter and hopefully this trend continues with Aquaman coming this winter and Shazam! coming next year.

 

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Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert

On Sunday, NBC had the latest televised live musical event and perhaps the only one this year, well Disney Channel does have Freaky Friday airing sometime this summer. As for Bye Bye Birdie, the long gestating next live musical on NBC has been pushed back to 2019 and Fox is slated to be doing Rent Live on January 27, 2019. While this is a long time from now we got one of the better television musicals in recent years could that be based only on the choice of actors or how it was staged or even the musical itself.

Jesus Christ Superstar first came out as a concept album in 1970 and had success on the Billboard Pop charts topping them for the year over Carole King’s Tapestry. It started with rock and musical theater singers so why not capture this again, as they’ve done numerous time through the years. Having it staged as a concert also helped since it didn’t have to worry about sets, PBS has broadcast several other shows in concert were they are sort of semi-staged like this and they are always enjoyable to watch. Perhaps they could shift to these concert versions for a while or start picking shows that people know and aren’t afraid to watch.  Jesus Christ Superstar is being widely recognized as the best of all the “live musicals” that both NBC and FOX have done in this latest go round of televised musicals.

The reviews have all been praising Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas as the highlight of the event Dixon  recently was Aaron Burr in Hamilton. Sara Bareilles and John Legend also got some good reviews however Legend more so with for his singing and his vocal range as opposed to his acting chops. This seems to be something that the musical already has written into it as Judas plays a more compelling role in the show. The biggest problem that seemed universal was the costuming with most of the cast in sort of leather/pleather made no sense.  If you haven’t watched it yet I’m sure that NBC has it On Demand so check it out.

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Stations of the Resurrection

This is interesting as it is a complement for the Stations of the Cross. I hadn’t heard of these at all and for good reason they were proposed in 1988 by Father Sabino Palumbieria as a new set of stations, centered on the Resurrection and the events following from it, to emphasize the positive and hopeful aspect of the Christian story. Which he said are obscured by the emphasis on suffering in the Stations of the Cross.  The first time this devotion was done was in 1990, in 2001 the Holy See said that the Via Lucis (Way of Light) was a nice thing and that it has potential to restore a “culture of life” which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith.

The list of Stations has not really been set so the station seem to be widely varied but they cover the events from the Resurrection to the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The list provided on Wikipedia not that in spite of continuing local variability, there appears nevertheless to be an increasing convergence upon the following as a recognized list of Stations of the Resurrection:

  1. Jesus is raised from the dead
  2. The finding of the empty tomb
  3. Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus
  4. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus
  5. Jesus is known in the breaking of bread (Emmaus continued)
  6. Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem
  7. Jesus gives the disciples his peace and the power to forgive sins
  8. Jesus strengthens the faith of Thomas
  9. Jesus appears by the Sea of Tiberias
  10. Jesus forgives Peter and commands him to feed his sheep
  11. Jesus commissions the disciples upon the mountain
  12. The Ascension of Jesus
  13. Mary and the disciples wait in prayer
  14. The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost

They all indicate that different stations that are used are as follows. The first couple all surround the resurrection itself with the Earthquake that occurs at the time of the Resurrection or when the women are the first to come and anoint the body and the find the tomb empty with an angel of Jesus there asking them what/who they are looking for or Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the disciples.  The other ones are after resurrection appearances of Jesus like when he appeared to the 500 as mentioned in Corinthians or appeared to Saul.

It would be interesting if this turned into a regular devotion like Stations of the Cross but it has only been about 30 years since it was created and it took about 60 or so year before the Chaplet of Divine Mercy became popular, you also had a Pope who really backed the prayer.

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Baseball Season begins

Sure, I’m a day late but my Nationals had their game in Cincinnati pushed back to Friday so I forgot to do this yesterday. We’ve got six new Managers and five of them do not have any experience managing, it will be an interesting year for all involved.

First off predictions it seems like most of the teams from last year will be making it back again.
AL East- Yankees and Red Sox
AL Central- Indians
AL West- Astros

NL East- Nationals
NL Central- Cubs
NL West- Dodgers

Maybes: Twins or Angels as the other AL Wild Card.  As for the NL Wild Cards not really sure some are positing that the Phillies are back other say the Mets have a team or the D-back and Cardinals

Second: Shohei Ohtani will be one of the biggest stories of the season, Ohtani was a dual threat in Japan for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters pitching and hitting. This past winter he made the move to the MLB and the LA Angels where he will be pitching and playing as designated hitter. Ohtani will be pitching on Sunday and there have been discussion of how he will be used.

It is also the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena.