Saint John Bosco

This seems like a fitting end to Catholic Schools week with the feast of the Father and Teacher of Youth. John Bosco was born near Turin, Italy around 1815, the region was devastated by the Napoleonic Wars. John Bosco’s father died when he was about two years old leaving  Margherita Occhiena to raise their three sons.

At the age of nine John had a vision that inspired the rest of his life. Bosco saw a group of poor boys playing and swearing up a storm, John tried to make them stop swearing asking first then resorting to violence neither way worked. Then a man appeared and said “You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness.” After this vision it seemed clear that his path would take him into the priesthood.

Growing up John and his brothers were shepherds in the fields and visited the traveling entertainers who passed by. John was enamored with the juggling, magicians and acrobats. Bosco learned the tricks and secrets and would preform with prayers before and after.  By the age of 12 he was sick of all the fighting he had with his brother Antonio and left home. in 1835 he entered the seminary, supposedly he mother told him that it’s not the clothes that give honor to the state but the practice of virtues and if he had any doubts of his vocation at anytime he should give it up as she would rather have a poor son than a negligent priest.

John Bosco was inspired by Francis de Sales and dedicated his work to him when he founded the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, which sort of morphed into the Society of St. Francis de Sales which would eventually become the Salesian Order. The Salesian Brothers and Sisters primarily run shelters for homeless or at-risk youths; schools; technical, vocational, and language instruction centers for youths and adults; and boys’ clubs and community centers around the globe. There is also a lay missionary branch within or along side the order.

Bosco wants to bring people closer to God and he did so through his magic, juggling and acrobatics, but also through the gentleness and kindness shown towards people. John Bosco also developed an education plan as he believed that being loved and knowing that you are loved are key aspect of it. Dom Bosco is the patron Saint of Magician, young people and some other thing as well. I hope that we all can be inspired by the life of John Bosco and embrace love, kindness and gentleness. If you can catch a magic show today  that is wonderful.

Catholic Literature

Over on the Ignatius Press novels blog there is a unique post about The Catholicity of Catholic Literature. The title of the post intrigued me as this topic books by Catholic writers has interested me for awhile. Sure the whole post is about how the current state of Catholic fiction in English is bleak and those in the anglosphere, English speaking world, need to branch out into other languages and read works that have been translated into English or in the native language. They point to the Don Camillo series by Giovannino Guareschi as Catholicism is not taken for granted in Italy. They also  point toward Poland as a place where Catholic writers had a difficult time under Communist rule, yet there are some who have amazing things Karol Wojtyla, wrote poetry under pseudonyms others like Czeslaw Milosz left the country to be published.

I really don’t care if you want to explore the depths of Catholic literature but if you do Wikipedia has a list of Catholic authors sorted by language which you can explore. I don’t put much into finding out much about authors let alone their religion before I read a book if they happen to be Catholic and it shows through that is pretty cool. The problem that I see with Catholic literature is that it seem most of it is old  (Waugh, Augustine, Chesterton, Lewis); and it seems that many modern writers has gotten more into the historical/spiritual side of writing. Hopefully there can be some new faces that emerge in the world of Catholic fiction or more likely Catholic write more fiction of any type.

News round up

These are going to be Pope centric stories this week.

Pope Francis has begun drafting an Encyclical about ecology, specifically the “ecology of man” a term Benedict used to describe how people must defend and respect nature but also how the nature of the person (male/female) must also be defended. Some people thing that there are so many other problems facing the world today that the environment isn’t that big of a deal. However we are stewards of the Earth and we’ve been doing a horrible job at it.

This came out a couple of weeks ago but it still is worth sharing. It’s an article about Pope Francis and church reform, as many people believe that one of the reason the name Francis was picked was to “rebuild my church”. The article stresses the fact that Francis of Assisi was not about reforming the church but living the Gospel. This seems like a better reason for an encyclical on ecology, it ties with the name Francis.

Also Pope Francis has reiterated his belief that women need to have an expanded role in the Church as well as professionally and publicly. I really like how anytime this story comes up the first thing people jump to is female priests. I agree with Pope Francis that the Church need to have women be more involved on the global level as it seems that women feature heavily in church related jobs at least on the parish and diocesan levels. What this role should be that is still up for debate.

In horrible news a relic of blood of John Paul II  was stolen from a reliquary at an Italian church that he frequented outside of L’Aqulia. Rumor is that it was stolen by some Satanic cult. Hopefully they are able to find who has stolen it and\or it gets returned to the church. Since it’s not like is can easily be replaced.

Proclamation of the Kingdom and Transfiguration

After Jesus was baptized and came back from the desert as we remember from Sunday’s Gospel reading he moved to Capernaum he started to proclaim “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The third mystery is not a single point in the narrative but it is an ongoing thing. Over the next three or so year Jesus continually proclaim the Kingdom. This all lead to the Transfiguration where the Kingdom of God comes down to earth for a little bit as Jesus appears glowing and he converses with Moses and Elijah. Jesus brings Peter James and John with him up Mount Tabor where the transfiguration happens and it is here that Peter, James and John come to realize that Jesus is the Son of God after hearing from the sky “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him.”

I pair these two mysteries together as it is getting closer and closer to Lent and I like to do the Sorrowful mysteries during that liturgical season. Also the Proclamation of the Kingdom is a non specific event and happens continually throughout the Gospels and I’ve also gone on and on  about the Transfiguration in the past. Let us hear the words from heaven “Listen to Him” we need to follow the advice of Christ that we need to repent since the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Silence

One day I was fiddling around online and I typed in Catholic novels to google as I have read some novels by Catholics (F. Scott Fitzgerald, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien and Walter Miller) but I wanted to explore deeper. There is plenty of great short stories with Flannery O’Connor and Katherine Anne Porter but I wanted longer books to read. Up popped a bunch of list listing the 100 or 50 or 10 best novels around and on several of the lists was Silence by Shusaku Endo. The novel has been described as one of the twentieth century’s greatest novels and Endo’s finest works. So with all this praise it was put on my ever growing list of books to read and I had heard that this was going to be the next Martin Scorsese film and wanted to be ready to go see it. Once again there are bound to be spoilers so please read with caution.

The novel Silence tells the story of Jesuit Missionaries in Japan in the 1600s. Now Japan wasn’t the best place for missionaries to go to after the Shimabara Rebellion, as it effectively closed Japan to the Western world and forced Christianity underground. The novel begins back in Portugal where two young Jesuits, Father Rodrigues and Father Garrpe, hear that their teacher Father Christovao Ferreira had apostatized and had stepped upon an image of Christ or Mary in the fumie. Rodrigues and Garrpe want to go to Japan to see is Ferreira is still alive. This is inspired by true historical events.

When Rodrigues and Garrpe reach Japan they find themselves face to face with a group of Hidden Christians they are welcomed and introduced to the rites of the Hidden Christians, where one of the older males in the town assumes the role of priest in baptizing children into the faith and this older male is helped out by a group who teach Christianity and pass on the prayers which were adapted to sound like Buddhist chants. Mary and other saints would often make it into statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas.

The priest are place upon a hill outside of the town so as to prevent them from being found and the townspeople would come visit them at night. Eventually samurai come to the town looking for Christians and they take three to the magistrate to undergo questioning. Here one of the three, Kichijiro, ask, “Why does God let us suffer, what wrong have we done.” This is one of  the major questions in the book “Why does God sometime only respond to our prayers with silence?” So the three are questioned and undergo the fumie they all follow the advice of Padre Rodrigues and step on the fumie when asked, this however brings the three to a secondary task to blaspheme the Virgin Mary. Only Kichijiro can do this and he is let go, the others are brought back to town and placed on stakes out on in the ocean to die. This martyrdom is not the glorious martyrdom that Father Rodrigues expects as in Europe but is punctuated by silence.

After this Rodrigues and Garrpe leave the town as it seems likely that the samurai will be back looking for them. So they part ways. Rodrigues runs into Kichijiro who promises to lead him to a new town but Kichijiro brings the priest into custody. Father Rodrigues now inches closer to his Calvary. At first he is brought to a Christian prison and is kept by himself but eventually he ask if he can visit and talk to the other Christians in the prison, this makes him feel like a priest again.

Eventually that magistrate come to visit the priest and asks about the Christian faith which the magistrate find incompatible with the Japanese people. The tree of faith can not grow in this swamp with it’s roots (priests) taken. Soon there after Rodrigues is brought before Father Ferreira who has become Sawano Chuan and currently translates books on astronomy and medicine. It is Ferreira who will get Rodrigues to renounce his faith.

This book brings about many questions. What does it mean to be a Christian? Is a corrupted version of the faith still truth? Does the faith need to change for different regions around the world? Do you really abandon your faith or is it still a part of you? How can God stay silent amidst all the suffering in the world? Most of these I think are impossible for any general answer as they all depend on the individual. Some might say that God is never silent he is just working through the various people there trying to make things right, or God is always silent since we are the ones that have provoked the suffering to begin with.

While I was reading I often reflected how the book speaks toward the new evangelization that is happening with the Catholic church currently. We are called to be missionaries and bring the message of Christ to the World, but are we willing to be lead to a Calvary moment or will we renounce our religion and embrace the secular world. This would be a great book to read during Lent as the passion narrative figures into the story.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week is Catholic Schools week across America, let us begin this week with some prayer for the students, teacher and for an increase in enrollment. Our reading this week come from Isaiah and Paul to the Corinthians once again and we move back to Matthew’s Gospel this week. We start in Isaiah we are back towards the beginning where we hear of failure in the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali; they were over run by the Assyrians and subsequently conquered by the Babylonians as was the whole of the Kingdom of Israel. This Isaiah says is because the kings have failed. Isaiah says “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” this is the Messiah who is to come he will rise from the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Arriving in Paul’s letter we continue 7 lines from where we left off last week the main thesis of this section is there needs to be unity among the Christians. Although we may have gotten our faith from different people the faith is always in the same person Jesus the Christ, who was crucified. If Paul could see the state of the Church today with the many different variations (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and other) around the world I think he would say the exact same thing.

Turning to the Gospel we have Matthew using Isaiah once again to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, Matthew writes that after his days in the desert, Jesus went to live in Capernaum by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali and from that time Jesus began preaching “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. While Jesus was there he also started gathering together his apostles (Andrew, Peter, James and John) and making them fishers of men. The call of the apostles is a call through time not only is it for Peter and his friend but it is also for us to hear and respond to we cannot sit by and watch the world go by we need to be living in it as Christians we must remember the mission set forth the last two weeks in the Servant songs we are call from birth to bring the message to the whole world.

Native American mascot/name controversy, again

So this is turning into a semiregular thing around here who would have thought that would happen. Everyone already knew that this would resurface at some point around the Super Bowl and I doubt that it will be the last time that this issue is up for debate during this upcoming week.

Well as it turns out the Oneida Indian Nation, the Native American Tribe which is trying to get the Washington Redskins to change their name is at it again. Ray Hallbritter, CEO of the Oneida Indian Nation has taken his plea to of all places the United Nations. While there they discussed that the name controversy is a human rights issue, specifically the impact of the team’s name and how it has negatively affected Native American populations across the country.

In reports that I’ve read the UN Human Rights Council can really do nothing about it sure they helped weed out racism in FIFA, at different levels of Association Football, but get enough people together and something is bound to happen. As there are still racist displays at Soccer games around the world.

Sure the name issue is a sticking point for the Oneida Nation but there are other more pressing issues facing the Native American population. Unemployment and substance abuse are the biggest issue that come to mind. It’s been said that the placement in Washington of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is ironic being the closest to the Capitol but the issues of the American Indians are often ignored by politicians. This issue isn’t going anywhere as we have the daughter case of Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc before the Patent and Trademark office in Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. Harjo’s case lasted 18 years before it was thrown out, and how are we to know how long this new case will last and what difference it really will make in the long run.

Ultimate Baseball road trip

As inch closer to the date when pitchers and catcher report for spring training some baseball fans get really excited and start planning a way to see as many games as possible. It helps that Major League Baseball has announced times for all the game. Sure some of the diehard fans try to make it to all the stadiums in a season but over at Sports on Earth Will Leitch outlines the ultimate road trip. 30 Stadiums in 30 days and details an itinerary and hopes that some of the games do not go into extra innings or flights are delayed or a game is postponed. The best case scenario road trip is a unique as you are watching a baseball game basically everyday for the entire month of April.

To start off this is a crazy idea but since it has been mentioned on the internet I think there might be some people who try to do an even like this, perhaps not in April but maybe during the summer.  This adventure is also expensive staying at about 30 hotels and racking up lots of frequent flier miles. The best part of this whole thought experiment is the comments that it has received.

I wonder if anyone has ever tried going to all the NBA or NHL arenas in a season.  I think it would be next to impossible to do this in one NFL season as their games are all basically on one day of the week. Perhaps some day I will be able to make it to all the ballparks.

Star Wars news update

Well first things first the script for episode vii is done and this is great news and JJ Abrams has confirmed that filming will begin in May in the UK. There are also some conflicting reports, not really conflicting but really not corroborating either, about who is in the film Carrie Fisher has said that she, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are all in for at least the first one. However Mark Hamill did an AMA on reddit where he wouldn’t confirm this report then again he did say that everyone wants to “keep it a surprise” and with the rate of movie spoilers leaking left and right on just about all movies today it would be nice if there were still some secrets out there.

As for the spin-off movies the ones that will come in between the episodes of the sequel trilogy Kathleen Kennedy has said that they will not interact with the new trilogy. Sure there are the long standing rumors of a Boba Fett movie and a Yoda movie but that can take place at anytime not specific to the saga’s narrative or in Yoda’s case an even longer time ago.  I think that these spin off movies will be like the Clone Wars movie/TV show where they aren’t really necessary but they are pretty cool anyhow.

News round up

Football (American)- The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will be meeting up in Super Bowl 48 in New Jersey (read NYC) in about 10 day (February 2) this will feature the Number one seed in both conferences and the best offense vs the best defense it looks like it will be an exciting game. I’m rooting for Denver to win so Peyton Manning can have a second Super Bowl win to his name before he retires as it seems like this will be happening sooner rather than later as Peyton is 37.

In other Football news Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, has expressed interest in getting rid of PAT(Point After Touchdown) attempts as they have become automatic. It looks like Goodell wants to just get rid of all types of kicks that are essentially meaningless. I hope that there is some thing done to perhaps even make a PAT more difficult, but just like my hope that the NFL will adopt the college rule of placing the ball at the 25 yard line on a touchbacks or making long field goals (more than 50 yards) worth 4 points I doubt anything will happen.

Musicals- NBC has announced that they will be doing Peter Pan as their Live musical this year. It seems like this will be the music of Jule Styne/Mark Charlap and the lyrics of Comden and Green/Carolyn Leigh not the Leonard Bernstein version. The Charlap/Styne musical has been on television before with the likes of Mary Martin and Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan. An interesting thing in the press releases there is specific mention that it is more likely that a boy will be Peter in this production as Peter has usually been played by a female in this musical. It seems they way they have picked these last two musical South Pacific is going to happen soon or some other musical Mary Martin was in.

Religion- I think this is a cool story.  As the story states a Japanese samurai is on the path to sainthood and that starts with being named a blessed. The most interesting thing here is that this samurai was forced out of Japan by the persecutions according to the Bishop of Nagasaki, Takayama Ukon is a good example for us today as after he was ordered to abandon his faith, he instead abandoned his social status, his wealth, his land, his castle. He left behind all his properties, and was even expelled from Japan. These values are still valid for us all today. The bishops of Japan are hoping that he will be canonized in 2015. I think this is a unique story as I have just started to read Silence by Shūsaku Endō. Silence is set during the persecution of Catholics in Japan. It is rumored that this book will be the next Martin Scorsese film.