Thursday, June 30, 2016

The History of Vacation Bible School


I have fond memories of Vacation Bible School, of days filled with singing songs, playing games, making crafts, eating silly food, and learning more about my faith. Once I became an adult and began working at the parish where those childhood memories were formed, I couldn’t imagine not making Vacation Bible School a part of our ministry to children. For a great many families, Summer = Vacation Bible School.

I think that’s great, but it also got me wondering: What is the origin of Vacation Bible School? Where did it come from and how did it get started? We are currently deep in "VBS Season", so these are questions worth exploring. After doing some research, I discovered that not only does VBS long predate the 1980’s (when I was a kid), it actually has some roots in Kentucky!

VBS in the Beginning

Vacation Bible School owes its origin to the Sunday schools, tent revivals, and bible institutes of early American Protestantism. All of these eventually required some gathering of children to receive instruction over a prolonged period of time, and VBS organically developed from that.

In the early 19th century, the phenomenon of tent revival meetings emerged. A large tent would be erected, and a traveling preacher would come and give rousing sermons over a span of many days. This strategy for reviving churches and bringing people to Jesus quickly spread throughout the country. Since these gatherings were primarily for adults, it was the practice in some places for the children to receive special instruction before the big event in the evening.

In 1874, inventor Lewis Miller and Methodist Episcopal bishop John H. Vincent founded the Chautauqua Institution, a teaching camp for Sunday School teachers. Soon after, programs for children and families were established, and this model was copied in “Chautauquas” all over the country. The flame died out after World War II, but the original Institution on Chautauqua Lake in New York exists to this day.

In 1898, Mrs. Walker Aylette Hawes established her “Everyday Bible School” to minister to the immigrant children who spent their summer days running the streets of New York City’s East Side. She rented a beer parlor that was not used during the day, and for six weeks she gathered the neighborhood children together for worship music, Bible stories, Scripture memorization, games, crafts, drawing, cooking, etc.

By 1910, the Baptist and Presbyterian Churches had really taken up the banner of Vacation Bible School, formalizing the process and method of instruction and publishing their own VBS textbooks. Two of the earliest and largest publishers of VBS materials – LifeWay and Standad Publishing (now Christian Standard Media) – grew out of these early efforts.

The Kentucky Connection

As a Kentuckian, I was excited to find some slight connections to the birth of VBS in my home state. For example, if we consider tent revivals as providing an impetus for a type of week-long instruction for children during the Summer months, it's worth noting that many historians trace the origin of tent revivals to Kentucky and the Appalachian territories. One of the earliest, if not the first, took place in July of 1800 when Rev. James McCready held a camp meeting at Gasper River Church, near Bowling Green, KY.

Also, remember Mrs. Hawes? Her “Everyday Bible School” provided a form of instruction similar to VBS as we know it today. Well, she was a sister-in-law of John A. Broadus, a founder and later president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. There's no doubt that her Baptist missionary and evangelistic zeal is what prompted the effort to found a bible school for children.

Pretty neat, huh?

VBS Today

Most Protestant and Catholic churches have VBS programs, or they combine their efforts with the churches that do. These programs are usually scheduled at different dates throughout June and July. In fact, if you plan it right, your child won’t have a week of Summer unoccupied! VBS is typically either in the morning, to give the kids a great way to start each day, or in the evening so that the parents who work during the day can also attend. It's best suited for children entering grades K-5, but age ranges can vary. Many churches also provide daycare during VBS so that children who are too young for VBS can still come and participate in activities at their level.

The typical program is made up of several stations that the children will cycle through during the event. These can include: Faith Station, Music Station, Fun & Games Station, Arts and Crafts Station, and Snack Station. There is also typically an Opening Assembly, when skits are performed and the themes of the day are introduced, and a Closing Assembly where the themes of the day are reviewed and any parting gifts are distributed. As "Whole Community Catechesis" has caught on, some churches provide separate educational experiences for parents and adults while the kids are engaged in VBS, or they structure their VBS program in such a way that the parents and the children are participating together. As you can see, there are a lot of ways to structure it, according to the needs of your church or parish.

It’s easy to see why this has become so popular. Vacation Bible School is reasonably priced (free at some churches), it’s a lot of fun for the kids, and it even provides a little break for the parents -- unless you decide to rope them in too! It has been going strong in this country for over 110 years, and shows no signs of slowing down.

For more about the history of Vacation Bible School and what is available today, see the following links:

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, June 24, 2016

Short Q&A on St. John the Baptist

What is “the Nativity of St. John the Baptist”?

Well, it’s today’s feast day, for one thing! More specifically, the word “nativity” means “the event of being born.” So, today we are celebrating the circumstances of John’s birth, and his coming into the world. John is a miracle baby. He was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth even though they were both “advanced in years” or too old to conceive a child (Lk 1:7).

Even if John had not been miraculously conceived we would still have cause to rejoice. Why? Because “he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli'jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared" (Lk 1:16-17).

How can Catholics say that Mary is God’s greatest creation if Jesus himself said, “Among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11)?

First off, here is the passage in question, along with the verses that immediately precede it:
Mt 11:9-11 Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, 'Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.' 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
The context reveals that John is the greatest of the prophets, not the greatest person who ever lived. All of the prophets of the Old Testament told of the coming Messiah and the Kingdom He would inaugurate. But, only John had the privilege of being the immediate precursor of the Messiah, of “preparing the way” for the Lord. Only John was able to see with his own eyes the one who was to come. It is in this sense that John is the greatest.

Note also the last part of vs. 11: “… yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” This means that even the least of the New Covenant saints (those who come after Christ and live according to His grace) outshine the most illustrious saints of the Old Covenant, who lived under the Law and without the sacraments.

The mystery hidden for ages and generations has been revealed to his saints (cf. Col 1:26). As long as we decrease so that Christ may increase (cf. Jn 3:30) we can be sure of a seat beside John in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day, Priests!

On this day when we thank God for our earthly fathers and grandfathers, let us not forget to also thank Him for our priests! They are our spiritual fathers, participating in the supreme Fatherhood of God. Let's also pray for our priests, that God will give them the grace and strength to be faithful to their calling to be great shepherds for His people.

As I'm sure you know, some Protestants have great disdain for our priests. They think we shouldn't have a ministerial priesthood, we shouldn't call priests "father," and these priests certainly shouldn't be celibate! In honor of our priests on Father's Day, I offer the following resources in response to those claims.

"And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jer 3:15).

Praise be to God!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
Celibacy
Ministerial Priesthood
Priest As Spiritual Father
I also have several blog posts on holy orders and the priesthood:

Father's Day Q&A

Since today is Father’s Day, I have provided the following collection of Q&A’s on fathers and fatherhood. Do you have a question about Catholicism? If so, send me an email and I will try my best to answer it.

Why do we call God our “father”?

We call God “father” first of all because He was revealed to us as such. When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He told them to begin by saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven …”. The Catechism gives us other reasons: “By calling God ‘Father’, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children” (no. 239).

But, this does not mean that God is a man. The same paragraph in the Catechism goes on to clarify: “We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.”

Are there any patron saints for fathers?

For the fathers themselves, there are only two: St. Joachim, the father of Mary; and St. Joseph, Mary’s most chaste spouse and Jesus’ foster-father. For those who have lost a father, there are 33 different patron saints. Some of the more popular among these are St. Angelica Merici, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. Maria Goretti, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux.

How come we don’t know more about St. Joseph?

That is a very good question, and all we can really do to provide an answer is speculate. There is a tradition which says that Joseph was an elderly widower when he took Mary to be his wife. If this is true, then he likely died when Jesus was very young and so not much would be known about him by the followers of Jesus.

The last we see of St. Joseph in Scripture is at the temple, where he and Mary finally find Jesus, who had become separated from their traveling party. After this, there is a 12-year silence about the life of Christ. Joseph resides within this silence. Perhaps this is fitting. After all, the little information we have about Jesus’ earthly father causes his Heavenly
Father to come into greater view. Scripture tells us a great many things about that Father!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

St. Joseph for Father's Day

Since today is Father’s Day, it seemed fitting to provide for you a quick biographical sketch of St. Joseph, one of the greatest fathers who ever lived.

The most reliable sources of information on the life of Joseph come from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. There we read that Joseph was a descendant of David (cf. Lk 2:4), from the tribe of Judah. He was probably born in Bethlehem, since he had to go there for the census (cf. Lk 2:1-5). At some point he moved to Nazareth in Galilee, where he was betrothed to Mary. He was a “carpenter” by trade (cf. Mt 13:55); the Greek word describes a craftsman skilled in all kinds of woodwork and masonry. Jesus was later referred to as a carpenter as well (cf. Mk 6:3), which means that Joseph must have passed on his trade to his son.

While Joseph and Mary were betrothed, Mary was found to be with child (cf. Mt 1:18). At first Joseph decided to quietly break off the engagement, so as not to subject Mary to ridicule. But, then he had a dream of an angel who told him that the child was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and not to fear to take Mary as his wife (cf. Mt 1:20-21). He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him (cf. Mt 1:24).

Later, because of the census, Joseph took Mary with him to Bethlehem and it was there where Jesus was born. After the visit of the Magi, Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod sought to kill the child. He fled with his family to Egypt and remained there until Herod’s death (cf. Mt 2:13-15). After this, Joseph settled his family back in Nazareth (cf. Mt 2:23).

Many years later, when Jesus was twelve, Joseph and Mary “looked for Him anxiously” when they lost Jesus on the trip home from Jerusalem, where they were celebrating the Passover. Eventually they found him in the Jerusalem Temple (cf. Lk 2:41-50). When they returned to Nazareth, Jesus was obedient to both his parents, and “increased in wisdom and in stature” under their care (cf. Lk 2:51-52).

What can we learn about Joseph’s character based on all of this? Well, Matthew describes him as a “just man” (Mt 1:19). From his immediate obedience to his many dreams (four in all; cf. Mt 1:20-21; 2:13, 19-20, 22), we can see that Joseph was a man of great faith who possessed a heart open to the slightest promptings of the Lord. In the gospels, Joseph thinks and acts but never speaks. We can take from this that Joseph leads more by example than by words. Also, to guide and protect his family through their various travels must have taken great strength and courage. In anxious moments, Joseph never faltered. Finally, from our belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity, we can deduce that Joseph was a chaste man and a master over his sexual impulses.

On this Father’s Day, let us pray that more fathers will heed the example of St. Joseph. He is everything that every man and father could ever hope to be.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for Us!

It is undoubtedly fitting that after celebrating the Sacred Heart of Jesus we should, the very next day, celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her heart is indeed most pure, and it burns for the conversion of souls to her Son.

For more on the Immaculate Heart of Mary, see the articles below.

O heart most pure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, obtain for me from Jesus a pure and humble heart!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

- - - - -

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

As for my own meager attempt, see Defending the Immaculate Heart.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Reserve some time on this day for Eucharistic Adoration and for praying the novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I also recommend the following for spiritual reading, as you contemplate the Heart that is enflamed with love for sinners.


"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame"
(So 8:6).

"For our God is a consuming fire"
(Heb 12:29).

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, May 29, 2016

For the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

In honor of today's Solemnity, I have decided to repost the portion from the "Sacraments" Topical Index Page on the Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Jesus, Living Bread which came down from heaven ... have mercy on us.

Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Short Introduction to the Trinity

For Trinity Sunday, my answer to a difficult question:

Can you please explain the Trinity?

I always cringe a little when I get this one. First of all, there's so many different ways to go about it. My head always swims with the many possible ways I could approach the question. Secondly, how do I explain this simply? When someone asks you to explain the Trinity, they're typically not looking for an elaborate treatise on the subject. They just want the gist of it. But how do you give the gist of an inexhaustible mystery?

Since I became a DRE in 2008, the RCIA process has given several opportunities to hone my skill at explaining the unexplainable. I guess I'll have to devote the rest of my life to trying to get down to "the gist of it." For now, here is the approach that I take.

I think it's important to begin by looking at what a “mystery” is. In a theological context, a “mystery” is something revealed by God that is beyond full comprehension.

It is revealed by God: this means that it is God’s own self-discloser to us. God desired to share this aspect of Himself with us so that we might know Him better!

It is beyond full comprehension: this means that we will never completely understand the Trinity. We can definitely know certain things about it, but not everything.

At first this seems like a source of frustration, but think about it: In a world full of empty pleasures and fleeting joys, isn’t it reassuring to know that we have a God who our minds can never fully consume? We can plum the depths of our Trinitarian Lord forever and ever! He is like a bottomless wellspring, or a banquet table without end.

With that in mind, the doctrine of the Trinity is basically this: God is 3 Persons equally and fully possessive of a single divine nature. 3 Persons in 1 God. But, how can that be? 3 does not equal 1, and it’s not enough for the inquiring mind to simply “take it on faith.” There must be some way to understand this better. For me, it helps to know more about the categories involved. Notice, we are talking about “person” and “nature.” If the teaching was that God was 3 persons in 1 person, or 3 natures in 1 nature, that would be absurd. But that’s not what we’re saying. There are two different categories involved -- person and nature -- and so the interplay between them is going to be different.

Okay, but what does “person” and “nature” mean? Nature answers the question “What?”. What kind of a being am I? I am a human being. This means I have a human nature. This also means that I can only do things that are in accordance with a human nature. I can think and love and read a book ... but I can’t breathe underwater. That would be in accordance with a fish nature, and I am not a fish!

Person answers the question “Who?”. When you see an animal walking by, you don’t say, “Who is that?” because animals are not persons. “Who?” is a question that can only be answered by human beings and by God. Your personhood is also the source of what you do. That “you” inside of you, the “I” inside of me, that is my personhood. I am not the color of my skin, I am me. My human nature does not do things, I do them.

Now, we only experience nature and personhood at a 1:1 ratio. I am my own person, and I have my own unique manifestation of the human nature. This means that you can’t think with my mind, and I can’t love with your heart. But, within God, personhood and nature exist at a 3:1 ratio. If me, and you, and a third person all thought with the same mind or loved with the same heart ... that would sort of be like how the Trinity works.

When you think of it that way, then I think the Trinity begins to make a little more sense. At least, I hope it does! Note that this is only the briefest introduction. But, it is important groundwork that must be laid before one can begin a study of what God has revealed about Himself.

For more from me on the Trinity, see the following blog posts:
I also highly suggest F. J. Sheed's explanations of the Trinity. He was a master of granting the average layman access to the great mysteries of the faith, and I must admit that I have borrowed much of my approach to the Trinity from him. See the following works, which are available online:
Finally, I must recommend these videos from Bishop Robert Barron. He too is a master at making the mysteries of our faith more accessible, while still remaining faithful to them

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Significance of Pentecost

Most people only know Pentecost as a Christian holiday, one that commemorates the day when the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and disciples of Christ as they gathered in the Upper Room after the Ascension. While the apostles and disciples remained in Jerusalem out of obedience to Christ (cf. Acts 1:4-5), Scripture tells us that Jews from many different nations were also present in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:5, 9-11). They were present for a different reason: The Jewish Feast of Pentecost.

Pentecost is originally a Jewish holiday. Along with Passover and Tabernacles, it is one of the three Great Feasts of the Jewish calendar. The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word which means “fiftieth.” The feast takes this name because it occurs fifty days after the second day of the Passover.

To the Jewish people, Pentecost has historical and agricultural significance. Historically, Pentecost commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Since God accommodated his Law to an agricultural people, it enjoins upon the Jews various grain offerings. So, agriculturally, Pentecost also commemorates the time when the first fruits of the wheat harvest were harvested and brought to the temple in the form of two cakes of leavened bread (cf. Lev 23:17).

As Christians, we may ask ourselves what significance there is to the fact that Jesus decided to pour out His Holy Spirit upon the Church on this Jewish Feast. I think there are many instances in which the Christian celebration of Pentecost proves to be a sort of fulfillment of the Jewish Feast.

The Jewish Feast celebrates the beginning of the wheat harvest by offering the first of the harvested wheat to the Lord. In the Christian Feast, we celebrate the beginning of the Christian Church, when Jesus harvested 3000 souls who were cut to the heart by Peter’s teaching and were baptized. Jesus Christ Himself is the first fruit (“of those who have fallen asleep,” cf. 1 Cor 15:20), and we too are a kind of first fruits by the grace He has given us (cf. Jas 1:18). Finally, the Spirit that the Church received on that day guides us into all truth and knowledge of God’s Will in a way that far surpasses what was given in the Torah.

So, in many ways, the Jewish feast of Pentecost was the perfect day to set in motion the Church that God had in mind from the very beginning.

For more information about the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, see the following resources:Dr. Bergsma's three posts on the readings for Pentecost are also excellent:Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, May 08, 2016

"Happy" Mother's Day?

"We should all be thankful for our mothers" ... that was the message of today's homily. My first thought was, "What about all those who have lousy mothers, mothers who do drugs, who physically or verbally abuse their children, who are always ridiculing their daughters about their weight, who bring home strange men every night, who are overprotective and overbearing? What about them?" I'm sure that there were quite a few people in the pews who dread "Mother's Day" and find nothing "happy" about it whatsoever. For some reason, all of those people came to mind as the priest was speaking, and I wished that he would have spoken to them too.

But, after I thought about this some more, I realized that, in a way, he was speaking to them. Now, he never addressed this explicitly, but it still holds true that we should all--as in, every single one of us--be thankful on Mother's Day. But why?

Well, for one, the fact that you are even reading this right now means that, however sinful your mother may be, at least she didn't make the decision that thousands of other mothers make and "terminate her pregnancy." Instead, she decided to let you live. No sharp instruments were thrust into your skull, praise God! Your mother spared you from such cruelty. If you have ever been weak or totally dependent on another person, then I'm sure you understand how wonderful it is to have someone care for you, instead of rejecting you or harming you. This is what your mother did for you when she bore you and gave birth to you.

Now, to this some may say, "Yea, and she's been giving me hell for it ever since!" Unfortunately, for some mothers, the choice to bring their children into the world was only a momentary kindness, one that they overshadow with daily acts of cruelty and disrespect towards their children. It is here that the second reason to be thankful presents itself.

Despite the imperfections of our mothers, we can all say that we have a mother who is perfect. That woman is Mary, the Mother of God, and the mother of all those who are made brothers and sisters of Christ through the grace of her Son. Just as Sarah was the spiritual mother of the Jews (and of all who "do right", cf. 1 Pet 3:6), Mary is the spiritual mother of "those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus" (Rev 12:17). She loves all of her children with a tender and motherly love. She prays for her children daily, and she wants nothing more than for them to find the happiness of heaven.

In Christ, we are never motherless. He will never leave us orphan (cf. Jn 14:18). No amount of hatred or disregard can take that away from us. If you suffer at the hand of your earthly mother, flee to your spiritual mother. This can be difficult in a world where it seems that the only thing that is real is the material. But, we must have faith that Mary will come to our aid, that she will intercede for us to her Son as she did for the wedding party at the feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:1-11). She loves you, she loves us all, and in her is reason enough for us all to be happy on Mother's Day.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

PS: The Church is our mother too!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Who Was Responsible for the Ascension of Jesus?

Or, to put it another way:

Did Jesus ascend into heaven by His own power or did the Father raise Jesus into heaven?

Before we can answer this question, we need to define some terms, because sometimes people get the Ascension confused with the Resurrection. The “Resurrection” is when the human soul of Jesus returned from Hades and brought His body in the tomb back to life again. The “Ascension” occurred 40 days later when Jesus rose, body and soul, into heavenly glory.

Now, there are some passages in Scripture that portray the Ascension as something that happened to Jesus. In other words, He is the passive recipient of what is taking place. For example:
  • Mk 16:19 “The Lord Jesus … was taken up into heaven”
  • Lk 24:51 “he … was carried up into heaven”
  • Acts 1:9 “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him”
  • Phil 2:9 “God has highly exalted him”
  • 1 Tim 3:16 “He was … taken up in glory”
  • 1 Pet 1:21 “God raised him from the dead and gave him glory”
  • Rev 12:5 “was caught up to God and to his throne”

However, there are other passages that portray Jesus as the actor, as the one doing the ascending Himself:
  • Eph 4:8 “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives”
  • Eph 4:10 “he … ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things”
  • Heb 9:12 “he entered once for all into the holy place”
  • Heb 9:24 “Christ has entered … into heaven itself”
  • 1 Pet 3:21-22 “Jesus Christ ... has gone into heaven”
  • Rev 3:21 “I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne”

This means that we cannot give an “either / or” answer to the question of who is responsible for the Ascension. This was the work of our trinitarian God. All three Persons of the Trinity were involved.

Happy Solemnity of the Ascension!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, April 03, 2016

What Is the Divine Mercy? How Can We Honor It?

Today's feast day compels us to ask these important questions. Basically, the “Divine Mercy” is the kindness, and forbearance, and forgiveness of God towards men. It is His readiness to assist sinners with His loving grace. It is an essential attribute of God, perfectly embodied in the Person of Jesus.

The message and devotion to Jesus as “The Divine Mercy” is based on the writings of St. Faustina Kowalksa, a Polish nun from the 1930’s who received many revelations from Christ about His mercy and His desire that mankind be devoted to it. She wrote the content of these revelations in a diary over 600-pages long. Pope John Paul II, being from Poland, had a strong devotion to the Divine Mercy, and when he made Sr. Faustina a saint in the year 2000 he also declared that the second Sunday of Easter would be a feast day dedicated to the Divine Mercy for the Universal Church.

The Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception have developed an acronym you can use to remember the message of the Divine Mercy and how to live out a devotion to this Mercy. Just remember your “ABC’s”:
  • A — Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.
  • B — Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
  • C — Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive His grace and mercy.
A devotion to the Divine Mercy typically also entails daily praying of the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 PM (the hour of Jesus’ death), displaying the image of the Divine Mercy in one’s home, and receiving the Eucharist on the second Sunday of Easter, “Divine Mercy Sunday.”

I can tell you that praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet has helped me tremendously in finding more peace in my life and in overcoming sin. It is a very simple yet beautiful prayer, and also an excellent first step for anyone who is just beginning to use rosary beads when he prays.

For more on the Divine Mercy, see my previous post: Is the Divine Mercy Chaplet a Cop-Out? (short answer: No!)

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Resurrection Poem for Easter

The following poem is from the compilation Garlands of Grace, selected and introduced by Dr. Regis Martin. It is especially pertinent on this wonderful Easter Sunday.

Resurrection
by Leonard Feeney

In crocus fashion, sunlight-wise,
The body of Our Lord
Slipped through the stone-bound sepulchre,
Streamed through the soldier's sword.

Though stripped and whipped and spat upon,
Sundered by nail and spear,
Thus did our dust in Him prevail
At the robin-time of the year.

Albeit our interval under earth
Must needs much longer last,
Let there be always ready the roll
Of drums and the trumpet blast.

With bones ablaze and flesh aflash
And hair set flying free,
So shall I come to you, loved ones,
So shall you come to me.

Quick Defense of the Resurrection of Jesus

Here is my Q&A for the Easter Sunday bulletin at my church. I thought it fitting on this day to answer a question about the resurrection of Jesus.

Please note that, with only the space of a column to work within, I had to cut out a lot of information (for example, why the New Testament is trustworthy as proof of the resurrection) and additional proofs. I would expand upon it here but honestly, I'm enjoying my time away from the computer. I think that, as it is, this post is at least a good start. For more information, I highly suggest Peter Kreeft's "Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ," a chapter from his Handbook of Christian Apologetics that you can read online.

That said, how would you answer this question?:

What proof is there in the resurrection of Jesus?

First, let's outline what happened. The Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet who claimed to be the Messiah, was arrested, condemned by Pontius Pilate, and crucified. He was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, which was sealed with a large boulder and guarded by Roman soldiers. Three days later, some women who went to His tomb found the boulder removed and the body gone. In a span of 40 days, He appeared to over 500 people and then ascended into heaven. But, is it true?

With any historical event, you discover what happened by utilizing eyewitness accounts and the documents of those who collected such accounts. For the resurrection of Jesus, the New Testament is our primary source for such documentary evidence. There simply is not enough room here to defend the historical reliability of the New Testament, but trust me, we can be exceedingly confident in the purity of the New Testament as it has come down to us (despite the fact that we do not have the originals), and we can rest assured that it gives us an accurate reporting of what actually happened.

That said, we know that Jesus resurrected from the dead because: 1.) all of the reliable historical evidence tells us that He did, and 2.) There is no other explanation that better accounts for the facts of the matter. Of course, people have their theories, but they are easily refuted.

Some say that, in their great psychological distress, everyone who thought they saw the resurrected Lord was actually hallucinating. But, 500 people hallucinating the same thing? Not likely. You can’t touch a hallucination either (like Thomas did), and last time I checked, hallucinations don’t eat, nor do they last for 40 days.

Others say that once Jesus died, the apostles realized that He was actually a quack and so, to avoid embarrassment, they devised a grand conspiracy to fool everyone into believing that He was actually the Messiah. Also not likely. For one, these are simple people we’re talking about here. The apostles did not have the brains to conceive of such a perfect scheme. Secondly, the conspiracy theory requires them to do things that would have been nearly impossible, such as rolling away the boulder, separating Jesus’ body from the burial linens (which by then would have been securely glued to his skin), and then running away with the body all without the Roman guards seeing. There’s also the fact that no one travels to far distant lands and then suffers a martyr’s death for a lie — unless he is absolutely deranged!

The fact is that the tomb was empty, Jesus appeared to over 500 people during those 40 days, and the gospel message spread like wildfire because Jesus Christ had truly risen from the dead. Thanks be to God! Alleluia!!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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