Teenage Adventures

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Super-Bowl-XXII MVP Doug Williams

Today we keep the 130th anniversary of the holy death of St. John Bosco. Among many other accomplishments, Don Bosco published an apologetics magazine. Catholic Readings defended Catholic faith and practice, using extensive Scripture citations. To protect and fortify the souls of teenage boys, Don Bosco became a famous media mogul. He is the first canonized saint ever to have been interviewed by a newspaper reporter.

Now, speaking of teenage boys… Today we also mark the 30th anniversary of the greatest of all the Super Bowls, number XXII, which took place under the open sky, in San Diego, California.

don bosco catholic readingsIn those simpler times, the late 1980’s, it could come to pass that a middle-class lawyer in Washington, D.C., might find himself in possession of two Super Bowl tickets, through a business connection. He might think of giving those two precious tickets to his enterprising 17- and 15-year-old sons.

Those sons might buy cheap airplane tickets with their part-time-job money. They might learn the San Diego public transit system. The boys might, with their own eyes, then behold Doug Williams the Great making mincemeat of the Denver Broncos defense, in a resounding 42-10 MVP performance. The boys might have seats right behind the very end-zone in which the Washington Redskins scored five touchdowns in the second quarter. Then, the young men might catch a bus to the airport, then a red-eye flight back east, and find themselves in school before the first bell rang on Monday morning—which was the one stipulation their mother made in order to grant her permission for the trip.

Such adventures could happen in 1988, and they did. In those days, we did not suffer from as much fear of the outdoors as we do now. I’m not sure the world was really any safer then. But dads like ours had faith in Providence, so they weren’t afraid to let their teenage sons travel clear across the country on their own, to go to the Super Bowl. Also, my brother and I were tall and big and maybe a little cleverer than most 17- and 15-year-olds.

Anyway, Don Bosco knew that publishing his magazine involved risking his life. Mid-19th-century Italy was no safe place for a well-known zealous Catholic priest. In those days, people got beat up in the streets for defending the papacy. But Don Bosco prized the souls of his young readership over his own mortal life.

Faith in Jesus’ Father can, and does, give you the kind of courage that can turn life into an adventure.

Mark White Redskins fan

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From Advent Part I to Advent Part II

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Today the “first part” of Advent concludes. Tomorrow, the truly frantic Christmas shopping begins.

Seriously, though. Everybody know that the season of Advent has two parts? During the first part, at Holy Mass each day, we have prayed and read Scripture passages about the coming of Christ considered as a whole.

He came as the long-awaited Messiah, fulfilling the prophecies of old. He came to reveal the eternal plan of God for our salvation, inaugurating the New and eternal Covenant for the forgiveness of sins. He came in mystery, veiled in human flesh, in order to prepare us for the final consummation, when His glory will fill the earth.

The pre-eminent message of Advent, Part I? Repent! And the pre-eminent messenger? The star of Advent, Part I, so to speak? John the Baptist.

And the star of Advent, Part II? James Earl Jones, of course, doing the voice of Darth Vader again, after over 30 years! Just kidding.

During the second part of Advent, we pray and read about the events preceding the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem. Advent, Part II, has numerous stars, including St. Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, the actual star itself, shining over Bethlehem…But who is the pre-eminent Lady of the days before Christmas? The Blessed Virgin Mary, of course.

May she intercede to help the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. And may she lead us all to a merry Christmas day.

St. Jude and Balaam’s Animal

As we hear at today’s Holy Mass, the Lord Jesus chose Saints Simon and Jude as two of His twelve Apostles.

St. Jude eventually wrote a letter to the Christian faithful, which can be found in the New Testament; it is the next-to-last book of the Bible.

In his letter, St. Jude tells us to avoid “Balaam’s error.”

[Imagine you’re in Catholic school and the priest is asking you…] Anyone ever been sitting watching t.v., or playing a video game, and mom says, “Time to do this!” or dad says, “Time to do that?” Anybody ever been in a group of friends, and someone starts talking about another person behind his or her back, making fun of that person? Anyone ever been working on schoolwork, and then suddenly a friend calls or shows you something, or you do a web-search, and suddenly there’s a quick and dirty way to print out something to turn in, even though it’s not really my own work at all?

Balaam was an ancient priest, way before Jesus came and gave us the Mass, way before the Temple in Jerusalem was even built. Balaam lived in what is now the Holy Land, before the Israelites came back from Egypt. One of the pagan kings wanted Balaam to sacrifice to the gods and then curse the people of Israel.

Balaam knew that it was not the right thing to do. He knew that God had chosen the Israelites to form a covenant with the human race. So, at first, Balaam refused.

But the pagan king tried to sweeten the deal. He put more pressure on Balaam. “Come on. Curse the Israelites! I will make it worth your while.”

So Balaam hedged. He knew it was wrong, but he thought, “Well, let me just go and see the king, and we’ll see what happens.” He thought maybe he could compromise between right and wrong, and that way he could have his cake and eat it, too. He could be holy and popular. He could be righteous and rich.

So Balaam got on his donkey to go to the king. But once they got on the road, the donkey kept swerving off to the side. So Balaam beat the donkey mercilessly. “Come on, animal!” Then the donkey kept lying down in the road. So Balaam beat the donkey more, and yelled at it.

Then a miracle occurred, and the donkey spoke, and more or less said, “Look, man. Even I, a donkey, know that you are not doing the right thing. When it comes to doing the will of God, and avoiding sin, you can’t compromise. I’m just trying to keep you out of trouble here.”

No compromises with temptation. Our own donkeys will have it over us, if we think we can please both God and the devil at the same time.

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My brother wore his RG III jersey on CNBC this morning!  Yea 'Skins!
My brother wore his RG III jersey on CNBC this morning! Yea ‘Skins! Monday Night Football, October 27, 2014, will go down in history.

Two Types of Perpetual Dissatisfaction

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“We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.” Luke 7:32

Two kinds of perpetual dissatisfaction: Holy unhappiness and un-holy unhappiness.

Life can be long and hard. Not all food tastes good. Not everyone who sings sings well. Some drivers evidence no concern for the fact that I am in a hurry. Not everyone knows or cares when it’s my birthday. Sometimes it rains when I’m supposed to go on a picnic.

Nonetheless: Every day I get to gaze upon the wonder of God’s creation. God gives me daily bread and, for today, keeps me out of a lonely, dusty grave. Interesting people and attractive opportunities beckon from just around the corner.

Un-holy unhappiness comes from not wanting to bother to lift up my eyes to everything the good God is trying to give me. Then all I can do is feel sorry for myself and spend my mental energy criticando la gente, even though I have a wooden beam in both of my own eyes.

All that said, the Lord proclaims that those who mourn are blessed, that those who weep now will laugh in the kingdom of God. Those who mourn and weep because this world is not God. And it is nowhere near what it should be, because of the sins of mankind. And I am nowhere near what I should be, because of my sins. Who could really be happy in this cloudy world, even if he or she owned everything–but did not have God?

I mean, like I was trying to say on Sunday: Sure, a guy can enjoy oneself kicking back and watching the Washington Redskins whip up on the poor Jacksonville Jaguars. A guy can enjoy seeing my man Kirk Cousins finally get his chance to show the world that he is the superior quarterback. Sure.

But it isn’t perfect; it isn’t heaven; it isn’t the be-all and end-all.

The only real be-all and end-all dwells on the other side of a veil. Only the power of Jesus Christ can penetrate the veil. None of us will really be satisfied until He catapults us through it, by His unimaginable spiritual power.

May God preserve us from un-holy unhappiness by stoking within us the fires of raging dissatisfaction with anything less than God.

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Final Jeopardy

Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades involves the most-successful Jeopardy! contestants ever. The most bone-crushingly excellent trivia masters living in our humble nation.

So: Final Jeopardy! Category: Supreme Court Decisions. Clue: “On Dec. 20, 1956 the Court’s ruling on Browder v. Gayle went into effect, bringing an end to this 381-day event.”

Now, you and I immediately think: Okay, Browder v. Gayle doesn’t mean much to me… But: 381-day event concluding in December, 1956? Easy. What is the Montgomery Bus Boycott?

Admittedly, the clue could have read, ‘The event that made Rosa Parks famous.’ Then all three of the blistering geniuses probably would have written the correct response. But, as it was, none of them got it! Three of the most mind-like-a-steel-trap people in America, and none of them wrote down the correct response!

Parkman Oregon TrailI was beside myself. We Americans may be smart and use our iPhones dextrously. But we do not know any real history. We do not know the details that make it interesting.

For over a year, they walked, carpooled, hitched to work. Through all weathers. For over a year, Dr. King hung tight, insisting with an iron will that his people continue to find a way other than the bus–through a year’s worth of dark, doubtful nights, with the burden of all their hardships laying upon him.

How can the smartest people in our country not know these crucial details? The Montgomery Bus Boycott easily could have been broken–it appeared to be broken multiple times–and then where would be be? What would have become of ‘the Movement?’ How can we not know the crucial details of our proudest, most genuinely interesting moments?

…In honor of the beginning of the Redskins season, I read Francis Parkman’s book about his time with the Ogillallah Sioux. (Click HERE to read Herman Melville’s review of the book.)

Parkman wanted to grow up to write the history of the American colonists’ interactions with the natives. So, at 23, he took it upon himself to live in a wandering Dahcotah village for the summer of 1846. (Using Parkman’s spellings for the Indian words here.)

The book bears the confusing title The Oregon Trail–which it is not about. But Parkman can write like nobody’s business. He offers an intimate portrayal of his companions. Not exactly sympathetic. But evocative, realistic, and utterly gripping.

redskins-logoThese particular prairie Redskins adorned themselves with the body parts of their slain enemies. To attain manhood meant taking someone’s scalp. The warriors treated their multiple squaws like domestic slaves, prone to divorce them on any pretext whatever. In other words, they were tough as hell. And had a worldview somewhat like ISIS.

God forbid that I would ever cheer for a team called the “Washington N***ers.” But the idea that ‘Redskins’ carries similar connotations–that idea cannot withstand any scrutiny of the actual facts of history. The history of the word ‘Redskin’ is completely different. And, these days, the term has no common usage whatsoever.

Except to refer to the most lovable sports franchise in the history of the world!

Baptized Burgundy and Gold

Redskins picked up defensive end Jason Hatcher from the Cowboys. Doc Walker, the St. Thomas Aquinas of NFC-East theology, determined that this required a baptism.

Oscar Wilde got a lot of comic mileage out of re-christenings in The Importance of Being Earnest. I don’t think Doc intends anything sacrilegious. Football may not involve divine grace, but it does require commitment.

David Recovering

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Kind David enjoyed a sparkling early life. With God’s help, he slew Goliath. He ascended the throne of Judah in a thoroughly honorable fashion. He played the harp and danced to the glory of God. He brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem as the people exulted with joy. David commanded a powerful army and ruled an extensive kingdom. What could go wrong?

Well, lust. Dishonesty. Malice. The king lost his way spiritually. His own son rebelled against him. David had to flee for his life.

Now, Peyton Manning had a rough night on Sunday.* But it was nothing compared to what King David went through late in life.

Bad as things got, though, David never lost his fundamental sense of right and wrong. When he had sinned, he knew it. And he admitted it. He never lost the humility of the shepherd boy he had been. Even at his lowest, David trusted in and revered God.

In other words, David never became self-centered. So, when his son was killed, even though Absalom had betrayed him, David wept. David had committed grave sins, but he never became hard-hearted. He would rather have died than see his son die, even though Absalom had been gunning brazenly for David’s life.

TP_278400_LYTT_DWILLIAMS_1Reverence for God keeps us from losing our way completely, even when we make mistakes. Yes, we fall. Tell lies, do wrong, mess up our obligations.

But if we always give God His due—if we pray every day and go to church every Sunday—then He gets us back on track somehow. He keeps our hearts close to Him. When we keep our religion intact, even if we sin, we can recover from our mistakes and find the right path again.

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* The Denver Broncos have gotten whupped in the Super Bowl before, by a similar score, by an NFC team from the other Washington. Super Bowl XXII ended 42-10.

Your humble servant witnessed it firsthand, in San Diego, on January 31, 1988, with his beloved younger brother, with tickets our venerable father lucked into. The man handed his 17- and 15-year-old sons two tickets to the Super Bowl and said, “Have at it. If you can get yourselves there, and be back before the first bell at school the following morning, I can’t wait to hear about it.” That’s how we rolled back in the 80’s, peeps.

In heaven, that’s the Super Bowl that will be on.

Santa Claus Day

santa-clausWe say, of course, that every day belongs to Jesus.

Today, December 6, however, actually does belong to Santa Claus.

Very few holiday shoppers realize that Santa Claus risked his life to defend the Catholic faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The stylish and mellifluous Arius of Alexandria had gained worldwide fame for his brilliant compromise between the Christian religion and the sophisticated Greek and Roman people. Jesus should be esteemed as an excellent man, worthy of the highest admiration, but…

Santa Claus attended the first-ever world-wide council of bishops, held in Nicaea, in Asia Minor, now Turkey. As we well know, the Council declared that Jesus is not just extremely cool and worth going shopping in honor of, He is also consubstantial with the Father. He is God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made.

What’s even worse than falling off the fiscal cliff? Having a spiritual house built on sand. Winds blow. Rains fall. Floods come.

In his day, Arius had as much cache as Bono and Bill O’Reilly put together. There were a lot more Arian churches than Catholic churches back in those days.

redskins-ravensBut it wasn’t true. Arius’ teaching was less than true. Christ is no angel-man. Christ is the God-man. Santa Claus went to the mat for that precise truth. Santa Claus built his spiritual house in the north pole on the rock of the true faith.

Because, as every child knows, “North Pole” is a code-phrase for: Heaven.

Happy feast day, Santa!

Now, we know you won’t mind, Santa, that we will spend the next nineteen days focusing exclusively on Jesus Christ, since that is what you spent every day of your earthly life doing.

PS. The Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins face-off in the regular season every four years.

Four years ago, the hallowed tradition of St.-Nicholas-Day(ish) contests for Beltway bragging rights began. That was not a happy afternnon, December 7, 2008. It was painful.

Will this Sunday afternoon prove otherwise? Will the RGIIIeeeeeeeeeeee
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!! train keep rolling? Santa could make us very happy this year, with one little W at FedEx. Everything is riding on it, Santa!

Hoyas’ Season Clickin’ + New Evangelization

This past week, the Georgetown Hoyas got some nice wins over Memphis and Ooey Pooey. Next up: Crimson Tide! (Tomorrow 9:30 p.m. EST) Plus, the Redskins actually won a football game!

How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14)

Catholics tend to have an ingrained aversion to proselytizing people. We do not practice the hard sell with our religion.

For good reason. The hard sell doesn’t work. Conversion to the truth does not happen in a moment of high-pressure enthusiasm. It takes a lifetime. We work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. God forbid that we would presume to have it all figured out.

But…

Anybody ever heard of the “New Evanglization?”

Evangelization began when the Lord said to Peter and Andrew, “I will make you fishers of men.”

At that particular moment, most of the sons and daughters of the earth had never heard of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of the world.

Someone had to tell them about Him.

Christ beckoned, and an enterprise ensued, the likes of which the world has never seen. The Apostles fanned-out, traversed seas, offered their lives in sacrifice for the mission.

Now a 130-foot statue of the carpenter of Nazareth towers over a bay 6,000 miles away from the Sea of Galilee. The Peoples Republic of China publishes a postage stamp with a picture of a Jesuit priest on it. The good news of Christ has reached the ends of the earth.

But still we must fish for men.

People do not come into this world knowing what we know about Jesus Christ. Many of us learned about the Lord by coming to church with our parents week after week when we were young. But what about the people who grew up without anyone to “church” them?

What about all the people who got somewhat “churched”—but then un-churched themselves out of laziness and/or confusion? Doesn’t this number include plenty of people near and dear to us?

Aren’t we supposed to fish for all these people’s souls? After all, we read in Holy Writ: the Lord wills that all be saved.

In every case, to every person, the Lord longs to declare His love. He operates like a relentless suitor. His plan for getting down on His knees and proposing to every human soul involves us in some mysterious way.

We believe that God took our human nature to Himself and willingly died so that we could live forever with Him. He rose again and conquered every evil. All He asks for in return is humble love and fidelity.

We can deliver this message, the gospel of Jesus. We can help people believe by giving them the word of truth.

Every case of evangelization is unique. Our job is to maintain constant vigilance for good opportunities to lift high the cross of Christ and say to someone, ‘I love you,’ on Almighty God’s behalf.