A few years back I ready St. Augustine’s City of God, which is quite honestly one of the most impressive books I’ve ever read. I had planned to read is Confessions later, but it slipped my mind until recently–a friend mentioned he was reading it, and that reminded me that I’ve meant to read it for a while. Read it I did, and just like the last time, I was thoroughly in awe of what I read.
Confessions is written in a different style than City of God. The latter was intended as an answer to several heresies that had popped, but the former is, well, pretty self-explanatory. St. Augustine is addressing God in this book, acknowledging his past sins and offenses and glorifying God that he was able to turn his life around at all. He glosses over nothing; everything is exposed. He even starts to wonder if being a fussy baby counts as a sin (I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t).
St. Monica makes notable appearances throughout the book, which is understandable since she played a key role in her son’s conversion. She never gave up praying for him even when things looked hopeless. St. Augustine even recounts a brief biography of her life, including how her patience and dedication converted her pagan husband Patricius.
Once again I loved just how alive everyone seemed. This didn’t feel like a book written centuries ago; this felt like something happening today–heck, I felt like I actually knew the people in the book! Once again I wonder if the past is really so primitive as everyone says it was. St. Augustine’s world certainly didn’t seem primitive, and some of the science and math that appears in the book is known to us today. Of course, if I actually went and lived in the past, I’d probably start complaining about things, but viewing it from afar, it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as everyone says.
I have to say that after reading this, St. Augustine feels more like a real person than ever before. I mean, I knew he was real, but he seemed a bit…distant, I guess. But here I felt like I got to know him, and in knowing him got to know God a little bit better, too.
Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee
Because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
If you’re like me, you probably like to meditate on Christ’s Passion on Good Friday. One of the ways that I find helps is to think about the Shroud of Turin, and one of the best resources for that is shroud.com, the official website for the Shroud. This website is run by Barrie Schwortz, who was one of the original researchers on the Shroud of Turin Research Project in 1978. By his own testimony, Schwortz originally believed the Shroud was some sort of painting. But the more the team studied it, the more they found that defied explanation. Although he is Jewish, he strongly believes the Shroud is the real deal: “The only reason I am still involved with the Shroud of Turin is because knowing the unbiased facts continues to convince me of its authenticity.”
All in all, it’s a fascinating website and especially timely for today.
Holy Thursday is always a great time of year to reflect on the great gift that is the Eucharist. To that end, I recommend the new book The Fourth Cup, recently released by Catholic apologist Scott Hahn. The parallels between the Passover and Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary (and, by extension, the Mass) were what spurred his interest in Catholicism back in his Presbyterian days, and they ultimately planted the seeds that led to his conversion. Consequently, the book is filled with a passion and enthusiasm that is difficult to top.
I also have my particular favorite, the presentation on the Fourth Cup. It covers a lot of the same material that Scott Hahn does in his book, but there’s some extra info in there, too.
I have a confession to make–I have never liked Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. I always thought he was stubborn and arrogant; it’s all Gondor all the time with him, and he refused to listen to Elrond, Gandalf, and Aragorn when they kept telling him that in no uncertain terms can they ever use the Ring. I mean, sure, he redeems himself by sacrificing himself to protect Merry and Pippin, but up until that point I’m always, “Why’d we have to bring him again?” Contrawise, I have always loved Faramir from the very first time I read the books. Unlike his older brother, Faramir is not so single-mindedly focused on saving Gondor that he fails to see the big picture, and he actually listens when people tell him the Ring is mucho no bueno (in the books anyway. Don’t get me started on the movies). And the fact that he was never even tempted to use the Ring even when it was three feet in front of him just floored me the first time I read that. Clearly Faramir got all of the awesomeness in the family.
Yet to my surprise, there are people out there–quite a few people–who don’t like Faramir for that very reason! They say he’s too perfect, and that they can’t relate to him because of it. They find Boromir more relatable because of his fallen nature. This upset me at first–why would you prefer the jerky brother over the non-jerky brother?–but over time I began to see a certain logic behind the preference. However, Faramir still plays an important role that I think too many people overlook.
Several years ago, I had a chance to listen to a talk given by Joseph Pearce on the Catholic aspects of The Lord of the Rings, and he was the one who first drew my attention to the parallel of Boromir as a sinner and Faramir as a saint. Boromir had a fallen nature he had to overcome, but Faramir had already overcome that nature (probably because of all the stuff Denethor put him through). So in a sense I can see why more people would like Boromir; we all have fallen natures we have to overcome. But all sinners are called to become saints. Boromir is who we are, but Faramir is who we are supposed to become.
It’s here! It’s finally happened! Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day are the same day! Long have I awaited this occurrence! Sure, it’s cynical and probably evil of me to do so, but having never been a fan of the overwhelming mushiness of St. Valentine’s, I longed for the year that would see Ash Wednesday trump it. And it’s here! Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, baby!
To help with the mood, we have a fine collection of Ash Wednesday/St. Valentine’s Day cards courtesy of Jason Bach Cartoons. It’s a perfect addition for the day when you want to celebrate love but have to remember your inevitable demise, too.
It has been a long and eventful year, but lo and behold, Christmas is here once again.
It’s also the day before the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which means *sniff, sniff* it’s almost Capaldi’s last episode.
But enough about that for now! We can cry about Twelve’s departure after we’ve celebrated Christ’s birth. It’s one of the most stupendous events in the history of the world, that God became Man so that we could have a chance for salvation. By becoming one of us, He restores human nature to its original dignity and reminds us of what we were always meant to be–children of God and heirs of Heaven.