The BEST Christmas music album – FREE!

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

I so enjoy passing on free stuff to you, Dear Reader! As we relish in the Christmas season (which lasts another 2 weeks, mind you), I can’t neglect to sing the praises of a free-to-download Christmas album:

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

For Unto Us a Child Is Born (Christendom College Choir & Schola Gregoriana)

  1. Vesper Bell
  2. Conditor Alme Siderum/Creator of the Stars of Night
  3. Veni, Veni Emmanuel
  4. Rorate Caeli
  5. Ave Maria
  6. Cum Ortus Fuerit/Magnificat
  7. Alma Redemptoris Mater
  8. Alma Redemptoris Mater
  9. Prelude in G Major for Organ
  10. Joy To The World
  11. Hark The Herald Angels Sing
  12. Puer Natus Est
  13. Kyrie
  14. Gloria
  15. This Is The Time/Magnificat
  16. Puer Natus In Bethlehem
  17. O Come All Ye Faithful
  18. Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming
  19. Angels We Have Heard On High
  20. Silent Night
  21. Pealing Bells

This is the best Christmas music collection I’ve ever heard. It never fails to raise my mind and heart to Heaven. Click here to find it in the iTunes Store. Don’t neglect the sacred music in your music collections – especially now that we’re in the middle of Christmas!

Do you have a favorite Christmas song or album?

P.S. Christendom College has other great music and lectures to download for free in iTunes U – don’t miss out!

Christmas Generosity [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Marshall-McLuhan-Monday_Catholic

Marshall-McLuhan-Monday_Catholic

At Mass yesterday, Father stressed the importance of maintaining a generous spirit this Christmas season. Looking to Marshall McLuhan as an example during the Year of Faith, I found a nice story illustrating McLuhan’s generous spirit.

The story comes to us from Ryerson University alum Tony Joaquin:

I came to Ryerson from the Philippines on a one-year fellowship in radio and television sponsored by the Canada Council. I was the first Filipino and Asian to ever take such a fellowship in a North American setting.

During a briefing session at St. Michael’s College at University of Toronto, I met a passionate man of letters whose magnetic personality and keen mind I would later admire – Marshall McLuhan – and first heard his now iconic phrases ‘hot and cold medium,’ ‘the medium is the message’ and ‘the global village.’

As a student of mass media, I met with Professor McLuhan that fall and I likened those meetings to graduate study sessions.

One day, he paused in the middle of our chat, puffed on his cigar, and asked, ‘Tony, will you be busy on Christmas Day?’

And that’s how I came to be the only guest of Professor McLuhan and his family for Christmas lunch in 1959.

Whether you’re, like McLuhan, remedying someone’s Christmas loneliness, or simply chatting with friends and family, remember to maintain that generous spirit. Let’s be a gift, as Christ humbly and unreservedly gives himself.

Reaction vs. Reflection [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Photo: McLuhan in his office (University of Toronto)
Photo: McLuhan in his office (University of Toronto)
Photo: McLuhan in his office (University of Toronto)

This week, in the face of Gaudete / Joyful / Rose Sunday of Advent, humanity seeks to grapple with the inhumanity of Connecticut’s tragic shooting and China’s horrific slashings.

On social networks, we’re bombarded with reactions: Rage, Confusion, Despair, Mourning, Arguments Pro-/Anti- Gun Control, Anti-Abortion, Anti-/Pro- President Obama…(etc.) For my part, I’ve refrained from “reacting” and have instead tried to reflect upon all this.

Marshall McLuhan spoke much about violence and its causes, but rather than present you, Dear Reader, with more talk of violence, I’ll pass on this gem for your reflection:

Many reviewers [of McLuhan’s work] displayed a high degree of hostility. Some of these reviewers were distinguished writers and poets. Their anger seemed inexplicable and they gave no evidence of having actually read the book except to pick out substantiating examples of the intellectual vices they attributed to McLuhan. Amazingly, no attention was paid to McLuhan’s basic ideas, repeated in letter after letter. The cause of this irrational response was anticipated and explained by McLuhan when he remarked that “the mere moralistic expression of approval or disapproval, preference or detestation, is currently being used in our world as a substitute for study.”

-  George Sanderson, in “McLuhan: The Man and His Message”

Inspiring Me This Week: books, websites, apps, Lucy, Guadalupe y mucho mas

Matachines

Enjoy this melange of personal recommendations from yours truly:

1. Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Learn about the ‘Secrets of the Image‘ thanks to the Knights of Columbus. I cannot more highly recommend  reading Carl Anderson and Msgr. Eduardo Chavez’ book, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love, which details the Guadalupe story and its implications for our lives.

2. Tune into Catholicism Live! tonight (Weds. 12-12-12) at 8pm CT/9pm ET. I’m hosting, with the always-awesome Greg Willits on the phone. We’ll discuss the new evangelization, and how to get over our fears of sharing the faith…just like Juan Diego finally did. What’s Mary got to do with it?

3. If you’ve never seen matachines guadalupanos perform, you should. Matachines are traditional dancers who derive their costuming and movements from native Mexican tradition, but dance for Christian (Catholic) religious purposes, as either veneration of a saint or worship of the Holy Trinity. You’ll usually find them at Mexican celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Here’s a snippet. The drumbeat! The dancing!

4. Want to read an awesome vocations story? Look no further. After his visit to the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, a confused Protestant youth woke up with the conviction that he was supposed to be a priest! You’ll enjoy the ride on Father Philip Neri Powell, O.P.’s blog.

5. Saint Lucy was a fierce woman, and not just for wearing lit candles on her head. I’m presenting a free event at work for ladies, “Afternoon Tea with Saint Lucy” this Thursday. It’s a great model for a woman’s event: cozy dining room + tea + pastries + pretty china + flowers + meeting a saint + discussion + fellowship + prayer. Take some time to learn about this fiery woman; you won’t regret it!

6. Ever host an event? Check out smore.com, a free service that helps you build beautiful ‘flyers’ for your event and hosts them online. You can even embed them on a website or Facebook page!

7. The Holy Father’s tweets today have been brilliant. He takes cues from Our Lady – pointing to Jesus!

8. St. John of Avila – Don’t forget the Church’s newest male doctor, whose feast day is this Friday! San Juan de la Cruz, ruega por nosotros. How did he pass from this life?

“After listening to some verses from the Canticle of Canticles, he prepared himself for death. At midnight as the bells rang for the office of matins, John asked what they were for. When they told him, he exclaimed, “Glory be to God for I shall say them in heaven.” He kissed his crucifix and murmured, In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum (Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit), and he breathed his last. He was 49 years old.” – Michael Dodd, O.C.D.

The Virgin Mary, Liberated Women & Family [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Father Patrick Peyton interviews Marshall McLuhan

Father Patrick Peyton interviews Marshall McLuhan

With all the talk about Mary these days (it’s Advent), let’s hear more of Marshall McLuhan’s thoughts on our Blessed Mother. In an interview with Father Patrick Peyton on EWTN, McLuhan spoke about the forthcoming role-playing age, in which Mary could serve as a prime role model:

I think of her as a very liberated woman indeed. The Mother of God is, after all, a fairly liberated person. […] I think that women have become the victims of, as they say, “a man’s world” but a man’s world at the last gasp of its old pattern of extreme specialism and fragmentation. The world that we are leaving behind us—the old nineteenth-century world of hardware and industrial specialism and job holding—all this kind of world is yielding to a new world of role-playing and joyfulness and fulfillment in depth, rather than in the superficial, functionary pattern of the job holder.

Women today are caught between these two worlds. They want to be liberated from the old world. They want to be initiated into the joys of the new role-playing and the new depth involvement in a great and exciting life.

Actually, it’s obvious to me that the family represents a much richer role for all members of the family than anything else that is available to man. The family as a means or as a situation for role-playing and involvement is not only immemorial but is profoundly natural to man and profoundly necessary for his daily nourishment and comfort.

If you’re confused about McLuhan’s term “role-playing,” you’ll want to review this previous MMM post. I’m fascinated that McLuhan saw our present-day multitasking, idea-driven economy on the horizon, and he recognized that it’s much more in line with the way women are ‘wired.’ Women’s brains process information as all-connected & all-involving.

What’s Mary got to do with this? She “pondered all these things in her heart,” Luke says. Mary’s femininity allows her to engage with everything in a more all-involving way. She ponders many things at once. She surely prayed while working and caring for her Son — we’ve all seen women do this all-involving multitasking so well.

Mary’s freedom from the stain of original sin since conception, liberates her from the weight of sin. At the Annunciation, she knew her identity as a Daughter of Israel, and precious in God’s sight. No lies blinded her. She trusted God. In all that knowledge, she said, “Yes,” to this all-involving role, Mother of God. Truly, she is liberated.

Let’s strive to be as liberated as she.

Benedict XVI’s AWESOME Letter to Young People

Screen Shot 2012-04-26 at 12.52.56 PM

Angela Sealana:

I have never, EVER re-blogged anyone else’s blog post before, but this one was just mind-blowing and inspiring enough to become the first. Make sure to subscribe to Father Steven’s blog for more!

Originally posted on Bridges and Tangents:

I gave a talk about the YouCat last week. It was not so much about the history or content of the book, but more about Pope Benedict’s short letter to young Catholics that’s printed at the beginning as an introduction.

youcat_lg

There are some beautiful images used to explain why it’s so important for young people to know their faith. Pope Benedict is both affirming (“The youth of today are not as superficial as some think…”), and challenging:

This Catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life. It places before you the Gospel message as the “pearl of great value” (Mt 13:46) for which you must give everything. So I beg you: Study this Catechism with passion and perseverance.

You can listen to my talk here.

And here is the final part of Pope Benedict’s…

View original 694 more words

Meaningful Wedding #2: What Will People Think?

This is the second in a series of posts: “Tips for a Less-Stress, Meaningful Wedding.” Please add your own advice!

With our Mass celebrant, Fr. Will Combs, BBD (Photo: Melody Mejia Photography)
With our Mass celebrant, Fr. Will Combs, BBD (Photo: Melody Mejia Photography)

You’ve Probably Forgotten: Guests will leave your wedding with feelings, experiences, and thoughts. That’s because your wedding will communicate a message to your guests. What message will it be? Maybe you’re thinking they’ll judge whether you’re rich or broke…gorgeous or not…classy or tasteless. But is that all that your wedding will say?

What Will You Teach? When planning our wedding, Dan and I realized that our wedding would be an opportunity to teach. We wanted to teach about…

  • the beauty of marriage and the Mass.
  • the uniqueness of masculinity & femininity.
  • the centrality of God in marriage.
  • marriage as a Sacrament, not simply a contract.
  • marriage as a commitment to self-sacrificing love.

Dare to Be Different. As we met to plan our wedding, we opted for non-Hollywood procession style, which Christine smartly mentioned in a comment: “The bride and groom are invited to walk up the aisle together, because it shows a commitment being equally made by the bride and groom.” Yes, like everything else, the Catholic Church has a Rite of Marriage, and this is the procession listed as the norm! We loved it.

Walking up the aisle together (Photo: Melody Mejia Photography)
Walking up the aisle…beginning our journey toward Heaven together! (Photo: Melody Mejia Photography)

Something(s) Borrowed. As we processed up the aisle together, Dan carried a chalice given to him (while he was discerning priesthood), which had belonged to a Maryknoll priest relative. For Dan, this chalice signified his willingness as the groom – emulating Christ – to shed blood for his bride. Our Mass celebrant used this chalice to hold the Precious Blood of Christ.

I carried a handkerchief my mom used in her wedding. With it, I held a crucifix given to Dan.  Made of olive wood, the crufix contains four stone relics, one each from The Upper Room, The Rock of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mount Calvary, and Christ’s Tomb. (The relics were obtained by the Franciscans, the custodians of the Holy Land.)

So that the meaning wouldn’t be lost, our Maid of Honor and Best Man gave a short welcome and explanation before the wedding began.

You May Now Kiss the Crucifix. A few of you might have heard this ritual before: When Dan and I exchanged vows, we were holding onto the crucifix I carried up the aisle. Before kissing one another, we kissed this crucifix. Now, we begin every day by kissing this crucifix, then kissing each other. In times of difficulty, we turn to God with this crucifix. Read more about this ritual here. We strongly recommend it! It means so much to daily renew our love for each other and God.

Christ-Centered. To meet our ‘teaching goals,’ we also requested that…

  • bells & incense be used.
  • the Gospel be accompanied by candlebearers.
  • we sit to the side during Mass, not in the middle.
  • the two of us use the communion rail.

These simple choices made a big impact on those present at our wedding. Many people made it a point to tell us how beautiful and touching the wedding was, and how much they appreciated its clarity of focus. But the best comment by far came from the parish sacristan, a sweet Texan lady:

I loved how it was Christ-centered, not y’all-centered!

What will your wedding teach? If you take advantage of the opportunity, it can remind everyone present what marriage is all about.

Meaningful Wedding #1: Essential Tips for Engaged Couples

This is the first in a series of posts: “Tips for a Less-Stress, Meaningful Wedding.” Please add your own advice!

Me and Dan after our wedding. Credit: Melody Mejia Photography (St. Mary Magdalen Parish, San Antonio)
Me and Dan after our wedding. He hardly ever smiles for pictures! (St. Mary Magdalen Parish, San Antonio) Credit: Melody Mejia Photography

Disclaimer! Our marriage has been vastly ‘different’ from the beginning: We started dating after Dan had left a community he’d been living with for two years discerning priesthood/religious life. We’d been discussing marriage since our third date. I never wanted nor owned an engagement ring. We’re simple people, and it’s a lot easier to ditch stress with simple taste.

Ground Rules Minimize Regrets. After engagement, potentially-stressful situations can suddenly bombard you. Speak with your future spouse and anticipate those situations. Remember: You don’t want to end up with regrets. Enjoy your engagement and wedding. Pack them full with meaning.

After our engagement, Dan and I took time out to discuss how we were feeling; we had a full plate, and getting married can be intimidating. We decided to set ground rules for ourselves. For example: If any aspect of wedding planning became too stressful and time-consuming, we decided that we’d eliminate it and start from scratch.

That’s what happened with our wedding music: At first, we wanted a choir singing Gregorian chant. When that became too involved and stressful, we eliminated the idea and kept things simple. A friend sang the Psalm and Recessional Hymn, my dad played acoustic guitar, and the congregation sang some responses a capella. When all was said and done, we had absolutely zero regrets about loved ones providing music vs. stressing out for months over music. It was much more meaningful.

Never, Ever, Ever Forget the Big Picture. At the end of the day, you will be married. Ultimately, your exchange of vows witnessed by the Church is what matters. Everything else is bonus.

Weddings are Not ‘All About the Bride.’ You’ve undoubtedly heard: “Weddings are all about the bride and what she wants.” Politely disagree with anyone who says so. It is a terrible way of expressing common experience: men are concerned with the gist while women are more concerned with details; that’s why you’ll regularly hear him say, “Whatever you want, honey.”

However, the groom needs to be involved in decision-making. In fact, I was surprised to learn how much Dan did care about some of the details when I asked! Engagement is the time to start practicing teamwork.

My sister (MOH) and I
My sister (MOH) and I

Additionally, be mindful of your family and friends. That doesn’t mean you have to act on everyone’s suggestions. (On the contrary; you’ll probably have to turn down most suggestions.) Your wedding will join two families and continue their legacies. To demonstrate complete uninterest in family and friends would be rude, uncharitable, and therefore in direct opposition to self-giving LOVE. That’s what marriage is about, isn’t it?

Be Organized, but Don’t Go Overboard. Brides have become crazy list-makers. Every wedding website or magazine includes a gigantic list containing anything you could ever possibly prepare for a wedding.

The problem? As long as I used those lists, I felt inadequate and behind. Finally, I realized that these lists were created by the wedding industry to sell products and services!! Use them as references only; make your own lists. Every couple has different priorities, budgets, timelines, and situations.

Experienced folks: What are your tips for engaged couples?
Next up: Money, spiritual life, and communication!

People Enter the Church On Their Knees. [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

St. Basil's Church, Toronto - Parish Home of Marshall McLuhan
Mass at St. Basil’s Church, Toronto – Parish Home of Marshall McLuhan

On Saturday, at a local Prayer Brunch, Bishop Oscar Cantu revealed that he’s been convicted by the question: Does the time we spend speaking of God match the time we spend speaking to God?

That question speaks to the importance of faith in our lives; that supernatural virtue which we receive as a divine gift. No matter how much time we spend thinking about God, reading about God, writing about God, etc., our faith is ultimately fed by prayer and the sacraments.

Marshall McLuhan speaks to this:

I never came into the church as a person who was being taught Catholic doctrines. I came in on my knees. That is the only way in. When people start praying they need truths; that’s all. You don’t come into the Church through ideas and concepts, and you cannot leave by mere disagreement. It has to be a loss of faith, a loss of participation.

You can tell: when people leave the Church, they have quit praying. The active relating to the Church’s prayer and sacraments is not through ideas. Any Catholic who today has an intellectual disagreement with the Church has an illusion. You cannot have an intellectual disagreement with the Church. That’s meaningless. The Church is not an intellectual institution. It is a superhuman institution. (McLuhan to Edward Wakin)

One could argue about the finer details of McLuhan’s assertion here. But the main message is important. Are we living as members of a grace-powered Body, or are we relying too much on ourselves? In this Year of Faith, during which we’ve been encouraged to DO a lot of ‘re-discovering’ our faith, let’s not forget that we cannot DO faith without ACQUIRING it from the Eternal Wellspring of Living Water.

As Pope Benedict XVI said in “Porta Fidei,” speaking about the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “What is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church” (11).