- In this episode, we move on from everyday things that serve as kinds of “secular sacramentals” to everyday Catholic items and practices that point us toward God. We begin with blessings. Sacramentals, which are often blessed, remind us that every baptized person is called to be blessed and to be a blessing, as described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- The Sign of the Cross is a fundamental, iconic statement of Catholic blessing with deep roots in history. St. Cyril of Jerusalem talked about it, as did Tertullian. Here’s more historic context for the Sign of the Cross and the role of Pope Innocent III in establishing it more firmly in the Church.
- Details rounding out Ken’s mention of St. Benedict of Nursia and the Jubilee Medal of St. Benedict, one of the most popular sacramentals.
- Out of the mouth proceed blessing and cursing. Here’s a description of the history of a habit, saying “God Bless You.” Also, this book, a dictionary of interjections such as “Zounds!”, walks you through “minced words”—which may derive from blessings or curses—mostly from the colorful past of our English language.
- Presidents and other prominent citizens often invoke blessings on the United States, and “God Bless America” is a song that regularly appears in our public discourse. Here’s a clip from a pro hockey game that Bill remembers from the 1970s in which the great Kate Smith belted out her signature song, leaving Bill with a memorable impression of how powerful the blending of a spiritual message with a sporting event can be.
- Ken and Bill see the focus of this new series on incarnational piety naturally pointing us toward sacramentals. A “sacramental,” as a symbol used in everyday life to point toward something bigger, deeper and more meaningful, is a word used commonly by Catholics, but it is hardly an unknown concept in the secular culture.
- Among Catholics, sacramentals point us toward grace—and particularly toward the grace the Lord gives us in the sacraments of the Church. This is discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1667-1679.
- The Pledge of Allegiance (directed toward the flag of the United States of America – *and* to the republic for which it stands) has an interesting backstory that encapsulates some of what we’ll discuss in this episode. Our podcast colleagues Ken Jennings and John Roderick discussed a bit of the Pledge of Allegiance’s history (and that of its creator) in their excellent Omnibus Project podcast episode “The Bellamy Salute (Entry 112.HE0616)”.
- Here’s evidence that the basic notion of “sacramental” is a comfortable concept in secular society: Certain holidays might be considered types of sacramental feasts filled with civic pride and patriotic symbolism. Examples include Independence Day (although founding father John Adams thought the symbols we associate with July 4 belonged properly on July 2, the actual signing date of the Declaration of Independence).
- Thanksgiving is another powerfully evocative holiday. And for many Americans, the Super Bowl Sunday has the symbolic gravitas of a secular sacramental. The Olympic Games inspire people around the world, and stirring musical themes are associated with these celebrations of excellence. Here’s a musical example from composer John Williams.
- Statues often impart powerful meanings and memories as secular sacramentals, whether placed in town squares or in New York Harbor, as is the case for the Statue of Liberty. Its meaning is expressed in “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.
- Ken and Bill say hello again to our listeners as we enter our second season of episodes discussing our excitement about aspects of the daily living-out of our Catholic faith. This season is all about “Incarnational Piety” and the aid our Church provides through resources such as sacramentals. In our conversations, we want to celebrate different ways to enrich the action of living the faith in this world while focusing our minds and hearts on the Kingdom of God.
- We start this episode looking back at our “Season One,” which focused on joy as a key part of one’s mission of evangelization to others. Each episode was also an “encounter” (appropriate to the “EncounterPoints” name) for the two of us as we got to know each other better. Pope Francis has emphasized the value of authentic encounters among people right from the start of his papacy. He wants humans to build a “culture of encounter.” You can read how he described this in a morning meditation posted in 2016.
- What do we mean by “incarnational piety”? The Second Person of the Holy Trinity entered our world, born in a human body, making God’s loving presence profoundly available to us in everyday life, so the incarnation is worth understanding better and celebrating as a continuing encounter with the Lord in our own day. Piety is an act of justice, as Ken points out, because God has given everything to us, and we should conduct our lives as gifts to God. The Catholic Encyclopedia at the New Advent site talks about what it means to be pious in connection with popular devotions.
- And that leads us more deeply into the subject matter of this second season of episodes. Sacramentals are a beautiful part of a life of devotion and incarnational piety, engaging our senses and reminding us of God’s sanctifying grace. These sacramentals, as defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia, go along with lives enriched by popular practices and personal holiness. It’s wonderful to use material things to remind us of supernatural things, rather than staying mired in the strictly secular world of materialism.
- Our aspiration toward higher things is fully appropriate given the fact that God became incarnate—emptying Himself (Philippians 2:7)—to lift humanity from the mundane to the divine. Section 460 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions the quote—from St. Athanasius—about Christ’s desire to bring us into full union with the life of the Trinity: “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”
- Given how appropriate and joyful it is to draw closer to the Lord in our earthly acts of incarnational piety, we’ll explore various ways to do that during this series of episodes. Among the resources that will help explain this drawing closer, the Church provides a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. We’ll be talking about the beauty of “encounter points,” such as sacramentals, in the upcoming weeks, so please “stay tuned.”
Get your podcast machines ready, because Series 2 of Encounterpoints is on the way! Check back here on Monday, July 8, 2019 for episodes 1 and 2. We’ll follow with a weekly release schedule for the rest of the series, with new episodes every Monday through September.
We look forward to your feedback!
Episode 9: Peace Be With Youl
Here are links expanding upon Ken’s and Bill’s remarks in episode nine of the EncounterPoints podcast series entitled “GOT JOY?”. This episode: PEACE
1. It is indeed of practical importance for us to understand peace in its fullest Catholic context. Here is one article addressing the subject, from Catholic Answers:
- Notice these references to peace from the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order. The order’s structure for its ongoing work on peace and justice has been modified, but the Rule and its principles are enduring. Please use the second link here to find a useful analysis of the Peace Prayer that is attributed to St. Francis, who sought to be an instrument of God in bringing peace to the world; he saw there were many components to this work.
- Here is a report on “Shalom TV” as “a new power for peace and evangelization” …worth considering this role for a communications medium:
- “If you want peace, work for justice.” How does justice interact with the pursuit of peace? Is justice the removal of obstacles to that pursuit? The Catholic tradition of pursuing peace and justice is discussed at the USCCB site through a series of links found here:
- From Loyola Press comes a discussion of Jesus’ phrase that He is leaving “my peace” with His apostles. It must be a special, multi-dimensional kind of peace inseparable from mercy and justice and love:
- See in this link to Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus calls “blessed” those who are making peace; it is not something that comes about through easy or shallow efforts.
- Paul told the Philippians the peace of God surpasses all understanding:
- Thucydides wrote that the way for a victor to make sustainable peace is to waive punishment and to show a mercy that creates new bonds.
- The Encyclopedia Britannica website provides some context for the term, “scorched earthy policy.”
10. Peace cannot be manipulative. Ken and Bill made this point about beauty and humor and other sources of joy as a modus operandi of the New Evangelization. See earlier episodes of this “EncounterPoints” series on joy. We look forward to sharing more EncounterPoints podcasts with you in the future!
Episode 8: Feasts Fit for a King
Here are links expanding upon Ken’s and Bill’s remarks in episode eight of the EncounterPoints podcast series entitled “GOT JOY?”. This episode: FOOD
1. Table fellowship is an excellent way to build encounters and share joy. Even a diet plan is likely to succeed more if the effort is shared. Tracie McMillan is an author and expert on the American WOE (way of eating):
- The Mass is a global, universal experience of sharing table fellowship to nurture us for our journey. The Last Supper engaged Jesus and his Disciples in religious tradition, in the Passover story of God’s saving love and the sacrifice of a lamb. This article discusses the connections—and a mystery:
- Popular culture helps to focus our attention on food. Here is a link to the “Bizarre Foods” program, plus a link to “The Great British Baking Show.:
- Ken’s not making it up about the Soylent brand of products:
- Old Testament sacrifices sometimes involved not only an offering to God, but also a sharing in community fellowship. The “My Jewish Life” website offers this reflection on sacrifices:
- James Martin, S.J., wrote “Building Bridges” with a focus on inclusion:
- Jesus sought his encounter with Zacchaeus through food. Read the story in Luke 19 in the New American Bible as provided by the USCCB online:
- The idea that delights of food and drink are best appreciated in moderation is stated well by G.K. Chesterton, who said, “We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them.” First, see that quote at the AZQuotes site, and then explore more about GKC via the second link:
- One way to extend our reflections on the Lord’s use of food metaphors—and of food itself—to enhance our relationships with Him can be found at this blog by Emily Stimpson Chapman:
Episode 7: Then Sings My Soul
Here are links expanding upon Ken’s and Bill’s remarks in episode seven of the EncounterPoints podcast series entitled “GOT JOY?”. This episode: MUSIC
- As Ken pointed out, hearing colors is called synesthesia. Here is a YouTube video on the topic:
- Repetition is the mother of all learning—wisdom handed down to us in Latin:
- The Divine Mercy Chaplet devotion is described here in this website hosted by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. EWTN broadcasts the sung and chanted versions of this prayer.
- He who sings, prays twice. Here is a collection of comments related to the quote, from the Catholic Answers Forum. The quote is attributed to St. Augustine:
- Here is a discussion of the Philosophy of Music, including Plato’s insights, courtesy of Stanford University:
- This is the Steve Allen book to which Bill referred:
- Here is a book (not reviewed by us) that adds commentary to Tolkien’s Silmarillion:
- The AMC Network provides us with this site pulling together the various seasons of “Mad Men.”
- Here is the Coca-Cola commercial featuring the song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”
10. While enjoying accordion jokes, Bill hopes you’ll find out more about accordions in general, with help from this site:
Episode 6: Beauty for the Beholder
Quick editor’s note: in the intro, we tease the previous episode being about music. That’s an error on our part, and you didn’t miss anything – that episode is coming soon!
- Philosophers have discussed different lists of the so-called transcendentals. This source, citing Aristotle, Plato and Aquinas along the way, sees beauty as closely related to the good and the true.
- The work of Rev. Robert Spitzer, SJ, can be found at the Magis Center website. His work is a wonderful combination of philosophical, theological and pastoral approaches to God and humanity.
- Augustine wrote in Book One of his Confessions: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church draws connections between truth, beauty and goodness in its discussion of the Eighth Commandment, starting at paragraph 2500.
- The statement that beauty is truth and truth is beauty comes from poet John Keats in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”
- Bill believes he heard that there are Franciscan roots to the maxim loosely translated, “To know the name of the rose is not the same as to know the rose.” So often we may know the name of a truth but not fully know or understand the truth through experience. Wikipedia gives some explanations of the phrase and its application.
- “New Advent” provides a Catholic Encyclopedia discussion of the group of Franciscans known as “Spirituals.”
- Chapter 6 of the Book of Wisdom makes a connection between wisdom and beauty. You must be open to beauty in order to reflect upon the wisdom of the Creator, Ken points out.
- Thank you, John Denver, for the beauty and loveliness of the song, “Sunshine on My Shoulders.”
10. Explore everything about Chesterton at the Chesterton Society site. Somewhere, in one collection of Chesterton quotes, he says beauty is closely related to a sense of proportion. He was an artist as well as author.
- The Guggenheim Museum posts this profile of controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe.
12. Neither Ken nor Bill knew that “alt-beauty” was a “thing,” as described in this newspaper piece.
13. Psalm 95 begins its warning against the hardening of one’s heart in the seventh verse.
14.Whatever is true, whatever is beautiful, think on these things, St. Paul tells the Philippians. This is indeed a good prescription against hardened hearts.
Episode 5: “The New Mercy Turnpike”
- Going through the constituent parts of joy guides our approach to the New Evangelization. A major US meeting in 2017 sought to clarify the approach.
- The Church is an abundant source of mercy. We must request, receive and proclaim it. Reconciliation is crucial for joy. God’s mercy endures forever.
- Ken pointed out that Instructing the ignorant is a spiritual work of mercy.
- Pope Francis spread the Church’s message of mercy with the Special Jubilee of Mercy and the appointment of priests as missionaries of mercy.
- How do we show mercy to a world that desperately needs it? The Eucharist is central, re-presenting the sacrifice of Calvary, says Dives in Misericordia.
- Divine Mercy ties many themes of evangelization together. We need to embrace Christ’s perfect sacrifice and join together in gratitude for it.
- We need “forgiving” situations and conditions. Forgiving is not just a response but is a proactive pursuit. Bill mentioned “forgiving highways.”
- Exchanges of mercy are moments of hope. The Church sends us forth to seek out such encounters with the missioning “ite misa est” as Mass ends.
Episode 4: “In God We Trust?“
- Bill and Ken are exploring different aspects of joy. We need to share truth because people want to trust each other. Billy Joel’s song “Honesty” says it.
- Descartes made himself the center of all things, eroding our ties to truth.
- Trust is crucial in relationships. Relativism leads to dictatorial relationships, as posited by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. National Catholic Register
- Can we construct trust quantitatively? Ken referred to this in USA Today:
- People generally trust only themselves today, says The Death of Expertise by Thomas Nichols, a new book cited by Bill.
- We must trust others in the community and those who pass it along to us. The gift of faith is given by God, but we must receive it. Job’s trust in 13:15.
- God has proven Himself trustworthy through his gift of the Divine Mercy, and the Marians of the Immaculate Conception promote devotion to this.
- Ken and Bill are discussing components of joy with an eye toward Pope Francis’s emphasis on joy for missionary discipleship, as seen in his writing.
- God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of Himself. Pope Francis makes this point in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love.
(Science causes some people to lose trust in God. But Blessed John Henry Newman says a thousand questions still do not add up to one doubt:)