Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Review: The Last Confession of the Vampire Judas Iscariot

Caravaggio - Taking of Christ in the Garden
What if Judas was a Vampire?

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
             I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and faith

I'll never forget a homily I heard on Spy Wednesday of  Holy Week where the priest asked "What if Judas asked for forgiveness? What if he turned back and went to the cross and accepted Jesus' Mercy? What if he professed faith in the Giver of Life himself and not chosen death instead? We'd now be calling him St. Judas the Penitent instead of a traitor and a thief." 

                                                        And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate 

Judas, like us, had two paths to choose from - one easy, one hard. He could choose the tree or the cross. Our faith tells in that no matter what we do, Jesus will forgive us if we are truly sorry and we ask for it. Through the ministry of the Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God will grant us pardon if we are truly sorry, but that's not always the easy choice. To overcome sin, we must swallow our pride, be contrite, and desire to sin no more. Of course we know from the Gospels which path he ultimately chose.

Pleased to meet you,
hope you guess my name!


David Vermont's novel, The Last Confession of the Vampire Judas Iscariot, Judas' story didn't end by hanging from a rope that day in Jerusalem. "He is restored to life by the Devil and made into a vampire apostle. The Devil teaches Judas to manipulate men and history. He becomes a king, a general, a teacher and a blacksmith, whatever is needed to effect the outcome of history and move it towards the goal of his new master."  The author takes us on a tour through Christian history and weaves a story of heroic virtue, suffering, and the hope of salvation, from 33AD to the present day. In the end, he sets his sights on laicized priest to try to obtain the one thing the Devil cannot give him. 

The book is enjoyable to read and moves quickly. It also makes the reader think about more than the action and storyline - mainly life, death, Heaven, and Hell, but not to the point of being overwhelming. It allows you to relate to the main characters- both good and bad. I found myself experiencing the humanity of Fr. Breviary, almost weeping with him in his personal sorrow and part of me also understood the confusion and despair of Judas, who despite his superhuman abilities, still found himself longing for what he could never attain on his own. 

Although it can be considered to be in the vampire genre, it's not really about vampires. It is, however, very Catholic, which is refreshing given some recently popular novels which I will not mention. In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided a copy in exchange for a review. I give the author credit for tackling such a story and it was a welcome addition to my lenten reading this year. As I meditate on the Passion of our Lord on this Good Friday, I'm sure at some point I will think about Judas and all the "what if's" and what could have been. Of course we know that only God has the answers and everything, including the reasons for our own sufferings and joys, are according to His plan, done in His time, for the good of all his people. 

Have a blessed Holy Week! 


Holy Name Church, Fall River, MA. 




Sympathy for the Devil
Writer(s): Mick Jagger, Keith Richards
Copyright: Mirage Music Int. Ltd. c/o Essex Music Int. Ltd., Mirage Music Int. Ltd. c/o Essex Music Int. L



















Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Caught Up In Appearances

Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, 
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see, 
because man sees the appearance 
but the LORD looks into the heart (1 Sam. 16:7)

We'll, we're more than halfway through Lent, so us procrastinators better start to buckle down and get serious about it. Now what should I give up? Actually, for me, this Lent has been very spiritually productive, especially in my contemplating God's plan and trying to be less bogged down by my own struggles and falling into self pity from thinking how hard I must have it. Last Sunday's readings were exactly what I needed (they usually are) to help keep me on course in my Lenten journey.

 Whenever I hear the account of David being chosen from among his brothers, I can't help but think of this. That's what having children...or at least the mind of one will do. In the Veggietales version, young David is given the Sisyphean task from his brothers of propping up their ever-falling sheep. He was the youngest of eight, and as we know, s**t flows downhill. David had no shot at his father's inheritance and probably resigned himself to the fact he'd be tending the flock for the rest of his life. Little did he know God's plan would be beyond his wildest imagination.

 I'm sure we all feel this way from time to time - I know I do often. We get discouraged by our daily labor and lost in the darkness of self-pity. Then we run the danger of getting caught up in appearances as Samuel did. He saw the oldest brother as big, strong, and handsome and figured he was prime king material. However, while man judges appearances, God judges the heart. He calls us to see His plan that is far beyond our routines and what we can see on the surface. Our struggles are temporary, but God wants us forever. 

My friend Kevin mentioned the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda chastises Luke for judging him but his stature and appearance. He's looking beyond the odd little green guy in the swamp to find the great Jedi Master, which is a great comparison to the scripture. The people of Jesus' time also looked beyond the simple carpenter for their great Messiah, not realizing the great I AM was in their midst.  

We've been praying the St. Padre Pio Novena together as a family. I'd like too close with part a prayer from that Novena which he composed for confidence and trust in God's Mercy. 

O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence 
and trust in Your divine mercy, 
and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings
 which bring immense goodness to our souls 
and that of Your Church.

Of course now I'll never get this image out of my mind when I read Samuel. Have a blessed week.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Lord, It is Good That We Are Here.

Come to me all who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. 
                                                                      (Mt. 11:28) 

I was blessed this past Saturday to have attended a Men's Retreat! I was was able to spend a day learning, worshiping, and praying. Although I've been involved in different ministries over the years, this is the first time I've spent an entire day on a retreat for myself since college. There were about 60 men of diverse backgrounds, which was a lot more than I thought would be there. I think it goes to show the need for solid men's ministry.

We ended the day with Mass, and of course this weekend's Gospel was Matthew's account of the Transfiguration. I felt like St. Peter thinking how good it was to be here. Actually, I feel like St. Peter often, but that's a story for another post. Getting back to Saturday, I was away from the usual stresses of life, able to spend time adoring our Lord, and enjoying fellowship with other Catholic men. It was my own Mount Tabor, a place where I could for a moment, experience the radiance of our Messiah and lay all my burdens on Him.

But as St. Paul said in the Second Reading (2 Tim. 1:8B-10): Bear your share of hardships for the gospel, with the strength that comes from God. While it was good to be there, I knew it had to go back to the routines of life. Not that my life is so terrible. In fact, I am tremendously blessed! But there can be worries and challenges. Monday always follows Sunday, but hopefully we over the weekend we can catch up, spend time with our family and friends, and recharge for another week.  Our Lord allowed the Apostles to experience his full glory as a means to strengthen them for the challenges they would soon face. We have that opportunity every week at Mass, to be strengthened by the Word and the Word Made Flesh.

Of course it's not easy to take our faith out into the world. How many of us get strange looks on Ash Wednesday or praying Grace in a restaurant? No, it's not a world that is often accepting of our faith but as Paul further reminds Timothy:

On this account I am suffering these things; but I am not ashamed, for I know him in whom I have believed and am confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day. (2Tim. 1:12). 

It's Friday already!  Have a blessed weekend!


My Parish's altar during Lent. It has Mt 11:28 inscribed on  the front.

                 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Facing the Deserts of Lent

Lent is only a few short days away and I'm not ready.

I now believe my parents when they told me that time does go by faster as you get older but I'm sure that having children is the biggest accelerator. I can't believe how fast they grow and change...just like I can't believe I haven't written on this blog since Advent 2012! Then, we were expecting our 6th child, now Gabriella Marie is just about walking.





Looking forward, it always seems like there is so much time ahead of you but then it's gone. I'll admit to being somewhat of a procrastinator so this is something I experience often. Usually, it's something that needed to get done yesterday. We'll, I still have 4 days before Lent starts; that's plenty of time. I am signed up for a men's retreat next Saturday so there's one thing in the plus column for me.

Of course Lent is not just about giving things up. It's also about positive additions to out lives and gaining strength from our daily trials to help overcome those struggles rather than escaping. Jesus knew is ministry would be difficult and end in a most difficult and painful way. He prepared for this by spending forty days fasting in the desert.

I get weekly email devotional from the Daughters of St. Paul.  Today's reflection was about spending time in the desert this Lent. Not the Mojave of course, but the reflecting on the 3 deserts in our lives where Jesus remains with us. The first is when we reflect on His suffering and death whether we pray the stations of the across or read a passion narrative. The second is living and accepting our own suffering and therefore remaining in the desert and being united with Jesus. The third, is recognizing the suffering others through prayer, solidarity, and actions.

How will you remain in the desert with Jesus this Lent?




Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book Review: Three Persons, One God


O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

How has your Advent been? Hopefully, a it's been a time or prayer, contrition, and preparation for the beautiful feast of Christmas. I can't believe that we're are already anticipating Gaudate (Joy) Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent.

On Monday (12/17) we also begin the O Antiphons during evening prayer. The hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is based on these fervent prayers of the Jewish people asking God to come to them. These beautiful prayers address Jesus by one of His Old Testament titles including O Wisdom, O Lord, and O King of Nations. But, who is this God they to whom they cry out or us for that matter? In Mark 8, Jesus asks the Apostles, “But who do you say that I am?" Every believer had an image of our God that comes to mind, or at the very least a sight, sound, or feeling that leads to thoughts of the divine. Of course if we understood God, as St. Augustine wrote, "it would not be God." Despite our inability to understand, we can know God in His love, mercy, and His Son.



In her book, Three Persons, One God: Growing in Relationship With Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, author Allison Gingras helps the reader answer that question and lead them to a deeper relationship and understanding of our Triune God. She writes; The God of our faith has revealed himself as HE WHO IS; and he has made himself known as "abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex 34:6). God's very being is Truth and Love.

The book is full of references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and gives a scripturally supported introduction to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit complete with chronological bible references for the reader to look up. Besides being a primer on Trinity, someone new to reading scripture gets hands on practice in looking up bible verses.

 The first three chapters are more instructional in style and have more classroom type feel. That may be a manifestation of Allison's years of homeschooling her children. I can see the value however, especially for the person who wants to learn more about their faith but last studied in CCD class. The format also makes it suitable for a group study or RCIA class with a journaling section in each chapter. Although, unlike a purely academic work, it's never condescending to the reader and the author is quick to admit her own shortcomings at times.

If the former read like a textbook though, the last three chapters feel more like a love story and that is where the book truly shines. I know Allison personally and she knows how to tell a story and capture an audience. It is the personal stories and experiences that keep the reader engaged. I would have liked every chapter to read that way.
Chapters 4-6 focus more on our personal relationship with God and how we perceive him. One of my favorite examples is Allison's image of God sitting with her on the couch watching television like she did as a child with her own dad. This illustrates how the all-powerful God of the Universe can still love and relate to us on an intimate level and be a real part of our lives. As with the first, three there are bible verses to explore and all chapters have open ended questions for journaling. My only addition to the book would have been a seventh chapter to bring everything full circle and wrap everything together.I finished Chapter 6 and was left wanting for more, which may just be the author's intent. It's also a good way to market a sequel.

I always read everything with a healthy dose of skepticism, even when the author is a friend. I can honestly say I enjoyed the book (not the journaling) and would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about God, to brush up on some catechetical basics, or to just better understand the treasure that is our Catholic faith. Allison's book is available on Amazon and through her website reconciledtoyou.com.


O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.













Friday, December 14, 2012

A Sword Shall Pierce Your Heart


How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all the day? (Ps.13:3)

There's no escaping the images, commentary, and discussion of today's tragedy in Newtown, CT. It is unimmaginable as a parent the horror that the victim's families must be experiencing. As I sit with my two youngest watching Curious George and the older three making some attempt to play nicely downstairs, I thank God that thery are here with me at this moment and how blessed we are to be entrusted with their care and all the moments we share, no matter how challenging it can be at times.

In this Advent season, we think of Mary as an expectant mother, carrying this miraculous child, feeling him kick, and pondering what the future would hold. Could she have know what Simeon's prophecy would entail and that she would one day hold her son's lifeless and nearly unrecognizable body after His crucifixion? No one should have to endure the death of a child, even if that "child" is an adult. But Mary can be our model of grace in suffering and someone to whom we can turn in our moments of grief. While I'm certain the pain never goes away, it is comforting to know that we can turn someone who know our pain and through the sarcrafice of her Son, we are confident that we have the opportunity to share in His Ressurection.

So, please pray for the victims, their families, and all those involved in today horrific tragedy. May God bring them peace and comfort in their loss and the hope that some day they will be reunited in Heaven.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and may the perpetual light shine upon them.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Thirst for Blood

Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus. (Rev. 12:17)

This is a chilling but timely article written by Providence College Professor Anthony Esolen. It brings into light how the Culture of Death is taking hold in our soceity. A commenter on the article brought up an interesting question: What is a Christian supposed to do? In other words, how do we as a people resist, or do we?  





Comments welcome as always. I look forward to hearing from you. Please also follow this blog on Facebook and Twitter.

Be blessed!