Many Saturday evenings at the Dominican House of Studies, you will find a group of student brothers gathered in one of the basement rooms watching an episode of Hercule Poirot. Part of the enjoyment is guessing who actually perpetrated the crime. I enjoy mysteries and grew up reading Perry Mason novels and the stories of Sherlock Holmes. The creators of these famous detectives approached their description of the mystery in different ways. Erle Stanley Gardner pointed many of the clues to Perry Mason’s clients, while Agatha Christe cast clues that implicated everyone—and for Murder on the Orient Express, it was indeed everyone who participated in the murder.
In May of 1971, the 15th to be exact, Elvis Aaron Presley recorded a song entitled “The Miracle of the Rosary”. It would be released the following year on February 20, 1972 on the album entitled Elvis Now! It’s one of the great mysteries of faith why Elvis, raised in the evangelical Christian denomination Assemblies of God, recorded a song devoted to arguably the greatest Catholic sacramental, the rosary.
If there’s anything daunting about the mission our recent popes have proposed to us, called the New Evangelization, I suspect it’s mostly the name. When I think of “evangelization” I tend to conjure up images of zealous Protestants, well-versed in Scripture, going about door-to-door encouraging people to accept “Jesus Christ as a personal Lord and Savior” or the wilds of foreign lands like East Africa or the Solomon Islands, where highly trained missionaries preach the Gospel to peoples who have literally never heard the Holy Name of Jesus. It seems that most God-fearing, Sunday-Mass-going Catholics simply aren’t cut out for this kind of work. So is the mission of the New Evangelization absurd? Are good, faithful Catholics stuck facing the paradox of trying to explain the complexities and nuances of ancient faith without being properly readied for the task?
“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)
One might wonder just how comforting these words from the Lord in today’s Holy Gospel might be if one were faced with the prospect of impending execution. Apparently, they were enough to sustain Sts. Marcellinus and Peter in their hour of trial, for today we celebrate them as martyrs. If you have ever listened to the Roman Canon at Mass you may recognize these names. They are included in the second of the two lists of saints in that Eucharistic Prayer. The Church knows very little about them other than that St. Marcellinus was a priest, St. Peter an exorcist, and that both were executed in the persecutions under Emperor Diocletian in the fourth century. They were much honored by the early Church, even to the point that Constantine built a basilica in their honor.
There’s an interesting feature about many artistic representations of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, common to the works of both run-of-the-mill painters and masters like Rembrandt: namely, they are very boring.
I remember two statements made by Robert Louis Wilken in his commencement speech here at the Dominican House of Studies a few weeks ago. The first is that no one remembers commencement speeches. Now whether that’s because most graduates are too excited, preoccupied with capturing a sufficient number of selfies, or because the speech content is forgettable (often amounting to a glorified version of Vitamin C’s matriculation classic Graduation (Friends Forever)), Wilken’s claim seems regrettably true. What makes the average commencement speech so forgettable?
I’m not a member of the Cartographer’s Guild or anything and probably never will be. But I do think that maps in general are some of the coolest things that mankind has put on paper. As far as I can tell, there are two chief things which make maps exciting.
Life gets boring at times, for me at least. As a Dominican friar I’m not immune to uneventful monotony. In fact, much of the religious life of a student brother can fail to be lively at all. Most of this has to do with falling into some sort of repetitive course of action; if it goes unchecked, it can seem to drain the very vigor of life that once called you into the religious state.
The doorbell rang. (anachronism)
Most of the guests had already arrived. Rome’s elite filled a bustling main hall. Very powerful cardinals struggled to hear the very rich men to whom they spoke. The din died down, however, as a very pale butler (anachronism) announced the party’s very newest arrival:
A man missing half his beard. “Fr. Philip Neri,” the pallid butler proclaimed.
I haven’t always been the lady’s man that I am today. Certainly not in junior high, nor even in high school, when I hadn’t yet really begun to play the part. It was only by the example of college friends, in seeing their devotion, that I began to deepen my relationship with Our Lady.