“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin in The Spirit of Catholicism

Although I read many fantastic books during my two years of graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville (2008-2010), one of my favorite books became The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam. Since reading it, I usually suggest it to Catholics that are seeking a deeper understanding of the organic nature and growth of the Catholic Church from the time of Christ till today. When I read it in graduate school, I was pumping my fist in the air often in the John Paul II Library because it truly makes you feel proud to be a Catholic, especially in a culture like today.

Even though I have never suggested it to any non-Catholics, it would be good to give to your non-Catholic friends, because it could help them understand that organic nature as well. As you read it, you can see that he is answering many of those non-Catholic objections. Some of the most notable Catholic converts in the Church today were brought to Catholicism through this great work. To learn who these individuals are, I would suggest reading my Book Reviews on here. It’s the first book on that page.

As I was sitting around my house yesterday, because I went to our monthly Ordinary Form in Latin last night, I had some ideas for today’s “Mondays with Mary” but nothing that was solidified. Two weeks ago, I gave a talk on 6 Reasons why Mary should not be forgotten in a time of crisis, a talk based on my grad school notes and an interview given by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1984. In that talk, I speak briefly about this book.

Madonna of the Chair – Raphael

Realizing I have never shared with you the words of Karl Adam about Mary from The Spirit of Catholicism, I thought I would give you some of those thoughts today –

“But however wondrously glorious all these holy figures are [the saints], each in his own way, yet all are outshone by one, by the Queen of all angels and saints, Mary, the Mother of God. Like every creature in heaven and on earth, she too was called into existence out of nothingness. An infinite distance separates her from the Infinite, from Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And she has not grace, no virtue, no privilege, which she does not owe to the divine Mediator. Both in her natural and supernatural being, she is wholly the gift of God, ‘full of grace’.”

“The mystery of Mary’s divine Motherhood does not merely comprise the bare fact that the Word took flesh and blood, our human nature, in her womb. The Catholic is not content merely to repeat with gladness the words of the inspired woman in the Gospel: ‘Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck.’ He listens with a far deeper attention to Our Lord’s answer: ‘Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it’.”

“Mary’s importance in the work of salvation does not lie chiefly in the purely bodily sphere, but in the sphere of morality and religion. It consists in this that Mary, so far as lay in her, gave the best of herself, even her whole being, to service of God, and that, however infinitely small all human doing and suffering are in comparison with the Divine Perfection, she surrendered this infinitely small without limitation or stint to the visitation of Divine Grace, and so prepared herself to be the sublime instrument of the divine redemption.”

“Her whole subsequent life was lowliness and simplicity on the one hand, and on the strong and joyful faith. Bethlehem and Golgotha are the two termini of a way of sharpest renunciation, of heroic resignation, of complete ‘self-emptying’, such a way as our Lord himself traveled (Phil. 2:7). The sword foretold by Simeon (Lk. 2:25) pierced ever more sharply into her soul as the process of her self-abnegation advanced.”

“All the sublimity of Mary’s moral personality, all the depth of her virginal devotion, and all the strength of her faith culminate in the word which she spoke to the angel: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.’ These were no common, everyday words; no words such as fall from men in the changing circumstance and casual course of life. They were words out of the depths and recesses of a soul that was pure and noble beyond all earthly measure, words that were her being, her expression, her achievement. By them of a truth she consecrated her body to a ‘reasonable service’ (cf. Rom. 12:1), and that is the source of all blessedness.”

“She is mother not of the Redeemer alone, but also of the redeemed; and so she is the mother of the faithful. The Catholic acknowledges in heaven not only a Father, but also a mother…When the Catholic speaks of his Heavenly Mother, his heart is full with all the strength of feeling that is contained in that word. Mary is as it were a gracious revelation of certain ineffable and ultimate traits in the nature of God, which are too fine and too delicate to be grasped otherwise than as reflected in the mirror of a mother. Ave Maria!”

I don’t know what you are thinking, but just from typing these words, my only word is – Wow! Allow these words to penetrate your heart and mind this week. Reading them more than once is a definite and I would imagine each time you will get something new from each one.

Mary, Mother of the Redeemed…Pray for Us.

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

Over the weekend, my friend Amanda asked me on Facebook to name the 10 Books That Have Stayed With Me over my lifetime so far. Like some of the other challenges making their way around the social media world, I found this one to be the most reflective and one that I could answer with some good insight.

For me, books are important. In my undergraduate years in the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco, I probably read close to 110 books (not all cover to cover) in three years. It was an intense period of my early 20’s, but one I look at now with great admiration and accomplishment. If only I had the time to read some of those great books and authors nowadays. The list of books is astonishing. They really are the Great Books of Western Civilization.

The list below is in no particular order. You will notice that the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are not listed in this particular list. The reason why they are not in this list is because they continue daily to play a role in my life where these books “have stayed with me” in a different way. Although one of the books is a book from the Scriptures, the theme has always impacted me.

What is also different in this blog post than on my original Facebook post is that I am going to explain why these books have “stayed with me.”

The Ten Books are:

1. The Odyssey by Homer. This is one of the first books I read in the St. Ignatius Institute in my Greek Literature course. Even at the early age of 20, I could see the elements of Christianity and particularly Catholicism in this work, even though Homer wrote it centuries before Christ. The one key theme that stands out for me: a quest to get home with joys, sufferings, and redemption.

2. Song of Songs (Old Testament Book) – Hopefully, if the Lord blesses me with the vocation of marriage someday, I will read this to my wife on our wedding night. After listening to Dr. John Bergsma’s lecture on this in Principle of Biblical Studies I at Franciscan, it was confirmed that my wife will hear this on our wedding night. I just love it! If you have never read it, then read it. It’s the inspired Word of God!

3. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. This is one of those life-changing books and it was for me as well. It really gives you insight into suffering since Victor Frankl was imprisoned in the Concentration Camp in Auschwitz. The underlining theme in this book is Hope. Even in the most treacherous situations, Hope can be a light in the darkness.

4. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. I read this book in my Nature of Love course in graduate school at Franciscan. We were told on the first day of class that this book is known to make grown men cry. In my pride, I said whatever. Well later that summer, I was in tears. It’s an amazing book on love, suffering, and death. This is a great love story, but the love has its flaws.

A large section of my personal library. There are other books as well.

A large section of my personal library. There are other books as well.

5. Saint Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton. This was the first book I had ever read by G.K. Chesterton. Although not a theologian, this is probably the best book written on St. Thomas Aquinas. Chesterton through his magnificent vocabulary and detail to imagery and verse brings the life of Thomas out of the pages and right into your heart and mind.

6. The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam. Here is yet another book I read in graduate school at Franciscan. As I read this book sitting in the John Paul II Library, I kept pumping my fist in the air because it’s all about Catholicism and the beauty of the Catholic Church. I promote this book when I give talks. If you have a friend who is thinking about joining the Catholic Church, this is one of the books they must read. It’s brought some of the greatest Catholic theologians in the United States in union with Rome.

7. Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope St. John Paul II. This was the first book I read by Pope St. John Paul II. It impacted me so much that I went on to earn a Bachelors in Philosophy, and eventually attain a Masters in Theology. Overall, it’s a simple read compared to the many other documents written by JP2. This book was so early on in my studies, that it’s not even annotated.

8. Fides et Ratio by Pope St. John Paul II. There is one reason why this book is on this list – Pope St. John Paul II. It’s the document that solidified my understanding of faith and reason. It’s both philosophical and theological. A great read, but not easy to understand. I am still figuring out what everything means.

9. Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. Aristotle is considered one of the greatest philosophers of the ancient world and my list would be insufficient without a work of his on it. Although I struggled dramatically through his Posterior Analytics, I devoured this book by him. I still quote it to this day and his understanding of ethics is unmatched. There is a reason why St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas baptized and confirmed him in the Christian faith.

10. A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn. This was the first book that opened my eyes to the covenants in the Old Testament. When I first read this book in 2004, I would have never imagined that Dr. Scott Hahn would be my professor and academic advisor while at Franciscan. This book is a great read for anyone seeking to understand the covenants established by God in the Old Testament and eventually the New Testament with Jesus Christ.

Well there you have it…10 books that have stayed with me. The only factor is that 10 books were not easy since the Confessions by St. Augustine, Introduction to Mary by Mark Miravalle, many more documents by Pope St. John Paul II, the writings of C.S. Lewis, Pope Benedict XVI, and many others could be on this list.

So what you are your 10 books that have stayed with you? Tell us in the comment box below.

1 Year Anniversary of TomPerna.org

Wow! Have 365 days really passed since I began this blog? One year ago, as I was leaving the Catholic Schools Dinner for the Diocese of Austin, I ran into Sabrina and Matthew and said to them that I was going home to begin my blog to help educate and evangelize the Catholic lay faithful in the New Evangelization. I stayed up quite late that night to create and launch the blog, and my first post – The Spirit of Catholicism – followed after sleeping a few hours.

When I began this endeavor 12 months ago today, I was living in Austin, Texas teaching high school theology at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School and disc jockeying athletic events for football, boys and girls basketball, and baseball. Now I am back in the “Valley of the Sun” – Phoenix, Arizona. It’s good to be home and close to family and friends. Being able to see my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and niece/Goddaughter on a weekly and sometimes daily basis has been good for the heart.

In regards to writing and the love that I have for it, it has proven to show when I put my heart and mind into something, good fruit can come of it. One hundred and thirty-two posts (including this one) later is quite an accomplishment for a man who hated to write as a boy when he was in high school. Let’s be honest, the only thing I liked in high school was playing the drums. But a lot has changed in 20 years and I have accomplished many things with God’s grace – only with God’s grace! Dr. Regis Martin, one of my professors at Franciscan use to say – “It’s all about Grace.” This theological odyssey that I am on is only just beginning.

There are way too many people I want to thank, but first I give praise and thanksgiving to my savior, Jesus Christ. I want to thank His Blessed Mother, the ever-Virgin, who I write about every Monday with the series “Mondays with Mary.” Blessed Mother, your perfect guidance and maternal meditation leads me closer to Jesus. I would also like to thank all the angels and saints, such as Blessed John Paul II, that watch over me and intercede on my behalf daily.

I want to also thank my family, especially my parents who have always supported me in all that I have done this year and in the past. My sister is a great support to me and often keeps me in line, which is not easy to do.  I thank my all my friends, undergrad and graduate professors, and my current bosses – Fr. Kilian McCaffrey and Fr. Chad King for all the guidance, knowledge, and backing you gave me or are giving currently.

Here is to the beginning of year 2…

Psalm 25 – Make Me To Know Your Ways, O Lord…

Continuing with the same theme of sin and forgiveness, I wish to write a short reflection on Psalm 25. Since we are in Lent, this is theme that will continue through this desert journey. You should have heard Psalm 25 yesterday as the Responsorial Psalm for the First Sunday in Lent. Instead of focusing on the entire psalm, as I did with Psalms 41 and 51, I will only discuss the verses (4-5, 6-7, 8-9) that were read or sung yesterday during the Sunday Liturgy. Below is how the Responsorial Psalm is written in the Daily Roman Missal –

Response: Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Your ways, O LORD, make know to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your love are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD, thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and he teaches the humble his way.

Psalm 25 begins as the psalmist lifting up his soul to God and not to graven images as happened in the previous psalm (Ps 24:4). The psalmist continues to say the just man who fears the Lord will be allowed to enter the temple. We must understand that “fear of the Lord” is not fear like you are afraid of God or fear in a horror movie, but “fear of the Lord” means that we are in awe of God’s presence.

In Psalm 25:4-7, the psalmist is seeking how the Lord will instruct him in all his ways because salvation only comes from God. He wants God to lead him in his laws and teach him how to act accordingly. The psalmist asks God to forgive him and to have mercy, love and goodness upon him. The translation that we use in the Roman Liturgy comes from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament. In this translation, we read the phrase – “Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your love are from of old.” In the Revised Standard Version – Second Catholic Edition, the same verse is translated as “Be mindful of your compassion, O LORD, and of your merciful love, for they have been from of old.

The psalmist is still seeking forgiveness, however, he is hoping that the Lord will not take away his merciful love or hesed from him. As I discussed in Psalm 51, the term hesed means covenant love or covenant fidelity. When God established his covenants [covenant – an extension of kinship by oath] with Adam, Noah, Abram (Abraham), Moses, and David, he sets the foundation of the covenants with hesed – covenant fidelity. This is such an important idea since it will come to fulfillment when Jesus Christ establishes the New Covenant with Apostles and all of us in Luke 22: 14-23 at the Last Supper. For a detailed account of these covenants, read the book – A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn.

In Psalm 25:8-9, the term “sinners” and “the humble” are seen as the same for it’s the humble man that admits that he is a sinner. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ who teaches us truth, shows us mercy (hesed) and brings us peace. St. Augustine says, in the New Testament, we see Jesus forgiving sins and speaking truth and judging both by their actions. In Jesus’ teachings we see both mercy and judgment. The man that follows the Lord’s ways and knows that his actions don’t contribute to his own salvation; is the man who will come to the Lord and be close to him. As he draws closer to the Lord, he will know the Lord’s path and avoid the harsh judgment that will fall upon those who don’t engage and draw near to the Lord. The man who keeps his covenant will remain in the hesed of God.

As human beings, we deal with the knowledge of our sins on a daily basis. We know that we are sinful and that we must repent of our sins accordingly. The Catholic Church, in her wisdom, establishes for us these 40 days that assist us in acknowledging our sinful ways and seeking means of forgiveness. During this Lenten Season, I would encourage you to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you have not been in sometime, I would really encourage you to seek out this blessed and grace-filled sacrament. In his book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says about the sacrament of reconciliation – “In every good confession the holiest victories are won by the power of conscience, by love for purity and goodness, by desire of God and of peace of soul. Confession has given new courage and new confidence and a fresh start in life to millions of men.”