Movie Thoughts: Restless Heart: The Confessions of St. Augustine

Restless Heart: The Confessions of St. Augustine is a 2010 Italian film directed by Christian Duguay and starring Alessandro Preziosi and Franco Nero as young and old Augustine. I watched this film on The English version was published by Ignatius Press. They did a pretty good job with the dubbing because I didn’t notice until I saw “English Voice Cast” in the credits. The film is a little over 2 hours long. I could tell this movie had a bigger budget than most Catholic films. The props and special effects were pretty good. The acting was also good in most scenes, though a few scenes could have been better.

Restless Heart tells the story of St. Augustine. As part of showing his life, the movie has several key parts in Augustine’s life where he chose between God and evil. These were the parts I found the most interesting. Early in Augustine’s life, he was a successful lawyer. He didn’t care if the people he defended were guilty or not, he was in it for the money, power, and women that winning in court brought him. After a man he obtained acquittal of attempted murder ended up actually carrying out the murder later, Augustine was shaken and chose God.

Augustine took a break from work and returned home, along with his mistress who he had a child with. For a time he was pleased with family life. Given enough time, he may have married the mistress and lived a simple, yet holy life. Unfortunately, Augustine was tempted by a friend who invited him to apply for a prestigious position in Milan as the emperor’s official orator. Augustine’s dreams of fame and power got the better of him. He chose evil and left family life behind, but it wasn’t over yet.

In Milan, Augustine met another gifted orator, St. Ambrose. Over time, Ambrose’s sermons convinced Augustine that there was some truth to the Christian faith. After his mistress left him he attempted to satisfy his need for love with another mistress, but it didn’t help. He found that only God’s love could satisfy him. This was the critical moment of his life. In early times, he went back and forth for God and against God, but this decision was final. He chose God and never went back. There was much more in the movie, but these were the parts I found most interesting.

Restless Heart was a pretty entertaining movie. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. It was really interesting seeing how Augustine justified his sins and how he wavered between good and evil. One bad thing is that the writers seemed to take some liberties with the history. Some events happened differently in the movie compared to what I read before. I always prefer sticking with history even if it makes the story less entertaining, but they got the overall theme right. Augustine’s life was an internal battle between good and evil in his heart, and the movie captured that perfectly.

The internal battle between good and evil is actually the case for all people, not just Augustine. The battle does not end until we die. Those that let evil win go to hell. Those that have enough good in them go to heaven. That’s why looking at Augustine’s life is so interesting. We get to see how a saint fought this battle and won. In my case, I have found my success at doing good to be dependent on my relationship with God. The closer I am to God, the better I can fight evil. As a result, much of my studies and efforts are on improving my relationship with God. I expect to be working on this the rest of my life. To take a break would let evil slowly intrude on my life again.


Movie Thoughts: Joseph of Nazareth

Joseph of Nazareth is a 2000 Italian film directed by Raffaele Mertes and Elisabetta Marchetti and starring Tobias Moretti as Joseph and Stefania Rivi as Mary. Despite being made by Italians, it appears the movie was in English. There were no subtitles, and I didn’t see any clear signs of dubbing. I watched this film on the website. There are many movies about Mary, but not many about Joseph. I thought it would be nice to see things from Joseph’s perspective. Well, there isn’t a whole lot about Joseph in the Bible.

Some saints have written about Joseph based on private revelation, but there’s not a whole lot of official history on Joseph. Making a whole movie about him is understandably difficult. The writers had to fill in a lot of blanks. As a result, many scenes in the movie are more speculative than actual truth. They could be true, but they could easily be fictional.

Joseph of Nazareth covers everything in the Bible: Joseph’s betrothal to Mary, Mary’s acceptance of God’s plan to conceive Jesus in her womb, Joseph’s intention to quietly divorce Mary after finding her with child, Joseph’s acceptance of God’s plan after hearing from the angel, Jesus’ birth in a manger in Bethlehem, the shepherds and Three Kings adoring Jesus and offering gifts, Herod’s effort to kill the Messiah with the massacre of all young males, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus’ flight to Egypt, their return after Herod’s death, the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and the losing of Jesus and later finding of him in the temple.

As far as the speculative or fictional content, Joseph of Nazareth posits that Nazareth was attacked at some point, resulting in the death of Joseph’s wife as well as brothers and sisters. Joseph took on 3 nephews to raise them in place of their parents. These nephews were Jesus’ “brothers” in the Bible, though they all become adults and left before the birth of Jesus. In the story, Joseph is a master carpenter who is employed by King Herod on several occasions. It is during one of these times as Joseph is leaving for Jerusalem that Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. When Joseph returns he is understandably upset to find her with child. Another addition to the story is when Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus’ are heading to Egypt only to find Herod’s guards preventing young males from leaving. Mary crosses alone while Joseph, carrying the baby Jesus, secretly crosses the rugged mountains before meeting up with Mary on the other side.

I don’t mind fictional content if it fits with the existing story in the Bible; however, I was disappointed to find some of the content in Joseph of Nazareth to not fit with what we believe in the Catholic faith. In disagreement with common Catholic teaching, the film depicted Mary in labor pains. Catholics believe labor pains are one of the effects of original sin. Because Mary was born without sin, even original sin, we believe she gave birth with no pain. The scene in the film doesn’t agree with this. A related example is the movie showing Jesus crying after birth. Catholics generally believe that since Mary felt no pain, Jesus felt no pain either. He probably wouldn’t be crying. He would be at peace with his mother.

In some cases, Joseph of Nazareth didn’t even agree with the Bible. For example, the Bible speaks of the angel visiting Mary, but in the movie there is no angel. Mary hears the words of the angel but sees nothing. I guess this could be one way to interpret the Bible, but it seems natural that if an angel visited Mary, she would see that angel. Another example is how the movie showed Joseph not being with Mary when she gave birth. If Mary was in labor pains, I don’t think Joseph would have left her side. Also, the movie never shows Joseph showing any affection towards Mary. As far as I remember, he never hugged her or said a comforting word the whole film. The Joseph in the film just doesn’t fit the Joseph in the Bible to me.

Lastly, some scenes in the film don’t seem to fit the historical period either. For example, in a few scenes Mary was depicted as traveling on her own. During that time in history, the roads were not safe. Men didn’t travel alone, let alone women, yet a few scenes showed Mary travelling alone by donkey. At the minimum, she would have had Joseph with her, but probably she would have travelled with a caravan for safety. The movie does show this once when Mary and Joseph are leaving Jerusalem and later realize Jesus is not with them. I can remember two other scenes where Mary travelled alone though, most clearly when she visited Elizabeth.

Despite these inaccuracies, Joseph of Nazareth was an entertaining film. It didn’t cost me anything to watch, so it was worth the time I spent watching. I wish it stuck more to the Bible, Catholic traditions, and historical accuracy, but it was better than nothing. I wouldn’t use the film as a source for studying Joseph though. Documentaries and books would probably do a much better job. I think there are more conclusions that can be drawn about Joseph based on the Bible if combined with logical and historical arguments, but nothing of that sort will be found in a drama film.

Movie Thoughts: Miracle of Saint Thérèse

Miracle of Saint Thérèse is a 1959 Franch docudrama film directed by Andre Haquet and starring France Descaut in the title role. It is 92 minutes long (1 hour, 32 minutes). I had some free time during Thanksgiving and decided to watch one of the movies on, the new Catholic multimedia site. St. Thérèse is one of my favorite saints, so I was excited to see if the movie had any more details about her life.

Miracle of Saint Thérèse is pretty old-fashioned, all black and white with low sound quality. I think it is dubbed from the original French into English as well. Several times the words don’t match up with the actor’s mouths. Also, it is pretty obvious when they mute the sound to add the dubbing. In many scenes there are large periods of complete silence, very different from modern movies. I think the film would have been better with English subtitles rather than dubbed English voices. I prefer a more modern film, but I have patience. It didn’t really bother me.

In Miracle of Saint Thérèse, a narrator sets the tone and gives some background before major events like a documentary. Then the drama takes over with characters acting out the parts. There is more narration in the first half, which speeds through the years quickly, than the second half, which really focuses on the last few years of her life.

I enjoyed the detail in the second half. It was really interesting to see how the Carmelites live. There’s probably been some changes since then, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s very similar today. They have a strict rule to follow. It was especially hard for the fragile St. Thérèse, but no matter how much she suffered, she didn’t give up. In fact, she usually did even more than her sisters in spite of her weakness.

I wish Miracle of Saint Thérèse covered more of her early life. I read her biography on Wikipedia a while back and found the movie covered very little of her childhood. For example, Thérèse was picked on and bullied at school. The movie didn’t show any of her schooling. Also, she had a lot of problems with anxiety after her mother’s death, which the movie depicted as some unexplained illness. The point of the movie, I’m sure, was to help viewers grow in the faith, so it makes sense to focus on the later events of her life. These later years have the most teaching value.

Overall, I had a good time with Miracle of Saint Thérèse. It wasn’t perfect. I would prefer a more recent movie. For foreign films, I always like subtitles more than dubbed voiceover. The movie skipped a lot of St. Thérèse’s early life. These are all very minor though. It was worth the time I spent with it and gave me new appreciation for the saint. It reminded me again why she is one of my favorite saints. Her life helps me stay motivated to get things done even with all the little health problems I have to suffer through.


Book Thoughts: God’s Promises for You: Scripture Selections from Max Lucado

God’s Promises for You: Scripture Selections from Max Lucado is a 2005 book by Christian author Max Lucado. It was published by Hallmark Cards, Inc. My mother let me borrow this book during Lent one year, but I forgot about it. For probably a year, it just collected dust in my bookshelf. This year I decided to treat Advent as a mini-Lent, full of prayer rather than entertainment. That gave me time to finally read this book.

God’s Promises for You has 204 pages split into 10 sections, each with their own theme. Each section has 6-10 promises. The left side of the page has 3-4 Scriptures from the Bible. The right side has a short note by the author. The layout is perfect for a quick daily read in the morning. The notes are all taken from previous books Max Lucado has written, so this book can be seen as a launching point to many of his other books. It includes an Acknowledgements page at the end to help with this.

Max Lucado has some good points in God’s Promises for You. I already know most of it, but there are some things I hadn’t thought about before. The real value in this book for me is the list of Bible passages for each promise. I will be using it as a reference for future study and writing. I grew a little spiritually after reading this book and expect more growth with the future studies it will enable. Any book that helps with my spiritual growth is a good book in my opinion.

I think God’s Promises for You would be a good starter for anyone that has trouble reading the Bible on its own. The Scripture passages are collected under clear themes and each topic has some nice words to explain their significance. It’s a simple book though. Those that are well advanced in their faith may not get a lot out of it. Something else to think about is that this is a Christian book, not Catholic, but the notes are general enough the reader can interpret it in a way that fits their faith whether it is Catholicism or some other Christian faith.

For example, in one part the author wrote about asking for forgiveness from God and then moving on. Since he didn’t go into detail on what asking for forgiveness entails it can fit the Catholic faith. Catholics can interpret that to mean: say a simple act of contrition for venial sin, go to confession for mortal sin. Those of another Christian faith can interpret this note to mean: say a simple prayer asking for Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness. The text is general enough to fit both interpretations. In this way Max Lucado wrote a book that can apply to a lot of people. The downside is that he is unable to go into any real depth. So it’s a good starter, but hopefully leads the reader to further study.


Book Thoughts: Back to Virtue

Back to Virtue was a 1986 Catholic book by Peter Kreeft. It was originally titled For Heaven’s Sake but was republished in 1992 with a new name. Peter Kreeft has a doctor in philosophy, so this book was primarily about making an argument supporting the need for Western civilization to go “back to virtue”. To do this, the book was structured into two parts. The first part (Missing: A Virtuous People) described the overall problem: Western civilization abandoned the idea of virtues, leading to all manner of chaos. Eventually, this would lead to the destruction of humanity by war. To avoid this destruction, people needed to go back to the virtues Christianity had brought forth. The second part of the book (Key: Personal Virtue) detailed the four cardinal virtues (justice, wisdom, courage, moderation), three theological virtues (faith, hope, charity), and the beatitudes that oppose the seven deadly sins. The first part was the most straightforward with the second part being the real meat of the book.

I agreed with pretty much everything Peter Kreeft wrote in Back to Virtue.  It was surprisingly accurate given the date this book was written. Other than a few references to the Cold War, this text could have been written today. While the Cold War is over, I really feel like the Western world is going downhill, and that lack of religion is the reason. It’s possible to be a very good person without religion but very rare. Without having good ideals to live by, most people will be as selfish as they can get away with. Selfish people do not do good.

The role models of the modern world are professional athletes, movie stars, and politicians, but these groups are some of the worst in God’s eyes. They are not good people, so Mr. Kreeft challenged the reader to be that good role model in society. Without Christians leading good, holy lives the author predicted the downfall of modern civilization. I agree Christians need to be holy. I strive my whole life to optimize my life around the faith, so I can serve God and others the best I can. I don’t agree that we can turn civilization back to God though.

My feelings in the salvation of modern civilization is product of the time I have grown up in. I have seen people continually move further away from God. Never has there been a turnaround. I know nothing is impossible for God, but because I have never experienced any large change towards God, I just can’t see it ever happening. Our world is stuck in the gravity of the black hole that is hell. I believe the good actions of Christians can slow this process down but never turn things around. That doesn’t mean we give up though. We do the best we can, as I am, and trust God with the rest.

I focus on the low level, identifying needy people and serving them the best I can. Of course, I am willing to give my thoughts on how to be holy — that’s a big part of this blog — but in general, I don’t believe it will lead a revolution. It would be sad if this world was all there is, but as Catholics, we believe in heaven, eternal life. We have something positive to look forward to. We need to do our best to save our soul and the souls of others, but everything else is up to God.

Back to Virtue had a heavy foundation in philosophy and logic. This made it very dense and slow to read for me. It is a book to be studied, not just read one time and set aside. I always enjoy studying the faith though, so I plan to spend a lot of time rereading each chapter. In reading this book, I realized holiness and ideals can be thought about in more than one way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church focuses more on the Ten Commandments, but a Catholic could also focus on the virtues as their guide for holiness. I will be looking into virtues more. If there is anything fruitful in this study, I will put it online for all.


Book Thoughts: Resisting Happiness

Resisting Happiness was a 2016 book by Matthew Kelly that my parish offered all parishioners after the Christmas services. It’s a nice yearly tradition to get some good reading material for the new year. This is the second Matthew Kelly book I’ve read. The first one was The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. That book had a lot of good ideas. I ended up writing them all down and implementing the best ones. Resisting Happiness felt very similar. Just like The Four Signs, it was a book about being the best version of yourself. This time it approached the idea from the angle of happiness.

Resisting Happiness had a total of 37 chapters. Each chapter began with a short anecdote from Matthew Kelly’s life. He then extrapolated what he learned from that experience into a Key Point that summarized the essence of the chapter and an Action Step the reader could take to improve themselves. I have already been doing much of what Matthew Kelly suggested, but some of them were interesting questions to answer or things I needed to work on more. I wrote down all the Action Steps, did the short term ones, and made plans for the long term ones.

I already do many of the Action Steps like praying daily and regular Bible reading. I already had plans for some of them like going to confession regularly. Others, like writing a spiritual plan, I already did on my own. However, two new ones I am starting are offering every activity to God for an intention and making a conscious effort to listen to God.

Resisting Happiness taught me that our ordinary life (work, chores, etc.) is pleasing to God just as dedicated prayer is pleasing to him, so our normal activities can be offered to God as a prayer for something in return. My intentions will all be for loved ones both living and dead. I am excited to have another way to give back to others that doesn’t require me to leave the house.

Listening to God is hard for me because I am such a big thinker. I can sit for hours in silence just thinking about random stuff. It’s hard for me to empty my mind and just listen. I am taking what I learned from Fr. Larry Richards’ speech on Prayer to incorporate listening to God into my life. I will be trying my hardest to always ask God what he wants whenever I have a decision to make. Making this a habit will help me feel the presence of God much more.

Overall, I like Matthew Kelly’s message of being the best version of yourself. Before I even read any of these books, I had the idea to improve myself and be a saint. It has been continually reinforced with these books as well as my efforts on this blog. These days I have gotten used to the constant effort of improvement, but it was a major life-changing decision back then. I probably would have resisted had I known what the future had in store for me.

I developed several health problems over a six year period. They were easy to ignore at first, but slowly got worse. I prayed for healing for many years. Then my prayers were answered. For almost four months, I had no symptoms. I felt great. In return for God answering my prayers, I decided to start the path of improvement and become a really good person. Unfortunately, my good health was short-lived. The problems all came back worse than before. Since then I have had ups and downs with my health. Rarely, I have a good day or even a week but never several months.

I am still working on my health, but after working on it so long with no positive results, I don’t have any hope of being healthy again. I continue praying for it, but my hope is only in eternal life not any earthly happiness. So the primary thing holding me back from happiness is my bad health not any lack of action on my part. I did learn some things from this book, but I wasn’t really the target audience. Like most books, it was written for the average person with normal health, the people that have the freedom to do many things. On the other hand, my freedom is limited. I have freedom to do things from home or through the Internet. What I do outside has to be limited due to how much suffering it causes me. I still liked the book despite it not having the answer to my happiness. My happiness depends on God healing me permanently. Based on my past, that will never happen, so I am ever focused on the end of my suffering in heaven. Just because I am home a lot doesn’t mean I can’t improve though.

I still work on it every day. Most of my efforts are on improving my prayer life and sense of God in my life to ward off loneliness and finding ways to serve others from home. I’ve been working on this several years, but I continue to learn new things and start new practices. I continue to become holier and closer to God. All this excites me even more for my eventual peace in heaven. It’s so hard to wait many days. When the going gets tough I refocus on God with prayer and service. I am eager for the time of good health.


Speech Thoughts: Prayer

Prayer was a speech given by Fr. Larry Richards. I saw this priest speak at a men’s conference, and he was very good. He really knew how to grab everyone’s attention. My dad bought a CD containing the audio of this speech. My mom happened to find it while cleaning out all the religious books and let me borrow it. Compared to Fr. Larry’s speech on Confession, this one didn’t have as much new information. The focus was using Jesus example of how to pray (the Our Father prayer) to guide us in the present time.

Fr. Larry explained how Jesus’ use of “Father” as a name for God was unheard of in his time. The priests of the time believed God’s name was so holy it could never be spoken. On the other hand, Jesus made God much more relatable. He is our Father. By comparing God to our biological father, we could understand the kind of relationship we should have with God. We should love him like a parent because we are children compared to him.

The next part of the speech was about “Your will be done”. Fr. Larry explained that we need to listen to God. It’s not just about what we want or even need. It’s what God wants. God knows what our needs are before we even sit down to prayer, so we don’t have to worry about him not meeting our needs. It’s okay to ask for things, but we always need to think about what God wants first. This requires a lot of trust in God.

Fr. Larry did his best to promote mass for the next part. The words, “Give us our daily bread”, are not just about God feeding us. All our physical, mental, and spiritual needs are wrapped up in this sentence. On top of that, “bread” also refers to the Eucharist, so “daily bread” means go to daily mass. I don’t think many people were interested, but I like the idea. Maybe if I can retire someday, though I don’t see that ever happening with how expensive everything is these days.

The last part I remember was about “…as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Fr. Larry gave the Bible reading where Jesus said we would not be forgiven by God if we did not forgive our enemies here on Earth. I’ve done pretty well at this one. Sometimes I do get disappointed or angry with people, but I always forgive them a short while later. For some people, this is the great battle of their life. I am thinking of people that were abused as children or went through a painful divorce. It’s really hard to forgive someone that has caused so much suffering. I am so blessed to have not had to live through such tragic events.

For the last 15 minutes Fr. Larry put his own instructions into practice by leading everyone in prayer. The key thing was to imagine God through the image of Jesus standing in front of us. We could imagine what he looked like from his hair, clothes, skin, eyes, and more. That made it easy to see God is with us at all times and feel close to him. After developing a good image of God through Jesus, the prayer continued with repentance, surrender to God, allowing God to hold us, and praying the Our Father together with Jesus.

It would be too long to go into all the detail, but I got more out of this speech than I expected. I had copied a prayer format from a book by Matthew Kelly. This prayer was a good start, but I soon had a long list of petitions each day. I did do repentance and a tiny bit of listening to God, but the prayer was mostly about my petitions, what I want. I had been meaning to do more listening but wasn’t sure how. This CD came to me at a good time. I was able to combine the two prayer formats to create a new one that has the best of both. I start by surrendering to God, asking forgiveness and listening for his commands. Only then do I go into my petitions. I got rid of the long lists of petitions and now just ask for whatever comes to mind. These are the most important ones.

I am very excited to use this new prayer practice whenever I can. I can’t just drop everything for God, but I will ask God what he wants whenever I have a decision to make. This will mostly be during my free time. Sometimes I will get direction from these prayers and other times I will have to make my own decisions, but I need to involve God. That way at my death I can say: “I did what God wanted. Wherever I have ended up is because of God.” Of course, I can’t listen to temptations and assume they are from God, but if I feel called to do some good action, I can make that decision knowing God wills it to some extent. As long as I involve God in my decisions, he will be happy with my life and have little to worry about. I hope this new prayer practice will allow me to serve others even better. If God has my back, the things I do should be more effective.


Book Thoughts: Ending Abortion: Not Just Fighting It!

Ending Abortion: Not Just Fighting It! is a 2006 book by Fr. Frank A. Pavone, M.E.V. This book was written assuming the reader was pro-life. It’s goal wasn’t to convert the reader to the pro-life cause but to reinvigorate existing pro-life believers. My mother let me borrow the book. I have been a firm pro-life believer for many years but haven’t been active in arguing it. I knew the Church teaching on abortion, but like many things in life, it can be thought about in many different ways. Fr. Pavone is the leader of the Priests for Life organization and has been active in the pro-life movement for many years now. He has a lot of experience in this area, so I really felt like Ending Abortion provided a thorough examination of abortion in America. The book approached the subject from six angles: The Activists, Arguments, Women, Babies, Celebrations, Abortionists, Government and Church.

The Activists provided quick and easy actions the reader can take right now to make a difference. The Arguments listed out the most common arguments pro-life people can make to counter the arguments of abortion supporters. The Women explained how women are also victimized by abortion. The Babies described the value of even the tiniest human life. The Celebrations went through how to promote the pro-life cause through national holidays. The Abortionists went into how to organically shut down abortion clinics by converting the people who support them. The Government gave the obligations Catholics have as civil servants to fight abortion through politics and government. Lastly, The Church showed the Church’s stance on abortion and the actions the clergy can take to end abortion.

Ending Abortion was an easy read but took longer than some books. The book was structured as a series of thoughts on supporting the pro-life movement grouped into eight categories. Each thought was no longer than two pages, so Fr. Pavone got to the point quickly. He wrote in plain terms, making each point very clear. Each thought was a totally new idea to think about, with its own beginning, middle, and end. This made the book excellent for a short daily reading of just one thought per day but not very good for long, continuous reading like I prefer. I read the book cover to cover because I needed to catch up on my Catholic reading, but I plan to go through it more slowly later.

Ending Abortion had a lot of good ideas and arguments. I’m sure all this information is available elsewhere, but I will be compiling it into a short cheat sheet and posting it on this website. I will be giving the book back to my mother soon but want to retain the essence of the book. Posting it on the website will also allow anyone else to enjoy this information too.

One downside to this book was that fact that it was written over ten years ago. Several times Fr. Pavone referenced new developments in the pro-life movement which is now old news ten years later. This is not his fault, just the effects of the passage of time. I do wonder if he has written a newer book on abortion, but almost everything in the book still applies today.


Speech Thoughts: Confession

Confession was a speech given by Fr. Larry Richards on the Sacrament of Confession. My dad bought this CD at a men’s conference we went to a while back. I had totally forgotten about it until my mom happened to find it buried in the religious books. After listening to it herself, she let me borrow it. I already knew Fr. Larry was a good speaker from my time at the conference, so I was not surprised this was a good speech. It was perfect timing to listen to this now, with Lent being the time of confession, forgiveness, and repentance.

Many times I fall into the trap of thinking I know all about some aspect of the faith. Confession is one of the Big Seven (The Sacraments) in the church. Catholics like myself participate in the Sacraments many times a year. We know them well, so it’s easy to think we know all about them and have nothing to gain from a speech about the Sacrament of Confession. Fr. Larry did a great job of showing just how little I know. Even when I did know all about something, he was able to say it in a new and refreshing way. I truly believe much of studying the faith is looking at Catholicism from all different angles. In this way, we can know about how we fit into this faith from all different angles. In listening to a speech like Confession, we come to know ourselves that much more.

Knowing yourself is especially important in the case of Confession. After all, we can’t really change our ways unless we know completely and fully why we sin. It’s easy to read about various sins and understand the logic behind why they are wrong. What’s not easy is finding out why, despite having this knowledge, we continue to sin. The heart of Confession is looking at our deepest desires and longings and seeing why we choose sin as a substitute for God.

One of the main parts of the speech was a detailed explanation of sin and confession. Satan tempts us to sin through doubt, continually asking us to question God’s commandments. (“God didn’t really mean that did he?”) When we sin we are saying No to God. We are saying we know better than God. This is pride, the root of all sin. Sin is a cancer of the spirit. To treat cancer, doctors make sure to cut it all out. If any is left, it will just grow back. In confession, God does surgery on the soul. If we don’t do a good confession, some of that sin is left on the soul, and, just like cancer, it will grow back. With a good confession, the soul is totally clean.

The second big part was about how to give a good confession. Of course, Catholics know this means examining our conscience, so Fr. Larry went through the Ten Commandments talking about all the most common sins related to them. The last 5 minutes or so, Fr. Larry quickly rattled off around 30 easy questions to ask ourselves before entering the confessional. By the end of this part, everyone had a good idea of all their sins, many of which they had not considered before. Even though I wasn’t present for the speech, I could see many sins I haven’t really confessed very much or very well. I am eager for my Lenten confession, so I can say everything.

Because sin is such a big deal for all humanity, it would be very good practice to listen to this speech again every Lenten season. I only borrowed the CD, so I took lots of notes down instead. Then I can come back to my notes the next year. I am planning to write down the 30 easy questions on this blog in case anyone finds it useful. Every Catholic has done an examination of conscience and seen those long lists of questions, but I really like how short and sweet these questions are.


Speech Thoughts: 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy

7 Secrets of Divine Mercy was a CD recording of a talk given in 2015 by Vinny Flynn. The talk was based on a book by the same name, also by Vinny Flynn. The recording was about 45 minutes long. I found Mr. Flynn to be a great speaker. He spoke clearly, had a good personality, and kept the subject moving along. Humorous puns relating to the topic added a lot of humor to the talk. I have never heard a speaker use so many puns. It was his unique style.

I have prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet for many years, so I knew the general idea behind the prayer. I never studied it though, so this talk gave me a lot of interesting concepts to think about. I knew the basic idea behind the secrets, but Mr. Flynn had new details and insights I hadn’t heard before. I am always amazed at how various parts of theology relate to each other. Through the centuries popes, saints, scholars, and others has continually developed new and interesting ways to explain the Catholic faith. After listening to this talk, I see that Divine Mercy is another way.

I really liked Vinny Flynn’s explanation of the Divine Mercy image. I’ve seen it many times before. I always saw it as just a painting of Jesus displaying how his Divine Mercy works. Mr. Flynn said the same thing but then added that the Divine Mercy image was actually a mirror. In this painting, Jesus is showing us what a perfect image of God looks like, so we aren’t really seeing Jesus in the image but God himself. Mr. Flynn then explained how we needed to “improve our image”, the 3rd secret. This pun explained that when you look at yourself in a mirror, you should see an image of God. This was a great way to explain my unending effort to optimize my life around the faith. My optimization is all about striving for perfection in holiness. That is literally improving my image of God.

The 6th secret was about “the eternal now”. I know that heaven is not bound by the time of earth, but Vinny Flynn brought this paradox back into my mind. The basic idea is that when we sin Jesus literally feels it on the cross. How can this be? According to our Earth history he has already been crucified, died, and resurrected, but somehow our sins in the present affect Jesus in the past. Along the same line, our prayers in the present and our offerings of suffering somehow help Jesus in the past. This paradox is a mystery, but it is refreshing to know that my actions today have a big impact on Jesus. It makes my life feel that much more important.

Mr. Flynn also explained how this paradox applies to the souls of loved ones that have passed from this world. This means our prayers in the present for the dead can somehow still help a soul’s purification even if it already happened in the past. I don’t know how it works, but I’ve always heard people say no prayers for the dead are wasted. Now I have a better understanding. Whether their souls are still being purified or are already experiencing the Beatific Vision, our prayers will help.

I really enjoyed 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy overall. It was both educational and entertaining. I have only gone into maybe 10% of the content in the talk, so I recommend you get a copy of this for yourself. I only listened to the talk. The book probably goes into even more detail. It will really help you see the faith in a new light. Sometimes that is enough to put you on the path of major change towards “improving your image”. I will be thinking about these things when I pray this chaplet again.