Categories
Ink Slingers

A Catholic Sistas Interview with Artists Daniel Mitsui

This past month I was fortunate enough to interview artist Daniel Mitsui. With stunning and unique Catholic artwork, Daniel is an artist to notice. His meticulously detailed ink drawings are made entirely by hand on paper or calfskin vellum and are held in collections worldwide. Since his baptism in 2004, most of his artwork has been religious in nature.

Daniel was kind enough to answer my questions and share a little more about himself and his art…

For starters, your art is stunning. I knew this when I asked for the interview. However, I didn’t expect to find such enlightening lectures on your website. They are a treat to read. I particularly liked your lecture titled Heavenly Outlook.

In light of that work, I was wondering if you could more generally comment on the differences between secular art and Catholic art. How should a faithful Catholic approach and appreciate art found both inside and outside of the church?

Thank you.

I do not think that art can be cleanly divided into categories of Catholic and secular. I think you need to consider at the very least three categories. First, there is sacred art that is used in the formal worship of the Church, or that is at least appropriate to be used there: musical settings of the Mass ordinary, vestments, stained glass windows, illuminated Psalters, things like that. Second, there is religious art that is about the Old and New Testaments, or the lives of the saints, or Catholic doctrines and morals – but is not really meant to reside inside the sanctuary. That includes things like Christmas carols and picture book illustrations. And then there is art that is not explicitly religious. But that art might very well present a religious worldview, or teach some important lesson, and thus still be considered Catholic art.

Although most of my drawings are commissioned or bought by individuals and used for private devotion, I try to uphold certain principles that would place them in the first category. What distinguishes sacred art is that tradition and beauty have a special, glorified meaning. I wrote in the lecture you mentioned:

To make art ever more beautiful is not to take it away from its source in history, but to take it back to its source in Heaven. Sacred art does not have a geographic or chronological center; it has, rather, two foci, like a planetary orbit. These correspond to tradition and beauty. One is the foot of the Cross; the other is the Garden of Eden. -“Heavenly Outlook” by Daniel Mitsui

So tradition is more than a matter of respecting old ways; it is about carrying Divine Revelation forward through history. Sacred art is akin to the sacred liturgy and the writings of the Church Fathers. It is one of the means by which the memory of what Jesus Christ said and did in the presence of His Apostles was kept. For example, in sacred art, sacred liturgy and patristic exegesis, comparisons are constantly made between events of the Old Testament and events of the New Testament that they prefigure. This is not just poetic fancy; it is a way of thinking that Jesus Christ Himself taught: As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.

And beauty is more than a manner of pleasing the bodily senses. The appreciation of beautiful art and music is a vestige of our prelapsarian experience; it is a nostalgia for Paradise lost and a means of elevating our minds toward blessedness. Hugh of St. Victor, Suger of St. Denis and St. Hildegard of Bingen, three of the outstanding thinkers of the twelfth century, articulated this theology of beauty especially well.

In sacred art, both tradition and beauty are necessary. To neglect the former is to make sacred art into little more than a showy display.

To neglect the latter – to contend that so long as the art is traditional, it doesn’t really matter how beautiful it is – is a terrible diminution of its holy purpose. Very often, this is justified by a humbug idea of prayerfulness, an idea that to pray means to close your eyes and think pious thoughts to yourself, and nothing more. If this is the idea, then sacred art gets described as prayerful just for being easy to ignore. Any art that is especially beautiful, excellent, elaborate or interesting gets condemned as distracting because it actually compels you to open your eyes and ears and pay attention to it.

I really find this idea offensive. The backs of your eyelids are not windows into Heaven; they are mirrors back into your own imagination! Sacred art is supposed to lift you out of your own imagination, toward the spiritual realm.

Pulling from your lecture Invention and Exultation you are quoted saying, In our time, tradition is not a thing that is handed down so much as a thing that must be excavated. And once an artist begins to dig, he finds, in a different sense, altogether too much.

With this in mind, what do you think the contemporary Catholic artist’s role is in restoring or protecting the traditions of the faith? Do you think there are places for growth or renewal?  

What I was trying to say in that lecture is that tradition has an objective content, a content that anyone can discover. Elsewhere, I have written:

It is an all-too-common error for the faithful in the present day to confuse tradition itself with its legal enforcement by ecclesiastical authority- as though tradition were nothing more than a stack of documents bearing the correct signatures. This is an epistemological absurdity; the bishops who are tasked with writing these documents need to know what they know somehow! –“Heavenly Outlook” by Daniel Mitsui

A pope or bishop has no privy religious knowledge that is hidden from the rest of us. Insofar as he knows what is actually traditional, he knows it the same way that you or I do: based on evidence in the agreement of the Church Fathers, the law of worship and the ancient, universal practice of the faithful. The necessary keys to understanding it are the gifts of the Holy Ghost received at Baptism and Confirmation.

I think that a many of the Catholic faithful who are frustrated by bad art, bad music and bad architecture in their churches see no way to fix the problem except by having a pope or bishop write and sign and enforce a document condemning it. I don’t expect any such document to be forthcoming. If I did, I honestly would be terrified. A magisterial attempt to regulate sacred art can do far more to impede the creation of good artwork than bad. I am remembering especially the ruinous efforts of the bishop John Molaus in the late 16th century.

Hopefully, more and more of the faithful will realize that they do not need to wait for official permission to discover, preserve and restore what is actually traditional, or to make beautiful artwork that honors it – whether contributing as artists or patrons. Sacred art is one of the few endeavors that the Church has entrusted to laymen for a very long time, and that is today an advantage.

Your art is incredibly complex and detailed. What is your process? What tools do you use? How do choose the different symbolic pieces for your overall composition?

My preferred medium is ink drawing on calfskin vellum. I do not usually make rough drafts. I work out a composition in pencil on calfskin, then ink over the outlines using a metal-tipped dip pen. I use the pen to apply dark colors, and then paintbrushes to apply light ones. A knife is useful both for correcting mistakes and scratching additional details into the ink once it is dry.

Because calfskin is translucent, I sometimes draw details on the opposite side, in reverse; these can be seen faintly through the vellum, or more clearly when the drawing is held up to a light. Thus, the drawing has a different character depending on the angle and time of day that it is seen.

As for figuring out the appropriate symbolism, that is mostly a matter of preliminary research – into patristic commentaries, art historical writings and older works of art. A useful reference is the Biblia Pauperum, a book from the late Middle Ages that presents forty events from the life of Jesus Christ, each juxtaposed with two events in the Old Testament that prefigure it, and four prophecies.

Admittedly, I am quite a novice when it comes to appreciating and understanding both the devotional purposes of Catholic art and the regularly occurring symbolism that can be found around a church. Where should beginners start? Are there any resources you would suggest?

Some of the very best books for an introduction to the symbolism in sacred art are the trilogy written by the French art historian Emile Mâle, Religious Art in France of the Middle Ages. There is one volume on the 12th century, one on the 13th, and one on the late Middle Ages. All of these have been translated into English. The volume on the 13th century, sometimes titled The Gothic Image, is the most comprehensive, and the easiest to acquire. It has its flaws, but it holds up remarkably well for a scholarly work written a century ago. Another very valuable resource is The Golden Legend, a collection of saints’ lives and commentaries on liturgical feasts that was compiled in the 13th century by Blessed James of Voragine. An English translation by William Granger Ryan is in print.

Full transparency, I am a huge fan of your rosary coloring book. I have often used it as part of my own devotional practice. I am excited to share it with my children in the coming year. As a father, what is your advice when it comes to exposing children to Catholic art?

My purpose in teaching my children about art is not for them to appreciate art just so that they can one day sound smart talking about it! I rather want them to think of it as an ordinary and necessary part of their lives and something that they can themselves make. So in my home, we present holy pictures as familiar things: my kids kiss them goodnight and carry them in household processions. We place pictures around the yard for a little pilgrimage on All Saints’ Day; we hide a handwritten Alleluia sign before Septuagesima; we cover the statues with cloth during Passiontide.

My publisher is marketing my three coloring books (Mysteries of the Rosary, The Saints, and Christian Labyrinths) to adults, but I always thought of them as being for children also. My four kids all love to draw, and don’t need any special encouragement; but for kids who are less inclined, coloring books can be a way to encourage them to participate in art at an early age.

A lot of coloring books marketed to children, especially religious ones, have really insipid artwork and that, of course, defeats the whole purpose. Children appreciate artwork that is made with care and detail; they don’t actually want to look at things that look like they were drawn by other children! I hope to offer an alternative, both with my coloring books and the individual coloring pages available for download on my website,

I advise parents to keep an eye out for picture books on religious subjects that have especially fine illustrations, ones influenced by manuscript illumination or other traditional sacred art. Some favorites in our home include Mikhail Fiodorov’s Bible Stories, Maurice Boutet de Monvel’s Joan of Arc, Heidi Holder’s The Lord’s Prayer, Pamela Dalton’s The Story of Christmas, Barry Moser’s Moses, Tomie de Paola’s St. Francis and Gennady Spirin’s Creation. I care more about my children appreciating these illustrations and copying them than about their knowing the big famous names of art history.

Where can people connect with you?

My website is www.danielmitsui.com. This is where I display recent drawings, prints, and writings. I have accounts (Daniel Mitsui, Artist) on Facebook and Pinterest, and my e-mail is danielmitsuiartist@gmail.com. I am accepting commissions now.

Categories
Current Events Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Interviews Michelle Same Sex Attraction Spiritual Growth

Understanding the Gift of Human Sexuality: An Interview with Jason Evert

understanding the gift of human sexuality

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my interview with Jason Evert who will be a speaker at the Theology of the Body Congress being held in Ontario, California next week. He will speak on homosexuality and the Theology of the Body.

jason-evertJason Evert is a renowned speaker and author known for his talks on chastity. Together with his wife Crystalina, Mr. Evert connects with both the young and the old; the faithful and those of little or no faith, as well as those who are seeking answers to the questions that have been set upon their hearts. Through the Chastity Project, various social media outlets, through seminars and talks, and through a new program entitled YOU, Mr. Evert seeks to empower, educate, and prepare the next generation to share the vision, the knowledge, and the love that comes from understanding God’s gift of human sexuality.

We began our interview talking about the new videos on Theology of the Body for teens entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body (which I will have a review of on Wednesday) and continued to tackle a few hot button topics.  

Once again, I feel that Mr. Evert’s words need to be heard in their entirety and so I present our interview in a question and answer format. I pray that you will be inspired, encouraged, and empowered by the wisdom that he shares today.

Q. You are well known for talking about chastity to teens, how do you think the new videos will reach out to a new generation of teens and young adults as opposed to other ways you have brought chastity talks to them?

The previous generation of Theology of the Body for Teens that we came out with was great at the time 10 years ago. Today teens are struggling with brand new issues that weren’t even on the radar 10 years ago. For example, I was talking to a young woman who wanted to go to college at Stanford and as a part of the application process she had to pick a gender… there were 18 genders to pick from and the two genders that were missing were male and female. They weren’t even an option. This wasn’t on the radar 5 years ago let alone 10.

There are questions like “what is marriage?” What does it mean to be male and female? These are fundamental issues that teens really need to have to have a solid understanding of in order to understand God’s plan for their lives. So this new version is really cutting edge in terms in being able to offer solid guidance, not just to teens but to educators to answer these tough questions.

Q. Is it just for use in schools or catechism programs or would families benefit from it as well?

Whether it is a homeschool family or a child who goes to a public school and the parents want to make sure they are getting a truly authentic education in human sexuality rather than “that’s it”… for home use or you can do it with group study, Ascension Press has a really neat offering that if you only had 4 people who wanted to do the study as a group you can just do the digital videos so you pay for the workbooks and don’t have to buy the dvds- you can get free streaming online of all the digital content.

There are 10 chapters, each chapter is about a half hour long and covers all kinds of content- homosexuality, pornography, modesty, vocations, starting over… it’s not just a chastity program. It goes much deeper into identity and John Paul’s full understanding of what the Theology of the Body is.

Q. At the Congress you will be talking about those who experience same sex attraction. How does TOB give clarity and hope to those who experience same sex attraction?

We need to take a good look at our language when we are talking about this topic. A lot of times people speak, “Oh that’s a gay person” “That’s a lesbian person”, “That’s a straight person.” But this isn’t really a Catholic way to talk about what it means to be a human being. What I mean by that is that there really aren’t like 9 different kinds of people. There are really only three kinds of people according to the Catholic understanding of that word.

A person is a rational being, so how many different types of rational beings are there? Well there are three- the Divine Persons- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are angelic persons, which are the holy angels and the fallen angels. And then there is the human person made male and female in the image and likeness of God. And that’s it.

Our personhood, our identity, the deepest truth of that is that you are either a son of God or a daughter of God. Our sexual attractions are not the defining factor of our human identity and if we make our sexual attractions the core of who we are, then we will think that our life and our identity is being stifled and we can’t act out on those attractions.

An attraction is something I experience; your personhood is that you are a son of God or a daughter of God. And typically our behavior will flow from our identity. And so if we can first understand foremost who we are as beloved children of God, then our behavior will flow from that. John Paul provides an adequate anthropology, a sufficient understanding of what it means to be a human person. The only adequate response to another person is love. Not only to give that love but also to receive that love.

Q. In trailer I found a quote that was perfect for this conversation, “Being you is not all about you; you are a gift to the world when you love as God loves you.” How does this tie into the Congress and how will you bring this ideology to the Congress?

One challenge with this generation of young people is there is so much centered on myself- I’ve got my Instagram, I’ve got my Facebook, I’ve got my Twitter and I need to tell everyone what I am doing and share the picture of me when I look the best. There is a bit of an overemphasis on me and what I feel. Even with the gender issue of today, what I feel is who I am… regardless of what my body parts are, what I truly am is who I think I am. What the TOB does is call us to step outside of that and say “you are more than just your feeling; you have been created to make a gift of yourself. Stamped into your body is not just parts that you can do away with; stamped into your body is the sign of complementarity that you’ve been created to make a gift of yourself.” That might come within marriage, it might come with priesthood or religious life, or it might come within serving in your community, by making a gift of yourself and by giving of yourself that’s how you truly find yourself.

Q. Our kids are bombarded by society telling them that they should do what makes them feel good and to do what they want and that the Church’s teachings on the sacredness of sex and love are not important. How do we combat this ideology when the world’s voice is so much louder than our own?

There is a lot that we can do. And what we have in our favor is that their minds are made for the truth, their hearts are made for love, and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality truly offer them both.

John Paul II was asked, “If you could only keep one passage from scripture and all the rest had to be gotten rid of, what would it be?” He said, “The truth can set you free.” The truth is that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is not just a litany of rules, regulations, and prohibitions. The Church’s teaching on human sexuality is really what the human heart longs for. Do we really want a love that is forced or conditional or temporary or lifeless? No, we want a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

It’s not that the Vatican is imposing these things on us; this is what the human heart truly wants. Unfortunately our world has sold young people this false notion of freedom- that in order to be free you just got to do whatever you want. Sometimes true freedom isn’t doing whatever you want; sometimes freedom is having the ability to do what you do not want in order to do what’s best for another person. The Church teaches that your freedom is best measured by your capacity to love. Anything that inhibits your ability to love- lust, selfishness, pride, ego- those things limit my ability to love to that extent I’m not free.

This language of John Paul II doesn’t argue from the outside in- these are all the rules that you have to follow; instead it argues from the inside out- what is it that you really long for? As a result, even though the world may be louder, the Church’s teachings really resound within the hearts of the young people when they are proclaimed in their fullness.

Q. How can parents incorporate TOB into their family lives so that when they talk to their children their kids won’t just tune them out but will want to listen and want to be responsive?

One thing you could do is study it within your own family. If you’ve got middle school students Ascension Press has a program called Theology of the Body for Teens, Middle School Addition-for 6, 7, 8th graders. For the High school addition not only do they have the dvds that you can watch a home, but they also have the parent guide that you can follow.

The nice thing with TOB is that you can start really young with some of these teachings about what it means to make a gift of yourself. Affirming them when they are young- “Dear Jesus thank you for making little Mike a boy and for making little Sarah a girl and for making Mommy a girl and daddy a boy.” These understandings of what it means to be male and female that we may have taken for granted 10 years ago, need to be affirmed in the young people.

And just starting them with this idea of the gift of self and that you really find yourself by giving of yourself- what are ways that Mommy can give herself to Daddy and ways that Sally can give herself to Joe in our family to love one another. Whether it’s by surprising someone by doing the laundry or doing the dishes without being asked, now, what do you feel after making that gift of yourself?

It’s starting them when they are really young with the principles of the gift of self, of modesty, of the goodness of being male and female in the image and likeness of God.

Parents need to get over any insecurity they have when it comes to talking about human sexuality. Some parents are scared to death, “What if they ask me if I was a virgin?” “What about this?” You need to get over it. If you don’t talk to your kids about the meaning of human sexuality, the world is very happy to fill that void of your silence with a very contradictory message. I don’t care if your parents never talked to you about it or if you feel awkward; sometimes awkwardness is part of the authenticity of it.

Q. What is the most important concept you hope that the Congress goers will come away with from the Congress in general or from your talk?

I hope they will be empowered to take this message to the masses- whether it be in a religion class, their young adult bible study, CCD classes… whatever it is… we need an army of people proclaiming this message of TOB. It’s really a treasure that the Church has been entrusted with. My open prayer is that people will leave this conference feeling empowered and educated and equipped to go forth with these new tools that the Church has been given… that people will feel ready and excited to take this message to others.

Please keep Mr. Evert and all those who are sharing the gift of Theology of the Body in your prayers. He asks that we particularly pray for the fruitfulness of the program.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body Congress, please visit their website. The Congress runs from September 23-25th in Ontario, CA. You can read more about it here as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Ascension Press’s new Theology of the Body program entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body, please visit their website (and come back on Wednesday when I review the complete program!)

Categories
Current Events Domestic Church Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Interviews Marriage Michelle Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth Vocations Year of Mercy

The Beautiful Mess of the Family: An Interview with Bill Donaghy

Family life… what does that mean? If we are to look at society we know that the term is changing at an alarming rate. The family is being redefined and reconstructed before our very eyes. The biblical foundations for the family are slowly being stripped away and in its place is a very worldly, very confused view of what the family is and should be.

Last month I wrote about this brokenness and about how Theology of the Body can help us reclaim the sanctity of the family. I shared with you the upcoming Theology of the Body Congress that will be taking place in Ontario, California on September 23-25, 2016. I promised you amazing interviews with two of the keynote speakers of the Congress. Today I present to you the first of those interviews.

Bill DonaghyBill Donaghy is an” instructor, international speaker, and curriculum specialist for the Theology of the Body Institute Certification Program.” As a husband and a father of four young children he understands how crucial it is to begin to teach our children about the Theology of the Body at a young age. His talk, The Beautiful Mess of the Family, will look to “reflect on both the ideal and the real of family life.” Apart from jokes about poop and the craziness of life (we both have threenagers!), I was fortunate enough to be able to share some time with Mr. Donaghy talking about how families can incorporate TOB into their daily lives and why it is so important to do so.

I have chosen to present my interview to you in a question and answer format. I feel that Mr. Donaghy’s words are so important in their original form that I don’t want to paraphrase or summarize. I hope you are inspired by our conversation and that your heart will be opened to the gift that the Theology of the Body can bring to your entire family.

Q. Let’s reflect on the ideal and the real of family life. What kind of difference do you see in what society projects as the ideal family and what we know as the real family?

A. The ideal family, in the culture’s mind, is where I get what I want, when I want it, and then you get what you want when you want it… peace only comes with individualism. But the family, as we understand it, is this beautiful mess where it’s not just me doing what I want to do, but I’m at your service. I’m giving myself and receiving myself through you- mother/father, mother/son daughter, brother and sister… there is an interchange between persons which becomes this school of love, school of patience, school of wonder- all these different facets of living a human life with real face time- authentic face time. And then the beautiful mess that comes from it… the beautiful mess where we give ourselves and find ourselves.

Q. Do you think that one of the things that is lacking in society’s view of the ideal family compared as what family really constitutes is sacrifice and not being willing to sacrifice?

A. In the culture we constantly want to divorce love from suffering or love from sacrifice; when love is suffering, love is sacrifice literally. There is no way around it that if you are really going to love you are going to have that kind of death to self. It might be tiny, it might be huge; but we can’t separate it. When we do, we limit it, we don’t get real love.

Wendell Berry, the philosopher, said the definition of modern marriage is two careerists in the same bed who have their own stuff going on. Is that really authentic self-discovery or giftedness? It’s not really that.

Q. So how do you think that TOB is related to family life? Most people view TOB, if they haven’t dove into it, as it’s simply telling you to “be chaste”.

A. Theology of the Body is first and foremost a sense of the unique and unrepeated human life that is in front of me; that there is a theology to this body- to mommy, to daddy, to myself, to siblings that might be in the family. So the first foundation is wonder-gift; and also in our sexually confused age- identity- masculine and feminine.

The first move of TOB is identity of myself. And then my vocation- what do I do with myself? I am called to love. And so the vocation part then becomes as the child grows respect for others, a sense of gratitude for the gift of others, a call to reverence others and never to use them but to love them. The first thing is the sense of wonder and self-discovery and then how you treat others comes naturally from it. If you understand that the image of God is before you, you aren’t going to want to misuse them or mistreat them.

Q. How do you feel that TOB can change our marriages and then move on to change our family life? How do we incorporate it into our lives? What baby steps do we take to incorporate it into our lives?

A. At the heart of Theology of the Body is the fact that we are made for communion. John Paul reflects on the fact that man and woman are made for communion and that life flows from it. This goes against the grain of everything we are taught by present culture. A fallen world says look out number one first, what’s in it for me? So when we realize that’s not who we are, not just a me generation but we- that I have to enter into communion, then that becomes a whole different paradigm, a whole different way of waking up in the morning. Just saying thank you God for the gift of life; now let me drink in the gifts around me and give myself to them in love and service.

Communion is not just you monologuing with everyone around you but dialoguing and breaking into the sphere of this person in my family which helps me break into the sphere of the people I work with, the people on the street, the people in the stores I frequent. TOB can become this platform, this way of entering into the human community. The whole entire human community is made for community. The labels start falling off; I’m not boxing people up anymore, I’m not putting them in little compartments. The teachings teach me that Atheists, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, whatever you are, whatever the identity the Christian is projecting as well is just another human heart that I am called to know and love and hopefully I will be with in a communion of saints one day… and the teaching broadens.

Is it sex education? Yes, it’s sexual and an education in human sexuality, but education for human life…it’s the living out of our identity as men and women.

Q. How do you feel that today’s troubles correspond to the breakdown of the family? How can we see the effects of incorporating TOB in our families in the greater community?

A. We are losing our identity in this very individualist culture. At the heart of discovering our identity- of who we really are- is this call to the commitment of one for another, and when we fail to do that we fail to know ourselves and we fail to know others. We have all this energy to helping so and so to discover themselves and we are allowing teenagers to have this alphabet soup of letters now- LGBTQIA- and it goes on and on and if we simply just say go find yourself out of the context of the blueprint of the family, they are going to be screwed up for life. They will never come to the sense of self without the sense of the other.

Families who know TOB will be able to offer the culture, in a really refreshed kind of way, a rediscovery of man and woman. Dr. Peter Kreeft says, “In an age when revolution becomes tradition, our traditions become revolutionary.” When we actually say there is meaning to femininity and masculinity, if you really probe in and gaze upon it, which is now labeled as this restrictive binary code, if you actually look at it…there is this amazing dance going on that makes life happen. It can’t happen any other way.

Families who know TOB can talk to anybody and they can use the language that is more existential that comes into the ache of every heart… who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? It equips teenagers to step into high school classrooms or college campuses and not be afraid or in some Catholic bubble but to say “I know who I am. My mom and dad taught me who I am and I want to share with you the wonder of who I am and who you are.” Can you imagine what a gift that is to the world? But kids have to marinate in this beauty that is Catholic anthropology. If they marinate in it for a solid 18 years with an open heart they will have something to say to the American culture and they will say it in a merciful way.

Q. How do parents incorporate this into everyday life? As parents with little children life can be insane and we get distracted…

A. I think, speaking from experience right now, the first move is my relationship with my wife Rebecca. If I can have a kind of recognition of her uniqueness and her giftedness and I go right to her when come home from work or come into the house- Daddy goes to Mommy and kisses Mommy and says how was your day and listens to her- that is already setting this blueprint of how people talk to each other.

If I can get down on my knees when I meet the kids and talk to them and listen to all their super excited stories of the day; if I can receive that, I am starting teach them in the body this kenosis, you empty yourself and get down to their level and enter into their stuff. Also throughout the day when you have this rollercoaster ride of emotions a parent has to establish that emotional equilibrium. Sometimes it is being the sponge that absorbs all this stuff but it’s showing the kids “here’s how you keep your cool, stuff happens, it’s alright, we don’t freak out we don’t lose it.” On the rollercoaster ride of emotions we have to be on the steady train… which can be hard depending on what has been flushed down the toilet… Mostly it’s language of the body. It’s a lot of the body language of us taking things and giving things in love.

Q. If you could have people take away one thing from TOB in regards to family life, what would that be?

A. Mercy. Literally… mercy. We have to have mercy. I have to have mercy on myself, mercy on the kids. Not be afraid to apologize when Daddy loses his temper or Mommy gets impatient. That mercy is a great lesson for everyone to learn. Pope Francis said the three most important words in the family are please, thank you and I’m sorry. That’s really good stuff. There is simplicity there which is all encased in mercy.

TOB

If you would like to have more information regarding the upcoming Theology of the Body Congress, please visit their website where you can learn more, register to attend, and find amazing links.

If you are interested in attending a 5 day course held at retreat centers near Philadelphia, PA where personal and leadership formation involves both your heart and your head being immersed in TOB while in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, visit the Theology of the Body Institute. Here you will find ways to become a part of the “life-giving experience of the New Evangelization.”

Stay tuned for my interview with Jason Evert coming up Monday!

 

Categories
Allison Bible Catechism Conversion Ink Slingers Interviews Rosary

An Interview with Ken Howell, former Assemblies of God pastor

I’ve told of our conversion many times, and Catholic Sistas has published the story. This is the first time my husband has answered questions posed by some of our Ink Slingers on his journey from Pentecostal preacher to Catholic convert. Some of his conversation surprised me (I guess I do talk more than he does!); some of his words were forceful and some were poetic. I have posed their questions and written his answers as he talked. And talked. And talked.

What caused you to start looking at the Catholic Church?

I began looking at how a church should make decisions and examining church government throughout various sects and denominations of Protestantism. I found that the Catholic Church followed what I saw in Acts. That is, questions regarding faith or morals (as in Acts 15, whether all converts had to be circumcised) were settled by Christian leaders retreating to think and pray together, then to explain to the faithful what they and the Holy Spirit had decided. It was in perfect accordance with what Jesus told the Twelve in John 16:13–the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth.

One problem with independent, self-governed congregations is that they tend to operate on a democratic model, which is little more than mob rule. It happens all the time – people demanding a change of mission or a “vote of confidence” to recall the pastor, a nice phrase meaning to kick him out (and his wife and children). This is one of the hallmarks of Protestantism, each one deciding what the Bible means and how Christianity should be lived. And if some people don’t agree with the interpretation at that time, then they “protest” by divorcing themselves from that “assembly” and then starting their own. Thus the cycle sadly continues.

While there are numerous forms of church government, it is the hierarchy of Catholicism that is absolutely Scriptural, as well as historically Jewish, since Christianity is a child of Judaism.

What was the determining factor in your conversion?

Short answer? The Catechism.

We started going through Catholic teachings one by one from the Catholic Answers tract page. We learned about the Eucharist, the communion of saints, the headship of the pope, the necessity of purgatory, and a sacramental worldview. The scales fell from our eyes as we read our Bibles again and saw things anew. We read of John Henry Newman’s studies on the development of Christian doctrine and how he traced back, century by century, doctrines that would make any Protestant blanch. Catholic teaching goes all the way to the New Testament and even to the Old Testament, since it prefigures the New. Of the thousands of Protestant denominations, not one traces itself in an unbroken line to the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. They are all breakaways of a breakaway of a breakaway, all from the Catholic Church. Newman coined a poignant sentence: “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

So there arose within me a self-proposing and answerable question: Who would I rather align myself with – roll the dice and pick a group I like, hoping they got it correctly or (as uncomfortable as it might be) go with the church that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic? This was the turning point. This was when I began to think that we may have to align ourselves with the truth, come what may.

I began reading anti-Catholic books and websites, just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. I realized that Protestant accusations are completely false (“Why” should be another article). Their “verse wars” and “one-liners” to justify their protesting are mostly from a 1962 book, Roman Catholicism by Loraine Boettner. I recognized in it many statements that I had been taught, not knowing that they had their origins in this book. It has been proven to be poorly researched, to say the least. Once I knew what the Catechism said, I recognized the lies.

Again, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great work. I read it from cover to cover, with Bible, lexicon, concordance, and computer (to check historical figures) at hand. It brought me in and keeps me in.

How much did losing your career slow you down in taking the plunge?

I had already gotten wise to the fallacies of the Assemblies of God, voluntarily returned my license to preach, and eventually began working in the mental health field (my bachelor’s degree is in theology; my master’s degree in pastoral counseling). However, leaving our local church, which was not AG, was difficult. We lost friends and connections. I taught a popular adult Sunday school class, and was often invited to guest preach in our valley in many churches, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

When we decided to become Catholic, we wrote a letter to the pastor and to the church council stating such politely. We thanked them for their friendship and support and wrote that we would miss everyone. We still miss the family feel and connection in that world.

How long before you could pray your first Rosary?

I was slightly familiar with the Rosary because my parents sent me to a Catholic middle school in Rhode Island in an attempt to reform my juvenile delinquent ways (!).

Praying the Rosary was not a huge draw for me, but not because I thought anything negative. It just wasn’t something I felt drawn to at all.

I do have favorite prayers. The first is the Sign of the Cross, which I do many times throughout my day. Reading The Sign of the Cross by Msgr. Gaume, from 1863, moved me to embrace and love it. My two other favorite prayers are from the New Testament. “Lord, save me!” which are words from Peter when he stepped out of the boat. Another is “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” which are words from the blind beggar on the road to Jericho.

All of who I am…all of who He is…all of my relationship with Him is in these short, prayerful words.

However, roughly seven years after converting, I decided to revisit the Rosary and after a few weeks, found that I could pray through the whole thing. For several years now, and on most days of the week, I pray a full Rosary twice a day.

(This is Allison now.)

While I’ve always wanted Ken to begin the process of becoming a deacon (I miss his preaching), he is adamant that the time is not right. That his focus is on the children at home and on his job that provides for us all. I trust him.

An Interview with Ken Howell, former Assemblies of God pastor

Categories
7 Quick Takes Devin Rose Getting to Know the Ink Slingers Guest Posts Ink Slingers Kerri Martina Perspective from the Head

7 Quick Takes Friday, No. 23

7_quick_takes_sm

Every so often we like to interview our Ink Slingers to provide you, our readers, a little insight into who we are. This time we are going to introduce you to one of our male writers, Devin Rose. Devin is the author of If Protestantism is True: The Reformation Meets Rome and he blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard.  We are honored to have him as a writer here at Catholic Sistas! We hope you enjoy reading this short interview with him and getting to know him a bit more.

–1–

Where is your dream vacation spot?

Assisi, Italy. My wife and I had our honeymoon there. The beauty of the land, the old walled town, the Franciscan’s monastery and St. Clare’s basilica, the olive trees, San Damiano, all of it. Downside is that food is pretty pricey. The few times we tried to “go native” and buy food for ourselves we ended up with a very pungent salami.

Devin-and-Katie-in-Assisi

–2–

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Pride & Prejudice, 5 hour A&E edition. The first time I watched it as a single guy, I thought it was the dumbest movie I had ever seen. To say it has grown on me would be an understatement. I am in awe of Jane Austen’s ability to capture human personalities.

–3–

What is your favorite animal and why?

Besides, I presume you mean, the liger? Which is pretty much my favorite animal ever. I would love to own an anteater and an echidna. Though apparently the jury is out on whether they would eat fire ants.

–4–

What is your favorite song or who is your favorite singer?

Gotta go with U2. Everyone loves them because they have had great songs and incredible longevity. None of them are great solo musicians, but together they often make powerful music. Favorite song? Too hard to pick. But I’d go with Zooropa.

–5–

Are you a cradle Catholic who never strayed, a poorly catechised Catholic and/or lukewarm Catholic who came to understand the faith later in life, a revert, or a convert?

Convert. Atheism to Southern Baptist to Catholic. I only spent about a year as a Southern Baptist before seeing that Protestantism could not be the fullness of the truth. Protestantism has no principled way to distinguish between the content of divine revelation and human opinion.

–6–

What do you wish everyone knew about the Church?

The Church is Christ’s. She is not merely an invisible collection of all believers but a visible institution, though no less supernatural because of her visibility. So many Christians still say “Jesus: yes! The church? No!” But that is the worst kind of false dichotomy. It’s Jesus: yes! The Church, yes!

Devin and his family
Devin and his family

–7–

Do you, or did you, play a sport and if so, which sport or sports?

One great gift my father gave to me was introducing me to just about every sport. He forced me to play each one at least once. Eventually I came to enjoy them and had the talent of being fairly good at all of them, but great at none of them. By high school I settled on soccer, and I could have played at a lower division college with a scholarship, possibly, but ultimately I realized that the sport wouldn’t be my ticket anywhere and went the academic route.

The upside is, I don’t look particularly coordinated, so when about to play a sport with people I don’t know, they underestimate me. Granted, now I’m old and slow and they rightly underestimate me.

For more Quick Takes, hop on over to Conversion Diary.