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Ink Slingers

Getting Out of the Baby Pool

“The world offers you comfort. You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. -Pope Benedict XVI

I have always loved this succinct quote from Pope Benedict XVI. It’s a jolting statement that both convicts and motivates me.

And so does this particular, albeit more informal version: “Get out of the Catholic baby pool!”

This blunt directive is not a quote from a saint or a pope— it is something I wrote several years ago in the journal I use at Eucharistic Adoration. The words came to me quite suddenly, an unmistakable holy whisper to my heart, as I sat silently praying in the Adoration chapel and asking the Lord for guidance and direction. This was the answer I “heard” from him.

Well, Sistas, I don’t know if you’ve ever laughed out loud in an Adoration chapel, but let me warn you that if you do, you get some funny looks. I couldn’t help myself; it cracked me up. My Lord really knows how to speak to me on my level!

Are You in the Baby Pool? 

After I gathered myself a bit, I started to process this clever little inspiration. The truth hit me hard: As a Christian, I had been going through the motions and spiritually sleepwalking for a long time. I was not awake to how much Jesus loves me or how much he desires for me to tell his story and show his love to others. I was a spiritual couch potato, sitting around eating Doritos and flipping through channels, thinking I was doing just fine. I was going to Mass, trying not to break any commandments, being a “good” person. But I was unaware that my actions as a follower of Jesus Christ were lukewarm at best. [Side note: Jesus is not fond of lukewarm. Revelation 3:15-16 says: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”] Yep. That was me, alright, splashing around in the shallow end, the Catholic baby pool, where it was safe and comfortable and I didn’t have to take any risks. It was time to get out.

Jesus wants us out of the baby pool, my friends. Life is short here on earth and there is much work to be done! We can dive in and respond to the hurt around us with love. And kindness. And mercy. And service. Every single day. We can be bold and brave and live out our faith in big and small ways. We can be the antidote to this cold, secular world.

But not if we stay in the baby pool.

We are the hands and feet of the Church. St. Teresa of Avila tells us: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world, yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.” Jesus needs us! Join me, will you? Let’s stand up, walk on over to the deep end, take a big breath (plug your nose if you must!) and jump in. Let’s get motivated, get moving and get involved. Sistas, we are not made for the baby pool— we are made for greatness. Come on in, the water’s fine! (And it’s definitely not lukewarm!)

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Ink Slingers Mandi

Who is My Master?

Who Is My Master?

“Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:13-15

We are slaves to many things in our daily lives; work, commutes, money, material goods, physical fitness, sex, food, sports, entertainment… even family life and religion can become our master. I only have to look at what is consuming my mind and my time to identify what or who it is I serve. While I must work to provide the necessities of life, I must not allow myself to be lost to the work. It is a tricky balancing act. I can easily become overwrought with the endless to-do list ever looming over me. It can be exhausting. I become agitated, weary, and anxious; in fear of never getting it all done. I am a gerbil on the treadmill of life. I am in need of rest.  

“Remember that you too were once slaves…and the Lord, your God, brought you out… with a strong hand and outstretched arm.  That is why the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” 

He delivered us. His majestic arm is outstretched to us. He is calling us to come to Him, to rest in Him, to seek Him. I know I need rest. Not merely rest but renewal. After a long day and even longer week, I need to be revived. To where should I go for this rejuvenation? Do I go to my bed? Or maybe I head to the gym or the spa? Will I find it in the mall or in food or alcohol? Or will it be seen in mindlessly watching episode after episode of my latest favorite Netflix binge? Have any of these activities ever left me feeling reinvigorated or transformed for the better? Do they fill my heart with the sense of wonder that comes with acknowledging that all I have and am, comes from a gracious and loving God who thirsts for me? He longs for us with an outstretched arm to come to Him; rest in Him. Our Creator desires our attention. And, He commands us to make the Sabbath day holy. 

Sunday is Church day. It is the day of the Lord. He commanded it for our good. Jesus tells us, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath…” (Mark 2:27). Our bodies and our minds need to be set free from the things of this world. Our spirit needs to be reset and strengthened. It is not for God’s benefit that I should choose to suspend all activity and turn toward the Lord, glorifying Him. I offer all the stuff of my life- the good and the bad- to Him in praise and thanksgiving. In my coming to Him, He heals my brokenness, He nourishes my soul. He lifts me up and lightens my burdens. And, it is for my betterment that my attention is focused on Him. Naming the graces in my life creates in me a grateful more generous heart. My mind and spirit are awakened; reminding me that my thoughts and actions are often self-centered rather than God-centered.

I expend my energy on many things, some fruitful and others not so much. Am I, as St. Ignatius of Antioch described to early Christians, “living in accordance with the Lord’s Day”? Am I building my days, weeks and life around this holy day and the commands of the Lord? Is the rhythm of my daily routine set around seeking God? Freedom to choose is an extravagant thing. I may consciously or not choose all sorts of things to be my master, but none will fill me with the magnificent beauty and peace that is an encounter with our Lord. We breathe because He loves us. We exist because He said it was good. Simply put we are His. Why then, am I searching anywhere else for the peace and joy only He provides? It is a lack of humility in me. Humility says He is God and I am not. A humble heart can see the gifts in all things good or terrible. When I don’t stop to praise God who is everything, my vision has become obscured and I cannot see the abundant blessings all around me.

We ought to go to Church on Sunday not because it fulfills a commandment or because we fear we will anger God, but because we desire to. We need to gather together and sing praises of thanksgiving for a God who has delivered us, set us free. I need and want to celebrate the many wonders and blessings He has done for me. The Sabbath day is for me to seek God, to joyfully pour out my tired and weary soul on the altar, humbly asking our Lord to make me new. Participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass is the ultimate prayer for us as Catholics. Our prayers are joined together and lifted up to the Lord around the world. We are united with Jesus in a special way in the Eucharist. The peace my heart has been longing for is found there, so completely. It is a beautiful gift for which I am unworthy. God is with us indeed. It is a miracle that leaves me in awe. I am so moved I am often brought to tears. My heart and soul experience a joy, a peace, and a love that is so awesome it cannot and should not be contained. This love, this joy, must be lived and shared. It must not remain behind in the pew but be carried out into the world to be seen and heard. The attention I give to Sunday, the Sabbath day, is not about an obligation I must fit into my week but it is about the longing of my heart; my soul which is seeking the One who loves perfectly.  

“’Living in accordance with the Lord’s Day’ means living in the awareness of the liberation brought by Christ and making our lives a constant self-offering to God, so that His victory may be fully revealed to all humanity through a profoundly renewed existence.” ~Pope Benedict XVI

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Books Ink Slingers Interviews Martina Reviews

Manga Hero: A New Catholic Book Is in Town

Manga_HeroFor Christmas this past year, we bought our kids St. Nicholas brought two of my kiddos new books I had not seen before. Intrigued, I opened the book…from the BACK…and read BACKWARDS.* The kids – ages 13 and 9 – were completely taken by them and read them cover to cover almost as fast as they tore the wrapping paper off. Manga books, I was told by the 13 year old boy. They are supposed to be read backwards, Mom – don’t you know anything?! 

My son quickly asked if I could contact Manga Hero and see if they had other books. And now you know how this post came to be, friends.

In the short time since Christmas, I have bought three more books and Manga was generous enough to send a copy of the Pope Francis book for me to look over in preparation for this interview. The artwork is stunning. Designed to mimic traditional comic artwork, it has a certain Japanese flair to it. It’s certainly different. And engaging. Did I mention my 13 year old son was jazzed about this? You are now thinking about Easter gifts for your favorite sons, godsons, nephews, right? Though there are six books, they are flying off the shelves and Manga Hero currently has only two available for purchase, which can be found on the store page.

If you’re wondering what Manga Hero and graphic novels are all about, visit their about page to learn more. And now, an interview with the creator of Manga Hero, Jonathan Lin, as well as special feature interviews with author and illustrator of Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy, Regina Doman and Sean Lam.

When and how did Manga Hero get its start?

I was talking to my mom and dad about starting a business, and we were batting around different ideas. Then my dad asked how come there are no manga on the Bible or the saints? I was thinking, oh yeah, how come there aren’t any? That’s when the idea for these projects was born.

Also, I’ve always wanted to do something that positively impacts society. With media playing such an influential role in our culture, especially on our youths, I felt this was an area that I could make a difference.

What was your first book and how did you decide on that one?

Our first book was on St. Paul of Tarsus. I think the writer, Matt Salisbury, frames it quite well on why we decided to tell St. Paul’s story… “We believe in engaging readers, Christian and non-Christian alike, where they’re at. Our goal was to emulate Paul’s own mission of inclusion leading to truth. If the book sparks interest in Scripture or aspiration to live as Paul did, we’d have been very successful!”

St. Paul of Tarsus

Who is your intended audience and why?

Our intended readers are tweens and teens, and any fans of all ages of graphic novels looking for something very unique. There is an opportunity to reach out to people with an attractive form factor like graphic novels to transform our culture and inspire interest in the faith, especially its message for young people.  Graphic novels are considered a cutting-edge form of entertainment and offers easy reading for all age groups.  Pope John Paul II called for the use of new and different forms of media to reach young people where they are in order to build a culture of love and dignity. This is one such medium.

Do you have plans to write more books and whose lives do you plan to write about next?

Yes, we are working on graphic novels about St Maximilian Kolbe, Esther, and Fr Vincent Capodanno.

How long does each book take to write and illustrate?

It takes almost a year to write, illustrate, and edit a book. We want to make sure the book not only grabs the reader, but also stays true to the subject matter and is consistent with our faith teachings.

On Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy

pope-francis-main

Regina, how does writing for a Manga style book differ from traditional book writing? Were you able to transition seamlessly from one style to the next? How did the idea for the books about the popes come about? 
Regina Doman, author: I was trained as a scriptwriter, so I actually drew on my script-writing background to write the manga comic. (We actually call the written outline for a manga book which is given to the artist a “screenplay.”)  But I did have to learn the format, but Jonathan (my publisher) and Sean (the extremely talented artist) did a lot to help me out. Manga is image-driven and dialogue driven, but people tell me that my books read like movies, so maybe that’s just how my imagination works! It was exciting to learn something new, but I found it came fairly easily to me. I would love to write more manga.
It was my publisher’s idea to do a book on Pope Benedict, and he had asked one of his writers to do it. But then she decided to enter the convent, so Jonathan asked me to take over the writing. I went on retreat and spent three days writing the 200-page book on Pope Benedict and had a marvelous time. For the Francis book, we didn’t have as much time, and it was shorter, so I sort of crammed it in between doing edits on my last novel, Rapunzel Let Down. But I loved doing the research on both men’s lives. They are so different! I discovered that Pope Benedict was a kind of quiet genius who liked asking “impudent questions” and thinking about things deeply. But Pope Francis was a natural leader, very comfortable with exercising authority, with a poetic and creative streak to him. It’s been so interesting to see how that was (and is!) reflected in their papal ministry!
Sean, how did you get your start in illustrating Manga?

Sean Lam, illustrator: In Singapore, we read a lot of graphic novels ranging from Marvel to DC Comics to Japanese manga. I started reading a lot of manga during my college days, and immediately developed a huge interest in the particular art style and have been enjoying exploring as well as developing my own manga style to date.

How do Manga illustrations differ from the traditional style of comic artwork? 

Manga is another form of comic art style in story telling, but it is more stylized instead of realism. It emphasizes more on dramatic panels delivering some pretty strong melodrama, thus capable of caring vivid messages to readers, evoking a sense of reality in the story.

Manga is so stylized – how do you capture the unique personalities of the different characters you draw?

It is also the this particular stylized art style that enables me to play with more exaggerate forms and thus creating a wide range of distinctive unique looking individuals who can show their different personalities through their looks alone.

Endorsements

It’s always exciting to see the lives of such holy and heroic people promoted and to see their stories being told. It’s particularly pleasing to see how the Manga Hero books are reaching out and delivering these stories to young people in a popular style they can relate to… Manga Hero books are fulfilling an essential role in the Church’s mission of bringing the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world.” – Tim Staples, Catholic Evangelist

I can’t get enough of these great books, designed to both entertain and inform.
– Lisa Hendey, founder of Catholicmom.com

The books are excellent for tweens and teens (and adults, too) and should be spread around. Evangelization comes in many forms and this manga format may just be the answer to those who need to hear the Gospel message.” – Mater et Magistra Magazine

Hello family, I want to recommend these great comics about the life of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI. I think they are a great way to have the children and young people interested in the lives and work of these two great Popes. God bless!

 – Eduardo Verastegui, Actor

“At last – Catholic manga that’s as good as the popular stuff. I overheard my daughter’s friend say, ‘I always think of popes as always being popes. I never think of them growing up.’ This manga will give kids such good thoughts.”
– Mike Aquilina, Executive Vice President, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, Author, EWTN Host & Catholic dad.

Stay tuned, friends!
Manga will be participating in our Easter giveaway, which will run in early March!

*While initial prints were written back to front, the books are currently being converted front to back – Western standard – based on feedback and with larger print, such as the Pope Francis book. Anticipated conversion of all books is set for late 2015. 

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Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Pope Benedict’s Retirement

The final Angelus – 24 February 2013. Handout photo provided by Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano. EFE/EPA/OSSERVATORE

So, we’ve had 16 days to accustom ourselves to the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, our 266th pope in the line of succession beginning with the Rock, St. Peter. By now most of us have shaken off the fog of shock and have taken a more resolute pose. As the leader of the world’s 1.2 Billion Catholics, however, Benedict’s unusual step has left us as quite the Papa-ratzi. News reports by the dozens appear hourly to feed our need to know. What will we call him, where is he going, and what about that all important Twitter account with its 1,582,730 followers? For that matter, what about those indulgences that we obtain for praying for the intentions of the Holy Father when we have no sitting Pope? In an effort to answer some of the questions that have caught my fancy, I will share some answers and their sources.

Q: Since this is an unprecedented occurrence in modern times, what in the world shall we call him when he leaves?

A: His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome will be his new title according to both Patheos and Zenit.

Q: What changes has he made to the rituals for new pope’s inauguration?

A: “One of the most visual changes, he said, would be the restoration of the public “act of obedience” in which each cardinal present at the pope’s inaugural Mass comes forward and offers his allegiance.”

Q: So what will he be doing after 8:00 p.m. (Rome time), February 28, when he steps away from the Seat of Saint Peter?

A: According to his own words, “I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious.” After a brief stay at Castel Gandolfo, the Papal summer home, he will dedicate himself to a life of prayer and study in a Vatican-based monastery.

Q: But isn’t he abandoning the Church at a very tumultuous time?

A: No, Benedict is not abandoning the Church. Perhaps in anticipation of this question he clarified, “…this does not mean abandoning the Church,” he qualified. “Indeed, if God asks me this it is just so that I can continue to serve with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done so far, but in a way more suited to my age and for me.”

Q: What about the indulgences that are obtained by those who pray for the Intentions of the Holy Father when we have no sitting Pope?

A: Surprisingly, the answer is yes! According to a post by Fr. Zuhlsdorf, “The faithful are able to obtain plenary indulgences during the “Sede Vacante” time, where there is no Pope.As a matter of fact, the Church holds matters of internal forum and of indulgences to be so important for the faithful that the office of the Major Penitentiary (who oversees these matters for the Apostolic Penitentiary) is one of the few that does not cease when the Pope dies or resigns”.  Actually, this question was addressed after the death of Pope John Paul II after his death in 2005.

Q: Doesn’t this move us closer to the Prophecy of St. Malachy and his list, where he predicts that Benedict XVI’s successor will be the last pope? Are we to conclude that we are nearing the end?

A: There are strong indications that the List of St. Malachy is a fraud. According to Catholic Answers, “(t)he consensus among modern scholars is that it is a 16th-century forgery created for partisan political reasons”. We must remember that predictions of the end times were warned against in the Bible…“but of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father”.

Q: Will the conclave begin earlier, shortening the expected month long wait, and how many Cardinals will participate?

A: In his motu proprio Normas nonnullas (22 feb 2012), Pope Benedict has given authorization for the conclave to begin earlier. Sources at the National Catholic Register report that “the conclave to choose the next pope will likely begin between March 9 and 11”. We may have a new pope by Easter! This decision, however, now “falls squarely within the pontifical provisions for a conclave, and one may leave the choice of a start-date to the competent authority without further concern for the legality of the assembly” according to canonist Ed Peters.

There will be 118 Cardinals in the conclave.

Q: Will the virally popular Papal Twitter account, @pontifex, be shut down when the Holy Father steps down?

A: In a word, no. It will go dormant while we await the election of our new pope, however, as soon as he steps into his role as Vicar of Christ he will be free to take up what his predecessor started. It appears that Benedict chose the name “Pontifex”  wisely, in anticipation of a seamless transition from pope to pope. The name means “bridge builder” or “pope” .

This is but a small sampling of the questions that have arisen since Pope Benedict XVI made his announcement. Catholic Sistas (CS) is also involved in a Q & A endeavor over at Electing the Pope. Here you will find many more questions and answers, with sources, some of which are being provided by Ink Slingers. You will also able to post questions of your own.40 Days of Prayer for the Pope

Don’t forget that CS also has their 40 Days of Prayer for the Seat of Saint Peter posted on our Facebook fan page. There we post a brief prayer every day – from February 22 (Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter) through April 1. Won’t you join us in praying for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor? You might also be interested in reading our Open Letter to Our Beloved Papa, where the Ink Slingers share their thoughts, prayers, and admiration of this wonderful pope who has given us so much in his eight years as our Pontiff.

May we never forget the good done by this gentle German Shepherd of ours!

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Perspective on Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation

Catholic Sistas welcomes back seminarian Craig DeYoung as he writes about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.

At St. Mary’s Seminary, ecclesial rumors spread like wildfire.  By 6:15 this morning, news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation was making its way through our ranks.  After morning prayer and meditation, there was an explosion of speculation and opinion at the seminary.  Indeed, my first class this morning was dedicated to a discussion about the event.  This is no doubt to be expected as everyone comes to grips with the situation but I would like to make a few observations about what is happening and offer a hopeful perspective regarding Pope Benedict’s resignation.

I have observed among my brother seminarians that each is absorbing the revelation in their own way.  Some in silence, some in conversation, and others in the chapel.  Shock and sorrow seem to be the theme of many hearts, including my own.  Catholics (and non-catholics) have fallen in love with Pope Benedict XVI over the last eight years.  His teaching is profound, his heart warm, and his leadership solid and foresighted.  He has done much for our Church as the Vicar for Christ over these last years.

When I began checking the news before my first class I didn’t have to go far.  Rumor and speculation are at their peak as to why the Pope is retiring, what will he do after he retires, and will he will go back to being a Cardinal?  There is an unending discussion about who the next Pope will be and what the future of the Church will look like.  Will there be this change or that change in the Church?  And the list goes on.

As you’ve undoubtably noticed, everyone is talking about it.  Twitter and Facebook are wild with comments, links, and thoughts about the Pope’s decision.  News stations are calling anyone connected with the Church for comment.  Heck, I’m even writing a blog article.  Why is everyone talking about it?  Simple, it will effect the whole world and the course of history.  Kind of scary when you think about it that way.  At least for me it is.

I have my own thoughts and opinions on these questions but I’m more occupied with the growing sense of anxiety and anticipation among the faithful about what will happen after February 28th.  It is to this anxiety and anticipation that I would like to speak and offer the perspective of faith.

When Christ died on the cross, his disciples were devastated.  They had lived with Christ, fallen in love with him, and believed him to be the messiah sent by God.  When he died they were shaken deeply.  They did not know what would happen, where they would go, or what they would do.  Everything that had happened and that they had believed was put into question by Christ’s death.  Simply put, they were desolate.  With eagle clear hindsight you would think they would have remembered Christ’s words predicting his death and his promise of resurrection but they did not.  We, however, have something the disciples did not:  the resurrection of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The joy of resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit assures as Christians today that Christ’s promises are true.  When any sort of storm comes upon us in the bark of the the Church, of which there have been many and will be many, we must hold fast to the promises of Christ and your faith in him.  Because he is always faithful, his promises are true.

What is happening now is not unlike what happened then.  We can lose track of the unshakable promises of Christ in the midst of the storms of life.  Remember now his words and promises.

Christ spoke to us along with the disciples who were terrified amidst the storm saying, “Courage, I am.”  (Matthew 6:50)

Jesus makes a promise to Peter about the Church that “the powers of death shall not prevail against it”. (Matthew 16:18)

About himself he promises, “lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Also, he says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”  (John 16:13)  We have the assurance of Christ’s presence in his Church and his protection, along with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, we can be sure of Christ’s compassion for those who scripture tells us that, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  (Matthew 9:36)  Immediately after this Christ sends out the twelve to preach the Kingdom of God and to minister to the crowds.

As we reflect upon the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, I think it is important to hold fast to these promises in our hearts and pray faithfully to the Lord now and always.  Ponder these promises and remember that Christ will not leave us without himself, his Spirit, or shepherds to guide us!  Put every event within the perspective of our faith and do not let your courage be shaken when storms come.

::Craig DeYoung, a published contributor with Catholic Sistas, is a seminarian for the Diocese of Austin and, God willing, will be ordained to the presbyterate in 2014.  A graduate of Texas A&M University, he became Catholic while in college and often refers to the Easter Vigil when he entered the Church as the happiest day of his entire life.  His deepest desire is that his heart be conformed to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  His favorite prayer is “Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto yours.”::