Happy Birthday, Mom!

Since the weekend’s big feast, Pentecost, is sometimes colloquially referred to as the birthday of the Church, I thought I’d offer a little birthday greeting.  I couldn’t fit two thousand candles on a cake, so I came up with a top ten list instead.  Maybe it’s not really my top ten, but here are ten things I love about the Church.  (The New York Times doesn’t want you to know this, but, yes, it’s still okay to love being Catholic.)

10.  Songs about Mary. Whether it’s Pavarotti belting out “Ave Maria” or tone-deaf Jesuits (like yours truly) humming their way through the “Salve,” the Blessed Mother brings out something sweet and beautiful even in the gruffest of us.

9.  Relics. They may seem a little weird to contemporary American tastes, but think about all that relics say about the importance of the body, the embodied nature of our faith, and our hope, ultimately, in the resurrection of the body.

8.  The Book of Tobit. Speaking of weird, there aren’t many stories in the annals of literature with plots that turn on, well, bird droppings.  Fewer still which are also recognized as Sacred Scripture and include lessons in courage, dignity, perseverance, charity, and fidelity.

7.  The Missionaries of Charity. One of the other contributors to this blog once accused me of having an “ecclesial crush” on Mother Teresa’s order.  How could you not love them?  They put the whole Gospel into practice without compromise.  Plus, they’re always smiling.

6.  Thomas Aquinas. Because unlike Richard Dawkins he can complete a syllogism.

5.  Botticelli’s Annunciation.


And let’s include Michelangelo, El Greco, Brunelleschi’s dome, Ghiberti’s doors, Dante, Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Brideshead Revisited… well, you get the picture.

4.  St. Lawrence. “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.”  Proving that you can be a smart aleck and still be a saint.  (And that you can be a martyr and still be a smart aleck.)

3.  Incense. Because even what Mass smells like is important.

2.  St. Peter’s in the Loop. Because this Chicago church has confession from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM every weekday.  And while, I’m at it, let’s include confession here too—a sacrament for people like me.

1 ½.  Heaven. Not there yet, but still trying.

1.  Jesus. Didn’t think I’d forget him, did you?

Happy Pentecost!

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5 Responses to Happy Birthday, Mom!

  1. Father Joseph Leppard says:

    What a creative piece – your mind is positive and in this day and age, it is refreshing! Stay with it!

  2. therese says:

    Since its Rita’s feastday, I’d have to include her on this list too. I knew when I was ten years old that I was going to need a “saint of the impossible”, so I picked her out of line up for possible Confirmation Saint Candidates & I’ve never regretted it. She’s always answered my anguished prayers for help!
    If the Catholic Church is nothing else, its down-to-earth, life-as-it-is relevant…what other Church would offer a kid such a great option to adopt a friend in heaven & then make the relationship real by making it a sacrament???

  3. Qualis Rex says:

    Anthony – WELL DONE! I second what Father Joseph wrote. I hope you will allow me to share in your happy birthday celebration.

    10. Next to “O Santissima”, this one used to be one of the most sung in Italy. I remember singing it in my Catholic (Marianist) High School here in the US during religion class for a project and was told it was “Mariolotry”. But I digress…

    7. Agreed! Unlike other orders, they don’t simply give lip-service to the poor and “identify” with them while driving around in their leased Accuras and living by themselves in their apartments on thier 2k a month stipend, they actually walk the walk. Proof positive that contrary to a smear-campaign to the contrary, traditional orders (and Catholics) do live the gospel (and CAN smile: ).

    5. I’ll humbly add Bernini’s “estasi di santa teresa”, Rafaello Sanzio, “Noli Me Tangere” by Tiziano and/or Correggio, and begrudgingly, Bougereau.

    2. St John Cantius in Chicago. I can’t tell you how incredibly impressed I was there. The priest was so awesome; younger guy, great liturgy, relevant homily, didn’t drone but also didn’t dumb-it-down to be cool. Still managed to get a couple laughs from the masses during his announcements.

    1. Yes, amen. Kyrie Eleyson. Kyrie Eleyson.

    One thing I’ll add of my own is “diversity”. Our church is truly UNIVERSAL. It encompasses all races, ethnicities, cultures, languages etc. There are 21 rites in the Catholic church. This is so amazing! I would like to see more, specifically to accommodate and standardize for the Pacific and Central/Western Africa. While this may sound odd from someone who champions the Tridentine liturgy, it actually isn’t.

    Once again, thank you so much for your insights and views here. It definitely inspired me to remember why I love this gift from God; His church. I didn’t earn it, but I am grateful He chose to give it to me.

  4. […] celebrate the birthday of the Church last Pentecost I put up a top 10 list of things to love about being Catholic.  This year I thought I’d list my top 10 favorite sacraments… but kept getting stuck at number […]

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