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Friday, October 24, 2014

Priest Dance-Off a You Tube Sensation...



A pair of American priests have become a You Tube sensation, after their tap/Irish dance-off in Rome, earlier this year was captured on video and posted by EWTN's Joan Lewis.  

Rev. David Rider, 29, of Hyde Park, New York, and Rev. John Gibson, 28, of Milwaukee, were in seminary, studying to become priests at the time, and took the stage to entertain the crowd at a fundraising dinner for the North American College, an American seminary, just a stone's throw away from the Vatican.

The video has gone viral and gotten over 700 thousand views.

Fr. Rider, who is now a priest with the Archdiocese of New York and was featured in a Catholic News Agency story several years ago, see story below, started dancing at the age of two and once toured professionally with the Broadway show 42nd Street.  He says he was inspired to become a priest, after some discernment, while watching the funeral of St. John Paul II, who chose the priesthood over his passion for acting.

When he realized the millions of people that were affected by the late Pope's decision, he decided to trade in his dancing shoes for a Roman collar.  He has never looked back since.



Meanwhile, Fr. John Gibson, who was ordained in Milwaukee last May, was a former dancer with the Cashel Dennehy School of Irish Dance and started dancing at the age of 12. 

As expected, not all the comments on You Tube have been favorable but Fr. Rider answers, "We would just refer them to the Bible, where the Lord tells us to live with joy."

"I don't dance as much as I use to.  It's not possible in this vocation.  But, when I dance, I say, the biggest difference is that I dance with a different intention.  I no longer dance for myself, or even for the joy of dancing, but I dance with the desire to bring forward the Kingdom of God.  Because, now when I go, I go in a collar."

St. Catherine of Siena once said, "If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze."  With or without their dancing shoes, that is what both priests intend to do...



Friday, October 17, 2014

The Hallucination that Keeps on Giving...

The empty tomb...
Former Atheist turned Christian, Lee Strobel, of A Case for Christ fame, wrote that people may be willing to die for something they believe is true, if they truly believe it to be, but people are not willing to die for something they know is a lie, even if they want to believe it's true.  

He was referring, of course, to the Apostles.  The men who ran for cover when Jesus was arrested and cowered behind closed doors for days, thinking they were next. 

Then, all of a sudden, from one day to the next, without having gone to see the Great Oz in the Emerald City, like the cowardly lion, they came out from the shadows and boldly and courageously proclaimed the Risen Lord, despite persecution, despite threats, despite being tortured, despite being thrown in jail and despite most of them, except for St. John, the beloved disciple, dying for what they proclaimed.

In fact, they began to promulgate that Christ had risen from the dead in the same place where it all had happened; Jerusalem, where hundreds of eye witnesses had seen Jesus be crucified, die and be buried and could easily dispel their claims as a hoax.  

In other words, if I were making up a story, would I start it where it could easily be challenged?  Or, would it make more sense to go to some far away and obscure township, where nobody knew or saw anything and I could make up a fantasy without having it contested?

And yet, thousands were converted and Christianity spread like wildfire.  And, within three hundred years of the Crucifixion, those cowardly and mostly uneducated men, and their successors after them, had converted the entire Roman Empire, not by the sword as Islam did when it conquered a region, but in spite of it. 

In one of my favorite "go-to" books on the faith, Catholic Christianity, author Peter Kreeft (Who is a Philosophy and Theology Professor at Boston College, a Catholic convert and one of the most prolific Christian writers of our time), writes, "Liars do not suffer and die for a lie as they did; nothing proves sincerity like martyrdom.  And if they were deceived rather than deceivers, they must have been hallucinating or projecting their subjective faith into objective reality. But they had touched the risen Christ.  He had eaten food.  He had had long conversations with many men at the same time.  He had been seen by all who were present, not just some.  No hallucination in history ever behaved like this.... And no hallucination ever had such power to transform lives and to give love, joy, peace, hope, and meaning to millions of men for thousands of years.  For the sake of this "hallucination" saints joyfully endured tortures, persecutions, crucifixions, and martyrdoms.  This "hallucination" changed soft, cowardly hearts into hard, courageous ones and converted the hard, cruel Roman Empire to a religion of unselfish love..."

Kreeft goes on to quote St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote, "In this faith there are truths preached which surpass every human intellect; the pleasures of the flesh are curbed; it is taught that the things of the world should be spurned.  Now for the minds of mortal men to assent to these things is the greatest of miracles... For it would be truly more wonderful than all miracles if the world had been led by simple and lowly men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions and to have such high hopes."

A Pharisee in the Acts of the Apostles may have said it best when he told the Jewish Council after the Apostles were arrested and brought before them, "Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men... because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.  In that case, you may even be found fighting against God."  (Acts 5:35, 39) 

For me, it all comes down to the empty tomb.  They discovered the empty tomb, of which Fulton Sheen eloquently noted, "In the history of the world, only one tomb has ever had a rock rolled before it, and a soldier guard set to watch it to prevent the dead man within from rising... What spectacle could be more ridiculous than armed soldiers keeping their eyes on a corpse?" and they encountered the Risen Lord. 

Their "hallucination" was a reality, that even doubting Thomas had to admit was true.  A reality that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for and now, two thousand years later, despite constant attempts to dispel it, is still burgeoning and being proclaimed throughout the world...