Saturday, July 22, 2017

Make a Most Pressing Appeal

We want things, so we pray for them. I'm not referring to "cool" material gifts like fast boats and hot cars. I mean we want spiritual stuff. Good stuff. It may be a child's salvation, or for culture to turn from its immoral ways. I'm learning about this lately. 


Here was a Scottish Presbyterian Missionary that followed my great grand uncle, John Williams to the New Hebrides Islands, a archipelago of 30 islands 1,000 miles N.E. from Australia. Today New Hebrides is called the nation of Vanuatu.  Williams was martyred there in 1839 and eaten by the island cannibals. Paton managed to live among the cannibals (but just barely) for thirty years and lived to famously write about it.

The back of the heathenism on the island of Aniwa, where Paton spent most of his days, was broken when Paton dug a 35-foot deep well to supply the island with a continuous flow of fresh water, something Aniwa did not have since rain only fell 4 months of the year. He describes "sinking the well" in his famed autobiography. He labored for weeks with an American Axe and shovel to dig out the coral. The islanders mocked him since to them rain only came down from the clouds and never up from the ground. Paton exhausted himself several times over the weeks, and once almost buried himself alive when the walls caved in. The cannibals, watched from the rim and only helped him when his life was in danger. They feared he would die and the "man-of-war" ships would come, find Paton dead, blame the natives, and destroy them for the death of the missionary. Paton labored, hard and alone for weeks. And as he dug out the coral he prayed, relentlessly...that the water, he knew he would eventually find about 35 feet down, would be fresh and not brackish or salty. But he writes that he did not know if God would answer that his prayer, and provide them with fresh water. But it was a good work he was doing for the sake of the islanders, and himself, and he felt God compelling him to dig. BUT HE DID NOT KNOW...AND SO HE PRAYED INSISTENTLY AND CONTINUOUSLY as he dug.  And when he did find water, it was fresh, with only the tiniest hint of brackishness. It was drinkable, and clear. To the islanders it was a  miracle and they universally declared that Missi's Jehovah God was more powerful than all their gods, and within a week the village chiefs had brought to Paton all of the island's wood, stone, and coral idols, which Paton destroyed with their enthusiastic help.

What's instructive about this "sinking of the well" and the "breaking the back of heathenism" was Paton's (1) hard and dangerous labor over decades on the islands, continually at risk of being murdered and eaten, or dying of malaria related diseases; and (2) his persistent prayer for the heathen's conversion. Both continued for 30 years of his life (the labor and the prayer) but were illustrated in the relatively short time he was "sinking the well."


At the time I was reading about the sinking of the well, the Office of Readings that day was from the Rule of St. Benedict.
Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.
"making a most pressing appeal" has the sense of PERSISTENCE in good work and good prayer. 

This recalls to mind the old argument about "faith" vs "good works." Protestants (especially Evangelicals) make a stink about how our salvation is based on "faith" and never "works."  This is not Biblical, however, as most of the references in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament make it clear that we will be judged based on our works, and that faith without works is dead (James 2).  
But what comes to mind when thinking about making a most pressing appeal, is how faith in prayer, without hard physical labor makes God out to be some magical genie in the bottle. God put us in a PHYSICAL REALM. We are not just spiritual beings. Even before sin entered the world God told Adam to "tend and keep" the garden. Work was involved.

Indeed we are made in God's image and likeness. He worked to make the world. We have to work to keep it. Jesus worked through his passion and worked on the cross to save us. We have to work to keep our salvation. The apostles worked to evangelize the world, and most of them worked through their martyrdom. St. Paul worked and labored on his missionary journeys. The Great commission could be easily worded like this:
Go and work to make disciples of all the nations, work to baptize to teach them to work hard to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matt. 28:19-20)

Today's Office of Readings recounts the assumption of Elijah from 2 Kings 2:1-15. 
[A side note here. Non-Catholics whine about the Catholic belief that Mary (Jesus's mother) was assumed into heaven. We celebrate the Assumption of Mary. Yet, we have two such assumptions in the Old Testament: Elijah, and Enoch. So, Mary's Assumption didn't "break new ground," so to speak if you forgive the mixed metaphor.] 
Anyway, back to Elijah's Assumption. The focus here should be on Elijah's apprentice, Elisha. Elisha refuses to leave Elijah's side, knowing that his master is shortly going to be assumed into the sky. And evidently the whole countryside knew this was going to happen. The 2 Kings 2 passage repeatedly mentions the "guild of prophets" who knew this was going to happen. They say Elisha, "Do you know your master is going to be taken from you today?" And Elisha says, "Yes I know it. Now, be silent." 
As Elijah goes to Bethel he tells Elisha to stay behind. But Elisha PERSISTS in a good work and refuses. As Elijah goes to Jericho he tells Elisha to stay behind. But Elisha PERSISTS and stays with his master.

As Elijah goes to Jordan, he tells Elisha for the third time to stay behind. But not only does Elisha PERSIST but 50 of the prophets guild follow as well. 
[I want to know more about the prophets guild. Were they prophets in training? They must have been doing something right. They were hanging around with Elijah and Elisha and the KNEW that Elijah was going to be assumed momentarily. There's a did they know?] 
So the group comes to the Jordan River, which is NOT a creek you cannot wade across. Elijah takes off his mantle, rolls it up, and strikes the water which divides and both cross over on dry ground. 

They get to the other side (metaphor here) and Elijah says to Elisha, "Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you." 

NOTICE THE SEQUENCE HERE: Elisha PERSISTS in seeking something from a man who has one foot in heaven. He's "praying" to Elijah, and Elijah, who has the power to do a lot of extraordinary things, says, "Okay, because of your persistence in prayer and the work of keeping up with me, I'll give you want you want."  This is not just mental assent of faith, but it requires  physical, persistent work...through Bethel, Jericho, and now the minor reenactment of crossing the Red Sea WITH A CROWD WATCHING. 
 [In Moses' day it was Pharaoh's troops who did not believe, and now it's the guild of prophets who do believe.] 
Elisha has been "sinking the well" for these days of following Elijah, and now his verbal prayer becomes known to us, "May I receive a double portion of your spirit."  And with some minor qualification, Elijah grants it. A moment later Elijah is taken up in a flaming chariot, and leaves behind his mantle. Elisha tears his own garment,  picks up Elijah's, walks back to the Jordon River, strikes the water with the mantle and says, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" The water divides and he walks over.

And then, what does the crowd that sees all this do?  Unlike Pharaoh's troops that pursued Moses into the Red Sea and drowned, this guild of prophets is wiser...They stayed on their own side of the river and when Elisha returns they "went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him."  


The final example of this PHYSICAL PERSISTENCE MARRIED TO FERVENT PRAYER was also in today's Office of Readings, as recounted by Gregory the Great.
When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.  
We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved. 
At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.  
Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.  
Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognizes who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.

Mary persisted PHYSICALLY in labor of seeking and in PRAYER. She not only made a most pressing appeal in her labor but also in her heart. And she, unlike all of the apostles was rewarded. 

Ora et labora
Pray hard and work hard. Make a pressing appeal and prayer, and press your labor beyond the work of others. 

The Netherlands registered Ora Et Labora freighter

Monday, July 10, 2017

Mom Forced Me to Go to Church

I recorded a guest segment with Ray Guarendi for his EWTN TV show "Living Right with Dr. Ray." He wanted to know how come I never gave up on God or the Bible even through my parents forced me to go to church. 

Dr. Stan on the set with Dr. Ray.

The answer is in my memoir, GROWING UP CHRISTIAN: Searching for a Reasonable Faith in the Heartland of America. But Ray and I didn't have time to read the entire book on the air and then let Dr. Ray comment on the salient passages. There WAS time to read the book, but Dr. Ray would take too long psychoanalyzing why I didn't like my mom. (smile) So, I winged it. I'm told the episode will air (probably) January 2018. In the meantime, below, is the answer I prepared and of which we hit the high points during the segment.

Why My Parents Forcing Me to Go to Church Didn't Kill My Faith

My mom was brutal at times.You could rightly say she beat the hell out of me and the fear of God into me. In order to involve my Dad in my frequent punishments, she would borrow one of his old belts, with which to whip me. And yes, I was forced to go to Church, not just on Sunday mornings, but Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, too. In today's world you might correctly assume that such "brutality" and "force" of religion on a kid would turn him away from the faith.

The whippings were not fun, and I do think she over did it. I relate, in Growing Up Christian, the day the whippings stopped---I got big enough to stop her.

But there was a consistency about the beatings and a   moral imperative behind them along with the moral and religious life of my parents that together made a strong positive impression on me. I didn't get to say this during the recording of the show with Dr. Ray, but, as Dr. Ray has said many times,  parents can do a lot of things wrong but if there is moral consistency and a love of God and a love of the child in the mix, the kid will recognize their parents' love and respond correctly. That was true of, actually, that true of my parents.

As the narrative unfolds in Growing Up Christian, there were four things that drove me toward God, even as I ran from my mom's beltings.

I grew up knowing a good deal about my ancestors from stories, photographs and even books about them. My ancestors were missionaries, preachers, teachers and one was even a famous Christian martyr in the New Hebrides (today the islands are known as the Nation of Vanuatu). There, John Williams, was killed and eaten by cannibals on Erromango in 1839. My missionary grandmother, Edith Willobee, during her retirement from India, helped care for me as an infant. My Dad's father, was a horseback circuit riding preacher, Jeremiah Williams. The stories told about these ancestors made a Hollywood impression on me. In fact, if a movie were to be made about them, you'd have to dumb it down to make it believable. Their lives were those of any boy's adventure heroes. In looking back, I believe I was rooted into God's family because of a promise in Exodus 20:5-6:
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Those that came before me, loved God and kept his commandments. And from their place in heaven, looking down on us, they continue to pray for me.

But another aspect of their existence were the many stories I heard about them and how they responded to God, which is explained further in number 3 below. I don't have the space here to relate them all, but in Growing Up Christian I relive a few of those miracles.

My parents also forced me to memorize verses from the Bible. Many of them I still know. This forged the mold for my life because these Bible verses offered up scientific hypotheses that my young life could test...and over the years I found they were true. Here's a sampling....I'm typing these for memory by the way. Notice the cause and effect relationship between the requirement and the promise in each.
This book of the law will not depart from your mouth. You shall meditate on it day and night, and do according to all that is written therein. Then your way will become prosperous and you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8) 
Trust in the Lord will all your might, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him (God) and He will direct your paths with success. (Proverbs 3:5-6) 
All things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are called according to his purpose [which means you are obeying His commands]. (Romans 8:28) 
Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it---not forgetting what  they have heard, but doing it, they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:25)
Now without No's 3 and 4 below, these No's 1 and 2 might be meaningless and could easily be ridiculed. But in spite of mom's mean personality, there was something very righteous about her. And these versers helped me to see that in her and realize how God works with the imperfections in all of us.

On a daily basis I was confronted by the the practical consequences of No. 1 and No. 2. If you obeyed God, good things happened. If you disobeyed God, bad things happened. These consequences were not forced on me or the world by parents or other religious practitioners, but rather they were the natural consequences of Nature...or Natural Law. They just happened, like gravity happens, and there was no way to stop them.

As moral agents we can make any decision and take any action we want, but Nature takes care of the consequences, over which we have no control.  This Natural Cause and Effect of life surrounded me was made real in a number of ways, most notably by No. 4. (But I'm getting ahead of myself.) Here is how my parents made the natural cause and effect of Christianity real to me:

1. They walked the talk.They did talk a lot about the Bible, Jesus, God, and the moral life they expected me to live by. But they also lived it. There was no lax attitude toward God in their lives. They prayed, read their Bibles, witnesses to others, were active in church matters and supported missionaries and preachers.

2. They never asked me to do anything that was contrary to what the Bible taught. I felt their interpretation was too narrow, at times, but they were consistent in one thing...they feared God. They believed we would live safer., happier lives by living well within God's boundaries and not testing His moral law and getting singed or scorched in the process.

3. They daily pointed out to me people around us who tested God's limits and ended up paying sad consequences. Dad drove me past skid row more than once and I saw the consequence of bad habits and disregard for taking care of God's gift of health. Mom would clip newspaper and magazine stories for me to read about people who disobeyed moral authorities and ended up in jail, or in an accident (for foolish behavior), or the families that fell apart because they mocked God's laws. I heard relentless and miraculous stories of my grandparent's exploits on the preaching circuit and mission field. My aunt, who lived with us, was a Detroit policewoman. She worked the domestic beat, and we would hear stories every week about crime, drugs, and fights where God's laws were broken and lives were destroyed.

4. When I disobeyed one of God's rules (as narrowly interpreted by my parents) there would always be punishment. Yes, they would forgive me, but the punishment was always there. I saw this in the Bible, as well. God forgave you, but there was always the temporal reward or punishment. When King David murdered Uriah and took Bathsheba in adultery, the prophet Nathan confronted David, and David repented and God forgave him. But according to Exodus 20: 5-6, there was also a punishment....the death of his son, and the rebellion of later sons. And when King David took a census of Judah and Israel against God's will, David was quick to ask God for forgiveness. But shortly thereafter there was a severe consequence, and 70,000 of his people died.

Mom was strict and mean, but she was focused on obeying God. As Dr. Ray has said, better your parents discipline you than a judge or a cop, or worse still....your wife. She never punished me out of revenge or to bolster her ego. It was to put the fear of God in me, even if that fear was of her. She knew she stood in for God during my up-bringing. There would be a day and time when I out grew her influence. But until then, she knew she was acting in God's stead.

The sum of this life was that God was in everything we did as a family. We were the domestic church. I was trained in the things of God every moment of everyday. Yes, I was forced to go to Church, but that is not where I got most of my instruction about God. It was at home and the stories of what and how I learned, are many...thus my memoir.

In spite of my mother's overbearing personality and demand for obedience, she had a relationship with God that could not be denied. When she prayed she got results. In my experience the results were miraculous and often the prayers involved my punishment or my reward.

In Growing Up Christian I relate a number of these experiences, but here I'll relate just two, and ever so briefly. (They are more entertaining in the book).

Every night of my life at home, even as an adult when my young family would visit my parents, we would all gather in the living room of our house to read the Bible and pray. One person would read a passage of Scripture. We'd talk about it, take prayer requests, and then EVERY one would pray, on our knees, extemporaneously one after the other. My parents prayed so long I would put my head down on the seat of the couch I was kneeling at and fall asleep.  Mom would wake me up with a nudge of her elbow and say, "Stanley, it's your turn. Pray."  At the end we'd recite The Lord's Prayer. One night, Mom said she had been impressed to pray for the missionary that had taken her mother's place in India (Mom was a missionary's kid and Dad was a preacher's kid -- M.K. and P.K. in Evangelical jargon). That day, Mom had felt there was some danger and we needed to pray for the village where Miss Bibbee was working. We did, and it was clear that Mom was worried. Three weeks later a letter came from Miss Bibbee. On the day my mom was impressed to pray, a hungry leopard had found its way into the village at night, and was looking for dinner. Two of the native men awoke and chased the leopard out with sticks, but not before a great deal of fear had arisen. Reading that letter and remembering my mom's agitation on that day weeks earlier, left an impression upon me, that although I didn't much like my mom, I better fear God.

Another time, in high school, I had persuaded my Dad, against my mother's strong objections, to help me drive to visit a summertime girlfriend 14 hours away in Missouri. Mom had met the girl and the parents after our 8-week summer camp, and determined that they were not Christian enough for me...or rather for her. So, she was against me going and argued with my Dad over it. But Dad, having given into my Mom most of the time, understood my attraction to this young lady and told mom he was driving me nonetheless. So, on the appointed day Dad and I took off in his new Plymouth. When we left the house Mom was no where in sight. Dad and I got about a mile down the road when suddenly the transmission failed on the car, and we came to a halt by the side of the road. I can point to the spot today where that happened. Hours later, when we got back home after the car was towed to a repair shop, we discovered that Mom had been on her knees asking God to stop us. Clearly, I ever forget that.

My Mom forced me to church. She forced me to obey her. She forced me to memorize Scripture...and I, at times, hated her for it all. I did not have a happy childhood. But, what I could never deny was the presence of a God who demanded I obey him for my own good. My mom was determined, as was God through my Mom, that I would live within the bounds of Natural Law and be a man who sought after God, even though imperfectly.

And I think that is the message for parents who want their children to stay in the Church and not leave the faith. For kids not to leave the Church and God, in my experience,  parents need to make sure they are completely sold out to God, and do everything according to what is written in the Bible and the Catechism. Many Catholic parents are saddened today because their kids have not taken Christianity seriously. Well, did the parents take it seriously when the kids were young? Did the parents moment by moment make an understanding in God a practical, natural reality that could not be messed with without negative consequences? In other words, did parents teach kids that the stove burner was hot by letting them experience it, or did they just never turn on the stove? Experience is, after all, the best teacher.

Click on the image for information about the book

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Logical Case for Catholicism

Just released - Webinar on Logic and Catholicism.

I just updated a very good webinar that provides tremendous evidence for the logical basis for Catholicism. It's how faith cannot exist without reason. Richly illustrated with 75 slides and six videos, the seven part series (now divided into six downloadable videos) is designed for use by parishes, religious, education departments, homeschool parents and individuals who want to strengthen their Catholic faith and  improve their ability to defend it. Special attention is paid to faulty arguments from Protestants.

Watch the trailer below for a good sense of what the webinar is like.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

As some of you know, we spent most of 2016 working on a feature length documentary about Fr. Solanus Casey with 22 children. the video embedded below is a promotional compilation of audience comments following the cast and crew screening of the project titled: "EXTRAORDINARY: Stories about Fr. Solanus Casey for Children". The screening was held at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit on June 4, 2017, as a prelude the public premiere July 16, 2017 at 2 PM at the AMC Star Southfield 20 Theater, 25333 W. 12 Mile Road, Southfield, MI. Admission is Free, but seats will be limited. So, come early, we're expecting a full theater. There will be a Q&A session with cast and filmmakers after. Official website: SWC Films website: IMDB website:

The project's trailer can be found here:

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Benedict Option Disaster and The Marian Option Danger

A friend sent me links to two National Catholic Register articles by author and philosopher Carrie Gress (links to her blog) in which she promotes "The Marian Option" against "The Benedict Option." Those are labels given to two ways for Catholics to live in a morally conflicted society.
Before Taking the Benedict Option Try the Marian Option

On Mary's Birthday: 15 Ways to Live the Marian Option
The Benedict Option, a book by Rod Dreher*, suggests withdrawing from much of society to develop and protect Christian communities and heritage. My family, at times, has dipped its toes into this philosophy of life. The trend of Christians pulling their kids from public schools and putting them in Christian schools or homeschooling their children is a reflection of the concept. There have been times when I've compared the escalation of such practices to the Amish. And while some may find that comparison derogatory, I find it quaint. For as separated as the Amish are from society, they ironically garner a great deal of respect by it.

[*Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative, was raised Methodist, converted to Catholicism, and is now part of Eastern Orthodoxy, (Wikipedia). Of course by the time you read this, he could be Amish. Not without its critics, the book does have its endorsements:
“A terrific book: provocative in its content, shrewd in its insights, vivid and engaging in its style.  The strength of The Benedict Option is not just its analysis of our culture’s developing problems but its outline of practical ways Christians can survive and thrive in a dramatically different America.  This is an invaluable tool for understanding our times and acting as faithful believers.”—Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia]
The Marian Option, as described by Gress in several blog posts and articles, describes a life that is focused even further inward than the Benedict Option. In one blog Gress describes 15 ways to live the Marian Option; everyone of them is spiritually inward, further isolating the person from even her family. Now, the post you're reading challenges Gress to be clearer. For what she suggests is not what she is doing by being a wife, mother, and prolific author and columnist. But taking her blog posts at face value, The Marian Option (and also The Benedict Option) seem contrary to Scripture and how the Church explains our role in society. [Gress has communicated with me, see note at end.]

Israel In Babylon
When my friend first wrote me, she wisely was searching for the Scripture wherein God told the Israelites in exile to live naturally among the pagans of Babylon and not go off and hide, nor stay inside and just pray. The passage is this:
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29: 4-9)
Salt and Light
The Jeremiah passage reminds me a great deal of Christ's command in the Sermon on the Mount:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5: 13-16)
I have always embraced such a philosophy of life for the Christian living in a morally conflicted society. As a filmmaker and a Christian, I have always seen Hollywood as a field I wanted to work in, not a field to run from.

For nearly 50 years now I've occasionally handed out a two-sided green business card to Christians who engage me in discussions about the film industry.

On Side One it reads:
Consider a career as a Cultural Influencer. As a Christian you can light some candles in the darkness of our society. Prepare for a career in secular media or entertainment. Then, as you excel and gain recognition, use your influence to impart Biblical Christian values to the world. (over)
On Side Two it reads:
Pray for the Christians attempting to influence our society with Biblical values and ideas through their vocations in Television, Film, Art, Entertainment, Literature, Journalism, Education, Academe, Professional Sports and Politics. God has called these individuals and gifted them like Bezalel (Exodus 31, 25, 36) to be Salt and Light in our culture. (over)
I grew up in a fairly isolated Evangelical Christian home. I didn't convert to Catholicism until I was 51. I wrote a memoir about the journey, Growing Up Christian: In the Introduction to Part 1 I write:
The “orphanage” of which I became a part left me restless. For most of my youth it was as if I had been bundled-up in a thick wool sweater, a rain slicker and galoshes, then  urged to hunker down in a church basement and pray for the cultural storm to pass. If we grew tired of praying, we could watch badly made Christian movies projected onto  cinderblock walls. It was myopic, claustrophobic and irrational. Where was the faith that promised to teach us how to don swim trunks and navigate the shark infested surf? Where was life in all its fullness and adventure? (Growing Up Christian: Searching for a Reasonable Faith in the Heartland of America, p 6.)
15 Ways to Live The Marian Option
I'm not going to quote from Gress's article. You can link to it above, but the 15 Ways include spiritual reading, and a number of different ways to pray and thus make Mary (not Jesus) the center of your life.  (Yes, that's a little Protestant dig...which I think is appropriately Catholic. I love Mary, I pray the Rosary a lot, but my faith is really in Jesus not Mary.)

Gress's 15 Ways, by themselves, suggest to me why the Catholic children of very devout mothers and fathers, have left the church. In short, it's because the kids see little help from a life devoted to prayer that does not inform them in the practical ways of how to live among the pagans in Babylon. The Benedict Options says, "get out," and The Marian Option says "go inward."

Read carefully the 15 ways she lists. NOT ONE OF THEM is in service to others, NOT ONE OF THEM engages the culture or challenges it, NOT ONE OF THEM is involved in Christ’s command to be Salt and Light to society. EVERY ONE OF THEM suggests: "Go hide in your basement and pray until the storm passes over."

BUT, the storm will only gain strength unless Christians are IN the CULTURE being SALT AND LIGHT as Christ was. Just as The Benedict Options tells Catholics to retreat from public schools, so The Marian Option suggests, "Just pray about it in your closet."

This kind of thinking is why we have so many immoral films coming out of Hollywood and why politicians have embraced abortion. When Christians abdicate their responsibility to be actively, personally, and professionally engaged in culture the vacuum is filled with people that are not Christians. ("...trampled underfoot."). We can therefore expect abortion and immorality in entertainment. Christians have no justification to complain. They walked away, and in so doing they invited the devil to step in. On a personal level I have approached dozens of Christians to invest in motion picture development and production. Yes, it's very risky from an investment perspective. But every one of the Christians I've approached would rather keep their money away from risk and let culture deteriorate. Instead, they do the safe thing (safe for their money). They assuage their guilt by signing up on Facebook for yet another "40 Days for Life" prayer vigil.

Jesus Christ did not hide in the basement and pray. In the public square he socialized with and challenged the publicans, sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and the hypocrites that ran the "church." And, by Christ's works, in their presence, he contradicted them.

St. John Paul The Great
Gress tries to weasel her way out of this problem by citing John Paul II and claims that John Paul II lived out the Marian Option.

Oh, really? Well, that's not all he did.

Sure, John Paul II had a fervent devotion to Mary, and we might conclude that his ability to effect and affect culture was because of this Marian devotion, and he may have practiced everyone of the 15 ways to live out the Marian Option, Gress cites. BUT HE DIDN’T STOP THERE.

Read again, Gress’ description of what John Paul II did in her essay "Before Taking...."
Wojtyla’s life offers us something of a field guide for living under religious persecution. He faced it first under the Nazi’s deadly form of social engineering, which involved erasing certainly the Jews but also Poles from the Third Reich. Through a combination of determination, humor, prudence, and faith, he not only survived the war but also aided others, including many Jews. Then, under Soviet Communism, Wojtyla rose through the episcopal ranks, eventually becoming the second most powerful prelate in Poland. Cunning, patience, adapting to adversity, and again (as always) faith, helped him as the Bishop of Krakow and, later, as Pope John Paul II, the Bishop of Rome, to chip away at Communism and remind those behind the Iron Curtain the truth about themselves: that they were made to love and serve God, not the Soviet machine.
Nothing she lists there could have happened if the only thing he did was do "live out" her 15 Ways. John Paul II, spiritually, may have been Marian, but his apostolate ministry was all outward, sly, intelligent, confrontational...the opposite of The Benedict Option.

The Battle ofLepanto
And by the way, the battle of Lepanto would NOT have been won had the Pope ONLY asked Christians to pray the Rosary. BEFORE he asked people to pray the Rosary he asked for Christian Kings to mount a armada to confront the Ottoman Empire. And if you read carefully the military accounts, the Christian force was only marginally smaller (not vastly smaller), and the Christian armada totally outgunned the Ottoman’s, and while the Christian galley ships were manned by volunteers, the Ottoman’s were manned by enslaved Christians, who turned on the Ottomans when opportunity came. There were numerous differences that made the Christian force very capable of defeating the Ottoman’s. It was not as lopsided as you might expect by hearing this story from Rosary champions. Oh, I believe the Rosary was instrumental. But clearly, the Marian Option ALONE as Gress describes it in the 15 Ways, would never have beaten the Ottomans, nor help to destroy the Communist reign Easter Europe which John Paul II was able to contribute.

The Courage Option 
Gress over simplifies the process.  It's not just prayer and spiritual reading and being devoted to Mary. That's all inward stuff. It's good stuff, but it's not enough.

The option too many Catholics shy away from is The Courage Option... to engage and get in the face of what is wrong and confront it, like John Paul II did repeatedly, covertly, and with great slight of hand. And, and times, The Courage Option may require great military might and sacrifice in blood, arms, and lives as evidence at Lepanto.

==== Cassie Gress replies via email:

Dear Stan,

Thanks so much for your email and your concern.

Yes, I would agree that there must be some confusion about what I mean if you have the impression that I am in any way suggesting a moving away from one's active life-- I assure you it is quite the contrary. (Much of the confusion could be because my work at Register is directed at a Catholic audience?) Marian devotion is in no way a separation from one's vocation (particularly to family life), nor a separation from our relationship with Christ (and the whole Trinity), but an enhancement of all of these.

I suspect some of your concerns will be clarified by the book, which has three chapters that go through significant geopolitical events that involved either Marian apparitions or people with strong Marian devotion. Moreover, I have a chapter on the life of Pope John Paul II as "field guide" explaining how he lived under Christian persecution. These are all very active witnesses to people living in very difficult situations that find solace and strength through their devotion to Mary and her Son.

I apologize for the confusion and again, I believe much of it will be clarified in the book.

Best to you, your wife, and your important work.

In Christ,


And I responded:

Dear Carrie,

I do not believe you are trying to tell people to move away from the “active” life as you call it. The confusion is not because you are writing for a Catholic audience. That is perhaps the crux of the problem from my perspective. Catholics (as Evangelical Christians) have a weakness. Too many believe that if they spend their time in prayer and reading spiritual books, and going to Bible studies they are somehow involved in actively engaging culture and being Salt and Light to it. That is a fallacy. JPII proves it. And you do too by being a mother and a writer. You are not spending your time just doing the 15 things you list in the one essay…but that is what the essay suggests.

Your article in the 15 Ways to Live The Marian Option is all inward. It tells us explicitly that we can live The Marian Option entirely in our prayer closet. 

That’s my objection.

Many people will read your blogs and NCR articles. Fewer will read your book.

I do not doubt that a devotion to Mary can bring solace and strength in any situation. 

So, by definition, is living The Marian Option part of that apostolate activity, or is it a focus on prayer and spiritual reading as delineated in the 15 Way essay? Perhaps that’s my problem. Perhaps you mean that The Marian Option is  only part of being an effective Christian in society. 

That’s my challenge….====

Carrie further replied and agreed that The Marian Option is intended as an inward spirituality that informs and motivates a person's outward apostolic work. She has promised to make the clear in future writings. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

EXTRAORDINARY Project Finished. Extraordinary Projects Relaunch

"EXTRAORDINARY" Project Completed

"EXTRAORDINARY: Stories about Fr. Solanus Casey for Children,"  is a completed project Pam and I have been working on for over a year. It involved 22 extraordinary children as cast. We're now waiting on the release window and premiere TENTATIVELY set for July 16, 2017 at the AMC Star 20 Theaters in Southfield, MI.

The project website is here: Look for the tabs at the top of the page for more information about the production and the Solanus Casey Center, our client.

Kelly Nieto, creator of the (also) extraordinary stage musical, The Cross and The Light, that tours the U.S. every Lent, co-wrote the scripts, directed the kids, and acted as art director. Sean Lam of Singapore created the art, and James Stonehouse, the "John Williams of Detroit," wrote the original musical score that now stands on its own as a 14 movement tribute to the simplex priest — The Solanus Casey Suite. You can hear all the music on the above project website.

Here is the project's 4 minute trailer revealing all of our wonderful cast of children.

Extraordinary Projects Relaunch

We're now moving on to relaunch two of our favorite narrative feature motion picture projects, TIGER'S HOPE (aka DREAM IT FOR ANOTHER), and THE WIZARD CLIP DEMON. Both have strong Catholic themes and values.  We're looking for funding.

TIGER'S HOPE is a low-budget, pro-life, Drama with music story that focuses on adoption. Based on actual events, the story is about an entertainer who cannot conceive, goes through IVF, gets pregnant, but then gives birth to a baby that is not hers.  She and her husband then battle the Church, the courts and the medical community to keep the child. You can read the Story Fundamentals, synopsis, watch a trailer, and order a script here:

THE WIZARD CLIP DEMON is a supernatural, haunted house drama—a true story documented by many written accounts from Early America Virginia. It's about a persistent and devious demon that is only dispersed when Holy Mass is said (with great difficulty) in the house. You can read the Story Fundamentals, synopsis, and order a script here:

Both scripts are fresh re-writes based on the notes offered us by professions and friends. THE WIZARD CLIP received particularly good feedback from The Black List, which is posted on the site above. TIGER'S HOPE is just now being reviewed by The Black List.

If you know someone who is an "accredited" investor, who would want to help get these good films launched, I've posted a Business Plan Brief (or Top Sheet) on the SWC Films website. Even if you're not into risking money on movies, you may find the detail here interesting. I've been writing business plans for Hollywood movies off and on, and find the financial and legal structure involved a fascinating topic. The Top Sheet can be found here:

Blessings to you and yours.
Please pray for us...and our country.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Fads of Christian Evangelism

 by Stan Williams

Crusade Evangelism with Billy Graham
The title is unfortunately provocative. Juxtaposing "fads" with "evangelism" implies that evangelism is as insignificant as a fad of fashion.  But while Christian evangelism is perhaps the antithesis of a cultural fad, it nonetheless suffers some of the same attributes.

Track Evangelism
I was born into Evangelical Christianity—Free Methodism, it was called. We were evangelicals because we understood Christ's Great Commission to be the one command that superseded all the others.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age (Matt 28:19-20) 

Pulpit Evangelism with Billy Sunday
Consequently, over the decades of my life I have seen evangelism fads come and go. Each being described as the silver bullet that would save the world and usher in the Second Coming of Christ, or Christian utopia. Here's a list of some of them:

  • Crusade/Stadium Evangelism
  • Pulpit Evangelism
  • Personal Evangelism
  • Tract Evangelism
  • Teaching Evangelism 
  • Family Evangelism
  • Prayer Evangelism
  • Life-Style Evangelism
  • Bible Evangelism
  • Protest Evangelism
  • Mall Evangelism
  • Curbside Evangelism
  • Lead Evangelism
  • Small Group Evangelism
  • Blimp Evangelism
  • Sticker Evangelism
  • Street Preaching
  • Pre-Evangelism
  • Booth Evangelism
  • Tent Meeting Evangelism
  • Street Evangelism
  • Apologetic Evangelism
  • Bill Board Evangelism
  • Radio Evangelism
  • Book Evangelism
  • Food Evangelism
  • TV Evangelism
  • Movie Evangelism 
  • On-Line Evangelism
And in each of these there are sub categories where the technique takes on a hard "confrontational" or softer "salting" approach.

Of course none of these techniques ushered in Christian utopia, so leaders got frustrated and started their own efforts—new churches with a thousand different names. Some opted for the mountain top. Frank and Edith Schaefffer chose the Swiss mountains and started L'Abri Fellowship. William Booth took the Gospel to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.

Food Evangelization

These two extremes are found in the Gospels in the accounts of Christ's Transfiguration. Jesus took his disciples to both places. The mountain top was for enlightenment, and the valley was where real ministry took place.

Others rejected evangelism altogether because evangelism took on a militant-utilitarian identity that the Christian's only reason for existence was to save other people, so they in turn could save others, etc. Franky Schaeffer, Frank and Edith's son, wrote a popular book about the subject, Addicted to Mediocrity. And as much as my copy is heavily highlighted, I didn't agree with his final resolution—he gave up on Christianity altogether.

Evangelism falls under the second of the great commandments: 1. Love God, and 2. Love your neighbor. In my case I was so inundated with the above evangelization tyranny that one day I realized we had forgotten to Love God. Catholicism for me offered an opportunity to attend Mass where I could worship God and not bemoan yet another 10 minute altar call to save the lost sinner somewhere in the Sunday morning congregation. Such "altar calls" were rituals growing up in Free Methodism which lost their meaning before I turned 13.

I am almost 70 now. Pam and I left Protestantism 18 years ago and became Catholic. My current parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC)  in Plymouth, MI, is beginning a 14 week program called REROUTING. It's really not clear what it's all about or where we're being rerouted to...though it seems to be an attempt to reroute us around misunderstandings of Christianity, the way a GPS mapping app reroutes our car around an accident.

Protest Evangelism (e.g. anti-evangelism)
We've been through the first week where the emphasis was about how we're all called to be personal evangelists to those we meet at work, on the street, in restaurants, or at a sporting event.  It seems old to me, but it's clearly a new idea to many at OLGC. I've heard the illustrations and the Scriptures a thousand times, if I've heard them once. I've been an outspoken Christian all my life and although I gave up on Evangelicalism (see my faith memoir, Growing Up Christian), I will never give up being evangelically minded. But my methods now are more nuanced and relationship based. I've stopped asking waitresses if I can pray for them, because about the 10th time the waitress hears that from a customer it sounds like Bumper Sticker Evangelism, and cheapens Christianity.

Everyday I attempt to wear my Christianity on my sleeve, especially in my business dealings. Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a friend who died suddenly at age 76. He was a great pulpit preacher and teacher, and during his life I was involved with him in a number of evangelical media efforts that had a business aspect to them.  One of his sons greeted me before the funeral service. He drew me aside and said, "Stan, when we first met years ago, I didn't trust you. I thought you were taking advantage of my Dad. But over the years I have seen that you are an honest man, You are a man of integrity, and I would trust you with my life."  I should quickly add that his father, too, was an honest man of integrity. And today, that son, now a grown man with a family, is considering entering seminary for the diaconate, along with his two brothers.  

Street Evangelism
Evangelism is an important part of the Christian life. But its importance should not be overshadowed by everything else that God calls us to, namely obedience.  Evangelism is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes, or the list of vices and virtues in Galatians 5. The Great Commission was given to Christ's 11 Apostles following his resurrection. It was not given to his hundreds of disciples, nor to his thousands of followers. To the masses the instruction was to Love God, Love Our Neighbor, stay away from sin, and to obey God. When it comes to evangelism, I believe the cornerstone for everyday Christians is 1 Peter 3:15-16. Why? Because it puts personal integrity up front. It's not about being assertive with "words" about Christ, the Bible or your church (which is what most of the evangelism fads listed above are all about). Rather, it's about outwardly obeying God, living a life of integrity, and then...
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16.)


Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Logical Case for Catholicism

A new on-line presentation suitable for RCIA, Catholic Studies and Homeschooling (ages 14 and up) is now available. Go to: Play the trailer below. A content outline follows.

Designed for delivery in parishes, this is a 7-Part screencast course on how Catholicism (and Christianity) is validated by Logic and Natural Law. Contains 75 graphic slides and 6 videos. Total Length about 2 hr. 47 min. [Program: Copyright © 2016, Stanley D. Williams. All Rights Reserved.]


Introduction Starts: 00:00 (Length: 11 min)
1. LOGIC TERMS (Define Terms) Starts: 10:45 (Length 27 min)
• Logos
• Argument
• Opinion
• Validity
• Fallacy
2. NATURAL LAW (Logic’s Best Friend) Starts: 37:16 (Length 11 min)
• Physical
• Psychological
3. NATURAL LAW (Logical Short Cuts) Starts: 48:38 (Length 25 min)
• Biblical Precepts
• Catholic Precepts
• Social Research
4.LAW AND ORDER (Logic’s Best Evidence) Starts: 1:13:40 (Length 32 min)
• Logical Order
• Human Genome
• Free Will
5. LOGICAL CONTRADICTIONS (Logic’s Demise Pt 1) Starts: 1:45:33 (Length 21 min)
• Contradiction vs. Paradox
• The Dominant Contradiction
6. TWO LOGICAL FALLACIES (Logic’s Demise Pt 2) Starts: 2:06:34 (Length 14 min)
• Equivocation
• Difvocation
7. FOUR ESSENTIALS OF A GOOD ARGUMENT (Logic’s Solution) Starts: 2:20:24 (Length 27 min)
• Relevancy
• Acceptability
• Sufficient
• Rebuttal Proof