Fr. Bryan Recommends
Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World
I’ve recently found a Catholic podcast, called Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World, that I’m enjoying a lot, and I wanted to share it with you all. Podcasts are basically audio recordings that you can download and play on your computer or smart phone through various websites and apps. Jimmy Akin is a Catholic apologist who explains and defends the Catholic faith; you may have heard him on Catholic radio, 690 AM, on Catholic Answers Live. He’s also written a number of books and has a blog. What I didn’t know is that he’s also interested in pop culture, science fiction, and various kinds of mysteries. In the Mysterious World podcast, Jimmy Akin, with host Dom Bettinelli, explores ancient mysteries, folk tales, urban legends, crimes, conspiracies, and the supernatural and what both reason and faith have to say about them. He looks at what we know about these mysteries, what is claimed about them, and the replies that sceptics make to those claims, as well as what, if anything, the Catholic faith has to say about them.
Some of the mysteries they’ve explored include hypnosis, the Roswell incident and UFO sightings, King Tut, the assassination of JFK, and ghosts. They also explore specifically religious topics like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Resurrection of the Lord, and the Lost Gospels. Since we’re close to Christmas, you may want to start by checking out some of his Christmas specials. In 2018 they talked about the proposed dates of Jesus’ birth, including what historians, the Bible, and the Fathers of the Church say about it. In 2019 they talked about the Magi, the three wise men who came to worship the Lord after His birth, who were magi and how did they know to come look for Jesus. You may also be interested in his episodes on reincarnation, Our Lady of Akita (a reported Marian apparition to a Japanese religious sister), Our Lady of Fatima, and the Knights Templar.
Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World podcast is produced by Star Quest Production Network, which is a Catholic non-profit that seeks to evangelize and expose people to the faith by exploring the faith and modern culture. They also have podcasts on Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, science and technology, American Catholic History, and more. The only one I’ve listened to, and so can personally recommend, is Mysterious World, but I figured some of you may be interested in these other topics. You can find these shows at sqpn.com.
Thou shalt not steal. – Exodus 20:15
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2401, says, “The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world’s goods to God and to fraternal charity.”
There are many detailed consequences of the prohibition of theft in the seventh commandment, as there are with each of the commandments. One breaks this commandment by unjustly taking something that belongs to someone else, which is what we normally mean by theft or robbery. Another way that someone can steal from another is by unjustly withholding something that belongs to someone else, for example, if your neighbor loans you their lawnmower and you refuse to return it. One indirectly breaks the commandment against stealing by unjustly damaging or destroying someone’s property, for example by slashing their car tire, because this deprives them of the use of their property.
In each of these cases, and there may be others that I didn’t think of, I was careful to say “unjustly taking,” “unjustly withholding,” and “unjustly damaging.” That it is unjust is part of the definition, because we can think of instances where someone can be justified in doing each of those things. For example, you are justified in taking the property of another person if the court orders them to give it to you in a trial or lawsuit. You are justified in withholding someone’s property if you have good reason to believe they will use it to commit a crime. You are justified in damaging someone’s property if you have to do so to help them, as firefighters do when they use the jaws of life to cut out someone trapped in their car.
We have to think carefully about moral issues like this, because we’re very good at fooling ourselves to excuse our sins. I might say that it’s not actually theft for me to scam you out of your money, because you gave it to me and I didn’t take it, but reasonable people would conclude that tricking someone out of their money is a type of taking it and is, therefore, theft. I can also excuse my sin of theft by saying that you don’t have a right to your property, maybe because I don’t believe in the right to private property at all or because I think you don’t deserve something that you have. Since we can find reasons to justify these types of actions, we have to be honest with ourselves about our motivations. Why am I really doing this?
How can I fight against temptations to sins of stealing, greed, and theft? The three things that help us fight these temptations are prayer, avoiding the near occasion of sin, and acts of generosity. Prayer is the first and best defense against sin and temptation. Prayer is an act of humility in admitting our struggles and weaknesses and asking for God’s help. Prayer opens us to grace which God uses to help us grow in holiness. Prayer teaches us to reflect on God and the mysteries of God and on ourselves and our motivations, so that we can grow in the likeness of Christ. We can also fight this temptation by avoiding the near occasion of it. The near occasion means the situation or circumstances where we’re able to commit the sin. If I avoid the near occasion then it will be harder for me to fall into the sin and less likely that I’ll be tempted to it in the first place. Finally, we can practice generosity. If greed is the primary motivation for stealing, then we need to strengthen the virtue that is opposed to greed, which is generosity. When I feal tempted to steal, then I should commit and act of generosity instead. As St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 28, “He that stole, let him now steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need.”
There are two seasons of preparation in the Church calendar: Lent and Advent. During Lent we prepare for the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In the Mass we cover the statues, remove Holy Water from the fonts, stop singing the Gloria and stop saying Alleluia. At home we fast by giving things up, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We also give alms by doing extra good works and setting money aside for the poor. During Advent we’re supposed to be preparing for the birth of the Lord, but what do we actually do to prepare? We wear purple at Mass and we shop for Christmas presents. Aside from that? Not much. As a Church parish let’s spiritually prepare for the birth of the Lord this Christmas through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
What prayers can help us prepare for the Nativity? First, pray the O Antiphons. These are antiphons that are used in Mass from December 17 to Christmas that give different titles of Jesus Christ. We can meditate on these antiphons and ask ourselves who Christ is in our lives. You can also take time to read the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels. They can be found in Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2, and John 1:1-28. Another good thing would be to participate in our 40 Hours Devotion, which is 40 hours (really 43) of continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After all, what better way is there to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh than to spend time in the presence of the Most Holy Body of the Lord?
We aren’t officially required to fast during the season of Lent now, but traditionally there were several days of fasting on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the feast of St. Lucy of Syracuse on December 13. They were called Ember Days, and this year they would fall on December 15, 17, and 18. Fridays are also special days of fasting and abstinence in memory of the death of our Lord on a Friday. We sacrifice things on those days to unite ourselves to the Cross of our Lord and to teach ourselves to prefer God to all things. We may not be going to as many parties as normal this year, so we have an opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Christ by sacrificing something on Fridays and Ember Days of Advent.
Finally, prayer and fasting are useless if they don’t lead to a growth in charity. There are so many opportunities to give during the Christmas season, and we should take advantage of them. You can give at OLOL either through the Angel Tree or by giving directly to the St. Anthony Boxes in Church, or you can give through any of the many good charities out there. Don’t just give money, though; make a point to do good things for the people around you during this time, especially when they won’t know about it. As the Lord said, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you” (Mt 6:3-4).
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.