Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mike Mangione and the Union - Blues & T.O.B.

There’s a Song of Songs you’re singing
And I’ve been bleeding every line.

Aside from some shout-outs for the Kickstarter campaigns of Paul J. Kim and Gina Chavez, I realize that’s it been a while since I’ve showcased some good music. Well, you need not wait another second—pop on your earbuds for Mike Mangione and The Union!

Starting out as a solo act in the early 2000's, Mike's lonely van grew to include his brother and eventually the implements you see above. Not that the journey was as straight forward as that: he spent some time as a barista at varying locations and doing some odd jobs before settling into the seat of a traveling musician, a career we all know to be incredibly stable and secure.

Not that I'm complaining, since every ear within range benefits from the road the group travels, if for no other reason than even happy hearts can appreciate the blues. Come to think of it, blues and Catholicism are complementary, aren’t they? Not the church nor Jesus ever make any attempt to downplay the reality of suffering, not even for the faithful. Equipped with a maturity to turn our temporal anguish into music, Mike Mangione and his soul patch draw lyrics of amazing theological depth:

You give yourself bare-handed, I take what’s left with shame.
I heard Vinny came back from the desert but that boy don’t look the same.
You can count my hairs, they’re numbered, leave the tally at the door.
I heard the mother’s milk has gone sour but the fools they’re begging more.
You beg me to surrender, to make a perfect offering.
But you are asking too much baby because I’m stuck here in between.

("Somewhere Between," from the album The Offering)

With such thoughtful lyrics, you can rest assured that the T.O.B. in the post title indeed belongs. Standing for Theology of the Body, it’s the name given to the compilation of Blessed John Paul II’s teaching on human sexuality. The teaching particularly reaffirms the sacredness of marital union and our dignity in playing a part in it. With songs like “At Your Gate,” which references the Song of Songs, and “Woman in Gown,” it’s no wonder that Mike and The Union perform at Christopher West events.

Though all the members of the band are practicing Catholics and they’ve even performed at World Youth Day, their ministry, as you might call it, takes them to mostly secular venues. This certainly harkens back to the words of St. Paul, when he says, “To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.”(1Cor 9:23) Everyone suffers, and everyone questions their existence and their place in the world; Is there any better place to sing a word of truth than in a genre and environment where all questions are asked and significant themes are demanded?

In the words of the man himself: "Search out the Catholicity in the secular and let it inspire you. You will have a bigger palette to work with, and your work will resonate with a broader audience for all the right reasons." (Colorado Catholic Herald)

More on Mike Mangione and The Union:
Music videos
Store (MP3s available on iTunes and Amazon)
Interview at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tim Staples - Catholic Apologist

A face of calm before he unleashes truth like a broken dam.

Hey all, welcome back to Cool Cats! I’m ending my hiatus with a special treat. As mentioned in a previous post, Brandon Vogt is hosting a Support a Catholic Speaker Month, which is happening right now. As a participant, it was my good fortune to acquire the privilege to write about Tim Staples.

I specifically chose to write about Tim because, when I was a youngster, he gave a talk at my home parish and was my first introduction to the world of Catholic apologetics. It wasn’t a minute too soon, because between the internet and classmates, I was already facing such daunting questions as “Where is that in the Bible?” or phrases like “Catholics aren’t Christian; they believe in works getting you to heaven.” Key to Tim’s effectiveness isn’t only that he knows the ins and outs of Catholic answers to the above statements (not to mention he’s also the Director of Evangelization at, it’s that he once believed them.

Tim Staples was raised in a very southern and very Baptist southern Baptist church. This meant growing up in a mindset that not only was the Catholic Church not Christian, it was the whore of Babylon, oh my! He fell away from his faith during his teen years, but he came roaring back with the help of televangelists when he was 18 and about to set off for the Marines. With a renewed vigor in Christ, he participated in Bible studies and ministries throughout his military service and found his way into the Assemblies of God.

During his final year, however, he encountered something that many cradle Catholics haven’t even seen: a Catholic who knew his stuff. This fellow marine was Matt Dula, and he sparked Tim’s journey to prove the Catholic faith wrong. ‘Course, you can see how well that turned out.

Tim immediately followed his conversion with entrance into the seminary, and though he knew maybe halfway through that it wasn’t his true calling, he remained there for six years. Let’s all be thankful for this, because it surely gave him the necessary knowledge for his calling of apologetics without whisking him away to the serious time-eating obligations of a priest. The resulting fruits include the DVDs Why Be Catholic and The Bible Made Me Do It, as well as his book Nuts & Bolts: A Practical Guide for Explaining and Defending theCatholic Faith and speaking tours related to all of the above.

It's worth noting that Tim gives special thanks to his protestant brothers and sisters for helping him form an authentic relationship with God, and indeed we all should only approach other Christians in a loving manner should the opportunity for apologetics arise. Yet, apologetics isn't just trying to prove to other Christians our own Christian existence, it's showing ourselves the well grounded roots and teachings of the church we attend!

You might recognize from the clip above: "I led many Catholics out of the Catholic Church, I never met a single Catholic who was either willing or able to defend his or her faith."

More about Tim Staples:
Other books, talks, etc.
Journey Home interview