This being the jubilee year of St. Paul, our bishop has put out a letter asking each parish and individual member to focus on evangelism over the next several years. Because this is a topic that seems somewhat neglected in our Faith much of the time, I've been brainstorming for ideas of how to do so. We should all commit ourselves to living up to the example of St. Paul and take the gospel into all the world, to those who have never heard of Christ, but also to those who have lost their way in the Catholic Faith and those who are not in full communion with us. What ways can we reach out to others who desperately need the sacraments?
I had some help from a friend, but I wanted to discuss my old Protestant denomination, the Church of Christ, and their misunderstanding of Original Sin. I also held to many of these beliefs in the past, but while reviewing old study material that I had written and written by other preachers in the Church of Christ, the error of these teachings seemed so evident.
1) In all but one of every sermon I have ever heard, Church of Christers have attempted to lay the doctrine of original sin at the feet of John Calvin. They even go as far as to say that Catholics adopted his theories and thus "created the idea of the immaculate conception". This gives them a very easy cop-out because they don't have to spend as much time on the actual issue of original sin, but blend it with his false TULIP teachings (many of which are obviously fallacious.) Then, by poking holes in the rest of his theory they can easily convince you later that original sin is incorrect. Obviously, this flows well with them because they ignore the 1500 years of early Church history where it was discussed by the Church fathers. One sermon did note, correctly, that there was some opposition to St. Augustine (who taught on original sin). They chose this individual as representing the Church of Christ position in the early centuries. His name? Pelagius!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hopefully they will learn more about that individual and distance themselves from him.
2) Along the same vein, they misunderstand the difference between Calvanistic original sin and original sin as taught by the Bible/early Church fathers. While Calvin believes in "total hereditary depravity" whereby someone cannot accomplish a true good thing because of their original sin (good deeds seen as evil in God's eyes), the Catholic Church has a much better understanding of the truth. Thus, arguing against Calvin, and attributing his thought to the development of Catholic theology is ludicrous.
3) They often pivot the conversation on whether or not you think God would damn an infant to hell, sometimes quoting (misquoting also) Catholic theologians. This obviously represents their misunderstanding of what is considered Sacred Tradition. At the same time, they would like to avoid talking about the theoretical man in Africa who has never received the gospel or the man who dies on his way to be baptized. They obviously also think every human being in the civilized world has been exposed to the Church of Christ doctrine. I wonder what they thought of the Peruvian tribe they found in the jungle recently who had never had human contact.
4) Their proof text is EZEKIEL 18:20: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him."
Here, they ignore the difference between original sin and willful sin. Thus, not understanding that being born with a predisposition to sin is different from being born with personal sin. They illustrate this by pointing to the Biblical definition of sin, transgressing God's law. I think this one is basically just their misconception of the whole idea.
5) I think this is odd, and I'm not sure I can explain it properly, but in some sense they do believe in Original Sin to a certain degree. They argue that we have death, sickness, tragedy on earth, hardships, pain, etc. as a result of Adam's original sin. They understand this much, and that should go along with their misunderstanding of Ezekiel, that babies do die and get sick, thus in some sense they bear the consequences of that sin. That is a result of original sin. It is not the same as being punished through hell or through being thrown in prison for something your father did.
Disclaimer: What I am about to say is going to be said with a lot of love. I absolutely love my parish, I love our priests, who have guided Seraphina and I to more spiritual development than I could ever imagine. They are absolutely wonderful and so are all the members of our parish who dedicate so much time, energy, and love to everything we do. I don't want this seen as a personal attack or critique. That being said,
In order to understand this blog post, I was in this frame of mind, and you should read this from NunBlog so you can understand my context. Part of the issue here was that false prophets were comforting the people of Israel leading up to the captivity, making them feel somewhat soothed about their sin and the problems rampant in their nation. I'm not one of those evangelicals who predict the end of the United States or claim that ever disaster that befalls our nation is because of some sort of sin (9-11, Katrina anyone?). That being said, I feel that sometimes, at least in the masses that I have attended, the daily readings and especially the responsorial psalms have been somewhat sugar coated from time to time. Case in point, my wife and I have spent several masses noticing how the responsorials that we sing change the wording of the Psalms or take specific passages out without presenting the whole truth. Sometimes they focus just on the "love" of God without looking at the "justice" that is also present in the Psalms. Of course, in reality, love and justice cannot be separated from one another. I think the fact that our redemption emphasizes Grace is important, because it shows us that God's love allowed him to make provisions so we would not be eternally damned for sin (which we "justly" deserve, I guess you could say). I don't necessarily (at least I HOPE NOT!) believe that they chose responsorial Psalms based on this fact. As a matter of fact, I think it's largely a result of modern church music and our hymnal. But sometimes we tend to want to not discuss our sins, and the possible consequences for these. This ties in somewhat with my post on confession, because here we have to personally confront our sins and confess them to God. And, trust me, coming from a Protestant background, it is much easier just to say a little prayer and go on with your life than to have to actually examine your conscience and confess your sins in a given manner.
As a nation, a Church, and as individuals, we need to confront the problems and conseqences of sin in our society. Maybe we should talk more about death, hell, eternal punishment, but to overly sooth others when they are in sin would be a fatal mistake. Yes, there is a balance. For instance, if you read certain passages in the Catechism about specific sins, sometimes addiction, habit, anxiety, and other stress can limit the severity of certain things. We see that carried over in the court system as well with "mitigating circumstances". But, at some point we have to realize that we truly are responsible for things and make them better. I don't want that to get lost in the shuffle of feel-good. On the other hand, again I don't want to fall into the trap of evangelical fire and brimstone teaching either.
I think it is absolutely wonderful when we can actually celebrate a feast in honor of a Feast Day of one of the saints. Especially our patron saints, or someone who means something special to you. This is best done right after a mass celebrating that saint when possible. Here's my suggestion of how to celebrate your patron saint:
1) Gather around the table with close family or friends (only people who are going to be able to participate with you) 2) Begin with a prayer of thanksgiving for the food you are about to eat. 3) Start feasting. 4) Go around the table, keeping conversation on topics such as "Why is this Saint special to me"? 5) Read any kind of Bible verses about the Saint or a hagiography 6) Pray a prayer to God asking for and thanking him for the intercession of this saint. 7) Pray to the saint, asking for his/her intercession, specifically regarding something that has to do with their life. For instance, Joseph is my patron saint, so I ask his prayers that I might live up to his example of a Father and a Husband.
Has anyone else done anything special on their patron saint day or another Saint day?
Last night after writing about my experiences with A Man for All Seasons, I noticed that on St. Thomas More's feast day, the second reading is a letter he wrote to his daughter from prison. I found this extremely moving. I've copied the text below:
Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to loose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly. By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides. I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning. And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault. And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy. And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.
Source: The Liturgy of the Hours - Office of Readings
First, let me give credit where credit is due. I was influenced to finally watch a Man For All Seasons, and what an experience. My mind is a jumble of thoughts which I will try to coherently put to paper now.
I have to admit that I was shy when talking about St. Thomas More. Not being Catholic for very long, I knew very little about him, and so I tried to avoid talking about him too much. I read in the book "My Life with the Saints" that A Man for All Seasons was one of the best ways to get to know St. Thomas. Then, I read the blog post listed above and it spurred me to actually go to the library and get a copy of the DVD. Also, his feast is June 22, although we were celebrating St. John the Baptist (perhaps our parishes patron, but that is a story for another time).
The first thought that crossed my mind was obviously the courage of this Saint. I sit around sometimes and think about how I have struggles with sin or with talking to members of my former Protestant denomination about my faith. When I see the type of courage he had, it shames me that I can't do better. Faced with death and uncertainty, to stand up to punishment that he knew was temporary in hopes to see God face to face, it's just so amazing. He quickly became probably the most modern Saint that I can feel close to, maybe because of his view of Protestants........which brings me to....
Ecumenicism! Obviously, this is a great idea. I totally agree with the Holy Fathers and what they have decided and how we should approach those of other religions today. However, as a convert, I also tend to be overly Catholic. I can remember being in Bible studies with our priest even before confirmation when cradle Catholics would make comments about what all we could learn from the Protestants or how they were better than us on some issues (see my post below about Protestant-style Bible Reading). I would almost get inflamed because I had been there and done that. I could see the beauty of the Catholic Church, much like St. Thomas More. During his lifetime, he illustrated that even though we can love others, there were serious heretical problems with groups like the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church. Sometimes I feel that if we get too touchy-feely with Protestants, we are ignoring our long history of martyrs who stood up for the faith and died to protect our beliefs. Maybe I'm going too far? But we have to realize his commitment to stand by the Faith in the face of such tragic consequences.
Maybe back more on topic, what a man of Faith! I felt almost idiotic, since I work in the field of public policy and have a political science background that I never knew this was the same man who wrote Utopia! We study that and it is one of my favorite political theory books. I just never put the two Thomas Mores together in my head.
Finally, I have one question. I found out that he was canonized by the Anglican Church. Why on Earth they would do this puzzles me, and Google fails to give me an answer.
Let's conclude with a prayer:
St. Thomas More,
Pray for us to have the strength and courage to defend our Faith in the face of all adversity. Amen.
Last night I had a very interesting discussion. It was suggested that maybe I would like to teach others about how Protestants read the Bible. Protestants surely talk up their Bible reading skills and put down Catholics for theirs, so I guess some Catholics are beginning to believe it. I should also add in this disclaimer; that I did read the Bible a lot when I was Protestant, and I learned much (if not most) of the beliefs I hold today from my time as a Protestant. On the flip side, maybe it isn't fair since Protestants don't have the entire Bible and are missing some books ;) That being said, when asked about Protestant-style Bible Reading, I immediately launched into a lengthy discussion on why I feel Catholic Scripture reading is far superior, perhaps in both quality and quantity (although in all cases Catholic and Protestant, both quality and quantity are up to the individual consumer of Scripture).
Catholics tend to read more of their Bible and critically think about it in ways that Protestants do not get a chance to. This comes from three directions (at least): Mass readings (especially if you include daily mass), the Liturgy of the Hours (Office of Readings), and Lectio Divina. Putting these three things together, I know that I have done more Bible reading (quantity and quality) since I have been Catholic, and I've seen passages and thought about things that never crossed my mind before.
Protestants sometimes read the entire Bible too (our old church did a 1 year read the entire Bible and discuss it on Sunday Morning class once). The problem is that they teach you to read with a certain lense on, you are reading 1) for knowledge and 2) for apologetics material, both of which are important, but there is much more (see section on Catholic prayer below). And, sadly, we are told in Protestant churches that we are all to interpret the Bible for ourselves, but in reality we must come up with the same interpretation as all others on most issues. Finally, the issue of sola scriptura harms Bible reading, because then we are looking for a "pattern in scripture" that tells us everything we need to know. That forces us to draw conclusions or dig into passages for things that aren't really in those passages (because in reality Sacred Tradition or disciplinary decisions by the Church governs those areas).
In contrast, Catholic Bible reading focuses on the prayer and worship aspects of Scripture. As I'm reading the Psalms in the liturgy of the hours, I am praying to God and worshipping him. And, the readings included in the mass (especially the Gospels) draw our mind to Christ. Catholics don't simply pick and choose certain scriptures to read and certain ones to neglect. Our liturgical calendar helps us to read the entirety of the Bible. We also are listening to it as prayer, not filtering it through our rose colored lenses. We don't have to worry about doing that, because the Church is the "Pillar and Foundation of the Truth."
Anyway, after I went on this discussion, it was agreed that I could tell others about more opportunities for reading in the Catholic tradition (like liturgy of the hours and lectio divina) instead of teaching a Protestant style.
Hello All! I am Joseph the Worker's wife, and have been invited contribute to his blog.
My background is a little different as I was raised Roman Catholic, became agnostic during my rebellious teenage years, was reignited in the Church of Christ, and finally came back to the beautiful Universal Church.
I wanted to say something about the title photograph used as the header. That is the photo of the ceiling above the altar in the Wheeling-Charleston Cathedral. I (as well as Joseph) used it as our desktop background for quite some time. I wanted to offer anyone who reads this blog the same chance, so I uploaded it. Download Here
You will notice the name of God in Hebrew (YHWH) in the center in Gold surrounded my multiple Seraphs. I never realized how complex YHWH was until I read this. I'm not saying that that is the most reliable source, but I think sometimes we tend to glaze over things - acknowledging what they mean but not really digging deeper. I feel this has been a major flaw in my spiritual life, and I hope that, using this blog as a tool, I will curb that tendancy of mine.
This post motivated me to post my own journey to Catholicism. Be warned that it is far too long (150 or so pages.) It also needs many additions since I wrote it (I was only in my first two weeks of RCIA) and probably needs some corrections here and there.
I think sin and temptation is a very interesting thing. Sometimes we never know when or how it is going to hit us. It usually comes at us from behind and sucker punches us in the back of the head. Sometimes we are tempted to do things over and over again, making the same mistakes and having to confess the same sins over and over. Why this temptation comes, we might never know. I realized something very odd the other day. I was tempted to do something that I know I shouldn't do and the temptation was very strong. Usually, when I am tempted or distressed I resolve to say three prayers: The sign of the cross, a Hail Mary, and a prayer to St. Joseph my patron saint. I realized the other day that I really didn't want to say those prayers because I KNEW they would work, and I really wanted to give in to my temptation. Eventually, of course, I did say the prayers, and of course they worked like they always do and I avoided temptation. Anyway, just reflecting on the nature of sin made me think about how to avoid it. I came up with the following ways:
1) Surround yourself with religious artifacts. This will keep your mind of the goal and remind you when you are about to do or say something that you shouldn't.
2) Use holy water liberally. I know to many people in modern society this sounds superstitious, but using holy water on yourself, your house, your car, your surroundings at the very least will remind you of your baptismal vows and purify your mind.
3) Pray often and on a schedule (Especially the liturgy of the hours and the rosary). Filling your mind with prayers is another way to keep bad thoughts (and later actions and words) out of your mind.
4) Frequent confession regularly. Confession gives you an opportunity to get over the burden of your sins. Sometimes when we are burdened by sin it makes us continue to fall into the same traps because we feel like we can never get out and fall into despair. That's just where the devil wants us. Confession also provides a priest with the opportunity to give you practical advice on how to avoid temptation and sin in the future.
5) Frequent Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, but partake of the Eucharist as often as possible through Daily Mass. This sacrament, the greatest of them all, will strengthen us physically and mentally. Most importantly, it strengthens us spiritually.
First, let me put a caveat on this article. As we saw earlier this week,Catholic World News may or may not be the most reliable in the world, but they are mentioning a possible reconciliation of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church to the Eastern Orthodox. I'm not even sure how this would be possible, that a specific rite within the Catholic Church would be in full communion with both? Maybe someone else has more expertise than me. Anyway, let's pray for unity of all Christians throughout the world in a way that God would find pleasing, based on his truth and love.
I think this news article summarizes what I think is so wrong with our culture and our media today. Here's an entire article dedicated to the problem of teenage girls becoming pregnant and why they might want to do that. Of course, the article has some "solutions" to offer - give the girls birth control pills, contraceptives (dare I say abortion?). There are two major flaws in this argumentation and gaps in this article:
1) These solutions do not address the problem at all. Does handing out contraceptives correct the problem of underage sexual activity? Does it help us understand or help a 16 year old girl who sleeps with a homeless man to get pregnant?
2) The girls in this article are said to have gotten pregnant on purpose. Turning this into a debate on the Catholic belief in contraceptives and abortion is absolutely ridiculous, as this specific case is outside those realms anyway.
Thanks God that some people in this town seem to not be carried away with the nonsense and actually might want to address the deeper underlying issue rather than writing off the problem with birth control pills and condoms.
Last night I finished My Life with the Saints by James Martin. Overall, it's a wonderful book and I would recommend it for everyone to read, especially if you would like to learn more about individual saints or if you enjoy heartwarming stories of an individual person's journey. Father Martin guides us through his life from Childhood to becoming a Jesuit in which he applies specific moments of his life to his learning about, praying to, and being inspired by various saints. Each chapter will deliver a small section of his life along with an introduction to a saint. A brief summary of that saint's life is presented, allowing the reader to learn at least the basics if they have no historical background for the individual.
I can imagine one complaint that some people will have about the book, although it did not bother me at all. Father Martin includes individuals that have not yet been officially canonized yet, such as Mother Theresa. Also, because there seems to be such an anti-Jesuit bias floating around conservatives these days, I can see people nit-picking points to attack the book. Therefore, if you are a "Saint purist" or a "Jesuit-basher", I'd probably steer clear of the book, although most of the problems will just be in your imagination, in my opinion.
I just have two simple critiques of the book. First, at times the flow of the book seems a little off. It almost seems as though he jumps around different parts of his life and it can be hard to follow. I'm sure this is a twofold problem; 1) No one is introduced to a saint at one particular second in time and that's all, it overlaps all of his life, and 2) I am not so familiar with the training of a religious brother, so at times it was my ignorance of the various stages of religious formation he was talking about which confused me. Finally, the one major thing that bothered me about the book was in his chapter on Mary, where he invites a Catholic to attend who has not been to mass in quite some time (at least that is what you gather) but then seems happy that he goes up and takes communion without the sacrament of reconciliation. I even admit myself that I could be nitpicking here, I'm just suggesting that I didn't like the way that particular story was presented. In real life, he could have gone to reconciliation before or after (with the intent at mass), etc. Other than these minor issues, it is an excellent and uplifting book overall.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
I tend tothink this is something that everyone has a problem with in one way or another. It seems like in today's society that we always do things so that we will be seen by others, and not for the inherent good of it. Instead, we want to brag about it or show off in one way or another. The other reading for today was about Elijah. I linked these two readings together by thinking about how Elijah tries to discourage Elisha from following him, and doesn't take the other 50 with him. He seems much more humble about what he is doing:
When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here; the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.” “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you,” Elisha replied. And so the two went on together. Fifty of the guild prophets followed and when the two stopped at the Jordan, they stood facing them at a distance. Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water, which divided, and both crossed over on dry ground.
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” “You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied. “Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not.” As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. When Elisha saw it happen he cried out, “My father! my father! Israel’s chariots and drivers!” But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.
Then he picked up Elijah’s mantle that had fallen from him, and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan. Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah, Elisha struck the water in his turn and said, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.
Let's pray for one another:
Lord, help us to do good works in order to please you and do your will, not to show our works to others. Help us to follow the example of the saints like Elijah who were able to humble themselves before you and enter into your rest. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever, amen.
A very good topic came up on Church of Christ to Catholic Forums. It was about the Liturgy of the hours (you can access it by clicking the title of this post.) I agree with the comments being made there. By praying the liturgy of the hours, the official prayers of the Church universal, there are innumerable spiritual benefits. You learn about the Scriptures, about Sacred Tradition, you are able to read all the Psalms in a very small amount of time, to pray some beautiful prayers and intercessions, and hear the most wonderful Hymns and Gospel Canticles. Also, praying the liturgy in the morning allows you to dedicate the day's work to God, to focus your mind on spiritual concerns, and to structure your daily routine in order to get more done. Praying the Evening/Nightly prayers sets your mind in a good state before bed, gives you a chance to do an examination of conscience, and all in all creates the atmosphere for a good night's sleep. If you are out there and have never prayed the liturgy of the hours, I highly recommend trying it. If you go straight through without any meditation, the morning or evening prayers will probably take you about 15-20 minutes. You'll soon realize that the meditation comes naturally and you will desire it to take longer after just a few short attempts. Probably the hardest thing to do is learn how to use the breviary. Stick with it, however, and once you get the hang of it I promise it will be one of the most enriching things that you have ever experienced.
A sample canticle (Redemption Hymn from Revelation 4:11, 5:9, 10, 12
O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power.
For you have created all things; by your will they came to be and were made.
For you were slain; with your blood you purchased for God men of every race and tongue, of every people and nation.
You made of them a kingdom, and priests to serve our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and praise.
Also, if you do the nightly prayer, every evening will end with two beautiful things, an antiphon "Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace, alleluia." and finally an antiphon in Honor of the Blessed Virgin (Hail Mary, Salve Regina, or another of your choice).
My wife and I don't have children yet. Today, I was thinking about an interesting experience I had with a friend who completed RCIA with me. I had made a comment about how important I felt it was for my children to openly search through religion and theology to find out what they believed to be true. Part of the baggage of my old Protestant denomination was that you were never taught to really seek God, especially not through a search of religion. Even with scripture, you were only taught to search the scriptures in as much as you agreed with everyone else. You were to "personally interpret" the Bible just like the "Church interpreted it" and anything else was being dishonest or dumb. Of course this goes against my feelings on just about everything. so thus I made the comment that I would raise my children to seek and learn while at the same time holding that the Catholic position is the right one. My friend took some offense to that because that's how he was raised. His father came from an Islamic background and his mother from a Catholic background. He said his parents always left it open and thanks to them it took him 30 years to find the Catholic Church! He thought it would be much better to simply teach them the truth and say "there it is". Obviously, his experiences left him with a totally different feeling from mine. Today, I've come to a different conclusion. Jesus said those who sought would find. I believe anyone with a true desire to find Christ will eventually find him in whatever way God has it planned. I don't want to say that it "doesn't matter how you raise your children" but I do want to say that we should put more faith in God and less in our own teaching and let the Holy Spirit do the leading. Honest souls will follow.
According to National Geographic, many archeologists are taking a much harder stance on the "oldest church" discovery. While National Geographic seems like odd people to talk about sensationalizing something too much (Lost Gospel of Judas anyone?), they may be right on target here.
Just a quick thought worth jotting down. Prayer is such an important thing and we should pray for all that we come into contact with. Just as a challenge, I'm going to spend the next week praying for anyone that I come into contact with that could use intercessory prayer (everyone?). At least everyone who I read about who is sick or hurt, or needs spiritual healing. We can do this, even if we don't know the individual personally. By praying constantly for all that we hear about or meet, we can do a great spiritual work.
One thing I absolutely love is to worship in old traditional style churches or cathedrals. The atmosphere, the music, the paintings and icons really grab your attention and help you focus on the spiritual. Others will probably feel the opposite and like the newer style buildings and such. This is something that is very interesting to me. Before I was Catholic, I often criticized that Catholics spent so much money on buildings and items. Now, I can realize the deep spiritual purpose they have and especially the benefit they can be for individuals. At the same time, we have to realize that there is a balance involved that we need to find. I've seen two shocking images in recent months that both deserve mentioning. One is the image of a homeless girl in the Phillipines (about 10) sleeping under a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the window of a shop. The caption said to buy a statue like the one in the window, it would cost about 1 year's wage, and that they were extremely popular in the Phillipines (This image was part of a Station's of the Cross that I attended during Lent). Another image I saw showed homeless people in Italy sleeping in one of the Cathedrals, without clothing or possessions, but surrounded by gold and glamour. These photos made me once again think about how much we spend and what we spend them on. I think it reminds us to think about what kind of stewards we are with what God provides us. Again, I see the reasoning behind beautiful churces, and I personally love them and think it is important for us to take care of them. But we shouldn't neglect the poor in the process.
One of the things I quickly noticed about the Church when I began attending was how full it was of people of various types. We have sinners and saints, liberals and conservatives, men and women, people of all races and all ages, etc. That's the absolute beauty of a universal Church like the one Christ established. I always think of the following verses jn Matthew 13 where Christ talks about his Church, and how wonderfully well they really apply to how we see it today:
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
To be able to worship with not only all those diverse individuals within the Church, but also with the Saints and Angels throughout history in the mass, we can begin to scrape the surface of the beauty which is the Catholic Church.
As Seen on : Vivificat! , Catholic World News claims that the oldest Catholic Church ever found has been found. (Yes, excuse me for using the same word twice in one sentence.) Anyway, here is a more balanced report of the same news:
This brings me to the question of...what happens if we do find the ruins of a Church from the first century? What about the fact that we will find evidence of early Christian art, liturgical services, etc. What will Protestants who "trace their history" say about the fact that worship wasn't spontaneous but rather patterned after the Jewish liturgical form of worship? Seems like good evidence for both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic faiths to me.
I almost forgot. A few people at our meeting Monday night wamted more information on the book I was talking about, The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn. I believe this is a must read for those of us who want to understand the book of Revelation, as he draws upon and summarizes the positions of the early Church and the Church Fathers.
Last night, our parish had it's weekly meetings of young people to discuss spiritual issues. The topic was on the Apocalypse and Second Coming, but it quickly evolved into discussing "how good do you have to be for God to let you into Heaven". Of course, we discussed how salvation is only through grace and you never can really be good enough, but it continued on to a perhaps more interesting topic. Although I'm not here to comment on who God will allow into Heaven and who he won't, many (most?) theologians and Church leaders believe that Protestants (and even non-Christians) are not excluded from God's grace, and that he will have to be the judge of them. Also, there are individuals who live their entire lives as being "non-religious" and then suddenly have a 4th quarter "buzzer" conversion. Sometimes this doesn't seem fair to us, as faithful Catholics we are supposed to hold ourselves to a much higher standard including the "dreaded" confession. I think that the parable of the prodigal son is our guide for this kind of event. Sometimes we overlook what the Father says to his son who stayed with him the whole time, though. He tells him "son, you are always with me, and everything that I have is yours". Instead of worrying about who gets to party on Earth before they get to Heaven, we should remember that we have the fullness of the faith. We have the beauty of all the sacraments. Confession and the Eucharist strenthen us and forgive our sins. We can live a much happier and richer life here on Earth because we have everything the Father owns in our own hands, we don't have to wait until late in life or worry about such things. We need to stop thinking that worldly life is the "good life" and remember that actually the fullness of the Catholic Faith is. We should relish the fact that we are with the Father now.
For a more detailed discussion of The Parable of the Prodigal Son, I reccomend reading Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazereth.
Hello everyone. I began my journey to becoming Roman Catholic in December of 2007. Actually, even though I say that, I actually know that little "indicators" have pushed me towards the fullness of the Catholic Faith my entire life. In one of my next few blog entries I hope to analyze these little steps that God uses to lead us down a certain path. I feel that is one of the reasons that true discernment is so crucial to our spiritual lives. As for my background, I came from the Church of Christ Protestant Denomination (at first institutional, and later "anti" or non-institutional). I'll probably refer to this background at length in the future. I plan to use this blog as the "spirit moves me" to post random events from my life or experiences within the Catholic Church. I will also move my yearly "Blogging through Lent" experiences to here, where I write a reflection every day during the Lenten season. I hope it will be a rewarding and growing experience for myself and everyone I know.