Thursday, January 29, 2009


Many times in the Gospels, Jesus teaches us that we have to give up things.  In doing so, we lay up treasure in Heaven.  He tells people to sell all they have, to fast, to give up their families, and all kinds of things.  

Some individuals literally have a calling to do this.  St. Francis, for instance, gave up everything he ever had in order to follow Christ.  Many of us are called to a different life - one of marriage, Children, or even the single life.  When we are called to this, we have to try and figure out how Christ's message applies to us.  One way we as Catholics do penance - or offer reparation for our sins in order to help negate temporal punishment associated with them - is to give up certain things.  Most famously, we abstain from meat on Fridays during the Lenten Season, and fast on certain Holy Days of Obligations.  Many will go on to extend that abstention to all Fridays in the year, or give up other things.

We are definitely called to give up the pleasures associated with sin when we follow Christ.  That is not an option.  But, I encourage you to go even further.  Think of something that you depend on, or use as a crutch, or just really enjoy.  Give that up on one day a week or for a month and dedicate that saved time or money to Christ.  In doing so, you will draw closer to him and lay up treasure in Heaven.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Torturing in the Womb

Catholic Online posted a good thought provoking piece where they praise President Obama for signing executive orders ending torture, but also question how he can also get rid of protections that prevent the torture and death of infants in the womb.  It's a good piece to really put some things he has done so far into perspective - remembering that he has taken good steps, but is looking to make some unbelievably bad decisions. Pray for him.

Blogging Emptiness

So, it's been a while since I have posted something.  Had bad weather and been pretty busy with work.  Nothing important has really been coming to mind lately.  How about my friends who read this blog?  How are your lives going?  Anything we could discuss?  I'm going to go to daily mass later today, so maybe something inspiring will be said.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

March for Life

Please pray for the unborn, those on death row, those suffering from war, and the elderly who face euthanasia or assisted suicide across the world.  Pray for all those who are suffering from a lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.  Fast, pray, do whatever you can.  Many parishes offer adoration of the Blessed Sacrament today - go if you get the chance.  

Lord, have mercy on us all and please grant us an immediate end to abortion, the death penalty, war, and all other evils that disregard human life.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I the communion of Saints

Mel just keeps giving me good material for blogging.  She writes:

Hey. Just listened to a great (RC) CD on the Communion of Saints. Have always believed in it in a way (Reformed perspective, Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed), but this was described in a wonderful way. Any blog thoughts on Communion of Saints? 

This is absolutely one of my favorite Catholic topics, because it really hits at a lot of issues - especially a lot of Marian issues that people have such a problem with who are non-Catholic.  We should note that this teaching is extremely important to the Church, and it is professed to in every mass by every Catholic when they say "I believe in the Communion of Saints".  

The scriptural roots of the passage go back to two passages that I can think of off the top of my head.  First, St. Paul talks about this "Cloud of Witnesses" who cheer us on in our day to day life.  He is aiming to draw similarities to our life and the "Great Heroes of the Faith (Saints)" and how they are the spectators in an arena - much like watching a footrace and just another of St. Paul's athletic references.  What do these spectators do?  They push for us to get on towards that goal, to win the race, to get to Heaven!  How can they do this?  Well, seeing as they are in God's presence, who better to intercede on our behalf and ask God to do something for us?  The second scripture is in the Book of Revelation, where we see the Saints gathered around God's throne, offering up our prayers to him - a pretty plain scriptural reference in my opinion.  

The usual objection to this (which is also a common objection to Confession) is "Can't God just hear my prayers himself?"  Well, of course he can, and of course he can answer them, but that doesn't mean that asking for the intercession of others is a waste of time.  Just look at normal life.  We ask others to pray for us all the time - both in the Church and others that we meet in life.  Who better to ask than those who are already in God's presence?

Friday, January 16, 2009

National Sanctity of Life Day

Although there is much that I disagree with our current President (George Bush) about, I was pleased to hear on CatholicLand that our President has declared Sunday (Jan 18) to be National Sanctity of Life Day.  Offer up your prayers/Liturgy of the Hours/Rosaries for this cause.  This is one of the reasons that I truly do respect President Bush regardless of the poorer decisions he has made.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review - The Faith of Millions

I just finished the book "The Faith of Millions" by Father John O'Brien.  I think this is a wonderful place to talk about this book, especially in light of the discussions we have been having about our relationship with those who aren't Catholic recently on this blog.  

This book was given to my Grandfather in Law when he was confirmed into the Catholic Church.  My Grandmother-in-Law gave it to me on Thanksgiving, because she thought I would really like to read it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I wanted to discuss it briefly because it was an excellent book, and well worth reading, to both Catholics and non-Catholics.  If you click on the title of this post, it should take you to Amazon, where you can buy a used copy of this book for 1 penny!  Thankfully she gave it to me, because it is out of print and I don't think I would have found it anywhere else.

First, we need to note that this book was originally written pre-Vatican II.  That being said, we need to realize that a lot of its language reflects the Church's relationship with Protestants before that council, a very different relationship indeed.  If any of you have read books from the 50s and 60s, you will quickly recognize the tone and type of language that Father O'Brien uses.  It can seem very harsh at times, and I think he assumes that everyone will logically come to the same conclusions that he does, perhaps not realizing that people's own inherent spiritual tradition and biases can cause them to come to different conclusions altogether.  

That being said, I think this book is very clearly and easily written.  It gives some insights into Catholic teaching and Tradition that almost no other book I have read can do so clearly.  I imagine that it was probably read by young faith groups or in RCIA classes in the past, because it really is nice to do an overview of Catholic teaching, but also gets into issues like an entire Chapter on St. Joseph that many other cathechetical books do not do.  His teaching on marriage and sexuality is very well done as well.

If you are a member of my former denomination the "Church of Christ" (and I know there are several who are and read this blog), I highly recommend this book because the style and prose are highly reminiscent of many books that are read by those there.  The way it is laid out reminded me of many books that CoC writers used to write, only here you will see that the same "plain logic" that they lay out can be understood very differently by Catholic thinking.  It also answers a lot of questions that you guys have posed to me here and elsewhere.

If you do pick up a copy of this book, try not to get too upset at the harsh language he uses towards Protestants at times.  I think he wrote it from a loving perspective, but I can see how it could be a big turnoff to someone who really rejects the Catholic Church.  It was updated after Vatican II, but mostly that update only takes place in the last Chapter where he really hits on the idea of ecumenicalism.  

I give it a 9/10 - only because it is in need of a more thorough updating.  As for explaining the teaching of the Church and such, it is perfect for both Catholics and non-Catholics, mostly because it does not get bogged down in too much theological teaching, while at the same time being advanced enough to explain complex teachings.  

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thoughts on Our Separated Sisters and Brothers

Since the last post spurred so many comments, we should talk briefly about those who find themselves in Protestant Churches today - thus separated from the Catholic Church.  We should think about what situation they are in and how the Church views them.

First, they are recognized as our sisters and brothers.  They are in communion with the Catholic Church - although not full communion with us.  We should note that while someone like Martin Luther would be labeled as a heretic for spreading heresy, he is only so because he personally rejected articles of faith that he knew to be true and mislead people with false teachings.  Those who are born Lutheran (or become Lutheran out of a clean conscience) today are not considered Heretics, because they are not rejecting the Church, they are instead trying to do the best they can.  

We should note that organizations may be heretical or schismatic, without the individuals in them being heretics.  For instance, a common example is the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is, as an institution, schismatic.  

We can also recall that we receive the graces of Christ through his sacraments.  To receive the fullness of that grace, we would obviously want to receive all seven sacraments.  That is not a "plan of salvation" of sorts, just the way that Christ has pointed us to receive as much as possible from him - to be in the "fullness of Christ".  Thus, we see that even the schismatic Orthodox Church has all seven sacraments and they are all valid.  And even Protestants have two valid sacraments - baptism and marriage.  Thus, they are able to receive the graces of Christ through these sacraments (we could also get into a very deep and lengthy discussion of forgiveness of sins, but it would be a different topic for a different post).  

We pray that our separated brethren will come into the fullness of Christ and the fullness of his Body - in communion with the Holy Church.  But, we do not restrict salvation (for that matter, we do not restrict salvation only to those who are "Christians" in the typically though sense, but realize that God's grace may have ways of reaching people who may never even be exposed to Christ).  At the same time that we realize they are not in full communion with us, we should grow in love and faith with them, because we are all trying to get to the same places and we should be able to help each other immensely.  

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Luther and Abuses

Mel wrote in a comment below:

Here's a question I hadn't considered before, re: abuses in Luther's day. If during the years since then, so many "reforms" have occured, then was that church or today's church any less than the original? (hope that doesn't ramble too much) Is the essence of the church the same but some immoral behaviors or other abuses that made some reforms necessary? Is anyone trackin' with this line of thinking?

My response would be as follows, but it would really help to go look up some discussion of exactly what these abuses were and how they were "reformed".  I'm going to give you the basics as I see them, then I want to address her second question in a little more detail.

First, we need to realize that the abuses that Luther touted as Church teaching were never the actual teaching of the Catholic Church.  There were some priests who were corrupt (as there are now, and as there always have been, always will be, and are in every religion and job that there is) and these men made bad and sinful decisions, sometimes motivated by greed, and sometimes tricked others into thinking they were buying salvation through the use of indulgences (what many people will talk about when they talk about Luther.)  Luther points this out, but exaggerates the extent and fuzzies up the true teaching of the Church on the issue.  Instead of working from within to try and help these people or fix the abuses that indiviudals were doing, he chose instead to introduce schism into the Church - a terrible idea that resulted in the fragmentation that harms Christianity so much today.  Even he himself regretted the results of his teaching.

Luther further perverted the truth by teaching certain false and heretical doctrines, and perverted the true history of the Church by insinuating things like the so called "Deutero-canonical books" were added later by the Church, when in fact they had been used consistently by the Church since the canon was set in stone in about 400 A.D., and had been used by the early Christians extensively, and especially by both Christ and St. Paul.   These and other things that Luther taught attempted to blur the lines between real Catholic teaching and what Luther termed as abuses, many of which were either not wide spread or were total fabrications.  

Enter the Church Councils who decide that some reformation is necessary.  What these councils did was try to reign in on individual abuses within the Church, and make sure that the Church was staying true to its sacred Tradition.  Neither the Church at that time nor the Church today is any more or less the original than it has been.  They are both the only Church which is marked by the four marks of the true Church- One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  

A good Catholic article on the so-called "Counter-Reformation" is here:

We also need to mention two other Catholic ideas that help us understand how we might think very differently about the question you ask than Protestants normally would.  First is the idea of discipline versus Faith and Morals.  Many Catholic teachings are disciplinary issues - when to fast, when priests are allowed to be married or not married, even what day is required for worship.  These ideas can change over time (many priests used to be married in the Early Church but now Latin Rite priests cannot be married in most cases but Eastern Rite Priests can) and can develop.  That is because they are not part of the Faith and Morals set forth by the Church.  These things do not change over time, but are guarded from error by the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church.  

That brings us to the idea of "Doctrinal development" - the fact that we can understand and more clearly define issues of Faith and morals as time goes on.  This does not mean that the ideas change by their nature, but rather that we understand them more fully.  Easy examples of this are the idea of the dual nature of Christ, the Trinity, the Canon of Scripture, etc. etc.  These things were not clearly defined or maybe even understood by the early Church, but they have always been the same and the roots of these ideas are seen as early as Christ's teachings.  We think of these doctrines as flower buds.  Think of a flower as it is closed in the bud, then imagine it as it opens up and begins to flourish as a flower.  It is exactly the same object, but once it is opened up, the full splendor of it is realized.  That is how doctrinal development works, so that over time we can get a more full and understanding sense of the beauty of certain issues of Faith and Morals, while their essence goes back to the beginning of the Church.  

Thus, unlike many Protestants, Catholics are not seeking to be "Exactly like the New Testament Church" because part of the beauty of Christ's Church is that as a living body it is able to grow into a fullness that was not realizable at that time.  As he said, it starts as small as a mustard seed and grows into a tree so large that the birds nest in its limbs.  That's a good way to think about how the Church grows and matures into something much more beautiful as time goes along while still being the same thing.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


There was a really interesting discussion of purgatory on Catholic radio (XM 117) the other day.  They were talking about how we really don't know anything about what purgatory is like, just that it exists from what we read in Sacred Scripture.  Thus, sometimes we think of purgatory as some kind of cleansing fire (which some people draw out from St. Paul's writings), but that isn't necessarily the way it is, the Church is actually silent on the true nature, just saying that we need to be pure in order to stand before God, and luckily God has provided an avenue for us to become that way so we don't have to worry about becoming perfect before we die - which may also involve temporal punishment for sins already eternally forgiven.

I got to thinking that Purgatory could be  something like the RCIA process (can't imagine what the Deacon who taught it would say about that!).  I remember learning so much, preparing me for Confirmation and First Communion, but at the same time it was a period of suffering and purification that helped me prepare spiritually for those great events.  Maybe purgatory is something akin to that, but hopefully they don't make you sing "I'm a Child of God" (inside joke).  

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I think a good thing I would like to see more discussion of is the balance between family, work, and spiritual life.  I think it is great when there are opportunities (like mass) where family and spiritual life come together, but there is a delicate balance between all of these.  For those of us called to married life, we need to find and take advantage of those opportunities.  They can be some of the greatest spiritual development to both ourselves and our families.  At the same time.  things like work responsibility are extremely important to everyone.  I think this raises two points:

First, the Catholic Church recognizes the importance of our daily work.  Especially people like Opus Dei, who realize that we should dedicate our daily work to God, but also our regular morning prayers and such.  This compared to my Protestant denomination who cannot see the value of prayer that exists in our daily work and dedicating that to God. 

But even more so, it gets me thinking about the Priesthood.  Knowing the responsibilities just of family, it is hard for me to imagine how a priest could maintain a family and totally dedicate himself to God's work as a shephard and pastor of a parish.  This helps me put into perspective and totally understand our disciplinary decision to not allow Latin Rite priests to marry.  I think it's a good thing, but definitely controversial to many.