Archives for March 2010

Being Catholic

I have been thinking lately about what it means to be Catholic.

It is not primarily about membership but of heart; not of church buildings but of actions; not of organization but of obedience. One can be Catholic technically, but not in practice, to one degree or another. In fact, one can be other than Catholic yet lead a faith driven life more consistent with Catholic beliefs than some who are Catholic.

I am not concluding from these observations that it is therefore unimportant to embrace our faith. However being Catholic in name, of itself, does not lead to salvation any more than not being Catholic prohibits it.

Being Catholic is a tremendous opportunity and great gift to participate most fully in the Church founded by our Lord and Savior. That opportunity includes Christian truth passed to us by Sacred Tradition and Holy Scripture, interpreted and taught by a Magisterium protected by the Holy Spirit. That gift also includes the sacraments, administered by those with authority from Jesus flowing all the way from the Apostles. Church teachings gives us reliable catechesis and we receive blessings and graces through the sacraments.

We are free to turn away from God and his Church, fully or in part. Nothing pleases Satan more. Satan has a window of opportunity – our mortal life – to pervert us. He succeeds not only when we sin, but when we question and seriously doubt our faith, or when we create personal theologies — Catholic but…   There is a long list of of exclusions some have embraced, to Satan’s delight, such as ignoring holy days of obligation, contraception, premarital sex, remarriage, homosexual acts, misguided “causes” such as women priests, non-Christian beliefs such as relativism, and even abortion.

To Satan’s dismay, most Catholics remain faithful. They study, pray and seek guidance when they have doubts. They work to live free of sin, but when they fail they truly repent and seek absolution through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Their faith is the Catholic faith without personal modifications. I believe faithful Catholics share in blessings of peace, joy and happiness that elude – and will always elude – those in prideful arrogance who follow their own hard heart.

Satan is not satisfied to just tempt individuals. He is determined and thinks big! Through his efforts our human failings are wildly exaggerated in the press (so called mainstream media). We are mocked. Myths are spread. Some are led by apostasy to schism and heresy. Being Catholic means we are steadfast none-the-less, now and forever. We have complete confidence in Jesus’ promise that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail.”

If you are seeking the fullness of the Christian faith, learn more about Catholicism. We are Satan’s number one target for good reason. If you are a lapsed Catholic, come home! The answers you seek are, and always were, right here. Time in our mortal lives is running out.

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.”

View more thoughtful, heartfelt testimonials at Catholics Come Home .org.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #2)

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Without further ado:

— 1 —

This Lent I am reading Not by Bread Alone 2010, a little book of daily Lenten reflections by Jay Cormier. It is very good, with reflections that really speak to me. The layout is such that each day is covered by 2 facing pages. The reflection takes most of the space, but it is preceded by the an extract from that day’s scripture and followed by a succinct meditation and prayer. I will definitely buy this book next year.

— 2 —

Mass presented in English is a translation of the Latin Mass. Unfortunately, there is no standard English translation so it varies from country to country. The US version is also not quite as close to the Latin version as it might be.

This will soon be fixed! A new, worldwide English Mass translation has been in careful development for a number of years. We will finally be switching to it at the beginning of Advent 2011 or 2012, depending on final approvals and necessary advance preparations. The new Roman Missal is available for your perusal now on the USCCB website. It even has its own website with more information.

— 3 —

I was delighted and honored to see that Marcel LeJeune added this blog to the Aggie Catholics blogroll. Aggie Catholics is the blog of the St. Mary Catholic Center at Texas A&M. They are a large, vibrant Catholic community. Aggie Catholics is one of the first Catholic blogs I followed and I continue to enjoy their posts.

— 4 —

Here are two quotes I ran across this week to share:

A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.

Abigail Van Buren

and…

It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope.

Pope John XXIII

— 5 —

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit a Habitat for Humanity house under construction. It is a joint project with another Catholic parish. Daryl and Tony, friends from my Men’s Fellowship table, were both there (Daryl leads the effort on our side). The house is fully built in 7 weeks and they are now at the halfway point. Each week a different parish group provides lunch for the volunteers. Last week our RCIA class had that privilege.

— 6 —

One interesting question (among many) posed in the Catholic Answers Forum recently is how to answer the question “are you a Christian or a Catholic?” My answer was simply “fully Christian.” If a person asking this question doesn’t understand that answer, then it is a great opportunity for a teachable moment.

— 7 —

I am learning much about the blogging world. One thing I have observed is that while many people read this blog, very few comment. Please always feel free to join in, disagree with me, offer a correction or share another perspective. If you have commented, thank you.

Have a question or something better suited to private communications? I respond to all e-mail in a timely fashion! I especially encourage comments from those considering Catholicism or returning to it.

Catholics and politics

I had some other ideas for today’s post, but feel this would be a good time to reflect on Catholicism and politics. For some months now we have been in the jaws of the healthcare “debate.” Players in this saga include politicians at its center, plus all of us on the fringe. Venues ranged from congress to the dinner table.

This bill was especially important to Catholics for two reasons: its social justice and abortion aspects. Catholics were, and will remain, an integral part of this continuing issue.

Catholic bishops have spoken clearly, repeatedly, as a group and as individuals, on the healthcare bill. Abortion is a grave evil and is not outweighed by other potential benefits. The Senate bill – which became the President’s bill – has deep flaws in abortion funding and conscience protections. It is not acceptable as is and must be modified. No one who is objectively informed doubts that it introduces serious new abortion perils nor that a presidential executive order is more than political cover.

One of the things that I noticed in various discussions is the direction people are coming from. I have often read or heard arguments that begin with political party talking points and follow with selective Church teaching to justify them. Those taking this tact are tempted to skip or reinterpret teaching that does not support their position and push it aside. In doing this, they put their political party ahead of their faith. That is a serious mistake and at times we are all tempted to loose focus and priorities.

Public Catholic political and non-political figures have been repeatedly in the news. Some Catholic politicians were in support of the Senate bill and others opposed. Those supporting expressed a viewpoint that the abortion restrictions were sufficient. Those opposed expressed the opposite viewpoint, gave detailed reasons why and supported the bishops’ priority of life above important, but lesser considerations.

It certainly was discouraging to witness politicians who, as professed Catholics, supported this bill with flaws so serious that it will ultimately expand abortion. Both the House version and Senate versions of the bill were seriously flawed in this regard. In the House, Brad Stupak was able to form a coalition of enough pro-life Representatives to force it to be corrected. In the Senate however, Ben Nelson proposed the same corrections but was defeated. To be clear, the Senate overtly and purposefully rejected these corrections. It is the Senate’s version that became the President’s version and was passed.

The bill did not pass easily and until the very end, did not have sufficient votes. In addition to every Republican Representative, a dozen pro-life Democrat Representatives held-out against the bill. Most of them gave-in to the extraordinary pressure and threats, settling not for changes to the bill or even corrections via the following “fix” bill – but simply an unsustainable Presidential order. Pro-abortion groups are sure to sue in order to neuter it. They will prevail by well established case law. Everyone knows this.

The most immediate failure of Catholic politicians was for some not to join the coalition against the bill and for others to eventually cave. The latter would not have been possible without the actions taken by two Catholic organizations that weakened their public support. First was the Catholic Health Association, hospital administrators basically, that publicly backed the bill in opposition to the bishops. Later a small group of activist sisters religious did also. Leaders of both groups met privately with the President, published press releases and gave interviews.

Other Catholic groups remained steadfast to Church teaching and the explicit guidance from our bishops. The Catholic Medical Association (physicians) and other women religious did their best to counter, but the damage was irreversibly done. The mainstream media delivered exaggerated claims and made it seem like Catholics were generally divided on this issue. We did not speak with a unified voice and our voice was therefore marginalized. Political interests had expertly played those of us who were vulnerable for their own ends.

That is what happened and there are lessons to be learned. It would lack charity to conclude that certain politicians, the CHA, or sisters acted with evil intent. It is appropriate, however, to work for change. We can support new candidates in November, regardless of their political party, who are pro-life to replace those who have been tested and failed. We can pray that the Vatican’s investigation begun last year into US women religious will bear fruitful results.

As always pray for our political leaders, that their eyes and hearts are opened to the full repercussions of their actions. Pray to Mother Mary that her Church will be strengthen and united.

Update – for more information see:

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #1)

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. The idea to combine them under this banner was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary. So, some Fridays I too will participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Without further ado:

— 1 —

Kathleen Blease over at Kathleen’s Catholic has some more thoughts on Eucharistic Adoration following my post last week.

— 2 —

Mrs. is a title of vocation. Married ladies should should proudly use it. It seems to me that “Ms.” purposefully obscures this. To what end? Marriage is not something to be ashamed of or hidden. It is a noble commitment to family. I wish there was a similar distinction for men.

— 3 —

I know some will disagree with me on this, but I am also not keen on hyphenated surnames some women take. In marriage a couple is joined as one and should be known as such through a common name. Even the dictionary defines surname as “the name used to identify the members of a family.” I have always been confused how this works for children. Whose surname should they take, the husband’s or wife’s? Maybe it could be different for every other child? If a daughter has a hyphenated name and gets married should she add another hyphen? What a misguided mess.

— 4 —

I don’t know why, but it always makes me smile when I see small children gathering at church. I usually go to Mass on Fridays following Men’s Fellowship. After that, for some reason (daycare, classes, field trips?), young children are dropped off and assemble in the PLC. Their backpacks are at least half their size. They are well behaved and sit fairly quietly on the floor until everyone has arrived.

— 5 —

Speaking of the Men’s Fellowship – we had a guest speaker last Friday. He made an interesting analogy: “simply going to church does not make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” It is not a perfect analogy, but still makes a very good point.

— 6 —

On Wednesday I got to be a substitute CCD teacher for 7th graders. Co-teacher actually, with Lanis. More of a chaperon really. Still fun! Not growing up as Catholic I had never been to a CCD class. This class was on Stations of the Cross.

— 7 —

The sky is God’s abstract art canvas. That’s all. Just an observation.

Myth: Saint worship

No, we don’t worship Saints.

For the benefit of those who are interested in learning more about Catholicism, I plan on writing occasional posts on common myths. Besides, writing about them is fun!

I really can not tell if these myths come out of ignorance, misinformation or malice. Often there is a very tiny grain of truth that is distorted and twisted beyond recognition to give credence. For the benefit of our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters – and everyone else for that matter – I will set the record straight in posts tagged by the keyword “myths” (see TOPICS in the right-hand column).

The grains of truth to today’s myth are (1) Catholics have many statues of Saint inside and outside of our churches and (2) Catholics sometimes pray to Saints.

Saint statues are remembrances of someone who, while imperfect, led inspirational lives worthy of emulating. They had a yearning for holiness, humility, perseverance, love of God and their fellow man. We venerate (reverently remember) Saints. The Catholic church calls on all of us to be saints. Canonized Saints (capital “s”) are those who achieved sainthood in their lives and are formally recognized by the Church. (An interesting point: the Church can not make someone a Saint, rather it only recognizes that they are a Saint.) Many, most or all of our Catholic Saints are also recognized by various Protestant faiths. Some cities (e.g. St. Louis) are named after our Saints.

What is the purpose of a picture? We have them at home, in our wallets and on our desks. They are of someone, living or not, who we wish to remember. Larger, more life-like pictures are all the better. The same applies to Saints… regular pictures are good and 3-dimensional pictures (statues) are better yet. The very latest HDTV technology brings us 3-dimensional images for the same reason – more realistic and immersive.

Statues of Saints are for their remembrance and inspiration. Not so weird.

We sometimes pray to Saints but we never worship them. We do not worship anyone but Jesus Christ our Lord. When we pray to Saints we ask them, from their position in heaven, to pray with us. That is intercessory prayer.

I bet I know what you are thinking. You don’t need any Saint to pray for you because you have a personal relationship with Jesus. Why “go through” anyone else when you can go direct?

Do you ever ask someone to pray for you? Do you ever pray for someone else? Do you believe in the power of prayer? This is no different! It is really that simple.

Praying to Saints is simply asking them to pray for us and others. Not so weird.

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