This is a list of my original essays from most recent to oldest. A key paragraph from each post has been selected to represent its focus. If you have just discovered this blog, or are not a long-time reader, please check-out these brief essays on a wide variety of Catholic topics.
When you go to church today, look at the lines of people waiting to receive ashes. They are from every culture, rich and poor, young and old. Not all will be with us next year. For some, while they don’t know it yet, this is their last Ash Wednesday.
Issues are not of similar weight. Issues of life itself and religious freedom are non-negotiable. All faithful Catholics must hold this. Most other issues are ones of prudential judgment in which we can differ in good conscience. Those are issues of security, healthcare, immigration, economics, and so on. Life itself and the freedom to live that life in good conscience must first be secure.
Much of Amoris Laetitia is very good. It could have been in the same league of Humanae Vitae, but it sadly falls short due to critically muddled messages. A small part of it (particularly in chapter 8 and footnote 351) addressing pastoral care are ambiguous and problematic to the point of overshadowing the rest of the document. The text in question leaves open, for those inclined to interpret it in a certain way “pastoral practices” which are contrary to the timeless teaching of the Church.
The short answer is that the baptized are saved by grace through faith. Grace comes to us as God’s infinite divine mercy, fully merited for us by Christ. It is a pure gift which we are free to accept or reject. Grace is not forced upon us. We accept it — we “open the gift” — through faith. Faith is believing, but alone without a living response would be but an empty declaration. Faith without works is dead. St. James is quite direct and powerful on this point!
The United States immigration system could use improvement, but is not as unjust or restrictive as many believe. A very strong case can be made for the exact opposite. Did you know that our foreign-born population has tripled following the 1965 Hart-Cellar immigration act? Per US census data, in only 4 decades from 1970 it […]
Our fervent hopes and prayers are that Lutherans become truly reunited with us at the Eucharistic table of our Lord. That happens when they become Catholic. This is what converts do, what I did, what Anglicans do en masse via the ordinariate. The purpose of true ecumenical dialog is to lead others to the fullness of the Christian faith.
Consider… Women in the United States of America are forced by law to a life of servitude in support of unwanted biomass known as “toddlers.” Yes, small pre-person clumps of tissue who contribute nothing to society but who pollute the environment and tax the healthcare system. Enslaved women suffering loss of time, space, financial resources, […]
People are confused by gobs of secular group-think. At one time, folks held knowledge of truth (and living consistently with it) in high regard. Now, whatever the topic, it seems to go through a quick filter of “does it matter to me one way or the other?” If not, then go with the flow, live […]
The Catholic Church is a very messy place. It is full of flawed people (well over a billion). We all hope to become saints, but for now we are all sinners, every one of us. That is why we need the Church. Her mission is to spread the Good News, without distortion, in order to […]
Make no mistake, while God’s incredible mercy is offered to all, it comes with one simple condition and is a limited time offer. The condition is contrition – acknowledge, understand, be truly sorry, and turn away from sin. The time limit is our lifetime and the clock is our beating hearts.
We walk on water when we trust in the Lord completely. The more saintly among us do this routinely. For the rest of us, it is still a more conscious choice. We particularly experience this when we are unable to be in control, turning ourselves and our problems over to Him. We do not abandon the problem and step back into the boat. Rather we trust Jesus, work as His instruments and accept the direction He takes us.
We are acknowledging the fact that we are literally in the presence of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings. He is really, substantially before us in the Holy Eucharist – in body, blood, soul and divinity – reserved in the tabernacle. We acknowledge this and submit to His divine Kingship in humble adoration.
“Gay marriage” is simply a new legal fiction. What constitutes marriage and morality in general has never been up to government and never will be. Ideally, government is enlightened and informed by God, the creator, and recognizes all rights flow from Him. Our founding documents acknowledge this but we have “evolved” to an enlightened view of our own making to our detriment.
Pope Francis recently said “I am convinced that the whole church – that has much need to receive mercy because we are sinners – will find in this jubilee the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.” Mercy is absolutely central to who we are as Christians. It is what Jesus merited for us upon the cross. It is also commanded of us. That second sense of mercy is often poorly understood.
A Parable of 3 Men: A man comes to your door. He tells you that he wants to come in and stay with your family. You do not know him. He is a stranger. Persisting, he explains that he has told everybody about you. Yet, he has not met you personally. Of course, you send him away.
(Two other men follow…)
One area of study I have ignored during the 5 years since my conversion is liturgical vestments. There is so much to learn that until now, I have given this area a very low priority. At some point however, in conversation with others, I have to stop describing the things priests or deacons wear and […]
This is where we come to unite with Him in His once and for all sacrifice which continues for us to this day. Here we join with Him both spiritually and incarnated in the Blessed Sacrament, the source and summit of the Christian life. It is not just the two of us either, but all the faithful: past, present and future. At this place our Eucharistic liturgy joins with the Heavenly liturgy, in the presence of God, together with all the angels and saints. If ever the word “awesome” could be applied, this is it.
The modern Catholic Church in America has changed from customs and teaching of 50 years ago, often to its detriment. Not doctrine, of course, but in some important discipline, practices and traditions. This is not without harm to the Body of Christ. Friday penance is one such example. What is penance? Penance is an expression […]
I have written very little about Pope Francis since he was elected to the See of Peter 18 months ago. I, like so many others, have been and remain somewhat confused. There are already so many things written about him, what he has said, what he has done and what he is trying to do. […]
Reports in mainstream media related to the recent Synod on the Family, based partially on an erroneous, misleading, unapproved draft report – have done much to confuse the Catholic faithful and non-Catholics alike. The official, approved, final report is excellent but is likely to be largely ignored by the media. The purpose of the synod […]
No he didn’t. Comedian Flip Wilson did a famous piece – The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress!. It was hilarious. Some people think the devil makes them do things too. The devil is real. He prowls through the world like a roaring lion looking to devour, seeking the ruination of souls. He is very […]
When a non-Catholic says only Christ, no man, can forgive sins they are correct. It is Christ working in the confessional who absolves our sins, doing so through the ministerial priesthood He commissioned and ordained.
Needless to say, this did not calm the Jews. They did not say “oh, we see… that explains it!” In fact, this was quite upsetting. It sounds like cannibalism and that is about as abhorrent to Jews as you can get. Jesus had moved well beyond the point where this might have been considered a symbolic thing. The Jews got that.
While human dignity is equal, “abundance” is not. It is quality of life right now, but very different from the secular sense of material things, good fortune, family or even health. It is true joy in life through embracing Jesus Christ with our whole heart and trusting in Him above all else. It is living “God’s way,” by His will and not our own.
There is no such thing as a truly non-denominational or inter-denominational Bible study, despite claims to the contrary. It simply is not possible. At most, interpretation would have to be severely restricted to a least common denominator and even so, remain open to interpretation. I see this all the time between Christian communities. Words are said, everyone nods agreement, but if you scratch below the surface you quickly find understanding differs.
The Samaritans were not necessarily destined for damnation, only that being separated from the fullness of truth, their path was more problematic, difficult and uncertain. Missing parts of the faith handed-on by the prophets, and the introduction of error, hampered their journey. So it is with Protestantism, in all its diverse and contradictory forms.
I know someone you may know. He is no atheist or agnostic, but rather a firm believer in the existence of God. He knows Jesus and fears the Lord! (Hold that “Hallelujah!” for a moment.) Not only that, this individual also knows and understands scripture very well. He quotes it with ease from memory. (Not […]
Abortion has robbed the world of so much. We are much, much poorer for it. Taken away from us are statesmen who could have guided us to a more peaceful world. Doctors who would have found cures that elude us. Artists who would have elevated us through beauty we will never experience. Maybe the first […]
We have all read the narrative… Pope Francis has decided NOT to wear the red shoes. He is a pope who gives a resounding NO to previous papal decadence and unbridled luxury. He is one of us brown shoe wearers – finally, a pope of the people! Yea, sure. I love and respect Pope Francis, […]
Have you ever been asked if you are saved? Maybe you have even asked this question of others. The question says a lot about the inquirer – all good. They are a Christian who knows Jesus Christ and accepts Him as their Lord and Savior. They summon the courage to ask this question, one which […]
Why are most of us not ready for heaven if we were to die right now? Scripture tells us: The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it (Revelation 21:26-27a). So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). “Be holy because I [am] […]
The Eucharist is literally Jesus Christ: body and blood, soul and divinity. What is less clear, and as near as I can tell not universally, definitively defined, is the exact moment that transubstantiation occurs. There are opinions offered varying by liturgy, often with compelling reasoning… but authoritative references in support of those positions are lacking.
How often do we hear that people are just more highly evolved animals? This is often presented as an indisputable fact in support of other false claims. As animals, our embryos are nothing special. Our rights must also be balanced against those of other animals. If we were animals, that would make some sense. We […]
As a convert, I think a lot about others like myself who realize that their Christian community is not in full accord with our Lord’s true teaching. We discover that it is NOT a matter of opinion, that there is truth and that it is knowable. We find that Jesus actually DID institute a Church for the purpose of preserving and teaching that truth until He comes again. When by the grace of God we are led to the Catholic Church, we know that we are home at last. It is difficult then, to understand Catholic dissidents. “Cradle Catholics” to which faith has been given as a birthright, yet who walk away from it.
The disciples do not come to a fork in the road but to their destination at evening. Jesus is not revealed to them, but rather invited to stay as one would invite a rabbi after a day of instruction. It was not until later at the meal where Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” that He was revealed. It was then that they responded “at once.”
In fact, the Catholic Church is not a Christian denomination but is the Christian Church itself. Scripture is clear that Jesus founded 1 Church and history easily shows that to be the Catholic Church. Men such as the reformers (over a millennium after Christ) or modern day preachers opening storefront churches can not create something equivalent to the Church directly founded by our Lord..
On the Sunday after Easter, the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy. Especially on this day, we remember God’s amazing love for us all and His desire that we all share in His joy. His mercy easily exceeds our sins and is offered to all who ask for it, are merciful to others […]
Our new Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme Pontiff came to us last week “out of nowhere.” All the prognosticators seemed to miss him but there he was, humbly serving Our Lord in Argentina. Only a few weeks ago, people sat beside him as they traveled together on the bus or subway. Some would […]
As you study with an open mind and heart other Catholic claims, you will find their truth. Expect to be surprised! Eventually your “master list” of issues will dwindle, but by then you will accept the Church is who she says she is and trust her. If unresolved issues such as this remain, you will see them at most as difficulties in understanding – not claims that you deny.
Pride is a black cloud which smothers the light of God in other people. We are all God’s greatest creation. Pride focuses our attention inward making us act as though God’s greatest creation is ourselves. In essence, we sever ourselves from the Body of Christ and thus can not love our neighbor (seen lesser) as ourselves (seen greater).
Christian hope is supernatural, not just an immediate purpose but an eternal one. Without it our lives are merely mortal and often selfish. Our faith would rest in people and institutions. Then we die.
What does not stick is the last time we experienced each person, place or thing except in particularly traumatic circumstances. I remember the last time I saw my Dad and spoke with my Mom, but not really so much for my other relatives and friends. In the cases of places and things, I would be hard pressed to remember the last time I was there or had that thing. Yet, there was a last time.
We count in our numbers as Catholic literally millions of people who will put Jesus in second place on election day – behind their political party and its candidate. I hope for the sake of their eternal salvation, that their actions are mitigated by true ignorance or deep confusion sewn by highly heterodox groups (e.g. […]
Where do rights come from? This is so fundamental yet (apparently) widely misunderstood. Human rights come from God. They do not come from government. Government properly formed, accepts its role to protect human dignity through our God-given rights. The framers of the Declaration of Independence understood that, stating “We hold these truths to be self-evident, […]
When we remain silent in the face of evil, we are NOT being charitable. Charity is the manifestation of love and if we truly love another, ignoring objectively sinful behavior is not loving but enabling. Our silence is unavoidably a response in itself, a raising of no objection, the implicit sharing of a “like mind” and an apparent affirmation.
In the early 16th century, there were problems in the Church founded by our Lord, Jesus Christ. These problems wounded the Church and were born of sins and poor judgment of imperfect shepherds. As a matter of fact, the institutional Church was not perfect even in the early years nor is she perfect today. She will always need renewal and reformation, but she will prevail.
In the Catholic sanctuary, the altar is more than a table to hold scripture. It is the altar of sacrifice upon which bread and wine, no different than that which Jesus consecrated at the last supper, are taken by God’s angel to His altar in heaven. From Him we receive the sacred body and blood of His Son. The priest in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) says the words of consecration but the words are of Jesus and the place is the last supper, His passion and Calvary. We are there, along with all the angels and saints of heaven.
The Knights of Columbus is a service organization of faithful, Catholic men. A service organization in their very significant support of the whole Church, their parishes, the priesthood and individual parishioners. Faithful as “practical Catholics,” men who believe and live by that which Holy Mother Church teaches.
Jesus brought us the truth and is the truth. He testified before us that we might know it and be saved. There is no such thing as “versions of the truth.” That is an oxymoron. There are no alternate paths leading to God such as eastern spirituality or new age thinking. When embraced in whole or in part by Christians, those are manifestations of the heresy of indifferentism.
The Society of St. Pius X is an international traditionalist Catholic organization with a non-canonical status. That is, they are not in full communion with Rome. SSPX was formed in 1970 in response to Vatican II, if not the actual documents of Vatican II then in response to the manner in which its general recommendations […]
There are many reasons people seek a new church home. The loss of a much loved pastor, internal political battles and changes in direction of the church community or the individual — to name a few. So, what might be a “check list” of considerations when looking for a new church? Here are some that are common…
You might be surprised who proposed the theory of the expanding universe (the “big bang”), Hubble’s law and the first estimation of the Hubble constant. It was NOT Edwin Hubble! In fact, it was Georges Lemaître. That is, Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître – a Catholic priest, astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven.
Why exactly do people pray the Rosary? The short answer is “it works.” All prayer is powerful and the Rosary is like prayer on steroids. It gives many benefits, including 15 specific promises revealed by Our Lady to St. Dominic. Praying the Rosary regularly will also help you increase your holiness. It is so valuable that Holy Mother Church grants a plenary indulgence when prayed with others.
In his homily the week before, our pastor commented that we will see many new faces. He also predicted some level of confusion for them with the corrected translation of the Mass. He was right on both counts, of course! I noticed some folks who were just generally confused. Maybe they were non-Catholics, visiting for Christmas (which is wonderful!). Some were probably Catholics who had not been to Mass for a long time and by God’s grace, they have returned to Him.
The early Church Fathers believed in the real presence in the Eucharist, our form of liturgical worship in the Mass, the Communion of Saints, veneration of Mary the Mother of God, Sacred Tradition, apostolic succession, the offices of deacon / priest / bishop, the primacy of Peter, sacraments, opposition to abortion and homosexuality, marriage for life and much, much more all remain in the Catholic Church today. Whereas in the various Protestant communities, supposedly (and ironically) founded to remove corruption, many of these ancient beliefs are gone.
This may be hard for many, particularly with politicians, actors, athletes and family members telling people otherwise. The Church understands, but can only teach God’s truth – not change it. We are flawed too, working always for continued conversion and holiness. The truth is here and in genuine charity, it is shared so that all may say “yes” to salvation. Our destiny is heaven and for that, the truth matters.
Are you Catholic? If so, test your knowledge on my handy Catholic Faith Checkup. Read each statement and simply decide if is true or false. The answer key and how to interpret the results follow.
In understanding the sacraments, we also see that certain requirements must be met for validity. That is, to receive the intended graces, the sacrament must meet certain requirements. Various causes may render a sacrament invalid such as some defect in the matter, form, minister or recipient. One very interesting requirement is intent. If the intent is absent then the sacrament is not received.
Our souls are unique and so is our body. Both are a gift from God. In our mortal state, each body has unique, lifelong DNA from the moment of conception. It is intertwined with and tightly united to our soul. It is the physical temple of the Holy Spirit, belonging to Christ and not our own to use or abuse however we please.
The Boy Scouts, like the Catholic Church, has taken a lot of flak for standing firm against a secular, relativistic society. Shockingly, the Girl Scouts have not. In fact, they have every intention to embrace the toxic sexual perversions of the secular world (if you think that is over-the-top, continue reading).
Modern democracies were founded based upon God and recognition of His law. God is cited in the very first paragraph of the US Declaration of Independence. In the next paragraph, the core premise is presented. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That is, explicit acknowledgment of the dignity of every person as given to them not by their government, but by God.
God Himself is not subject to time any more than He is to anything else He created. God is completely outside of time. It is challenging for us to understand this, much as it is difficult for us to imagine our existence outside the physical world. These notions are contrary to our mortal experience, yet we know for certain that experience will end. It is just a matter of time!
Our souls unite with our physical bodies. Souls are not physical but are present and in control of our actions to the degree that our bodies are functional. Our brains operate the machinery of our bodies but make no “decisions” on their own other than to operate routine bodily functions. Brains are chemical and electrical elements that, together with the whole body, host the presence of the soul. When the soul leaves, the body stops functioning and dies. The beauty of every person is the presence of their soul, without which the object we see is only a (dead) body.
This young man is an example of the new atheism. Not only do they not believe, they feel called to work fervently in mocking the belief of those who do. Their intelligence and intellect is very impressive – to each other. Interestingly, Niko’s subterfuge was necessary as atheism itself does not usually qualify as a religion. It is after all a non-belief, that there is “no god” or other supernatural power. “New” atheists feel compelled to oppose religion by every means possible.
Through the spiritual struggles of the Apostles, God speaks to us in communicating the Gospel. We identify with their their conversion and their faith. After the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles are prototypical Saints. They were the first “torch bearers” of our faith passed through the millennia all the way to today’s Catholic bishops. We too are called to be saints and to be more than “followers” – to be disciples.
To entertain that it could be the Catholic Church, one would have to believe that somehow this chapter slipped by Holy Mother Church’s attention when she canonized the Bible, that Sacred Tradition vanished and her authority ended at that moment. Also, that her own Apostle (and a first bishop) John indicts the Church created by Jesus himself in favor of “churches” to be created against unity 1,400 years later.
Politicians capable of rational thought and who actually cared about children realize that the confessional seal is helpful. First, this is probably the only place the penitent will actually face his crimes and the terrible harm done. Second, the priest will probably be the only voice they hear telling them to make amends by turning themselves in. Third, were the Church to agree to cooperate with such laws (it never will), does anyone actually think that child abusers would actually confess their crimes before they are caught? They are disordered but not stupid.
Last night I had a dream (I will get to that in a moment) which got me thinking about another possible ingredient – what is in our heart. It is possible that our dreams give us an objective glimpse at the current state of our souls. I believe that sometimes, dreams are one mechanism by which the Holy Spirit talks to us. There are plenty examples of that in Holy Scripture.
If these few academics were correct, then heaven is ours regardless of what we do. We would be free to reject God’s will, ignore his Church, believe whatever we wish, live in sin or perhaps even worship Satan. While these things would affect our life here, we would still have a “reasonable hope of salvation.” That friends, is hogwash!
The real Magisterium, the one instituted by Jesus and protected by the Holy Spirit, reminds us of our obligation to love each other. In that, we each have a PERSONAL obligation to the poor and vulnerable in what we call the “preferential option for the poor.” We are to share the gifts of time, talent and treasure loaned to us by God with others in need. Catholic charities have always had this focus and do more in this regard than any other charity on the planet.
Speaking of irony, one of the most ironic responses I have seen is when people are accused of being “unchristian” for speaking up. This accusation may be followed by sanctimonious comments on what Jesus would have done. Baloney! Jesus was often politically incorrect, judgmental and intolerant.
Sometimes people think that being charitable is “always being nice” or “never hurting someone’s feelings.” They are very wrong. In some situations, following those guidelines is actually uncharitable. Jesus and the Apostles boldly rebuked and condemned evil. That probably hurt some feelings.
Amen! That simple response says a great deal when we present ourselves to receive the Holy Eucharist. The priest holds our Lord’s most holy body or most precious blood and says to us “the Body of Christ” or “the Blood of Christ.” Our response affirms many things, all expressed humbly and fully by “Amen.”
Top Story Roundup: The big story today is the torn temple curtain. An earthquake felt last Friday at 3:00pm triggered a complete tear of the heavy fabric separating the Holy of Holies within the temple complex. Engineers speculate that poor workmanship may be to blame. The leading theory is that a manufacturing flaw near the top, stressed by the material’s weight and the quake shaking, may have led to the damage. In unrelated news, the blasphemous Jesus of Nazareth was crucified.
All membership levels offer a path to eternal life. While the highest level is recommended for best results, any level is preferred to non-membership. Disclaimer: membership alone (at any level) does not automatically assure salvation. Act NOW. This is a limited time offer which expires with each life. Do not miss this great opportunity while you still have time. Priests and pastors are standing by.
Hollywood is a rich source of examples. Professional athletics is another. Popular music performers still another. As upsetting as so many of these individuals often are, theirs is a context that at least numbs our reaction. They are usually acting as individuals, representing only their own moral depravity and directly affecting only their own sad lives. They generally do not claim to be followers of Christ. There is another group of public figures who share the attributes of the others noted above, but unlike them have a special trust with the public.
Sometimes we (and by “we,” I mean “I”), without thinking, forget that we do not have the power to fix everything that is wrong or to right all that is unjust. We witness or hear of terrible suffering and our first thought is to do something about it. That impulse is good and should be acted upon, but we err (a more polite description than “are delusional”) when we think that we alone can save the world, even subconsciously. Our real hope rests with God.
As interesting as it may be to ponder the rapture or to consider science fiction stories, we would be missing the big picture. People have been waiting for the rapture for 2,000 years and may be waiting for another 2,000 – or 10,000. The possibility of these science fiction scenarios during our mortal lives is even more remote. What is not remote and quite sure is an end to our individual exiles here on Earth. We do not know when, but we know its certainty.
The bottom line is not that the liturgy of the Mass and other practices is wrong, broken or less sacred. It is that post-Vatican II “spirit” changes made in haste and/or with questionable authority should be reversed to restore greatest reverence. That is the point of reforming the reform.
I also believe that while it as sacred as ever, Vatican II “spirit” changes have made it less reverent. Not just the extreme liturgical abuses such as “liturgical dance,” but smaller abuses and practices. What exactly Mass is becomes lost. The poorly catechized may not see it as particularly different than any Christian worship service. Their sense of the real presence of Christ becomes questioning. Ultimately they may leave. The zeal of the faithful is also diminished. It is a very serious issue.
The consequence of sin, against God (as all sin is), is clearer. The God who has literally given me everything. The God who hears and answers every prayer. This is the God whom I sin against. My focus shifts from how this sin effects me to the sorrow rightly due to sinning against God Himself. The contrition I feel becomes “more perfect.”
The Mass is sacred and conducted with reverence. While it includes worship, it is much, much more than that. Every Mass is a supernatural mystery where heaven and earth touch, angels and saints join us as the Last Supper and Calgary are made present. The body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus is literally confected in the Eucharist — in which we are united with Christ and each other through all time and space. The worship services of other Christian communities, however holy and reverent, are not remotely comparable to the Mass.
The evil of that abortion could not be stopped. To my mind, the Holy Spirit used that tragedy to show Abby – up-front and very personal – exactly what it was. Abby would soon quit her job, literally cross the street and join The Coalition for Life. Now she would be outside of the facility that she previously ran, letting the Holy Spirit work through her and praying for all inside.
The fallacy is that deaconesses were female deacons, which was never the case. Deaconesses had a totally different, non-liturgical role. The name was often given to the wives of deacons or certain widows and their most notable purpose was to protect the modesty of women being baptized. In the early Church, baptism was done fully nude. Deaconesses assisted by holding a cloth between a woman being baptized and the priest.
Some people are naturally great writers – knowledgeable, articulate and interesting. Not me. I had no intention of writing a blog and even the idea of it seemed a little presumptuous. A phrase some bloggers use to describe themselves, might fit me… just another fool with an Internet connection. Case in point: my credentials. I do not have any theological degree, am not sought after for interviews, have written no books and never spoke at a religious conference.
The image is intriguing, suggesting baby Jesus in His virgin mother’s womb over 2,000 years ago, but through today’s technology. Looking at it we feel the excitement of expectancy, especially those of us who are parents. What a terrific Advent image! I like it also because it powerfully ties to our firm belief in life from conception. Our Savior was once an unborn baby Himself. The Mother of God did not “choose” to “terminate” Him, she said only yes.
We believe in the true, real presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior literally present in the Eucharist. When we receive Him, we are joined with Him and He with us. Through the Eucharist we are also joined with each other – at that Mass and more broadly in our parish and other Catholic parishes throughout the world. We are united not only in the present, but also the past and the future.
The Catholic Church was certainly not perfect then nor is it today (other than rare infallible statements on faith and morals). No organization composed of fallen sinners can be, including every single Protestant denomination. Only the Catholic Church, from which the leaders of the reformation schism separated themselves, was instituted by Christ and given authority. That is, and always will be, unchanged.
We can recall this story and see how foolish the Israelites were. How ungrateful they were to God who freed them! They rejected God who created and loved them. They should have known better. They did know better. Yet, they placed this golden calf above the one, the only true God. We shake our head, pity them and maybe feel smug comfort in knowing better. Yet, many of us do the same thing.
Jesus had many disciples, but only a dozen Apostles. He personally called those men. During His ministry, the Apostles were essentially in formation for their future role in the Church. Their mission was to spread the Gospel after Christ’s death and resurrection through the institution of the Church.
All of this, and more, has been accomplished in spite of imperfections. The definitive judgments of the extraordinary Magisterium (including when the Pope speaks ex cathedra), protected by the Holy Spirit, is infallible. Nothing else is. Throughout the ages there has been scandal and mistakes. As long as we are imperfect, this will continue. The Church instituted by Christ Himself and whose mystical body remains forever headed by Him, will always right itself and march forward.
We believe that the Old Testament foretells the New Testament and the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament. One really good example of this is the Last Supper and Passion of Our Lord. There are actually several applicable Biblical stories, but one especially stands out for me. That is, the story of Passover.
Listening to Planned Parenthood and the politicians who fanatically support them, one might believe that they are really all about maternal health. That is partially true. However, do not let that distract you. A central portion of their “core business” is the taking of innocent life. In FY2006-2007, their gross revenue was over $1 billion dollars, including $357 million from clinics and $336 million from the government. They offered abortions at 287 locations across the country (expanding to 55 new abortuary locations in 2007 alone).
It is important to note that no US political party embraces the true social justice concepts embodied in Catholic teaching. Their public goals and hidden agendas are often at odds with the genuine teaching. The Catholic Church does not endorse any political party. The Church also does not endorse any form of government. However, it specifically condemns socialism.
We hold that all human life is sacred, from the moment of conception to natural death. The respect for human dignity is the basis of our social teaching. Simply put, every person is our brother or sister and should be treated accordingly by us individually and by government. We are one community in support of each other and the valid promotion of common good. We call this solidarity.
You may be a member of many organizations. They all have rules, created by people, usually for good reasons. You may disagree with some rules. You may lobby to change them. In many cases you could even morally ignore them. The Church is uniquely different. It was instituted by Christ to guide us to the salvation He earned for us on Calvary. He personally and directly gave the Church its authority. He promised its protection. To be disobedient to the Church is to be disobedient to God.
As a general rule, Protestants are not protesting anything. Many, like me, were born and raised in a Protestant denomination. Like Catholics, they recall seemingly endless fond memories of religious milestones (baptisms, confirmations, marriages), religious education (Sunday school, vacation Bible school, confirmation classes), service (teachers, church council, ushers) and countless religious holidays reverently celebrated with family and friends. Their faith is an important part of their identity and they can not picture becoming Catholic any more than they could picture a gender change operation!
It is a sad fact that there are Christian communities separated from the Church. In their memberships are large numbers of people who seek God with a sincere heart and truly desire to follow His will. Through no fault of their own, they do not know or accept Christ’s Church. They may be aware of the Catholic Church, but through misinformation, conditioning and circumstance, are closed to it. While they know Christ, if not His Church, they are not cut off from God’s mercy.
One place all members of the communion of saints join together is at Mass. Heaven and earth are joined in the physical presence of Our Lord. In the Eucharist, we are joined with Jesus and through Him, with each other. Through the Eucharist we grow in communion of the Holy Spirit and reflect Him to the outside world.
Humor me and for the moment and consider your life as a road trip. You are the driver of a car (the Church) that can easily “go the distance.” The destination is heaven but every journey will be unique. The car is not a remotely controlled vehicle, but may be freely driven by you in any direction you wish. Your trip had a starting point and will end at a specific time unknown to you.
People have the right to their own good name. Reputations are built slowly over a long period of time and people place a very high value on their “public image.” Unlike other treasures, a good name continues even after death. However, what takes a lifetime to build can be damaged by the unjust and unauthorized disclosure by someone else. It does not matter that the disclosure is truthful.
This night – this last meal – would not be about earthly sustenance. It would not be a time for parables. Time was far too short for symbolism. No, tonight Jesus would give the Apostles holy food in the form of His body and blood. This is the means by which He will remain in physical communion with us. This is what He spoke of earlier.
From the Catholic point of view, all Christians are at least partially Catholic. The forefathers of Protestants, for example, were Catholic until the 1400s. Protestant theology borrows much from Catholic theology, adding a little and generally removing a lot. The specific degree of change varies widely between denominations and over time. We see non-Catholic Christians as simply not being in full communion with us. Not as outsiders, but as brothers and sisters in Christ.
In holding this hate, we are breaking both of the two greatest commandments. First, we are not loving each other. Second, in treating this child of God, made in His image, with such contempt – we are not loving God. We are guilty of hating the sinner, not just his acts and responding with our own sins of hatred, detraction, possibly calumny and more.
The Hail Mary is said so often that we are in danger of doing so mechanically. One Hail Mary well said fills the heart of Our Lady with delight and obtains for us indescribably great graces. One Hail Mary well said gives us more graces than a thousand thoughtlessly said.
Priest celibacy is a matter of discipline whereas the male priesthood is a matter of doctrine. The requirement for priestly celibacy has changed over time and could change again. It is completely permissible for faithful Catholics to discuss the pros and cons of it and to respectfully hold personal viewpoints which differ from the current practice.
Jesus chose only men to be his Apostles. He did this at a time when pagan priestesses were common. Not that Jesus cared about culture or convention. He was a rebel who frequently acted in opposition to established norms. Our Lord could have easily chosen from quiet a number of women followers. Blessed Mary would seem to be a much stronger “candidate” for the priesthood than those chosen as Apostles.
I have often thought about people of great wealth or great accomplishment. When they died, everything they worked for was left behind. So it will be with us. Our houses, cars, flat screen TVs, favorite clothes, professional achievements… all left.
Somehow I feel like a small weight has been lifted, not unlike the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is coming clean, being honest, getting set right with God. One other thing I think about is that the other penitents have asked me to pray for them. It seems like the Hail Mary would be the perfect prayer, at the earliest opportunity.
Central to Jesus plan for our earthly lives is His Church – the Universal Church – the Catholic Church. THAT is who Jesus “left in charge”. Jesus created 1 Church, not many denominations. He appointed officials (Apostles and their successor Bishops) and a leader (Peter and his successor popes). Christ created His Church not just for the decades following His death, but “until the end of the age.”
If I had to name 1 resource that is critical, that would be the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is comprehensive and absolutely authoritative. I know it takes time to read, but it is so crucial to learning the faith. Nothing else is so complete and reliable. The catechism draws upon many source documents and reading those directly may also be helpful.
In some ways we Catholics (and other Christians too) are like spiritual manic depressives. Often we are on a “high”, close to God and at peace. Other times we allow ourselves to become trapped in worldly matters, giving little attention to the “big picture” in deference to immediate needs of our earthly world.
In this Year of the Priest, we celebrate Father Lopez and all of our priests. We are truly blessed to have such humble servants called to the priesthood. They are the Catholic priests who should be in the news. Since the news doesn’t value them, it is up to us to honor them and keep them in our minds and prayers.
To Catholics, Sola Scriptura is a foreign concept born of necessity through schism. The Church Jesus founded thrives under His authority, passed directly through Apostolic Succession and reflected in Sacred Tradition. The Holy Bible itself exists through that authority, not in place of it. The Bible comes from the Church. The Church does not come from the Bible!
We are opposed to abortion simply because it is murder. Abortion is intrinsically evil. Your mother’s pregnancy was not a medical condition. It was a period in her life during which her body provided you with shelter and nourishment. Back when you were completely defenseless, she did not “choose” to “terminate” you by poisoning you, crushing your head, or ripping you from her body to let you die abandoned.
The devil is a good organizational planner! He prioritizes his focus where it is most needed. In his battle for the souls of some, he may be far ahead. He is pleased by his progress and looks forward to claiming them for his own. Conversely there are others where he is losing the battle. People who resist him with all their will, who love the Lord and each other. These are his special targets, his operational priorities.
This may surprise you because you will not generally hear about this in the mainstream press. They mostly ignore child sexual abuse unless it is related to the Catholic Church. Recent headlines along the lines of “The widening Catholic sexual abuse scandal” typically raise issues from decades ago and their errors of fact for even those are simply appalling. This is the reporting while actual abuse is occurring every day, right now all around us.
Our churches are beautiful, our priests dedicated and inspired, the homilies insightful, the music moving, our attention focused and hearts open. Usually. Sometimes in place of a church a tent must be used, the priest is tired, the homilies uninspired, music that you would rather not hear and our focus diverted by worldly concerns. Even then the tremendous blessings and benefits of Mass are received. St. Thomas Aquinas said “The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.” St. Gregory noted “The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” Once, St. Teresa was overwhelmed with God’s Goodness and asked Our Lord “How can I thank you?” Our Lord replied, “attend one mass.”
In times of turmoil and spiritual struggle we can blame God and turn away or we can accept His love and embrace Him more. We are sometimes like children in pain. Some throw a tantrum, kicking and screaming at their parent. Others run and hug their parent during such adversity – accepting their unconditional love, letting them wipe away the tears.
The fact is, what few rules Catholics have are a blessing and not a curse. They make Christian life easier and bring clarity. We may ignore any or all of them without fear of detection. Catholics do not have brain implants that alert the Catholic police when we are in violation! We happily follow the rules for our own good. We are not brainwashed, but understand the teachings of our faith and are thankful for straightforward, sure direction.
Many, many of the people you will see at Mass were not born into the faith. They joined anywhere from decades to months ago. Some were atheists, agnostics, Jewish or other non-Christian religions. Others were Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Episcopalian, Mormon, Pentecostal and many other Protestant denominations. We know where you are coming from and were once there too! One last thought, joining us for Mass does not mean you want to join the Catholic Church. It just means you are joining us for Mass – that is all. Feel free to do so as often as you like and know that you are always welcome here.
A crucifix is certainly an “uncomfortable” image. It shows us, in a very mild form, a portion of Christ’s Passion. It is the greatest reminder of His infinite love for us, accepting the full consequences of our sins. Our focus throughout the year is therefore on our redemption through His sacrifice on Good Friday even more than His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
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.
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.
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.
Many Catholic churches offer Eucharistic Adoration where the Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance – a special cross that holds and displays the Eucharist at its center. Many of those parishes have small chapels for this purpose, as does mine. Parishioners go there for quiet prayer, reflection or inspirational reading in Jesus’ direct presence.
Our founding fathers assumed the Christian morals and values of political representatives would be reflected in their leadership. Our very law has its roots in Judeo-Christian teaching. The concern expressed in the first amendment was not to protect government from religious influence but rather to protect the free exercise of religion from government.
Civil authority plays no role in the Church’s recognition of a valid marriage. In this regard, there is no civil authority. Valid marriages are valid and invalid marriages are invalid regardless of secular decrees. For this reason civil divorce simply can not dissolve a valid marriage and is not recognized by the Catholic Church.
Catholics enjoy sex! It strengthens the loving bonds of husband and wife and may bear the happy fruit of offspring. There are many “recreational” abuses of sex that are sinful and harmful to the participants. They are disordered and often unnatural. Sometimes the harm is obvious and soon apparent, other times more subtle, accumulating over time. Some examples include premarital sex, contraception, pornography, masturbation, adultery, homosexual acts, promiscuity, immodesty and abortion.
If you have been reading this blog you already know that no one would mistake my efforts with those of good writer. Trust me, I am an even worse public speaker! I didn’t want to read a prepared speech, so my notes were just the points I hoped to make. It did not take long before I got a bit lost and ended-up skipping a bunch of them. On the positive side, I took about the allotted time, so maybe that was a good thing. I hope that it made sense and am grateful these things are not recorded.
Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” Luke 22:19-20
Before Sunday I was a Christian. After Sunday I am still a Christian. What has changed is my full participation in the only Church Jesus founded and in the fullness of faith therein. The path to here was not only one of learning but of rediscovery and exploration of my Christian roots. I am now an enthusiastic part of a community that will stay true to God’s word. I am home.
One very important aspect of Catholic life is the belief in, and reception of, the Sacraments. For Catholics, sacraments are gifts from Jesus to strengthen us and deepen our relationship with Him. Through each one, Christ bestows a particular grace, such as incorporation into Christ and the Church, forgiveness of sins, or consecration for a particular service. They are an ongoing part of our journey, bringing us His blessings and great peace.
Bill’s house is a metaphor for all of our worldly possessions. Yes, they are important for the physical and financial needs of our families. Yet we are called upon to help others in their time of need too. Always remembering that balance is important.
Deep in our hearts, we are uneasy. We do not know the time or place of our death. We do not like to think about it. Maybe it will be far in the future. Maybe it is tomorrow. One thing is for sure – after every hour of every day, we are one hour closer to it. A lot of hours have passed already. The only thing unknown to us is the exact time remaining on our clock.
I was thrilled to meet Archbishop Gregory and delighted to attend a Mass at which he presided. The thing that impressed me the most, however, was that this bishop from the unbroken line of bishops originating with the apostles selected by Jesus, took the time in our large archdiocese, to visit one of our many schools and personally handout academic awards.
I didn’t look at my watch, but I think it was about 20 minutes or so, which I read is roughly typical for the first time. It turns out that Father Paul did not immediately have another appointment, so we just talked for about an hour more! We talked about our childhoods, views on various Church issues, our likes and dislikes, our vocations and so on. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the primary reference guide for the Catholic faith (after the Bible, of course). The current version dates from 1985 through 1997 and is the first major update in 400 years. It is the first book I read when I became seriously interested in joining the Church. I read it daily for hours, over a period of 2 weeks, until I was done. At over 750 pages it is not a “quick read.”
Wait you say – stop right there. If I have been saved and am going to heaven, then are not my sins forgiven? Yes, absolutely. However the sins you committed, while forgiven, have left a scar on your soul. Sometimes this is compared to a nail driven into wood. The nail represents sin, and the wood is your soul. When the nail is removed (forgiven) it leaves the hole which represents the lasting damage. When you look back on the sins you have committed, forgiven though they are, how does that make you feel? That is what I am talking about.
Reconciliation is not punishment but more of a celebration. Not because you have sinned, but because you have examined your conscience, are sincerely sorry, wish to do better in the future and are returning to God. Like the prodigal son’s father, you are forgiven and brought back into harmony with Him. In the sacrament a Priest, acting “in persona Christi” (“in the person of Christ”) absolves you of your sins restoring your relationship with the Father.
Catholics give sin a lot of thought. When God created the world He created a paradise free of sin. In that world, God placed Adam, then Eve. He gave them free will and clear instructions. Life was good. Good until Satan succeeded in tempting Eve. That changed everything.
There is a sort of special blessing in being a convert. We are led here, away from our status quo, and accepted the call to be Catholic. We didn’t have to. We could have decided not to make the effort, to beat back that nagging feeling something was missing, to ignore the errant paths of our churches and to just learn to “live with” how things were.
So, when exactly do you become Catholic? I don’t think it happens at a single point in time. The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are very important and are milestones but insufficient by themselves. It happens when you are Catholic in your heart. That is the journey – one that continues long after RCIA.
The Church really, really wants you – but they also know how important it is that you first understand the core beliefs of the faith and make an informed decision. They call this inquiry, and it is an informal, interactive class held over several weeks. The next step is to dig deeper through classes called RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). In this phase you are on the path to joining but are free to jump off or continue in RCIA until you feel ready. There is no test, no one pressures you in the slightest way… you alone make the call.
This blog is about one Journey and what was learned and continues to be learned along the way. For those looking for the bottom line: the Catholic Church is not another Christian denomination. It is the Church Jesus founded. It teaches the deposit of faith He taught. Its organization was planned by Jesus and has a mission to preserve and teach that faith – not evolve it to fit society’s ever changing frailties. The Catholic Church has an amazing depth and fullness of tradition developed over 2,000 years yet is an unchanged faith as taught directly by our Lord. This is His Church; it is the truth and the way.
At first I could not believe the news. I searched online to see if it was really true and found it was. I became angry, then disappointed, and finally sad. Sad because I knew at that moment my denomination had abandoned our faith. The faith I grew up with. My faith. Sure, to ease us into the new thinking individual local churches were not “forced” to immediately implement anything different, but the direction was clear.