Friday, December 5, 2014

If Catholicism isn't True, then Christianity isn't either...

I was sipping some coffee on a break with a friend from work.  We were discussing religion and how people convert from one faith to another (this particular conversation being Christians who convert to Islam).  The conversation obviously migrated into religious extremism and thoughts of how the Pope deals with such topics from where he sits.  My friend made the quip, "If you ever get too disappointed in the Pope, you will probably just pack up and go back to Protestantism".  I followed up with "No... if I leave Catholicism I will have left the Christian faith completely".

The shock in my friend's face was amusing, yet intriguing.  This is a truth that has been normalized to me.  Yet, some people I meet, even Catholics may be surprised by that (which no Catholic should ever be surprised by such a statement).  Being a former Protestant, and now a Catholic, it is clear to me that Christ established one Church.  Jesus didn't lie to his Father in Heaven when he prayed his Church be one.  He wouldn't have prayed such a thing had he known that it would not be the case- He's God.

This is not to say that any other form of Christianity does not have some good elements or some semblance of truth, but that it is not the source of Christ's one Church.  If I were to pack up and leave my home in a metropolis, I am not going to settle in the outskirts to look from afar.  Being a former Protestant, I know that the faith of the Church of Christ is not up to me, it is up to Christ himself.  If Christ gave that authority to His Church, it would be spelled out his way.  So if I were to leave that, it would be because Jesus Christ is not who he said he was.  It would be that God is somewhere else, and that is where I have to go.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The fruits of dialogue?

The USCCB has reaffirmed its intention to continue to dialogue with particular Muslim organizations in the spirit of interreligious dialogue. While the bishops are certainly allowed to do that, I sometimes wonder what good is coming out of it. We have had said dialogue for 50 some years now. A lot has changed from 1964 to 2014. Yet it seems that the uprisings of Islamic Jihadists is growing while Christianity is diminishing. The reason I question the benefit of said dialogues are as follows:

1) The purpose- We are called the share the Gospel towards all four corners of the globe. We are to sow the seeds of the good news and allow the Holy Spirit to implant said seeds as He may. Dialoguing is not necessarily sharing the Gospel. We do not have a mandate to dialogue. If the dialogues were for the purpose of being the means of proclaiming the Gospel, well then I could understand the reason for it. Yet, even the statement by the bishops remark that the purpose of dialoguing is to understand each other and make friends with other religions. I find this difficult because Our Lord pointed out that living out the gospel will not have a result of making friends with other religions. In fact, Jesus himself said "16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes." Matthew 10:16-23 RSVCE.

2) Losing boldness- We find ourselves in a time where religious leaders have to worry so much about what they say or do not say in order to keep from offending so many people outside our own faith. Cardinal Bergoglio, in his book dialoguing with Rabbi Skorka, remarked of his disappointment in Pope Benedict XVI, for expressing a bold opinion as to the nature of Islam. He was upset because of it's ramifications to interreligious dialogues with the Muslims since Vatican II. He felt that the Pope made an error. One may see the context when Pope Francis currently is careful in the words he chooses to use regarding the crucifiction, rape, torture, beheadings, and persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria at the current time. It is easy to see the restraint the Pope is using anytime he makes a comment about Islamic occurences, and maybe less restriction regarding other things. This is one example of how our worrying of the state of a religious dialogue may prevent our leaders from speaking the truth boldly. There are other examples from a parish level to even upper Church leadership (Dolan?) where such dialogues have become a circus in the eyes of faithful Catholics trying to live out their faith.

So, before someone accuses me, I don't support the abolition of interreligious dialogue. What I do support, is finally seeing the fruit of it. If relationships have been built over the past 50 years and friendships have been established, it is time for the real talking to begin. Proclaiming the truth of all things to those we engage with in dialogue. Proclaiming things in charity and love, but with boldness.

"Charity without truth is an illusion." -Pope Benedict XVI


UPDATE 10/30/2014:

It looks like the good Pope Emeritus Benedict feels the same way as well.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

If you strike me down...

"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."



A famous Catholic actor, who happened to play one of the most famous roles in science fiction cinema (and a role that may likely come to mind quickly) declared this bold statement as he confronted evil.

I cannot help but swell up with hope when I hear this, not because I love the film so much- because I am a Catholic, and as a Catholic I can say the same thing.

Thousands of Christians (both young and old) are being mutilated, tortured, raped, exiled, and murdered for their faith today.  It is abhorrent to have such atrocities at all, and here it is in the open and in large numbers.  One would easily lose hope in such a situation.

Yet, there is something these terrorists fail to understand...

With each Christian that is martyred for the faith, these terrorists think they are winning, but they are really growing the Heavenly Army.  They are adding saints the the Church Triumphant.  These souls who reach the Heavenly Realm  receive the Beatific Vision and are united to the Holy Trinity. They now add their prayers to the Church in a much more mysterious, and yet powerful way.  These saints pray vigilantly for the Church Militant, the Church here on Earth.

So with each soul that is being killed by these evil groups for the faith in Jesus Christ and his bride, the Church, the saints are being made even more powerful as they ascend to Heaven.

It is sometimes hard to remember, but as the book of Hebrews says: "Therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed us" -Hebrews 12:1 DRB

Monday, July 28, 2014

There is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there...?

Something terribly wrong in our hearts as well.  (Ironic that the quote for this title is a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask).

We are born, we live our lives, and then we die.  That is what we are given.  When I look around it seems that the modern consensus in the United States is that this is all there is.  For you to say there is something more than that formula, well there is just something wrong with YOU!  This may not be what most think, but it is certainly how most act.

When we talk about a world outside of our own, well you must have a vivid imagination.  Scientists can talk about an infinite number of universes as a valid "theory", but one cannot hold that there is a divine creator and that when we die we are offered a return to that creator.

Where people would rather talk about two groups launching rockets at each other over a strip of land (two sides that are well armed to fight and defend themselves) instead of the people being dragged out of their homes and slaughtered without any means of defending themselves.

Something I have been observing is how the loving, liberal, open-minded, peaceful, secular metality that is growing in our country is actually more judgmental, violent, condemning, and black and white mentality than most other world views.  We live in a world where the worst thing you can possibly be doing right now is judging another group's actions, as opposed to slaughtering another group for holding different beliefs.  Where one can be labelled a bigot or "filled with hate" for pointing out that one religious set of beliefs justify the genocide of a group of people for holding differing beliefs.  "Where is your love for others?" one is attacked with.  Well, I ask, where is the supposed "love" for those families in Iraq- where fathers are tied down and forced to watch their daughters and wives being raped and mutilated, to watch their families being slaughtered and then dragged out to hang on a cross like their saviour once did.  Where is this supposed "love" from the religion of "peace" and "love"?  Why are those in said religion not pooling their resources together to offer aid the Christians in Syria and Iraq that are being slaughtered?  Or as the great Father Hunwicke has suggested, the "peaceful" members of said religion offering to pool their money to at least cover the payment for the Jizya tax being imposed on Christians in Iraq and Syria.  Wouldn't the "peaceful non-hijackers" of said religion show the world how loving their religion is by doing such a thing?

I laugh how citizens in the U.S. and U.K. critique their Christian Churches as they stand on the sidelines, and judge the Christians who are concerned with the world.  Yet, I can only imagine if Christians were to just disappear from this world how much these same people would cry out that God (or the listening universe...)would send people into the world who gave a damn, cared for others, and would save them from those who are trying to oppress them.  Christ said this would happen, and here we are.

In the midst of this, we still proclaim, "All hail Christ the King".


Sunday, June 22, 2014

How dare you say God has a mother!

In my experience, the number one complaint that I receive from Protestant Christians is the claim that Catholics worship the saints, more specifically Mary.  I think smart Protestants know that not the be the case, but a kind of anti-Catholic propaganda still remains.  In my days as an evangelical, and later an anglo-catholic, I was met with such rhetoric when I would talk about those Catholic members of the Church.

Upon a quick reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, any person would quickly realize worship is not in the cards between Catholics and the Virgin Mary.  It was on a particular night in my Protestant university theology class that the rantings of my fellow cohort students regarding Catholic Marian worship were quickly silenced by the Professor who simply cited the Catechism and put the musings to an end.  

Yet, this isn't really the problem.  The true problem is relies on judgementalism.  Protestants see Catholics and how they show their devotion to the saints and automatically judge the hearts of those Catholics to be worshipping said saints.  Pictures of pilgrims on their knees at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City may lead a Protestant to sound triumphantly "See!? Those who have eyes to see, booya!"  I used to be taken in by this kind of thinking as well.  Two points to make:

1) What is authentic for a particular faith? The Catholic faith is drawn from both scripture and tradition.  Protestants may chuckle at the mention of tradition.  Yet, abiding by tradition alongside scripure is, in fact, scriptural (2 Thessalonians 2:15).  So sacred tradition is passed along by scripture, the Church Fathers, the Church Councils, the Magisterium and can be summed up in a book such as the Catechism mentioned above.  

I once had a profound conversation with an atheist over what determines what a religion teaches.  As he was trying to disprove my Protestant beliefs (which I am incredibly thankful for today), he pointed out that there is little reason why my beliefs are right and a Catholic's may be wrong.  Like I had been trained, I immediately pointed out what I though to be Catholic idolatry in the world.  What he pointed out was the truth: "you cannot judge what a faith actually teaches based off the actions of some who profess that faith.  You cannot understand the Catholic faith through the wacky actions of Catholics who kiss the feet of statues anymore than understanding Hinduism through the actions of Hindus worshipping a desk chair deity."  (Is there anything wrong with kissing an object? Anglicans who would kiss the King's ring?) We meet people all the time who claim to be one faith or another, but does that mean they are representing the teachings of that faith accurately? Point being- you can't know by judging, but by understanding. It's like in the Matrix: go to the source.

2) I am still waiting to meet that Catholic who worships Mary.  Every Catholic I have met who has a deep affinity for Mary recognizes that their love for her is an even greater love for her son. Mary points the way to Christ (a second blog on this perhaps). One cannot appreciate Mary for her own sake, but for her bearing the Son of God. Catholics with Marian devotion know this. I'm still waiting to meet that Catholic who worships Mary, because it hasn't happened yet. 

On top of that, Mary is the Mother of God.  The third ecumenical council declared this to be so (for those Protestants who claim they accept the first four). That's an awe sully big title for a woman who simply is worthy of little more than a pat on the shoulder. Jesus loves his mother, and so do Catholics. Yet, we can never love her as much as Jesus does...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sojourn

In desire, nothingness is built in hardwired
Nature had its way this day
Love I'm lost amidst this abyss
Exiled from tender hands now defiled
Where is it I have trampled to
This destination through taxing migration
The weight of the world is this tree
That lays square on bare back
Love dust thou hear, Infinite and near
Hear these whispers calling thou dear
Whisper back to me this day
Symphonic audible vibrations light the way
If I can but wait without fear
For that sound I desire to hear
This heart will be bound up in thee
In that final place I can just be



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Not the Pope we wanted, but the Pope we needed

I have spent an awful amount of time, along with other Catholics, thinking about the state of the Church and where we are moving.  I think about things like the state of the liturgy, missions, government tyranny, sex-abuse cases, neglectful bishops, and the range of Catholics from: Trads, Rad Trads, Liberal, Conservative, Neo-Conservative, Hippy, Pacifist, Crusader, Salty, Non-salty, Charismatic, and occasional just the faithful.  All this can wear on the brain- it is too much for one person to take in.

It has led me to think about the job one must take on to LEAD all of this...

It must be easy, right?  I mean it is not like a Pope has abdicated or anything.  Or not...

In 2013, the College of Cardinals elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires to the Office of the Chair of St. Peter.  Archbishop Bergoglio, of course, then chose the name of Francis for his Papal name.  Pope Francis then immediately went to work in living out his life as he normally would, except just adding on the duties of the temporal leader of the biggest religious group on the planet.  Then the fun began...

The first thing we noticed- "Hey why did his just dress in white?" which the next question that came was-"Hey where are the red shoes...?" Then we noticed him checking himself in and out of hotels, riding on buses with his friends, living in an apartment in the Vatican, and so on and so forth.  

Let's just fast forward to today now.  A lot of praise and rage has been expressed over this one man- and that is not surprising.  Since the time of Pope John Paul II, that has been the case.  John Paul was a very charismatic leader and compelled many people to notice the Catholic Church.  A lot of hatred from the media was expressed, and still is in fact (thanks Rolling Stone!) over Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Today though, Francis has the world abuzz, and up until lately, I haven't known what to think.

I missed Benedict- still do.  I felt secure with a man who tried to bring the traditional atmosphere back into the Church of today.  As an ex-Anglican, I respected this man who was a brilliant biblical scholar, a devotee of traditional liturgy, and a man willing to stand up boldly against false ideas (which reign supreme in the remnants of the Anglican Communion).  When Francis was elected, I worried it was all over.  I too asked the same questions about Francis' appearance and his actions.  I got riled up when he spoke "off-the-cuff" so many times during candid interviews.  Then- very lately- I have had all these things on my mind.

The Church is still a mess.  It is a lot for one man to do so much for the Church.  It seemed to be too much for even Benedict to handle.  Even though the man provided the Church with so many documents, thoughts, books, and riches- now the Church needed a man of action.  The Church needed someone who was going to show us all what authentic faith was in the real world.  This, in essence, is truly a fruit of the Catholic Church.  God does not believe in the "merely spiritual", but in the physical reality as well.  Otherwise, we wouldn't have the sacraments.  So it seems well within God's character to elect one who will be a reality of the joy of the Gospel- a man named Jorge.  

As I have began to realize this, I have looked at our new Holy Father with a different lens on.  I saw the video of Francis' message to an Evangelical Charismatic Conference.  You know what?  It brought joy to my heart!  This is something that Benedict would have encouraged in thoughts and words, but Francis actually DID IT!  Before I would've joined in with other angry traditionalists and thought "why care so much about them, and not about us".  This goes right back to the message of the Prodigal Son.  Our Pope cares about his people, but he was calling his other sons and daughters back.  We need that Pope.  We can't have effectively a New Evangelization without a good teacher to show us how.  Our Holy Father gave us his exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel.  He is actually exhorting us to take this message of ours to the streets!  It has been centuries since all Catholics have been boldly called to do so.  It is miraculous, and it is guided by the Holy Ghost.  Pope Francis is calling us to be revolutionaries for the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  There is a quote being circulated amongst my circle and I love it- the Catholic giant is waking.  Once it's awoken, not much can stop it.

Now those are just some minor examples of how my view has changed, but the point is that I love that our Pope is one who is reaching out to so many polarized Catholics and trying to focus us onto the message of Jesus.  This is not to say I still have not, and likely will not, have a raised eyebrow moment.  There is much to be done on the reform of the reform of the Roman Rite, the unifying of the Church, and clearing up post-Vatican II abuses. It is a lot of work for one man, and not many are hopeful. Yet, as I have said, he may not have been the Pope we wanted, but he is the Pope we needed.  

I dedicate this post to our Holy Father on the 1 year anniversary of his Pontificate today.

St. Peter, pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis!