Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Deathly Hallows and Kingdom Come

I have to say, despite all the fundamentalist hate and rejection amongst Christian circles to condemn the Harry Potter series for being wiccan, I think the books the most (all-but-explicitly) profound Christian stories of our day.  We can see Christocentric themes in fiction today both in movies and literature, but I have not seen a tale that interweaves Christian themes mixed with mythology so well since reading C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.  Also, if you fall into one of the camps mentioned at the beginning that thinks Harry Potter is evil, then please stop reading this blog.  I'm sure you will not have made it this far anyways.

First, if you have not read the series or seen the films, *spoiler alert*.  It has been awhile since both have come out, but I still say it because I truly believe these stories are worth it to be experienced.  So please do not continue if you plan on reading the books.  Read them and then come back.

Second, if you did read them and need a refresher course on the Deathly Hallows, here is the Tale of the Three Brothers to refresh your memory.

So let's get to it:

The Deathly Hallows is my favorite book in the series.  It is not conventional to the other books, as the flow from the previous books is now thrown into chaos and open warfare.  So in the book, Harry is made aware of the Deathly Hallows.  From the tale, we discover that there are three parts to the Deathly Hallows being as follows: The Elder Wand, The Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility Cloak.  The three magical objects were given to the brothers by Death.  They come from an otherworldly source, not simply from the hands of man.  Each of these contain an aspect that, in my view, are a part of man's ultimate desire to attain perfection.  When seperated and merely focusing on one aspect of them leads to a distortion of the whole, and likely to one's downfall (as the the death of the first two brothers display).  Yet, the attainment of the 3 Deathly Hallows (DH), along with the possession of heavenly virtue, represents the perfected (Heavenly) man.

I want to talk about what each of the Hallows represents from a theological standpoint before I reflect more on the Hallows united as a whole.

The first DH given to the eldest brother, Antioch Peverell, is the Elder Wand.  The Elder wand is the wand of power, the greatest wand known to mankind.  It was supposed to be the most powerful wand ever to be possessed.  In a general sense, the wand does symbolize a growth of power and ability.  Afterall, we see the resurrected Christ in his glorified form following his Crucifixion.  He is able to walk through walls, change his features, and even the fly as he ascends to Heaven.  These are mere signs that mankind will gain in our own resurrected form.  Yet, as the wand symbolizes abilities gained that are extrinsic to the human person, so is the case when we attain in our heavenly body.  I think though if one we to focus solely on the abilities gained on a resurrected body, one would indeed miss the bigger picture of the glory that God has achieved through this gift.

The second DH given to the second brother is the Resurrection Stone given to Cadmus Peverell.  A side note here, if anybody has watched the anime Fullmetal Alchemist would know about the Elric brothers in their pursuit of the Philosophers (or the Resurrection) Stone, the journey of bringing back the dead is a painful one.  It need not be that way with Christ.  Christ is the all-powerful King of the Universe who can do all things.  Yet, one must follow the law and path set by God.  Cadmus asks Death for the ability to bring back his deceased love, to which Death gives him the stone. Cadmus tries to take power into his own hands, but does not posses the strength or ultimate ability to perform such a miracle.  The stone indeed is a sign of our return from the dead in a resurrected state. This is a big sign of the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

The final DH, and a bit of unique request is Ignotus Peverell requesting the ability to hide from the world, including Death. The depth of this choice symbolizes that Ignotus is wise, and forsees Death's plan. He is given a supernatural item that can cloak him from all.  With this wisdom and hiden-ness, Ignotus represents the rest of our family in the Church, namely the Saints.  While Ignotus' brothers were using their magical objects for selfish purposes, Ignotus was living a life of learning and wisdom.  I am sure he felt remorse for his fallen brothers and had hoped for their good fortune.  He goes on to have a family, to which he raises a son and leaves the cloak to the boy when Ignotus greets Death "as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life".  That line also very much represents the rest of the Church as the saintly martyrs welcomed their death as a holy sacrifice to God, giving Him all the glory.  They indeed welcomed Death as a friend as it was that veil they would pass through to greet their Lord and Master.

All Hallows... get it?

With the three we can see the symbolism of power, otherworldly life, and the wisdom of the saints.  The final book in the series has Harry encounter each of the Hallows on his journey to defeat Voldemort.  When in possession of all three, Harry does not use them for personal gain.  He uses them wisely, and with a sense of virtue and heroism.  Also, one thing of note, it was Dumbledore that possessed all three of the Hallows, keeping them safe until the time came for Harry to receive them. Dumbledore is the saintly figure who preserves the knowledge and items that Harry relies on to defeat evil, and this is much like our Christian journey.  We await the coming of our Lord in power and glory, we await our resurrection, and we rely on the prayers and wisdom of the rest of the Church in Heaven (namely the Saints) to intercede for us to help us overcome evil.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Oblates for the Ordinariate

Hi everyone,

forgive the long delay in posts these days.  In order to spare you a lot of details, I have been spending much time in prayer and discernment the past month.  Needless to say, that leaves me with very little time to write and such.

That being said, I wanted to throw out a call to members of the Ordinariate who check this blog from time to time.  A Benedictine Brother, Brother John-Bede, at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota is beginning a chapter of Oblates dedicated to maintaining the balance of Benedictine spirituality according to the Anglican Patrimony.  The practicality of this involves praying the Ordinariate offices at least, but we are in discussion about how to further exercise our Anglican Patrimony as Oblates.  There are inquirers all over the country that all belong to the Ordinariate to belong to this chapter, so do not let distance be a deterrent.  If one is interested, one can look here. Amongst other things, this has been one of the things I have been in discernment over.  I am considering becoming an Oblate to the Rule of St. Benedict.

It is worth noting that Monsignor Steenson is one of the members of the Ordinariate who is discerning becoming an Oblate in this chapter.  Also, Bishop-Elect Lopes, the newly elected Ordinary and bishop for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, was a candidate at St. John's Abbey.  So this abbey has some ties to the Ordinariate in several ways.

St. Benedict of Nursia, pray for us.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Keyboards Are Divisive: A Miniature Plea for Obedience and Humility

This is hard to write...

Within the last month I had to unfollow what I believed (and actually do still believe to be in some cases) very good Catholic news/ blog pages.  I will not name them, as what good they are still producing should be read by Catholics.  I just can't take it.

With the approach of the synod, the Church (both faithful and, I do say, the Progressives) are getting the ammunition ready.  With the lists of people who are attending the upcoming synod, both sides already anticipate the potential loss or win of whatever aim they are hoping to be the outcome this October.  Nothing too surprising unfortunately,

It seems though that something has become pretty regular in this pontificate.  People are associating whatever is good or bad in our Church to the Holy Father, H.H. Pope Francis. I have seen it very recently in very faithfully Catholic blogs, both in a good and bad light.

Here are two thoughts I have one this:

1. How is it that Francis is responsible for both what is good and in what is bad with the Catholic Church today?  I'm not saying I don't understand what goes through people's minds in the media.  This is the benefit and the detriment to Catholicism, we have a leader.  If you want to talk about Catholicism in a very simplistic way- use the Pope.  From the list of appointments at the synod, a loving church today, a progressive church today, a woman-hating church today, a conservative\ liberal church today- all fingers point to Francis.

Let me just say it: Pope Francis is not the Church.  There, I said it!  Get my nails ready.  (***SPOILER ALERT*** That's a joke)

Pope Francis is not the Church.  He leads the Church on Earth, but is not the whole Church.  Whether he is a good one or not is irrelevant.  He cannot be responsible for everything going on in the Church.  That's the thing about the Church, it's got a lot going on in it.  It's like a body (sound familiar?), with a bunch of internal systems operating, and sometimes not operating, in a proper manner.

2. It has suddenly occurred to me that Catholics I see in the blogosphere are just as good finger pointers than the secular media today.  When something is scandalous, I see the articles immediately asking why Francis is doing, or not doing, such and such.  That is what it has come down to.  Layman have felt that the Church has no security rails anymore.  So somehow, we took it upon ourselves to be the Church police.  I did it too.  We are not citizens to a cozy Church at this time.  Things are bad.

But you know...

What happened to those saints who inspired hope in others?  Sure we have had saints who were purifiers and warriors (although didn't do so from a laptop).  Yet, I have found that I cannot continue to handle the problems being reported to me in the Catholic media, and to have the speculation as to whose fault it all really is.

I want to be clear: I believe all heresy needs to be corrected. I believe, as the Church does, that those who are in error should be corrected, and the Church needs to be bold to the truth, and that sugarcoating is not the answer.


I want the cold hard truth of it all.  I don't want to witch-hunt.  Judging from the past, witch hunts are a lot like wild goose chases.  The secular media does a good job at keeping countries polarized and divided.  I don't think Catholic outlets should exist for that purpose.  That's what they sure seem to be doing.  While they have the freedom to do so, I can't deal with it.  While the world crumbles around me, I need to be reminded that I don't have to.  I want to aspire to something greater.

I think Catholic outlets who report Catholic news (both laymen and organization) should keep this in mind.  Be slow to just sit and blame.  Sometimes blame has its place, but it's like war, it may root out a problem, but it is going to bring up 3 more.  So with fingers flailing wildly, things can only get worse.

So I say this to myself as much as everyone: before picking up (typing) the pen (keyboard), try to exercise humility and obedience to those whom God has placed before us.  He will remind them of their duty one way or another.  Please remember yours.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Jan Van Leiden and the Perils of the Reformation (Part 1)

I recently discovered a grim tale that I had not heard before.  It is a tale not often told, and yet history has not been able to let this tale go.  This is why I am so shocked I have yet to hear it.  This is a story you can make a modern day modern-day Mel Gibson movie, except it is really only missing a triumphant hero in the copious amount of characters involved in the tale.

I want to cite my primary source of the story to Dan Carlin's Podcast, Hardcore History.  The particular episode is called Prophets of Doom.  He names his sources during the episode and I highly recommend listening to his podcast- by and large great stuff!

The Tale:

By the year 1524, Europe is plunged into chaos and division.  Martin Luther has nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church, the Reformation is happening, and political divisions are growing.  By this time, the peasant revolt has occurred where around 100,000 peasants were killed as they were inspired by Luther's reforms and took up rakes and arms against the princes, even though Luther was hostile to the peasants for their fighting and even stated that they all deserved to die for their insolence.  Following this result, order is sought in what we know now as Germany.  In the city of Munster, you have the city split in half: Catholics and Lutherans.  Both sides obviously do not get along, and argue frequently.  The Prince Bishop, Franz Von Waldeck, is the one who is presiding over the city and trying to keep order between the two parties.

Around this time, the group known as the Anabaptists have begun to grow.  Anabaptists typically had a certain beliefs that differed from Lutherans of the day, but one of them was primarily that former Catholics and non Anabaptists needed to be re-baptized by a baptized Anabaptist in order to have a valid baptism in the eyes of God.  Another aspect of their teaching was complete equality amongst all individuals.  There should be no hierarchy, no governments to control the people, and no excessive possessions.  A famous preacher of this movement, and honestly the biggest propagator of the movement's ideas was the man Melchior Hoffman.  Hoffman wrote many tracts of the movement's beliefs and had them distributed in different cities.  Hoffman had been predicting in his day that Jesus Christ was going to return in Hoffman's lifetime and that Armageddon was near.  He prdeicted Christ to return during the year 1533 in Strasbourg, which obviously did not result in happening.

Even though Christ did not return, that did not mean his followers thought he was completely wrong.  Hoffman had simply interpreted the wrong date and place.  One day a follower of Hoffman waltzed right into the town of Muster, a man named Jan Matthys. In a relatively short time, Matthys begins preaching in the city of Munster about Anabaptist Christianity, and gains followers.  Before long, he has enough people followers that he decides that the city must be extinguished of heretics, both Lutheran and Catholic.  He first gives everyone in the city the opportunity to convert, or leave.  Most do, but some do not.  So the remaining citizens who did not convert, he had killed.  One thing Matthys has going for him is his direct line of communication to God.  At different times Matthys would start talking to God who was always speaking directly to Matthys clearly, and Matthys would have to relay the message to everyone else.  It was God's will that Matthys lead this revolt, and thus declare war against the Price Bishop Franz Von Waldeck.  It wasn't long before the Prince Bishop had the city under siege to stamp out this Anabaptist revolt.  Jan Matthys had recieved a vision from God, the he and his soldiers were to ride out into battle and destroy the Prince Bishops forces with God on their side.  They did just that, and lost.  The soldiers made an example of Jan Matthys by spilling his guts on the ground and cutting up his body.  Everyone in the city witnessed this and were mortified.  The Prince Bishop restablished the city council and things were to return to as before.

Except they did not return to normal...

Jan Matthys' number two man, a man named Jan Van Leiden, begins preaching in the town that God had now chosen him to replace Jan Matthys.  He claimed that Jan Matthys was arrogant and that God had indeed told him to go out and fight, but that he was to go alone and let God have all the glory, but because he did not God punished him with death.  Jan Van Leiden even marries Jan Matthys' widow to show that he has now taken up his old position.  Immediately the Anabaptist followers have their hope again.  God was still with them, and they were going to be blessed for their perseverance.  Over the course of time Jan Van Leiden gains the respect of the town and then announces his vision that God wants the city to be managed differently, and a new council is to be formed of members of Van Leiden's choosing.  A new council is established and Jan Van Leiden began running the city.

The sources them claim that a goldsmith was going around the city preaching that Jan Van Leiden was a type of super-prophet.  More than man and prophet, but less than God.  Eventually Jan and the council summoned the goldsmith, and the goldsmith told them that Jan was to be made King over the city.  The council were convicted of the truth of this message and thus made Jan Van Leiden their king.  Over the course of time, Jan had been caught in bed with women other than his wife, and it word began to circulate that Jan may not be keeping God's commandments.  One day Jan received a vision from God and told Jan to tell the council and his city dwellers: men were going to need to take up multiple wives.  God wanted men to have multiple wives like his dearest servants David and Solomon.  Before long, polygamy became legalized in the city and Jan Van Leiden married multiple women.  Many of these women had been former nuns who were told that God's main purpose for women was to be a tool for procreation and these women left the convent to fulfill God's ultimate "plan" for them.

It is easy to see how this was to end.  Eventually, the sieging forces made it into the city and the leaders of this Anabaptist rule were publicly tortured and killed and this was the end of Anabaptist revolt in Munster.  Not only did the Anabaptist movement lose their momentum in the city, but overall began to lose their influence in the rest of the Protestant revolution in Europe.

Anabaptists were the enemy to Protestant and Catholic alike, and vice versa.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What are they hiding?

I was reminded of an old myth that still seems to permeate in Anglican, and other Protestant circles.

I was meeting with some good friends who are interested in the Catholic Church, and one of them
whom I had just met, was humorously- yet with some seriousness, that the Catholic Church has a lot of information buried in the Vatican.  It is suspicious that they would have so much information that we may or may not know about it.

I remember my time as an Anglican did have similar conversations occur where individuals seem to have a general mistrust of information that the Vatican has, or is hiding.  This paranoia was accentuated when Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code was on the bestseller list.

One of the reasons this accusation is made is due the existence of the Vatican archives, and how they are not public archives.

Seeing as I was reminded of this old myth that permeates in Protestant circles, and now being on the other side, I tend to think things are the other way around.  The Catholic Church is going so far out of her way to bring truth to the world, and is suffering the consequences of it.  The Catholic Church is rooted in history and contains the manuscripts that she has collected over the course of her time following the commission of Christ.  As these manuscripts are so old, and contain so much wealth of knowledge, of course they are not available to the public.

That being said, to dispel myths, the Vatican has opened the doors of the archives before to the public.  Also, the Vatican is creating a new digital library of manuscripts that are in the archives.  So that is really the actions of an organization that isn't acting like they have much to hide, but more so much to preserve.

That being said, after being Protestant and then Catholic, it really was Protestantism that lied to me.  I see it happening when I speak to Protestants and listen to them talk about what Catholics supposedly "believe" their faith teaches them.  They hear sermons from their pastors that make the claim that Catholics worship this or believe that and how all of it is illogical- when more times than not I immediately know that this is not what Catholics actually believe.  I have read books by Protestant apologists who do the same thing.  None, zero, zip, absolutely nobody that I have heard preaching on their soap box has actually picked up the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read it to learn what Catholics believe, and WHY.  This information is out there, for everyone to read- but hardly anyone is.  That has led me to a truth that I have been slowly learning over the years- we humans really are afraid of the truth sometimes.  We are suspicious of the truth.  We look at it from afar, and rather it stay that way.

So, when I hear these suspicions in friendly conversation, I cannot help but laugh about it.  Thankfully, I am quite happy to dispel the myth and seek to point out that our Mother Church is trying to bring the truth to us, if only we would open our hearts to accept it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Help! I'm offended...

It has become apparent to me that of all the triggers in our brains, the one I have noticed becoming stronger in our society is the offended trigger.

Which celebrity today is in the news because of a remark they made not being 100% politically correct in every regard?

Which person expresses their own opinion without someone with a different one losing their marbles over it?

This is the time period I find myself in, and I know that offense isn't exclusive to right now.  Yet, I have noticed that offense has become the new of the few remaining acceptable cardinal sins in our society. 

I get offended, but most of the time I don't say anything about it.  


Here is what you should do if you get offended:

1. Stop.  We are so used to our trigger emotions ruling over us in a given moment, that we have lost the ability to come face to face with our emotions and analyze it.  It is easy to understand why, given the state of our society today.  We have lost a sense of seeking peace within ourselves and just accept our basic instincts and nature in most cases.  Many do not believe that we can better ourselves.  Also, many do not believe they are capable of overreacting.  

2. Think.  Was that something to get offended over?  What was the point that person who offended you was trying to make?  If they had said it in a better way, would you still be offended?  

3. Option. You can give the person the benefit of the doubt.  This is the option that most people don't consider.  Yet, many things don't get said that really should get said.  Maybe this person was doing that.  I can see how that can be offensive.  Yet, maybe if it offended you, you possibly need to humble yourself to accept that this person was doing just that.  Or, the other option being...

4. Say something to that person.  I have experienced a lot of good by actually having a private conversation a bit after the fact of being offended, with enough time to think and compose myself, and to tell the person how their remark or action affected me.  It gives them a chance to clarify in a non-defensive manner.  Most of the time in these cases, the person offended will likely realize they should have just given the benefit of the doubt.  

What not to do:

1. Don't tell other people about the offensive remark when you have not said anything to that person directly.  Be brave.  Don't be a coward.  If you resort to gossip and slander, you are no better than you think of the person who offended you.

2. Do not explode on the person even after you have waited some time.  The purpose is reconciliation and understanding, not causing more division.

3. If someone approaches you over a remark you made that was offensive, take it gracefully.  It was hard for them to do that, so be gracious.  You likely were not out to offend anyone, so keep that in mind when they are talking to you.

4. If the person approaching you has a point, apologize.

5. Here is a difficult one: Being sorry is when you truly are remorseful.  If you are not sorry, do not say it.  If an apology is not sincere, it is best not given.  I understand this part is hard, but I think that apologies are thrown out so often these days and appear insincere, that the act itself is losing meaning.  People just see it as a way to get others of their case.  That isn't what it is supposed to be about.  


Be honest, be courteous, be honest, be sincere, be honest, and be loving. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Faith and Science walk into a bar together...

Ah...  the forced (mythical) battle between two comrades: faith and science.

A somewhat tiresome battle it is at that.  So much polemics is spilled through ink and other media to talk about this hypothetical battle between science and religion.  A quick search through a Reddit subforum, or possibly a show like "Cosmos", would reveal to me that there are atheists and agnostics trying to preach this crusade of science over religion.  The sad part is:

it isn't just a one-sided war.

Many atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Daniel Dennet, Steven Pinker, and the late great Christopher Hitchens (if these names are not redundant by now, then maybe it is time to play catch-up and start reading these fellows, particularly Hitchens who I am honestly a bit of a fan of and have never encountered a man argue from the wrong side in such a compelling way; a man of great argumentation.) enjoy making the claim that religion is just a form of God goggles that block out reality and science and just help people to feel good and to see things their their God lenses.  Honestly, they are right about some of us.  I know them personally.  Thankfully, it isn't every person of faith.

I was debating with myself about what to blog about, and a couple topics came to mind.  I got thrown a curveball, and here the subject stands before you.  I was at a relative's house for Easter and I was rudely eavesdropping on a conversation I was not welcomed into: one person claiming they listened to a seminar from a Christian "somebody" who made the (never dying) claim that carbon dating can be difficult to determine, based off the different variables that can set off a date.  Therefore, ipso facto, the Earth is not 4.5 billion years old, but can safely be assumed to be the 6,000 year old figure that a Christian "somebody" determined.  I have heard the same "seminar" given by different people at different times.  Also, the fact that I was reading through Genesis 1-9, the topic was so deep in my mind that I wanted to throw my two cents into the... equation...?

Can I just set the record straight?

Even if the Earth is not 4.5 billion years old and is younger than that by some miscalculation of a misread carbon dating calculation, it is unreasonable to assume that the misreading can easily make the jump from 4.5 billion to 6,000.  One might say that the number is greatly extended to cover up the so-called truth of Christian revelation and the time of our existence.  That isn't at all how the scientific community operates, and anybody who actually is interested in science and the new data that unfolds as time goes on would quickly discern that.  That isn't something that we are dealing with, at least right now.

There was a time, when I was cautious around science and the data that scientists claim to be points of fact or "plausible theories".  As a Catholic, it isn't something I even need to worry about anymore.  On the contrary, I can actually take an interest in the data that scientists discover and apply it to my faith.  I do not need to fret when atheists trumpet 4.5 billion years on their trumpets.  I do not fret.

If there is scientific data to provide evidence that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, that we humans evolved from a lower form of life into the beings we are today, the universe had a beginning or not- then that is what I will go with.  Many religious leaders, both Catholic and non, more or less accept this same stance.  Why shouldn't they?

Faith and religion that are truly good are not locked inside themselves where their truth cannot be understood through reason or nature.  If your faith is absolutely true, then we need to be able to discern some ramifications and natural causality in the universe.  How can it be true if you are worried about what scientific data may show?

I can sense it coming:

"Well then, Fro... since you clearly do not believe what the bible says, what then do you believe in?"

The question has been thrown my way during these conversations.  The problem is the question itself is wrong.

Part 2 sometime.

Also, apologies for the title- it was either that or "Who's got two thumbs and loves faith and science? THIS GUY!"

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ordinary Time Podcast: Episode 001

Hi friends, I am involved with a group of friends in recording a regularly recorded podcast with friends.  Please check out the first episode!

Ordinary Time- Episode 001

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Calvary" and the Priesthood

***Spoiler Alert***  If you have not seen this movie, watch it now then come back and read this blog post.

Everyone needs to see this movie.

More simply, every Catholic must see this movie.

It has been 3 days since I watched this film and I cannot stop thinking about it.  While there are many in-depth reviews about the allegory and deep insights radiating from the film (and do please read all of those thoughts after you watch it), I wanted to focus in on something more precise, Fr. James' ministry.  

The thing that struck me the most is the disconnect between a priest trying to run his parish in a post-Christian country that has a growing distrust in men of the cloth.  Each of the lay characters, save one, outright do not believe or struggle with their faith in God.  
Most of the characters are even verbally (and sometimes physically) hostile to Fr. James.  Yet, this priest still treats these people as his family.  Even though this town would like nothing better than to see Fr. James pack up and leave- he is still a vital member of the town.  He attends the town events, and everyone talks to him (in a good and bad fashion), and they feel comfortable enough to say whatever is on their mind around him, which sometimes is not a good thing as the movie unfolds.  

Two things appeal to me about Fr. James:

1) He is truly a pastor of souls.  One character presents his growing problems with sin and how it is leading him to very dark things.  The conversation is truly awkward, and the priests suggestions convey the awkwardness of it all as well.  Fr. James' advice is probably not what I would expect a priest to offer- yet that is the beauty of it, because...

2) He is a real man in the midst of the nitty gritty.  There is no facade with Fr. James.  Some characters go too far antagonizing him and that causes things to occur.  His advice in the previously mentioned conversation is not what one expects from a priest.  He is not going out everyday to speak in holiness parabolic language.  He is not trying to keep from offending anyone- in fact he mocks a priest who suggest he try not to be offend anybody (HALLELUJAH!).  He is real in every aspect of his life, which is why it so appealing when you can see he clearly cares for these people.  These people spit in his face daily (and he may spit back), but these are the souls under his care and he cares about them.

In the Catholic Church, a pastor of a parish is not just a pastor of all the members of his parish. A Pastor of a parish is a shepherd to all the souls in his local parish jurisdiction.  You truly see how this comes out in the heart of Fr. James.  I have had the great privilege of meeting priests who are similar to Fr. James.  They are truly the best priests in my opinion.  While it is nice that priests care about being sensitive and tactful in their approach to others, I appreciate when I can tell a priest is not hiding behind the collar with me.  I find comfort and ease in a "what you see is what you get" vicar.  Nobody likes a scumbag, and that is not what I am talking about.  We are all called to better ourselves and develop in holiness.  Yet, if I know you are real, then knowing whether you truly care or not isn't just a mind game. 

Why Anglicanism Made Me Catholic

I have had this blog up for a couple years now and scarce are the blogs regarding Anglicanism.  Yet, if there was a final kick in the pants that I needed to become Catholic, it was my time as an Anglican.

My exploration of Anglicanism was an attempt to truly discern if the truth that the Catholic Church claims can be found elsewhere.  I had already known of the corrosion of biblical teaching in the Episcopal Church, even during my time as an evangelical.  The first community I had explored was led by a former head of the Vineyard denomination, but as much as the community was friendly, I was looking for an authentic Anglican experience.  I then discovered a local high-church Anglican community in the area, and it was there that I discovered the life and spirituality of being an Anglican: liturgy, the book of common prayer, a different model of fellowship, intellectual pursuit, sacred music, and sacraments.  It was time as an Anglican where the idea really hit me- being a Christian really is accepting the physical reality of God as well as the spiritual.  We are physical beings, and we need to engage with the physical reality to discern spiritual truths.  So much of my time as an evangelical was an act of suppressing all that is around me, in order to keep my thoughts on something I cannot fathom.  My first Anglican liturgy came with the rich goodness of beautiful architecture, incense, chanting and hymns, and reverent language.  All these things brought my mind into focus on the one true reality, God's Divine Majesty.  All my senses were engaged, drawing me into the throne room  of God.

This is not to say that other evangelicals cannot have a rich view of God- I don't believe that.  Yet, I believe it is harder.  As I said, much in evangelicalism involves the suppression of physical things in order to wait for the spiritual reality to occur, i.e. death.  Yet, because we are physical beings, why then must all physical things, even beauty, be suppressed?  I remember so much of the Sunday services being held in places that could easily be converted Costco stores.  While the Spirit of God exists everywhere, I was allowing a disservice to myself.  My time as an Anglican showed me that God is in the beauty, in the taste, in the thought, in the smell, in the touch.

So why did I leave that?  Thankfully I didn't, but I felt like I needed to.  Firstly, it didn't have the full truth of all that Christ gave to his Church.  Anglicanism maintains much of the richness that was in England before King Henry VIII broke off from the Catholic Church.  Yet, the sting of separation allowed perverted teaching to permeate the traditional that existed before hand.  When England seperated, the King replaced the role of the Pope and the Magisterium and placed it upon himself.  The King could now interpret scripture for the people.  It didn't matter if it was the King or every person individually interpreting scripture, a rupture had occurred. In Anglicanism today, there is no magisterial authority. The Anglican Communion was long held together by different efforts, but now the weak supports are caving.  Anglicans were tied together through a common liturgy and prayer book.  Yet, it isn't enough.  It lacks the authority that Jesus Christ left his Church.  Anglicans will admit that there is limited authority in Anglicanism, and it is just through mutual agreement.  If the agreements end, so does the authority.

I became Catholic, and I am glad that I belong to the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  I can be Catholic, and keep my Anglican traditions (traditions that I would argue are truly Catholic to begin with).  In another post I hope to share some key figures I appreciate from Anglicanism.

Also, I recorded a podcast tonight with some friends giving a more personal testimony of my journey from Anglicanism to Catholicism.  I hope to share that with you all soon!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Danger of Being Wrong

I have been a Catholic too long now...

The road to Heaven in the Catholic sense is a path where one moves forward to meet God.  I can talk about what that road looks like when a soul is stuck in sin, but that isn't what this blog is about.  It is about the other roads out there with the promise of Heaven as the destination.  Looking back as a Protestant, I can see that the road I was assured of was actually a road in pitch black darkness with one little candle handed to me for light.  I can use that candle to see the road map, but cannot see where I am going or where I have been.  I would not know if I am lost or headed in the right direction.  It didn't seem to bother me at the time as I had a map and felt some false sense of assurance that I had a map and that I was fully capable of interpreting that map on my own.  Yet, one day a little voice whispered into my ear, "How do you know you are on the right path?".  It's easy to ignore the voice at first.  The voice came back, "How do you know where you are going?".  It is something that sat on my mind for a time until I just went back to reading the map again.  Then the voice becomes more in depth, "How are you going to lead my followers if you do not know where you are going?".  All of the sudden the knots start to form in my stomach.  All of the sudden the doubt starts to form.  Not a doubt in my destination, or my purpose, but in my own ability to guide anybody (including myself) to the destination.

I have been a Catholic too long now...

How can I lead people down this path to Heaven.  Some might say me "You don't.  Jesus does."  Already, that isn't necessarily the case.  We are called to lead people to Heaven.  in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23" St. Paul finishes his thought with the exclamation "[...] so that I might save some." (1 Cor 9:22 NIV).  Paul admits, he is seeking to save people.  So, as a Protestant, how was I to save anybody.  I had my interpretation of scripture.  How was I to know, outside of my own self, that my view was the right view.  This is something I still ask some Non-Catholic Chistians.  How do you know your interpretation of holy scripture is the right interpretation?  When push comes to shove, the different answers will come down to:

1) It doesn't matter if my interpretation is right, I will still go to Heaven because of my relationship with Jesus.  (A bit of a cop-out.  Also an answer that cannot be cited in scripture.  Also neglecting to take into account the passages that seem to indicate otherwise in scripture.)

2) Well, if I am wrong, the Holy Spirit will convict me of being wrong.  (This view is also negligent of one's responsibility to one another, and also a bit judgemental.  Basically, the answer can be twisted to those who have different views in scripture are just not as close to the Holy Spirit as I am.  Also, when one reads a history book, it is easy to notice that these people who all held different views of scripture really believed what they believed, and held no conviction otherwise.  Judaizers and Gnostics were the earliest biblical examples of people with different interpretations and, in some cases, did not obey the Church on these issues.)

3) I don't know if I am right or wrong.  (The straight honest answer.)

The answer is plain and simple: Nowhere in the bible did anybody give me the authority to truly interpret scripture on behalf of myself and others.  Christ gave that authority to his apostles (and subsequently Bishops).  He did not give that authority to every living member in the Church, even in the bible.  It cannot be found.

So why was I content with a little candle and a map that whole time?  I didn't know any better.  Thank God that little voice questioned me.  I could not answer it, and then it got me to question myself.  Why would I not want to walk in the illuminating light of Christ's Church.  I see the road clearly.  I can choose to walk it or not, but I see it.  I know where I have been, and I know where I am going.

I have been a Catholic too long now to go back.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Teaching on Limbo in a State Of...

One of the things I find so refreshing in the Catholic Church is the history of such rich theological expression.  Saintly theological giants such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Anselm, Bl. Duns Scotus, and even a modern theological giant in our time like Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have engaged in theological discourse to eloquently spell out matters of a theological nature in blessed Mother Church.  One thing that each of these theological giants had to discuss was a small teaching in the Church that needed plenty of discourse: the Catholic idea of Limbus Infantum, or Limbo of the Infants.

In my Protestant days I never had any question over the souls of infants who die before receiving the Sacrament of Baptism.  Yet, as a Protestant, I never saw baptism as any other means than just symbolic acceptance of Jesus Christ and his covenant.  I didn't have the Catholic understanding of baptism.

Upon my conversion process into the Catholic Church I stumbled upon the teaching of Original Sin, the mark on every man that separates us from God beginning with the sin of Adam and Eve.  Upon learning about how the church understood original sin, the Council of Florence decreed that any person who died in a state of original sin would not receive the Beatific Vision.  The Beatific Vision is our ultimate destination in Heaven- perfect union with God and a perfected state.  Another way of saying this is that those who die in a state of Original Sin are incapable of a destination in Heaven.  Therefore, based off of scripture, the only other destination would be Hell (not Purgatory as Purgatory is a process of purgation of the affects of sin for the Heaven-bound soul).  So the original idea was that unbaptized babies went straight to the place of the damned.  This was not something that sat well with theologians.  Understand, we do not have a monopoly on grace in the post-Vatican II Church.  These theologians tried to reconcile this teaching with the understanding of a loving and merciful God. St. Augustine is a theologian well known for his original discourse on Limbo, who believed these infants were damned.  Peter Abelard, a theologian in the 1100's had made the claim that the loss of the Beatific Vision is all that would occur for the infant who died without baptism.  St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure also provided their theories that, while based off of our understanding of Original Sin and believing an unbaptized infant would not receive the Beatific Vision in the afterlife, that there would be no actual eternal punishment and suffering to endure in the afterlife as no personal sin was committed by the child.  It was even posited that an infant in Limbo could experience even a natural joy similarly experienced in our lives now.  So the theory had developed over time in the Catholic teaching on Limbo of the Infants- a place where unbaptized infants were to end up as a result of the loss of the Beatific Vision, but a state of being without eternal torment as a result of personal sin committed during one's life.

As we find ourselves here in the Catholic Church in 2015, this is a teaching that is not spoken of very often.  In many ways it has been downplayed, yet not abrogated by the Magisterium of the Church.

In 2007, the International Theological Commission was asked by the Vatican to weigh in on this issue.  The result was a document called The Hope of Salvation For Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized.  The ITC weighed in to offer grounds that the Church can "hope" for the salvation of these infants.  In the document it correctly acknowledges that as mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude." (CCC 1257)  Yet, the Church teaches that there are 3 means of baptism.  There is baptism by water as the normative means of baptism.  There is the baptism by desire, i.e. someone who may convert to the faith in heart and mind, but for whatever reason cannot legitimately be baptized by water before the time of their natural death.  There is also the baptism of blood, i.e. that one dies as a martyr of the faith before official entry into the Church through baptism of water.  

The Commission makes the correct statement also that God is all powerful and is not bound by any of the sacraments he has prescribed to the Church.  The Commission suggests that God may possibly use any of these other means of baptism to receive the souls of these infants into Heaven.  The problem that has already been deduced by others is that as far as the Church understands, babies do not have a desire for anything.  Babies are not capable of reasoning and therefore cannot desire anything.  They just have natural reflexes guiding their actions.  The guidelines for martyrdom are particular, and it has also been suggested by others that infants do not possess the faith in Christ in order to be martyred for Him.  Also, even though God is not bound by anything, He reveals to us His nature and plan of salvation for mankind.  His nature and plan for us involves the sacraments, therefore one wonders why he would use a new plan outside of the one he has given to His Church.

Nonetheless, the Commission leaves us with a vague permission that one can hope for their salvation even if we do not understand how God saves these children.  This same document also goes against the grain and issues warning to parents not to delay the baptisms of their children, and concedes that Limbo is still a valid theory in the Church.  So the only goal of the document is just to suggest that one has the ability to hope for this salvation of unbaptized infants only, not that the Church knows if this salvation occurs.

So that being said, even based off of this document, I am not convinced that the Church has abandoned the teaching on the Limbus Infantum.  My reasons are as follows:

1. This teaching is not entirely unbiblical, as a Limbo of the Fathers (Abraham's Bosom) is mentioned by Christ himself as being a place of the soul's waiting for the Son of God to come for them.  We know such a state was involved in God's plan, so it is possible that it still is.

2. The list of Catholic theological giants that subscribed to some form of Limbo, whether they were comfortable with the teaching or not, is not to be taken lightly.  Dr. Taylor Marshall has a list mentioned in one of his several blogs on this topic.

3. People mistakenly think that Pope Benedict XVI did away with this Church teaching for God.  NY Times articles declared "Pope Closes Limbo" (as if the Pope had such a power).  In the book format interview with then Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger states that his personal opinion on the issue (and not the opinion as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his title in the Roman Curia at the time) is that the teaching on Limbo should be done away with. This is based off of our current understanding of God's mercy as spelled out after Vatican II.  As he became Pope, he gave his approval of the Commission's document during his pontificate.  Yet, as mentioned earlier: the teaching on Limbo is still a valid belief to hold in the Church.  So Pope Benedict did not abrogate this teaching at all.

3. It is not infallibly defined intrinsically in any council of the Church, yet it's mention in magisterial  and council documents gives it weight and merit (which leads me to think that this is why the commission, nor Pope Benedict can technically abrogate it).

4. People think that the teaching on Limbo is a punishment on these infants.  I admit, it is hard to understand.  Yet, Jesus had many teachings that did not sit well with others in his own time.  The understanding of Limbo though is a very merciful outreach of the souls of the infants in question.  Limbo explains why these children do not suffer for eternity like the Massa Damnata, but have the possibility of joy in their final state.  So even though it is hard to understand, we can know it is not cruel.

It is obvious that the Church is in need of more dialogue about this teaching.  I hope and pray that this happens over the coming years.  This teaching should not be accepted based off of it being "traditional" or hard-line, but should carefully be accepted to be a teaching that exists in our Church.  Whether or not that actually changes in the future, God be praised!

Some good links on this:

Catholic Exchange

Dr. Taylor Marshall's Blog

Catholic Essentials



Why Francis Chan Made Me Catholic

As my first entry into this series, I am going back to my days as an Evangelical.  Francis Chan. Let me start by saying that this man was my hero in my Protestant days, and in some ways is still a hero to me. Francis was the former pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley.  This man built up that Church and turned it into a "mega church".  He felt a call from God to get away from the fame he had built for himself, subsequently resigned from his position at Cornerstone, and immigrated to China for a few years to find God in his roots.  He felt the Holy Ghost calling him back to the United States and now resides in San Francisco, CA as an evangelist/ inspirational speaker.

In my days as an Evangelical, I received my first "retreat high" from this preacher.  I was on a college retreat in Forest Home in CA, and he was the speaker leading the retreat.  I had never before, nor since, encountered a Christian who can captivate and bring silence into a room the first few seconds into his talk.  Francis has a definite gift for engaging the hearts of every person in the room.  God bless Francis, but I think he would say it is all God.  If so, then that is not really fair to anybody else with a mouth to speak and the Holy Ghost living inside of them.  So I do want to give Francis a tiny drop of credit.

Now, how did Francis Chan make me Catholic?

It doesn't take much time into any of Chan's sermons to feel a sense of guilt being dropped on you.  That is one of the aspects that makes Chan's talks so impacting, the challenge of being complacent in the presence of Almighty God.  If you look at Chan's life, you can see the same guilt occuring in his heart and soul.  If you know his background, his Church had a huge fortune being thrown at him, but he did not want to take any more money than he needed.  When his fame got too big for him, he quit and ran away to a Communist country to get away from it all.  When he came back to the U.S., in his talks he explains that he couldn't justify being in a building for Jesus, but had to go out into the world.  All this is wonderful and inspiring! Yet, one then understands another aspect of why Francis Chan is so restless.  It is really up to him to figure out what God wants.  Whatever may be good in whatever ministry he is involved in, he worries that he may be too comfortable and then worries about the judgment of God- and then runs in another direction.  What does God want from Him?  Well, his faith, love, and devotion.  Yet, Chan cannot be settled into any ministry he has been a part of.  Again, one just walks away thinking that Chan is looking for God still in all of these ministries.

I have read all of his books, and while they hold some water to all that is Chan, it is dry in comparison.  In his book Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up, Chan is confronting fellow emerging movement, and former Pastor, Rob Bell.  Rob Bell's book Love Wins was written to begin the removal of the doctrine of Hell from Evangelical Theology.  Chan wrote a book defending the doctrine of Hell as a rebuttal.  In his book, he acknowledges that Hell is a traditional doctrine as defined not only through the bible, but historic Ecumenical Councils.  In a footnote to that point, he then goes on to then dismantle the use of Ecumenical Councils as a valid reason to hold any Christian belief, as the councils were corrupt and defined doctrines and dogmas that they should not have.  So already, even though Chan uses councils as a reason, he then removes them as a reason.

When I read this, it became clear to me what the true "protest" in Protestantism was: authority.  Even though a Protestant may say that all authority comes from God, but through the bible.  Yet, they really cannot mean that, because the bible does not define the bible.  The bible needs an interpreter.  So, a Protestant may not understand this (does understands, but disagrees), but they place the authority on themselves, and I would say at the expense of God's authority.

So bringing this back to Chan- to me it seemed that even though Francis is such a profound speaker and evangelist, he is still looking for God.  What he doesn't believe or accept is that the God-man, Jesus Christ, established ONE Church.  We can see in history that one Church, that then had people separate themselves from her.  In it Christ has given us the gift of the sacraments, to ground us and to lift us into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Chan wants Christ in his heart so bad, but his uncertainty
is his own enemy.

What Chan showed me is that God left us with an authority. We are physical beings who cannot sense God on our own.  God has to spell things out for us.  Therefore, it did not make sense that God would just leave us a book that none of us can agree on.  Yet, in that book He left us a Church.  In that Church, He set up an authority that He is Sovereign over.  That Church gives us the lines that mark the path to God, where I do not have to figure this path out ALL by myself.  We all must walk the path, but without a map, how do you know where the treasure is?  The bible is just one part of the map, but we need the interpreter as well.

I love Francis Chan.  Again, this man is still a hero to me in some ways.  Even though he finds himself unsettled, he would give everything to God if he knew that is what God asked.  That is to be admired.  I pray often for his conversion to the Catholic faith.  Every good gift he has is Catholic, whether he knows it or not.

Also, small side note.  There was another man who became so unsettled with his life, that he gave up every worldly possession he had.  He felt so drawn by God that he left his home and ran into the wilderness to care for the leapers.  He felt called by God to evangelize the Mohammedans, and made a venture to visit and try to convert the Sultan himself!  Yet, he did not do anything without the approval of his Bishop, and also the Pope.  This man was confident that even though he gave all to God, that without adhering to the authority that God left for His Church, that he was to just be a wanderer without a home.  That man was St. Francis of Assisi.

Why ___________ Made Me Catholic

There is one reason why every Catholic should be a Catholic, because it is the truth.  Yet, on a personal level, every Catholic may have handfuls of reasons why he or she is Catholic.  While reflecting on my upbringing, my conversion to Evangelical Protestantism, my confirmation into Continuing Anglicanism, and then reaching my home in the Catholic Church I am reminded of all the small moments, interactions, people who played a role in my becoming Catholic.  So on top of some other blogs coming up, I am going to be sharing stories of those things that made me a Catholic.  

Stay tuned...