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.