Thursday, May 26, 2016

DEAR GOD, WHERE IS THE VOICE OF OUR BISHOPS?

Is the United States falling apart? Each night as I rest my head on the pillow I have more
concerns to lift up to God about our nation. And my concern for our corporate culpability is escalating.

With growing panic, I beseech God: Why aren't Christians leaders (with the exception of the intrepid Franklin Graham) not standing up and vocally, powerfully and courageously

denouncing the wicked crimes the nation is amassing against our Lord?  Where is the public outcry among pastors and priests?

Why, oh why, don't our Catholic bishops—the USCCB—stand up and do something? What is wrong with them? They seem to have no courage, no faithfulness to God with all this unending silence—or whispering at a level no one is hearing. It seems to us Catholics out here paying attention that, at the very least, the shepherds have gone to sleep while the sheep are being ravaged.

Based upon the reality of what we are witnessing, it is not undutiful or apostate for Catholic laypeople to ask the question, "Is the Catholic Church really the church Christ started, when it seems the leadership has been on a catastrophic moral collapse for over the few decades?"

Here is where the knowledge of Church history will help us find courage and stay faithful. Therefore let us take a few steps through history.
 (1)


THE 16TH-CENTURY ENGLISH REFORMATION



In 1534, King Henry VIII issued the Act of Supremacy. This proclamation did the unthinkable; it declared His Majesty the sole "Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England." While Catholic England was still stunned by such an arrogant grasp of spiritual authority, the king went even further by announcing the Treasons Act. If any citizen failed to publicly swear the king is the head of the church, they would be guilty of treason and would be punished by death.

The British Isles went even further into shock when their Catholic bishops decided that this was one of Henry's passing fancies and would be soon set right. So they all agreed to passively to submit to the King's demand and wait it out. He would die and a good Catholic king or queen would take his place and undo all the damage.

Therefore all the bishops signed the pledge and "pinched the incense" of paganism. All of them but two. The first was an old bishop who died soon after. The second: Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher. He refused to take the oath before God. And he was beheaded. The vast majority of the priests followed the unfaithful bishops. Many of the religious monks and nuns caved. But not all. Ireland held strong and that first year 800 Irish monks were slaughtered for their faithfulness to God.

To add to the tremendous blow, Henry seized Catholic Church property. All, everything: churches, monasteries, land, everything was stolen and given to the British Church. Before his death, King Henry burned or beheaded or disemboweled  thousands of Anabaptists, Catholic monks and bishops. There sole crime was that they refused to recognize the king as the head of the church.

 A contemporary eye witness reports that Catholics were, 
“hanged until partially conscious. Then their bellies were cut open, their intestines wrenched out and tossed on a fire, and their hearts ripped out by hand. The bodies were beheaded and quartered, and the pieces were posted at various locations throughout England. As the executioner slit open his belly, John Houghton, prior of the London Carthusian monastery, said, "O most holy Jesus, have mercy upon me in this hour."

The great saint, layman and Lord Chancellor, Thomas More, as a shining example to the cowardly church hierarchy, went bravely to his execution. He was beheaded at the Tower of London rather than betray his Lord. 

It was simple peasants, the humble monk and nun, and a few lowly priests who were imprisoned, tortured and executed for their faith. England's Catholics were horrified to watch their God appointed leadership fail God and them, yet see the laypeople go to their deaths.

As we travel back through time, this same scenario repeated itself time and time again. It can be discouraging to read the failures of the church's leadership in history. And even the early church was not immune to this.


THE 4RD-CENTURY PERSECUTION 



Emperor Diocletian ordered, in AD 303, that all Christian clergymen were to report to his authorities and to publicly sacrifice to Rome's gods. Then, in front of public witnesses, each Catholic bishop and priest must swear allegiance to Rome and her gods, only then could they receive a certificate to prevent accusations of treason which may lead to imprisonment or execution. Fourth-century church historian Eusebius reports with regret that most of the Christian clergy did not hesitate to renounce Christ.

Three years later, the net was cast much wider. The command was issued to the laity. Every man, woman, child and slave in the empire must sacrifice to the gods or die. Entire churches, indeed entire parishes gave in rather than suffer persecution. We have witnesses record for history that they felt like an earthquake had hit when, unannounced, Roman officers would come into their city and demand everyone sacrifice on the spot or be tortured.

One of the great historical tragedies is at this time, the bishops had the original letters and gospels written by the Apostles or their followers: the original manuscripts!  And the bishops handed them over to the government official to be burned without the slightest hesitation. At this time, the scriptures were almost lost completely except for a few Christians who hid them and some even went to their own martyrdom protecting them.
Those who did remain courageous and stood up to Rome were the regular lay-believer. It is interesting to note how many young maidens make it into the annals of martyrdom. There was a particular grace given to those virgins who loved Christ, and often they were the most brutally tortured. 

Why? Why have our christian leaders been so weak through the centuries? It is tempting to just give up on religion when we see the scandal, the cause for the ruination of souls, the catastrophic collapse in courage among those set up as our shepherds. Is the answer as simple as the Protestants claim? For they say God never appointed such men as our shepherds.

But let us refute that with one last scene in history. 

THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE


The gospels record that the men Christ chose for His closest companions were so weak that at His greatest moment of temptation, when He was literally in such agony of Spirit in the garden of Gethsemane He was sweating blood, that His Apostles could not even remain awake.

Then, only moments later, our precious Savior, our Creator and innocent God, faced a murderous mob alone, betrayed not just by Judas, but by those who claimed to love him. They all scattered. His friends scattered. Those companions who Jesus said that God had given to Him and would one day run the church—were completely faithless.

From the beginning, Christ has chosen His authorities among weak and cowardly men. Why?

Perhaps it all started in another garden long ago, when the first man not only betrayed his God but his wife by his weakness when he accepted the apple. And that same scenario has been playing out generation by generation.

But lest we give up in despair. Let us think of who did not abandon Christ. The one person who refused to betray Christ whom we see remaining steadfast from the moment the Father spoke to her through the archangel and called her, "Hail Mary!" to watching her son die on the cross. This was His mother.

Jesus gained strength from looking into the depth of His mother's eyes as He suckled her, was taught by her and went to His death with her near. Her strength gave Him strength.

And who did He see in His mother's eyes? He saw His church.

For Mary is the icon of the Church and mother of His Bride. Through that beautiful courage of His mother, the church has found the courage to never abandon Christ. Through those centuries of cycle after cycle of His Bride being attacked by the powers of darkness, she has remained faithful through the simply love of the layman.


This is not the end of the bishops' unfaithfulness. Prepare yourself for yet another chapter of bishops being cowardly. Pray for them. Do not fear the collapse and scattering of God's leaders when persecution comes. Do not be scandalized or swept away with discouragement if you see bishops fail.

Only ask one question: Will you be among those laypeople whose holiness will shine brightest during these times? Will your courage and love for Christ remain firm until death? That can only be answered in one way. If you are growing in His unmerited grace and power; if your life is submitted to Him, then you have no reason to fear. His grace will sustain you. 


History may record the implosion of God's chosen authorities, but history has always made room for the lowly, humble Christian hero. Let's roll…..
_______________________________



(1) MODERN CHURCH LEADERSHIP SCANDALS
It is not fair to include the priest sexual scandal because the majority of bishops were not included in this. While it was indeed a horrific scandal with fruits of tremendous loss of faith in Catholicism—the actual number of clergy involved was slight… less than 3 percent during a few years. We will not highlight how the Catholic bishops failures exacerbated the tensions that led to the Cristero War in Mexico in the 20th century, nor how the French clergy were at the center of fomenting liberty among the people that backfired on themselves in the 18th century French Revolution. But suffice it to say that historically the church hierarchy tends to have poor political instincts in many situations around the globe. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

CALL NO ONE HOLY FATHER

Protestants often bring up the honorary title that Catholics give the pope: Holy Father.
They call this title blasphemous, because they claim it is specifically the name of God and it should never be used as a title for man.

While my emotions may agree, a very easy look into scripture proves my feelings utterly wrong. God has always lavished honor on His creatures by giving them His name or His titles.

Let's start with the first—most glaring, scriptural objection: 


CALL NO ONE FATHER

What did Jesus mean when He said in Matthew 23: 9, "call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven?" 

It sounds simple enough, and yet, we can be assured Jesus was not being literal. A literal interpretation would be unreasonable and mean Jesus is warning us to refrain from calling our biological male parent "father." And taken at its most literal, it would mean that we could call females on earth father. 

Was Jesus meaning that we should title no one father? If so we Americans who give that title to our Founding Fathers are doing wrong. Yet, it cannot mean that we are not to give anyone the title of father on earth, for Jesus and His Apostles used it as a title for the patriarchs. (See Luke 16's parable of Lazarus, John 8: 56, Acts 7: 2, Romans 4: 12; 9:10 , James 2:21.) Even Paul said that he was the spiritual father of the churches he set up. I Cor. 4: 15. 

So what was Jesus meaning?

At this time, Israel was splintered into many warring theological factions such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. Each referred to their theological founding rabbi as "father." Israel's little denominations were using the title "Father" for purposes of setting themselves above others. As did the early Christians who said, 

"I am of Apollos" and "I am of Paul" etc. Jesus was speaking against setting one group above another by who you title your father.

In essence, Jesus is reminding the people that God is the father and He is the one who places His authorities on earth. Starting with the fact that we don't get to decide our biological fathers, neither do we get to decide who our spiritual authorities are. God alone, as our chief shepherd gets to appoint His earthly shepherds and He alone gives the title of father to those He chooses. This was Jesus showing His disciples that unity under their Father in Heaven was way more important than having little sects under theological fathers. (See Matthew 23:9)

Since Catholics believe that God appointed the pope as His spiritual authority on earth, Jesus would never be warning His people against referring to the pope as "father" anymore than He was telling the Jews not to refer to Abraham as "Father Abraham." 


The unnerving part is that Catholics call the Pope Holy Father. Whew. That cannot possibly be right. It should make all of us shiver with spiritual fear to use that title, of course. But what if, stunningly, God actually wants us to call His authority by His title?

What does scripture reveal to His creation taking His Name?



IS HOLY FATHER A TITLE FOR GOD?

There is only one place in scripture where the phrase "Holy Father" occurs. 
I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. John 17:11
The rest of the time Christ refers to His Father without the word holy. In fact, when Jesus gives us the way to pray to His Father, He does not tell us to call Him Holy Father but simply father: "Our Father, who art in heaven."


So Christ did not give us an example nor mandate to call Him that. Therefore, Protestants restricting that title to God, is not based in scripture. In fact, the Greek word for holy (hagios) is not exclusively used for the Godhead, but also for Christians. 

Saints share the holiness of hagios in many verses such as: Rom. 1:9; 11:16; 12:13; I Pe. 1: 15-15; Rev. 8:3; 11:18. We share His holiness. Even the word "holy" is used by God's Holy Word! So this holiness is not exclusively for God's title. 

Is it really our humbleness that wants to create extra-biblical dictates against using the word holy for Christians? Because, it seems the Bible is not against it. 

Let's do some more digging: 

ARCHANGELS TAKE GOD'S NAME



The literal translation of the Archangel Michael's name is "He who is like God." Some translators, uncomfortable with that, have switched it to what they believe is a more humble rendering, "Who is like God?" However, that still leaves the prophet calling the angel Michael in Daniel 10: 13, 21 the "Great Prince." Such an exalted title that the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists believe the archangel to be Christ. So Michael takes a descriptive name of God.

But it is not just Michael. The Archangel Gabriel's name seems to be literally translated, "Man of God," another title for Christ, or "Strength of God."

God's supernatural beings often have "el" or God in their names. This parallels the titles given to God in scripture which also include "el." Why would God allow this? Why would He allow Himself to be called El-Shaddai which is a disputed description title perhaps meaning, "Destroyer Lord" or "Lord of the mountain," or "Lord of Completeness/Enough." And also allow His creatures to take His own titles? 


A misunderstanding of God often creates confusion about names.

Michael and Gabriel bear the name of God showing that they are God's creation. It would be silly to confuse a

Chrysler car with its maker Walter Chrysler, or call the car egotistical for taking its maker's name. It was created to reflect the genius of its maker. The maker wishes His name intimately connected to His creation.


ISRAEL TAKES GOD'S NAME

2 Chronicles 7: 14, "if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

We often think of being "called by my name" as God calling us. As if His name is calling us. However, it can also be understood in some instances as His people, nation, house and temple as bearing his name. See: 2 Sam. 12: 28; I King 8: 43; Isaiah 41:25, Jeremiah 7: 10, 11, 14, 30; Jer. 25: 29; Jer. 42: 34; Jer. 43: 15.


And we can see this in the very name of Israel, for the most literal and direct translation of the Hebrew, YisraŹ¾el  is "God struggles" with a victorious connotations giving it the authority: God struggles and dominates. The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford U. Press) concludes that Israel is directly translated best as "God rules." Again, just as God has many different titles in the Old Testament that describe Him, He gives his people one of His own titles. 

King David astonishes readers even today when in Psalms 82: 6 he writes that God does not shy away from proclaiming, "You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High."

God is not afraid of us having His name. It is we who are afraid.

JUDGES TAKE GOD'S NAME

We see this in another instance in the Covenant code in the book of Exodus. Israel's judges are directly called one of God's most holy names, Elohim. This is truly God's name. It is not a description or a title. It is in the plural form but literally means simply, "God." And God does not limit His name to just Himself.

But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, [Elohim] and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property…. both parties are to bring their cases before the judges [Elohim]. The one whom the judges [Elohim] declare guilty must pay back double to the other. Ex. 22: 8-9 

The KJV aslo has Elohim translated as "judges, kings or prophets" in Exodus 4: 16, 21:6; I Samuel 28:13.

CHRISTIANS TAKE HIS NAME

God has always allowed His people to take His name. As Christians we all bear the name of Christ because the label Christians comes from the Roman nickname for "little Christs." 

We see Christ giving His title to His leaders in the New Testament. He, as the Chief Shepherd, entitles His leaders as shepherds. 

It is most shocking to readers today when Jesus inquired of the Pharisees, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods?' " John 10: 34. If you look at the context of this verse, Jesus was being accused of blasphemy by claiming that He and the Father were one.  To counter this accusation He does not soften or retract the statement. No, he goes back to the Old Testament (Ps. 82:6) to show that claiming oneship with God is not blasphemy. In fact, God's very word calls us gods! This is not a blasphemous claim but a claim of family unity.

As if that isn't shocking enough, let's take it up a notch. (1)

MOSES TAKES GOD'S NAME


Many Christians, read and reread Genesis 4: 16 to try and understand it. Many translations soften the wording so as to mellow the impact. But the most direct and literal translations cannot be denied. Moses is told by God at the burning bush that his brother Aaron will be Moses' spokesperson, but Moses will be Elohim [God] to Aaron.


He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. NIV Ex. 4: 16 

(See the RSV, KJV, OJB, NIV as well as the Tyndale.)

And if the leader of the people of God in the Old Testament can be called by the holy name Elohim, how much more can His leaders in the New Covenant. 

PETER TAKES GOD'S NAME

Throughout the Old Testament God is called "Rock." This is His title. And yet Christ gives it to Simon in Matthew 16: 18.

Of course this is very uncomfortable for us, who are sinners. We recoil at the thought of someone taking God's name. And yet, like a Bridegroom gives his name to his Bride, so God gives us His name. That does not make us God anymore than it makes the woman the same as the man when they become one flesh. Giving us His title is God bringing us into unity with Him. It is astonishing. It is supernatural and it should make us feel uncomfortable as well as overjoyed.

THE PATER NOSTER PRAYER


God is always uplifting us. Think about Jesus giving us the Lord's Prayer. We cannot make the mistake of believing that when Jesus gives us the privilege of calling God, "Our Father" that he is bringing God down to our level. No, he is wildly elevating the great nature of the human father. He is not just revealing who the Father in Heaven is, but He is revealing who we are! 

These scriptural revelations do not tell us that we are blasphemous for taking on Christ's name but how wonderful God is to be always reminding us that we are in His image.

The Protestant objection that we cannot use the title "Holy Father" is a construct of man and not of God. God is the one who brings us up to Him. 

His sovereignty is not diminished or harmed by God giving us glory and honor. Indeed it is His love for us that brings us into His very presence and He desires us to be co-heirs with Christ and sit on eternal thrones. It increases His glory when we are glorified. The Father wants us to take His name. This is shown over and over in scripture. He freely gives it to His angels, His Covenant people and judges and leaders.

His name is our name, and yet there is only one warning to us, found in Exodus 20. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain."

That reveals all to us that He trusts us with something so full of awe. We are His Body, we are His Bride, we are His sons and daughters. He gives us His precious name, and we should indeed take it with trembling lips. This should humble us as we carefully and with great awe live as co-heirs with Christ. All who see us will be seeing Him.

And that is especially a grave warning to the Holy Father sitting on the See of Peter. The Word of God does not condemn His taking  the name "Holy Father" but that he not take it in vain. 

____________________
(1) Throughout the centuries, it has been understood that it is not blasphemy to call a king or queen, "Your Majesty" or to a ruler "My Lord." People can and do make distinctions in these titles for humans and for God.  



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Freedom of Redemptive Suffering



What a precious gift suffering is. 

I know that is a very odd thing to say, but I write this having been in bed for over a week, hardly able move, hardly able to think. I had just gotten over a bout of pneumonia, then I started feeling weird a week ago Saturday. 

I was going to go to mass on Mother's Day with my children--no matter what--because that is my most heartfelt desire--to be with all my kids at mass. (I was just tired, I told myself.)

So, I pushed myself to attend mass on Mother's Day, I realized I was feeling too shaky to continue in the middle and so my husband and daughter and I went towards the car and I didn't quite make it. My legs went out and my husband had to carry me to the car. 

For days, I have been too sick to even care what I looked like, what I ate or drank. In fact, I wondered if I was going to survive this sickness. No way did I have the strength to be taken to the emergency room and sit for hours awaiting a doctor, or drive myself to a doctor's office. Laying in bed at home, someone could have come in and burned the house down around me, and I would have maybe, with God's help, been able to make it down the stairs. 

Strangely enough in this helpless and exhausting and miserable state, I have been lifting up everything to God and joining it with His sufferings (as St. Paul rejoiced in). The grace of relief has been slowly, slowly given to me. And now, only this morning have I felt the strength to write. 

This has given me time to contemplate suffering. Something about this--now being a Catholic--has changed me, my way of thinking. There were moments I felt tempted to despair. 


I don't fear death, I just hate the thought of going to a hospital and having lawsuit-oppressed doctors prescribe unnecessary and expensive lab tests based on government-imposed norms and then misdiagnosing me with some horrendous life-threatening disease just to find out months later I was actually fine. (Yep, happened twice with me!) 

Then having my children worry about me. While my husband then has to take off work to sit and pat my hand as the nurse asks embarrassing questions. Dear God, please not that!

I had the choice of despairing or lifting my sufferings up to God. And the second is what I chose to do. And I heard the quiet, sweet voice of Him who has been my dearest friend whisper to me that He was going to give me joy in my sufferings. If I just asked. 

I asked. Then, out of nowhere, heavenly enlightenment struck me as a thunderbolt. 

What if, what if we have got this all wrong as humans? 

You see, we do everything to avoid suffering. That is human nature and I am in no way saying that is wrong. Take an aspirin if you are in pain. I don't know that there is any spiritual value in pain you create on purpose. Maybe there is, but I am all for getting out of pain if there is no moral objection to it. What I am speaking of is the regular sufferings of living. 



We avoid this because it is... painful. It makes you unable to get your work done. It makes you vulnerable and dependent on others. It is embarrassing. It can be expensive! And we feel as if suffering takes away our freedom. So we avoid it. We live life doing things to avoid pain. 

And now I am expanding this suffering to mean a lot more than just physical pain. We avoid emotional and mental sufferings too. We often drink too much, seek out entertainment too much, eat too much, avoid certain people too much in order to avoid wounds. 

So, what if God were to tell us that we gain strength, spiritual power, and wisdom in the very act of redemptive suffering? What if we were no longer afraid of suffering because we could lift it up to Christ and use it as a powerful weapon against the Devil? What would happen if a Christian could learn peace and joy in the midst of suffering? 

Such as staying in a painful marriage. 
Such as staying in a low-level job. 
Such as getting better educated. 
Such as working harder. 
Such as controlling ones immoral sexual as well as other physical and emotional appetites? 

What if we could endure not sinning, and experiencing the purgatorial-like burn with rejoicing? 

I am not speaking of some Zen trance-like state or some dulled nihilism, nor Buddha's transcendent indifference. I mean we feel the pain and still experience joy and peace because we know He is using it for His will. It is redemptive! 



Once we can learn joy in suffering we will have a freedom on a divine level. We will not live attempting to alleviate pain with bad choices. That is absolute freedom. Nothing even similar to it in the secular world. 

No Constitutional Freedom can come anywhere near it. For this a freedom of the Spirit. God's freedom.

And this freedom is a gift of God's grace. All we have to do is ask for it. However, in my case, at least, I have had to ask for it many times and it doesn't come unless I ask for it. It is a learned grace. It has come with practice, but nonetheless, it is HIS victory, through His power. I can assure you that it is worth asking for this type of freedom. For it is eternal and brings you into His Divine will, giving you His Divine spiritual power. And it is miraculous. 







Monday, May 16, 2016

The Danger of Equality

The idea of equality is one of the most destructive ideas in human history. 

First off, it is illogical. Do you know of anything God made that is equal with something else God made? We can say God values us. We can say God loves us, but what we can't say with any knowledge or reason is that He values us or loves us equally. That is simply an untrue statement. 

It makes us feel good to say it, but it gives us a false sense of love. 

Does a mother really love her children equally? As if love is a pie and each child gets an equal slice. That is not at all what a mother's love is like. She loves each of her children infinitely. There are no boundaries to her love therefore she cannot compare one love to another. By nature, no love can be equal to another love. Each child is loved without boundaries, endlessly. 

So we need to be careful not to limit God and put boundaries on His love for us. For we can be certain that His love is way above a mother's love. 

God does not love us all equally. He loves each of us differently, uniquely and without measure or boundaries. His love cannot be measured as if one person gets a little love and someone else gets more. Again, that is a comparison that is impossible with love.

We can sometimes misunderstand love as being a feeling, and at times we feel more love towards one person than another. But that is to mistake love. Love is not a feeling. Love cannot be measured. 

This obsession in our culture with equality--equality between genders, ages (unborn and born), races, etc.... this is setting up a invalid system. There is no way of comparing a mist with a flower, a rock with a breeze, a beautiful song to a field of wheat. Nothing is intrinsically equal and that is a marvelous thing. Nothing created is equal with another thing. All are wonderfully unequal. 

To try and compare something with another and call it equal is actually a sinful reductionism in our thinking. We are trying to make things compete, to set things at enmity against one anther. 

Equality is not something we should strive for or even teach as a good value. 

We want laws to be enforced fairly under the law, but not necessarily equally. We don't want a child to be treated equally under the law as an adult. A 6 foot, 350 pound man who slaps a woman should not be treated equally as a 5ft. 98 pound woman who slaps a man, unless you can scientifically prove that the woman's slap did equal damage both emotionally and physically to the man--which of course cannot be proven in a court of law. 

We have all been brainwashed into thinking that equality is some great value. But that is really not what we desire--we don't want an illogical and toxic blandness of equality. We indeed simply want to be respected and valued for our differences. We want to be treated fairly and with the dignity of being created in the Image of God. 

For God did not create us equally. He created us differently and loves us infinitely. And that is far better. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

THE TOP TEN REASONS I LOVE BEING CATHOLIC

I love being Catholic more and more each day. Why? Many reasons, but I thought I would quickly jot down a few this morning. 

Catholicism:


10: TEACHES HUMILITY 

Become Catholic in 21st-century, Protestant America is very much like a camel going through the eye of a needle. If you were raised to believe Catholics were in error or believed they taught a false gospel or dangerous heresy, you will be eating some very painful humble pie. Once you have studied it and become Catholic, there will be no doubt in your mind of God's miraculous grace when you joyfully fall on your knees, bowing low before the Almighty at a Catholic altar to receive the Eucharist. 

In the light of the glory of this new Catholic world, you begin to realize that you are not the center of the universe and your opinions are really not that smart. It means you give up your rights to decide what is moral and immoral and submit to the church's teachings which find great scriptural support. You quickly find it is better to just shut up and listen, because a lot of people in Catholicism are exponentially more spiritually mature, wise and brilliant than you are. 

Don't believe me? Read the writings of the St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, Pope John Paul II the Great, Pope Benedict XVI, Thomas Merton, GK Chesterton, JRR Tolkien. Listen to or read the saints-in-the-making today such as Brant Pitre, Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, Michael Voris, Cardinal Robert Barron, Dave Armstrong, Matt Walsh, Father Mitch Pacwa, and many of those at EWTN and Catholic Answers. 

Yeah, I found humility feels really good. And I need a refresher course about every other week. Catholicism gives that to me. Thank God. 


9. PERFECTLY BALANCES SCIENCE VS. FAITH

I love that Catholicism has a history of both science and faith. The greatest scientists mankind has produced were and are Catholic. Catholics founded universities and promoted cosmology, biology, astro-physics.... We love finding out how God made the world. And that takes nothing away from the mysteries we have yet to discover. Catholicism has an eager, child-like wonder of the world, yet we accept that our Creator goes beyond what we can imagine to enrapture us and hold us spellbound by His glories we cannot understand. 

Catholicism never expects us to throw out what we know of science. We don't have to live with cognitive dissonance. Our faith does not reject science but is built upon the facts of nature that science continually discovers. 


8. TEACHES US HOW TO READ THE BIBLE 

Catholics don't walk around with Bible verses tucked into their gun belt like ammunition awaiting to shoot unbelievers with proof texts. But Catholics know their Bibles (at least the ones attending mass), just on a different level. However, some Catholic theologians know their Bibles better than any Protestant I ever read or met. (Don't laugh, Protestants, that's part of the humble pie I had to eat... it's true.)

What was amusing and amazing to discover is that where most Protestants read the Bible symbolically, Catholics read it literally and visa versa. Catholic scholars have taught me how to view the scriptures holistically and it answers my deepest questions. 

This is too big of a topic for this post, but suffice it to say that they have been studying scripture for two millennia--there is nothing they haven't examined millions of times. You can't bring up something they haven't thought of or trip them up. They have been on the trail of answering questions for hundreds of years. 

They love the Holy, inerrant, infallible written Word of God. (The Catholics were the ones who told Christians the Bible was the word of God!)


7. IS POSITIVE AND OPTIMISTIC

Catholicism teaches that man isn't totally depraved but that man is still in the supremely elevated position of being "in the image of God." Original sin stained us, but did not totally erase our goodness, our freewill or our innate desire to be restored to our creator. Catholic theology says our destiny is to be one with the Father as Christ and the Father are one. It gives us a purpose and meaning for our lives here. We are not to remain forever in our sins but we are to become great saints in the spiritual battle raging between the Church and Satan. And we can do it through the sacraments.

Christ won the war at the Cross, but we each are winning the battle for eternal souls now. There is truth, there is goodness, there is right and wrong and Catholics should be very optimistic that our lives matter in this apocalyptic battle for we are of immense worth. 


6. CHALLENGES MY BELIEFS

Becoming Catholic means that all other Catholics no matter their political beliefs, the nation they give their loyalty to, their soteriology and worldview are my brothers and sisters in Christ. They can never be my enemy. No matter how sinful or stupid I think they are or how politically left-leaning or right-leaning, they deserve my respect and love. Catholicism challenges feminism, the sexual revolution, capitalism, communism, socialism, patriotism, materialism... 


5. TEACHES ME TO REJOICE IN MY SUFFERING

Life is hard. And Catholicism teaches that no heart is broken, no tear is shed that cannot be lifted up to God and used to break the Devil's power. One of the most profound of all teachings is that God can give us joy in sacrifice and suffering. Once that is learned nothing can take that freedom away. For nothing can take your joy and peace. It is the discovery of ten thousand lifetimes. 


4. IT REVEALS THE FATHER OF LIES


We live in a world satiated in propaganda. If Satan can so successfully pull off the greatest hoax and darkest con of demonizing the Catholic Church for centuries, then what else has he distorted? The Catholic church exposes his lies. 


3. MAKES MEN

Catholicism is authoritarian. It is male dominated and female cherishing. (Who else speaks of Mary as Queen Mother!) While there are many Catholic males who are cowards, the sacraments are there to make men. It takes enormous courage to go to confession. It takes enormous bravery to live a life dedicated to sacrificing for God. If males will live it, Catholicism makes men great. And as a woman, that thrills me. 


2. CONNECTS ME WITH HISTORY

When one becomes Catholic, one joins a family whose ancestry spreads across the globe and reaches back into the primeval church. Through the Eucharist, our family ties connect and weave into St. Peter through the early Church Fathers through the dark ages to Thomas Aquinas and beyond. We become one flesh with God's family, we share their spiritual DNA as well as through Christ we share their flesh. This is a mystery that confounds reality and yet is more real than flesh itself. 

1. CONNECTS ME MORE FULLY TO CHRIST

For me, beyond anything else, the beauty of the Catholic Church is that it brings me into the Holy of Holies in a mysterious dance of consummation with my Father. I am spiritually no longer an astronomer but an astronaut. I am no longer a "fan" of Christ, I am His Body and His Bride. We are one flesh. 

Before, I longed for the moment I would be with Christ, now I feel I have arrived in heaven. He not only feels near, but I am in Him and He is in me. Through Catholicism I have entered into His Divinity, not as a god, but as His child. I see a majesty, a power and holy glory I never knew before. I tremble at the thought of His Holy Name. I am not ashamed to bow before His Holy Ones. For now I know more fully that HE IS GOD. 






Monday, May 2, 2016

My Thoughts on Purgatory by Teresa Beem


In the New Covenant Commandments Christ said that we are to be perfect, even as the Father in Heaven is perfect.  Be perfect 
that you may eternally exist in the very presence of perfection Himself.             Perfection..... how? How is it possible? Was Christ speaking in hyperbole? Or symbolism? Surely, He was speaking of an imputed perfection, right? Because most of us who have given our lives to Christ and walk with Him, see perfection recede farther and farther into the distance as Christ open's our eyes. 


Catholics have always taught that these are literal words. We can, and in fact, must be perfect like God Himself. And through His inexhaustible grace and mercy, our Creator gave us a place of perfecting for those with faith who have died. Catholics named it purgatory. The Jews called it Abraham's bosom, or paradise. Protestants do not have a name for the place but for the experience: sanctification. 


And out of immense love and in His infinite mercy, God gave us this place of perfecting, this state of being, this centrifugal force that separates us from our sin before we enter the presence of eternal love. 

I know of many Catholics who think of purgatory as a safety net. They will procrastinate their perfecting until the afterlife, because they believe somehow it will be easier. Like the Protestants, they believe that the moment after death God magically and painlessly waves His wand over us: voila! we go from Cinderella in the dirty torn dress to Cinderella ready for the ball. 


For over three millennia, the people of God have not believed this. It is indeed the supernatural physician who does this miracle in us, but we are not unaware of what is going on and our wills must submit to the change and cooperate in the process. Like all things in the human flesh, we must sacrifice to achieve our results. Perfection must become habituated in us. It is not an instantaneous big bang, but an evolution of supernatural grace. 

I am aware of St. Paul's prophecy that in the end, Christ will come and those are alive will have a change in the twinkling of an eye. However, most of us will have to let go of our flesh in death and experience the loss of time and space. Most of us will enter eternity without the miraculous instantaneous change.

And if you have chosen to enter an eternity with God, you must truly be sorry for your sins and fully understand that sin separates us with the Father. And until you face the sins you excused as little sins, unimportant, trivial and see how they hurt not only Christ, but those around you, you will not be able to stand in the presence of a Holy God. You indeed, will not want to see Him, until your heart and soul are purged and able to see the total destructive evil of every single sin. 

Not to suggest that in the slightest way that these sins are not already forgiven by God. Of course they are. Jesus paid for them at the Cross. But, even after sins are forgiven, when humans cling to them, they change the heart of the sinner. Cherished, habitual or addictive sins cloud our reasoning and impede our ability to love. Purgatory makes our minds sparkle with clarity and breaks our hardened heart and opens up the floodgate of His love in us.

If you do believe the Catholic teaching on purgatory, you should consider praying that you will get your purgatory completed here. And there are very good reasons for this. Because once you leave this world and enter purgatory, you can have no effect on the world or people in it. It will be only after you leave your final sanctification and enter into perfection, that you will be able to help those on earth, through your prayers.

Think of the wonderful things your prayers could do if you became righteous now. Think of the good you could do your children and grandchildren. Instead of a purgatory of deep horror and regret about your wasted life, instead of looking with pain at the pains of your children and those you came in contact with, your life could have been one of virtuous heroism. Your life might have been a magnifying glass of the Cross and brought His love so near that many lives were changed. 




While purgatory is a tremendous blessing for most, do not put off your purgatory till the last day, pray to experience it right now. For if you become holy in this life, you will experience a joy and peace that lasts from this day forward. You will be bringing the threshold of eternity near, very near. Heaven will begin now. 

And I think of our Blessed Lady, Mary, who never sinned. Every moment of sacrifice she experienced was not used to perfect herself but was given freely into the treasury of faith to be used by others. Your life can become one of filling the treasury of merits so that those you love can eat from the banquet of blessings your life provided for them. 

No one who is oriented towards heaven can skip the step of perfection, of sanctification. Do it now. Pray for that kind of radical holiness this moment, that your life may be joined to His Cross and His love and mercy will burn with such an intense brightness, that all will be touched. 

You were born for a purpose. And that purpose was to be a spiritual giant, an heir to the throne with your brother, Christ. Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect. 






Thursday, April 14, 2016

TOM'S REASONABLE KINGDOM by Teresa Beem


Tom was a cynic. Tom didn’t seem to enjoy Bach or the Sistine Chapel or mystery stories. To Tom the world was small and reasonable and he preferred it that way. 

Tom died and stood before God. He was not happy that there was more than he thought to this world. He was not happy there turned out to be something supernatural. So when God asked Tom if he wanted to live forever with Him in a glorious supernatural kingdom with surprises and beauty, but he warned him that God's kingdom may not seem reasonable to him, Tom rather chose his own eternal kingdom. It would be all his and he would be in control, and he was very thankful to find out there would be nothing supernatural. 

As Tom settled into his kingdom he thought to himself how clever he was. This hell wasn’t bad at all. It was actually quite comfortable and it was filled with other people exactly like himself. 

The hills were green and rolling, the sky was blue and the temperature was warm. The trees and animals were exactly as they were on earth. The people and animals were just as they were on earth. It turned out that the reality of hell was no more than his own reality. Small and understandable.

Recalling the scary mysterious hell Tom’s church had warned him about made him scornfully laugh. There was nothing supernatural about hell, no silly myths, no absurd faith in the illogical.

Tom felt just as he did on earth for a long time. Comfortable, reasonable. 

One day a group of the people right over the hill, began to loudly sing a drinking song about loving the perfect woman. Tom didn’t drink and he had long since quit believing in love or the perfect woman and Tom definitely didn’t enjoy the people enjoying themselves. He wished the people would go away. His kingdom would be much better if other people weren’t there. And the sound vanished. Tom assumed the party broke up and the people went back home.
So now it was a perfect. Just himself and the cute, loyal animals and the trees and nice weather and rolling green hills and distant mountains. After a very long time without hearing or seeing any others, Tom wondered what happened to all the people. Not that he really wanted to see them, but it didn’t make any sense to him. Where did they go? They couldn’t have vanished, that was impossible, so Tom sat down with a pencil and pen and made a list of all the scientifically plausible reasons as to why the people disappeared. He spent a lot of time scribbling. 

Frustrated at their mysterious disappearance Tom began to make a trek around his kingdom looking for the people to prove seemingly magical disappearances were always explainable. 

Even though he hadn’t gone too far, Tom saw something that looked like heaven, all glorious, sparkling and perfect--way in the distance. Well, he mocked, there was no such thing, so when he bumped into the edge of his kingdom with the picture of heaven on it, he shook his head knowingly. He knew it had only been a picture. Since the facts proved that the people were not in this direction, he turned to go in another. 

Tom’s hell was like Tom’s heaven; it wasn’t too big, for that might contain things he had never thought of or worse, surprises. Though he had not gone far, these mountains irritated him. However a step in front of him the ground leveled out and became a plain. Thankfully Tom never saw a snow capped mountain again- ever. 

Under a beautiful tree, he decided to sit down. The leaves above him began rustling and when he looked up he saw an unicorn reaching his neck up nibbling away. This upset Tom. He had always believed unicorns to be a myth. So he killed the unicorn. Then an African Penguin waddled up to him and although Africans know they have penguins, Tom didn’t believe a penguin could live in Africa, so he killed it too. 

Since all the people had disappeared, a dog had been his faithful companion. But even the dog began to irritate him. It was just too cheerful and Tom wasn’t sure he believed this dog was really his friend. So he kicked him and the dog ran away never to return. 

“Finally, some quiet,” Tom thought. As the aeons went by Tom’s kingdom continued to be just what he wished. His kingdom followed his reality and became smaller and smaller. 

As he was attempting to open a coconut one day, he smashed his fingers so hard upon a rock that he broke bones in two of his fingers, gnarling them terribly and causing such excruciating fiery pain that he began to scream expletives as the top of his lungs. He called out for someone to come help him and when no one came, he recalled as a child his pastor taught him to pray in these situations. More vile expletives came out as he swore he would never pray as there was no God (forgetting he had once met Him). He had always believed in evolution and that man came from apes. And as more and more angry expletives raged, what Tom didn’t realize is that his sound became strange and animal-like and his tongue swelled so no words could be formed. 

As he jumped around in rage swinging his long hairy arms in a fiery pain that seared from his hand out to the rest of his hairy black body, he wailed and wailed and gnashed his teeth. As the aeons passed by Tom seemed less and less aware of his surroundings. His hand never healed, and so he could only swing in the trees with the other. 

It wasn’t that Tom rejected mystery anymore, but rather his stubbornness and fear made him begin to reject the trees for they had shadows and noises and so he was made more comfortable when he became forever running closely upon the ground with four legs. 

How long it was Tom had no idea, but after what seemed ages, he wanted the hills to go away, they caused him so much fiery fear because he could not see past them---so they disappeared. Tom’s world became what he believed he could see around him. 

One day, after Tom had been in his kingdom a long time, he no longer understood what that light was, it wasn’t that the brightness irritated him, but it made him see things like green below and blue above, things he no longer understood and that caused fiery fear. So the kingdom dimmed. Again much later, he began to feel that the soft strands of something under him was a mythical creature and he determined not to believe it. And the grass disappeared. 

Tom, in his dark, tiny world began to wiggle his mammal feet and since he couldn’t see them, he didn’t believe in them and they scared him so they disappeared. Eventually as he lay there, he felt these four sticks coming out of his body, and that scared him. So his legs disappeared.

Eventually, the sounds of the breeze gave him the impression that there was something he didn’t understand, some space that he couldn’t see, so his ears disappeared. 
And one day, aeons and aeons from then, Sally died and went to her own kingdom, just like Tom. She too didn’t believe in anything supernatural. 

One day in her kingdom, she looked down and saw a strange little creature, nothing more than a tiny worm crawling around the ground. She picked it up and looked at it carefully. It was the oddest looking worm she had ever seen. It looked as if it had the face of a man. After trying for the longest time to figure out what this creature could be, for it certainly couldn’t be something mythical, she put the little worm down for it irritated her. 

Though the worm crawled away, It disappeared from Sally’s sight and she would never be able to see him again.

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