Sunday, March 30, 2008

This Christian Road – It Can be a Little Rocky

From 2002 to 2004 I read the bible, and virtually nothing else. I read and read, and reread Scripture. I loved it and still do. It was for me truly the living word of God. I would read passages like Isaiah 6 about the Lord’s call to Isaiah and be dumbstruck along with him. To imagine the seraphs calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." And at the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. To be aware that they are at all times crying out to the Lord, praising his glory is just overwhelming.

All of the truths of the faith are overwhelming. I remember reading John 3:16 and being dumb struck at the realization that I would live forever. I’m just a simpleton, I don’t need to dissect Scripture to take it in. When I was considering a little Tiber swim the first thing I looked into was the Church’s take on Scripture. When I read that the first interpretation of Scripture is literal, I knew I could proceed with my investigations. I don’t need to get all wrapped up in wondering if the world was created in seven days or not. If it was it was, if God simply outlined the whole affair in seven days and put the wheels in motion matters not to me. Either way it’s created of God, and that’s that.

I noticed in my travels through God’s word quite a few passages about peace making and not stirring the pot. Things like Titus 3 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Also, from James 3 The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

These passages seamed to me to be in sharp contrast to the attacks on the Catholic Church I was constantly hearing in Protestant circles. It really got me wondering, so I gathered up a whole bunch of these types of scriptures and went to speak to the head Pastor about the topic. We didn’t see eye to eye on the matter. Basically he told me I was full of it. When he wanted to bring my husbands opinion on the matter into the discussion I was really perplexed. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where interpretation of the word of God is a majority rules affair. As if to say well more people agree with me than with you so I must be right. Say What?

From there Hubby and I moved to a dissenting Catholic parish. That was interesting what with one of the Priests telling me to find a new Parish if I wanted to pray the Creed every Sunday. OK. So we did find a new Parish and made friends along the way with another couple coming back into the Church around the same time who were similarly uncomfortable with the shenanigans at the We Are Church parish.

What happened next has really had a profound effect on me ever since. I’ll leave out the particulars and simply say that the friendship soured. These people attacked my husband and I in the most vicious and nasty way I have ever been attacked in my life, and continue to do so. That was a little over two years ago, but I’ve been extremely hesitant to become involved in our Parish as a result. I go to Mass and Adoration, but I’m concerned, frankly a bit frightened, to get more involved.

I’ve found out since then that these folks have done the same thing to several others in the Parish as well, but it’s still just plain uncomfortable to be around people who are attacking. Fr. talked today about Pope John Paul II forgiving and meeting with the man who shot him, but I’m guessing that if the man had a loaded gun, even our Holy Father would have exercised caution.

So what’s the upshot? It’s a rocky road on the way to Heaven. For now I just hang out with other Catholics on the Internet where if I get attacked I can just power the machine down. I’m not sure what God has in store for us, but until that becomes more apparent for now I will simply follow St. Paul’s advise to the Ephesians to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear to whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide. Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Suffering – My Blind Spot

I’ve read the conversion struggles of others. The difficulty of accepting the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, trouble with Our Lady and her Immaculate Conception, difficulty with the Virgin Birth. All of these things are quite fantastic, and I can understand having trouble wrapping the mind around the concepts. They are all frankly ridiculous in the natural world, and require acceptance of the supernatural, an acceptance of all that is seen and unseen. They require the acceptance of a God who acts in both the natural and the supernatural world and who is in command of both realms. I don’t have trouble with these concepts, with the daily blending of the supernatural with the natural world. I’m completely comfortable with the miraculous.

I struggle with the concept of suffering. I understand the fall. I understand human rebellion and our efforts to elevate ourselves to a position reserved for God alone. I understand our shortcomings and Satan’s efforts to influence us against God. I understand that we are living in Satan’s realm. I understand Jesus’ mission to break Satan’s stronghold on humanity. I understand that by Jesus’ conquering death, Satan’s power is broken.

What I don’t get is how my suffering can help. I know the scripture where Paul writes to the Colossians. Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Col 1:24. What is lacking? What could be lacking? I don’t get it, and where the heck do I fit in?

I’ve read a great deal on this topic, and it just does not quite sink in. I even try to embrace my suffering. When my (wildly premature I assure you) arthritic hip is killing me and I would like to moan and groan at a loud pitch to anyone in ear shot, I choose instead to pray. “God, I have no idea how in the world this pain could possibly benefit others, how I can join my pain to your work of redemption on the cross, but I’m willing. I offer this pain up and join it to your cross.” It’s the most awkward prayer I pray. It feels unnatural, it feels artificial, it feels just plain weird. I’ve been asking for wisdom on this topic for quite a wile and I think I may have received an insight this morning.

Could it be that by my willingness to join in Christ’s suffering, my action, united with that of Jesus, joins in breaking Satan’s power over humanity? While collectively humanity elected to rebel, I elect to unite and align myself with God, even in God’s pain? Is the choice to align with God beneficial not only for me, but for others as well? How can that be, I’m not God. How does that work in God’s economy? Is this a part of rejecting the glamour of sin, which at it's core is self absorption? I’m still foggy on the particulars of this deal, or if I’m even in the right neighborhood.

Lord, I don’t understand suffering, but I want to be united with you in every way. I want your mission of redemption to be my mission of redemption so I offer you my whole life for the salvation of souls. Amen.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

And now from the Duh Chronicles I bring you ….

Scientists trying to explain the existence of religion.

"Time, therefore, to put religion under the microscope.... Explaining Religion is an ambitious attempt to do this. The experiments it will sponsor are designed to look at the mental mechanisms needed to represent an omniscient deity, whether (and how) belief in such a “surveillance-camera” God might improve reproductive success to an individual's Darwinian advantage"

This just in

The industrious team has also formed an ad hoc committee to study the underpinnings of the American Revolution. Preliminary data suggests a distain for tea and a desire to found a nation who’s breakfast beverage of choice would in fact be coffee.

Lord, Lead all Souls to Heaven especially those in most need of your mercy. Amen

Happy Easter

Christmas Easter Catholics – Well It did take the Israelites 40 years

This morning I was talking with Hubby about how this day, the day our Lord is gone from the earth, the day every tabernacle on the planet is empty, is just odd. I think about what it must have been like for the disciples. He says shell shocked, and I’m sure they were devastated. The emotion alone must have been overwhelming. I can barley watch little snippets of the Passion with out getting weepy. At Church yesterday Hubby couldn’t join in with the readings. He just couldn’t shout Crucify him, Crucify him! He said that he could feel the weight of his sins nailing our Lord to the cross.

We are going to the vigil Mass this evening for the first time since he was confirmed three years ago. I’m excited. I thought it was the best Mass I had ever been to in my life, partly because he was being confirmed, and it would be the first Mass we would both receive the Eucharist, but also just because it’s a very powerful Mass. Baptism, and Confirmation and scripture and fire and litany of the Saints, it is just so cool.

And then the goof ball mentions being annoyed with the Christmas Easter Catholics. How they pack in for two Masses a year and are nowhere to be seen the rest of the year. Well OK mister this will be my third Easter as a Catholic and fifth as a Christian.

I say bring them on!!!! I say welcome them with a friendly smile, and slide over to make room for them in the pew. I say give up the pew if necessary. I say treat them in our hearts like a long lost loved one, as you would a family member you are meeting at the airport when they are coming home from being overseas for a decade. I say show them where the readings are in the missal if they are having trouble finding them. I say show them where the Creed is in the missal is if they are looking for it. I say PARTY ON!! I say the seeds of God’s Grace are planted in their souls and THIS is the time to pull out the watering cans.

2 Corinthians 6
1As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 2For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

Lord have mercy on all of us prodigals. Forgive us our sins. Lord show us how to make reparations for our brothers and sisters who will receive your body and blood in a state of Mortal Sin this weekend. Accept our small penances and mortifications on their behalf. Bring home all of your people who are wandering and lost in this world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Passion of the Christ

On Tuesday of Holy Week 2004 I took my first step home. Quite fed up with Evangelical attacks on the Church I was being drawn back to Rome. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ was out that year and whole churches were packing theaters to see the movie. I wanted to see it too but I wanted to see it by myself. On a Tuesday evening when Hubby was out of town I went to Mass for the first time in almost two decades and then went to see the movie. I haven’t seen it since.

Through the scourging scene I just prayed over and over, “Pray for us sinners, pray for us sinners”, and of course our Lady does.

Evangelicals were raving about the movie, and for good reason, it’s very powerful, but I remember watching and having flashbacks of the Stations of the Cross statues on the walls of the church I attended as a child. I don’t recall ever actually praying the Stations, but I absorbed the info somehow. I remember thinking I just watched an extraordinarily elaborate way of the cross, and guys that’s a Catholic devotion from way back when, so why are you again embracing the Church’s devotions and attacking the source?

I went to Easter Mass that year and was stunned down to my core to realize that I knew the words to the Nicene Creed. They tumbled out of me like an old familiar childhood nursery rhyme. Something you’ve heard so many times it’s permanently etched on your soul. I cried as I prayed “one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins” and realized what my parents and the Church had done for me. I cried because I had believed that my infant Baptism was invalid and had been baptized again. It was an honest mistake, but still.

I came home four years ago today, the quintessential prodigal, starving, wishing I could fill up on the pods I was feeding the swine, asking for forgiveness, and a chance to work on my Daddy’s farm. And he said yes.

Lord, look at your only begotten Son and have mercy. I offer you the pains of his scourging, his wounds and blood for all your people who are living under the weight of the curse due to the sins of their ancestors and their disobedience for breaking their covenant with you. May you set us free through his scourging, heal us through his wounds, and save us through his precious blood. Amen. Barnabas Nwoye: The Precious Blood Devotion

Saturday, March 15, 2008

RCIA in a dissenting parish – Heterodoxy, and Heresy, and, High jinks Oh My!!

Hubby had always wanted to be Catholic. As a child, he had gone to Mass a few times with his Nonny when he visited Arkansas in the summers. His Mother claims that Nonny had him baptized in the Church as a baby, but the Little Rock Archdiocese has no records of that.

I was not so keen on the idea. The 70s style Kumbaya catechism I received as a child did nothing to teach me the faith. When I was post 9/11 church shopping I didn’t even consider the Catholic Church. We were taught in strict Kumbaya tradition that all religions were basically alike so what difference would it make to go to the Catholic Church?

When I began to recognize the sacraments, the whole structure of the Church, the fullness of the faith in scripture I realized that if the Church is not what Jesus says she is then he must not be who he says he is. Because I accept Jesus’ claim that he is God, I accept his claim that the church is his body. Because I trust Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary for my salvation, I place my trust in the Holy Spirit to guide the Church, and I trust Jesus’ promise to be with us until the end of the age. Home to Rome meant RCIA for Hubby, convalidation of our 14 year marriage, and confession for me. Jesus made it so easy for me to come home and I am so grateful.

Babe in the woods that I was, shocked to discover the truths of the Catholic faith, I was even more shocked to find them attacked from within the Church. The Protestant jabs at the Church got me asking questions about Catholic teaching, Catholic heretics got me asking questions about what the heck is going on here.

My town is a tale of two parishes, one Heterodox, and the other Roman Catholic. We, knowing nothing of the state of American Catholicism, chose the heterodox parish. It was shocking. We went from a solidly Christian Evangelical church, with a healthy fear of the Lord to RCIA where we were taught that Mary may not have been a virgin and that it’s OK to take communion outside the Catholic Church. Which begs the question why be Catholic at all, I’m sure if this is where we had started our journey back to the Lord, in this RCIA, we may have stopped right there. Kumbaya catechism does not inspire one to sainthood. We had a nice social club at the Evangelical church, why be Catholic? It’s harder work, not as friendly, lot of cotton tops, Clergy who are all over the place doctrinally, laity who are ignorant and confused cafeteria Catholics often simply because they don’t know any better. Kumbaya catechism does not inspire period.

Why be Catholic? Well as Peter Kreft says, it’s the truth. Because even amidst all the dissent and heterodoxy, and heresy the truth lives, because he who is truth is there. Even when a priest tells you to take a hike when you ask him to pray the Creed on Sundays you can check out the GIRM and see that, yes Annie, the Creed is required. Even when nuns tell you that some of Joseph’s “matter” may have impregnated Our Lady, you can look up the Church’s official teaching in the Catechism and see that Sister is wrong. The deposit of faith is available to anyone who cares to look it up.

Through the RCIA extravaganza I learned that the Church has fought heresy in every age, it’s nothing new. In every age Christ has raised up great Saints to strengthen his Church. And so he has and will continue to do so in our age. He will raise up saints in our midst clergy and laity who love the Lord and are faithful to him. Look at Mother Angelica as one super obvious example. Hubby and I received much of our formation during the RCIA process from EWTN and continue to do so today.

Lord teach us to pray for our Priests, Bishops, and all religious, that they may teach us in your ways fearlessly, clinging to you, hanging on your every word, speaking only as you instruct them. Lord send forth your spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. We put all out trust in you, in your name, in the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Amazing Grace – The Sacraments and My Conversion

I was raised in the Catholic Church, sort of. Here is part of my conversion story on Steve Ray's web site. We attended Church but didn’t really live the faith at home, and it was not a particularly loving home, so the Good News of a loving God become man to guide us into heaven wasn’t really a message that sunk in. By the time I was done with college I had some Jungian notion of a collective unconscious. Kind of absorbed the BS along with my BA you might say. While I’m not sure I ever completely tossed the idea of God, he was certainly not a consideration in any of my decision making. But the Lord is loving and patient slow to anger and abounding in love, and he waited for me.

The sholder injuries I speak of in my conversion story on Steve’s site set the stage to soften my heart to God. I was calling out to him and he answered!!!! Still, I didn’t amend my lifestyle in any way, I didn’t run to Jesus or return to God in any way. Then came 9/11. That was the day I converted. That was the day I knew as I watched those toweres fall that evil exists, not as an abstraction but as a very real entity. I knew in an instant that there is a right and a wrong. That sliding scale morality, a morality set by man was a falicy. I knew that the BS I was fed as I was earning my BA was a stinking pile. I knew that truth existed and I set out to find it.

I didn’t spend to long in Prostentanisim, even though I liked it there. I liked the emotional contemporary music. I liked the fellowship, the enthusiasim and the zeel for souls. I liked the young families, I liked being involved in the Children’s ministry. I liked all of the social aspects of the evangelical church we were attending. The doctrine however, not so much. I knew my time there was limited when the head Pastor stated in a sermon that there is no such thing as Original Sin and in the same breath spoke of a “Sin Nature” that we all posses. I believe that would be concupiscence buddy, although I didn’t know that at the time. I also had a bizarre conversation about the Eucherist with the youth pastor where he suggested going to Catholic Church for communion and not believing anything else they taught. It was over, the duplicity was simply to much. You can’t attack and embrace the Church in one sentence. Repackage Her doctrines with your own language and call them your own, and call her apostate in the same breath! Oh Please! That was it, home to Rome, put on your suit honey, we’re swimming the Tiber.

How do the sacraments fit in, in particular my reception of the Sacraments as a child? I didn’t understand them, could not have cared less that I had received them, didn’t thank Jesus for them, did my best to ignore them. And still the seeds of God’s Grace were there!!! Jesus works throught the Sacramental life of his Church. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in our souls when we receive the sacraments. Frankly, that is a huge advantage in this life, even if we do our best to run as fast and as far from God as possible. Even if we are indoctronated into lifestyles and thinking that are opposed to God, still the seeds of the Sacraments remain, and the Hound of Heaven waits patiently to begin watering his garden of souls. God’s Grace in the Sacraments is a huge advantage in the ferreting out of BS. Reception of the Sacraments plants Truth in our souls. Our job as those who’s seeds have sprouted and begun to grow is to live authenticaly Christian lives planting the seeds of God’s Grace into the lives of others, and carrying our watering cans along with way.

Lord, protect and guide your Church. Send your Holy Spirit to instruct us, and your holy angels to protect us. Give us a spirit of boldness to live authentic Christian lives participating fully in the Sacramental life of the Church, and teaching our children to do the same. We ask this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days

Yesterday that is.

Early in the day I called our west coast office to check in. One of my co-workers out there, a young married woman with a pre school child casually mentioned having gone to Church on Sunday. I kept quite and listened as she talked to me for almost a half hour about an intro to Christianity program she and her husband have been attending at a contemporary Lutheran Church for the last twelve weeks and how now they are attending this Church too. Her husband was not raised in any faith, but man he’s really taking to it she tells me and she is really enjoining reading the bible. She’s in Matthew she tells me. I quickly Google the program and see it’s pretty solid and she attending a Lutheran Church. Whoo, just a click away from the Catholic Church she was raised in.

I inquire if her husband is considering being baptized and if the baby has been baptized just to drop a couple more seeds and tell her that John is my favorite gospel. I pray a prayer of gratitude for her and for God’s call on her life and her husband’s openness to the gospel, and ask you all to pray for her too.

Later in the evening as Hubby and I are sitting next to the fire in our hearth room we get a text message w/ an ultrasound photo. “This is Gabriel today” it announces. Gabriel what a cool name I text back. My Sister-in-law calls to tell me all about the IVF procedures that brought little Gabriel into existence. She tells me about the 27 eggs and the 6 embryos and how the insurance pays for it all. She tells me about the 3 embryos that were transferred and how the docs suggested only 3 since at her age all 6 would most likely take.

I’m wondering about Gabriel’s siblings that got transferred and why we don’t see their ultrasounds but did not ask, I wasn’t confident I could keep my cool, so I just didn’t go there. I did ask about the 3 cryofrozen babies and come to find out the insurance doesn’t cover that and well gee it’s $4,000 per year to freeze them so swoosh away go your troubles down the drain I’m guessing. Again, I didn’t ask specifics I tried to err on the side of diplomacy and not point out the murder of 5 of her children as she was showing us pics of the one the doctors choose to keep. Somehow the timing just didn’t seem right. I did however mention that she could have put the 3 that didn’t get transferred up for adoption. Interestingly she didn’t know you could do that. No, I’m thinking, the doctors never do mention that.

Judie Brown’s blog had some interesting information about IVF “It is estimated that in the United States alone this market is $3,000,000,000 per year. That’s right—three BILLION! The money is one of the biggest reasons why it is so difficult to oppose these technologies and to work for the outlawing of such practices. “ Indeed.

And so I prayed last night, for my co-worker and her family, for my Sister-in-law and her family, and for us all.

Lord, have mercy. You tell us that you will do whatever we ask in your name and so I ask in the Name of Jesus, the name above all others, the only name by which men are saved, I ask for the salvation of all those whom life puts in my path. From family to co-workers to the folks I pass in the supermarket, Lord I ask you to call each and every person by name. I ask for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit on their lives, I ask you to open their eyes to your truth, I ask that you make disciples of each and every one of them. I ask in your name that all evil spirits around all of these people be bound and silenced, that they may hear your voice alone. Finally, I ask Our Lady and her whole heavenly court to intercede for us, to protect us under her mantel, to pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.