My Time Among the Evangelicals.

During my ventures blogging, I have come across a blog or two created by Evangelicals looking to inform others about the horrors of Catholicism. In fact, one in particular often tags his post as “Catholic” for those to stumble upon the dribble searching out Catholic posts. What is most absurd and peculiar about this particular gentleman is mind-numbing contradictions. For example, the gentleman will either misrepresent scripture to fit his motif of slander and if someone objects and provides refutation against his novice theology he simply censors their comments from the site, all while attempting to make known about Catholics Index of Forbidden Books. Ha!

Of course, as a cradle Catholic it would be assumed that I haven’t had much experience with Evangelicals, but in my particular case, I have spent some time in their company. It was during my time as a youth of about sixteen years of age. I was dating a Evangelical girl during those days–who sadly has fallen for secular world hook line and sinker since those days. The girl’s parents were very strict and any night that was considered a school night–which would include Sunday—we were not allowed to spend any time together. Of course, She determined a way to get around this because Sunday night is when her Church had youth group for her Church. She convinced me to go for at that time I thought, “Well, we believe in the same God, what could it hurt?” Oh how a fool I was at the time!

Every Sunday I would show up at the youth minister’s house, it was during a period of construction for their new gigantic Morton shed church, and it was nice to be able to talk about the Gospel in what appeared to be generally innocent conversations. However, after some time had passed and I developed a friendly relationship with the youth minister; here came his need to “convert” me from the evils of Catholicism. I didn’t notice it at first, it has been subtle, but he did have disdain for Catholicism, even so much so, that a girl—who was friends with a Catholic that I knew from school—asked him if disliked Catholics. The minister went on and on during a session at his house, unfortunately I don’t remember the particulars, how he didn’t dislike Catholics, it was a misunderstanding. All the while mostly looking at me when he spoke on the topic.

It wasn’t long after that time that a kid at my school committed suicide. Our community was a small community, so it had been a pretty shocking tragedy. Again, I found myself at the youth minister’s house as he discussed the event. The minister addressed the topic whether the teenager committing suicide was now in Hell. Although even upon looking back to realize that is analogy was a false equivalent, it also appears that the youth minister had a lack of understanding between mortal and venial sins. Nonetheless, he began to describe how if he was in the act of committing adultery and suddenly died, he would not be in Hell because there are no such sins that disconnect us from God. He spoke these words as he made eye contract with me, I said nothing being but a child.

One of the most shocking occurrence during my time amongst the Evangelicals was when I found myself again at the youth minister’s house, but this time, it was different. He told us that we needed to take a look at something at the almost complete Morton shed Church. When we arrived at the facility, we entered the building in complete darkness. The minister led us up to a top floor around a spiraling ramp of sorts. When the group arrived to the top of floor what set before us still disturbs me to this day. The room was filled with burning candles, maybe even some torches, I remember that it was dark and the only light was that of a warm glow of flame. I figure in a white hooded robe sat in front of us at a Judge’s bench with his face veiled. We were told to sit and await our turn. The youth minister then called each person’s name to sit on what more or less would have been the witness stand, and a figure who was portraying Satan read to us all of the sins that the youth minister thought or had heard each person committed. Personally, when it was my turn, my sins listed were not intimate but generic due to the youth minister not knowing me that well coming from the Catholic faith. However, some were so detailed that it left children in tears as this man dressed them down in front of all of our eyes. At the end of the mock trial, a figure who portrayed Jesus came in and said none of these sins matter, feel better. When the mock trial ended the Youth Minister told us how sorry he was for putting us through this ordeal, and gave us free pizza…

A couple years went by and at this time I must have been a senior in highschool because I do not remember the girlfriend being at these events. At the time the Morton shed church was complete and the Church started to have bonfires after football games. The community, again so small, of course all the kids went for the smores, pizza, and to hang out with their friends. Of course, this enticed us to come to other events at the church like lock-ins, but there’s always a catch. At this time the Youth Minister was finally going to make his play at me. He told me, “You need to be baptized.”

I replied, “I have already been baptized.”

The response he gave me was puzzling to me at the time, “Being baptized as an infant doesn’t count, you have to be submerged for it to count.”

Thankfully, during this period of time, my family had finally gotten a computer with the internet, so I began to research what this guy was telling me. I was finally older and more confident, so much to his surprise, I defended my faith when for so long I had been sitting quietly just there to spend time with the girlfriend. My research at the time led me to illustrate how the early Church Father’s practiced infant baptism, and that Christ in the Gospel of Matthew declared his followers to baptize in the name of the trinity: “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”[1] Unfortunately, we kept going around in a circular debate on the topic.

In many ways, the Grace of God and the challenges of this minister led me to a deeper belief in other facets of my faith, for example, transubstantiation. As we continued to discuss theology I questioned his church’s position on the discourse of the Bread of Life found in the Gospel of John chapter Six. I explained that if he fundamentally believed that the Bible to be the infallible word of God, why didn’t he follow Christ’s commands:

54 Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. 55 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. 56 For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed.[2]

After successfully refuting his challenges to my own faith, it was most unfortunate but the Youth Minister ostracized me and withdrew his friendship. Eventually, I no longer attended these after school events at this Church. Some time after, I came home from college and stopped to help at an ecumenical summer Bible School within the community—my friend’s mom was the director—and my ole’ priest was giving a talk, but I noticed something. I asked my friend’s mom where some of the community’s kids were and she said very sad, “Oh, that particular church didn’t want to send their kids where there were Catholics.”

Remember when the Youth Minister insisted on not disliking Catholics? It appears the Church only liked ones they felt they could convert. I do value the time spent with Youth Minister, he made me a better Catholic.

[1] Mt. 28:19 RSV

[2] Jn. 6:54-56 DRA

Taking on the Homosexual Movement – Crisis Magazine

“As international pressures and heroic actions of dissidents within the Soviet Bloc—along with “little old ladies praying the rosary for seventy years,” as a priest-professor of mine said at the time—were essential elements in communism’s collapse, so the intelligent, persistent, coordinated efforts of the defenders of sound culture—along with, to be sure, much prayer and sacrifice to the Almighty—can bring Western secular humanist leftism to heel.”

Readmore via Source: Taking on the Homosexual Movement – Crisis Magazine

Water and Wine: The Two Wills of Christ

Jan_Cossiers_-_The_wedding_at_Cana,_Jesus_blesses_the_water

Dear Charity of Christ,

I have been meaning to write this post for some time, only to lack sufficient time to put pen to paper, or rather, finger to keyboard. Of course, those words of choice fall short in the poetic prose of times gone past. Nonetheless, the topic of discussion here is the two wills that are manifested within the Incarnation our dear Lord and Savior.

I first came across a great explanation on the topic from Pope Benedict XVI in his Jesus of Nazareth series. It was in his second volume, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, that Pope Benedict explored the role the two wills played in Christ during his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Pope Benedict explored the events of Gethsemane and deciphered their meaning for his work with a concise explanation of the established Christological doctrine of Christ’s two wills. For our proposes here, as well as using Pope Benedict’s work to illustrate another event in the Life of Christ by the Venerable Fulton Sheen, we will explore Pope Benedict’s explanation of Christological development, the events of Gethsemane, and how the two wills of Christ were present at the wedding of Cana.

Pope Benedict explains, “The Council of Nicea (325) had clarified the Christian concept of God. The three persions—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are one, in the one “substance” of God…The Council of Chalcedon (451)…the one person of the Son of God embraces and bears the two natures—human and divine—“without confusion and without separation.” [1] Pope Benedict explains that after these two councils had created a “formula” for explaining the nature of God it remained rather undeveloped. Pope Benedict writes, “many bishops after Chalcedon said that they would rather think like a fisherman than like Aristotle. The Formula remained obscure.”[2] The obscurity led to what Pope Benedict calls “the last of the great Christological heresies, known as ‘monotheletism’. There can be only one will within the unity of a person, its adherent maintained…Yet an objection comes to mind: What kind of a man has no will? Is a man without a will really a man?” [3]

Pope Benedict explains that fundamentally in the garden of Gethsemane is where in scripture one can see this theological explanation in action. “Thus the prayer ‘not my will, but yours (Lk 22:42) is truly the Son’s prayer to the Father through which the natural human will is completely subsumed into the “I” of the Son.”[4]

Of course, Pope Benedict’s explanation is greatly more detailed then my Catholic school days when the teacher explained to us that Jesus, being human, did no want to die out of fear and if he there was some other way he would take it. It’s a simple explanation that suffices for the minds of children, but yet, it is so simple it rings almost the most depth in truth on the topic. Christ is God who is fully human if Christ cannot feel fear in the same manner as us, would he be truly man? There answer as explained is No.

For many years after my Catholic school days, I must admit that I thought this event was the only one of its kind in the Gospels. The type of event that expressed a clear distinction from Christ’s human will and his divine will. However, recently through my readings of Life of Christ by the Venerable Fulton Sheen, I had come across another event that illustrates Christ’s human will during the wedding at Cana. Sheen explains that during the wedding at Cana when “His mother was asking for a miracle; He was implying that a miracle worked as a sign of His Divinity would be the beginning of His death. The moment He showed Himself before men as the Son of God, He would draw down upon Himself their hatred.”[5]

If one takes a look at the text prior the miracle at Cana, it illustrates a human hesitation from Christ because of his knowledge, as Sheen explains, that it will lead to his death.
“Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My Hour is not yet come.”[6]

Sheen explains, “’What is that to Me and to thee?’ This is a Hebrew phrase which is difficult to translate into English. St. John rendered it very literally in Greek, and the Vulgate preserved it literalism…Know translates it freely, ‘Why dost thou trouble me with that?”[7]

An almost natural question from a Christian, or even someone who is aware of the nature of Christ, would ask, “Why would Christ respond in such a way?” As Sheen alludes to in his explanation of the events of Cana it’s because “He was telling His mother that she was virtually pronouncing a sentence of death over Him.”[8]

Christ knew the miracle of turning water into wine would lead him to the garden and later to the cross, however, just as he did at Gethsemane, He submitted to the divinely will of God within the Incarnation of his being for the purpose of redeeming the sin of mankind. The only sacrifice, a Godly one, that would suffice for man’s betrayal. He administered his first miracle knowing that it was the purpose of his Incarnation to be the lamb to atone for the sins of mankind.

Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ.

[1] Pope Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 157-58.

[2] Ibid, 158.

[3] Ibid, 159-60.

[4] Ibid, 161.

[5] Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 89.

[6] Jn. 2:4

[7] Sheen, 88.

[8] Ibid, 90.

A reading on Dante and Spiritual but not Religious.

I am currently writing either a short story or what may be a full-length book. During my long working days, I’ve been listening to audio books, and the titles that I have been attempting to choose are Catholic Classics.  Two of the titles that I have listened to during the past couple of weeks are commonly known by most folks: The Divine Comedy by Dante and Utopia by Thomas More. The titles have inspired me to combine the two elements of the story to form a modern update for our own period. I will be using the guided journey model of the Divine Comedy with the satire model from Thomas More explaining the beliefs of the Utopians. Of course, my version will be the product of our modern secular world, which at times isn’t far off from More’s satire warning. I am continually researching aspects of scripture, the books mentioned, and scientific advancements to include into the title. It appears my story will fall into the dystopia genre, although modeled after Utopia.

Notwithstanding, I wanted to talk about an early part of the Divine Comedy in the Inferno, or I should say prior to entering the gates of Hell. I believe it to resonate with many in our current society and how they view their own culture and morality.

Prior to when Dante and Virgil enter Hell, they encounter the spiritually neutral in Inferno Canto III: 22-69.

“Here sighs, complaints, and deep groans, sounded through the starless air, so that it made me weep at first. Many tongues, a terrible crying, words of sadness, accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, with sounds of hands amongst them, making a turbulence that turns forever, in that air, stained, eternally, like sand spiraling in a whirlwind. And I, my head surrounded by horror, said: ‘Master, what is this I hear, and what race are these, that seem so overcome by suffering?’

And he to me: ‘This is the miserable mode in which those exist, who lived without praise, without blame. They are mixed in with the despised choir of angels, those not rebellious, not faithful to God, but for themselves. Heaven drove them out, to maintain its beauty, and deep Hell does not accept them, lest the evil have glory over them.’[1]

The audio account that I had listened to was a broadcast reproduction of sorts, and it gave a specific name to these race of souls. I imagine it to be something of the nature of “outlanders” or “outliers,” but no longer remember. I was very much struck by this part of the narrative because I felt it explained many in our current society. Many of us have heard the phrase, for instance, “I am spiritual, but not religious.” Of course what this means is that they have been convinced by the ideology that religious institutions such as churches are antiquated, to say the least.

Part of this ideology has been birthed by the so-called “enlightenment” and the philosophy  of Classical Liberalism formed around the same period to govern. Many historians and popular culture for that matter have found it necessary to promote the myth of scientific revolution of leading us out of the Dark Ages of Christianity into an Enlightened state of “thinking for oneself.” Of course, this is the message that one who takes the middle road of saying, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” and these folks would be included with those who Dante writes about in the Inferno.

People feel the need to liberated from institutions that are cast in a negative light by popular histories, and people feel the need to be liberated from institutions who promote a morality that is contrary to the mainstream hedonistic culture. Addressing the first issue, the best thing that Catholic, or any Christian can do is call out false narratives for what they are…false. Rodney Stark, a Lutheran, and professor at Baylor, writes about these false narratives in his book Bearing False Witness that continue to be retold about the Catholic Church, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Enlightenment, and Protestant modernity. For example,  Stark writes, “Incredibly, not only was there no “fall into “Dark Ages,” this was “one of the great innovative eras of mankind,” as technology was developed and put to into use’ one a scale no civilization had previously known.”[2]

The second point is addressed by today’s Gospel reading, Luke 12: 49-52:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Although I prefer Matthew’s version, Mt. 10: 34-39:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

By accepting the authority of Christ’s bride, the Church, we do become religious and we are required to be religious to be spiritual. By declaring our faith in Christ and submitting to the authority of his Bride, the Church, we will certainly create divisions amongst our fellow modern friends and relatives by honoring the morality that has been dictated by God, and rejecting the relative morality of our current society.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker has wrote on the topic, writing:

“Spiritual but not Religious?” This just means the person is too lazy to look beyond their adolescent bias. They are too lazy to learn what it means to be truly religious. They are too smug and shallow and immature to ever regard anything greater than themselves as greater than themselves.

 

Spiritual but not Religious”? They have dismissed religion before they have even seriously considered it or studied it, and even if they have had a chance to consider it, what kind of religion have they been offered to consider? The state of Christianity in the United States is so dire, I’m not surprised any kid with half a brain rejects it. The culture encourages passivity and being a spectator. No wonder they reject religion for religion requires commitment and hard work and wonder and fear and self sacrifice and guts.”[3]

Furthermore, Fr. Longenecker is right to equate this philosophy to the age old enemy of Christianity,  Manichaeism. A Christian cannot be spiritual and not religious without falling into an age old heresy of the Church. Many feel that it is an ‘evolved’ state of being for modern man when in reality It falls into the realm of Gnosticism that always denied the physical aspects of the Church, its sacraments, and the words of Christ to St. Peter.

Pray for those who feel compelled to this philosophy for they will always be on the outside looking in as exemplified by Dante’s poem.

[1] Dante Alighieri. Trans. Kline, A.S. The Divine Comedy (Poetry in Translation) 2000, 18.

[2] Rodney Stark, Bearing False Witness ( West Conshohocken: Templeton Press) 2016, 76.

[3] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2012/01/spiritual-but-not-religious.html

Recovering Catholics and The Flytes

It was toward the end of a hot day. I was in the midst of a “small talk” conversation of sorts with an acquaintance, and the topic of religion came to the surface. Of course, when pondering the conversation, I can’t help but think that it was a peculiar topic to randomly come up amongst two strangers. However, the topic did somehow naturally develop between acquaintances when my fellow conversationalist told me that he had gone to Catholic School. At this point, I thought perhaps I had stumbled upon a new friend of mutual lifestyles and my reply to his revelation was “Oh, I’m Catholic too.”

The response of my acquaintance was a bit deflating as he said, “Oh, I am a recovering Catholic.”

I’ve heard the phrase before, and I’ve always thought it odd. How do these folks perceive their recovery? Do they feel that they have been so indoctrinated as a child that the foundation that had been forged in their youth causes them to relapse from their newfound clarity back to Catholicism or is it an ongoing process to cleanse them from their attachment to Catholicism much like the doctrine of purgatory?

Regardless, I didn’t continue further with the conversation because I felt that there was little more that I could say on the matter. However, I’ve been reminded recently of two particular parts of Brideshead Revisited after the conversation. My current employment has been a blessing that I am able to listen to many audio books, and when seeing that Brideshead was narrated by Jeremy Irons I could not resist, but it has allowed for little to no time for blogging.

(Although I do try to keep up on reading and browsing my favorite blogs)

As I began listening to Irons read the timeless words of Waugh with the conversation fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but focus on the particular passage in this great title:

“Bridey, you mustn’t be pious,” said Sebastian. “We’ve got an atheist with us.”

“Agnostic,” I said. (Charles Ryder)

“Really? Is there much of that at your college? There was a certain amount at Magdalen.” (Bridey)

“I really don’t know. I was one long before I went to Oxford.” (Ryder)

“It’s everywhere,” said Brideshead. (pg. 86 ebook Little Brown Book Company)

Prior to this clarification by Charles, Charles and Sebastian have a conversation on the topic of Sebastian’s Catholicism:

“Who was it used to pray, ‘O God, make me good, but not yet’?”

“I don’t know. You, I should think.”

“Why, yes, I do, every day. But it isn’t that.”

He turned back to the pages of the News of the World and said, “Another naughty scout-master.”

“I suppose they try and make you believe an awful lot of nonsense?”

“Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me.”

“But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”

“Can’t I?”

“I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”

“Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”

“But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea.”

“But I do . That’s how I believe.” (p. 82)

As I was listening to these two scenes that are very near each other, I kept thinking in my mind “Recovering Catholic” over and over. I suppose it’s because in many ways both Julia and Sebastian attempted to be “recovering Catholics.” Charles in a discussion with Julia about his love for her and her brother commented on Sebastian being the “forerunner.” The two were so very much alike in many ways it’s not entirely surprising that Charles shared a love for both of them.

Our modern world questions the Catholic faithful much like Charles does of Sebastian’s faith especially when our Catholicism is counter to the prevailing wisdom of mainstream secular morals. When it comes to topics like the sacrament of marriage, unborn children, and rejection of material culture the world replies, “You can’t seriously believe it all?” Of course, when the faithful respond, “But I do. That’s how I believe.” The faithful will be mocked for being anti-science or anti –intellectual. In fact, when Julia is struggling with the realization of her own sins in the world, in a way, Charles mocks the idea in the narrative saying:

“Of course it’s a thing psychologists could explain; a preconditioning from childhood; feelings of guilt from the nonsense you were taught in the nursery. You do know at heart that it’s all bosh, don’t you?” (p. 272)

Julia’s replies: ““How I wish it was!”

“Sebastian once said almost the same thing to me.”

So what does this mean for “recovering Catholics”? What does Waugh attempt to tell us in his passages to a man who during those particular points in the story speaks just like our modern world? Waugh attempts to tell us to recognize God’s Grace in action. I didn’t say anything to my acquaintance, mainly because I thought I would do more harm than good, but we have to remember the words of the Venerable Fulton Sheen, “Actually, there are only two philosophies of life: one is first the feast, then the headache; the other is first the fast then the feast.” And so according to the precepts of Christianity, it comes down to a choice between picking up one’s cross or not. Preparing one’s treasures in heaven or on earth. However, a “recovering Catholic” may yet have the tools necessary to choose to accept God’s Grace.