Monthly Archives: November 2013

There’s something about this time of year that can be downright off-putting, at least in the northeastern section of the U.S. Summer fades, the days grow shorter, the winds blow chill, and the brilliant autumn colors find their eventual rest in the gutters, leaving sternly bare tree limbs behind. I can see why the custom of putting up light displays in our yards has developed – anything to bring a little cheer to the drear! I walked my dog last night, and those tree limbs silhouetted against the dark November sky seemed almost menacing. Stripped of their autumnal decoration, those trees didn’t look friendly at all. All limbs and no leaves can border on the intimidating.

I wrote a post a few months ago about why my life is a shapeless blob, explaining that I am an aspiring Marian Catechist, but that the expectations for our devotional lives seemed somewhat daunting: daily Mass, daily Rosary, daily Way of the Cross, spiritual reading, meditation…. It seemed overwhelming, but I compared it to the human skeleton – your devotional life is the framework of your day; without a devotional framework, your life is a shapeless blob. What was interesting was that the feedback I got on that post centered not around people’s lack of a devotional life, but around the opposite: “devotional creep,” that phenomenon which causes us otherwise-sane Catholics to add the Chaplet of St. Michael to the Litany of Humility and the Devotion of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin, all before we get out of bed in the morning….

This seems related to a problem I saw a lot of in Protestantism, the folk belief that a life lived outside the realm of “full-time Christian service” (as a pastor or a missionary) is a wasted effort. I taught English in Taiwan for 6 years, and during that time I met several American Evangelicals who had been rejected by one or more mission boards and had felt “led” to move to Taiwan as an “independent” missionary because, in their view, it was impossible to serve God as a grocery store manager or an insurance salesman back in the States. Aren’t we supposed to give everything we have and are to God??

The answer is, of course, YES – but the perspective is skewed. Surrender to God is non-negotiable, but the prevailing Evangelical assumption tends to be that if I am fully surrendered to God then I WILL be called into full-time Christian service. That assumption is incorrect. Discerning one’s vocation, as any Catholic will tell you, is something everyone needs to do. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Catholics determine whether or not they are called to religious life. If they are called, then further discernment is required regarding the capacity in which they can best serve God. If they are not called to religious life, then they must proceed to glorify God in their vocation to life in this world but not of it. It goes without saying that it is NOT impossible to serve God as a grocery store manager or an insurance salesman; on the contrary, those avenues of employment are full of possibilities for growth in holiness. Since “evangelization” is the be-all and end-all of the Evangelical experience (rather than holiness), Evangelicals find it difficult to recognize the Heaven-sent opportunities for sanctification inherent in daily secular life.

But Catholics can have trouble of a different kind. While we may not succumb to the “fulltime Christian service” fallacy, in our devotion to Jesus we fall for a different error – one that says “I love Jesus! Because He is EVERYTHING, I must give myself to as many devotional activities as a human being can fit into one 24-hour period in order to show Him the honor He deserves.”

Yes, Christ is EVERYTHING – that much is certainly true. What we are leaving out of the conclusion is the fact that when we give everything we have and are in response to Him, we as finite beings are only giving our tiny drop in the bucket. Christ is EVERYTHING – I am most certainly not. I as one single, solitary human being could never show Him the honor He deserves. I have been created with built-in limits. It behooves me to remember that I am not the body of Christ; I am a member of that body. As a member I have an essential role to play, but my role is limited by my finite humanity. I must give everything that I have and am to God – but I cannot BE everything. I must find my role, my place of membership within His body, and then fulfill my role to the greatest extent possible. A cell of heart tissue that struggles to be lung tissue as well as stomach tissue and lymphatic tissue is setting itself up for inevitable heartbreak.

That’s the allure of devotions – they’re all so worthwhile. We want to spend time in Adoration. We want to participate in the Liturgy of the Hours. We want to meditate upon the life of Christ through the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, to remember Jesus’ passion at the 3 o’clock hour in the Stations of the Cross, to plead for mankind through the Divine Mercy chaplet – which one are you going to leave out? And there are more, all every bit as worthy….

That’s where the Catholic concept of “vocation” kicks in again. Catholics tend to think of vocation in terms of a call to religious life, but the term “vocation” has a much deeper and more basic meaning. As Servant of God Fr. John Hardon defined it in his Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, a vocation is

A call from God to a distinctive state of life, in which the person can reach holiness.

So, let’s say that you are a single woman who makes her living as a veterinarian, a married man who supports his family by hauling freight, a widower who’s long since retired from teaching but who has taken a job at a convenience store to make a little extra cash, a woman on disability who watches her grandchildren while their mom goes to work. You aren’t called to religious life. You are called to devote your life to God, however, so familiarizing yourself with the discernment process of a religious may help you “discern your call” to devotions.

Imagine a man or woman who feels called to life as a religious. A multitude of possibilities awaits them, and it isn’t simply a matter of choosing which part of the country they’d like to live in, or whether they want to serve God in an active order or in a contemplative order, or whether they think they’d look better in a brown habit rather than in a black habit. Each order has a spiritual emphasis, and understanding this emphasis helps with discernment. Carmelites, for example, preoccupy themselves with “meditating night and day on the Law of the Lord.” Benedictines have traditionally devoted themselves to the principle of “desiring God alone.” Dominicans “contemplate, and give to others the fruits of contemplation.” Franciscans investigate and pursue the ideal of spiritual poverty. Jesuits place emphasis on learning to discern how the individual might best use created things to lead him to God.

Just as a cell of heart tissue can’t simultaneously be skin tissue or kidney tissue, a Dominican isn’t at the same time a Jesuit or a Carmelite. Someone who enters religious life has to discern his or her calling, and that calling will then narrow things down, determining the devotional life he or she is called to lead. Secular Catholics need to put the same kind of discernment process to work.

That’s why there are public associations of the faithful like the Marian Catechist Apostolate and the Legion of Mary. That’s why there are secular Benedictine Oblates and third-order Franciscans – not that everyone is called to live as a tertiary or to join a sodality, but everyone does need some process for discerning the devotions to which he or she is called, with the understanding of our own place in the Body and our own limitations. Heart tissue does heart work, brain tissue does brain work, muscle tissue does muscle work. Otherwise we risk ending up like Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen, getting up in the morning at ten o’clock at night, half an hour before we go to bed, just to get all our devotions in. Our devotions have then become a heaping pile of disconnected bones, rather than a skeleton or framework upon which to base our lives. Rather than being a thing of beauty, our devotional life takes on an unnatural air.

That’s why I’m hoping that following the devotions of the Marian Catechists will provide that framework for me. Everyone’s life needs a framework. To anyone afflicted with “devotional creep” I would recommend investigating the devotions of various spiritual communities and associations, finding a plan that you feel called to, and then sticking with that plan. Piling devotion on top of devotion on top of devotion does not make for a healthier spiritual life any more than packing more bones into your body would make you more physically fit. The bones are the framework of the body; they are the means to an end. A well-selected “skeleton” of devotions will serve God’s purpose in your life as it orders your day.


On the memorial of St. Andrew

Deo omnis gloria!

Tom, Dick and Teri are employed by a large corporation. Although each is a member of a different Protestant denomination, they meet in the lunchroom every day to encourage and pray for one another. Today is the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday, and as Tom approaches the table with his meal of sliced turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce and the inevitable pumpkin pie, Teri looks up at him and shakes her head.

“I’m not getting through to him,” Teri announces to Tom.

Tom eyes Teri warily as he sets his tray down on the table. “What are you trying to get through to Dick?”

Teri takes a sip of her water. “The reason why our church doesn’t celebrate Christmas.”

“You don’t?” Tom asks as he lays his napkin in his lap. “Why in the world not?”

Teri throws Tom a “not you, too” look, and rolls her eyes. “It’s pretty obvious, Tom. Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas because there is no Biblical warrant for Christmas! Seriously, where do you see anybody in the Bible celebrating Christmas? Did Jesus command that we celebrate Christmas? Did the apostles tell their churches to celebrate Christmas? It’s completely unbiblical!”

Dick speaks up. “My church celebrates Christmas.”

“So does mine,” adds Tom as he slices his turkey into manageable bites.

“Well, you shouldn’t,” Teri emphasizes as she reaches for her water glass. “For religious commemorations or celebrations, we must have a Biblical command or precedent!”

Dick sniffs. Tom asks quietly, “Where does it say that in the Bible?”

Teri frowns. “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

“Not to me,” Dick chimes in.

“Teri,” Tom remonstrates over his cooling turkey, “Your church engages in many practices that aren’t mentioned in the Bible.”

“That is NOT true,” Teri retorts heatedly. “Everything we do at our church is rooted in Scripture – everything!” Teri glares at Tom. “Pass the salt, please.”

Tom hands her the salt shaker. “Well,” Tom asks quietly, “does your church have Sunday School?”

“Of course!” Teri answers. “Why wouldn’t we?”

“Because nowhere in Scripture are we instructed to separate our children out during Sunday services and have adults other than their parents teach them the truths of the faith,” Tom tells her. “Right?”

Teri’s fork stops in mid-air, a glob of stuffing dangling from the tines, as she ponders this. “You’re right. The Bible tells parents to raise up children in the way in which they should go – no middleman, no Sunday School teacher.”

“Exactly,” Tom says as he scoops up his cranberry sauce. “That makes the concept of ‘Sunday School’ every bit as unbiblical as the idea of celebrating Christmas. Neither practice is mentioned in Scripture.”

Teri chews on this, and on her stuffing. “I’ll have to discuss this with my pastor – we shouldn’t be offering Sunday School.”

Tom looks alarmed. “Teri, that’s not where I was going with this! Sunday School is a perfectly acceptable practice. What’s not acceptable is using the Bible like cheesecloth to strain out every modern-day practice that wasn’t observed in Bible times.”

“Good one!” Dick burbles through a mouthful of green beans. “Cheesecloth!”

“Look,” Tom continues. “There are many, many modern-day Christian practices that are simply not found in Scripture; if we did away with them all, we wouldn’t have much left!” Teri frowns skeptically and lays down her fork as Tom enumerates.

“Altar calls, Teri – not in Scripture. Asking people to pray ‘the sinner’s prayer’ – not in Scripture. Nowhere does Scripture urge us to ‘invite Jesus into our heart as our personal Lord and Savior.’ The practice of ‘letting Scripture interpret Scripture’ – the Bible nowhere advises that. Even the request that people ‘bow their heads and close their eyes’ – it doesn’t come from the Bible! Are you going to do away with all that at your church?”

Teri shifts uncomfortably in her seat. “But there’s no harm in any of those things.”

“Exactly!” Dick points out. “And there’s no harm in celebrating the birth of the Savior! It’s a great evangelistic opportunity.”

“But, we know that the practice of celebrating Christmas comes from Catholicism,” Teri whispers to him, lest someone at one of the surrounding tables should hear her.

“And that’s what’s really bothering you, isn’t it?” Tom asks.

Dick jumps in. “Teri, practices don’t have to be mentioned explicitly in Scripture; doctrine DOES. Everything we believe must come straight from Scripture.”

Tom clears his throat. Both Dick and Teri peer at him suspiciously.

“Actually…” Tom begins, “I can think of several doctrines that all three of us adhere to which have no Scriptural backing.”

Teri looks aghast, and even Dick eyes Tom skeptically.

“Name one!” Dick challenges.

“I’ll give you two,” Tom retorts. “Number One: Nowhere does the Bible teach that Christians have to be monogamous.”

What?” Teri exclaims, losing all interest in her pumpkin pie. “How ridiculous! Polygamy is wrong!”

“How do you know that, Teri?” Tom asks.

“Are you kidding?” Dick answers. “We all know that the New Testament forbids polygamy! Sure, some of the Old Testament patriarchs had multiple wives, but in the New Testament that all changed!”

“Chapter and verse, please,” Tom requests.

“Well, how about Paul’s instructions to Timothy that ‘an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife’?” Dick asks.

“What about it?” Tom answers. “That verse doesn’t say that polygamy is wrong; it just says that overseers must have one wife only. Every other man could have two, or three, or four….”

“That’s silly,” replies Teri sternly. “The Bible condemns the practice of polygamy!”

“Really?” Tom asks. “Then why does God say that He Himself gave King David his many wives? Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Elkanah the father of Samuel – many men in the Old Testament had multiple wives – men used by God. As far as I can tell they were never condemned for taking more than one wife.”

“Solomon’s many wives led him away from God!” Teri tells Tom.

“They led him away from God because they themselves worshiped other gods. If he had married only one heathen wife, that still might have happened. You can’t make a solid case against polygamy from the Old Testament, and Jesus never said anything one way or the other about it. You can believe what you like, but the Bible does not condemn polygamy! Even Martin Luther, who was personally opposed to polygamy, admitted that he couldn’t forbid a man to marry several wives, because he felt that this practice simply did not contradict Scripture.”

“It’s a moot point!” Dick points out. “Nobody’s advocating polygamy nowadays.”

Teri mutters something, and Dick asks her to speak up. “I said, there’s a church over in Martinsville that says polygamy should be made legal. I saw it on TV. I always thought it was just some kooky, unbiblical teaching….”

“Look, Teri, I’m not advocating polygamy!” Tom assures her. “I think it’s wrong just like you do. I’m simply pointing out that there’s no condemnation of polygamy in the New Testament, and the Old Testament seems to condone it. Yet most Christians would call polygamy ‘unbiblical.'”

“Well, I’ll remember that, Tom, when I get ready to start my harem,” Dick quips sarcastically.

Teri looks uncomfortable. “You said there was another doctrine that we all believe in that has no basis in Scripture.”

“That’s right,” Tom answers, “the belief that there will be no new revelation – you know, no new books of the Bible written like the Book of Mormon.”

Dick jumps on this with a chortle. “I’ve got you there! Revelation 22:18-19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and the things which are written in this book.”

Tom raises an eyebrow as he wipes his mouth on his napkin. “Really? You know that when the Revelation was given to John, it wasn’t a part of the Bible.  Christians had the Old Testament as their Bible – the New Testament was still a work in progress. The book of Revelation wasn’t officially acknowledged as Holy Scripture until the 4th century. When the angel said, ‘If any man shall add unto these things,’ what he meant was adding anything to the book of Revelation. That’s clearly forbidden. Adding new books to the Bible is not.”

Dick frowns. “But you know that Revelation was the last book of the Bible, so it means no more books can be added to the Bible!”

“That argument will backfire on you,” Tom assures his friend. “Because there’s a very similar verse, one that says, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.”

“But that’s my point!” Dick answers. “Again, the Bible says, don’t add to Scripture!”

“Not so fast!” Tom shoots back. “That verse is in the book of Deuteronomy. Remember, groups like the Sadducees believed that there were only 5 books in the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, with Deuteronomy being the last book. So they could make the same argument that you just made about the verse in Revelation: Deuteronomy is the last book in the Bible, so obviously this verse means don’t add any more books to the 5-book Bible!”

Dick sits quietly. Tom continues, “No, there actually is nothing in the Bible that tells us that the Bible consists of 66 books, that the 66 books that we’ve got in our Bible are the correct books, that none have been left out, or that there won’t be any new ones in the future. The Bible simply doesn’t address that issue.”

“Then how do we know there won’t be any more revelation, or that polygamy is wrong?” Dick wonders.

“The same way we know that it’s okay to celebrate Christmas,” Tom says quietly, looking at Teri. “The Catholic Church decided all those issues.”

Teri stands. “Do either of you have any Alka-Seltzer?” Both Tom and Dick shake their heads. “Remind me never to invite you over for dinner,” Teri says to Tom. “Talking to you always gives me indigestion.”


On the memorial of St. James Intercisus

Deo omnis gloria!

If I could change the Creed – don’t worry, I wouldn’t. That sounds more like something I might have been talked into in my Protestant days, reciting the Creed with a “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” in mind, trying to make sure everyone understood that I meant “catholic” and not “Catholic.” No, I would not dream of attempting to change the words of the Nicene Creed that we recite every Sunday. But I would like to suggest a gesture that I believe might greatly enhance our Creedal Experience….

I’ve been a Catholic now for 10 years. Assuming that I attended 52 Sundays and 6 additional holy days of obligation per year, along with the odd daily Mass whenever I don’t have to work, I’ve recited the Creed publicly around 600 times (my math is probably off – it usually is). The words to our English version of the Nicene Creed have changed over those years – we now say “consubstantial” and “incarnate of the Virgin Mary” – instead of “one in being” and “born of the Virgin Mary” – the meaning is the same, but more faithful to the original. Why have I been asked to stand and recite this Creed at Mass after Mass after Mass? The Creed is a vitally important statement of what we are asked to believe as Catholics. By standing and making a solemn profession of the Creed at Mass, we aren’t just blabbering Catholic theo-speak; we are binding ourselves before God. “I believe!” we all proclaim. Do we?? By those creedal statements which we profess at Mass, we will be judged….

That’s what the Solemnity of Christ the King is all about. As Catholics we proclaim to the world that Jesus is coming back! He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end! Good news!!

Have you ever noticed the rubrics (the red writing) that accompany the Creed? They instruct us that when we come to the line in the Creed that says “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man,” we are to bow. You see, St. Louis of France used to genuflect during the Nicene Creed to show reverence to the awe-inspiring fact that God became man. The king’s practice became widespread and is now observed in the universal Church. That’s why we bow upon the recitation of that line of the Creed – to acknowledge that this Incarnation is something that should inspire reverence. Any non-Catholic who observes this action of ours knows without asking that the Incarnation must be some kind of big deal.

Far, far be it from me to tinker with the wording of the Creed, but I would like to propose that the faithful be instructed to perform another gesture – that we should fall to our knees at the words: “He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”


Because we live like we don’t believe it.

We are proclaiming in the Creed that we will be judged. We Catholics are solemnly professing that we believe all this stuff about God Incarnate suffering and dying for us, conquering sin and death so that we might have life eternal. We are claiming to believe that. God will take us at our word. We will be judged for every action, every word, every thought that demonstrates our refusal to live as we believe.

St. Peter wrote that judgment begins with the house of God. That’s us. And that’s a huge concern, because we don’t live like we believe that, either. Rather, we hear the word of God preached to us at Mass, and immediately forget what we heard, like the man St. James warns us about, the one who “looks at his natural face in a mirror; he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” Yet we will be held accountable as ones who were privileged to receive biblical instruction. We have been baptized! We have been confirmed!  Have we changed? These privileges bring with them great responsibility in the Kingdom of God!

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. Thomas á Kempis

I don’t know about you, but I live every day as if there were no God – in the things I say, and in the things I do. My actions won’t land me in jail, which is probably a contributing factor – since I know no one is going to call me on the fact that I act like everybody else, I forget that while there may be no judgment of my actions in this life, there certainly will be a Judgment. How can I continue to live like an unbeliever when imminent judgment, the reality of which I solemnly profess before God every Sunday, stares me in the face?

And my gossiping, my whining, my lying and my cheating aren’t the half of it. I avoid the Cross like nobody’s business. Chances to die to myself come thick and fast, especially during the workweek, which finds me plotting my strategy for surviving the workweek, rather than planning how these opportunities can bring me closer to the One Who said “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” And I’m not alone. Creed-reciting Catholics contracept just like unbelievers. We take our wedding vows with a grain of salt. We place our hand on a Bible in a court of law and pronounce those awful words “So help me God” as if we were reading out of a phone book. We feel free to disagree with Church teaching and flaunt the calls of our bishops as if we believed that the Catholic Church were just another Protestant denomination. We receive the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, carelessly, the same way we would eat mere bread and wine. Creed-reciting Catholics feel free to ignore the plight of “the least of these” in this world, the mentally ill, the working poor, the displaced, the drug-addicted, the widow and the orphan just as unbelievers do, as if we hadn’t heard that we will be judged:

Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’

Which part of “Depart from Me” isn’t getting through to us?

People are starving, they are watching their children starve, they are dying of preventable diseases, they are dying alone on the street, they are filthy when they could be clean, they are ignorant when they could have received an education, they are terrified when they could live in peace – if the 160 million Christians in the US did what Jesus told us to do. We, for our part, stuff our faces, we squander fortunes on “entertainment,” we pay to be brainwashed with filth, we spend our money on that which is not bread, and our labor on that which does not satisfy, as if we weren’t Christians at all. No matter! We’re not footing that bill. Our brothers and sisters, the least of these, are paying the price….

And I’ve only scratched the surface….

This news that Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, which every confessing Catholic professes to believe, should be the most jolting wakeup call ever, and we are sleeping through it. He WILL come again in glory to judge the living and the dead! Every deed, every word, every thought, every missed opportunity, every blind eye….

Which is why I think adding this gesture to our recital of the Creed might help things “click.” Throwing ourselves to our knees, as we will certainly do on that Day as we beg the Divine Mercy to have mercy upon us, might help us to hear the words we speak, and connect those words to our actions when we go forth from Mass to live out our Christian calling. He WILL come again. He WILL judge me. Who can stand?

May we kneel now?


On the Solemnity of Christ the King

Deo omnis gloria!

The real wakeup call of my RCIA experience 10 years ago was the confession by one of the sponsors, a cradle Catholic, that he loved the Church but that it had never been made clear to him exactly what he was supposed to believe about the Faith. I. Was. Aghast. That confession was a very real introduction for me to the deficient catechesis that has plagued American parishes. After wandering in the wilderness of personal-opinion-based religion for 45 years, I could not believe that I was hearing a Catholic complain that he’d never been told what he was supposed to believe! Hello???

I believe in one God, the Father almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the Only Begotten Son of God,

born of the Father before all ages.

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made, consubstantial

with the Father;

Through him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation

he came down from heaven,

and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate

of the Virgin Mary,

and became man.

For our sake he was crucified

under Pontius Pilate,

he suffered death and was buried,

and rose again on the third day

in accordance with the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory

to judge the living and the dead

and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son

is adored and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic,

and apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins

and I look forward to the resurrection

of the dead and the life of the world to come.


Can you get any more explicit than that? THAT’S what we’re supposed to believe – that’s why we stand and profess our faith every Sunday!

No one had ever explained that to him, and he had never connected the dots.

And so, don’t ever doubt the necessity of something like the Year of Faith. Every generation needs to have the Faith made explicit to them. It is wonderful if people come to the Holy Catholic Church because they believe that she is the Church Jesus established, but that is not the happy ending of the story – that is the beginning. The learning process lasts the rest of your life….

As the Year of Faith comes to a close, we look back at the close of another Year of Faith, that one in 1968. Proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, that year ended with a profession of faith – a very special one. Taking very seriously his calling to confirm his brethren in the faith, the pope penned an “explicit” profession of faith, now known as the Credo of the People of God, “To the glory of God most holy and of our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, for the profit and edification of the Church, in the name of all the pastors and all the faithful.”

Below is a glimpse of what makes this creed so “explicit.” Whereas in the Apostles Creed we profess our faith in “God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth,” and in the Nicene Creed we go into more detail: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible,” in Pope Paul’s Credo, those first few lines of the profession read like this:

We believe in one only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of things visible such as this world in which our transient life passes, of things invisible such as the pure spirits which are also called angels, and creator in each man of his spiritual and immortal soul.

In this exquisitely explicit creed, there’s no question of what “visible and invisible” could refer to. The Credo shoots down the heretical notion that anything has existed eternally, except God. Each person’s soul, as the Credo makes explicit, is immortal, but was created by God in each man, and did not pre-exist the conception of the individual (as Mormon theology teaches.) Pretty thorough explication! The Credo continues on the subject of God:

We believe that this only God is absolutely one in His infinitely holy essence as also in all His perfections, in His omnipotence, His infinite knowledge, His providence, His will and His love. He is He who is, as He revealed to Moses, and He is love, as the apostle John teaches us: so that these two names, being and love, express ineffably the same divine reality of Him who has wished to make Himself known to us, and who, “dwelling in light inaccessible” is in Himself above every name, above every thing and above every created intellect. God alone can give us right and full knowledge of this reality by revealing Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose eternal life we are by grace called to share, here below in the obscurity of faith and after death in eternal light. The mutual bonds which eternally constitute the Three Persons, who are each one and the same divine being, are the blessed inmost life of God thrice holy, infinitely beyond all that we can conceive in human measure. We give thanks, however, to the divine goodness that very many believers can testify with us before men to the unity of God, even though they know not the mystery of the most holy Trinity.

We believe then in the Father who eternally begets the Son, in the Son, the Word of God, who is eternally begotten; in the Holy Spirit, the uncreated Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son as their eternal love. Thus in the Three Divine Persons, coaeternae sibi et coaequales, the life and beatitude of God perfectly one super-abound and are consummated in the supreme excellence and glory proper to uncreated being, and always “there should be venerated unity in the Trinity and Trinity in the unity.”

And there you have, in a nutshell, the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. And there’s more – reciting the Credo of the People of God, believers profess their faith not only in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting, but also in the Blessed Virgin Mary:

We believe that Mary is the Mother, who remained ever a Virgin, of the Incarnate Word, our God and Savior Jesus Christ, and that by reason of this singular election, she was, in consideration of the merits of her Son, redeemed in a more eminent manner, preserved from all stain of original sin and filled with the gift of grace more than all other creatures.

Joined by a close and indissoluble bond to the Mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption, the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate, was at the end of her earthly life raised body and soul to heavenly glory and likened to her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and we believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ’s members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.

We profess our faith in the Catholic doctrine of original sin:

We believe that in Adam all have sinned, which means that the original offense committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall to a state in which it bears the consequences of that offense, and which is not the state in which it was at first in our first parents—established as they were in holiness and justice, and in which man knew neither evil nor death. It is human nature so fallen stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men, and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin, is transmitted with human nature, “not by imitation, but by propagation” and that it is thus “proper to everyone.”

We believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the sacrifice of the cross redeemed us from original sin and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, in accordance with the word of the apostle, “where sin abounded grace did more abound.”

In the Catholic understanding of baptism:

We believe in one Baptism instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Baptism should be administered even to little children who have not yet been able to be guilty of any personal sin, in order that, though born deprived of supernatural grace, they may be reborn “of water and the Holy Spirit” to the divine life in Christ Jesus.

And in a very beautiful passage, we profess our faith in the Church Jesus established:

We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church built by Jesus Christ on that rock which is Peter. She is the Mystical Body of Christ; at the same time a visible society instituted with hierarchical organs, and a spiritual community; the Church on earth, the pilgrim People of God here below, and the Church filled with heavenly blessings; the germ and the first fruits of the Kingdom of God, through which the work and the sufferings of Redemption are continued throughout human history, and which looks for its perfect accomplishment beyond time in glory. In the course of time, the Lord Jesus forms His Church by means of the sacraments emanating from His plenitude. By these she makes her members participants in the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, in the grace of the Holy Spirit who gives her life and movement. She is therefore holy, though she has sinners in her bosom, because she herself has no other life but that of grace: it is by living by her life that her members are sanctified; it is by removing themselves from her life that they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for these offenses, of which she has the power to heal her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Heiress of the divine promises and daughter of Abraham according to the Spirit, through that Israel whose scriptures she lovingly guards, and whose patriarchs and prophets she venerates; founded upon the apostles and handing on from century to century their ever-living word and their powers as pastors in the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him; perpetually assisted by the Holy Spirit, she has the charge of guarding, teaching, explaining and spreading the Truth which God revealed in a then veiled manner by the prophets, and fully by the Lord Jesus. We believe all that is contained in the word of God written or handed down, and that the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed, whether by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal magisterium. We believe in the infallibility enjoyed by the successor of Peter when he teaches ex cathedra as pastor and teacher of all the faithful, and which is assured also to the episcopal body when it exercises with him the supreme magisterium.

We believe that the Church founded by Jesus Christ and for which He prayed is indefectibly one in faith, worship and the bond of hierarchical communion. In the bosom of this Church, the rich variety of liturgical rites and the legitimate diversity of theological and spiritual heritages and special disciplines, far from injuring her unity, make it more manifest.

Recognizing also the existence, outside the organism of the Church of Christ of numerous elements of truth and sanctification which belong to her as her own and tend to Catholic unity, and believing in the action of the Holy Spirit who stirs up in the heart of the disciples of Christ love of this unity, we entertain the hope that the Christians who are not yet in the full communion of the one only Church will one day be reunited in one flock with one only shepherd.

We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church. But the divine design of salvation embraces all men, and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation.

We profess our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist:

We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.

Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine, as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.

The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.

And in the Kingdom of God on earth and in Heaven:

We confess that the Kingdom of God begun here below in the Church of Christ is not of this world whose form is passing, and that its proper growth cannot be confounded with the progress of civilization, of science or of human technology, but that it consists in an ever more profound knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ, an ever stronger hope in eternal blessings, an ever more ardent response to the love of God, and an ever more generous bestowal of grace and holiness among men. But it is this same love which induces the Church to concern herself constantly about the true temporal welfare of men. Without ceasing to recall to her children that they have not here a lasting dwelling, she also urges them to contribute, each according to his vocation and his means, to the welfare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to give their aid freely to their brothers, especially to the poorest and most unfortunate. The deep solicitude of the Church, the Spouse of Christ, for the needs of men, for their joys and hopes, their griefs and efforts, is therefore nothing other than her great desire to be present to them, in order to illuminate them with the light of Christ and to gather them all in Him, their only Savior. This solicitude can never mean that the Church conform herself to the things of this world, or that she lessen the ardor of her expectation of her Lord and of the eternal Kingdom.

We believe in the life eternal. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ—whether they must still be purified in purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies Jesus takes them to paradise as He did for the Good Thief—are the People of God in the eternity beyond death, which will be finally conquered on the day of the Resurrection when these souls will be reunited with their bodies.

We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in paradise forms the Church of Heaven, where in eternal beatitude they see God as He is, and where they also, in different degrees, are associated with the holy angels in the divine rule exercised by Christ in glory, interceding for us and helping our weakness by their brotherly care.

We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are attaining their purification, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion the merciful love of God and His saints is ever listening to our prayers, as Jesus told us: Ask and you will receive.40

Thus it is with faith and in hope that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Talk a walk through the Credo of the People of God, and you’ll never be able to claim that you don’t know what it is that Catholics are asked to believe.

The Year of Faith has been wonderful, but it will only prove to be a lasting blessing if we understand the actual point of having a Year of Faith. The Year of Faith was not proclaimed so that all of us Catholics would try harder to beleeeeve than we ever have before. After all, a lot of people beleeeeve a lot of things – many of them completely untrue. The point of the Year of Faith is to know what you believe, to the end that you have a better understanding of Him Whom you have believed, and become persuaded that He is able to keep that which you’ve committed to Him against that day (2 Tim 1:12). The point of the Year of Faith, its culmination and its destination, is Christ the King. To know Him better, to learn to recognize what He has done, is doing and shall do in His Church – this is the reason Pope Benedict XVI gave us the gift of the Year of Faith.


On the memorial of St. Cecilia

Deo omnis gloria!

Sleep experts warn against surfing the Internet right before bed, and I have to admit that after my experience the other night, I am inclined to agree with that advice. It is not conducive to a good night’s sleep. I started by watching an old episode (1956) of the game show “I’ve Got a Secret” on YouTube, the one with Mr. Samuel J. Seymour, a 95-year-old gentleman who was the last living witness to the Lincoln assassination in 1865. The panelists discovered Mr. Seymour’s secret in short order; the last two of the four didn’t even get to question him. Hard to believe that the last living witness to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln died two years before I was born – it reminded me that my father had once said that when he was a little boy, an old Confederate soldier had stayed overnight in their home. I then watched episodes of “To Tell the Truth,” one of the great old shows of my childhood. Three guests all claim to be the same person, and the panelists must guess which contestant is the real one. A variation on this was the basis for the celebrity round of the almost unbearably classy “What’s My Line?” where Gene Autry, Bob Hope, Robert Mitchum, Red Skelton, even Archbishop Fulton Sheen and the Harlem Globetrotters took their turn trying to stump the blindfolded panel. What fun to watch such a great old game show! I could have stayed up all night watching episodes, but due to the lateness of the hour, I finally forced myself to shut down the computer and go to bed.

And I had a dream. I dreamed that I was a blindfolded panelist on an old black-and-white episode of “What’s My Line?” – and yet somehow I could see the proceedings, as if I were watching myself on TV. Had I been in the audience, I would have seen the Guest enter, I would have risen to give Him a standing ovation as the host intoned, “Would you come in, Mystery Challenger, and sign in, please!” As it was, I kept my seat; I had no idea Who had just entered the room.

But I soon suspected, for the ebullient host was beside himself. His effusive introduction of the mystery guest as a working man whose life had changed the world, someone whose name meant the world to millions upon millions of people, someone whose sandals he, the host, was not worthy to untie, kind of gave the whole thing away.

We panelists got the picture. The questioning began with my friend Bobby, a warm and friendly Christian youth leader. Bobby beamed broadly beneath his blindfold as he posed his first question:

“Sir, can we safely assume that You are a carpenter by profession?”

“Yes,” the Guest answered quietly, making no attempt to disguise His voice.

“And that You were born in Bethlehem of Judea?” Bobby continued.

“I was,” agreed the Guest.

Grinning from ear to ear, Bobby played it for all it was worth.

“And when You taught, You taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes, is that correct, sir?”

“Correct,” answered the Guest.

Bobby was so happy that he nearly tore off his blindfold.

“And You taught Your disciples that they were justified by faith alone, did You not?”

The Guest sighed and shook His head. “No, I did not teach that.”

Bobby gasped audibly, but the host hurried us on. “One down and nine to go! Penny?”

My Pentecostal friend glowed almost electrically. “You are, sir, I would venture to guess, the One who made the blind to see and the deaf to hear?”

“Yes,” the Guest answered with a gentle smile.

“The One who walked on the water, and fed the 5,000?”

“That was Me,” He replied.

“The One who came that we might have life, and have it abundantly?”

“Yes, Penny.”

“The One who told us that we might know that we know that we know that nothing that we do can ever cause us lose that life?”

No answer, just a sad, tired look.

“Oh,” interrupted our amiable host. “It looks like that’s a ‘no’ to your question, Penny. Two down and eight to go! We’ll move on to our next panelist, Larry!”

Ignoring Penny’s baffled protests, my neighbor, Larry, a former missionary, ploughed ahead.

“I can’t tell You what an honor it is to have You here, Mr. Mystery Guest! My goodness, I don’t know where to begin! You wrote the Book which alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian!”

“What you said about My Book is not correct,” came the reply.

“I mean,” Larry stammered, “I mean, your apostles wrote the Book, under Your inspiration, which alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian!”

“What you said about My Book is not correct,” our Guest repeated quietly.

“Aww, that’s cheating, Larry!” scolded our persistently perky host. “When you get a ‘no,’ we have to move on! Three down and seven to go! Renée?”

Of course, by this point I had stage fright big-time; I’m not the most poised person, and game show appearances aren’t exactly my style. Yet there I sat behind my blindfold, knowing without seeing who our Mystery Guest must be. This was my chance to make Him known to the panel, to the studio audience, to the television audience. What would I ask?

“Sir, You taught that we must love You above all things, and our neighbor as ourself, correct?”

“The two great commandments, yes,” He answered softly.

“And You taught that we must persevere to the end in our service to You in order to be saved, right?”

“I did,” came the reply.

“Now, hold on a minute…” Bobby grumbled.

“And that a man is not justified by faith alone, but by his works.”

“You have spoken truly,” was His answer.

“Oh, that can’t be right,” exclaimed Penny.

“And You established Your Church to be the pillar and foundation of the truth, didn’t You, sir?”

“I did.”

“Well, this certainly isn’t who I thought it was,” I heard Larry mumble.

Wanting to give my fellow panelists another chance, I threw the game.

“You, uh, didn’t happen to insinuate to a Baptist preacher that if he didn’t raise 4.5 million dollars, You might ask him to cash in his chips, did You?”

I thought I heard a chuckle. “Believe Me, I did not,” our Mystery Guest said.

“Four down and six to go!” chirped our host, and it was Bobby’s turn again. But Bobby seemed to have lost interest in the game.

“Well, you sir, whoever you may be, certainly you weren’t one of the apostles or the disciples. Were you perhaps one of the original Gnostics?”

“Of course not, Bobby.” came the sorrowful answer.

“Five down and five to go! Penny?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Penny opined disdainfully, “Are you one of those of whom the Bible said, ‘They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us?'”

A long silence was broken by the host’s embarrassed reply. “Uh, Penny, I’m taking our Guest’s silence as a definite ‘no.'” Six down and four to go! Larry?”

Larry began with a long, drawn-out sigh. “Would your name, sir, be either Hymenaus or Alexander?”

I gasped.  Bobby muttered, “I’m outta here!” and I could feel Larry pushing his chair back.

“Wait!” I cried as I heard their footsteps. “Don’t you know Who this is? Take your blindfolds off! Look and see Who you’re talking to! Please!

“Seven down and three to go!” shouted out our now-flustered host.

As I pleaded with the other panelists, the light in the room became so bright that I could see the glow even though my eyes were covered. I tore off my blindfold, only to realize that I was actually lifting my head up from my pillow. The light of the full moon was shining brightly through my window, brightly enough to awaken me from sleep. I shuddered. Thank God it had only been a nightmare.

Unfortunately, though, my little nightmare hit a way too close to home. The actual Jesus of the Bible is something of a mystery to Protestants. They know so much about Him, they love Him as their Savior and they strive to serve Him faithfully, and yet there are things that He said and did that they just wouldn’t recognize because those things contradict the prevailing Protestant interpretation of Scripture, things like:

By your endurance you will gain your lives.
(Lk 21:19, see also Mt 10:22, Mt 24:13, Mk 13:13, Rev 2:10)

But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mt 24:48-51, see also Mt 25:30)

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up, and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (Jn 15:6)

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Rev 2:5)

Not exactly warm-and-fuzzy once-saved/always-saved theology there – Jesus emphasized the necessity of faithful service to the end, and His apostles echoed that theme in Romans 11:19-22, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Galatians 5:2-4, Colossians 1:21-23, 2 Peter 2:20-22, Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:23-29. Another misconception: Jesus did not emphasize that He had come to instruct His followers to compose sacred writings – that was done almost incidentally, which accounts for the “occasional” nature of the New Testament. Far from teaching that the Bible is to be regarded as the pillar and foundation of Christianity, the Scriptures teach that it is the Church which is the foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15 – a verse which most Protestants are ignorant of, along with Jesus’ statements in Mt. 16:17-19, Mt. 18:17-18, Lk. 10:16, 1 Jn 4:6, as well as His apostles’ actions at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, and their teachings concerning the transmission of their God-given authority to the men they ordained in Acts 1:15-26, Acts 6:6, 2 Cor 10:6, 2 Thess 3:14, 2 Tim 1:6, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Tim 4:1-2, Titus 2:15, 1 Jn 4:6, and Heb 13:17). And in that Book which Protestants and Catholics so love, the only place where the phrase “faith alone” is found is in James 2:24, which assures us that “You see that a man is justified by works and NOT by faith alone.” (another verse that Protestants touch upon only in an effort to refute).

By selectively quoting from the words of the Savior and his apostles, a Jesus has been constructed whose appearance is hard to reconcile with that of the Man from Galilee. Small wonder that when the Church proclaims the teachings of the Real Deal, many Protestants reject Him as some kind of impostor. Yet Jesus famously said: “My sheep hear My voice.” How, 20 centuries after the Ascension, can a Christian be certain that the voice that he is hearing is Christ’s? Jesus actually made provision for that when He told His apostles:

He who hears you, hears Me!

Jesus’ voice could be heard when His apostles preached the Gospel to the 1st-century world, and when they wrote their epistles. Jesus’ voice can also be heard to this day when the successors to those apostles, the bishops of the Church Jesus founded, speak in union with the successor of Peter. That’s why the apostles first official act after the Ascension was to filled Judas’ “office” – the authority is transferred from the first man to hold the office to the second, and on down the line. St. John, one of the apostles, explained this phenomenon of Jesus speaking through His chosen men quite clearly. He wrote: “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us” (1 Jn 4:6).

If you’re not listening to the Church, you’re ignoring the commands of the shepherds. When the Chief Shepherd calls, you may not be able to recognize the voice of the Man Who in this life will always remain to you something of a Mystery Guest.


On the memorial of St. Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski

Deo omnis gloria!

Kala Nila’s great post on the gift of tears really spoke to me; I’ve been known to shed a tear or two during Mass (don’t get my kids started on that subject). Hey, what’s odd about people tearing up when they find themselves face-to-face with the Creator of Heaven and earth present on the altar? The question isn’t “why do those people have tears running down their cheeks?” but rather “why don’t you have tears running down yours?” I realize that I am not the Lone Sniffler at Mass, but I have sometimes had to ask myself: Am I the only person who cries during the Offertory?

Perhaps an explanation is in order….

We Catholics pray the Lord’s Prayer many times during the day. When we pray the words “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re not just asking for a 20% off coupon to Panera Bread. We’re asking that God provide for our physical needs, yes, like the food we eat. But we also ask that God provide for our spiritual needs by giving us the Eucharist, the true Bread from Heaven. And we are asking that God’s will be done (the first petition in the Our Father) in and through us because that, too, is our bread. How so? Remember the incident in which the disciples urged Jesus to eat something, and He told them that He had food that they didn’t know about, saying, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work”? Thy will be done – give us this day our daily bread – this is what we pray. God confronts us each day with His holy will – that, too, is our daily bread. That fulfillment of His will is my offering that I place among the gifts. As the collection basket is passed, I offer back to Him not only a couple of dollars, but also my thoughts and actions, my prayers and devotions, my pains and my cares, my joys and sorrows; I mentally place them in the hands of those bearing the gifts up to the altar. I do that so that Jesus can make those things HIS – HIS thoughts and actions, HIS prayers and devotions, HIS pains and HIS cares, HIS joys and sorrows.

Can it be?

This is how the Incarnation continues to work itself out in our world; as you and I offer up our “daily bread” to be united with His sacrifice, Jesus continues to live and act in His body, the Church. This “bread,” our works, taken up to the altar, is then no longer ours. It is offered up by Jesus to the Father, Who, looking down, sees only Jesus and what He has done in this world:

We are on the altar under the appearance of bread and wine, for both are the sustenance of life; therefore in giving that which gives us life we are symbolically giving ourselves. Furthermore, wheat must suffer to become bread; grapes must pass through the wine-press to become wine. Hence both are representative of Christians who are called to suffer with Christ, that they may also reign with Him.

As the consecration of the Mass draws near our Lord is equivalently saying to us: “You, Mary; you, John; you, Peter; and you, Andrew – you, all of you – give Me your body; give Me your blood. Give Me your whole self! I can suffer no more. I have passed through My cross, I have filled up the sufferings of My physical body, but I have not filled up the sufferings wanting to My Mystical Body, in which you are. The Mass is the moment when each one of you may literally fulfill My injunction: ‘Take up your cross and follow Me.'”

On the cross our Blessed Lord was looking forward to you, hoping that one day you would be giving yourself to Him at the moment of consecration. Today, in the Mass, that hope our Blessed Lord entertained for you is fulfilled. When you assist at the Mass He expects you now actually to give Him yourself.

Then as the moment of consecration arrives, the priest in obedience to the words of our Lord, “Do this for a commemoration of me,” takes bread in his hands and says “This is my body”; and then over the chalice of wine says, “This is the chalice of my blood of the new and eternal testament.” He does not consecrate the bread and wine together, but separately. The separate consecration of the bread and wine is a symbolic representation of the separation of body and blood, and since the Crucifixion entailed that very mystery, Calvary is thus renewed on our altar. But Christ, as has been said, is not alone on our altar; we are with Him. Hence the words of consecration have a double sense; the primary signification of the words is: “This is the Body of Christ; this is the Blood of Christ;” but the secondary signification is “This is my body; this is my blood.”

Such is the purpose of life! To redeem ourselves in union with Christ; to apply His merits to our souls by being like Him in all things, even to His death on the Cross. He passed through His consecration on the Cross that we might now pass through ours in the Mass. There is nothing more tragic in all the world than wasted pain.

Think of how much suffering there is in hospitals, among the poor, and the bereaved. Think also of how much of that suffering goes to waste! How many of those lonesome, suffering, abandoned, crucified souls are saying with our Lord at the moment of consecration, “This is my body. Take it”? And yet that is what we all should be saying at that second:

“I give myself to God. Here is my body. Take it. Here is my blood. Take it. Here is my soul, my will, my energy, my strength, my property, my wealth-all that I have. It is yours. Take it! Consecrate it! Offer it! Offer it with Thyself to the heavenly Father in order that He, looking down on this great sacrifice, may see only Thee, His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. Transmute the poor bread of my life into thy divine life; thrill the wine of my wasted life into thy divine spirit; unite my broken heart with thy heart; change my cross into a crucifix. Let not my abandonment and my sorrow and my bereavement go to waste. Gather up the fragments, and as the drop of water is absorbed by the wine at the offertory of the mass, let my life be absorbed in thine; let my little cross be entwined with Thy great cross so that I may purchase the joys of everlasting happiness in union with Thee.

“Consecrate these trials of my life which would go unrewarded unless united with Thee; transubstantiate me so that like bread which is now thy body, and wine which is now thy blood, I too may be wholly thine. I care not if the species remain, or that, like the bread and the wine I seem to all earthly eyes the same as before. My station in life, my routine duties, my work, my family – all these are but the species of my life which may remain unchanged; but the “substance” of my life, my soul, my mind, my will, my heart – transubstantiate them, transform them wholly into Thy service, so that through me all may know how sweet is the love of Christ. Amen.” Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen

See why I’m crying? I will never perform a greater act than this offering of myself to be united with Jesus!

And lest anybody call these tears “feminine,” allow me to present a manly man who actually prayed that he might be no stranger to the tissue box!

Grant me that visible sign of Thy love, a cleansing ever-flowing fountain of tears, that these tears may also bear witness to Thy love in me, that they may show, that they may tell, how much my soul doth love Thee: that in the too-great sweetness of Thy love it cannot withhold its tears. St. Augustine of Hippo

Go ahead. I’ll share the Kleenex.


On the memorial of St. Giuseppe Moscati

Deo omnis gloria!

On the Reformers’ side of the Catholic-Protestant divide there are some impressive, cogent arguments for or against doctrines on which Catholics and Protestants disagree, logical, finely-nuanced arguments about which whole books have been written, indeed, arguments upon which entire Protestant denominations have been founded.

This post isn’t about those arguments.

No, this post is about some of the ridiculous things that some folks hold up as “proof” that their denomination is Christianity The Way Jesus Meant It To Be, or “proof” that the Catholic Church is the scuzzy spawn of Satan. I don’t know about you, but I can handle thoughtful objections far more easily than I can handle dumb ones. The following are indubitably dumb, yet that doesn’t keep dumb bunnies from trying them out on Catholics. You probably have your own list; these have been tried out on me.

Take the clueless comment made by a Baptist lady while attempting to engage in some spiritual one-upmanship: “Our church is growing by leaps and bounds. People are packing our services. You can see the Lord’s mighty hand upon us as we grow, and grow, and grow!”

Hmmm…. Well, I could have just answered like this:

Mass in Manila at World Youth Day, 1995

But instead, I had a dandy comparison handy:

Actually, one of the fastest growing faith groups in the U.S. is the Mormon church. As you know, Mormons deny the Trinity and teach that you can become a god. Do you feel that their growth is evidence of “God’s mighty hand” upon them?

Undaunted, this lady came back with another interesting statistic concerning her church: “We have so many doctors and lawyers in our congregation, and city council members!”


I’ve never been to Utah, but I’m willing to bet that the Mormon congregations are also full of doctors, and lawyers, and government officials. Remember Mitt? I bet you don’t have any presidential candidates in your congregation. Does that mean that your beliefs are all wet?

How about this supposedly unanswerable doozy?

“Well, what about near-death experiences? I’ve read books by Evangelicals who have died and come back and reported that Heaven is just as we believe it is – no purgatory, no ‘Blessed Virgin,’ faith alone and everything!”

And there have been Hindus who have “died” and “come back,” and have reported that they saw Hindu gods – leading one to question whether near-death experiences are really something one ought to be basing one’s theology upon….

Ah, anecdotal evidence – that staple of those loath to think too deeply. If it corresponds with that which has managed to pass through my subjective filter and the subjective filters of those who think just like I do, then it’s just “common knowledge” that things are the way I believe them to be. How dare you Catholics come around here trying to confuse good people with your facts?!

Okay – so far, no insightful objections that would keep a Catholic awake at night – unless maybe you couldn’t sleep because you couldn’t stop laughing. But there are common objections that, while no less ignorant, are no laughing matter at all:

“Well, I’ve read those little booklets you can buy at the Christian bookstore, so I know all about the horrors of your false religious system.”

She means those little goodies known as Chick Tracts. A Baptist friend of mine “chicked” me when I told her I was becoming Catholic. If you’ve ever been chicked, you know it’s an experience you wouldn’t care to repeat. The “information” in those booklets is so far-out, so off-the-mark, so skewed, that you don’t know where to begin to set the chicker straight.

Begin here.

Catholics have been refuting the gobbledygook in Chick Tracts ever since there have been Chick Tracts – with little success. Why should someone who’s foolish enough to get their info on Catholicism from a little cartoon booklet listen to a Catholic source? But when Christianity Today and Cornerstone magazine, both Protestant publications, produced exposés on Jack Chick and his buddy Alberto Rivera, some Protestants sat up and took notice.

Some. The local Christian bookstore still sells Chick Tracts, the logic being that if dumb bunnies will buy it, smart store owners need to sell it….

If you do succeed in making a dent in your acquaintances’ supply of dumb arguments, beware. There are people who will at that point subject you to what they consider to be the argument of all arguments, the ultimate conversation-stopper:

“Catholic priests abuse children. How can you affiliate yourself with a church where things like that happen? How can you claim that your church is the Church Jesus established when your priests engage in such sickening perversions?”

That’s no laughing matter.

Thinking back, I can remember 3 instances of sexual misconduct by Evangelical pastors, incidences with which I was personally acquainted while a Protestant – none of those incidents caused me to believe that Protestantism was rotten to the core. Those pastors sinned; I didn’t feel that that disproved the Gospel that they preached. Claiming that sin in the Church disproves Catholic theology is a dumb argument, just as it would be silly for me to try to argue that the existence of lecherous Protestant pastors somehow disproves the doctrines of sola Scriptura and sola fide.

However, those pastors I was talking about committed adultery with consenting females. Crimes against children are heinous, and there is just something inside the average person which insists that people who commit them can’t be one of us. Not only their acts must be repudiated, but everything they stand for as well. And it is simply “common knowledge” that the Church is a hotbed of pedophile activity. My children, both of whom attend a Baptist university, have been regaled with numerous pedophile priest “jokes” over the years. One Protestant told me that she “knew” that John Paul II had known about the sexual abuse of minors and had turned a blind eye; it was obvious that he had known. She felt nothing but disdain for the Church.

Catholics can respond, and have responded, that insurance statistics show that charges of abuse are aimed fairly equally at Protestant churches and Catholic parishes, but this is almost invariably seen as a dodge. The same response is forthcoming when Evangelicals are directed to a Newsweek article explaining that Catholic priests simply aren’t any more likely to molest your children than your own Protestant pastor – you believe the mainstream media??? Anecdotal evidence is considered to be every bit as good as the real thing; everyone simply “knows” that sexual abuse of children is a Catholic problem, and if you Catholics won’t accept that, you are in denial.

Recently joining us Catholics in denial, apparently, is a Liberty University professor by the name of Boz Tchividjian. His mother was a Graham, as in Billy Graham, meaning that as an Evangelical, Tchividjian has beaucoup de street cred. He is probably best known for his work with the Protestant organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), and he spoke this past September on the subject of the sexual abuse of children:

AUSTIN, Texas (RNS) The Christian mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers, Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse said Thursday (Sept. 26) to a room of journalists.

While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, “I think we are worse,” he said at the Religion Newswriters Association conference, saying too many evangelicals had “sacrificed the souls” of young victims.

“Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics,” said Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), which has investigated sex abuse allegations.

Earlier this summer, GRACE spearheaded an online petition decrying the “silence” and “inattention” of evangelical leaders to sexual abuse in their churches.

Mission agencies, “where abuse is most prevalent,” often don’t report abuse because they fear being barred from working in foreign countries, he said. Abusers will get sent home and might join another agency. Of known data from abuse cases, 25 percent are repeat cases, he said.

Still, he says, he sees some positive movements among some Protestants. Bob Jones University has hired GRACE to investigate abuse allegations, a move that encourages Tchividjian, a former Florida prosecutor. “That’s like the mothership of fundamentalism,” he said. His grandfather split with Bob Jones in a fundamentalist and evangelical division.

“The Protestant culture is defined by independence,” Tchividjian said. Evangelicals often frown upon transparency and accountability, he said, as many Protestants rely on Scripture more than religious leaders, compared to Catholics.

Abusers discourage whistle-blowing by condemning gossip to try to keep people from reporting abuse, he said. Victims are also told to protect the reputation of Jesus.

Too many Protestant institutions have sacrificed souls in order to protect their institutions, he said. “We’ve got the Gospels backwards,” he said.

Tchividjian said he is speaking with Pepperdine University, a Church of Christ-affiliated school in California, about creating a national GRACE center.

Please remember: Dr. Tchividjian used the word “arrogant,” not me.

Not that that word never crossed my mind.

There really is only one way to fight “dumb” – fight smart. There’s plenty of material out there by honest, thinking Protestants which corroborates the Catholic position on these issues. Find it, and have it ready when some dumb bunny comes hopping down the lane. You may not change the bunny’s mind, it’s true – but you’ll at least be able to shut his mouth.


On the memorial of St. Lorcán Ua Tuathail

Deo omnis gloria!