Over the past 20 years or so, Protestant leaders have grown awfully uncomfortable with a growing trend: Protestant traffic heading in the direction of Rome. And not just any Protestants – while Joe and Jane Pewwarmer may be comfortably ensconced at the corner Baptist or Presbyterian church, Joe and Jane’s pastor and the theologians who taught him may very well be suiting up to swim the Tiber. Over the past few decades such Protestant theologians, philosophers and educators as Francis Beckwith, Thomas Howard, J. Budziszewski, Reinhard Hütter, Bruce Marshall, Trent Dougherty, Robert Koons, Jay Richards, R.R. Reno, Joshua Hochschild, Leroy Huizenga, Richard John Neuhaus, Robert Wilken, Paul Quist, Richard Ballard, Paul Abbe, Thomas McMichael, Mickey Mattox, David Fagerberg, Jason Stellman and many more have left Protestantism for the Catholic Church – and I know this from Protestant articles and websites expressing shock at their conversion. At a loss to explain the defection of these once solidly Protestant luminaries, and unwilling to admit that these people might be reconciling with the Church because they have found the fullness of the Truth therein, Protestant apologists have latched onto a common thread in many conversion stories. Converts to Catholicism often complain that as Protestants they were kept in the dark regarding Church history. Take as an example the tales of those who studied theology at Protestant seminaries:

Over the next year I read several books on Church history. I read the works of men I had never heard of before: Anthony of the Desert, Cyril of Jerusalem, Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Ambrose, Eusebius, Ignatius of Antioch. It felt like finding new friends, Christians who knew my Lord so intimately. But their words also profoundly shook my Evangelical theology. The fact that these men were Catholic made me embarrassed and indignant. In all my years as a Christian I had never heard of these people, let alone studied their writings. I didn’t know much about the early Christian Church. In seminary (we attended Biola, in Southern California) we had been taught to believe that after the death of the Apostles, the Church slid immediately into error and stayed that way until Luther nailed his Theses to the door, and then the “real” Christians came out of hiding. (Kristine Franklin)

Occasional references to St. Augustine did not obscure the fact that the majority of church history was ignored. (“Anthony“)

I had studied some early Church history, but too much of it was from perspectives limited by Protestant history textbooks. I was shocked to discover in the writings of the first-, second- and third-century Christians a very high view of the Church and liturgy, very much unlike the views of the typical Evangelical Protestant. (Steve Wood)

We had never been taught any church history between the time of the apostles and Luther. I first heard of the “Church Fathers” in a Greek class in college. As I translated Irenaeus’ writings from the Greek, the truth of what he had written amazed me. I wondered why I had never been told of him before. None of my theology courses in college ever mentioned the Church Fathers. We were never given any devotional readings beyond what Luther wrote. (Kathy McDonald)

Hmmm… so Church history is the virus behind Catholic fever? They’re demanding access to Church history? Can we manufacture some sort of vaccine against that?

And thus today’s Protestant apologists have to know not only their Augustine, but their Athanasius, their Cyril (of Alexandria and of Jerusalem), their Irenaeus and their Vincent of Lerins (okay, maybe not Vincent of Lerins – “Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” and all that). These brave souls familiarize themselves with the Fathers not so that they can explain the actual theology of the early Church to fellow Protestants (that would never do), but so that they can extract certain quotes from their writings and distill them into a “proof vaccine,” purporting to demonstrate that core Protestant doctrines were theological staples of the early Church, thereby inoculating potential upstarts (who then believe that they know what the Fathers taught) against Catholicism.

Epidemic contained.

It’s kind of funny, and it’s kind of sad. Because Protestants have their own version of what they think the Catholic Church teaches (you know, works-righteousness, Mary worship, a sinless pope, the Bible is wrong when it contradicts Holy Mother Church, etc.), they believe that by finding remarks in the Church Fathers which indicate that we are indeed “saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (which the Church has been insisting for, oh, about 2,000 years or so now), or that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (there’s never been any argument from the Church on that, either), they have proved Catholicism wrong. It is this fundamental refusal to hear what Catholics are saying when we profess that we can’t work our way to Heaven or that “the Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired they are truly the Word of God” that causes Protestants wielding the Church Fathers to make themselves look so silly. The Fathers were Catholic, you know. There’s just no getting around that point.

Consider the writings of the Church Fathers on the subject of the Holy Scriptures. Modern-day Protestant authors, believing that it is Catholic Church policy to hide the Bible under a bushel whenever it “contradicts” Catholic doctrine, will gladly dish up quotes which are supposed to “prove” that the Fathers were every bit as “sola Scriptura” as Luther or Calvin, quotes like these:

Since, therefore, the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all, although all do not believe them; and since they proclaim that one only God, to the exclusion of all others, formed all things by His word, whether visible or invisible, heavenly or earthly, in the water or under the earth, as I have shown from the very words of Scripture; and since the very system of creation to which we belong testifies, by what falls under our notice, that one Being made and governs it,—those persons will seem truly foolish who blind their eyes to such a clear demonstration, and will not behold the light of the announcement [made to them]; but they put fetters upon themselves, and every one of them imagines, by means of their obscure interpretations of the parables, that he has found out a God of his own. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, 2nd century Church Father

Scripture can indeed be understood by Luther’s proverbial ploughboy – so says Irenaeus!

Hmm… then why did Irenaeus even bother writing his monumental “Against Heresies” if everyone could just pick up a copy of the Scriptures and understand them? Sure, there were bad guys who twisted the perspicuous Scriptures to their own ends:

Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skillful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skillful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. St. Irenaeus of Lyons

So, when heretics twisted the Scriptures, Irenaeus advised 2nd-century Christians to just pull a copy of the KJV out of their hip pocket and set the losers straight, right?

As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it. St. Irenaeus of Lyons

That quote from Irenaeus demonstrates Sacred Tradition in action. Note the unity of the Faith that Irenaeus is touting; exactly the opposite of the divisions that plague sola Scriptura adherents running around with KJV’s in their hip pockets. That’s because the Church that Irenaeus defended did NOT believe in sola Scriptura – all believed the same thing because all were taught the same thing by the authoritative Church which “clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood” the Scriptures according to the Tradition handed down by the apostles!

The Catholic Church’s point exactly: Scripture? YES! Tradition? YES! Quotes 1 and 2 and 3? YES! YES! YES!

Undaunted, many Protestant authors trot out St. Athanasius in defense of the indefensible doctrine of sola Scriptura, using this quote:

The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth. St. Athanasius of Alexandria, 4th-century Church Father

Sounds pretty “sola!” Yet this was the same Athanasius who thundered:

But beyond these sayings [of the Bible], let us look at the very tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers kept. Upon this the Church is founded, and he who should fall away from it should not be a Christian, and should no longer be so called. St. Athanasius

So, the Scriptures, rightly understood through Sacred Tradition, are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth – hardly a Protestant sentiment. When you harmonize ALL that a particular Church Father wrote, rather than pulling statements out of context, there’s simply no way you end up with a proto-Protestant 2nd-, 3rd, or 4th-century Church. Athanasius himself grumbled about the cherry-picking of the Fathers who had gone before him:

Yes, [Church Father Dionysius] wrote it, and we too admit that his letter runs thus. But just as he wrote this, he wrote also very many other letters, and they ought to consult those also, in order that the faith of the man may be made clear from them all, and not from this alone. St. Athanasius

Selective quoting got mighty tiresome even back in those days….

Protestant apologists will earnestly endeavor to persuade you that the Church Fathers held Scripture in high regard, proclaimed the authority of the Bible and believed Scripture to be sufficient in itself, citing passages such as “How can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?” and “The sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth” and “There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures and no other source.” If you look into this, you will find that it is certainly true – the Fathers held Scripture in high regard, proclaimed the authority of the Bible, and believed Scripture to be sufficient in itself. Those same Protestant authors will, however, decline to inform you that those same Fathers held Holy Tradition in equally high regard, proclaimed the authority of the Church, and declared that when heretics came up with novel approaches to the interpretation of Scripture, Tradition was essential to protect the orthodox interpretation of those Scriptures. Holy Tradition, the Fathers claimed, makes it possible for the Church to say, “THIS is the interpretation of Scripture that the apostles taught and which has been handed down to us – that’s why your interpretation of Scripture is wrong” when heretics twist the Scriptures and devise new doctrines.

Which doesn’t stop Protestant apologists from propping the Fathers up like ventriloquists’ dummies to mouth the Reformers’ doctrine of sola fide (faith alone). As Frank Beckwith pointed out in his Return to Rome, St. Augustine is often pressed into the service of Martin Luther’s pet doctrine:

St. Augustine of Hippo: [Grace] is bestowed on us, not because we have done good works, but that we may be able to do them – in other words, not because we have fulfilled the Law, but in order that we may be able to fulfill the Law.

See? St. Augustine was Protestant in his understanding of justification!

Or, as Beckwith puts it:

Now, if that’s all one read from the Fathers, one may be led to think that the Reformation attempted to restore what the Church had once embraced, or at least implicitly held, from its earliest days.

And that is, obviously, the fervent hope – that that’s all a questioning Protestant will bother to read of the Fathers – the “proof-texts.” As Dr. Beckwith points out, the understanding of “grace” which St. Augustine propounded is consistent with Protestant theology as well as with Catholic theology. No Catholic would find that quote on the subject of grace at all disturbing, because justification by faith is what Catholics believe. Protestants, however, have a tough time reconciling other quotes from that same Church Father with the Protestant belief system:

St. Augustine of Hippo: We run, therefore, whenever we make advance; and our wholeness runs with us in our advance (just as a sore is said to run when the wound is in process of a sound and careful treatment), in order that we may be in every respect perfect, without any infirmity of sin whatever result which God not only wishes, but even causes and helps us to accomplish. And this God’s grace does, in co-operation with ourselves, through Jesus Christ our Lord, as well by commandments, sacraments, and examples, as by His Holy Spirit also; through whom there is hiddenly shed abroad in our hearts . . . that love, “which makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” . . . until wholeness and salvation be perfected in us, and God be manifested to us as He will be seen in His eternal truth.

As Dr. Beckwith points out, the sentiments in this quote from Augustine are reflected, not in Protestant theology (Calvin forbid!), but in a very Catholic statement on justification:

Now they (adults) are disposed unto the said justice, when, excited and assisted by divine grace, conceiving faith by hearing, they are freely moved towards God, believing those things to be true which God has revealed and promised,-and this especially, that God justifies the impious by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; and when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning themselves, from the fear of divine justice whereby they are profitably agitated, to consider the mercy of God, are raised unto hope, confiding that God will be propitious to them for Christ’s sake; and they begin to love Him as the fountain of all justice; and are therefore moved against sins by a certain hatred and detestation, to wit, by that penitence which must be performed before baptism: lastly, when they purpose to receive baptism, to begin a new life, and to keep the commandments of God. Concerning this disposition it is written; He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him; and, Be of good faith, son, thy sins are forgiven thee; and, The fear of the Lord driveth out sin; and, Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; and, Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; finally, Prepare your hearts unto the Lord.

This disposition, or preparation, is followed by Justification itself, which is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace, and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just, and of an enemy a friend, that so he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting. The Council of Trent on justification


The point is that St. Augustine can get an “Amen!” from Catholics on both quotes 1 and 2. Protestants, on the other hand, would much prefer that St. Gus had quit while he was ahead, so to speak. From a Protestant standpoint, the “proof-text” was nifty; the other stuff, not so much….

This kind of proof-texting is inflicted upon the writings of numerous Fathers. The moral of the story: Catholic fever is going around. If you have a vested interest in remaining Protestant, for Luther’s sake don’t sit down and actually read the Church Fathers to learn what they really thought! Get your vaccination against Rome disease: read a few quotes meticulously compiled by Protestant apologists and leave it at that. It’s safer, like a vaccine made of dead cells is a whole lot safer than the real living deal. Catholicism can be highly contagious; get your inoculation today, lest you come down with a bad case of the fullness of the Truth.


On the memorial of St. Isaac Jogues and Companions

Deo omnis gloria!


Photo credits: Woman receiving rubella vaccination, School of Public Health of the State of Minas Gerais (ESP-MG), Brazil, by Sandra Rugio/Wikimedia Commons

The Christian message has always been advertised as “the Good News,” and for very good reason. Mankind had no way to enter Heaven before the coming of the Savior. Christians are tasked with proclaiming the Good News – God loves the world so much that He sent His Son, the Messiah Jesus Christ, to die for us! Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven! He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He is coming back again!

It doesn’t get much better than that!

But wait! There’s more! is the cry of many Evangelical churches trying to do the Good News one better. It isn’t enough just to know that you can have eternal life; you need to know that you can’t lose it….

These churches preach the once-saved/always-saved gospel; the idea that if an individual makes a sincere, one-time confession of faith, accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior, then come hell or high water – he’s SAVED. Call it the Better-than-Good!™News. While you sometimes hear the proposition qualified with the disclaimer that the believer isn’t allowed to subsequently repudiate Christianity (if he does, all bets are off), short of in-your-face apostasy, salvation is – according to these believers – a done deal. These churches are selling tickets to Heaven, and they are cheap, cheap, cheap. The Catholic version of the gospel – the proclamation that one must not only believe and be born again, but subsequently grow in holiness and lead a life of faithful service to Christ to the end – is viewed as Bad News, a spurious gospel shackling Catholics to works-righteousness when God wants them free to revel in their eternal security.

As you can imagine, the belief that you and everyone else at your church are headed without question straight to Heaven will impact the rest of your theology. The OSAS brand of Christianity is streamlined and marvelously straightforward; Christians live in this world for the purpose of preaching the Better-than-Good!™News. Period. You need to get saved so that you can get others saved so that they can get others saved. Evangelization is the be-all and end-all of this system. The necessity of evangelization is something Protestants and Catholics can agree on, but to those who preach the Better-than-Good!™News it is an obsession. If you tend to the needs of the disadvantaged, you do it because it is the best way of evangelizing those lost souls. If you participate in the political system, you do it to create a safe civic atmosphere for evangelization. If you take an interest in those you meet, you do it with an eye on their eternal destiny, presenting them with free tickets to your church’s Halloween Hell House Evangelization Extravaganza at your earliest opportunity. Churches which preach eternal security tend to devote Wednesday evening services to the subject of the Rapture – Jesus is coming soon, very soon, certainly in our lifetime, so we must spread the word before our neighbors get left behind! Both Protestants and Catholics are familiar with the Scripture passages enjoining believers to forsake sin and live in an upright fashion. These are viewed by Catholics as reminders from a God Who insists that, after baptism, we strive to become holy as He is holy so that we can enter into His presence. If evangelization is the be-all and end-all, where’s the angle in those passages? In an OSAS context, these verses are woven right into the sales package – “Clean up your act, folks, for when unbelievers see how you live, they’ll want what you’ve got!” The Better-than-Good!™News is a product, and believers learn to pitch it.

This perspective on the gospel sells like hotcakes for several reasons, one of them being that it presents itself as a kind of goal in itself, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the journey’s end. OSAS churchgoers sing hymns like “Victory in Jesus!” emphasizing the fact that the battle has been won; it’s over – I’m saved. Those who join the system feel free to breathe a sigh of relief now that they’ve reached the end of the struggle. With God in charge of their lives, there will be no more real suffering for them, they conjecture. How can there be, with God as their co-pilot? He knows where the turbulence is; surely He will steer His children clear of it. Which is why any kind of upheaval in the life of this kind of Christian can be potentially faith-shattering. Trouble provokes questions along the lines of “Why is God allowing this to happen to me? To what purpose? This makes no sense!  If I’m suffering this much now, and God does nothing to stop it, how can I be sure that the real estate that I bought in Heaven is really on the up-and-up? Maybe it’s all too good to be true?” Sadly, tribulation can cause what was to be a flight straight to Heaven to crash-land, never to take off again.

Adherents can’t say that Scripture didn’t warn them – a king does not go to war without first counting the cost. Like it or not, there’s a war on. Christianity isn’t a daily battle – it’s a moment-by-moment conflict. It is admittedly a peculiar situation – the victory has been won (thank you, Jesus!), but the war isn’t over – not by a long shot. The battle rages; skirmishes are being fought street by street, and even house to house. The stakes are astronomically high, for losing a battle can potentially mean losing your very salvation. In OSAS churches, discussion of the actual cost of Christianity is buried deep in the fine print. It is glossed over because it’s, well, not exactly a selling point. When “success” is measured by church growth, converts need to be raked in Sunday after Sunday. The presentation of the Better-than-Good!™News is geared towards a streamlined conversion process, one in which a man can wander in off the street and five minutes later walk back out with an iron-clad guarantee of salvation, come what may. No muss, no fuss – no counting the cost.

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

Far from being bad news, the Catholic insistence on the necessity of final perseverance is actually good news, because it is the truth. When we are born again in baptism, we become members of Christ’s very body, and as His body we lead His life on earth. Suffering and struggling against the sins that lead to spiritual death are unavoidable. Forewarned is forearmed, and a decent RCIA program will be there to forewarn potential converts. I as an Evangelical was shocked to learn that I was expected to slog through a six-month discernment period before finally being allowed to declare myself determined to be reconciled to the Church. Yet what better way to force me to count the cost? No, my salvation will not be a done deal when I enter the Church. Yes, the possibility still exists that I might choose death over life by loving my sins above all else. No, that doesn’t mean that Catholics are shackled to works-righteousness; the Church teaches (and has always taught) that we are saved by grace through faith. It does mean that we Catholics incorporate verses like Lk 12:42-46, Rom 11:19-22, 1 Cor 15:1-2, Gal 5:4, Col 1:21-23, 2 Pet 2:20-22 and Heb 3:12; 6:4-6 and 10:23-29, verses that teach that it is possible to lose one’s salvation, into our theology rather than explaining them away. And while, yes, you do have to actively participate in the conflict – working out your own salvation with fear and trembling, as St. Paul phrased it – no, you do not fight alone. Catholics joyfully proclaim the doctrine of the communion of saints: all the inhabitants of Heaven, from the Blessed Virgin and the angels on down, are committed to making sure that you are saved in the end. So, while you will have to fight, you will never fight alone.

And that is seriously Good News.


On the memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine

Deo omnis gloria!

Artur Rosman’s intriguing blog, Cosmos The In Lost, recently featured a beautiful, beautiful quote from Catholic convert Evelyn Waugh (you know, the guy who wrote what Father Barron called the greatest Catholic novel of the 20th century – Brideshead Revisited). Apparently when his friend Nancy Mitford (who, like Waugh, was one of the Bright Young Things of 1920’s England) complained to Waugh that despite his conversion to Catholicism he was, well, still such a jerk, Waugh answered forthrightly, “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.”

That quote took me, oddly enough, right back to my college days, riding home from youth group with my Lutheran friend, Holly, whom I accompanied to church on occasion back then. “Why are Christians such jerks??” she ranted. She was complaining bitterly about one young man in particular, an enthusiastic Lutheran who held some pretty objectionable opinions and wasn’t shy about publicizing them. He drove her crazy with his gauche remarks and behavior. If he was a Christian, why didn’t he act like one???

So, it’s not just Evelyn Waugh, apparently. Why are Christians such jerks?

Yeah. Why?

Well, there are several possible explanations, the most obvious being that there is no God and therefore when one “gets religion,” basically no change occurs. Small wonder that there is little evidence of reform. Just t-r-y-i-n-g, by sheer force of will, to live up to all those pious expectations laid out in Scripture gets some people farther than others, but since there is no “supernatural aid” to be had, you may turn over a new leaf or two, but it’s nothing for the world to get excited about.

Protestants offer other perspectives on the conundrum. There is, of course, a God, and He does, of course, provide supernatural aid. So, how to explain the “jerk factor”? Some Evangelicals basically overlook sin in their lives and in the lives of their co-religionists, provided, of course, that the sin falls into certain pre-approved categories (which is to say, the sins of gluttony and gossip get a free pass, but swearing and alcohol abuse will not be tolerated; marital infidelity can be forgiven, but homosexual acts cannot; cohabitation is unthinkable, but divorce for just about any reason is no problem.) “Sanctification” isn’t a popular topic in these circles; “evangelization” is. Christians shouldn’t sin, but the important thing is evangelization – even if your “Christian walk” isn’t what it should be, you need to convince others of their need for a Savior. This perspective leads to the interesting personal anecdote told by Evangelical Bill Bright of how he took the opportunity to evangelize the police officer who pulled him over to give him a ticket for breaking traffic laws. Let’s not talk about my transgressions, officer – let’s talk about yours….

Many Protestants, of course, take a decidedly less cavalier approach. They are very, very serious about sin. Former Church of Christ minister Bruce Sullivan wrote about the torment habitual sins caused him:

We had a song in our Church of Christ hymnal entitled “Did You Fully Repent?” I would often reason to myself that, surely, if I had fully repented, I would not find myself so beset by habitual sins. I honestly cannot recall how many times I walked the aisle of a church seeking the spiritual strength I needed in order to live the faith I professed. More than once I thought that something was lacking at the time of my baptism. Consequently, I was baptized on three different occasions within the Church of Christ. (Bruce Sullivan, Christ in His Fullness)

As Sullivan (who was reconciled to the Church in 1995) explains it:

The problem, however, was not so much the ability to accept the forgiveness of Christ after initial justification as it was determining whether initial justification had actually been received based upon the reality of subsequent moral failure. This left me in the agonizing position of trying to determine whether my faith was truly a saving faith.

Translation: I’m still a jerk! Am I really saved???

How I would like to appear to others

This is where the sacraments come in. The Church teaches that we are born again in baptism; therefore, as baptized Christians we need never question the reality of our initial justification. The Catholic Church would never “rebaptize” someone who felt that “something was lacking” in his baptism. The truth is, though, that SINS are washed away in the baptismal font – habits are not. Grasping this distinction between sins and proclivities was a real problem for me when, as a new Catholic, I began frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation; I insisted on confessing tendencies, as in “When the going gets tough, I just tend to wimp out…” or “I’m not a very loving person, but I know God wants me to be,” leaving the poor priest muttering something that sounded like “Number and kind! Number and kind!” What I was trying to confess was that I was a sinner with sinful inclinations – what did I expect the priest to do for me?? Jesus gave His apostles (and by extension, their successors and those ordained priests by their successors) the authority to absolve penitents of their SINS: actual acts of disobedience against God. Sinful inclinations are a whole ‘nother kettle of concupiscence.

How I actually appear to others

The Catholic Church takes quite seriously St. Paul’s command to the Philippians, and instructs the faithful to work out their salvation. We are NOT a finished product. Our sins are forgiven when we receive the sacrament of Baptism; of that we can be sure. Through baptism we have entered the body of Christ. Our sinful inclinations, however, stay with us. We have accumulated habits aligned with those inclinations that come far more naturally to us than does Christ-like behavior. And so we often revert to type, and sin. For that reason, the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion were instituted, whence the Christian, born again through baptism, receives the grace to begin chipping away at those nasty habits and to start the long, slow process of healing the self-inflicted wounds that our sins have left in their wake – and to stop sinning. This is what distinguishes our efforts from self-help programs, for as St. Augustine assures us:

Hence also that grace of God, whereby His love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us, must be so confessed by the man who would make a true confession, as to show his undoubting belief that nothing whatever in the way of goodness pertaining to godliness and real holiness can be accomplished without it.

You see, the question isn’t, are we perfect yet? There’s simply no question about that for the vast majority of us; the answer is NO. The question is, are we okey-dokey with the status quo? I’m okay – you’re okay? That’s NOT okay. If we are struggling against our tendencies towards gossip, lust and covetousness, availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Penance when we succumb, and sustaining the new life within us through our reception of Holy Communion, then we are actively working out our own salvation, as St. Paul commanded. Anything short of that struggle is not Christianity.

If you entered the Church in possession of, or rather, possessed by an ego the size of a barn, you won’t become instantaneously humble – that’s why we pray the Litany of Humility. Perhaps you’re best known at the time of your conversion as a major whiner; the notion that you’d best stop may not dawn on you for years. Praying the Psalms should help redirect that impulse. You may be – by nature or by upbringing – an inordinately suspicious person with a low threshold for frustration, someone who is not in the habit of keeping his promises and even less likely to admit his mistakes, a piker, a potty mouth, and a fraud. Join the club. The sacraments give us the grace to endure the rock tumbler into which are placed those ugly, common stones known as Christians. Through the seemingly endless process of tumbling and scraping known as “life,” we lose our rough edges. Some of us begin to shine a little, although it depends on what kind of stones we are to begin with, as well as our commitment to the process. Others of us keep hopping out of the tumbler because the polishing process hurts, particularly when we get scratched by other rocks in the barrel. How can they act like that? The jerks!!! And there are those who simply refuse to continue to participate because, since instant gratification (in the form of holiness) isn’t part of the package deal of “getting saved,” the claims for Christianity have supposedly been proved bogus by their own experience, or rather, lack of it.

Yet the Church has never touted instant holiness as a by-product of conversion, for the simple reason that the Church believes conversion to be a lifelong process. Catholics, in fact, believe this process to be so necessary yet so potentially lengthy that anything not fully addressed in this life will be completed after death in Purgatory. The Church openly advertises herself as a hospital for sinners, though what we all desperately want it to be is an art gallery – with saints on display. Saints are the finished product, the fruit of a life lived under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit Who indwells the sinner. There ARE saints in the Church, alongside the Evelyn Waughs, alongside the you’s, alongside the me’s. To those you’s and me’s, as well as to the saints, the author of Hebrews penned an urgent reminder:

Your protest, your battle against sin, has not yet called for bloodshed; yet you have lost sight, already, of those words of comfort in which God addresses you as his sons; My son, do not undervalue the correction which the Lord sends thee, do not be unmanned when he reproves thy faults. It is where he loves that he bestows correction; there is no recognition for any child of his, without chastisement. Be patient, then, while correction lasts; God is treating you as his children. Was there ever a son whom his father did not correct? No, correction is the common lot of all; you must be bastards, not true sons, if you are left without it. We have known what it was to accept correction from earthly fathers, and with reverence; shall we not submit, far more willingly, to the Father of a world of spirits, and draw life from him? They, after all, only corrected us for a short while, at their own caprice; he does it for our good, to give us a share in that holiness which is his. For the time being, all correction is painful rather than pleasant; but afterwards, when it has done its work of discipline, it yields a harvest of good dispositions, to our great peace. Come then, stiffen the sinews of drooping hand, and flagging knee, and plant your footprints in a straight track, so that the man who goes lame may not stumble out of the path, but regain strength instead. Your aim must be peace with all men, and that holiness without which no one will ever see God.

The Christian life is one long life of correction, one long “battle against sin” – some, enabled by grace, embrace the battle and flourish; some reject it and wither. But we must always bear in mind that when we lie, cheat and steal, no one can ask “Why don’t you act like a Christian???” We ARE acting like Christians – check out the epistles to the Corinthians if you doubt that. We ARE NOT acting like Christ.

Jesus is the Fount of all Holiness, and fortunately for us, He is also the Vine. When we branches are grafted onto the Vine, we begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, in other words, the beginnings of “that holiness without which no one will ever see God.” I may not evidence much self-control, for example, when I first enter the Church. Check back with me later. After a while, I may still not evidence much self-control, but if I am grieved by this, if I still struggle, and pray, and work for this fruit, then I am still connected to the Vine and there is hope. As Hebrews puts it, I am protesting and battling against the sin in my life. The fact that I am not yet perfect simply illustrates that God’s work in me has not yet come to full fruition. If you are concerned about my continued lack of self-control, for Christ’s sake pray for me, as St. John advised:

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death.

The stones in the tumbler have been commanded to pray for each other as the grit grinds down the imperfections. If you refuse to pray for me because you find my remaining imperfections off-putting, you clearly have a few remaining imperfections of your own that you need to address….

I have two children. My son was an easy baby who grew into an easy child. Gentle, polite, solicitous, well-mannered – I received no end of compliments about how well I’d raised my son. His sister, who suffered from full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder in her youth (she is doing much better now, thank you), was a pain-and-a-half: difficult, uncooperative, bright as a penny but very, very hard to deal with. When people complimented me on my well-behaved son, I had a terrible urge to blurt out, “It’s none of my doing – that’s his nature. If you want to compliment me, compliment me on what a great job I’ve done raising his temperamental sister! You have no idea what a disaster she would be if it weren’t for me and my love for her!

And God looks at me and says the same thing.

So pray for us, Evelyn Waugh – you who bumbled and grumbled your way to God, you who were also a work in progress, you who, like us, would have been “much nastier” had it not been for the redeeming power of Christ in His sacraments. Pray that our apathy may not make us appear to be evidence against the grace of God poured out through His Church. Pray for fervor, and for a horror of sin that stiffens our resolve. Pray for a daily, and even moment-by-moment commitment to the battle as we tumble in the barrel that is our life in Christ. And pray for perseverance, that with the aid of the sacraments we may be found, perhaps not perfect, but ready when the Bridegroom comes to call.


On the memorial of St. John Eudes

Deo omnis gloria!

Around this time of year many people’s thoughts turn to Christmas, if only to breathe a sigh of relief that five months still remain between them and figuring out what to get for Aunt Martha. Stores have “Christmas in July” sales to drum up business, and at this time of year my daughter, when she was younger, would always beg to be allowed to play Christmas carols. It’s been 7 months since the Big Day, and in the summer heat many hearts look back, remembering the joy that accompanies the celebration of the “miracle of Christmas.”

As we all know, the “miracle of Christmas” is supposedly the birth of the God-man. Close, but no cigar. The “miracle of Christmas” actually took place 9 months prior, at the Annunciation, for when Mary gave her “yes” to God, the Incarnation began. The so-called “miracle of Christmas” is the Incarnation.

Catholics dwell on the Incarnation (literally, the “enfleshment”) all year round. But why? With every recitation of the Nicene Creed we recall the moment when “for us men and for our salvation He came down from Heaven, and by the power of the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became Man.” In the Apostles’ Creed we do mention His birth, but only for the purpose of highlighting the fact that His mother was a virgin. That Jesus was born was no great surprise – He grew inside the womb of His mother for 9 months; birth is the expected outcome. It was His Incarnation that deserved to make headlines. As an Evangelical I was steeped in the life of Christ, His sacrifice on the Cross, His triumph o’er the grave and His soon-coming again (heavy emphasis on that last part). The Incarnation was a theological concept that I was familiar with, but it really didn’t play any kind of role in my daily Christian scheme of things. Yes, the second Person of the Trinity became a Man – how else could He have offered up His Life on the Cross to save me? End of story.

As a Catholic, I now realize that the answer to the question of the Incarnation is not just “Jesus became a Man so He could die on the Cross to save me.” Not by a long shot. The Incarnation is the beginning of the story of my redemption, the middle of the story, and the ongoing, never-ending story to which I as an Evangelical never gave a second thought. The theology of the Incarnation is the underpinning of all things Christian.

Take the story of the Good Samaritan, for example, a story exceedingly familiar to Evangelicals. We preached on it and taught it to our children. I could have recited it in my sleep. A man was travelling and got mugged. As he lay by the side of the road expiring, a priest came along. The priest knew, of course, that it was important for him to help his fellow man. He also knew that by touching the poor wretch that he would be rendered ritually unclean. He passed by. A Levite also came along and neglected to render assistance for the same reason. A non-Jew, a heretic, that is to say, a Samaritan, then came along and did what the priest and the Levite should have done, putting the man on his donkey and transporting him to safety at a nearby inn. He even paid for the man’s care, promising to recompense the innkeeper for any expenditures he incurred. The story teaches us that our “neighbor” is anyone in need. End of story.

But one day, as a Catholic, I was confronted with St. Augustine’s take on this story, beginning with the words, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; Adam himself is meant.”

Whoa – that’s a different way of looking at it!

Yet from an Incarnational point of view, that’s a very appropriate way of looking at it. For here we find the rationale for the Catholic emphasis on the Incarnation as it relates to Jesus’ odd statement:

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

As an Evangelical, that was something of a stumper for me. What did Jesus mean by that? Obviously, Jesus didn’t mean that He saw the Father being born in a manger, preaching the Gospel to men, eating with tax collectors and sinners, healing blind Bartimaeus…. Yet, what did He mean? And did it have any implications for the way I lived my life?

St. Augustine got it. He approached the story of the Good Samaritan not from my Evangelical “go out and help your neighbor – Jesus said so” understanding of the parable, but from the Incarnational “here’s why you are helping your neighbor” point of view – because “Adam himself is meant.”

According to St. Augustine, an alternate reading of the parable begins with God, Who comes upon fallen man lying by the side of the road. He binds man’s wounds, takes him to the Inn (which symbolizes the Church) and instructs those who work there to take care of this man, promising to compensate them for their expenditures when He returns. And it is in light of that Incarnational reading that we understand why we love our neighbor – because God loved us first, and as His body we do what He is doing.

And how could we not? For as Augustine explains in another context:

All men are one man in Christ, and the unity of Christians constitutes but one man. Let us rejoice and give thanks. Not only are we to become Christians, but we are to become Christ. My brothers, do you understand the grace of God that is given us? Wonder, rejoice, for we are Christ! If He is the Head, and we are the members, then together He and we are the whole man.

Jesus became Man so that man might become a part of His body. As a part of His body, you love as He loves, and lovingly do the works that He does, even as He does the works that His Father does. Jesus’ eyes are always seeking the lost, and His ears listening for their cries that His feet might hasten to where they have fallen, His hands raising them from the dirt and His arms embracing them, His shoulders bearing them until they grow strong enough to walk on their own. Got that? That’s you and me – His eyes, His ears, His feet, His hands, His arms, His shoulders. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “You are not your own!” There is simply no other way to be a member of the Body. The judgment stories that Jesus tells emphasize this fact: there will be people who flaunt their faith (“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord!'”) and even their miracles (“Did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”) Yet Jesus fails to recognize those who are clearly not members of His body, doing what He is doing. Waving in His face His supposed “Lordship” in their lives and the miracles they have worked in His Name but independent of Him is to no avail – “I don’t know who you are!” is His answer to them.

So my Evangelical understanding that I had to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself was correct – as far as it went. But lacking an Incarnational insight into the situation, I did not understand that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that I, a creature of flesh, could be made a member of His body, and as a member I can do nothing of myself; I can only do what He is doing.
Through me, Jesus would tenderly raise the dying man from the side of the road and carry him to the Inn where he could be brought back to life. That the Second Person of the Trinity was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became Man is far from being the mere flashpoint of the ongoing, never-ending story of my life as a partaker of the divine nature. The Incarnation means more than I ever could have guessed, for it is the key that unlocks the mystery of all those “works” that we Protestants avoided like the plague, the works upon which the Church insists, the works on which the churches in the book of Revelation are judged (Rev 2:2, 2:9, 2:13, 2:19, 3:1, 3:8, 3:15), the works which distinguish the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:33), the works by which a man is justified (James 2:24).

To paraphrase St. Augustine, what could be a better sign of how much God loves us than the Son of God deigning to share our nature? At Christmas we celebrate just one small (but glorious!) glimpse into what the Father is doing through the Incarnation of His beloved Son. And it is something to CELEBRATE, in December or even in July.


On the memorial of St. James the Greater

Deo omnis gloria!

Over the years I have read claims that Catholic teaching has changed, that it has “learned from Protestant doctrine” over the nearly 500 years since the Reformation, becoming more “Biblical.” “Pope Benedict admits that Luther was right!” people crow, (pretending that the Holy Father said “Luther was right – period!” rather than “Luther was right, IF….). This reasoning originates with people who have bought into standard-issue anti-Catholic propaganda, along the lines of: “Romanists believe that you have to work your way to heaven, worship the Pope, the saints, and Mary, and pretend that a flat, tasteless wafer is God.” They then hear the Holy Father say something that sounds suspiciously “Christian” and, stymied, can only attribute the Pope’s “change of heart” to Protestant influence. Catholic doctrine is changing, they assume. Assumption is so much less trouble than research. I know that from first-hand experience….

Take the subject of justification. If you had asked me back when I was a Protestant why Catholics don’t agree with the Protestant doctrine of “faith alone,” I would have explained to you that the pernicious doctrine of justification by works had wormed its way into Church doctrine as man-made “wisdom” superseded the preaching of the Gospel. The clergy and religious brothers and sisters of the Middle Ages were steeped in ignorance of the Scriptures and in the traditions of men. That’s why God raised up Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk who came to realize that the Catholic Church was teaching error concerning justification. God called this simple monk to lead people back to the Bible, to teach them to have faith, and trust in the blood of Jesus Christ for their salvation!

Not that I actually did any research on this – I was just buying into the prevailing Protestant wisdom that permeated the teaching of the churches I attended. I now wish that I had actually tested these assumptions against the historical record. Here are some quotes taken from the High Middle Ages, the 11th to the 13th century. Is prevailing Protestant wisdom correct? Did Catholics know anything about salvation by grace through faith before the time of Luther?

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090- 1153) What I need to enter Heaven, I appropriate from the merits of Jesus Christ who suffered and died in order to procure for me that glory of which I was unworthy.

St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) Christians must lean on the Cross of Christ just as travelers lean on a staff when they begin a long journey.

St. Bernadine of Siena (1380-1444) The Church is indeed built on the Name of Jesus which is its very foundation, and hence it is the greatest honor to cleave through faith to the Name of Jesus and to become a son of God.

These men all lived and died before Luther’s time. These are the guys your Protestant mother warned you about: medieval priests and monks. But those quotes sound suspiciously “Christian.” Is that a fluke?

Martin Luther lived from 1483 to 1546. Here is a sampling of quotes from the Catholic writings of that era:

St. Thomas of Villanova (1488-1555) Fear not to approach Him with confidence, for He is called by the name of Jesus. He is the Savior and will not reject those whom He ought to save. If a man is condemned to hell, it is not because he has sinned but rather because he has rejected this so abundant and certain source of salvation.

St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) Not for ourselves, Lord, for we do not deserve to be heard, but for the blood of Your Son and for His merits.

St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) In His infinite love for us, though we were sinners, He sent His only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us Truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of His grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.

St. Thomas of Villanova’s timeline runs almost exactly parallel to that of Luther. St. Thomas was an Augustinian monk, as was Luther. Luther suffered from scrupulosity, and was plagued by doubts that his sins could be forgiven. Surely these words of St. Thomas, “If a man is condemned to hell, it is not because he has sinned but rather because he has rejected this so abundant and certain source of salvation,” address Luther’s fundamental concern. Yet Luther claimed that the Catholic Church knew nothing of salvation by grace through faith. It’s certainly hard to believe that St. Thomas was the only man of his time who preached these things….

St. Charles Borromeo, too, was a contemporary of Luther’s, and one of his fiercest critics. Borromeo seems to be awfully interested in Jesus and “the treasures of His grace” for someone who is trying to teach “works-righteousness” instead of salvation by grace through faith. Kind of counter-productive reasoning….

The Council of Trent, perhaps the heyday of anti-Protestantism, took place between 1545 and 1563, with its decisions being codified in the Roman Catechism (1566), the revised Roman Missal (1570), and a revised edition of the Vulgate Scriptures (1592). What were Catholics declaring about justification during that time period?

Council of Trent – But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely, [Rom 3:24, 5:1] these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God [Heb 11:6] and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the Apostle says, grace is no more grace. [Rom 11:6]

That bears repeating: None of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification!

Some well-known Catholic saints lived at this time. What were they saying?

St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) It is by the merits of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that I hope to be saved.

St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622) He leaves us for our part all the merit and profit of our services and good works, and we again leave Him all the honor and praise thereof, acknowledging that the commencement, the progress and the end of all the good we do depends on His mercy by which He has come unto us and prevented us, has come into us and assisted us, has come with us and conducted us, finishing what He has begun.

He repairs all, modifies and vivifies; loves in the heart, hears in the mind, sees in the eyes, speaks in the tongue; does all in all, and then it is not we who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in us.

That could be a Protestant preacher talking! But St. John of the Cross was a Catholic mystic, and St. Francis de Sales was a Catholic bishop who, by God’s grace, brought some 70,000 converts to Protestantism back into the Catholic fold! Could it be that those reverts realized how wrong they had been about actual Catholic teaching on justification?

If the Catholic Church taught “salvation through works,” the saints of the 17th, the 18th and the 19th centuries seem not to have realized it:

St. Rose of Lima (1586-1617) Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.

St. Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682) It is yours to do all, divine Heart of Jesus Christ. You alone will have all the glory of my sanctification if I become holy. That seems to me clearer than the day.

St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716 ) Pray with great confidence, with confidence based upon the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ.

St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775) I hope that God will save me through the merits of the Passion of Jesus. The more difficulties in life, the more I hope in God. By God’s grace I will not lose my soul, but I hope in His mercy.

St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696- 1787) And when the enemy represents to us our weakness, let us say with the Apostle: I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. Of myself I can do nothing, but I trust in God, that, by His grace I shall be able to do all things.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself.

St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897) In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!

This all seems a far cry from the perception of Catholics trying to earn Heaven through worthless good works, with no reliance on faith or trust in Christ’s blood. It seems to be a continuous stream of reliance on grace and faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The 20th-century saints speak:

St. Edith Stein (1891-1942) His blood is the curtain through which we enter into the Holiest of Holies, the Divine Life. In baptism and in the sacrament of reconciliation, His blood cleanses us of our sins, opens our eyes to eternal light, our ears to hearing God’s word.

St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) I fly to Your mercy, Compassionate God, who alone are good. Although my misery is great, and my offences are many, I trust in Your mercy, because You are the God of mercy; and from time immemorial, it has never been heard of, nor do heaven or earth remember, that a soul trusting in Your mercy has been disappointed.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) Keep the light of faith ever burning, for Jesus alone is the Way that leads to the Father. He alone is the Life dwelling in our hearts. He alone is the Light that enlightens the darkness.

“Catholics sure have changed their tune!” is what a lot of folks claim when they read comments like the following from Pope Benedict:

Benedict XVI (1927- ) “Luther’s expression ‘by faith alone’ is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love.”

“Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love.”

You see, this is no capitulation to Protestant doctrine – it’s just the Catholic Church teaching what’s she’s taught all along. If by “faith” you mean “faith that creates charity,” then you understand the subject of justification the way the Council of Trent proclaimed it – faith without works is dead.

Realize, please, that the above-quoted individuals (Benedict XVI excepted – for now) aren’t just anybody; they are saints and blesseds. This means that the Catholic Church has set them up on a pedestal with a flashing neon sign proclaiming, “Pay attention to this person! Imitate her life! Listen to what he said!” Kind of counter-productive if the Church has secretly been cherishing the works-righteousness heresy all these centuries….

But as a Protestant, I didn’t know any of this, basically because I didn’t bother to do research on the subject. Prevailing Protestant wisdom was good enough for me. Little did I realize that Catholic doctrine cannot change!

Next time we’ll examine the prevailing Protestant wisdom on the subject of the Catholic Church and the Bible.

On the memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine

Deo omnis gloria!