Category Archives: Sacraments

The Real Presence 2

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an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“I know a man who converted from Hinduism, and when he shares his conversion story he says, “All of the Hindu stories about God becoming incarnate are something that humans would make up. They were odd, but they were filled with human reasoning. The story of Christ is too strange to have been invented by humans.

Today, for the first time, I was a Eucharistic minister to our elderly sisters during Mass. While the priest gives the Eucharist to the able-bodied sisters, we have one sister who usually goes around to the nuns who are unable to walk in the communion line. I had heard from the Eucharistic ministers that this is a coveted job in the convent but I never really understood why. Until today.

As I walked around to the older sisters sitting in their wheelchairs and leaning on their canes, I realized that here, in front of my eyes, were the people I had always expected to join me to crowd around Jesus. These women understand that Jesus is a rock star. As I neared them, the sisters would lean toward me as if I were about to hand them their first meal in weeks. Their eyes lit up with joy.

One sister, appropriately named Sr. Charitas, is barely able to communicate because of serious Parkinson’s. But when I approached her, she looked up at me and her face became a smile. All of it. Her entire face. Her smile pierced my soul.

Sr. Augusta, who is a young 99 years old, has serious dementia and often forgets that she has received the Eucharist. Sometimes you can hear her minutes after she has received, asking a sister next to her, “Have I received yet?”

Sure enough, today when I passed by her for a second time after giving her Jesus, she looked at me expectantly. I shook my head to tell her that she already received. She looked disappointed. I realized that her illness may affect how she sees reality but in some ways her world is more real than mine. She has a real thirst for the eternal liturgy of heaven.

To her, we were made for union with Jesus.

We are made for union with the real rock star of the world.

Every minute of every day.”

Love, and begging for union with my Jesus, every minute of every day, may it be mercifully so, Lord!
Matthew

The Real Presence

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“As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.” —St. Cyril of Alexandria

I have to tell you, sadly, ever so sadly, the ubiquity, online at least, and I am sure in person mirrors exactly, of Catholics who are ever so quick and witty and apparently theologically gifted and well-trained living saints (you have to be a saint to be a doctor of the Church) and doctors of the Church and strident to judge another soul’s worthiness of receiving Him is scandalous to me as a life-long Catholic; you fellow sinners, you scribes and Pharisees. Grievously scandalous, it is. I pray upon my and their deaths, our Lord is not so quick to as they do note others’ unworthiness. I pray. Lord, have mercy on me, for I am a sinful man! Depart from me, Lord! For what sinner can remain in Your presence and live? Theresa Noble got the same treatment, you may read. Shame, shame, shame on you. None of us is ever worthy!!! Or, ever will be!! Domine!!! Non sum dignus!!!

theresa_noble_fsp
an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“…One day while I was wandering around, I noticed that the main church at the center of the campus was bustling with people. I saw a man with billowing white robes standing outside.*

I was intrigued. I knew he must be a priest of some sort but I had been away from the Church for too long to understand much else. (Isn’t it kind of funny how intelligent, educated people feel that learning even the most basic things about Catholicism are beneath them?) Anyway, I looked at his face.

He was young, handsome and really happy.

I stood there gaping at him for much longer than is socially acceptable. “Strange.” I thought. I stepped into the church, half expecting sirens to go off.

“Warning. Warning. Atheist in the church. Warning. Warning.”

But nothing happened. A lady smiled at me warmly.

I took a seat in the back of the Church, near the door. I figured I would stay just for a few minutes. But the moment I entered the Church, I felt a Presence. It was not the presence of the other people; I could physically locate this Presence. It overwhelmed everything else in the room. It was like a giant magnet drawing me toward the area of the altar. I kept looking in that direction. I saw the tabernacle and my formerly Catholic mind registered the fact that these people believed that God resided there. I pushed that thought away. But the Presence did not go away.

When it came time for Communion, I considered sitting in my seat. “I don’t believe this stuff,” I reasoned. But I went up.

All the while, my head and my heart were ferociously at war.
I received Communion and as I did I remembered a friend of mine who had told me about the time one of her friends went to a Catholic funeral and received Communion, not knowing what it was or what she was doing. When she got back to her seat, she thought, “I must not be meant to eat this, it tastes like cardboard!” So she took the Eucharist out of her mouth and put it on the bottom of her seat like a wad of gum.** I remember my friend laughing when she told me the story. I did not believe in God at the time so I should have found it funny. But I only felt sick to my stomach, terror, and a deep sadness. All of these memories rushed into my mind, overwhelming it for a moment.

When I got home my boyfriend asked me, “What were you doing?”

I told him I went to Mass.

He looked shocked.

“Why?”

My head responded, “The traditions soothe me, it is like a lullaby…but I don’t believe any of it.”

As I said this my heart began beating wildly.***

* Several years later I met the man I had seen with the billowing white robes outside the church that day. He is now a Dominican priest and we are godparents to a beautiful little girl named Theresa.
**This is hopefully motivation for any priests reading this to verbally instruct Mass goers on proper reception of the Eucharist at funerals and weddings and other similar events.
***It would be several years before I would do things right and formally return to the Church. But it would be just months before I began to believe in God again. I can only believe that my recognition of the Presence on that fateful day was a seed planted that would eventually break the hardened earth around my heart on the day of my conversion.

Love, and always praying for the grace to more fully realize His Presence,
Matthew

Baptism of the Lord: why was Jesus baptized?

OXYGEN VOLUME 13

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-by Rev. Dominic Ryan, OP, English Province

“The feast of the baptism of the Lord marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. In many ways, though, it’s a rather strange way to end the Christmas season; indeed, it’s a rather strange feast full stop! And I say this because if we identify the key things which occur when one of us is baptised and ask whether they also occurred in Jesus’s baptism then we discover that they didn’t and that they couldn’t have.

Just think about it. When we’re baptised we’re healed from the guilt of original sin and we’re incorporated into the Church. Did any of this happen to Christ? No. Jesus didn’t suffer from original sin so he didn’t need to be healed from it, and Jesus hadn’t yet founded the Church so he couldn’t be incorporated into it. And if that’s not enough John’s baptism- the baptism Jesus received- wasn’t able to forgive sin and to incorporate people into the Church anyway. Those things only became possible after Christ’s death and resurrection. So not only did Jesus’ baptism at the hands of John not have the same effects as our baptism did, but nor could it have had so what’s going on in this feast and how does it relate to the end of Christmastide?

Of course, just because Jesus’s baptism didn’t heal him from the guilt of original sin or incorporate him into the church that’s not to say it wasn’t connected to those aims. God came into the world in Christ to redeem human beings from sin. And broadly speaking to achieve this aim three conditions had to be met: firstly, the power to redeem humans had to be present, secondly the means to redeem human beings had to be established and thirdly human beings had to be encouraged to avail of those means.

Take the first condition. Jesus was God so there’s no question of him lacking the power to redeem human beings. As to the means of redemption, human beings have to share in the salvific death of Christ, which is accomplished most effectively through baptism and incorporation into the Church. That’s not to say after baptism we can do as we please; baptism doesn’t give us a free pass into heaven regardless of what we do subsequently. Nor is it to say that God can’t bring about salvation in any other way if he so chooses. Rather through baptism we get a fresh start and the chance to live in a way which, if we follow it, will lead to heaven.

It’s not enough just to make the means of redemption available, though, more needs to be done, and that brings us to the third condition: people have to be encouraged to avail of the means of redemption. And the best way to do that is to give people an example so Christ submitted to John’s baptism. In so doing Christ encouraged all of us to be baptised and he identified himself with sinful humanity as the one who will act on our behalf to save us.

So if this feast is about Jesus encouraging us to follow the path to salvation how does it relate to Christmastide? Why put it now at the end of Christmastide? Well during Christmas we celebrate God’s coming into the world. But he came into the world for the purpose of our redemption. And the baptism of Jesus is the first public event in Christ’s mission. He starts to show us how to live and his authority is acknowledged by the Father. So it brings to an end what we have been celebrating at Christmas- God’s coming into the world for our salvation- and it sets us up quite nicely for ordinary time: follow Christ’s example, there we find the way to salvation.”

Love, and rejoicing in my baptism, always!!!
Matthew

The Eucharist & sin

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-by Elizabeth Duffy

“Any two-year-old will testify that while it may be possible to cobble together a few freshly acquired words in order to request a sippy-cup of milk, a tantrum will do the trick much faster. Meanwhile, frustrated parents may testify that while lullabies, rocking chairs, and bedtime stories eventually suffer that child to sleep, threats and spankings are more time efficient. Marriage counselors testify that even in a healthy relationship, it takes five compliments to undo one harsh criticism.

Negative energy has tremendous power, more power — it would seem — than the still small voice of charity, and when we affirm what is negative it only gets stronger. We affirm it, not by granting it approval, but rather by devoting to it our fear, our attention, our time, and our words. Whatever we commit ourselves to is a tacit affirmation.

Look at the Starbucks Christmas cup 2015. A few small people made a few disgruntled murmurs about its holiday decor, but in the crazy internet echo-chamber, those murmurs turned into posts and anti-posts, complaints, and anti-complaints, until a cultural phenomenon of anger and resentment was born. What we affirm grows stronger.

In a culture that feels, at the moment, overwhelmingly negative, how do we prevent this metastasis? We don’t want the shootings, the racism, the xenophobia, and the suppression of people of faith to get stronger. So how do we prevent that?

Prayer affirms what is positive, even those halfhearted “thoughts and prayers” going out all over the cosmos. They are not on par with the pious rebukes to which we’ve become accustomed: Christians admonishing other Christians, atheists admonishing Christians, cheeky editors admonishing God, everyone demanding a better performance out of everyone on earth but themselves.

Prayer is silencing the self, silencing the anger, all the things we negatively affirm with our time and attention, and affirming what is one, true, life giving, and good. What we affirm grows stronger. In the Words of St. John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).

When the apostles first encountered Jesus, they became more than Christ-followers. They were spending time in the presence of the One True God. Rev. Jeanne-Pierre de Caussade, SJ (1675-1751) wrote, “The apostles are moved more by the guidance of His spirit than by imitating His works.” They weren’t “following” the Lord so much as basking, feasting on His presence. And still they were not exempt from temptation.

They sat at the table with Jesus as He instituted the Eucharist, and even in such precious company, they had the freedom to reject Him, as Judas did, taking the Heavenly Bread and then leaving to betray Him. We all depart from Jesus for small and piddling reasons, to argue with a stranger, or worse, with the people we love, diminishing their person as we magnify their faults.

Now is the hour of our visitation (Luke 19:44). We are in the presence of the Lord, and when we affirm His presence, when we affirm what is good in others, in the people we love, in our friendships and our environment, when we go around seeking what is true and good and beautiful, it gets stronger. As Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord!” (Luke 1:46) and His presence in her expanded, literally and figuratively.

I can feast on His presence not just in the Eucharist, but in the souls who surround me, in every moment that He has sanctified with His blood. I am not just a Christ-follower, I am a Christ-devourer. And I become the substance of what I eat. His flesh and blood becomes my flesh and blood. “Unless you eat My body and drink My blood there is no life in you” (John 6:53). The banquet is never-ending. I will not go hungry.”

Love,
Matthew

Why do Catholics call ordained men “Father”?

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-Holy Orders

Mt 23:9

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-by Dr. John Switzer, PhD

“This delightful question serves as a reminder that fathers—and mothers—are not just biological realities but symbols as well. The role and work that parents perform in the raising of children naturally lends itself to this symbolism. When we think of good parents, we think of kindness, nurturing, and unconditional love. They bring to mind strength, protection, loving care, and attentiveness. We use the symbols of parenthood to describe other contexts as well. Mary is the mother of the church. Mahatma Gandhi is the father of Indian independence. The early leaders of our nation are referred to as Founding Fathers.

This symbolic understanding of parenthood goes back to biblical times. In 1 Cor. 4:15, St. Paul uses his own life as a model for Christian living. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that it was he who brought the faith to them. “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” he writes. Though he sometimes has to engage strong emotions in his letters, Paul seems to prefer a tone of gentle reproof: “I am writing you this not to shame you but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Cor. 4:14). It is easy to see why he presents himself as a spiritual father.

Those who tend toward biblical literalism sometimes express concern for Paul’s presentation of himself as a father of the church, a concern that carries over to using the word “father” in other religious contexts as well. This is due to a passage in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus cautions his listeners that they should “call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). But when read in context, it is apparent this commandment comes after a story where Jesus contrasts a sincere religious leader, who practices what he preaches, with one who fails to follow the teachings he conveys. Jesus is not insisting that we avoid using the word father in all metaphorical senses but that we recognize that only God can be perfect; only God can fulfill the role of the sincere religious leader, ultimately, at its best, at is most sincere, as God the Father.

Given the ways in which they serve the community, it seems a natural and even holy development that we see priests as symbolic parents. Their sacramental service runs parallel to the sacrifices given for us by our biological parents. Priests baptize us, bringing us into the realm of Christ and incorporating us into the family of the church. They pronounce words of healing and forgiveness. They feed us and counsel us. (‘At its core, fatherhood is meant to strengthen and animate us.’ -Br PMB, OP)”

Love, and with particularly deep Christian affection for our priests, even the ornery ones, maybe especially the ornery ones!
Matthew

Eucharist as idol

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I know what I am going to say is touchy. What isn’t these days except untruth which is universally palatable, but false, which is ostensibly why we like it so much. Lies are easier. Truth is hard.

I am musing on the concept of a fringe of Catholics who worship the Eucharist practically as an idol. It has no relation to them. It is so divine as to be totally, totally other. It goes far beyond reverence for the Real Presence. It is recognized when these Catholics USE the Eucharist as something to beat everyone else down who isn’t as holy as them or it. Feel me? To make others feel totally other.

I can find lots of non-Catholic critiques, but to say NO Catholic ever goes too far in the distance they put between their own sanctity and that of the Eucharist seems, at least, disingenuous to me, if not overly and falsely pious.

I revere the Blessed Sacrament, extremely. Sometimes, I encounter Catholics whose reverence for the Eucharist is so extreme, if that is possible, and while God dwells in unapproachable light, it seems to me moreso they are worshiping a thing rather than person? Feel me? Their reverence seems to lack the intimacy one may expect in having a personal relationship with Someone. God became man to become intimate. I just get this weird idolatry vibe from them.

I pray for myself and those Catholics who worship the Eucharist as idol rather than as personally intimate Savior, and who USE it to make others feel lesser. The Real Presence is a personal intimate relationship for me. Not a thing. Not a weapon. Not a reward. Medicine for we sinners. Not a thing, a person, with Whom I am in love. To make it too Divine is to separate man & God. A separation the Incarnation denies. It gets/got weird.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 7 – Our Lady of the Rosary & Victory & grace of & prayers for a happy death.

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O my Lord and Savior, support me in my last hour by the strong arms of Thy sacraments and the fragrance of thy consolations. Let Thy absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me; and let Thine own body be my food and Thy blood my sprinkling; and let Thy Mother Mary come to me, and my angel whisper peace to me, and Thy glorious saints and my own dear patrons smile on me, that in and through them all I may die as I desire to live, in Thy Church, in Thy faith, and in Thy love. Amen. Bl John Henry Cardinal Newman

O Dearest Lady, sweet Mother mine, watch the hour when my departing soul shall lose its hold on all earthly things, and stand unveiled in the presence of its Creator. Show thyself my tender Mother then, and offer to the Eternal Father the precious blood of thy Son Jesus for my poor soul, that it may, thus purified, be pleasing in His sight. Plead for thy poor child at the moment of his (or her) departure from this world, and say to the heavenly Father: Receive him (her) this day into Thy kingdom! Amen.

Through your help I hope to die a happy death. O my Mother I beg you, by the love you bear my God, to help me at all times, but especially at the last moment of my life. Do not leave me, I beseech you, until you see me safe in Heaven, blessing you and singing your mercies for all eternity. Amen, so I hope, so may it be.St Alphonsus Ligouri

Grant unto us, Lord Jesus, ever to follow the example of Thy holy Family, that in the hour of our death Thy glorious Virgin Mother together with blessed Joseph may come to meet us and we may be worthily received by Thee into everlasting dwellings: Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Lord Jesus, pour into us the spirit of Thy love, that in the hour of our death we may be worthy to vanquish the enemy and attain unto the heavenly crown: Who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that in the hour of our death we may be refreshed by Thy holy Sacraments and delivered from all guilt, and so deserve to be received with joy into the arms of Thy mercy. Through Christ our Lord.

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-by Br Hyacinth Grub, OP

“It was not too long ago that I stood in a hospice center praying at the bedside of a friar in his final hours. At one point the social worker on duty came in to offer some surprising advice: leave him be. She told me that some people prefer to die alone, and that they’ll hold on until the room is empty. She described dying as “a wonderful expression of our autonomy.” Our society celebrates autonomy in all its forms, but this advice seemed particularly audacious. Especially because the limits of autonomy are most transparent at the end, when suffering and death strip away our illusions of ultimate power and self-determination.

It’s not that we don’t have a real power to choose, or that our will isn’t free, or that our choices are unimportant. Though, in a certain sense, the many choices we make throughout our lives on earth are really many acts of just one choice: the choice to pursue God or to pursue ourselves. We are continually deciding whether to worship God or ourselves, to follow His will or our own, and, ultimately, whether to accept His gift of Himself (heaven) or reject it (hell). In this way we are faced with the same choice that the angels had, but we decide it differently. For the angels are more noble beings, and when they were created they chose in a single act of the will. We, as men and women living in time and constrained by our physical natures, have to make this choice throughout our lives, in our daily acts. Our choice, and how each of our acts moved us toward it, will be the subject of our particular judgment.

Every act of ours is therefore a movement giving primacy to God’s will or to our own will. And in this sense it could be said that the most autonomous souls, the most independent, are those deepest in hell. Having chosen to reject every help, they have chosen instead to be utterly alone.

To speak of autonomy at someone’s deathbed is a futile grasp at a failing value. But what is proper to speak of, then? It’s not an academic question — we will all be there sooner or later. When we reach our end, facing a fate that seems to be a final defeat, what do we cling to? (For we should cling to something other than ourselves.) We should cling to our Savior and trust in His mercy.

We cling to Jesus and His Mother Mary, and especially to the lifeline that they have given to us in the rosary. Holding onto the rosary, we are pulled out of darkness and into light. Through the rosary we anchor ourselves in the mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection; in those chains of beads we are tangled up within His salvific love, we are bound to His divine life. There is a reason that Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Victory are two names for the same feast day. For in repeating the Hail Mary we repeat the names of Jesus and Mary, and we recall that in the Incarnation God “emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6) We ask Mary to pray for us, now and until the end. We ask her to be with us, and to not leave us to face the sting of death on our own. So that, remembering Christ’s victory over death, we can echo the bold words of St. Paul: “Death, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)

What better way to live and to die than in the rosary, in the continual repetition of those two holy and sweetest names of Jesus and Mary? What better way than by begging, again and again, for Mary’s intercession? So we stayed by our brother’s side in his final moments, praying the rosary when he could not. And in such a way may “the angels lead [us] into paradise,” may the martyrs receive us into the Holy City of our God, with the names of Jesus and Mary sounding in our ears and written on our heart.”

Love,
Matthew

The Limits of Ecumenical Dialogue

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-Swedish Lutheran bishops

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-by Fr. Dwight Longeneckera former Evangelical Protestant, graduate of Bob Jones University, turned Anglican priest, turned Catholic priest.

“The ecumenical teams for Lutherans and Catholics have been hard at it and produced a new document on Church, Eucharist and Ministry called Declaration on the Way.

It’s all full of enthusiastic and optimistic language about how Lutherans and Catholics are all starting to agree after 500 years.

I hate to be a party pooper, but like the ecumenical talks with the Anglicans, it seems to me that we are further apart than ever before on some very key issues and that on these issues which are so divisive we are on ever widening tangents.

You remember Chesterton’s observation, “When two paths begin to diverge the gap between them always widens.”

The language of these ecumenical documents is always very elastic. The participants efforts to agree are laudable. We all want church unity, but too often they seem to be straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

In order to find “points of convergence” the dialogue masters find minor points of agreement, pump them up and then deflate the larger and more important points of disagreement that remain.

My other grumble about this sort of thing is that the language, in an attempt to be diplomatic and find points of agreement is invariably ambiguous, vague and deliberately confusing, and where it is not all this it is contradictory and illogical.

The attempts to find points of convergence must be balanced with a clear understanding of the truth. (Ed.  PLEASE!  PLEASE!  PLEASE!  DO NOT confuse consensus with Truth!  If everyone agrees, that does not make it TRUE!  And, if everyone disagrees that does not make it untrue!)  We must agree on the truth (not really, I take Fr Longnecker’s point here clearly, but as I just said, the Truth is the Truth,  More is not Better, often, Better is Better, always, whether we like it, dislike it, agree with it or not, hence the definition of the word Truth = Veritas,”Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.” Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen), not agree on some vague re-formulation of “belief statements.” (This is why classical Christianity has a CREED!!!!  Every syllable of which has had wars fought over it!!!  Every syllable of which has had much blood spilled over it!!  Perhaps I dramatize a little, but not THAT much!)

Here’s an example in a passage about women’s ordination for example. Fr Longnecker’s comments are in BOLD.

“Most Lutheran member churches of the LWF hold themselves free under the gospel to ordain women. Why is that? They see in this practice “a renewed understanding of the biblical witness” which reflects “the nature of the church as a sign of our reconciliation and unity in Christ through baptism across the divides of ethnicity, social status and gender” OK. They’re going to change the ordained ministry and admit women. (Lund Statement, § 40). At the same time, “it can be said that in general the Lutheran churches which have introduced the ordination of women do not intend a change of either the dogmatic understanding or the exercise of the ministerial office” (Ministry, § 25).OK We’ve changed the understanding of the ordained ministry but we do not intend to change the understanding of the ordained ministry. Significantly, churches in the LWF that do ordain women and those that do not have remained in communion with one another.

The Catholic Church does not consider itself as authorized to ordain women. Nevertheless, in The Ministry in the Church the international dialogue commission affirmed that the Catholic Church “is able to strive for a consensus on the nature and significance of the ministry without the different conceptions of the persons to be ordained fundamentally endangering such a consensus and its practical consequences for the growing unity of the church” (§ 25). This is gobbledegook. So the Catholics also want to have their cake and eat it. We are not going to ordain women but we think ordaining women doesn’t really matter. Really?”

Most worrying about this starry eyed optimism is the head in the sand attitude of those involved in the dialogue. Both the Catholics and Lutherans involved seem blind to the fact that most Lutherans don’t give two hoots about unity with the Catholics.

They’re like the Anglicans.

I can remember when I was an Anglican seminarian and found myself debating women’s ordination with a female theology student.

I said, “But women’s ordination will present a serious obstacle in the path to unity with Catholics.”

“Good God!” she exclaimed, “I don’t want to be a Catholic! What on earth do we want unity with them for?”

Whenever one of these documents from the ecumenicists came back to the Church of England General Synod it was invariably shot down–not by the Catholics, but by the Anglicans. When I was a priest in the Church of England the ARCIC folks came back all warm and fuzzy with a document about Eucharist, Ministry and Church. Oh, there was so much agreement! There were so many “points of convergence.” Then when it went to the CofE General Synod for approval it crashed and burned. Both the liberals who hate the Catholic Church for being so conservative and the Evangelicals who hate the Catholic Church for being Catholic shot it full of holes and it died a quiet and dignified death.

The worst thing about this document is the recommendation that Catholics and Lutherans perhaps should begin receiving communion together (Intercommunion, General Prohibition Concerning, Canon 844). “It suggests that the expansion of opportunities for Catholics and Lutherans to receive Holy Communion together would be a sign of the agreements already reached and the distance traveled.”

When speaking about intercommunion I often say being in communion with the Catholic Church is like being married. You either are or you are not. If you are you can make love together if you are not you shouldn’t. To do so is either fornication or adultery.  (THINK about the word!!  INTERCOMMUNION, to be in UNION within!  As a visible sign!  Tangible act!  Finally, more than just WORDS!  VERY, VERY PUBLIC ACT & WITNESS!!!  And, there are now witnesses to your very, very public act and witness of affirmation of union within another denomination, affirming ALL THEY hold and believe to be True!!!  Now, answer the question whether you should receive outside your denomination?  Intercommune?  Are YOU, PLURAL, NOT SINGULAR!!!, as a member or your union, your denomination, in UNION?  Within?  Do you hold and believe to be True ALL this other union holds to be true?  Do you even understand ALL this other union holds to believe to be true?  This is the GRAVE & SOLEMN statement you give whenever you receive communion!!!  Whenever!!!!  Appreciate THIS the next time and every time thereafter you are in line to receive!!!!  LORD, MAKE ME WORTHY!!!!!  ONLY GOD CAN!!!)  🙂

To extend the analogy, for Lutherans and Catholics to start sharing communion before full unity has been achieved is a bit like saying, “Bob and Sally have had a wonderful vacation together, so they should wind up their fun time by jumping in the sack together.”

In other words, “Let’s celebrate full communion while we do not have full communion.”  (HERESY!!  HERESY!! HERESY!! “Hello?  Inquisition?  Come, right away!!  I’d like to report…”)

Once we cut through all the obfuscation, diplomatic double talk and intellectual mumbo jumbo that’s what it comes down to.
One final note: I can remember as an Anglican reading in the gospel that Christ called for their to be one flock and one shepherd.
I asked myself what I could do to help promote church unity and I realized that there was one, solid, sure and positive thing I, as one Christian, could do to bring about church unity.

I could become a Catholic.

So I did.”

Love,
Matthew

The Horror of Suffering

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“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.   I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” -Philippians 3:7-11

All sin is a failure to be convinced of the Truth OR a failure of believing that it is true.

The consequences of sin are twofold, eternal and temporal. By sin a person incurs the guilt of offending God and loses God’s friendship and his right to the inheritance of eternal happiness. Absolution remits this guilt and loss. The second consequence of sin is chastisement, either here or hereafter, for violating God’s ordinances. This chastisement must be satisfied by penance here or atonement in purgatory. The penance that the priest gives in confession is imposed in the hope that with the proper disposition of the penitent it will satisfy for the temporal chastisement due for the sins confessed. The penance imposed may not, however, adequately satisfy for the chastisement due the sins; hence it is customary for penitents to voluntarily do various works of satisfaction for their sins, although absolved. The Church by its seasons and practices of penance reminds the faithful of the need of doing penance outside that imposed in the confessional.

-from Catholics Come Home, Sacrament of Reconciliation

1. Confession helps us to better “know thyself.”

St. Augustine and countless other saints and doctors of the Church talk about the importance of knowing ourselves well. Through coming to know ourselves better, we realized how fallen we are, and how badly we need God’s help and grace to get through life. Frequent Confession helps remind us to rely on God to help rid us of our sins.

2. Confession helps us overcome vice.

The grace we receive from the Sacrament of Confession helps us combat our faults and failings and break our habits of vice much more easily and expediently than we could otherwise do without the sacramental grace.

3. Confession brings us peace.

Guilt from the sins we commit can make us feel all mixed up inside and cause us to lose our peace and joy. When we hear God’s forgiving words to us from the lips of the priest in Confession, a burden is lifted off our shoulders and we can again feel the peace of heart and soul that comes from being in a good relationship with God.

4. Confession helps us become more saintly, more like Jesus.

Jesus was perfectly humble, perfectly generous, perfectly patient, perfectly loving—perfectly everything! Don’t you wish you could be as humble, generous, patient, and loving as Jesus? Saints throughout history have felt that way too, and they have frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help transform them into people who are more like Christ. Little images of Christ—that’s what saints are!

5. Confession makes our will stronger.

Every time we experience the Sacrament of Confession, God strengthens our will and our self-control to be able to resist the temptations that confront us in our lives. We become more resolute to follow God’s will and not our own whims.  His Grace Abounds!!!  I have experienced, benefited, and am sincerest witness to His merciful Love!!!  Ask, knock, seek for the strength to resist temptation, or to do any other holy work possible, YOU WILL RECEIVE IN SPADES!!!  A BOUNTIFUL HARVEST OF GRACES, OVERFLOWING, PACKED DOWN, SOLID.  MERCY!!!!  HAVE FAITH!!!  BE STRONG!!!!  BE NOT AFRAID!!!!  HIS LOVE ENDURES FOR AGES UPON AGES.  AMEN!!!!

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-by Cynthia Stewart

Suffering and evil are distinct and yet interrelated concepts in Catholic thinking. Ultimately, the fall of humanity is the cause of all suffering. Humans were created to exist in harmony with God, but instead they chose the path of disobedience, which brought suffering and death into the world. Catholics believe that while humans have the free choice to disobey, they can never find true joy and peace except in harmony with and obedience to God. As St. Augustine says so eloquently in his Confessions, “Our hearts find no rest until they rest in You.”

In the Catholic view, human action is not the only cause of suffering: while God as the source of all goodness can never act in a manner that is evil, God may send suffering to open the hearts of those who have refused to hear God’s call. In their pride and complacency, humans think that they need neither God nor the grace God offers, but tragedy, sorrow, and suffering can lead to transformation. Because this world is prelude and preparation for the afterlife, even a life filled with suffering is useful if it causes the person to turn to God and accept divine grace. This, Catholics believe, is a central fact of existence: that God uses everything, even suffering, to call people back to God.

The Catholic Church teaches that with their limited vision humans do not have the ability to see all the consequences of actions and events, and something they recognize as evil may also be the impetus for great good to occur: God is able to bring good even out of the evil that humans commit. When Catholics look at a troubled history that eventually led to a better situation, they recognize the hand of God drawing the whole process to a happy conclusion. In fact, this is the lesson of the felix culpa, the happy fault: human sin brought suffering into the world, but it also paved the way for God’s incarnation to occur. The evil remains evil, but the good that God causes to flow from it is greater still. According to St. Augustine, even this perception of good coming from evil is the result of a limited view: from the cosmic, eternal perspective of God, everything is ultimately good because God uses everything in the service of goodness.

Catholics distinguish between physical evil and moral evil. Physical evil is simply a lack of perfection: all of creation moves toward ultimate perfection in the coming kingdom of God, but nothing on earth yet achieves it. Moral evil is the greater issue, one that is all-pervasive in this world. It is moral evil to which the Church’s Catechism refers when it says, “There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil” (309). Yet moral evil, too, is simply a lack of perfection-in this case, perfection of the human will.

Just as God has not created a world of physical perfection, saving that for the coming kingdom, so too God has not created a world of moral perfection in which people do not have the ability to sin. St. Augustine explained that God is the source of everything that exists, and everything God created is good. Evil is the absence of good, so therefore it must not have real existence. It is instead a lack, the absence of good. God created humanity, Lucifer, and the rebellious angels as beings of goodness, but also endowed them with the freedom to choose their paths. They chose to turn away from the good, and in doing so their capacity for goodness was diminished. It is this lack, this diminishment, that is evil. Augustine’s formulation has proven to be the most influential understanding of evil in the western Christian tradition.

When they speak of evil, Catholics often make reference to Lucifer, or the devil, who is called the Father of Lies. Lucifer’s power lies solely in his ability to persuade humans to do his will, just as he persuaded the rebellious angels to follow him, and the result is just as disastrous. Lucifer is mirage and subterfuge, creating the illusion that following him will lead to happiness and light when all that will result is chaos and evil. He therefore causes evil, but only with the willing participation of humans utilizing their free will to choose diminishment of the good. He may be called the Evil One, but Catholic belief does not grant him the power to execute the evil he envisions. His power is very limited, his bid for predominance in heaven already thwarted, his final defeat already destined, just as the end of suffering and evil in the world to come is already destined.”

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O Lord,
You are the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
You do not grow faint or weary;
Your understanding is unsearchable.
You give power to the weak,
and strengthen the powerless.
Even the young will grow weary,
and will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for You
shall renew their strength,
and shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. Amen.
Adapted from Isaiah 40:28-31

Love,
Matthew

Help for non-Catholics & Catholics in understanding Catholic marriage…

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-by Jacob Lupfer, a Methodist who admires the Catholic Church.

“Most people following this month’s Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome are aware that the specter of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion is the most controversial and difficult issue among many controversial issues being discussed.

I have followed reports from the Synod closely and have been very interested in Catholic perspectives on divorce, remarriage, and the sacraments. As a divorced and remarried person with an abiding respect for Catholicism, I suppose I am more interested than most. Few Protestants believe that remarried persons are unworthy to receive Communion. Many Protestants are wondering, “What’s the big deal?” A few have asked for help in understanding the debate. I hope to helpfully to offer some explanation here.

The puzzled Protestant must first consider Catholic teaching on marriage. For one thing, marriage is a sacrament (one of seven, whereas Protestants have only two – baptism and the Lord’s Supper). As an efficacious sign of grace, a man and a woman, after giving consent, mutually confer the sacrament upon one another in the presence of the Church. It is not the work of a priest or a church or a civil magistrate. And, following words attributed to Jesus himself, marriage is indissoluble: “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”

The next difference concerns divorce. Protestants typically assume that if a court grants a divorce, then the marriage no longer exists. In Catholicism, civil divorce is a mostly meaningless distinction. Church tribunals can grant annulments, which decree that the marriage was invalid. In recent generations, especially in territories like the U.S. where courts came to easily grant divorces, the standards for receiving an annulment have liberalized. (Though fewer U.S. Catholics are marrying, marrying in the Church, and seeking annulments.) Without an annulment, the Church considers the couple married as long as both spouses are still living. No action of a civil court can change that reality.

Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate has complied some helpful data on marriage, divorce, and annulments.

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Here is where it becomes complicated regarding Communion. A civilly remarried Catholic is, in the eyes of the Church, living in adulterous relationship. Every sex act with the new spouse is considered a mortal sin. Whereas Protestants came to accept subsequent marriages and stepfamilies without much trouble, the Catholic Church considers these situations “irregular” and maintains that without an annulment, the initial marriage remains intact. A civilly remarried Catholic could receive Communion if s/he is celibate. In Protestant churches, it would be virtually inconceivable for a pastor to confront remarried people about receiving Communion. But this gets to two more differences: fitness for receiving Communion and the nature of Communion itself.

In the United Methodist Church of my childhood, the minister invited everyone to the Lord’s Table, saying, “Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: Draw near with faith and take this holy sacrament to your comfort.” Over time, the language of intentionality was shortened and arguably watered down a bit. The most frequently used UMC Communion ritual now says, “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another…” Regardless of denomination, the invitation is relatively simple for Protestants: If you repent, you are welcome to partake. In true Protestant fashion, you are competent to determine for yourself your fitness to receive the sacrament. You and God know your heart. No priest or catechism is necessary to assist in that determination!

Not so in Catholicism. You cannot say, “Well, I am in good conscience, being happily and faithfully remarried.” Furthermore, if you receive Communion in a state of grave sin, you commit another grave sin.

A final significant difference between Protestants and Catholics on this question concerns the nature of Communion itself. Most Protestants suppose that the major Christian debates about Communion concern the frequency with which it is celebrated and the mode by which it is received. But this obscures a greater, more fundamental difference. For Protestants, Communion is a community meal, a moment of personal devotion, and a remembrance of Jesus himself. For Catholics, it is Jesus himself. Christians differ about how exactly Christ is present in the bread and wine. Liturgical Protestants hold that Communion is more than a remembrance. But for Catholics, through transsubstiantation, the elements become the actual body and blood of Christ.

With an arguably “higher” view of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Catholics take more seriously the idea that communicants must receive Him worthily. For the civilly remarried Catholic, this is apparently impossible without changes in Church doctrine.

In convening the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis deliberately sought a diversity of views. Some theologians, most prominently Cardinal Walter Kasper, have argued that civilly remarried Catholics be allowed to receive Communion. The most vocal opponents have been Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal Raymond Burke. Their Eminences have engaged in a spirited and sometimes pointed public debate. Based on reports of the Synod’s first week, there seems to be an openness to pastoral innovation, but there is no sign that bishops want the Church to abandon its belief in the indissolubility of marriage.

Unsurprisingly, many lay Catholics have also weighed in on the question. Since Protestants will instinctively be sympathetic to the view that remarried people should be permitted to receive Communion, I will highlight two traditionalists. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has a characteristically thoughtful blog post that includes links to his other writings on this and related issues. In a provocative column, civilly remarried laywoman Louise Mensch states: “I am a divorced Catholic. And I’m sure it would be a mortal sin for me to take Communion.” Her perspective gives expression to the Church’s sense that Catholics in irregular relationships should attend Mass and remain part of parish communities even though they cannot receive Communion.

Protestants who wish to understand why it’s a big deal for Catholics to even debate the idea that remarried people can receive Communion, must bear in mind these vital differences:

  • Marriage as a sacrament vs. ‘merely’ a God-ordained union
  • Sacramental marriage vs. civil marriage
  • Annulments vs. divorce
  • Clerical/Church determination vs. individual determination of worthiness to receive Communion
  • “Real presence” as real presence vs. “Real presence” as holy mystery or ‘mere’ remembrance

Regardless of your position, Protestants should take note of the Synod’s consideration of how the Church can nurture marriage and family life. The challenges the pope hopes to address are not uniquely Catholic problems.”

Love,
Matthew