Seasonal Hiatus

Going on hiatus until September. Don’t worry. Just need a break from blogging, and want to enjoy this beautiful summer we are having! Check back often for some automatic scheduled reposts of old blogs until then! See you in the Fall!

Perfection of the Rosary

(Reblogged from September 27, 2014)

I might dare to say that the Rosary is the perfect prayer for the Christian to pray, that is, besides the Mass. Of course, there is no objective standard against which to measure the perfection of prayer, but there are a few points, which, in my opinion, give the Rosary a distinct advantage in many areas of prayer for the Christian.

The Visitation (2nd Joyful Mystery)

The Visitation (2nd Joyful Mystery)

The first point is that the Rosary is rich in Scripture. There are two fundamental ways that this is true. The most obvious is the way in which the crucial prayers of the Rosary are derived. First and foremost, there is the Our Father, which comes straight from the lips of God in the flesh through the pen of St. Matthew. This is the prayer that Jesus Christ himself taught us to pray and it is repeated, in its perfection, over and over in the Rosary. The second prayer is the Hail Mary. The Hail Mary is a combination of Scriptural salutation and petition. The first half of the prayer is a modified version of the salutation of St. Gabriel to the Virgin Mary as recorded by St. Luke. The second half is a petition asking for another to pray for us. Third there is the Glory Be which combines different key elements of Scripture testifying to the Triune God and to God’s unchanging and eternal nature. But there is also a second fundamental way in which the Rosary is Scriptural, and that is in the very mysteries which are reflected upon while praying. For those unfamiliar with the Rosary I am working on setting up a page that teaches how to pray it, but you should understand that while one prays the Rosary, there are mysteries in the life of Jesus that one reflects upon. When we truly engage with the mystery that we are contemplating, we take Scripture into our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to breathe life into the mystery and to bring it to life within our very lives.

Prayer in Gethsemane (1st Sorrowful Mystery)

Prayer in Gethsemane (1st Sorrowful Mystery)

The second point is that the Rosary is humbling and outward focused. In each prayer that is offered in the Rosary, from the Our Father to the Hail Mary to the Glory Be and to the Fatima prayer, the Christian elevates others, professes his or her need for grace, mercy, and conversion, and rightly orders him or herself in relation to God.

The third is that the Rosary is a community prayer whether one prays it alone or with others. By its very nature, the Rosary is communal in that you don’t pray it alone, but that Mary prays it with you because you are consistently asking for her prayers. The Rosary is terrific for those Christians who experience loneliness or are in a place where there are few to share the experience of group prayer with. But the Rosary also lends itself well to praying in a parish community. The prayers are simple enough to divide between a “leader” and the “people” allowing a back and forth chanting of the prayer, which in itself is symbolic of the conversation between the Christian and Jesus. We worship God in a dialogue: both man and God speak to each other and receive from the other.

The fourth point is that the Rosary is simple to remember, with or without beads. If and when the time comes when we American Christians are forced from our homes, leaving behind our Bibles, crucifixes, and Rosaries, to be burned and looted by those who oppose religious freedom, the Rosary is easy enough to carry in our hearts. The prayers are simple. The mysteries are simple, and keep Scripture alive in our hearts even when a Bible is not to be found.

The Pentecost (3rd Glorious Mystery)

The Pentecost (3rd Glorious Mystery)

And fifth, the Rosary is living and fluid. It is not rigid in its structure. As much as I dislike the addition of the Luminous Mysteries into the cycle of the 150 Hail Mary’s that the original 15 mysteries had, it is a prayer that lends itself to adaptations. For example: some people add scriptural readings relating to the mystery after each Hail Mary. I, for example, offer a simple “pray for us” to each of my patron Saints at the end of each decade, and I fill the moments after the closing prayers with all sorts of petitions and invocations. The Rosary is something that can become something unique to each Christian in his or her relationship with Jesus.

I love the Rosary for it aids me in encountering Jesus quite intimately, in a way that I cannot otherwise experience outside of the Sacraments. If you’ve got a Rosary that’s just been collecting dust in the drawer, take it out and pray it today! You won’t regret it!

Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 5: The Rugged Cross

(Reblogged from December 9, 2013)

Read the previous installment of this 7-part series here.

This is the part that I have looked forward to the most in preparing this series because, while everyone has a cross that they bear, few probably understand how burdensome this cross is and how difficult it can be to lay this burden down. By the time I am done with this article, it may end up being the longest article in the whole series.

The Heavy Cross of Homosexual Inclination
Four main points to make here. The first is that the sexual desire of the homosexually inclined is just as strong as the heterosexual, and in many ways the associated desires that are triggered can be similar. Desire for a long-term relationship and family are all associated with the sexual desire because that is how God created sexual desire, and the distortion of authentic sexuality hasn’t completely changed all aspects of the homosexually inclined person’s sexuality. And since the desire is so strong it can cause more than just a little bit of loneliness and sorrow, which leads to the second point: that this cross is not consented to. In some ways I do consent to the cross when I choose to live according to the Church’s teachings of chastity, but it wasn’t a cross that I truly had a choice in bearing, unlike with consecrated or ordained life. The religious and the ordained are called to bear a cross, but they choose to accept the cross and bear it. They could choose marriage and sex and commit no sin. I cannot. I was not asked or given a choice in receiving this cross. I never discerned whether I should be homosexual or not. I just am. And so the celibacy that God asks of me isn’t something I willingly chose, but it is something that I am willing to bear for the greater good of my soul. The third point is that this cross is lonely. This loneliness can rear its ugly head any time, but there are particular times when it rudely butts in. The big one for me is weddings. I love weddings and I love wedding dances. But a wedding is a tough reminder for me that unless I find a very amazing woman who is willing to bear this cross with me, and is a woman who I am able to love conjugally despite my cross, I am going to be alone for a long time. Some days also bring about more temptations than others through failing to retain custody of my eyes. Those days are particularly hard. There are some days where the impending loneliness can be so immense that you really have to force yourself out of bed, and that being around others only seems to emphasize the loneliness.

The fourth point here on the heaviness of the cross is this: that this cross is very painful, and making light humor or jokes about it is not helpful at all. Trying to ease the tension about newly discovering that a Catholic or Christian you know that is homosexual by making light hearted remarks may seem like a good idea, but at least in my case, they are not. This cross has caused me more heartache, anxiety, fear, and loneliness over the years than I can express, and the last three years in particular have been a roller coaster of sorrow, culminating in some very dark and dreary months since Lent began this year. To make light of this is to twist a rusty knife into the wound.

We create complex facades to bear the cross
Christian or not, many homosexuals create complex safety mechanisms, especially if the cross is a secret. I can barely understand or identify the many layers I myself have woven over the years to conceal the truth about my sexuality. But I will mention one, because one of my friends mentioned it to me this summer, and I actually found it a little humorous.

Juliet from LOST. I don’t know why I chose her, I guess she fit a larger “type” that I had always claimed I was “into”. I would dote on her whenever she was on screen, had a small crush on her, and made it known. I created this safety mechanism as a way to deflect suspicion that there may have been something deeper going on in my soul. After I “came out” to certain people, my friend asked me “what about Juliet?!” To be honest I had forgotten about that whole charade, and all I could say was “I don’t know.” Creating deflecting systems became second nature to me, and even now I am so tempted to build them without even thinking about, even around people who already know.

This cross brings a deep fear of rejection
This is quite obvious. Every now and then you hear about a kid who is kicked out of his parents’ home when he tells them he is a homosexual. This is a completely un-Christian response to such news. Most people don’t react in such a way, but there is always the fear that such a response will occur. For me, this fear was there, despite the fact that I knew my Catholic friends would never do such a thing. If that fear had not existed I would have shared this part of me a long time ago. This fear, whether justified or not, contributed greatly to the loneliness that I experienced. In my fear-fed dishonesty with my friends I felt distant from them. I didn’t feel like we were true friends because I was not allowing them into my heart to share the burden of my cross with me. That loneliness grew as I felt more and more like a bystander and a stranger amongst them. As Catholics and Christians, we need to make two things known: that we won’t reject a friend for struggling with sin and that we don’t care what sins they have committed in their past because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I haven’t told my friends about my past sins and I probably won’t because they have been buried in the bottom of the ocean of Christ’s mercy in Confession, and there is no need to drag them up, but I know that even if I told them of all the things I have done, they would not reject me.

We are not renegades
I will share a personal story here that probably occurred in genuine innocence and ignorance, but hurt and angered me nonetheless. In a discussion (I won’t say with who) over dinner one night, the subject of contraception came up and whether the Church teaches that a woman who is in such poor health that pregnancy would kill her can use contraception. The answer is no. Contraception is a grave evil. If you wish to avoid having children due to dire circumstances, you should abstain from the conjugal act during your fertile period.  It may not seem fair, but the ends never justify the means. I went on to mention that most Catholics who do attempt to follow the Church’s teachings on contraception, still misunderstand it in using Natural Family Planning. I pointed out that in Humanae Vitae, the Church teaches that NFP may only be used in dire cases. It is not “Catholic contraception” and it is not to be the norm within a marriage that is perfectly capable of having a child, but simply does not want one. It also mentions that while the practice is permitted, it is a higher good to abstain completely from the sexual act while the dire situation is in existence, both in fertile and infertile periods. The topic naturally flowed to the majority of Catholics who ignore Church teaching on contraception, and I think I used the term “renegade Catholic” to describe them. One of the participants in the conversation looked at me and said “aren’t you a renegade Catholic, since you’re gay?”

No! This is a huge misunderstanding of Church teaching. We are not renegades simply because we have an inclination towards a particular sin. We ALL have inclinations to sin. There are many homosexual Catholics that do not dissent from orthodoxy, and do not promote dissent publicly nor privately. Being a homosexual does not make one a renegade. Certainly there are renegade homosexuals within the Church who publicly defy Church teaching and encourage others to do the same, but that does not flow from simply being inclined towards the sin.

Long story short: this cross is at times very heavy and lonely. I have had many dark nights of the soul strung together into one long and bitterly cold winter, but I personally feel as if spring is coming and I am now glad that I have so many friends who know of my cross and are willing to bear it alongside me.

Part 6

Going Beyond Fear

(Reblogged from November 20, 2013)

142 days ago I did the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I confided one of my deepest secrets to about 20 of my closest friends and confidants. A few weeks after that I shared that intimate story here, but took it down after meeting with my spiritual director because I felt that the intimate nature of the story should only be shared with those who know and understand me.

But the reason that I had shared in the first place was because my voice is unique in the current state events in our world. In a culture that deeply pits us against each other, pushing us into distinct, unflinching categories in which we must conform to certain ideals or be considered traitors it is difficult for alternative perspectives to flourish. For awhile I felt that sharing these details publicly could possibly put a train wreck in my big V vocation. But the universal vocation of the Christian is a call to holiness and in that call is to call others to holiness as well through faith, hope, and love. So I am going to share this again because people need to know that there is hope and love in Christ and that to the one who desires to know and do the Will of God no matter what the cost, there is no condemnation.

My Story (as it originally appeared)

“It is not good that man should be alone.”
Genesis 2:18

This post has been in the back of my mind for a very long time. I’ve tried a few different times to write it, but each attempt has been unsatisfactory. But as I contemplate the words that God spoke in the ancient garden, I realize that the longer I put this off, the longer I remain alone, and that that is not good. I’ve been bearing a very lonely cross for a very long time because I have been afraid at what it would mean to ask for help. But my shame has weakened me to the point where any attempt to bear it alone can only result in failure. I am confident, though, that if I just let my friends know about the burdens I bear that they will gladly help because I have some of the most loving friends in this universe.

As I’ve been trying to get myself comfortable with the idea of opening up to other people, which is something I absolutely fear, I’ve been trying to decide whether it is wise to make my cross public to the whole world, or if it is better to keep it between my friends and me. I have decided that I will follow the example of Christ who carried a very public cross through a very hostile world for the good of others. By sharing my cross in 21st century America, I will be unpopular, and that some very worldly people will think and say some very netherworldly things to me and about me. But I know that mixed in with them will be Marys , Veronicas, and Simons to help me and to give me courage. And I figure that by sharing my cross, others who bear the same cross in secret and struggle daily as I do, will find the courage to ask for help as well.

I think that some of you may have already caught on to what I’m going to say. I am a guy who is attracted to other guys. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. I don’t know how old I was when I realized it, and I don’t remember the context in which I knew, but I was quite young, and I was sitting in the basement of my parent’s house, and I just knew. Obviously I didn’t know what it was called or what it meant, that it wasn’t normal, and that it went against the order for which I was created, but it was something I just knew. I didn’t give it a second though. All through elementary school I was actually pretty girl crazy, especially in third grade when it came to Haley Mills, the girl who wore the “macaroni and cheese” colored jacket at recess, who I would chase around the playground singing “I feel good na na na na na na na, like I knew that I would na na na na na na na!” And of course in 7th grade there was my two year infatuation with Allison, which I realize now, looking back, made me look like such a pathetic little fellow following her around like an attention-starved puppy. But around that same time, what I knew as a very young boy began to emerge from hiding as I became a very young man.

By the time I was in high school, I knew what it meant to be “gay”, and I knew that I felt those things. But I didn’t want to feel that way, so I tried to ignore it and act straight. I think though that I completely and unintentionally gave off “gay” vibes, because there were a few times in high school when other kids asked me if I was gay. In fact, my mom even asked me a few times. I always denied it, and couldn’t understand where they were coming from because I thought I was a pretty good faker. Apparently I wasn’t. I honestly don’t know why I lied about it because it wasn’t like my non-religious family would have disowned me. And I didn’t have to fear my friends at school because they weren’t super conservative. Nevertheless, I stayed in the closet.

When I got to college, I flirted with the idea of coming out since I was financially independent and on my own at a decent sized college campus. However, while I toyed with the idea, I met some new friends and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It seemed like a perfect answer to my problems. Jesus would take away these attractions. Even though I loved my faith, things internally didn’t settle down, and I felt that my new circle of friends were much too conservative to confide in. Then I became Catholic, which partially was due to the Church’s very comprehensive natural law teachings on sexuality. The love and tenderness shown towards persons with homosexual tendencies was very very attractive. I realized I didn’t have to pray to become straight; I just needed to pray that no matter what I felt I would act in truth, not in passion.

All this time, however, I had kept up a charade of being attracted to the girls in my circle. I felt pressure, real or imagined, to work towards the end goal of a family with little blond children named Levi, Ezra, and Ruth running around. The funny thing is that I worked so hard at it, that there were moments when I thought that I had truly changed into a straight person. I went through emotional downs whenever I experienced rejection and emotional highs whenever I gained ground in pursuit. But in the end, when I went to bed at night, I was still the same guy as I was in high school.

After becoming Catholic, I became fixated on the Priesthood. It seemed perfect for a guy like me. An opportunity to serve the Lord while remaining single and celibate. I wouldn’t have friends trying to set me up or asking me why I was still single at 50. I began meeting with a spiritual director, but I was very afraid to tell him about the struggle, so I kept it secret. Sometime during that time I learned about the Vatican policy on admitting men with deeply rooted homosexual attractions to the seminary. To me, that signaled the end of discernment to seminary. The Church, who has every right to decide who she will and will not admit to the Priesthood, has said that at this time, she will not admit such men. The next meeting with my spiritual director I told him that I had discerned not to go to seminary and why. He did not accept my conclusion and told me that this was not a good enough reason to not go to seminary. He urged me to reconsider. I left that meeting frustrated and in tears because I felt that he was counseling me against what the Church was counseling me to do.

That same summer, I started spending lots of time with a girl I met at school. She was amazing and when I was around here I couldn’t think about anyone else. I felt things for her that I had never felt for another human being. I thought that maybe just maybe I could date her, fall in love with her, and marry her, have kids with her, and be faithful to her, and so after a long period of “are we dating” we made it “official”. But after six weeks I grew frustrated lying to myself and to her about what I was struggling with. I was so ashamed of my cross and was so burdened by it that I didn’t think it was fair for her to have to share that burden and I wasn’t sure that she would even want to, so I broke up with her telling her I had to truly figure out who I was. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Shortly after breaking up, my roommate came out of the closet, and it only served to aggravate me more as I faced my own struggles and the future and what I was going to do with my life. I spent the next few weeks in a state of inner sorrow and anger. I tried throwing myself into the Mass and into serving at the Newman Center every Saturday evening. But I literally felt nothing. I still remember the day when my FOCUS discipler asked me something along the lines of “what do you desire?” and I had no answer because I felt that nothing in the world could fill the void I felt in my heart. He looked at me with such pity and I couldn’t even muster up the desire to be startled at the revelation. I felt like an empty shell just floating along with no purpose and no feeling at all. And a few months later, when my ex started dating again, I became devastated. My already numb soul climbed to a greater level of emptiness. During all of this, I maintained a façade of a normal college student having fun with friends and protesting doing homework. But none of it mattered; I was faking most of it.

Over spring break I went with some friends to visit a religious community near Peoria and I thought back to what my spiritual director had said about the priesthood and the fact that the one girl I might have been able to love was unavailable, I decided to apply for seminary. I want to be clear here: this was a last ditch decision, it was something I didn’t really want to do, but I did anyway. I started my application on Easter Sunday 2011. I knew though, that if I was going to get in, I would have to lie at some point along the way. I omitted anything very specific about sexuality on the application, keeping everything very general and broad. Everything seemed like it might end up working out until I realized that I would have to do a psych eval with a psychologist and that to get past that point I would have to lie. Moral implications aside, I wasn’t sure I could lie during the interview because a psychologist would know I was lying. I could maybe try it though. For weeks I hemmed and hawed over whether I would be honest, keeping me out of the seminary, or if I would lie so that I could be admitted. I chose the former. After the eval was done, I waited for the inevitable call saying that my application would be denied. I became so stressed out each day, that after a few weeks I snapped and I did some things I regret.

A couple of days after one such regrettable evening, I received a call from the vocation director of the diocese saying that my application was accepted. I was shocked and confused. Clearly they hadn’t seen the eval. I didn’t say anything about it though, because despite all my previous apprehensions I really was excited. I quickly told all of my family and friends about it. But that call had been a little premature because it turned out that I still had to do an interview with the seminary. The interview was a disaster from start to finish. The seminary was out of state and the diocese had elected not to fly me down for a face to face, so we set up a skype connection at the diocesan offices. This was an unusual circumstance that the seminary directors were not happy with, and they told me so at the beginning of the interview. I felt like an idiot. I had no idea that they felt that way and I was angry at the vocations director for placing my admittance in jeopardy. Then they started by asking me about the results of the psych eval. We talked about one thing and one thing only. You don’t have to guess what it was. By the end of the interview they essentially told me that they would recommend I don’t go to seminary, but they would still admit me if the bishop chose to send me.

It was still early July and it took a few more weeks until the vocation director contacted me. He asked if we could meet as soon as possible. We met at a young adult gathering in town and took a walk in the park to discuss the recommendations of the seminary. He asked me a lot of personal questions, and by this time I was just dead tired of this whole process. I didn’t have the strength to manipulate the truth or make excuses. By the time we returned to the gathering, he had explained that though the Church did not hold past absolved sins against me, there could be scandalous consequences if it ever came to light that a priest had formerly engaged in certain behaviors. It just wasn’t something the diocese was willing to risk without some progress being made on my part. He said that as a seminarian (since I was considered a seminarian at that point) the diocese would be willing to pay for psychological therapy if I wanted and that they would revisit my application in a year if progress was made. While I was relieved to not go to seminary, I was also angry about all of the time I had wasted, and how inefficient the process had been. In a fit of childish pride, I began to ignore all calls and emails from the vocation director. Needless to say I did not take the diocese’s offer of assistance.

With one week until my going away party back home, and only a few weeks left with a job and place to live I began to panic. I first went home to break the news to my parents. I had to make up a story about why I wasn’t going. I also had to face my friends and my parish priest. Facing the priest was the worst. We had become good friends and he was so excited for me to go to seminary, but he had no idea about my struggle and I didn’t want to tell him, so I just told him that the bishop and I and the seminary all felt like I wasn’t ready. “Well Stormin Enormous, nobody’s ever totally ready!” I didn’t know what to say. I told him not to worry, but I know he was upset and probably called the vocation director anyway.

I also had the daunting task of now finding a job. God blessed me and granted me a job fairly quickly, and even though I wanted to get as far away as possible from this situation and start a new life, I didn’t have to go too far from my friends, which ended up being a great blessing.

That was two years ago now. These two years have not been a picnic. Living a secret life has been ongoing and it has contributed to a lot of mopey-ness. It has also pushed me here, to this crossroad a few months ago. I am at the point where I have two choices: one is to leave the Church, and live a make believe life I know to be wrong, and the other is to bring my cross into the light and ask for help in bearing this burden. The first is tempting for its present and immediate reward of worldly happiness, but the second is an eternity of joy after this present suffering. Though the choice should be easy for a Catholic convert, it’s not. At least twenty times a day I flip flop on the issue. One minute I’m ready to run away from the Church, and the next I’m ready to bear my burden to be with Jesus. It has been literal torture on my soul and body. I wake up sometimes in feverish sweats thinking about it, and sometimes I find myself crying my eyes out on the bathroom floor.

But a few weeks ago I got a message from a friend saying that he was sitting in Adoration and that Jesus told him to pray that I would have strength. I knew in that moment that Jesus was real and wanted to help me. I told my friend everything. And now I get texts from him every week reminding me how much he has praying for me and I am gathering the strength to choose the path that leads to holiness.

I don’t know what my future holds. Perhaps I will one day be able to marry a woman and be happy. Some days I believe that that is a possibility and other days I can’t imagine how I would be happy. Or maybe I am called to the religious life to devote my life to a community of fellowship and prayer set off from the world. Or maybe I’m just called to the single celibate life forever. In any event, being holy is the end purpose of my life.

And that’s why I’m sharing this on my blog, because just as Adam was alone without a suitable helper, I too am alone with no one to help me with my cross. I need prayers and encouragement. As our culture shifts towards glorifying homosexuality, the message will be louder and harder for me to stand up against and I just need your help, and I know that there are dozens of us just like me who could use help too. And if that happens to be you, I pray for you to be brave, to ask for help.

O Mary, the Hodegetria and the Queen of Peace, lead me to Jesus, our sweet and merciful Lord. Grant me the strength from your overflowing fountain of graces to bear my cross. When you look at me, see Jesus. When I stumble with my cross, meet me as you met Jesus on the Road to Calvary. When I cry wipe away my tears as you did to your precious infant, and when I hunger, feed me with the words of God.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us.

For the Conversion of Scandinavia

(Reblogged from June 13, 2013)

Good Jesus, prostrate at Thy feet,
we humbly implore Thee,
by Thy most sacred wounds
and by the Precious Blood
which Thou didst shed for the salvation of the whole world,
that Thou wouldst deign to cast a look of pity on the peoples of Scandinavia,
seduced from the Faith for so many centuries,
and plunged in the darkness of heresy,
separated from thy Church,
deprived of the participation of the adorable Sacrament of Thy Body and Blood,
and of the other Sacraments instituted by Thee,
as the refuge of souls in life and in death.

Remember, O Redeemer of the world,
that for these souls too Thou didst suffer bitter death,
with the loss of all Thy blood.

Bring back, O good Shepherd,
these wandering sheep of Thine to the one fold
and to the healthy pastures of Thy Church,
so that they may form with us one flock,
tended by Thee,
and by thy Vicar on earth, the supreme Pontiff,
whom, in the person of the Apostle St. Peter,
Thou didst commission to feed Thy sheep and Thy lambs.
Graciously hear, O good Jesus,
the prayers which we offer Thee with the most lively trust
in the love of Thy Sacred Heart,
and to Thy most holy Name be praise, glory, honour,
world without end.

Amen.

Pope Leo XIII, April 18, 1885 (300 days indulgence, once a day)

Who Shall Abide in God’s Sanctuary?

(Reblogged from December 3, 2012)

O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy mountain?

He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart; who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;  in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 15

While I prayed this psalm during evening prayer today, I realized that this should be my prayer, this should be all of our prayers during this Advent season and during the entire liturgical year. Our goal and purpose is to “sojourn in God’s tent”. Therefore, we should listen to what Scripture says of the man who dwells with God.

  • He walks blamelessly
  • He does what is right
  • He speaks truth
  • He treats his friends and neighbors respectfully
  • He despises those without principles
  • He honors those who walk with God
  • He stands by his words and actions even when it is painful to do so
  • He doesn’t cheat others out of their living
  • He respects and does right by the innocent

This is just one of many many passages in the Bible that describes what it means to be holy, and is a great starting place for an examination of conscience. I pray that God would give me the grace to be each of these things, enabling me to live a life worthy of the calling I have received.

Heaven Can’t See Earth

(Reblogged from August 16, 2012)

One of the things I have begun to take for granted as a Catholic is the fact that the victorious saints in heaven can hear and see what is happening in the material universe. That when I ask St. Therese to pray for me, that she can see me and that she can hear me.

It is utterly absurd to me that one could actually believe that those in heaven are completely unaware of the events on earth and that our petitions towards them fall on deaf ears.

For one, Scripture teaches that we will judge the angels (1 Cor 6:3). Angels are creatures that reside in heaven with God. They are far holier than any person on earth at this moment, and they are currently above us in the order of things. These holy, heavenly creatures are very aware of the things that happen on earth, and even descend to earth at times to give us messages, to help us, to protect us, and to teach us. We also know from the Scriptures that these angels gather the prayers of Christians to present them to God (Rev 8:3).

So we know that the angels can see and hear the universe, interact with it, and even present our prayers to God. And we know that those of us that have passed on to heaven, are even now above the angels! Their wills have been perfected to be even more patterned towards the will of God. But some would teach that they cannot hear us, see us, or interact with us. That is so silly. Why should there be a veil at a certain level of heaven where creatures below it can perceive the created universe and that the Creator who is above can perceive the created universe, but the creatures within it cannot?

If our wills have been made perfect with Christ’s and we have become one in him and he has become one in us, do we not see and hear as he does? Would we not be made even more aware of the universe than we are now? If the things that Christ desires are the things that we desire, would we not desire the salvation of all men? Would we not use our newfound glory to help them? Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

It is just silly to believe that all of heaven sees and hears earth except for the holy men and women that used to live on earth. It is silly to believe that a saint who sees a brother in need, especially when that saint has been fully sanctified, would not help that brother with every blessing at his disposal. It is silly to believe that a saint made perfect in charity would ignore the pleas of his fellow brother to offer a few prayers on his behalf. It is silly to believe that the mystical Body of Christ is broken by time and space.

I am thankful every day the saints here on earth who help me as best they can. And I am even more thankful for the saints who have gone on before me who help me the best as anyone in Christ possibly can. And I am thankful that the Church that has received me, has corrected the error that I was in as a Protestant, and has opened the door (which is just one of many) to the great treasure that is the Communion of the Saints.

A God of Senses

(Reblogged from November 8, 2010)

When God created man he gave us five senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smelling. He also endowed us with the desire to understand and experience the world around us. We experience this world through our senses, and this is a very good thing because God made us that way and he made the world that way too! People are good, earth is good, matter is good. God is deeply in love with matter, especially matter that he has formed into the beautiful creation known as a human person.

God also gave us the desire to know him, but how can you know a God who is invisible and is not a part of nature? How can you know a God who cannot be perceived by the sense? It is possible, but God always seems to come down to us and use our senses. We hear a voice in our hearts, we see a bush burning in the desert, we see a pillar of smoke to lead us by day and a brilliant fire to lead us by night. But God is still a God of Spirit in spite of all of that. That is until…

A small baby boy was born in Bethlehem.

From that moment on, God was forever different. He was a God of Matter and Spirit. He took on human flesh and dwelt among us. His humanity is something that he will never give up, he will never cast off. His flesh became wounded. These are wounds he will retain forever. God became a God who could be perceived directly and literally by our senses. Mary felt God kicking in her womb. She smelled his baby soft skin after she would wash him and bathe him. She tasted the sweet taste of God each time she tenderly kissed her infant child. She heard his cries when he would awaken at night, needing to be fed and heard his words of wisdom as he taught his nation. She saw our God before anyone else on earth did as she delivered him, held him, and peered into his eyes.

God could now be experienced by us on our level. He descended to us that we might ascend to him. But God did not allow us to perceive him by our senses for a mere 33 years. No, he still allows us to perceive him by our senses, and this through the great sacrament of his Body and Blood. We see him as the priest elevates his body. We hear him as the priest breaks the host in two. We taste him as we joyfully consume him. We feel him as he descends into our body and unites with our souls. We smell him as we tip the chalice upwards and we drink his blood.

God is a great God for allowing our human limitations to continually experience his glory.

The Sacrament of Forgiveness

(Reblogged from November 17, 2010)

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

-John 20: 19-23

Here we see the institution of the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation. The risen Lord stands among the scared disciples. He shares with them his peace and then gives them a part in his mission, a mission of reconciling men to God. He gives them his Spirit in a unique way, he breathes on them. This is something God has only done once, and that was a long time ago, in the beginning, when he breathed on Adam, giving him life. By his gift of the Spirit, he gives the disciples the ability to forgive…or not forgive…the sins of men. Whatever their decision is, is binding, according to Jesus: if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

The question certainly will arise as to why we need such a Sacrament after one has been baptized. Doesn’t Baptism erase the stain of original sin? Doesn’t it make us sons and daughters of God? The answer is ‘yes’ to both questions. Yet, even with original sin gone, we are wounded. We are recovering people, on a journey to holiness. This wound left behind still weakens us. The Church calls it concupiscence. We are still inclined to sin, although, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and if we are sensitive to it, we will be greatly strengthened against sin. Yet, we will inevitably fall, and so Christ has instituted this Sacrament to forgive us of our sins. Our conversion is always ongoing, never ending until the end of life or the end of time well spent in Purgatory.

But why? Why Confession to a priest? Why doesn’t Christ just allow us to kneel at our beds and whisper our sins to him in the quiet of our rooms? Because, even though Christ is the primarily the one offended by our sins, the Church is also offended. When we commit sins, we weaken or destroy our bond with the Holy Church. We weaken the witness of faith of our brothers and sisters. If I cheat on my wife, it makes it more difficult for other Christians to witness to those who know I’m a Christian and committed adultery. And so I bring my sins to the Church.

The important thing to note here is that it is not the priest who forgives the sins. Only God forgives sin. It is the Holy Spirit that has been given to the priest in this special ministerial role who forgives the sinner. The Holy Spirit speaks through the priest, brings absolution through the priest, who is his representative. But isn’t Jesus the sole mediator between man and God? Yes, but are we not ambassadors of Christ? St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:20, that God makes his appeal through the ambassadors of Christ, and these particular ambassadors, the priest, has been given this special privilege, to absolve sins.

So what makes a good Confession?

First, there must be contrition on the part of the penitent. This is the “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again,” (CCC 1451). When such an act comes from a love  in which God is loved above all else, this contrition is called perfect. This perfect contrition remits venial sins, as well as mortal sins if a firm resolution to go to go Confession as soon as possible accompanies it. If one’s contrition is born of considering sin’s ugliness and a fear of hell, it is called imperfect and is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This act can initiate an interior process which, with God’s grace, will come to completion with sacramental absolution (CCC 1453).

Secondly, there must be a confession of sins. When man speaks his faults out loud to another, he is forced to look them square in the face. This frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others (CCC 1455). This opens him to Communion with God and with others. These sins, must be confessed to a priest though for the priest has been given authority by Christ to forgive sins. Which sins must be confessed? All mortal sins that the penitent is conscious of after having made a good self-examination. Sometimes, such sins seem to bring us shame and we might be afraid to confess them, but we must. If we keep them hidden, the doctor cannot heal them. We may also confess the venial sins of which we are aware of, though it is not necessary.

Thirdly, we must make satisfaction for our sins. Sin has two consequences: eternal damnation and temporal affects on our neighbors and ourselves. Christ’s death makes satisfaction for the eternal consequence when we make a good confession, but our actions make satisfaction for the temporal consequences. The priest will assign one a penance, an act which should correspond to the serious of the sin, and will help to strengthen the penitent against temptation and further sliding into sin. Often times this will be a certain amount of prayer, often asking Our Lady for assistance. The act cannot be too difficult, however, that the penitent could not complete it within about a day of making his or her confession.

When I became a Roman Catholic, I thought that I would hate Confession above all things. I thought that it would be the hardest thing for me to accept and do in my spiritual life. Indeed, the first few Confessions were quite difficult and even until the end of this summer, after being Catholic for more than a year, I did not really take Confession as seriously as I should have, and really poured that out to my Confessor. Now, Confession is one of my favorite things about being Catholic. In fact, it solidly holds the number two spot after the Eucharist. Confession continues to sanctify me and strengthen me against the sins I struggle with. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be ashamed to be open and honest in the Confessional. Honesty really and truly does free us from the chains which bind us.

The Act of Contrition

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I detest all of my sins because of Thy just punishment, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do my penance, and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

Giving Them to Mary

(Reblogged from November 27, 2010)

Yesterday something truly miraculous happened: my brother and sister went to Eucharistic Adoration with me. I was a little surprised the whole time I was driving over to Epiphany. My brother who is so sure that his infallible interpretation of Scripture proves that Christ isn’t in the Eucharist, and my sister who avoids anything controversial, were sitting in a car going to pray with me before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Even now, I can hardly believe that it happened.

Now, while I was praying there, I started praying for them. While I was praying, I realized that my motives weren’t pure. I didn’t want them to understand and believe in the Eucharist simply so that they would be closer to Christ. I wanted them to admit that I was right. I wanted the satisfaction of knowing that I converted them on this issue. It was at that point when I realized that my prayers were not going to be heard. I didn’t have their best interests in mind, nor did I seem at all concerned about the Glory of God. And so, I thought to myself, “who could possibly not have any impure motive?” Mary. Mary only desires that her Son be glorified. She receives nothing from my brother and sister being converted. Interestingly, I’ve been trying to think of Patrons to offer each family member to, someone unique to their needs and personalities. I think, though, that I will just give them to Mary. Mary will offer them up perfectly to Jesus. He will hear her prayers. I know that he already has.

After Adoration, my brother didn’t say much. In fact he has said nothing at all about the experience. My sister, on the other hand, is super confused. She read John 6 while sitting in Adoration, which was probably not such a good idea if she wanted to maintain her Baptist beliefs. She sees why we believe in it, but started to get frustrated because she doesn’t know of a conservative church that believes in the Real Presence, that doesn’t practice infant baptism. She’s against infant baptism, but she admitted she’s not one-hundred percent sure on that either. It’s hard to just let go, to give them to Mary, to stop hounding them and let Mary do her work. But I have hope!

And I’m getting so close to the end of my year of abstaining from alcohol for their conversion. I’m so antsy. I know that something good is going to happen, but I don’t want to be disappointed if it doesn’t. But maybe I’m starting to see fruit? Eucharistic Adoration about a month before my sacrifice ends and confusion about what the truth is? It’s looking up!

Mary, I offer the hearts of my brother and sister to you. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, you formed in your womb, effortlessly, the God-Man. Quickly, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, form my brother and sister into two fine young Roman Catholics. Amen.

Fulfilled All I Already Believed About God

(Reblogged from December 6, 2010)

In a couple of weeks Advent will end and it will mark two years since I really decided to become Catholic. I’ve been reflecting on why I made that decision, what it was that got me into the Church. It honestly wasn’t apologetics. I didn’t read any apologetics materials while I was converted. The only thing I read besides a couple of conversion stories was the Catechism. I wasn’t deceived by any clever tricks or anything, but really, I converted because the Catholic Faith emphasized and surpassed what I already believed about God.

God Is Merciful

God’s mercy was probably the most important thing to me as an Evangelical. His mercy was the prime thing I preached. We are sinners. God hates sin. But he is merciful and forgives us. The Catholic Faith, I learned, believed deeply in that mercy. It believed that I was a sinner. The Catholic church believed that God is merciful. Furthermore, I saw that Sacraments, especially Baptism and Confession really emphasized God’s mercy, they made it more real, more prominent. It takes what I believed about God’s mercy and exponentially maximized it in my life. I knew I wanted to take part in that.

God is Love

Purgatory had always been a sticking point for me, mostly because I didn’t know what it was. I quickly realized though that Purgatory was a burning outflow of the Creator’s Passion for me! Purgatory wasn’t a second chance, but a manifestation of God’s love for me, and his desire to complete the work which he began in me. I already knew that I wasn’t perfect, but that God wanted me to be perfect, and that I was becoming perfect, but that if I died in that imperfect stage, I’d need some help. And that’s exactly what Purgatory is!

Furthermore, I saw Jesus’ death on the Cross as his supreme act of love. The Catholic Church does too, and claims to make that very act, really present to me every day, not just in memory and Scripture, but physically present to me! Catholic beliefs take the Cross and truly make it a timeless event. God’s supreme love made fully present to me, to all of us. It truly astounded me.

God’s Family

I believed that, as Christians, we are a part of God’s family. We are here to help each other out, to offer what we have received for the benefit of others. We are to pray for others, encourage each other, and ask others to pray on our behalf. I believed that the bonds of Christ bound us together even when we were separated by one thing or another. This is why intercession of the Saints came so easily. The bonds of Christ go beyond death. Our love for each other does not get snuffed out when we breathe our last on this side of eternity. I realized that asking the Saints to pray for me, to offer their help to me, only made sense. Either we are family forever or we aren’t family at all.

God is Sovereign

I always believed that God, and God alone, could save me from sin. It was only by his choice that I could be saved. This also was proposed by the Catholicism, only with Catholicism, I was more than a puppet, a piece of dung. I participated, I responded to the graces of God to be transformed, to do my part as a member of the Body of Christ. God gave me the grace to have faith. He gave me the grace to do good. He gives us all both of these things and we must respond positively to both in order to have salvation. Whether I respond to one or both, is my choice. But it was God’s sovereignty that allowed me to have the option to make these decision. God alone is my Savior, and nothing I could do would merit salvation. With that comes faith and works, not an either/or.

God is Truth

God is truth, and he cannot stand falsehood. I believed this. This is why I talked to so many people in San Diego, worked so hard to convince them that absolute truth existed, that there could be no two things that conflicted that were true. Catholicism emphasizes this. I discovered that I could not be passive and wishy-washy. I found what I desired in Catholicism, a structure of truth that did not allow falsehood to come in without a sharp word. This was not so where I came from. Either abortion is wrong or it isn’t. It can’t be both ways and we must have a solid proclamation one way or the other. This strength I found in Catholicism.

God is One

God is indivisible. He is three persons in one. He cannot oppose himself. He must be unified. And so must his Body on earth. Not only must his Body be united in Faith, but also across time. His Church cannot change what the Eternal Trinity has decreed. She cannot alter what has been given to her to believe. Catholicism is unbelievably united across all generations from the day she was founded at Pentecost until now. Her beliefs are Biblical, they are historical, and the earliest Christians held firmly to them.

Fulfillment

And so, I came to realize that the reason my conversion was so fast, and actually quite an easy decision was that I was not leaving the God I loved. I was not leaving my faith behind for a new set of dogmas and views on God. Rather, my faith was being enriched. The things I believed about God, especially concerning his mercy and love, were taking on new dimensions, new facets were being uncovered. My beliefs were not being replaced, but being transfigured as Jesus was on the mountain. The disciples saw him in a way they never had, but he was still the same Jesus. I too, saw my faith in a way I never had, it was deeper, it was now three-dimensional, not just a planar thing.

Why couldn’t I stay the old way then? Why, if they were the same, did I have to move? When I was little, I was obsessed with this phrase:

ALL INSECTS ARE BUGS, BUT NOT ALL BUGS ARE INSECTS.

I see that this applies to God as well. God is like the insect. You can call him a bug in general and you get a broad group of faiths that fit that description. Some of them fit better than others. But only insects fits perfectly. I came to discover that while there were elements of truth in my old faith group, there were parts that were irreconcilable with what I was discovering about God. In the old way his love was shallow, his mercy was bland. I saw that his one-ness was not real. I saw that I was living in black and white, but now I was able to live in color.

So I invite you to look at the Church, to see that it fulfills and exceeds the very things that you believe about God, his mercy, love, sovereignty, his unity. Take a second look, and see that in the Church your wildest dreams about a relationship with God actually come true. I did, and it really, absolutely, positively changed my life for the better now and forever more!