Idolizing Converts

I decided to write this post because there are certain experiences that come with being a convert to the Catholic Faith that other Catholics probably don’t understand.

While I was in the process of coming into the Church in 2009 I didn’t give much thought to the idea that there was anything particularly special about converting outside of the fact that I was submitting to the truth. In fact it wasn’t until near the end of that summer that it struck me that some people in the Church really admire and love converts. I was invited to a picnic at the Newman Center a few weeks before school started and when Tim introduced me to one of the girls (who is now a sister) as a convert, she suddenly shrieked with excitement “you’re a convert!?” with a mouth full of potato chips, which I quickly donned on the front of my shirt. In that moment I knew that there was something special about being a convert.

Over the next year or so, people loved talking to me and wanting to hear my conversion story. I felt like I was put on a pedestal. I have to imagine a lot of converts, at least college aged converts involved in a college aged parish experience that. I think that people have this perception that because we converted from something else to Catholicism that we are super holy or more abundantly graced or more theologically intelligent or more firmly grounded in the Faith because it was something that we chose.

But we aren’t. Being a convert isn’t like that at all. In fact, I would say that it is the exact opposite.

Probably the most devastating realization to a convert, or at least to me, are the moments that come after the high of conversion wears off. With all of the excitement of converting, and all of the new things that one learns and the new people that they meet and the attention that they receive and the awesome gift of receiving the Eucharist, a great amount of motivation, joy, and energy is generated. That energy can create a long-term high that sustains one’s interest and devotion for quite awhile, but it doesn’t last forever. When we fall from that high, especially if it was unexpected, the results can be devastating. It results in doubts and frustrations and if we aren’t ready to seek the Lord in a real and honest way, we suffer. We expect the energetic route in which our Faith began, but we can’t rely on that, we must learn to live with the glowing embers of the fire to heat our Faith where there were once flames reaching to the stars.

I think that there is also a certain quality in converts that propels them towards change and dissatisfaction. Becoming Catholic is a huge upheaval, a turning away from something different. For some it is a one time thing, they convert because they honestly and truly believe, but for others it is a habit, a fad. Changing beliefs and ideologies is as natural to them as changing clothes. So when their zeal dies down it causes moments of doubting whether the right decision was actually made, or it causes them to seek a new and exciting philosophy or social cause.

Whatever faithful cradle Catholics think we are, we converts are NOT invincible. Some of us stay, some of us almost get lost, and some of us actually do get themselves lost for good. I came very close this summer. I was in the almost get lost category. I came with in an inch of totally losing my Faith in Jesus Christ and exchanging it for some form paganism. Another convert I know completely reverted to atheism. We aren’t perfect. Being a convert isn’t some kind of boost of grace. In many ways it is more challenging than for a cradle Catholic for us to stay in the Church.

I write this for anyone who idolizes converts as superheroes or something, or just coos or fawns over ever convert that walks through the door so that you can maybe chill out of a bit and realize that there isn’t anything special about being a convert.

Seven Years

Today I’ve been blogging more or less fairly consistently now for 7 years. I’ve learned a lot while blogging, perhaps more than I imagined others learned from me. And I like to think that my writing and my spirituality has evolved to reflect what I’ve learned, particularly in showcasing what is truly important in following Jesus.

I mostly just wanted to take this opportunity to thank every person who does or has followed me at some point. I want to thank every person who has ever read a post here and passed it on to someone else, even if it was in order to mock me in some way. I want to thank every person who has ever commented on here, even if it was to ridicule and harass me. Every event on here has had an effect on shaping my walk with God, and I have to be thankful for that because my relationship with God is the most precious thing to me, and you have affected the most precious thing and made it into the thing I love most, and so you are a part of it, and you, too, are then precious to me.

So here’s to seven more years!

Personal Relationships With the Saints

The idea of having a personal relationship with a Saint would make the Evangelical’s head spin. And the idea would probably make the Fundamentalist’s head actually explode.

For so many non-Catholic Christians (mind you that I did not say ALL), community truly only goes so far. When it comes right down to it, salvation is always an individual thing, that relationship with God is a 1 on 1 thing. That kind of thinking truly destroys the idea of the mystical body of Christ, the idea that we are truly brothers and sisters.

But your salvation is just as much a part of my salvation as MY salvation is and that is because there is only one God who loves us with one Love, and that the one Love makes us one in the body of Christ. A personal relationship with Christ means a personal relationship with every single person who has been baptized into his one body! And that includes those on both sides of death, which has lost its sting.

Yes, we should not be afraid to enter into personal relationship with the Saints! We should not be afraid to come close to them. If we are the hands and feet of Christ, they are too! How can one not see Christ in them? If we see Christ in the poor and the needy, in the orphan and the widow, and we serve Him when we serve them, how can we not look at those who have been perfected in Him and not be perfected in Him, through them?

Unfortunately I have no advice on how to start a relationship with a particular Saint. It is a shame that so much of our dulia is formulaic, and that for many Saints, the only invocation we offer to them is a St. N, pray for us. Even with Our Lady we don’t often speak from the heart to her. Now, I’m not bashing formulaic prayer. I think it is necessary, I think it is helpful, I think it is beautiful, and if it expresses the groanings of our hearts and expresses our needs, then it is honest, true, and reverent. But prayer, relationships, must go beyond that. And so if I had to take a guess that to start a personal relationship with a patron Saint or guardian angel, or any other fantastic spiritual creature that God has made, we must begin by asking them to reveal themselves, to reveal Christ, to us, and to then work with them to become more like Jesus.

Hopefully we will all be inspired to grow deeper into the body of Christ.

Mormons and the Angel of Light

I’m not one to defend the beliefs of Mormonism or the Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The religion is absolutely false, is not compatible with Christianity and does not have a single shred of historical evidence to support even the secular details of its historical assertions.

However, I must defend them against the erroneous claim that the Angel of Light (the angel Moroni) is Satan based upon a dubious claim that Satan is called the Angel of Light in Scripture, and that therefore, the reference in the Book of Mormon is a clear reference to the person of Satan.

I strongly believe that this is simply one of those cases where long ago secular culture hi-jacked or twisted, unintentionally, a Scriptural truth, and that it has permeated full circle back into the Church, kind of like how many people believe that the concept of cleanliness is next to Godliness is in the Bible (its not).

There are two primary places where Satan is discussed in the context of being a being of Light. The first is from Isaiah 14:

How you have fallen from the heavens, O Morning Star, son of the dawn! How you have been cut down to the earth, you who conquered nations!

Isaiah 14:12

The verse in context is speaking about the downfall of the King of Babylon, but it could be speaking also of the plight of Satan before the beginning of time, which is also described in Revelation 12. Now, in the Latin Vulgate, O Morning Star, is translated from the Hebrew הֵילֵל as Lucifer. Most modern English translations outside of the King James Version (which retains the Latin word) render the interpretation as morning star  or sometimes day star.

Now the other place that speaks about Satan being of Light is in the New Testament:

And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.

2 Corinthians 11:14

I hopefully don’t have to state the obvious, but I will here. If and when we use this verse to give Satan the name of Angel of Light or Lucifer in order to say that anything that references the angel of light as a reference to Satan we are being dishonest. If we read the sentence it clearly says that Satan masquerades, he pretends to be an angel of light. The implication here is that angels of light are good! And that is why Satan is so dangerous because he pretends to be an angel of light. Like all angels, Satan was created good and beautiful and wise. He was an angel of light. But he no longer is. He is now the prince of darkness and the father of lies. Satan is not an angel of light any longer.

I also want to point out the fact that the Latin Vulgate, in which the term Lucifer made its appearance, does not restrict the usage of the term as a reference to Satan but uses the term in multiple places to describe other things: 2 Peter 1:19, Job 11:17, Job 38:32, and Psalm 110:3, all in reference to the morning star, or the light of the morning. There are other places where morning star is translated as stella matutina (which is a more literal translation), including Sirach 50:6, Revelation 2:28 and Revelation 22:16 in reference to Jesus.

Historically the Church has used the word Lucifer to refer to other things, showing that the Latin term, unlike the English term, was never meant to refer only to a fallen angel. At least two bishops have born the name Lucifer: St. Lucifer of Cagliari and Lucifer of Siena. The term has even been applied to St. John the Baptist and Jesus himself in early Christian hymns. Does this mean that St. John the Baptist and Jesus are really Satan?

In fact, the term is still used to refer to Jesus at the Easter Vigil Mass during the singing of the Exultet when praying about the Paschal candle.

So what exactly is my point? Why am I writing this? Do I not believe Mormonism to be a false religion? Do I believe in the Angel Moroni?

No. Absolutely not. My point is that reference to Moroni is not some kind of nail in the coffin against Mormonism. There are far greater issues with Mormonism as a religion than the reference of the Angel of Moroni being the Angel of Light. In the first place, neither the Bible nor Tradition give Satan the official title of Angel of Light. It simply says that he was at one point of light and can continue to masquerade as an angel of light. And in the second place, if this is enough to discard Mormonism, it is enough to discard Christianity because the last and greatest prophet, John the Baptist, and our Savior himself, have been referred to in the same fashion.

If you were to use this argument against a Mormon, you might be successful due to the fact that Mormons don’t actually know much about Scripture or history, but it would be a false and dishonest victory. It is exactly the same argument that Fundamentalist Christians use against Catholics when claiming that our version of Mary is really the Babylonian pagan goddess that was referred to as the Queen of Heaven (probably Ishtar). It is an intellectually ignorant or dishonest argument and is unfair to Catholics, just as this is unfair to Mormons.

There are real issues with Mormonism, but this is not one of them. I would suggest using others when discrediting this cult.

Preparing for Martyrdom

I’m a melancholic. And each day I seem to become more so. So maybe that explains my outlook. I believe it is time for Catholic Americans to begin preparing ourselves for martyrdom, especially our children.

I don’t pretend to know the mind of God or to understand his plan, but I think it is pretty obvious that whatever delusions we might hold, our culture isn’t going to shift away from the moral cliff we have been running straight towards anytime soon. The distance we have left before we go over isn’t great, so if we don’t brake now (and we won’t), we are going to go over (we will). Whatever hopes and prayers we have placed in God for this or that are not being answered the way we had hoped. It doesn’t matter how many abortion clinics close, this country is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade any time soon. Even if we did, there is no way all 50 states would outlaw the murder of children. Even if we attempted to amend our Constitution to protect children, 37 states would never ratify. Even if by a miracle, either thing could be accomplished, the lunatics who hate children and those who protect them are so ravenous and drunk on violence and disregard for human dignity, that they will never let up until every last drop of blood is spilled.

The same goes for every moral issue of prominence today. But I don’t mean for this to become a political post. This is to be a spiritual post.

Disciples of Christ are the only ones who remain to stand in opposition of the selfish destruction of the moral order. And the enemy hates that. He has always hated that, and he incites his colleagues to hate that too. Therefore, they have no choice but to destroy us in order to appease their guilty consciences because they believe that the voice that opposes them comes from without, from us. Of course the small still voice that speaks the truth in the silence of every heart cannot be snuffed out.

Our destruction is approaching. Our persecution will reach similar levels to those our brothers and sisters face in the Middle East today. A violent, Christ-hating regime is a violent Christ-hating regime. A regime that seeks to legally snuff out the rights of Christians is the same whether it is American liberalism or ISIS or Communism or whatever it is called in your society. We must ready ourselves. How?

  1. We must pray for strength. We must pray more diligently now than ever because it is our prayer, the intimate communion of our souls with God that will allow us to endure whatever it is we are to endure. If we don’t know our lover, how will we be willing to endure suffering to be true to our lover?
  2. We must pray for our enemies. It might be easy to see other humans as our enemies, but they are only misguided souls, being manipulated by a far greater power of hate. We must pray as Jesus did: forgive them for they know not what they do.
  3. We must know of the martyrs who went before us. We should take the time to read the stories of the Christian martyrs over the last 1,981 years. Their lives will inspire us and their prayers will strengthen us.
  4. We must see the value in our martyrdom. Martyrdom serves a purpose for the Lord. Not only is it an opportunity to show our faith in him, but it allows him to make his sacrifice visible and present to the world today. It is not we who die in martyrdom, but it is Christ, again. We must be as faithful as Christ was in his death.
  5. We must understand what the fruit of martyrdom is: renewal in the Church. Martyrdom is a powerful witness of discipleship. As it is said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

I don’t believe this martyrdom will happen tomorrow or even next year. But I do believe that it will happen before the end of my lifetime (I’m 27, so you do the math). If it doesn’t I will praise God for answering our prayers in shifting our culture, because that is the only way this martyrdom will be avoided.

In the meantime, I will probably start writing more about the stories of the martyrs for our own edification and to prepare ourselves to give up our lives for the Gospel.

Blessed Alberto Marvelli

Today is the feast day of Bl. Alberto Marvelli. The following biography comes from the Vatican website.

Alberto Marvelli was born on 21 March 1918 in Ferrara, Italy, the second of six children to Luigi Marvelli and Maria Mayr. He was a lively child but also very thoughtful and reserved, most sensitive to the needs of others.

AmarvelliGrowing up, Alberto was especially influenced by his mother, who was the “Good Samaritan” of the Marvelli family and always kept open house for the poor. It was not uncommon for Alberto to see half his meal disappear right before his eyes so it could be given to the hungry. “Jesus has come, and he is hungry”, his mother used to say.

Together with the highly Christian education he received from his parents, Alberto learned to be a hard worker and to defend justice and truth according to the Gospel.

In June 1930 the Marvelli family moved to Rimini and Alberto began to attend the Salesian Oratory and Catholic Action group in the parish, where his faith was nurtured and sustained, increasing his awareness of his call to holiness. He would often say, “My programme of life is summed up in one word: holy”.

Alberto was very athletic and loved all kinds of sports, especially bicycling; this was providential, because it enabled him to carry out his future apostolate and works of charity and assistance.

In October 1933, following the unexpected death of his father on 7 March of that same year, Alberto began to keep a spiritual diary at age 15 in which he detailed his daily schedule: “I rise as early as possible each morning, as soon as the alarm rings; a half-hour of meditation every day, not to be neglected except for circumstances out of my control; half an hour at least dedicated to spiritual reading; Mass every morning and Holy Communion as regularly as possible; confession once a week normally and frequent spiritual direction; daily recitation of the Rosary and Angelus at noon”.

When he was only 18, Alberto was elected president of Catholic Action. At Bologna University where he continued his studies, he was active in the Catholic organization, in addition to directing his Catholic Action group in Rimini. Every Saturday, upon returning home, he would give lectures, visit the poor and prepare programmes for the upcoming days. His primary concern was the plight of the poor.

Alberto graduated in 1941 with a degree in engineering and left immediately for military service, only to be exempted from it after a few months because two of his brothers were already in service.
Upon his return to Rimini, he was elected diocesan vice-president of Catholic Action. He began teaching in a high school, devoting his time to designing projects, to prayer (he was especially devoted to the Eucharist) and to helping the sick and poor.

During the Second World War, the Marvelli family was forced to move to Vergiano, seven kilometres from Rimini, because of the devastating air raids. After each bombing, however, at the risk of his own life, Alberto returned to the city to help the wounded, dying and homeless.

He gave to the poor what he had collected or bought with his own money: food, clothing, mattresses and blankets. Then, on his bicycle, he would carry what he could and distribute it to the needy. Sometimes he returned home without his shoes or even without a bicycle, all because he had given them to the neediest he met that day.

During the German occupation, Alberto was able to save many people from deportation to the concentration camps, courageously freeing them from the sealed carriages of the trains that were ready to leave the station of Santarcangelo.

After the liberation of Rimini on 23 September 1945, the Marvelli family returned to the city, now in ruins and without running water, electricity or sanitation.

The interim Authorities immediately entrusted Alberto with the allocation of housing. He proved to be an able administrator and a few months later became town councillor and a member of the Italian Society of Civil Engineers.

He also opened a soup kitchen and invited the poor to go to Mass and prayed with them, listening patiently to their troubles and worries, entrusting them all to God the Father. Alberto did not belong to any party at first, but joined the Christian Democrats after the war and became an active member of the Executive Committee. He understood politics as an important service of faith and justice to society.

He was one of the most popular candidates of the Christian Democratic Party and was respected by all, even by his political adversaries, the Communists, whose ideology he openly criticized; they acknowledged his honesty and profound dedication to the well-being of the community.

On the evening of 5 October 1946, as Alberto was cycling to attend a meeting for the local elections, for which he was a candidate, he was run over by an army truck and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. He was 28 years old.

The scheduled elections were held as news of his death spread throughout the city, and many citizens decided to vote for him just the same. His mother, however, was elected in his place.

Existence Is a Great Mystery

At the latter end of this summer, when I was wandering a bit, the question of existence was laid in my mind. I wondered about the origin of all things, and I compared the two simplified explanations of the existence of the universe, and when I say universe, I mean all that exists in every dimension of every point in space and time and dimension: if it exists in some form in some way in some “where” I am including it in my definition of universe.

The first explanation is that the universe has always existed and is essentially uncreated. The very matter that you are made of has simply always been. It is eternal. The second explanation is that everything that exists exists because of the first mover, a something or someone that all that exists (except for itself) depends on. Now I am neither a philosopher, a physicist, or a theologian, but I am intelligent, and I have concluded that neither of these two explanations are fully satisfactory in answering the question of existence. And the reason is that they are two sides of the same coin: that there is some “thing” that has always existed, that has no beginning and will probably have no end. The only difference is what that substance of that “thing” is. In one, it is matter, and in the other it is something that we call spirit, but that is undetectable by any scientific means. In either case, eternity prior to this moment is impossible, at least when we think of it in terms of time. There is no possible way that an infinite amount of time could have occurred before now because you would never be able to arrive at the present moment because there are a never-ending number of moments prior to this one that you’d have to come to first, but you would never be able to get to ANY of those moments either because there are also a never-ending number of moments prior to each and every one of them. So how could something, whether matter or spirit, have always existed?

So an eternity that pre-exists this one makes no sense. But a timeline with a beginning also makes just as little sense because it simply begs the question, “what was there the moment before the first moment?” Well, there was nothing. So where did the first moment come from? How did any of this get here? The first mover. Ok, well how did this mover start to move? What within in the mover changed and decided that it was “time” to create “time” and all the other things that exist? Now drawing from Christian theology, which believes that the first mover (God) is unchanging, how could God start moving? Wouldn’t moving be a part of the essence of what God is? Wouldn’t God always have been moving?

To me it makes absolutely no sense that anything, whether matter or spirit could have existed forever before this moment. But it makes just as little sense that there could be a beginning to anything because there had to be something before that to make it begin. So it seems that existence itself is impossible. It makes no sense whatsoever that any of this should exist: me, you, earth, the solar system, our galaxy, time, space, or even God.

And yet, here we are. I know I exist. And I know I am not God. I did not create my existence. Someone else did, and the progression of causes must have a first uncaused cause, and tbecause that does not make sense in all that mankind can perceive, the first cause must be beyond reason, above comprehension. It must live or exist in some realm incomprehensible to any created thing, a “place” that is not subject to the rules of beginnings and ends or the complexities of eternity.

And that is what ultimately lead me back to the altar at the end of the summer. There is something so much more vast out “there” beyond our comprehension that has caused everything we can perceive or even imagine, and that in our infinitesimal experiences we call love, this something must love us beyond our ability to comprehend in order to even allow us to exist. And of course a love that powerful would probably not be able to create without deeply desiring to reveal itself. And so I’m lead back to Christ, the most probable of all supposed revelations. And if I’m lead back to Christ I can’t help but be lead back to the Catholic Church. And when you consider what the Sacraments are, what they really are, your mind should be freaking blown! Sorry, but seriously. The God that did all of this, presents himself under a tiny piece of bread and then you take him into yourself. The bigger-than-the-universe chooses to reside in you. When you receive absolution, the mercy and love which caused every star to shine and every last subatomic particle to come into existence is poured fully into your soul!

How are we able to live through, and survive, such an incredible event?! It’s absolutely mind-numbing to consider the significance of any of this. How could we refuse, in any capacity to cooperate with God when we consider all of this? How can our hearts not burn with intensity and zeal? How can we desire any stupid material object? How could we consider harming another soul?

How could our thoughts turn onto anything but God?