Seven Quick Takes Monday

—1—

Praise be to Jesus Christ! Today is the seventh anniversary of my Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion, the day I entered the Church! So I wanted to talk about seven things I love about being Catholic or wish I had known when I converted. First, is that at the end of the day, Catholicism is true. That is the only reason to be Catholic.

—2

I am absolutely in love with the Sacrament of Confession. I know that many of my Protestant friends do not understand Confession, or don’t know where it is found in Scripture, or even find it blasphemous to confess our sins to a priest “instead” of to God. However, Scripture is quite clear that Jesus deputized the Apostles (who in turn deputized their successors) to have the power to forgive and retain sins in his name. And I am utterly grateful to Christ for doing so. Something amazing happens in your soul when you confess your sins to the priest as opposed to whispering them at your bed at night. God’s mercy becomes tangible to our senses through the words and prayers of the priest, through his encouragement and advice, and through the penance he assigns. Confession has truly changed my life.

—3—

The Eucharist. The Church Fathers have written enough about the Eucharist to fill libraries, as have the theologians throughout the ages, along with bishops, popes, priests, and religious. Hundreds, if not thousands, of miracles have been documented throughout the centuries relating to the Eucharist. But none of these compare to the real, personal, experience one has in the presence of the Eucharist, which is not a piece of bread or a drop of wine, but is a person, Jesus Christ. I honestly don’t know how, as an Evangelical, I was able to ignore the plain meaning of so many Scriptural passages regarding the bread and wine. I love being able to receive Jesus in the fullest reality of his Incarnate existence.

—4—

I don’t think a lot about Baptism since it is a one time, never to be repeated thing, but it is another one of those things that boggles my mind. How could I, as an Evangelical, read any passage about Baptism in the Scriptures and twist it into being a simple public testimony of faith, when Scripture refers to it in much more solemn terms? It is our being buried and raised with Christ. It is our being integrated into the ecclesia, the Church. It is for the forgiveness of our sins. It is the starting point of our salvation. It is our washing and regeneration through the Holy Spirit. No Scripture passage speaks of it as being a public testimony to faith at all. Seven years ago today, I received Baptism and was forgiven of every sin I had committed in the first 21 years of my life. It was not me proclaiming what God had done for me, but rather, God proclaiming his power to me to make me into a new man.

—5—

One of the things that drew me into the faith, subtly, but no less strongly, was the Catholic teaching on sexuality. I could elaborate more, but I think my blog speaks to that pretty emphatically.

—6—

I wish I would have known on the day I entered the Church that even though I thought I knew a lot, I knew practically nothing, and that I should have been more humble. I learned so much in the last seven years, more than I could even imagine possible, and I know that I will learn so much more in the years to come, so that even all that I know today will appear as nothing. That is one of the greatest mysteries of being in love with the infinite God as a finite creature: there are inexhaustible graces and knowledge to be met in Christ.

—7—

Before I share the image of mercy for the week, I have to say that it was very hard to write this post (not including the fact that when I finished, wordpress deleted half the post without saving it which had nothing to do with user error) because I cannot condense a love affair with Christ into seven little sound bites. It takes at least an entire blog to do so. I hope that that I make that clear here on my blog, that I am madly in love with Christ because he was first madly in love with me.

Image of mercy:

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Seven Quick Takes Monday

—1—

Rest in peace, Justice Scalia.

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—2—

The forbidden fruit. Perhaps eating the fruit wasn’t man’s original sin. Maybe, just maybe, Adam and Eve would have still sinned had they arrived to the tree and found it barren, and had not eaten any fruit at all. Maybe their sin was not trusting God, maybe it was believing in their hearts that God was a liar. After all, they would not have even gone to the tree if they didn’t already believe that. Their going to the tree was an accusation against God. Aren’t all our sins the same? We sin because we have already decided that God is wrong, that this commandment or that are lies. And that is an accusation that God is a liar, which is utterly offensive to him who is Truth. It is a wonder he deals with us so mercifully when our actions cut so deep.

—3—

With Lent being in full swing, I thought I might update you on the practices I have adopted. First, Jesus of Nazareth is an amazing book. I can’t believe was I ever able to put it down before. Pope Benedict is an amazing writer and is able to piece together both the historical events of Christ’s incarnation and their spiritual meaning. He is blowing my mind. Second is my Ignatian exercises. The first five, of which I’ve done one each day, have been various reflections on sin and hell, which, though sort of depressing, is important. One cannot fathom the breadth of God’s mercy until one realizes the depth of his need for that mercy.

—4—

I have an opinion poll for Catholics only. Is it possible to worship the Eucharist too much? That is, is it possible to worship God too much? Is it possible to admit of Christ’s divinity and worship it to a point where we leave no room for the Incarnation?

—5—

I got to see my goddaughter this weekend and her twin brothers, and gosh darn it if the little trio isn’t the cutest thing ever. I was quite pleased, too, that my goddaughter is not as afraid of me as she was about a year ago. I can still feel the daggers her eyes pierced into my soul over a silent lunch last spring. But I got giggles, a Valentine’s gift, and even a hug this time, so I feel quite victorious.

—6—

The Rite of Election was yesterday afternoon. There was no humour as there was in mine 7 years ago, but it still brought quite a bit of excitement into my heart. I was just sitting there in the gathering space at the church and as I saw catechumens showing up from parishes across the diocese, I began to remember how I had felt. Excited, but nervous. Was this a step I truly wanted to make? Was I doing this for all the right reasons? Do these catechumens, or now, these Elect, know how many people are praying for them? I had no idea back then just how many prayers were being offered on my behalf. Someday these Elect will know just how blessed and thankful WE are for their journeys home!

—7—

This week’s image of mercy: burying the dead.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s the hap-happiest season of all!

I think Andy Williams had things a little messed up when he sang his classic song emphasizing the wonderfulness of the Christmas season. Today, September 23, marks the beginning of the three months of bliss which we call fall.

Therefore it is with great joy that I start something new today: I am giving up television for one year, including movies and Netflix (the one single exception is that I will be watching Once Upon a Time on Sunday evenings, as I have already committed to that arrangement with a friend).

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Why am I doing this? If you have been a reader of mine for a long time, a few years ago I gave up the drink for a whole year as a penance for the conversion of my family. That penance bore great fruit, as my sister began showing signs of conversion as that penance came to an end. I should have immediately began another penance at that time because who knows, my entire family could have come to be converted by now.

So I’m doing this penance for the conversion of my dad and my brother, that through my prayers and sacrifices, God might pour the grace into their souls to know that Catholicism is true and for them to have the strength to take that step to come home. I know there was a point in time a long time ago where my brother “seemed” close. I have total faith that it could happen again. When anyone, even those who seem to hate the liturgy and would rather be anywhere else, receives the grace to contemplate the greater mysteries of life, the universe, and existence itself, they begin to walk through the doors of truth, which the Catholic Church alone holds to the keys too, whether they realize that that is the direction they are heading or not.

I Beg of You

So I was having coffee this afternoon with a great friend of mine, and during a lull in the conversation, I couldn’t help but overhear and eavesdrop on another conversation happening at a table nearby. It all started because I heard the phrase, “well he’s a Catholic.” My interest was immediately piqued because one of the people at the table was somebody I knew from way back in college before my conversion from Campus Crusade.

I strained to hear what was being said. All I could make out was some muffling interspersed with a few words like “saints”“Mary”, and “I don’t know why they…”. So I can’t say exactly what the conversation was about, but I have my hunches it was primarily about Mary.

I left because I was going to Confession afterwards, and as I was driving there, I couldn’t help but to be overwhelmed when considering all that I have gained in becoming Catholic. There are so many things that I could go into such great detail, but I don’t have the time right now, but they include: Sacraments, communion of the saints, unity, apostolic truth, historical continuity, a vast treasury of prayer tradition, the complete canon of Scripture, a more full view of the history of salvation, and perhaps most importantly, a deeper and more intimate communion (relationship) with Jesus Christ.

Now whether these coffee shop theologians (I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, after all, I’m just as much an blog theologian, which is probably worse) were discussing Catholicism with any sort of hostility or not I will never know. Maybe I should have gone up to them and joined in their conversation to find out, and help them along. In any case I have one request for you now, dear reader.

I beg you to explore Catholicism. I mean really explore it. To set aside your pre-conceived notions of what Catholicism is or is not. I beg you to learn about Catholicism from the ground up, organically. Find out what she really teaches and why, not what your pastor says she teaches or what jesus-is-savior.com says about her.

Why should you do this? Because your church or communion of churches traces its lineage of origin back to a break with the Catholic Church over some disagreement(s) about some doctrine, dogma, or more sadly, discipline. And so you owe it to yourselves to 1) see if what your own reforming fathers said about the Church was actually true, 2) to see if what the Church actually taught in that moment was truly inconsistent with the Bible or if it is only inconsistent with your interpretation of the Bible,  and 3) to see if what the Church taught/teaches is inconsistent with what the first Christians actually believed.

A good friend of mine who is not Catholic once reminded us that 500 years ago all the Protestants were Catholic, and that 500 years before that all the Orthodox and Catholics were one. There isn’t a branch in Christendom that didn’t come from Catholicism. So you owe it to yourself, at the very least, to learn about where you came from, and you might just be surprised at what you learn about Catholicism, I know that I was was quite surprised in the fall of 2008. It changed my life.

If you’re looking for a place to start, you can look at my blog, but take everything with a grain of salt as I am not a member of the magisterium, and you might have to read through layers of snark to find the nugget of Catholic teaching. Otherwise I would start with the Catechism which you can buy here or read online here. You might also try Catholics Come Home. And if you are more bold, or have already been thinking about Catholicism and are looking for a more interpersonal encounter, think about attending RCIA at a local parish which can be found by entering your zip code here.

Praying for you guys!

Anticipating Joy

Tonight is the Easter Vigil.

If there is one specific Mass I make it to, it is the Easter Vigil. Midnight Christmas Mass? Who needs it, I’ll go at 10:00. Chrism Mass? Boooo-ring. But Easter Vigil?!?! There is a Mass that is a must!

Every year since 2009, the Easter Vigil has been my Easter Mass of choice, and it will be until I die. The beauty of experiencing the first celebration of the Resurrection. Lighting the fire outside the church. Walking into the dark with a candle. Listening to the story of salvation through so many readings and psalms with the candle light flickering on the walls as if in a cave, a tomb.

And then! The Gloria! Its been over 40 days since we’ve sang Glory! 40 days since uttering Alleluia! The lights burst on, the bells chime out in the night, and glory of God is proclaimed, and the chill runs down your spine. You are a part of this. You are a member in the mystical body of Christ. You are now a character in this great story!

The story of God’s victory over sin and death are proclaimed. The new members of God’s Church are baptized, confirmed and taste the goodness of the Lord for the first time. The memories of my own first time flood back. My first Easter Vigil becomes real in my senses. The joy. The laughter (being Megan’s fiance for about 1.37 seconds–lol). The raw grace of God.

There is so much to be thankful for in life. The time for mourning is over. The time for hope and joy has come and is being fulfilled in this moment, in us, by Jesus Christ!

Church in a Blizzard

I had been planning on going to Mass before it started blizzarding and so I decided I would still walk on over to the Newman Center today. The Newman Center is on the corner of campus about three blocks away from RJ. Well, I didn’t expect the horrible snow drifts and unplowed state of everything. Well it took me about 20 minutes to walk what should take about seven. Anyway, I was really glad that I went, for a couple of reasons. The first was that Fr. Cheney’s message tonight was about the structure of the Catholic Church’s leadership and why it is good. One of the things that struck me, and I had heard this before, was that in Protestant Churches, pastors are called by the congregation to lead the church. Whereas in Catholicism, pastors are called by God and then sent out to individual parishes. It gave me peace of mind and confidence in the structure that Christ laid out for his Church.

Second, when I got there I saw one of my friends Mary, who I haven’t seen in awhile. I sat with her to discover that she too is not Catholic, but is becoming Catholic as well!!! I was so surprised and excited to find out that she is also coming to the Catholic Church. We talked for awhile and she introduced me to a few people. I also some others that I knew and chatted with them as well. It felt awesome to be surrounded by so many college Catholics who definitely cling tight to God and the faith. You would have to to venture out to Mass in this blizzard (you honestly have no idea how bad it is out there).

Coming back from Church I felt like a pioneer. Walking through a blizzard, freezing to the core, snow caked onto my clothes. That must have been what it was like for our forefathers as they trekked across this desolate prairie to give thanks to God. It is so bad out there that there is a high possibility of getting a second snow day tomorrow!!!

I am really glad I went to Church tonight.

First Meeting

 

I actually had to meet with the woman who does RCIA last night instead of tomorrow. I was pretty nervous the whole day and I’m not sure why. But it I enjoyed it. We talked about sacraments and what they are. The Catholic Church celebrates seven sacraments, which are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconcilliation, Annointing, Matrimony and Holy Orders. We discussed what they are and what all of the symbols in them, especially baptism, mean. I will be going to to RCIA classes with Andy now up until Easter. It’s exciting, but I do have two problems, which are more schedule/transportation issues. You see, I’m on duty Easter weekend which is when I will be baptized/confirmed. That is my own fault though, because I switched duty weekends so that I would have an excuse not to go home for Easter weekend. I’m not really sure why I did that. But even if I did get that weekend off, I would not really have a way to get to the Church. I trust though that all of these things will be worked out.

Anyways, as a result of the meeting I missed The Office. When I got back to my room, one of my friends started talking to me on facebook, wondering what I thought of The Office and then wanted to know why I missed it. Then she wanted to know about why I came to choose Catholicism and so I got to have a good conversation with her about that. It was very encouraging and gives me a little more confidence to talk about it with other people, which is good, because now I really cannot hide this at all.

P.S. As I continue to explore the Catholic faith, I found this great testimony. You should read it.