On the value of suffering

One “Thanks be to God,” or one “Blessed be God,” in adversity, is worth more than a thousand thanksgivings in prosperity. –Father M. d’Avila

St. Bridget once received and bore patiently a succession of trials from various persons.. One of them made an insulting remark to her; another praised her in her presence, but complained of her in her absence; another calumniated her; another spoke ill of a servant of God, in her presence, to her great displeasure; one did her a grievous wrong, and she blessed her; one caused her a loss, and she prayed for her; and a seventh gave her false information of the death of her son, which she received with tranquillity and resignation. After all this, St. Agnes the Martyr appeared to her, bringing in her hand a most beautiful crown adorned with seven precious stones, telling her that they had been placed there by these seven persons.

Source: https://saintlylives.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/suffering-part-3-of-5-2/

Today we celebrate the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

There are many Ave Maria’s, and this one is one of my favorites. Ave Maria means Hail Mary. It’s taken from Luke 1:28.

If you’d like to read more about the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I recommend this link.

What is the difference between baptism and confirmation? Depends on who you ask

The Catholic Church teaches that baptism actually does something to the soul in an objective sense: it removes the punishment for sins committed up to that point in life; it removes the punishment for original sin; it makes the person a new creature; it imparts sanctifying grace.

But I know that a lot of Protestants don’t hold that view. They believe baptism is a symbolic action but not that it does anything objective to the soul.

I’ve thought about this difference a lot, and I’ve come to the conclusion that baptism really isn’t just a symbol to most Protestants. It is that they believe that baptism is a public demonstration that the person has entered into the Christian life. They have freely chosen to follow Christ and baptism is the public act that demonstrates this. So it looks to me like, generally speaking, Protestants baptize while attributing to it what Catholics call confirmation. This difference explains why Protestants will very often rebaptize somebody. They want the person to make a public statement regarding entering into the Christian life. This explains why some Protestants argue that baptism is not necessary for salvation (which is my mother’s position). If it is only a public act regarding the free choice to live as a Christian, then I would have to agree with that argument.

Catholics want everybody to be baptized because it does something objective to the soul. On the other hand, we acknowledge that there are times when somebody could still be saved without being baptized. Catholics recognize Protestant baptisms, but only as baptisms, not as confirmations. This is because when the Protestant was baptized, the objective actions that I mentioned above actually did take place (assuming a few details that I won’t go into here but are usually used). Any baptized Protestant who converts to Catholic is not rebaptized since it is not necessary, but they must make a public act of faith and be confirmed. They do this as part of the sacrament of confirmation.

Here is a table I made to help distinguish the Catholic view from the Protestant view. It doesn’t necessarily apply to all Protestants–they aren’t a monolithic group and it can be difficult to generalize about them, but I think it works pretty well for many of them.

Name of act Catholic view Protestant view (generally)
Baptism Does something objective to the soul (see above); a sacrament that imparts grace; obedience to the scriptures Public confirmation that the person accepts Christ and freely chooses to live as a Christian; obedience to the scriptures
Confirmation Public confirmation that the person accepts Christ and freely chooses to live as a Christian; a sacrament that imparts grace; obedience to the scriptures Not applicable; not acknowledged as a distinct and separate act

Here are a few scripture verses that distinguish baptism from confirmation:

 

The Screwtape Letters, Letter 1

I have studied and practically memorized the first letter of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It is brilliant. I found it to be a great consolation after the election of 2012. I was still working in an office at that time, and to console myself I copied and pasted portions of it into a Word document, formatted it nicely, printed it and taped it to the door to my office. I’d stand there and read it from time to time, and have ruminated on it for several years now. Please do read at least Letter 1, several times. It is available here.

I later learned that the actor John Cleese narrated the entire book, and it is available on YouTube. He does a phenomenal job. Start with Letter 1, then go from there. I recommend buying the book too. I used to have a copy of the book but can’t remember the last time I saw it. It might still be at Dad’s house. About three years ago I bought one for my Kindle. You can probably find an older edition very inexpensively on Amazon.

Jesus established a visible Church that He protected all this time

Remember when I told you how I saw the pattern of how things would play out? So much just dropped into place in my mind’s eye. I saw the Church like a tree going back through history. I have struggled to articulate it with any detail. Here’s what I said back in July:

Not long after I left the cult I knew that I had to reject the gnosticism I had been taught there. I wanted to return to my first love of Jesus, son of God, second person of the Trinity, that I had when I was younger. For a couple years I considered returning to some sort of Protestant church but intuited that I would eventually become Catholic anyway. Meandering through Protestantism first, then converting to Catholic later, was a definite possibility, but at some point I realized that it would be inefficient. So I went straight to the Catholic Church. Seeing what I saw about contraception and how it harms the “one flesh” teaching of scripture was the main pivot point, but there were other things as well. For example, I needed a firm historical basis for the church I would join, and I found that in the Catholic understanding of apostolic succession. So again I saw the pattern of how things would play out and made a choice based on that. But articulating that pattern came later, and, in fact, I’m still working on it.

Just today I came across the blog of somebody who articulated much of what I saw. So if you’re curious to understand better why I became Catholic, I recommend this:

Ecclesial Deism

I must warn you: it is long. But it is really good. The comments are good too (although I’ve only read a few of them). Just to be clear: it is not that I had every thought expressed there, but the general structure of his thinking reflects what I saw about the Church. In particular, what the author said about ecclesial gnosticism, I intuited but couldn’t articulate.

The arguments and evidence that Jesus established a visible Church that He protected for 2,000 years are far stronger than arguments and evidence for the opposing view. Ecclesial Deism makes this very clear.

 

What’s the difference between these?

Just a quick little thought-exercise. What’s the difference between these three groups:

  • orthodox Catholic
  • Orthodox catholic
  • orthodox catholic

Which am I? Which are you?

 

Miracle in the clouds

It was one of my first times on an airplane. Me and my daddy were flying to Oklahoma to visit his family. I was probably about six years old. I got the window seat, and was so excited as the plane took off. We went up to the clouds, and broke through them. I looked around, totally certain that I would see heaven. I fully expected to see pearly or golden gates, a wall and and maybe a castle. I looked and looked, and even tried to look out the windows on the other side. I couldn’t see it, and was very disappointed. It just didn’t make sense to me. I’d seen drawings in books, and it just resonated with me that I’d see heaven up there.heaven-in-the-clouds

So I told my dad that I didn’t understand why I couldn’t see heaven. He said something about how if people could see it, then we would have photographs of it and everybody would know about it. That made sense to me, but I was still disappointed. As years went by, the disappointment faded and was replaced with a sense of joy and thankfulness at having a very simple, innocent faith.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, on Friday, September 2, 2016. I’m sitting on an airplane, going to Oklahoma to visit family. We have taken off, and are heading up to the clouds. I think back to that memory of when I was a child, remembering how it was on a trip to Oklahoma that I thought I’d see heaven, and it makes me smile.

To pass the time, I brought a book to read. It’s called, “How Can I Get To Heaven,” by Robert Sungenis. I turn to where my bookmark is, page 34, where I read the following. I’ll bold the relevant parts:

“Paul prefaces each of these instances with ‘By faith Abraham…’ and the closes with the following statement in Hebrews 11:10: ‘For he was looking forward to the city whose architect and builder is God.'”

OK so now I’m a bit bewildered about the timing of this sentence and the memory I just had. I look out the window and we’ve broken through the clouds. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful morning. Continuing to read, it says:

“Unlike the Genesis account which merely provides the rudimentary facts of Abraham’s faith, Paul penetrates into the mind and motivation of Abraham, making us privy to an insight we would never have have gleaned from the Genesis account alone. We learn an astounding truth. We discover that Abraham did not just blindly obey; rather, he had a vivid vision of the future heavenly kingdom and of the whole plan and purpose of God’s dealing with him.

OK, there’s that idea again, a vision of a heavenly kingdom. It occurs to me that maybe God has orchestrated what I’m reading at this moment, and I get a little teary. I keep reading:

Abraham’s vision anticipated not merely owning a piece of land on earth, but also his ultimate entry in heaven in the future, ‘a city whose architect and builder is God.’ What kind of faith is is required to envision one’s entrance into the heavenly kingdom for eternity? Surely more than some crude or rudimentary understanding; rather, it is a faith that comprehends the whole purpose and meaning of existence, and that trusts God implicitly for its eventually fulfillment. According to Paul, Christians possess this same faith, since he says in Hebrews 13:14, ‘for here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.'”

I’ve got some serious tears in my eyes at this point, to the point where I don’t want anybody to notice. I put the book down in my lap with the cover up.

how-can-i-get-to-heaven-book-cover

I glance down at it, and notice something that I had not seen before: the sunlight peeking over the clouds. See it?

I was so full of emotion at this point that it was hard to take it all in. God orchestrated this moment to let me know that he remembered my simple faith and he was there with me and my dad. I felt very strongly how much he loves me, how he sees everything and remembers everything, all my pain, sorrow, and prayers. He sees all; nothing escapes his observation, and there will be an accounting, for everything.

The night before, while I was packing, I had intended to pack the book in my underseater bag but ran out of room. So I left it on my nightstand. As I was almost walking out the door the next morning to go to the airport, I felt very strongly a sense that I should bring it, and I almost resisted the feeling since I would have to put the book in my purse and I didn’t want to do that. I was in a cult for 22 years, so I know very well how easy it is to be deceived by promptings and thoughts that seem OK but are not. So unfortunately, my first reaction to such promptings is suspicion. It has been difficult o allow myself to be led by the Holy Spirit. But I decided to listen to the prompting and bring the book. I’m glad I did.

Embracing Mary’s prophecy

 

I have a hard time when people misrepresent Mary. She is my spiritual mother and it hurts when people denigrate her. For example, I recently came across a post claiming that the Catholic Church teaches that Mary is a Goddess. This is an outrageous claim, ignorant, foolish, defamatory.

The objections presented in the post were the usual objections that you will see. They have been made and answered more times than I would care to count. But I want to highlight a foundational error that this author made, one made by so many others. You will notice that these people do not mention an important detail about the founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther. All of the things they rail against about Mary, Luther accepted: Mary’s perpetual virginity, her immaculate conception, her bodily assumption into heaven, giving her exalted titles, and being the spiritual mother of all Christians. I don’t know why they omit this detail, if it is due to ignorance or just being willing to give him a “pass.” I suspect for many of them, it is the former rather than the latter.

I feel very confident to say that the Holy Spirit invites all Christians to participate in Mary’s prophecy in Luke 1:48b:

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed…

I was two decades away from becoming Catholic when Sister Act came out, but when I heard this song for the first time during that film, I fell in love with it. It brought me a lot of joy.

 

I love being Catholic

I really love being Catholic. It makes me so happy just to write those words. I wish I could convey my love so that others could see what I see.

The Church is a good mother.

She helps me grow closer to Jesus. She teaches me how to pray. She loves art, music and beauty.

holy familyShe taught me about marriage and the family. She showed me how they are a reflection of the Trinity. This insight is the the firm foundation for all of what I write about here.

She gave me my baptism and my confirmation. She gave me Sacred Scriptures and teaches me what they mean. She gives me the fulfillment of John 6:53 every Sunday, the body and blood of our Lord, as He commanded.

She gave me an identity, one I will have forever.

I know these things because she is His bride, and she loves her Bridegroom. They are one. Where she is, He is. Where He is, she is.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I love the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.