Archives for June 2010

Elsewhere: ‘Peace and Justice’ brigade


(I am starting something new with this post, occasional re-posts of notable content I have run across elsewhere. More on this is at the bottom of this one.)

One of the blogs I follow closely is by Father Dwight Longenecker. He is a convert (previously an Anglican priest) with great insights and humor.

Recently he wrote briefly about Catholics who focus on Peace and Justice to the exclusion of everything else. Great points, charitably made.

Anyhow, sister and I were chatting yesterday about how the ‘Peace and Justice’ brigade have taken over the Catholic Church. I’m not one to attack those who work for peace and justice, and I think very often we conservatives do not do enough to foster peace and justice and work with the poor. I’m not opposed to peace and justice, but I am am opposed to those who reduce the entire Catholic Church to ‘working for peace and justice’.

The main problem with this approach is that it turns our religion into a religion of good works. The cross of Christ is forgotten (except as an image of injustice) the idea of redemption from sins is done away with as an ancient irrelevance, and any concept of the supernatural is dismissed as ‘medieval’. So they cling to peace and justice and making the world a better place as the driving idea of Catholicism.

The subsequent problem (which any monkey could figure out) is that you don’t need religion to try to make the world a better place. In fact, a religion can sometimes impede the progress. What you really need is a practical and enforceable ideology–like Marxism. Consequently, the peace and justice campaigners–if they stay in the church at all–stay with it because they see the church as the best multinational organization through which they can foment the revolution. Yucch.

More at Father Longenecker’s blog – Standing on my Head.

This is a new type of post (for me) that I call “Elsewhere.” These will be occasional pieces on Fridays which showcase information and opinions I have recently read…   elsewhere.

My intent is to share material that I have run across that especially interests me as a new convert. My hope is that you will find it interesting too and that you will be introduced to some wonderful Catholic blogs and writers that you may not currently follow.

Convert Journal has just pasted its 5 month anniversary. Not much older than I am Catholic. After the initial weeks, I have held to self-imposed publishing deadlines of every Tuesday and Friday. My favorite posts are brief essays on topics I feel compelled to share. I try to reserve Tuesday exclusively for those. Fridays might have an essay, a 7 Quick Takes Friday, this new Elsewhere type post or possibly other types of content I have yet to think of!

You are a group of loyal readers (subscribers – around 60 +/-) plus anywhere from 20 to 100 drop-ins per day who stumble upon the blog. Your e-mail messages and occasional posted comments are very encouraging. It has been especially exciting for me to “meet” so many folks considering, or in the process of converting to, Catholicism. Please always feel free to write or comment with your opinions or questions.

Your death

Your Death

Supposedly we are different from other animals because we have the intellect to contemplate our own death. We might be able to contemplate it intellectually, but I am not so sure that we believe it. We all know that “life is a terminal condition” (to quote the bumper sticker) and that everyone dies someday. It is just that…   the day is always in the far future – certainly no need to think about something so unsettling now. Somehow death seems so unreal. After all, in our entire life experience we have never died, right?

This generalization does not apply to everyone. Some people have had so-called “near death experiences.” Others know, based on sound medical assessment, that their time is very short. Folks in these circumstances might be able to fully grasp the reality of their death. Then again, many do not.

What is death anyway? It could be the end – the final end of everything – the point at which our consciousness, our soul, ceases to exist. I have a very good, non-Christian friend who sadly believes that. If death is the end, fearing it makes good sense.

Some people are not sure what happens. The 1970’s band Blood, Sweat & Tears penned a lyric that said “I can swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray their ain’t no hell.” The label for such folks is agnostic, but some professed Christians think like this too.

As faithful Catholics (and other Christians), we know the good news! Jesus died for our sins so that we may have eternal life. Our very existence does not have to end at death. We do not have to fear death if we accept God’s greatest gift.

Accepting Jesus means following him. There are fine, theological points that separate Christians from each other. The sola fide (faith alone) crowd – despite the literal meaning – do not actually believe that by merely professing faith once, you are “good to go.” You will follow God’s will if you truly have faith. In the Catholic concept of the Economy of Salvation, good works are expected – not to earn salvation but more as a manifestation of faith. While this is over-simplifying each position, the general beliefs and results are essentially the same.

Far more important than Protestant vs. Catholic differences is how (or even if) we Christians actually live our Christian faith. As Catholics, we believe we have the fullness of the faith, the complete truth, the entire framework and the tools Jesus left for us (the sacraments, authority of the Magisterium, Holy Scripture AND Sacred Tradition). This only makes it easier to live as a follower of Jesus, nothing more. Our mission as Christians, simply, is to love God and each other. Everything else follows from that.

I have often thought about people of great wealth or great accomplishment. When they died, everything they worked for was left behind. So it will be with us. Our houses, cars, flat screen TVs, favorite clothes, professional achievements…   all left. Sirach wrote in the Old Testament (Protestants: Martin Luther removed this from the Holy Bible in the 1400s):

O death! how bitter the thought of you for the man at peace amid his possessions, For the man unruffled and always successful, who still can enjoy life’s pleasures. O death! how welcome your sentence to the weak man of failing strength, Tottering and always rebuffed, with no more sight, with vanished hope. Fear not death’s decree for you; remember, it embraces those before you, and those after. Thus God has ordained for all flesh; why then should you reject the will of the Most High? Whether one has lived a thousand years, a hundred, or ten, in the nether world he has no claim on life.

What are your priorities? If being Christian were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Your death is certain. What happens then depends on what you do now.

The Confiteor


At the beginning of almost every Mass, is the Penitential Rite. It is a general acknowledgment of our sinfulness and a request for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Through this rite, one receives forgiveness for their venial sins (one of many ways; mortal sins must be absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation). One of the three options for general confession is the Confiteor (a/k/a “I confess”).

Sometimes the Confiteor is called the “mea culpa” (Latin for “my fault”) as the penitent accepts full responsibility for their sins. To me that is a good way to think of it as it is central to the prayer. The prayer is brief, so I will go over it for my non-Catholic readers.

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, – an admission to both God and all assembled.

that I have sinned through my own fault, – I chose to sin, blame is squarely on my shoulders alone, I offer no excuse. To emphasize this sentiment, the penitent should lightly strike their breast at this point.

in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; – I acknowledge all the forms by which I have sinned.

and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God. – I ask for the intercessory prayers of others.

Absolution through the priest follows with him saying “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.

Somehow I feel like a small weight has been lifted, not unlike the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is coming clean, being honest, getting set right with God. One other thing I think about is that the other penitents have asked me to pray for them. It seems like the Hail Mary would be the perfect prayer, at the earliest opportunity.

The current Latin for the Confiteor is:

Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres,
quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne:
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem,
omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres,
oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.

The US English translation of the Confiteor shown above is from the current US English translation of the Mass. A new worldwide English translation (closer to the Latin form) has been approved and will probably be placed into use at Advent 2012. That new translation is:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Who died and left you in charge?

Who Died

When I was growing up I was often “bossy” with my younger brother. I really do not remember much in the way of specific anecdotes, but I do remember when my mom would intervene. Her first words were often “who died and left you in charge?” I never gave it much thought other than to accept that I was not in charge of my brother.

Skipping ahead a half-century, my mom’s words ring a new truth for me. Perhaps not what she meant at that moment, but equally applicable.

God sent His son to live among us to teach us to love Him and one another. Jesus was our teacher, amplifying and expanding the lessons of the prophets. While at the time His followers did not fully “get it,” He knew His time with us was very limited.

So, what was Jesus longer term plan for us? Several things really:

  • He instituted His Church.
  • He gave us the sacraments and entrusted them to His Church. Through this gift we receive the graces of divine life.
  • We received the Holy Spirit to guide us in his will, especially the leader of His Church.
  • His word. At first, little was written, passed only by Sacred Tradition. Over time many testaments were recorded from which the Church, through its infallible authority, canonized a collection as the Holy Bible.

Central to Jesus plan for our earthly lives is His Church – the Universal Church – the Catholic Church. THAT is who Jesus “left in charge.” Jesus created 1 Church, not many denominations. He appointed officials (Apostles and their successor Bishops) and a leader (Peter and his successor popes). Christ created His Church not just for the decades following His death, but “until the end of the age.”

Scripture, as always, explains this better them me! Here is the narrative:

(Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

This saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God? He should not be a recent convert, so that he may not become conceited and thus incur the devil’s punishment. He must also have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, the devil’s trap. Similarly, deacons must be dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain.

And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.

The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.

And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

God is one and Christ in one, and one is His Church, and the faith is one, and His people welded together by the glue of concord into a solid unity of body. Unity cannot be rent asunder, nor can the one body of the Church, through the division of its structure, be divided into separate pieces.

St. Cyprian (c. 250AD)