Archives for December 2010

Who are we?

Who Are We

Who are Catholics? For some odd reason, I was thinking about this the other morning. What are the attributes of being Catholic that apply to all of us?

Earlier this year, organizers of the Illinois Catholic Prayer Breakfast made a wonderful video entitled Simply Catholic. One answer given is that “being Catholic isn’t just something I do, it’s not a place that I go, it’s who I am.” I like that answer because it succinctly makes a good point. More than just members of an organization, Catholicism describes our very being.

Yet, collectively when considered only as an organization, we accomplish many good works. We are the largest charitable organization on the planet. We established numerous hospitals, schools and orphanages. We educate more children than any other scholarly or religious institution. We founded the college system. We developed the scientific method and laws of evidence. Sacred Tradition gave us the cannon of Holy Scripture (the Bible). Through our Magisterium, guided and protected by the Holy Spirit, our faith is unchanging. We are the Church instituted by Jesus Himself.

There are many things that make Catholics different from each other as individuals. We are of every age, race and nationality. We work in every moral field of endeavor. In monetary terms, we are rich and poor. We are involved in every political party, promoting the Church’s teaching in them (not pushing their agenda on the Church!). Our tastes in everything vary widely.

Those are among our many individual differences. There are well over a BILLION of us. Of course no two are the same! Yet apart from an almost infinite array of differences, faithful Catholics have much in common.

We are baptized Christians via trinitarian baptism, as are most Protestants (whose baptisms we also recognize). We profess the same (Nicene) creed. We reject Satan, his works and empty promises.

We attend and co-celebrate the Mass together at least every Sunday and on holy days of obligation. At Mass we receive the Eucharist (communion) often, but at least once per year. We receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (“confession”) regularly, but also at least once per year (minimally, during the Lenten Season).

We believe in the true, real presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior literally present in the Eucharist. When we receive Him, we are joined with Him and He with us. Through the Eucharist we are also joined with each other – at that Mass and more broadly in our parish and other Catholic parishes throughout the world. We are united not only in the present, but also the past and the future.

We are the grateful recipients of the sacraments. Seven gifts from Jesus that bless us with graces throughout our lives. They draw us closer to Christ, reset us when we fall and recharge us when we are depleted. They heal us and dedicate us through initiation and vocation.

Every one of us is an important part of the mystical body of Christ, the Communion of Saints of which He is the head. We are the earthly contingent, the Church Militant. We teach and spread the fullness of the Christian faith. We are all in a priesthood. Some of us who wear Roman collars are ordained into the ministerial priesthood. The rest of us are in the common priesthood. Both serve the one, true High Priest – Jesus Christ.

We are each called to be saints, to live lives patterned on that of Jesus and the canonized Saints who were exemplary men and women. Our journey leads to heaven and our goal is to take as many as possible with us.

We are also deeply ashamed to be sinners, every one of us – every lay person, religious, deacon, priest, bishop and pope. We separate ourselves from God by accepting the false promises of Satan. We blame only ourselves, are profoundly sorry for these failures and resolutely work to transform our lives.

This is who we are. Ours is one family united in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We are Catholic.

Intrigued? Want to learn more? Click here!

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #18)

7 Quick Takes Friday

This week: Advent is a time to slow down, think, reflect. Stretching beyond your limits, even if you are only 16. The UN throws a big party to announce rationing. Leaked cables disclose US dirty tricks to support climategate. An Austrian MP and devout Catholic, responds to the Turkish ambassador on Islam. A quote of the week and more.

— 1 —

Advent. Slow down. (Thanks to Deacon Greg)

(This video is no longer available.)

— 2 —

You are a 16 year old star runner from a small private high school and have made it to the state championship. You recently learned that your coach, who gave you so much, has been stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Heartbroken, you dedicate the race to him and are doing well, in 3rd place at the 2.5-mile mark only 6/10 of a mile from the finish. Everything is going great, you have a shot, your coach will be proud.

Suddenly your legs begin weakening, then pain slows you. You fall behind but force yourself to push on. Only yards from the finish line you collapse reaching for the line as you fall, the race is over for you as an officials rush help. This is Holland Reynolds:

The news report is online here. Thanks to Matthew Archbold at Creative Minority Report for finding this story.

— 3 —

The communists err, the green party, actually the global warming crowd, make that the climate change forecasters…   let’s just say, the people smarter than us, got together for a big, expensive, environmentally damaging party conference the end of November. They powerfully made the point that we must begin rationing:

¡Aye Carumba! Thanks to Mark Shea for finding this.

— 4 —

Continuing on the topic of the climate, the current US administration can not trust that other sovereign nations are as enlightened as they. To make them “do the right thing,” we resort to blackmail, giving and/or removing financial aid, spying and various other dirty tricks. The recent WikiLeaks cables give details on this part of the ever-unfolding climategate. It’s a great time to be an elite in America.

— 5 —

A good catch from Father Z. Austrian MP Ewald Stadler, a devout Catholic, has had it with two-faced Islamists and isn’t going to take it anymore.

— 6 —

The quote of the week:

You should pray for half an hour a day, unless you are very busy. If you are busy, you should pray for an hour.

St. Francis de Sales

— 7 —

Saturday Evening Blog Post

Elizabeth Esther kindly hosts a feature she calls The Saturday Evening Blog Post. Published monthly every first Saturday, it features the best post in the preceding month on each of a few dozen Christian blogs. The “best” entries are chosen by the authors themselves (so they should know!).

It is a great way to discover new blogs. Be sure to check-it out. My entry for last month was the Excellent shepherds.

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!

The universal Church

Universal Church

Growing-up in my Protestant church, I had a mix of religious education classes that were probably more-or-less typical of most denominations. Church history was not taught so much in the perspective of a continuous time-line but more as two chunks of time. The first chunk was the time of Our Lord and immediately thereafter, from 0 to around 100AD as detailed in the New Testament. The second chunk, told in some detail, was focused on the founding of our denomination around 1500AD to the present day.

That is only 600 years of church history. There is a huge gap in the middle that is missing of around 1400 years. This gap, if mentioned at all, was often to set ourselves apart from an allegedly failed Catholicism more than as part of our Protestant history. In hindsight, it was a necessary attempt at justification of our schism more than anything else.

The Catholic Church was certainly not perfect then nor is it today (other than rare infallible statements on faith and morals). No organization composed of fallen sinners can be, including every single Protestant denomination. Only the Catholic Church, from which the leaders of the reformation schism separated themselves, was instituted by Christ and given authority. That is, and always will be, unchanged.

Many in my Protestant church knew well the story and writings of our denomination’s founder, often better than we knew the early Church fathers and pre-reformation Saints (we did not claim any authority to canonize new saints). We accepted without serious question truth as from the Bible only, without dwelling on where and by what authority it came from or by what authority it was changed into our version after 1,500 years. For that matter, that Holy Scripture was changed (mostly by removals) to create a “Protestant Bible” was rarely mentioned, if at all. One great irony is that many Protestants who are aware of this think that the Catholic Church added books to Sacred Scripture and are indignant of the audacity to change it!

My homemade infographic represents the Catholic / Protestant time-line (for simplicity, I did not show the Orthodox Church). It is scaled from the founding of the Church in 33AD to the present. Protestantism appeared around 1500AD. The vertical height is also scaled to represent the current proportions.

The often downplayed point is that Protestant churches are in fact, breakaways from the Catholic Church. They did not appear out of nowhere! The Catholic Church appeared when Jesus created it. It was NOT created at the time of the Protestant schism. However, their Christian heritage and lineage is from the Catholic Church. That is a good thing as their true hope for salvation rests in that heritage. Until 1500AD, Protestants and Catholics were one Church as Jesus intended.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.

While the very earliest disciples were known simply as Christians (Acts 11:26, the Church was also referred to as the Catholic Church (meaning universal Church) around the end of the first century (only 30-40 years after St. Paul was martyred). This was helpful to differentiate the true Church from some of the schismatic, heretical ones that began to appear. “Catholic” also appears (around 110 AD) in a farewell letter from early bishop St. Ignatius of Antioch before he was martyred.

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

St. Ignatius of Antioch (110 AD)

letter to the Smyrnaeans, chapter 8

The mission of the Catholic Church was to spread the unchanging gospel of Jesus, administer the sacraments and exercise charity. That mission has remained the same for over 2,000 years. The Catholic Church of today teaches the same deposit of faith taught to us by Jesus. Our morality has not evolved. We plead guilty to being “old fashioned” and “behind the times!”

The Catholic Church gave us the Holy Bible by carefully discerning the canon over hundreds of years and many councils (Council of Rome, Council of Hippo, Council of Carthage, Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II, Council of Florence). Our Christian creed – the Nicene Creed – springs from another Catholic council (the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea). The Catholic Church is led by popes in an unbroken line of succession beginning with St. Peter.

So where did this “reformation” movement come from? A Catholic priest and scholar named Martin Luther in the early 1500s. You know the story, but the net is that Luther ended-up creating a new, stripped-down version of the Catholic Church on his own. This was NOT his intention, but he and his followers got carried away with unfolding events. Others, inspired to do the same, subsequently created their own denominations different from Luther’s and from each other. By necessity, the new churches abandoned the authority that originated from Jesus and passed by Apostolic Succession. Also lost was Sacred Tradition (which gives us the cannon of Sacred Scripture), the Magisterium (which interprets it) and the Sacraments — all given to His Church by Christ Himself.

It is our hope that one day, the Church here on earth (the Church Militant) will once again be fully reunited. Until that time, we remain brothers and sisters in Christ, taking different paths to eternal life.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where (I) am going you know the way.”

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #17)

7 Quick Takes Friday

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Without further ado:

— 1 —

One thing that makes Catholicism seem “weird” to many is our veneration (not worship!) of Mary. When Bible verses are taken in context, when they are read with an understanding of Sacred Scripture in its entirety, and when consideration is given to the original intended audience…   Mary’s soul truly glorifies Our Lord. (I recommend watching this video “full screen” – click the icon with 4 arrows on the lower right.)

I first saw this on Jen’s blog in October. There are a lot of good follow-up comments on it there.

— 2 —

Marcel (Aggie Catholics) highlighted this from our Holy Father’s recent speech to young people in America:

What purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others.

— 3 —

T-Mobile has been doing a series of “flash mob” style ads in the UK. I am not sure what to make of them, but they sure are interesting. For example:

— 4 —

Parents, are you raising a large family? If so, you should be ashamed of yourselves for the strain your kids place upon society and the environment. You are guilty of littering, says Rutgers University Professor Helen Fisher, of the Center for Human Evolution Studies.

People, not children of God but litter. This is the thinking of the enlightened left. Pat Archbold covers this story over at the National Catholic Register, including a video from CNN (a/k/a Communist News Network).

— 5 —

Simply too cute (and a counterpoint to #4) not to include:

Kissing Baby

— 6 —

Kristy at dreams waking up uncovered this gem:

Your bid — for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high.

C. S. Lewis

— 7 —

Quote of the week:

Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.