Archives for August 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #148)

7 Quick Takes Friday

A wonderful video on why women a veil at Mass. The Giver is a new movie about the perfect utopia we are striving to reach. Native Americans speak-out about the Washington NFL team’s use of the “Redskins” name. How do we work with radical Islam to achieve peace and harmony – a realistic analysis. A black Marine offers his own challenge. Growing racism in America, but it’s not what the media would have us believe. Finally, something odd, very odd.

— 1 —

Have you seen women wearing a veil at Mass and wondered what is all about? This excellent video explains why:

Spotted by Fr. Z

— 2 —

This looks like a good movie (released 2 weeks ago). It’s called The Giver and is about the secular utopia we are inching toward:

— 3 —

If you have been watching the news, when those of a certain political persuasion are not race bating or inflaming a non-existent “war on women,” they join hands with native Americans whose #1 issue is obviously the insensitivity of the Washington Redskins. Thank goodness somebody is finally doing something to alleviate this suffering:

— 4 —

Dr. Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam discusses the implications of jihad and what it takes to effectively deal with it:

— 5 —

This black Marine has makes a challenge of his own (oorah!):

— 6 —

Have you noticed a new, growing racism in America. Has the media, backed by the administration, already determined guilt without the need for any credible investigation or an actually fair hearing?

Will officer Darren Wilson be treated fairly? It will take a miracle and a lot of money. If you are inclined to justice, help him to present a defense against the mighty forces arrayed against him.

— 7 —

From the Convert Journal “just odd” desk: Two 30 year-old guys record one’s mom and aunt engaging in idle chit-chat. Then they lip-sync to it.

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!

Elsewhere: Christianity and secular values


Secularism (typically liberalism) has molded many non-Catholic ecclesial communities. They have “progressed” away from Christ into updated, modern, non-Christian values. Traditional, orthodox (true) values are viewed as outdated. A “poster-child” for this are the Episcopalians, but most other mainline groups have been affected as well. Some have historically had orthodox/liberal internal splits.

Part of the attraction for such “evolution” is seen as meeting people where they are, inclusiveness and “not judging.” All good, except the problem is they do this at the expense of truth. To put it bluntly, they simply redefine truth to accommodate sin. So, how has this worked out for them? Spoiler: they are on the fast path to extinction.

Please consider this coming Sunday’s readings:

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

Alexander Griswold has written about this phenomenon recently for the Federalist:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) was formed in 1987, when three Lutheran denominations merged to create the largest Lutheran church in America. For most of its history, gay men and women were permitted to be pastors, so long as they remained celibate. But in a narrow vote at its 2009 Churchwide Assembly, ordination was extended to gay men and women in “committed monogamous relationships.” In addition, the Assembly passed an amendment allowing churches “to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

From ELCA’s formation in 1987 to 2009, the average decrease in membership each year was only 0.62 percent. But after the liberalization of the ELCA’s stance on sexuality, membership declined a whopping 5.95 percent in 2010 and 4.98 percent in 2011. Since 2009, more than 600 congregations abandoned the denomination, with almost two-thirds joining conservative Lutheran denominations like the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.

By the end of 2012, ELCA had lost 12.3 percent of its members in three years — nearly 600,000 people. If the present rate of defections holds steady, ELCA will cease to exist in less than two decades.

The United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has long had a reputation for unfettered liberalism, sometimes bordering on the radical. In 2008, for example, the pastor of the largest UCC congregations in the country was one Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The UCC’s tendency for pushing traditional boundaries has led to unquestionably positive developments (such as the first African-American pastor as early as 1785) and the unquestionably silly (such as the first hymnal that refuses to call Jesus male). Needless to say, in 2005 UCC became the first U.S. mainline Protestant denomination to support same-sex marriage, and has been an outspoken voice in the gay marriage debate ever since.

While UCC has been bleeding members for decades, its decline rapidly accelerated after the gay marriage vote. Since 2005, UCC has lost 250,000 members, a decline of 20.4 percent over seven years. While an average of 39 congregations left UCC annually from 1990 to 2004, more than 350 congregations departed in the following three years. The UCC’s own pension board called the 2000’s decline “the worst decade among 25 reporting Protestant denominations,” and admitted that ..”.the rate of decline is accelerating.”

2013 marked a particularly grim milestone for the denomination, as membership finally fell below one million. If the post-2005 rate in membership losses doesn’t taper out, the denomination will cease to exist in 30 years.

More groups are covered in the piece, including Presbyterians and (of course) Episcopalians. The article concludes with a comparison to those who have not gone down this rabbit hole. Read the whole post: How to Shrink Your Church In One Easy Step


7 Quick Takes Friday (set #147)

7 Quick Takes Friday

A beautiful, vibrant church may be crushed. An amazingly evil abortion bill is proposed and solidly supported by 1 easily identifiable group. Many presidents from both parties have spoken on their Christian faith in the past, here is one. A black man rants about Ferguson, but from a different perspective than many. Antisemitism is the only explanation for the 1-sided support of Palestine (Hamas). Two good analysis videos are offered. The quality of Hamas staged scenes is slipping (the world will likely lap it up anyway).

— 1 —

The beautiful Holy Innocents church in New York City may be closed. It is vibrant, growing, self-sustaining and the only daily traditional Latin Mass available. I suspect it is that last fact which endangers it as no other credible reason has been offered. Take a look, this is brief:

Please consider signing this respectful petition to Cardinal Dolan.

— 2 —

ATTENTION DEMOCRATS: every voting Senate Democrat voted for S. 1696 last month. It was one of the most radical abortion bills ever before them. Its purpose was to, in one sweeping gesture, wipe out almost every pro-life law passed by states. We are talking about laws requiring informed consent, restricting partial-birth abortion, medical safety standards and use of public funds. They called it the Women’s Health Protection Act but a better name would have been the Gosnell Prerogative Act or The Real War on Women Act. Every single Democratic senator who voted (51 – only 1 did not vote) voted for this:

Partial Birth Abortion

These are not evil people. Many are very nice, responsive to their constituents and support responsible government programs. Yet, when it comes to killing children in the womb, they can be counted on to support the most egregious proposals put before them. The people are not evil but their actions are extremely so. NOTHING trumps life. Will you vote for people who do everything in their power to make this possible?

— 3 —

A president speaks from the heart on Christian faith:

Real hope and change, not what we have now.

— 4 —

An angry black man speaks about Ferguson, MO and the sorry state of black America.

— 5 —

Why are so many people protesting against Israel with so much anger, while nary a peep is heard against Muslims anywhere?

— 6 —

The quality of Hamas staged scenes is slipping. Here we have a display of victims of “Israeli aggression” upon the innocent and peace loving people of Palestine. The martyred are lying in an impressive display in their burial shrouds:

— 7 —

The hypocrisy surrounding the Hamas attack on Israel is incredible. Do people really not know any of the history? Do they even care about truth? Here, Pat Condell gives a good summary of the big picture which somehow is being completely hidden:

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!

Priest or Christ?

Priest Or Christ

Hamburgers do not have ham. English muffins are not. Strangely, an alarm goes off when it is on. Language can be very misleading indeed. As a convert, I noticed that Catholicism has added to this list a good bit!

One rich area of saying one thing while meaning another is on the role the priest fulfills in the sacraments. We say things like:

  • The priest absolved my sins in confession.
  • Father Joe confected the Eucharist at Mass.
  • They were married on Saturday by Father Paul.

Strictly speaking, it is not the priest who absolves your sins or who confects the Eucharist. He does not have the power, but he does stand-in for Christ who most certainly does. By virtue of Holy Orders, passed in an unbroken chain directly from Christ Himself (apostolic succession), priests are uniquely configured to the one High Priest. It is Jesus who, in these examples, absolves our sins and transubstantiates ordinary bread and wine into His Body and most Precious Blood.

“Stand-in” is not the best way to describe the priest’s role. More precisely we say that he is acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). He is, to put it another way, acting sacramentally for Christ (“another Christ” or alter Christus) from whom sanctifying grace is conferred. It is Christ and His power at work, through His ministerial priesthood (we are all in His common priesthood via our baptisms).

The distinction is important. Consider a confession where the penitent knowingly omits a mortal sin (a/k/a a “bad confession”). The priest, if given no reason to suspect this, will say the words of absolution. Never-the-less, the sins are NOT absolved and the penitent remains in a state of mortal sin. Priests can be deceived, Christ can not. The priest acts for, not in replacement of, Christ.

The traditional words of absolution were actually clearer than the current formula:

May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Thereupon, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My third example (marriage) is a tricky one. In this case, the priest is not the minister of the sacrament – just a witness. It is the couple themselves who are the ministers…   even if they are not Catholic. Barring impediments, every validly baptized man and woman enter into a sacramental marriage (whether they realize it or not).

Back to my main point, when a non-Catholic says only Christ, no man, can forgive sins they are correct. It is Christ working in the confessional who absolves our sins, doing so through the ministerial priesthood He commissioned and ordained.

The Narrow Gate

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Narrow Gate

As I look at the world today, it’s easy to understand Jesus’ warning above. So many want to believe, and would have others believe, that they are the chosen ones, the spiritual ones, God’s elect. However, many of them do not follow the path that Jesus has laid out before us. They refuse to accept the hardship and difficulty of finding the narrow gate. Even if they should stumble upon it, they lack the spiritual strength to enter through it.

Making it to church on Sunday and living the rest of the week for themselves is not the answer, yet many follow that pattern. They trot out their “Sunday Best,” not only in clothes, but also in spirituality, and then put their Christianity back in the closet with their suits and finery until the next Sunday. Some don’t even wait until Mass has ended to slip out the doors and get back to their own lives. If they can’t even devout one hour to God on Sunday, why should they expect that God will be welcoming them with open arms? What other relationship could grow and flourish if ignored the way many ignore their relationship with God? Imagine trying to sustain a marriage by devoting an hour a week to it and living the rest of the week selfishly and without concern for your spouse. Your marriage would fall apart very quickly. So will your relationship with God if you aren’t willing to devote the time necessary to make it grow and flourish.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:31-39)

Once again we are told that there will be difficulties to overcome if we are to follow Jesus. If we will only look around, we see that Jesus’ words are very true in many lives today. How many of us have relatives who refuse Christianity and live their lives in sin? How many of us have the courage to confront them? That’s what Jesus was telling us He came to do; to turn us against our own family if necessary in order to serve and follow Him. A very hard teaching that few put into practice. There used to be shame in our society. When someone chose to ignore morality and live in sin, there was a price to pay. Even their own families would shame them and, in some cases, refuse to consider them a part of their family as long as they continued to live in sin. That shame is practically non-existent in society today.

Jesus tells us that we must love Him more than our earthly family. Members of our family may turn from God. Our son or our daughter may live a sinful life. Our brother or sister may be living in a sinful relationship. If we truly love Jesus and wish to follow Him, we must be willing to confront those persons and, with great love and tenderness, gently point out their sinfulness.

Our family should also extend to those people with whom we associate and, in a larger sense, to society at large. Sadly, our society has reached a level of decadence that threatens all of us in its sinfulness. Acts that would have brought shame and the reproach of others are ignored, while those who truly practice their Christianity are under attack from every corner. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear or read of the death of an innocent at the hands of someone who simply has no regard for human life. Kids enter schools and kill other kids; children shoot total strangers out of boredom. Girls and women are drugged and raped and it’s passed off as “date rape” and almost snickered at rather than condemned. We have failed miserably to instill respect for others in our younger generation. If fact we’ve taught them that life isn’t sacred if it’s inconvenient. Through abortion and assisted suicide we’ve taught our children that an innocent in the womb or an elderly in a nursing home is of no value. They can be discarded along with the with the trash if they are an inconvenience. We offer no choice to the unborn; how long will it be until we no longer give the choice to the elderly or the infirm. Are we to decide whose life is of value and whose isn’t? We do not give life, God does. We have no right to take innocent life. It is our responsibility as Christians to combat the sinfulness and lack of morality so common in our society today. Jesus expects that of us if we are to be His followers. He also expects that we will experience some difficulty and even rejection by those we love when we confront these issues in a Christian way. The narrow gate is not for those who refuse to live their spirituality rather than just proclaim it.

“And behold, one came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed; what do I do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure I heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:16-24)

The gospel doesn’t tell us if the young man took Jesus’ advice and sold his possessions and came back to follow Him. However, this teaching again reminds us that following Jesus will have some difficulty and discomfort to overcome. What we hold most precious on earth can rob us of the true treasure of eternal life with God. We must be willing to sacrifice those blessings God has provided without thought to their earthly worth. If we refuse to be good stewards of the gifts of God, we risk losing salvation and eternal life as well.

Thankfully, Jesus also gave us the path to salvation, “When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 16:25-26). With the help of Jesus we can turn from our earthly wants and desires and seek those things that will bring us eternal life. But He is also telling us it is not possible without God. We can’t do it alone, we must have the grace, mercy and help of God.

The path, then, requires God’s intervention. If we consider our sinfulness and weakness as Christians, we must know that our salvation isn’t the result of our efforts, but of the mercy of God. Yes, we must do those things that our Christian beliefs would require; prayer, forgiveness; loving others; sharing the blessings we have received. But if we are to enter the kingdom of God, he must invite us through His loving mercy and forgiveness. We don’t have the cost of the ticket, Jesus had to pay that price for us. Only by the intervention of God can a camel “go through the eye of a needle.”

As we have seen, Jesus gave warning to all that the way to paradise is not going to be easy. It will be hard and difficult. Many will think they are headed in the right direction, but find out too late that they have gone through the wide gate that leads to destruction. Many will start down the right path, but turn away when the going gets hard. Still others will try their best to remain on the path to the narrow gate but won’t understand that they don’t have the strength to get through the gate. Without God, it isn’t possible. But with God all things are possible. Even though we are sinful humans, incapable of obtaining salvation on our own, that promise is offered if only we turn to God for his help.

Throughout Christian history many have said, and many today, continue to say they are following the path, but few truly are. “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus told us that those who find the narrow gate are few. Even those who work miracles in His name aren’t assured of heaven if they haven’t entered through the narrow gate. How can we know which gate we are approaching? Especially in the world today, the narrow gate is not only difficult to enter, it’s hard to even find. It’s hidden among the sinfulness and secularism prevalent in today’s society. Some might think it beyond the hope of anyone to find that gate and enter the kingdom through it.

Yet, in His teaching, His parables and the guidance given to His apostles Jesus leads the way to the narrow gate. He repeatedly points out the error of those who believe they are righteous, admonishing them to change their ways before it is too late. Some did, but many ignored the warnings and will spend eternity in hell rather than heaven. Today, also, some heed His word, believe what He said, and produce good fruit. Many would have the world believe they are the faithful, righteous followers of Christ, but they ignore His word in many ways and produce no fruit. These are the ones who will be cast aside on that judgment day.

Don’t think that you aren’t capable of finding the narrow gate. Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t enter through it. Is it difficult? If we believe Jesus, the answer is yes. Is it impossible? Again, if we believe Jesus, no, it’s not impossible. We must strive to do our best while realizing that we will fail from time to time. We must recognize that we can’t earn our way into heaven, but must have the help of God to get there. He waits for us to ask; He waits to forgive us; He waits to welcome us into His kingdom.

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “The Narrow Gate”. Available now for only $1.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords.