Friday, December 17, 2010

Jesus and the House of Bread

So have you ever heard of Jesus and the House of Bread? Probably not. It truly sounds like a parable that was in one of the gnostic gospels, but actually it wasn't. It was in the Bible, yours and mine....sort of.

In this Christmas season we all pay attention to the Birth of Christ, but do we realize how much symbolism was actually contained in Our Lord's birth? If you take a close look, you will see that not one event went to all had meaning, even the place of Christ's birth.

In the Prophet Micah we read:

"But you Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is of old, from ancient times." Micah 5:1.

What was the significance of Bethlehem? I think to fully understand the significance, you must first parallel the books of Genesis and John. I don't want to take a whole lot of time on this one issue, so I will just give a 30,000 ft view for now. In Genesis we read of God creating the world as we know it and through one man and one reason, the entire human race was polluted with sin through the disobedience of Eve then Adam. How did this occur? Through the eating of the forbidden fruit.

In John 1 we see a huge parallel to Genesis as the two books even open with the same verbiage: "In the beginning...." What is going on in the Gospel of John is the beginning of the "re-creation". What man lost in the fall, God is restoring through His one and only Son. As the woman (Eve) introduced sin to the world, the new Eve (Mary) restores the Grace of God to creation. And just as sin was introduced to mankind through the eating of the forbidden fruit, so our redemption comes through the eating of a new fruit...the Fruit of Mary's womb: Jesus.

Now if you are a non Catholic Christian reading this, right now you are a little taken aback, but I encourage you to continue reading and following my train of thought. This thought is not just mine and something that I pulled out of my ears, but rather this has been the teaching of the Christian Church until the time of the Reformation.

Any person doing any search on on any search engine can do a search for "meaning of Bethlehem" or "translation of Bethlehem" and you will come up with a quite amazing translation. Any guesses? Bueller? Anyone? The meaning of Bethlehem is "House of Bread". So imagine this. Our Lord Christ is born in the House of Bread and is further more lade to rest in a manger: a feeding trough. The symbolism here can be mind numbing because from the very birth of Christ we see a precursor to the Eucharist and Christ being our Spiritual food.

Taking this into consideration even builds a stronger meaning for John 6 where Jesus tells his disciples that His Body is real food and His Blood is real drink and it's fulfillment at the Last Supper. Remember, Jesus takes the bread, breaks it and He then tells his disciples: "This is my Body..." We can again see this prefigured all the way through the Old Testament, especially in the Passover. The plan of The Father throughout time has been for us to draw spiritual nourishment through the mystery of the Eucharist. Also notice that as man fell through eating the fruit off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we are saved through eating the fruit of another tree. The tree this time however was a Cross to which the fruit was nailed.

As we move through this Christmas season, draw close to Christ...draw your nourishment from him. He is the Bread of Life.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Original Sin...Is it Real? What is it?

I want to begin by saying that there are so many inflections and intonations that are lost in email, so please do not read anything that I may write as harsh, as that is not at all in my heart. As I briefly mentioned in my previous email I have been in the Catholic Church for 6 years now and came from a previous life in a non denominational/charismatic/Pentecostal background. The story of how I arrived where I am is much to long, boring and not the reason I write, however, I do feel it is important to place my writings into proper context. Until the time that I became a Catholic, I really was unable to piece together my theology as there is very little theological framework in the nondenominational churches and so many things come from "personal revelation" to the pastor. It really wasn't until I came to the Church that I was able to piece together Theology and get answers to so many questions that I have had for years.

I noticed a week or so ago that you had posted a question on Adam and Eve and the historical authenticity of the account in Genesis. After that you posted another question regarding Original Sin. I briefly looked over the posts, however I have little time to sift through hundreds of comments (as I have a full time job with a wife and 3 adopted daughters) so please forgive me if this is repetitive in nature with some of your other comments.

The creation account was one of the first issues that I had to deal with upon my arrival as my entire life I had been taught a literal seven day creation cycle. This theory, quite honestly, does cannot be squared with scientific evidence, and I now hold to an old earth theory: millions of years. I do think that science and religion can both work together as is exemplified by this quote from Pope John Paul II: "Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." So in short, do I believe that the Creation account is literal, word for word? Probably not. There are many reasons that I hold to this but one of the main reasons is that to understand the creation account, you must understand how Hebrew history was written. I am not a student of Hebrew history, but I do know that their history was not written linear as our western history is written and as we are used to reading. Their history was written in much more of an elliptical method, to explain concepts and ideas rather than to delineate events when and where they happened. Having said that, I do believe that as the story may not be literal in all its details, we as humans did descend from one woman and one man. Now whether their real names were Adam and Eve....doubtful.

"A God we can understand is not a God we can worship". We do not know why God created man, but we know that he created man to be with Him and we don't know why God chose the methods that He chose. We read in Genesis that God breathed life, his very spirit into that first man. Therefore Adam, while not Deity, carried the life and spirit of God within him. But there is something more that God gave Adam: the freedom to choose. My belief is that while God wanted to be with man and created him for that reason, God also wanted man to CHOOSE to be with Him. He did not want humanity to be pre-programmed robots to do his will. When Adam and Eve (for lack of a better term) chose to disobey the directions given, it was not just disobedience that occurred, the took the option to willingly violate the covenant that was made between their Creator and themselves; The Creator that literally breathed his own life and spirit into them. What happened at this point was something more than we can understand. I believe that there was a basic spiritual connection between Creator and created in a way that we do not and cannot understand and the rebellion in which they partook severed that connection.

What we know about God is that He is Spirit: all powerful, all loving, all caring yet pure and holy. His very essence cannot inhabit the same space as rebellion and what we would call sin. At the point that Adam and Eve disobeyed the Almighty, they "fell out of Grace" with God. What we know from that point on is that just like humanity passes down hereditary illnesses, we also pass down spiritual illnesses and from that point on, all humanity would be born with a spirit that was wounded and broken....not turned toward God. This doesn't mean, as Calvinism would teach in the doctrine of Total Depravity, that mankind is evil, but that our souls are stained with what we would call "Original Sin". Original Sin, you see is not something that we have, as sin cannot be measured or weighed. Rather, Original Sin is something that we are born WITHOUT. It was explained to me that it is much like a baby born without eyesight laying in the nursery. When the doctor comes in and checks on the baby, it is determined that a simple salve would return the eyesight to the child. And through the mystical sacrament of Baptism, this is what occurs to us as Christians. Baptism is not just a symbol, but in a very real, spiritual sense, that water washes returns us into Grace with our Creator and opens our spirits to his calling.

For millennia through the Old Testament what we see is that God took that original covenant that he made with Adam and Eve (through the shedding of the animal to clothe their nakedness) and slowly expanded it from a couple to a family (Noah and his family), to a tribe (Abraham and Sarah) and finally to a nation ( King David). Throughout this time we see God setting up the guidelines by which he could have a people that belonged to him, which he has wanted from the beginning of time. He has always wanted a people that could be His, without spot or blemish but unfortunately, these people were unable to live up to His standards; and this was part of His plan. He knew His creation from the inside out and He knew they would fail miserably over and over and over again.

I read your quote about how the Incarnation was the most beautiful story of all time....or something to that effect and I would agree with you. When you consider that God (which is inconceivable to us) placed Himself in the form of a man, Christ Jesus, that is almost too much. But to go even further to say that this Man who was very God Himself, would take upon himself the very punishment that was due all humanity for our failure to keep the Law, that is almost unfathomable......ah but by faith.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What really is the Bible anyway?

There has never been a more controversial book written in the history of the planet. To some it is holy, to others it is simply a book of fairy tales and stories that the world would be better without: The Bible. It has also sold more copies than any other book in history and probably a large percentage of homes have at least one copy, or at least a portion of it in them.

In the light of the news this week that Westboro Baptist Church is taking their court case all the way to the US Supreme Court, I thought it would be an appropriate time to talk about what the Bible ACTUALLY is---and what it is not. And what about all these cliches that Christians throw around? What does it all actually mean?

Let's get some definitions out of the way at first. What is meant my "The Word of God"? Did God actually write it? The Sacred Scripture was written by men, but by men that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. What we as Christians believe is that God, through His Holy Spirit directed these men on what to write. Why written? Throughout all history, religions have been passed down by two means: oral traditions and written Scriptures. The two have worked together to bring the fullness of faith to His people.

First, let's look at the historical background of Scripture. The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is a history of the Jewish people and how God revealed Himself to them over several thousand years, from the beginning of time until the time that the Hebrews were returned to the Promised Land after their exile. Right off, what many people fail to recognize is that to fully understand the Old Testament you must correctly understand Hebrew literary style and Jewish History. When you look at this, what you find is that the Old Testament was not written in a Western mind's eye and there is tons of symbolism in the Old Testament; therefore, it cannot be taken literally: word for word. As an example: Was the earth created in 7/24 hour days? I don't think so. Hebrew history was written in very much an elliptical method, to describe concepts and ideas, not definite periods of time. So I personally side with a very old earth science. Millions of years? Billions? It is all within possibility. In our current western culture we are so used to writings that describe things in a literal chronological time period and this is not the case with the Old Testament.

So what is the purpose of the Old Testament? As Christians, we believe that there are numerous purposes, but the primary purpose to the Old Testament is that is draws a picture for us--a structure so to speak. Through the Torah, we can see the order in which God wanted to set for His people, a people that were to be set apart for Him. He knew, however that these people would never be able to live up to the standards he set. We can see how God hates sin and how it must be purged from our lives. The Old Testament is not just a historical book, is a foreshadowing of things to come--most importantly the coming of the Messiah when the Law of God would be brought to completion.

The validity of the Old Testament is held by the Jewish faith and lasted throughout the centuries and into the time Christ. The Tanach is broken down into two parts: Torah--The Law and Nevi'im--The Prophets all of which are almost identical to what Christians call the "Old Testament". During the time of Christ, this was Scripture, and is referred to multiple times in the New Testament.

What is very interesting about the New Testament is several things. First of all it is the history of the Christian Church and it appropriately begins with the birth of Christ. Secondly, there is very little that is actually devoted to the life of Christ and if you read through what Christ actually taught, we will see that Christ never did actually write anything personally and neither did he command anything to be written. What is also interesting is that he never did denounce the Tanach, nor did he say it was invalid. It was several years after his ascension when the apostles began to write of his teachings and we believe that the earliest writings of the New Testament began somewhere around 55A.D. with the book of Mark being the first book. As Christianity was spreading throughout the known world, the Apostles of the Church would send written letters to the fledgling Christian Churches to instruct them in their new found faith. these letters were meant to build their faith under severe persecution, to correct errors in doctrine and to teach the leaders of the local Churches. Over the next several years, there were many books that had been written, including many of which which we don't have or recognize as "inspired". The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Philip and several other are most of them. But what happened to them? Why weren't they included?

From the time of the ascension of Christ until the late 4th Century (approximately 400 years) there was NO "Bible". Teachings were taken from the Old Testament and also from these smatterings of writings. It wasn't until 393 A.D that the Council of Hippo declared which of these books were actually inspired, and the decision was repeated in 397A.D. and 419A.D. at the Councils of Carthage. At that point of history, it is of important note that there was only one Christian Church in existence: The Catholic Church. Under the leading of the Holy Spirit these men determined the books that would be included in Holy Scripture. It is also interesting to note that the Old Testament that was canonized included 6 additional books in the Old Testament: 1&2 Macabbees, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, Wisdom and Baruch. These books along with portions of Daniel and Esther were removed after the Reformation. Why?--that is another long story.

One important point to make here is that though Scripture does refer to valid historical events, it is not to be taken as a sole historical book. And conversely, it is not to be looked at as a sole source of historical events. There is so much more out there from valid historical and Church source that allow us to frame Scripture in context and history.

"Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ"--St. Jerome

As Christians, however we do believe that Scripture is more than text. There is life to us as Christians in Scripture. It should be read, absorbed and lived. There is something very special that transfers to us from the reading of what God has to say to us.

So what does all that mean to us today? What it means is that the Bible is a "family book". It is a book that is designed to speak to the people of God and to inspire faith and to draw us closer to God. Unfortunately, many Christians today have taken this book and have used it as a sword to the world. They put it on poster boards and bumper stickers as if the simple quoting of these verses to non believers as a magic formula will automatically change their minds and draw them to Christ. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. If I were to give a word of wisdom to Christians, I would say one thing: Don't quote Scripture to non believers. Why? The majority of the time, for people that are not Christians, Scripture is useless; it means nothing to them. Yet we quote it as if we know more than them and are superior to them. At the same time you are quoting Scripture, you are lying on your expense reports, cheating on your wife and beating your kids. Living your life in the manner of Christ and showing ALL PEOPLE the love and respect of Christ will do so much more for anyone than trying to preach Bible verses at them. As with any rule, there are exceptions and there are times when Scripture is appropriate..and for those times, you should always be ready and willing to use it, but always with love and respect.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Can Women actually be ordained as Priests?

A FaceBook friend sent me this question earlier wanting to know my take on the issue on women priests based on this article:

So there are a couple of questions in this. CAN women be validly ordained as Priests in the Catholic Church? If the answer is NO, is that discriminatory?

Let's talk about the first question. To fully understand the stance of the Catholic Church on ordination of women, you must first understand the Old Testament. The Church fully believes that the New Testament Christian Church in the first Century was fully founded as a completion to the Old Testament, not a "re-do" or a "start-over".

All through the Old Testament we see God's requirements for the Hebrew priests. They were ALWAYS to be men. There were women judges, and prophets, but the priests were always to be men. Why? because the Old Testament priests were precursors, or shadows of Christ, the Man. Once Christ came and fulfilled the Old Testament, He added the power to the priesthood that it lacked previously. When he chose his Apostles, notice that he did not choose women, but chose men. There are numerous reasons for that, but none of them are discriminatory. The Father's plans for the Church was that these men, these Priests are to stand "en persona Christi" or in the person of Christ to us as the Body of Christ. As Christ was a man, then the Catholic Church, in conjunction with the first Century Christian Church has stated: "Only a baptised man can validly receive Sacred Ordination".

What needs to be mentioned at this point is that as Catholics, we believe that when Christ appointed Peter to be the first head of the Church that anointing that was given him has been continually passed down to each Pope thereafter, and in return, to the Bishops that he ordains, and therefore to the Priests that are ordained by the Bishops.

There are always schismatic groups inside the Church that are pushing for many things, but the fact of the matter is that if a Bishop "ordains" a woman as a priest, that is NOT a licit ordination and it is NOT sanctioned by the Church. No matter how much that person wants it to be valid, or no matter how good the intent, this person is not in line with the teaching of the Church and is not a priest, but in name only. These people that push for ordination of women in the Church are doing so for personal gain, ignoring the laws that God has laid down throughout history, from the beginning of time.

The Catholic Church hasn't just arbitrarily made this rule to discriminate, but has done this in conjunction with the entire Church history. Those who disagree to that extent with this teaching could, I am sure find some church out there that would fit what they believe is right and they could be "ordained" in that church. However, as a Catholic, I am tired of people from outside the Church, who have no stake or faith telling the Church how to run ourselves. We are not a political organization, nor a company, we are The Church of Jesus Christ and we under the guidance of the Holy Spirit lead the Church as Christ directs.

Now, the second question. Is this discriminatory? I would like to point out that throughout current history the Catholic Church has done more for the liberation and freedom of women throughout the world than any other world religion. We have 3 women that have been named as Doctors of the Church: Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila and St. Teresa of Lisieux. We honor Mary, the mother of Christ for the role that she chose to take, we have stood against women held in slavery and tried to free women that are imprisoned in sexual trade. We don't force women to wear clothes that cover them from head to toe and believe that they have God given roles in our world. They can be Presidents, Senators, mayors, governors, doctors, lawyers, broadcast journalists and farbeit...even mothers. In addition, there is a great attack by the Enemy on the Church, and that attack sometimes comes from within. This area of attack is specifically to degrade the roles that God has set in place that differentiate men and women. We have equality under God as Children of God, but clearly defined roles as shown not only in the physical world, but also in the spiritual world as well. Just as men cannot bear children, women cannot be priests.

I fully believe that the two main reasons that people find the Catholic Church "discriminatory" are 1) we stand against artificial contraception and 2) we don't believe that women can be priests. They can be nuns, and they can have great effect on our society as the examples I listed above but they have separate roles.

So in closing, no, the Catholic Church will not ever change it's mind on the ordination of women, though schismatic groups may press and threaten. Leave it they will, but the Catholic priesthood will forever an always be reserved only for men.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What is the point?

Christianity--2000 years old. What is the point? Is there really one?

It is my opinion that a large portion of western Christianity, especially in the United States has forgotten the point. Now, granted, they wouldn't believe me, or even accept this statement, but they have. You can only make this statement if you take a panoramic view of the Christianity from before it's inception to present.

Presently,What I see in a large chunk of Evangelical Christianity, is that they have noble intentions, but many lack in substance. Having been out of the Evangelical circle for almost 9 years, I have lost personal touch, but it is not that hard to keep in the loop by flipping on any host of cable channels to see churches local and nationwide reaching out with their own message of the gospel and the majority of the time, what I see deeply saddens me. In a way to outreach, houses of worship have transformed themselves into what seems more to appear to be a nightclub than a church. Crosses have been removed, altars are gone and no more kneelers. They have been replaced by wide screen monitors, smoke machines, high tech lighting systems and cappuccino bars in the lobby. I understand the reasoning behind this is to make church more comfortable for those who are not-christian and unchurched. Believe it or not, I have seen some churches that are beginning to meet in bars and adult establishments that are closed on Sunday morning. They are wanting to get people in so they can hear the gospel and know Christ and this is a noble goal, but where has the sacred and holy gone? Communion is on a whim many times, not being celebrated but once a month or once a quarter! Where is the reverence and awe for our God who created the universe by His very word and more than that gave us His only Son as a Sacrifice for our sins? Has the Christian faith broken down so far that we must resort to entertainment to draw people in? Have we forgotten that it is the Holy Spirit that draws men to himself?

Once inside the service one hears uplifting, modern music that excites you and you feel glad to be there. For a short moment of time, you might forget all that you came in with and focus on the worship service at hand. After this, you might hear a very uplifting message, although that might also vary. Many messages out there portray our faith as some type of life preserver that will save you from this world that you are mired in. "Have faith...." because it is God's will for you to have a good, blessed life. It is God's will for you to have a good job, a good marriage, a good spouse and for your life to be full and for you to live it at it's fullest! GOD WANTS TO BLESS YOU!

Does any of this sound familiar?

How does this explain Christians who live with continual suffering in their life? Do they not have enough faith? Are they living in sin? Or could it be that God has actually ordained this suffering for this point in their that a feasible option? I have come to the conclusion that God has higher priorities for us than our happiness and well being. His plan for our lives move well beyond that; and I don't necessarily mean Heaven. In many cases Western Christianity has lost sight of the point of Christianity. Christianity is not just a philosophy, or a series of beliefs. It is not even acknowledging the supremecy of Christ and that he did die on the cross. The Gospels clearly state that there will be some that cry our "Lord, Lord...." and he will reply to them that He never knew them. What does this mean to us?

Our Christianity began before Christ, in Judaism and the Law. God had placed the Law into place as a way for people to move forward past their disobedience into a right relationship with Him. The only problem is that it was completely impossible for anyone to do that. The law was written on stone and it had no life in it. Paul stated very clearly that the Law was given to us to show our inadequacies and that we weren't able to meet the very high standards that God had set for us. So, man was doomed from the beginning as we had been given an unreachable standard. And therefore man must die...and be eternally separated from his Creator. But God had a greater plan. His plan was in His son, "the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father". Through Christ who maintained an inseparable nature of 1oo% God and 1oo% man, the Father allowed this Messiah to take upon himself the punishment that was due all mankind. This is the Christian mystery. As Christ was in His perfect form, co-existent God and man, is the desire that the Father has for be able to exist with Him in perfect unity. And the humanity that Christ was bore upon himself the sins of the world.

More than that, the eternal God that Christ was, means that the sacrifice that Christ made for us is eternal and never never ends, as he is "one in being with the Father". In this we have the wonderful mystery and Sacrament of the Holy Mass. THERE IS NO GREATER FORM OF WORSHIP EVER, EVER, EVER, THAN THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST, PERIOD! There is nothing that we can do to supercede that. It is simply beyond amazing even more that by the Grace of God and Our Lord Jesus that he has ordained that we are able to participate in that Sacrifice with him, in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In Holy Communion, we are taking into ourselves the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, just as he said in John 6. This is a mystery too big for us to understand, bigger than all of us. But the intention of our Christian walk is for us to be transformed into the image of Christ. WE HAVE TO CHANGE. We have to lay EVERY area of our lives down at the foot of our Lord, with nothing to spare. This is our Christian Faith, not just belief, but transformation.

I heard it said one time that we practice dying every day of our life. Every day we must look at our lives and ask our Lord what we must rid ourselves of that would bring us closer to him and change us more into His image. There will be one final day that we will die and this should be the ultimate form of sacrifice to us. That is the time that we will give to God everything we have...our very soul into his arms.

I don't believe that we have to make people WANT to come to church. We don't have to draw them in with programs or balloons, or coffee bars. The fact of the matter is we draw people in the way of St. Francis: "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words". The rest is not up to us, as much as we would like it to be. Our Christian worship should ALWAYS be centered around what has redeemed us, the precious Sacrifice of Our Lord. This is what saves us! This is what unites us to God himself!

So as we move into the weekend, remember the point....remember what we are all about and to Whom we is not about feelings, it is about transformation.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Catholic View on the latest scourge of Abuse in the Church

When I came into full communion with the Church on Easter 2006, the American Catholic Church was reeling from its own scandal with the American Catholic Clergy and their abuses. There is no way to excuse it, belittle it, or wish it away. The fact that it happened is horrendous and inexcusable. There is really no way that this should have happened in the Church of Christ and gone on for such a long time...period. There are mistakes that the Church made from the admission of men who never should have been admitted to Seminary, to allowing liberal teachings to grow and fester in the Seminaries of the US, to not properly addressing the complaints and allegations when they arose years ago. There is no excuse and those who allowed the abuse to continue should be held accountable not only by canonical law, but also by the local authorities.

Now, some six to seven years later, we see the same thing happening in the Church in Europe. Charges have been leveled against the Catholic Church in Ireland, England, Germany and other European countries. What is the deal and how do we sort this whole scenario out? There are some in the media who would have us believe that this whole situation has been covered up and even directed from the higher ups of the Church and that the Vatican and even the Holy Father is to blame. Generally the people who level charges like this are totally ignorant of Canon Law, how the Church operates and their modus operandi is the downfall of the Catholic Church by whatever means. The Catholic Church is the largest Church in the world with over 1.1 Billion members world wide and has the largest visible presence of any other Christian denomination. There is nothing that would please the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins than to see the Church brought down.

The fact of the matter is that this terrible crime against our children is not only being portrayed in the Catholic Church, but it is being perpetrated against children in all denominations of all churches....I have seen it. The reason that the abuse in the Catholic Church is so widely reported is simply because it is the biggest player on the block. Just this week in southern Alabama, there was an evangelist who was charged for murdering his wife of 8 kids and stuffing her body in a freezer where she has remained for 5 years. Evil can reside in every church and it is up to us as Christians to keep the Church pure and holy.

When is the last time you heard about a teacher being arrested for sexual relations with a minor? The times of late are too numerous to count. In a country that is a sexual desire that cannot be satiated, where pornography is available from your computer to your mobile device and everywhere in between, where families are broken and tried to piece back together; and in a country that has lost sight of right and wrong, this is what we see happen. People give in to their basest desires.

One other thing that needs to be brought into the conversation is the cultural approach to abuse and how that has changed over the past 3o years. Many of us have heard stories of victims of abuse from years ago such as Oprah Winfrey and Roseann Barr. These women suffered tremendously from the hands of their abusers and for decades these crimes against them were silent. Why? This is due to the fact that decades ago, family and society handled abuse the same way (regretfully) that the Church handled it's abuses...they swept them under the rug. Don't say that about Uncle Charlie, or your brother, or your dad. It was NOT talked about. Yes, the Church that bears the name of Christ should have been above that, but it wasn't. It failed.

Out of over 450,000 Roman Catholic priests worldwide there is an extremely small percentate of diocesan priests that have caused untold heartache on the Church. Once study shows that 11,000 complaints in the United States are attributed to less than 4,400 US priests from the years 1950-2002 (over 52 years). In addition, there are studies that suggest that in the protestant church at large, the percentage is much higher due to the fact that many of them are independent and non affiliated with any larger denomination for oversight and governance. In the Catholic Church there have been many changes that have been made in the US and those changes have done a tremendous service to the protection of our children, as it should be. Changes don't take away the pain of victims and they don't remove the blotch that has been placed on the Church. The sins that we have allowed to fester in our Church will follow us for decades to come. They have damaged reputations and credibility to the outside world and are not easily forgiven.

So how does a Catholic, a rather new Catholic at that, process this information against their faith? I mean if all this has gone on, how can I remain to be associated with such an organization? When Christ left us almost 2ooo years ago, he never left us with a promise that we would be perfect. As a matter of fact, He gave us a parable about the weeds and the wheat and how they would grow together in the same field, inseparable until the harvest. This was a direct parable to the Church that He would leave institute. He knew that there would be evil people in the Church and that they would cause damage to the Church. After all, one of the ones that walked with Him and followed him for 3 1/2 years sold him to the Pharisees for a bag of silver coins. As saddening as this scenario is, my faith is not in the priests in the Church, but in the fact that Our Lord promised that he would lead and guide His Church with His Holy Spirit and that He would NOT let us move into error. As bad as this handful of priests have been, the teachings that the Church has maintained for over 2,ooo years remain the same. They have not changed. In addition, while abuses cannot be forgotten or overlooked the Catholic Church has done more for Western Civilization in the forming of hospitals, the University system, modern scientific method, legal justice, feeding the hungry and widows, and promoting dignity and respect of all people than ANY OTHER ORGANIZATION IN HISTORY...PERIOD~!

So while I am saddened and pained with what has gone on in the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, I am still very proud to be a Catholic. I will continue to pray for my Church and for the Holy Father and that our Lord will continue to guide him and help him to purge the Church of the wrongdoing. I will also continue to pray for those who have been victims of the abuse that has occurred. I pray that somehow their hearts will be healed and that they will be able to see the Lord in spite of the wounds that have been inflicted on their bodies and on their souls. If you are one of these people, as a Catholic, I apologize on behalf of my Church.

May the Peace of the Lord rest on them all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's LENT...not LINT!

Tomorrow morning will I will take my family to Mass to celebrate the beginning of my favorite time of the Liturgical year: Lent. I am not sure what makes this time of year so special to me, but it is. It has many meanings for me, most importantly every year I celebrate Lent I remember that it was about this time in 2oo6 that I was getting ready to be fully received into the Catholic Church. If you allow yourself the full experience, every sense that you have will be able to be used to reach out to our Lord: the smell of the incense, the taste of the Eucharist, the feeling of the Priest smudging the ashes on your forehead. God created us as beings with sensory perception and he can use all these senses if we allow, to bring us closer to Him.
So what is Lent all about? Lent is the 4o days (give or take) before Easter and it is a time for us as Christians for penance and reflection. I never new growing up what Lent was and what a huge significance it can have on our spiritual lives. The time that we observe Lent is based upon the 40 years that the Children of Israel wandered in the desert and also the 40 days that Christ spent in the wilderness. This is a time that the Church in Her infinite wisdom has set aside for us to spend examining ourselves and our lives. No matter who we are there are things that we have in us or in our lives that separate us from Christ and becoming more like him. They may be things that take time away from Him, or they could be sins and transgressions that we secretly hold on to that no one else is aware of. Whatever they are, we realize that it was to rid us of these transgressions and weights that Christ died. That is why you always hear about people "giving something up" for Lent. Honestly, I don't really thing Christ cares if you give up chocolate, sweets, or coffee for Lent. What is more important would be that you give up the gossiping tongue that you might have about your neighbors or co-workers. Or the anger that you might display to your kids or spouse. Perhaps you are dealing with addictions that are robbing you of money and draining your spirit of life and separating you from the perfect grace of God. It might not even be that drastic. You might just spend too much time in front of the computer or TV. Use this time during the next 40 days to find away to either remove something from your life that is keeping you from Him or add something that would draw you to Him. If you are REALLY daring....try some of each!
During my years as an evangelical I always celebrated Easter, and it was always a day of celebration. We celebrated Christ's victory over death and the promises that it held for us, but very rarely did we spend time focusing on the Passion of Christ. As important as the Resurrection is to our faith as Christians, it would mean nothing without His Passion, for in the Passion victory was won over the evil one. It was the scourging with whips, the carrying of the cross, the fact that the Lamb was nailed to the Cross, and that his Sacred Heart was pierced that enables us to come back to God. Without the Passion, the Resurrection would be empty. So in this Lenten season, we as Catholics also focus on the Sacrifice our Lord made for us; this sacrifice that frees from transgressions and sins and enables us to be made one with the Father.
In Lent, we also remember our humanity. As the Priest makes a cross on my forehead tomorrow with the ashes, he will say: "O man remember that you are from dust, and to dust you shall return". There is a reminder each year of our humanity and that we don't live forever. Each day is important to us and each day should be pointed toward what our Lord would have us to do in service to our fellow humanity. Not that we shouldn't have fun or enjoy our lives, but that we realize that we don't belong to ourselves anymore. People make criticisms of Catholics and Christians that we can't or don't think for ourselves, and that we have to have someone tell us what to believe. What I say is that if Christ has given all for me, down to the last drop of His precious Blood, then I owe Him my life, every part of it. There should be no corner that is off limits to what He wants of me. So are there things I don't do; yes there are. Do other people understand; no they don't...and some of them can't or don't want to. My only concern is that I follow Him where He leads, and I continually remember how he lead me His Church.