Why Did I Choose Catholicism Instead of Another Religion? PETER KREEFT

There are many religions in the world. Why did I choose to be a Catholic? Here are the steps in my reasoning.

Religion or No Religion?

My first choice was between religion and no religion. Religion means a “yoke” or a “binding-back relationship.” Religion is a relationship with God. (God here is taken in the broadest sense as at least some higher power, something greater than us.) So, an atheist is one who believes that there is no God at all, and therefore there ought to be no religion at all.

The arguments against atheism are well known. The two that are mentioned in the Bible are,

  • The evidence in nature: Who made it? Did the “Big Bang” just happen for no reason or cause? And why is it so intelligently designed?
  • The absoluteness of conscience: Why is it always morally wrong to disobey your conscience deliberately? Where did it get that absolute authority if it didn’t come from God but only from chance, genetics, evolution, society, or your parents, none of which are infallible?)

The two basic reasons I’m not an atheist are not my mother and father, but my conscience and my universe.

One or Many?

My next choice was between one God and many gods. Polytheism is not a live option today. It’s almost totally dead. I’ve never met a polytheist. In fact, in one sense, polytheism never existed, because behind all the many gods of polytheism we almost always find one supreme God. Something or Somebody must be Number One. There can’t be two absolutely absolute absolutes.

Theism or Pantheism?

This article is a preview of Forty Reasons I Am a Catholic.

My next choice was between the God of the Bible, who personally created the universe, and the god of pantheism (the god of Upanishadic Hinduism, or the cosmic “Buddha mind,” or the Tao, or “the Force” of “Star Wars”), which is not a superhuman person with a moral will but just a nameless mind or force or ideal.

One reason for preferring biblical theism to pantheism is that the pantheist’s god is everything, and therefore is evil as well as good. I cannot love or worship or guide my life by a god who has a “dark side,” who is half evil or indifferent to good and evil.

Another reason for theism over pantheism is that only the God of the Bible (of Judaism and Christianity and Islam) unites what have always been the two deepest instincts in the human heart — namely, the religious instinct and the moral instinct. We are morally responsible to this God.

Do I Accept Christ’s Divinity or Not?

My next choice, once this God is accepted, is whether to accept or reject Jesus’ claim to be divine, to be the Son of this God. That is the essence of Christian theology, as distinct from Jewish or Islamic.

I cannot get around the “Lord, liar, or lunatic” argument. If Jesus is not divine, then He was the maddest madman or the most blasphemous egomaniac who ever lived; not the best of men but the worst. “I’m divine; worship me; trust me with your soul’s eternal salvation. I am perfect. It was I who designed your universe and your soul.” Has anyone in history ever told a bigger lie than that?

If that’s who He really was (either liar or lunatic), then who invented the Jesus of the Gospels, who is the polar opposite of both a liar and a lunatic: honest, altruistic, passionate, wise, practical, creative, saintly, and fascinating? That last adjective is the most telling one because it is impossible to imitate successfully. Once you get to know them, lunatics are never really fascinating, and neither, once they become familiar, are lying egomaniacs.

Even if Jesus is totally fictional, He is the most fascinating and compelling literary figure in human history. Who invented Him? If He is fictional, who invented that new genre of realistic fantasy twenty centuries before Tolkien? A bunch of peasant Galilean fishermen?

Is the Church the One Jesus Founded?

The next choice was about the claim of the Catholic Church to be the Church Christ founded and authorized. This was harder for me, since I was brought up as a Protestant. But the historical record of the Catholic Church’s continuity in doctrine, in apostolic succession, and in her belief in the Eucharistic Real Presence for two thousand years is data too massive to ignore or explain away.

If I was going to be a Christian, I had to be where Christ Himself wanted me to be, in the thing He Himself created for me as my spiritual home and as the instrument of His teaching authority. And the Bible itself tells us that that thing is not just the Bible but the Church.

So, the links in the chain are: (1) religion, not atheism; (2) monotheism, not polytheism; (3) theism, not pantheism; (4) Christianity, and therefore Trinitarianism, not Unitarianism; and (5) Catholicism, not Protestantism. Or, (1) Higher Power, (2) One, (3) Creator, (4) Christ, (5) Church.

The three most important links in this chain are the last ones: that the material universe is God’s creation, Christ is God’s incarnation, and the Church is Christ’s body.

All that is not yet quite a proof but is the map of a journey, which can also be the map of a proof, i.e., a justification of the journey, an obeying of the first pope’s command to “be prepared to make a defense [of] the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). The details of that justification are in many good books of apologetics.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Dr. Kreeft’s Forty Reasons I Am a Catholicwhich is available at Sophia Institute Press.

Peter Kreeft

By 

Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and also at the King’s College (Empire State Building) in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 55 books. Dr. Kreeft is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He has received several honors for achievements in the field of philosophy, including the Woodrow Wilson Award, Yale-Sterling Fellowship, Newman Alumni Scholarship, Danforth Asian Religions Fellowship, and a Weathersfield Homeland Foundation Fellowship. END QUOTES

“The Invisible; visible” by Pat Miron

The Invisible; visible”

by Pat Miron …I am Catholic

 

Having endeavored for many years and in various ways to share our Catholic Faith, I have long been frustrated by biblical evidence that seems clear, concise and direct, yet is very often either ignored, denied, or misunderstood. I also know that God grants us two choices. Either we are in charge of our lives and after-lives, or He is. And this is not a shared responsibility. We either conform our lives to Gods way, or struggle with the consequence of trying to do it alone. But, just what God’s ways are seems to be the disputed factors. Can they be mutually agreed upon?

 From “THE LIFE OF CHRIST”  By Archbishop Fulton Sheen

 “The choice that lies before men is either the hypothesis of culpable insincerity or the fact that He spoke the literal truth and, therefore, MUST be taken at His word. … We must either lament His madness or adore His person, but we cannot rest on the assumption that He was a professor of ethical culture. Rather one can say with Chesterton, “expect the grass to wither and the birds to drop dead out of the air, when a strolling carpenter’s apprentice say’s calmly and almost carelessly, like one looking over his shoulder” “Before Abraham was I AM .”

 What is to be our informed response to these challenges to our Catholic Faith beliefs? Even understanding that true Faith is a Gift from God; that God Himself must initiate this opportunity, and that without true Faith, right understanding is not possible.

 Lets choose just three examples that make this point clear. 1. The belief of Only one God; One set of Faith-beliefs, and only One Church. 2. Belief in the “Real Presence.”  And 3. Confession and forgiveness of sins.

 1. No where in the entire bible does God; Yahweh or Christ so much as hint that belief in more than one God, or only one set of faith beliefs, or only one religious “body” is deemed acceptable. God’s undeserved Old testament reputation as “mean and vengeful” stem from God’s intolerance of a perceived personal choice, held obstinately by the Hebrew nation and was the cause of necessary chastisement inflicted, time and time again, until obedience was accepted. The New Testament alone has over 100 references to Only One Church.

John.10: 16 “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd”

Eph. 4: 1-7 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Eph. 2:19-20 “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstonein whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

2 Unbelief in the “Real Presence”

This is even more astounding because it requires ignoring not only the very words of Christ Himself, but also of Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14: 22-24, Luke 22: 19-21, Paul 1st. Corinthians 11:23-29, and all of John six. Notably verses 54-56: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” [Which is precisely what takes place when worthily received.].

 This denial of what seems to be an evident truth rest on a single verse; verse 63: “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” And this is addressed by Christ personally in verses 53 through 58. Even Christ decision to allow many to abandon Him, and then invite Peter and the others to do the same is missed, with no denial of His truth being credited to Him as evidence of His words.

  1. 3. The forgiveness of sin [God’s way.]

This too is strange in that the words of Christ are so clear, and concise as to not permit misunderstanding. John.20: 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Support this with the Old Testament practice of using priest in a similar, albeit, less significant role, and grounds for not accepting this teaching seem founded on quicksand theology and misunderstood platitudes.

Lev.4: 20,26, 31 Thus shall he do with the bull; as he did with the bull of the sin offering, so shall he do with this; and the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. ] And all its fat he shall burn on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings; so the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin, and he shall be forgiven. …And all its fat he shall remove, as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a pleasing odor to the LORD; and the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven.

So what’s a Catholic to do? There are I hear, many thousands of Protestant communions, none of which agree with all three of these issues.

First we too must recognize that God is in charge and allow God to do the “heavy work.” This does not excuse our own involvement; but does limit the results we might expect.

Our response must exemplify extraordinary charity and patience. We should state our case clearly and support it biblically [as most other evidences will be denied], and then back off and pray for them. Yes we can challenge them and encourage them; but always carefully and prayerfully. Most importantly we must make evident our beliefs in how we live our faith.

God Bless,

Pat

Christmas is Mass (and vice versa): See how Tom Hoopes

We all have our reasons for being at Mass. Some feel compelled, like those forced to go to Bethlehem for the census.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you tend to be utterly enchanted by Christmas but a little routine about Mass.

And maybe you’re a little too superficial about Christmas and a little too intellectual in your appreciation of the Mass.

You can solve both problems at one time — adding more heart to your Mass and more brainpower to your Christmas — by considering how alike the two events are.

It is right there in the name Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “House of Bread.”

The birth of Christ in the “House of Bread” led the way to the transformation of bread in the House of Christ. The simple coming of Christ as an infant to the Holy Family led to the simple coming of Christ in the Host to your family.

“These two mysteries are really one,” said Father John Hardon. “The Eucharist is merely an extension, a continuation, of what happened 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem.”

After all, both Christmas and Mass start with an Advent.

The Christmas celebration starts with the four-week penitential season of Advent, where we should prepare our hearts with special prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It’s the same with Mass.

The obligatory hourlong fast before Communion is just part of it. It is also important to “recollect yourself” before Mass, like Mary and Joseph preparing for the coming of Christ.

We gather around the altar like travelers gathering in the City of David.

We all have our reasons for being at Mass. Some feel compelled, like those forced to go to Bethlehem for the census. Some feel called, like the shepherds. Others are following a deep desire they hardly understand, like the Magi.

We can think of our fellow Massgoers (and ourselves!) the same way as we gather in the church for Mass.

As the Mass begins, we hear why Jesus came, and we repeat the angels’ reaction to his coming.

“You were sent to heal the contrite of heart: Lord, have mercy,” prays the priest, setting the stage.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will,” we proclaim, in song.

The Liturgy of the Word is a celebration of the Word who was made flesh.

In the great Christmas Gospel of St. John the Evangelist, we hear:

In the beginning was the Word … And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

The project of our Christian life is to be incorporated into the Body of Christ such that God’s will would be done in our lives as it is in heaven.

This is why we have readings in Mass: that the Word of God will become flesh again, in us.

After the Creed retells the Christmas story, the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is above all a “window” through which we are present at the one sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us all in his Passion and Death.

But the Catechism speaks of the whole “mystery of Christ, his Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the Eucharist.” The liturgy reminds us of this in the offertory prayer to Jesus, who was “incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin.”

St. Faustina had visions of the infant Christ Child on the altar during Mass. Imagining what she saw may help to greet the savior as she did:

As Holy Mass began, I immediately felt a great interior recollection; joy filled my soul. During the offertory, I saw Jesus on the altar, incomparably beautiful. The whole time the Infant kept looking at everyone, stretching out his little hands (Diary, 347).

When we receive Communion, we experience Christmas in our soul.

Many saints have called the Mass a “daily Bethlehem.” Father John Hardon beautifully meditated on how the host is like the Christ child.

“Is there anything more simple than a child, or anything more simple than the round wafer of the Eucharist?” he asked. Babies “are speechless, helpless; they must be fed and carried from place to place. And is there anything more unpretentious than what seems to be a piece of bread and a sip of wine? Yet as we know, real humility is always greatness hiding itself out of love.”

Be conscious as you receive Communion that you are receiving the highest form of greatness: The greatness of total humility.

As St. John Paul II put it, when we say “Amen” before receiving Communion, we are echoing the Fiat of Mary that made Christmas possible.

So, this year, celebrate Christmas around your tree, and then celebrate it again at every Mass.

One is just as deep and delightful as the other.

END QUOTES

    One Hell’va Lesson By Patrick Miron

 

     One Hell’va Lesson

By Patrick Miron

 The BIGGEST, the most common; the dumbest, as well as the completely illogical problem most prevalent in the world today is not, as some might pontificate, a lack of belief in God, though that itself is idiotic. No! The key issue; the REAL problem is a lack of belief in hell; {sin and its unfailing obligatory consequences.}

As INSANE as it is; as only{we pray} temporary insanity can be the root cause of this malaise trip into the fantasy land of firmly believed by such a large percentage of the world’s population; and even within our own families judging by the evidence of  our life styles; life choices and priorities. The logical fact that ALL actions; all of our choices; all that we decide to do; DO inevitably have consequences is the “hidden elephant in the room denied syndrome.” Sin is “FREE” only as a conscience decision; but never without consequences pleading to be paid for in full, sooner or later; but assuredly an accrued debt that begs to, and will be fully satiated in the end when our sinful choice are fully squared. … SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!

With this Lesson I don’t AIM to convert anyone. Conversions are God’s exclusive domain. I do hope though to bring to the mind of all my fellow Christians, and most assuredly all my fellow Catholics the fact that actions, as scientifically evidenced, always do cause their off-setting consequences.

When we’re born, the angels ponder what our fate; what our life choices will hold in store for our brief-period of earthly existence. To assist all of us God assigns every human Soul a guardian Angel. {Mt. 18:10}; not to command, but to gently offer guidance, to chide, and to nudge, which like grace itself can be, and all too often is ignored.

It has been well stated that most often the only bible those who cross our life-paths {family included} will read; certainly to actually grasp its many profound truth; is how me and you lead our lives as living examples of its teachings. …So Are WE teaching the reality of Eternal Hell as a very REAL possibility?  … And what is in store for US if we fail to do so?

Have you personally witnessed a death; a passing from the temporary into the ETERNAL?   … I few years ago I had this experience up-close-and personal.

My brother-in-law, in his early 70’s was in the hospital and was soon moved to the Hospice ward. Family members were notified and the “Death Watch” began. “M” was baptized Catholic but never raised in any church. He kept a “good luck” rosary on the mirror of his pickup. We had a few brief {very brief} conversations about God over the years; but nothing that opened any real doors of opportunity for a serious discussion about God; the Bible or HELL. {I SHOULD HAVE PRESSED THE ISSUE.}  

“M” had several stays at the VA hospital were I’m told he had to be restrained because of EXTREME agitation {he even tried to bite a nurse who was trying to administer meds to him.}… The latest attack came nearer to home, where the local hospital is less than a mile away.

Once again due to his AGTATED state he had to be constrained. We were there shortly after he was admitted to the HOSPICE ward. The Nurse explained just why he was being constrained, and that he would die very likely within the next 24 hours. His daughters and my wife were with him continuously; while I poked my head in only occasionally. Each time “M’s” agitation was clearly evident. So I asked his eldest daughter if it would be OK if we called for a Catholic Priest?  … She granted permission, so I called our Pastor whom I knew well, explained the situation and asked if he could {WOULD} administer the Last Rites. This was approaching midnight. Father was there in about a half hour. We were present as Father {with no further questions} begin to administer the Rites which normally include Sacramental Confession, but “M’s” condition made this impossible this time; in which case repentance and contrition are presumed UPON the good graces, the merits  of the RCC {Mt 16:19 “What YOU Bind on earth WILL BE also Bound in heaven.”} … As soon as the Sacraments were completed an extreme calm immediately, instantly came over “M.” ALL of us {Father excepted} were truly amazed; and astounded that we had just witnessed a miraculous intervention. Even in this late stage of his life; “M’s” Soul, seemed to know that all had NOW been fully forgiven and was now at rest knowing that he would soon be heaven bound.

For our non-Catholic-Christian readers the Sacraments of the Last Rites; similar to Sacramental Baptism are empowered to remove both all sin, as well as all of the Temporal Punishment that all sins accrue; {James 5: 13-15} which too must be repaid in Full, before any Soul can enter into the Beatific Vision. {Divine Presence of GOD.}

Friends, I share this true story, to point out that near death our Soul seems to know which direction it is headed; even if one’s head, has refused to acknowledge it up to that point.

We do all others a GREAT favor by being sure that they are aware that life is short, and Death and that the destination WE have chosen for our Souls is Endless is grasped; and as much as is possible; is believed and comprehended.

The Catholic Church calls this” knowledge of THE FOUR LAST THINGS.” GOOGLE it. Death, Judgment, Heaven or HELL for ALL-Eternity.

Matthew 24: [42] Watch ye therefore, because ye know not what hour your Lord will come.[43] But know this ye, that if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. [44] Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come”

“LIFE” is a gift WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY!

In America{one year} there were about 610,000 deaths due to heart attacks

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

In America there were about 30,000 deaths by auto accidents each year.

https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=iFP7W6CRD47MjgSouJ2oAg&q=how+many+deaths+are+there+annually+due+to+auto+accidents%3F&oq=how+many&gs_l=psy-ab.1.0.35i39l2j0i20i263l2j0l2j0i67l3j0.66807.69174..78124…1.0..0.130.984.0j8……0….1..gws-wiz…..0..0i131.ajo9NHMJrvM

Of the 56.9 million deaths worldwide in 2016, more than half (54%) were due to the top 10 causes. Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claimed 3.0 million lives in 2016, while lung cancer (along with trachea and bronchus cancers) caused 1.7 million deaths. Diabetes killed 1.6 million people in 2016, up from less than 1 million in 2000. Deaths due to dementias more than doubled between 2000 and 2016, making it the 5th leading cause of global deaths in 2016 compared to 14th in 2000”

http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death

In 2010, there were an estimated 5,419,000 crashes, 30,296 of with fatalities, killing 32,999, and injuring 2,239,000. About 2,000 children under 16 die every year in traffic collisions.

How many unexpected deaths occur each year in America?

CONCLUSIONS:

“The overall estimated incidence of sudden unexpected death may account for approximately 10% of all deaths classified as ‘natural’. Women have a lower estimated incidence of sudden unexpected death than men. However, we found no major differences in age or comorbidities between men and women. African-Americans and young women with coronary disease are at risk for sudden unexpected death.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27042316

How many people die in the US every year?

More than 2.5 million deaths occur in the US every year.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention numbers:

2011: 2,513,171 _THAT equates to about 250,000 unexpected deaths annually in America alone.

James 5: 1-10

[1] Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl in your miseries, which shall come upon you. [2] Your riches are corrupted: and your garments are motheaten. [3] Your gold and silver is cankered: and the rust of them shall be for a testimony against you, and shall eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up to yourselves wrath against the last days. [4] Behold the hire of the labourers, who have reaped down your fields, which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth: and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. [5] You have feasted upon earth: and in riotousness you have nourished your hearts, in the day of slaughter.

[6] You have condemned and put to death the Just One, and he resisted you not. [7]Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth: patiently bearing till he receive the early and latter rain. [8] Be you therefore also patient, and strengthen your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand. [9] Grudge not, brethren, one against another, that you may not be judged. Behold the judge standeth before the door. [10] Take, my brethren, for an example of suffering evil, of labour and patience, the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord.”

I recently came across a homily given by a Deacon at the Funerals he does..Pjm.} This is what motivated me to write this Lesson.

 Speaking the Truth Works.

Why did God the Father send his only beloved Son to us knowing full well he would be crucified? What could be so urgent and dire that a parent would do such a thing? What and who is Jesus saving us from? {Luke 5:22} “I came to SAVE sinners”

I mention how many no longer believe in Satan and hell, and ask, then where does the inspiration for man’s evil ingenuity come from? Can it all be explained by survival of the fittest or psychological problems? {Or is it far more likely stemming from sloth; and the self-knowledge that sinning is ALWAYS easier and more pleasurable than the alternatives?}

Then I speak frankly about how Catholic families have drifted away from practicing the faith {Do YOU know personally ANY family that this does not have application for?} and ask two more questions: If someone lives a life ignoring the crucifixion of Jesus, how is that face-to-face encounter with God his Father going to go? And answer this for me: How do we then expect to jump into intimate union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit having never spent time getting to know members of our own parish?

Finally, I counsel them not to follow the crowd and conclude my remarks by saying these are exciting times, a period where God is raising real Saints, and a time where, as Saint Paul says, “grace abounds all the more.” {Romans 5:20}

Jesus Himself multiple-times tells each of US to WATCH!!!!!!

Mark 13: 35-37  [35] Watch ye therefore, (for you know not when the lord of the house cometh: at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning,) [36] Lest coming on a sudden, he find you sleeping. [37] And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch.

Matthew 24: 4; 42-44 [4]And Jesus answering, said to them: Take heed that no man seduce you: … [42] Watch ye therefore, because ye know not what hour your Lord will come.[43] But know this ye, that if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. [44] Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come. “ … 25:13 “[13] Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.

Luke 12: 35-37 “[35] Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands. [36] And you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately. [37] Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh, shall find watching. 

Revelations 16:15 “ [15] Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

And this dear friends is my GIFT to you: WATCH and prepare all those you care about to be on WATCH with you.

ALL the living will face DEATH; that is a certainty. Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are REAL; life is short; Eternity is FOREVER!

To Jesus THROUGH Mary,

Patrick

This Advent, Let Christ Heal Your Inner Darkness by CONSTANCE T. HULL

 

Advent is a time of waiting in joyful hope, but it is also a a time in darkness. It is a season when we confront the darkness of sin and death brought about by the Fall. As we wait in growing darkness, illuminated by candlelight, we come to see even more clearly our need for a Savior. We are reminded what Original Sin has wrought in our members and that it cost the crucifixion of Our Lord so that He could offer Himself in our stead and bring about our redemption. The manger at Christmas lies in the shadow of the Cross.

As we descend into the darkness of this time of year and ponder salvation history while we await the great feast of Christmas, we are reminded of the darkness within each of us. All of us have dark places that need the healing light only Christ can provide. We see, however, that as we fall, as we often fail and do “the very thing we hate”, we yearn for the light. Even as evil exists within us and as we battle the sins that enslave us, we know that we are made for something more. Bishop Robert Barron, in his book And Now I See, explains this struggle:

“The Christian answer to these questions is contained in the doctrine of the imago Dei. There is indeed something terribly the matter with us, and there is, at the same time, something foundational good, something “divine” at the heart of us, a power or principle that keeps us hoping and living and striving. As the weed pushes its way through the harsh cement of the city sidewalk, so the human soul grows stubbornly and almost inexplicably toward the light.”

Even though we are terribly wounded by the Fall, the Image of God (imago Dei) is never completely stamped out of us. The light of God that radiates through us continues to be present even as we fail, give into weaknesses, and sin. It is what causes us to return repeatedly back to the light of God, even after we commit great evil. The war within our members cannot overcome this “divine” part of us.

As we journey through this Advent season, we are reminded that we are in fact sick and in need of the Divine Physician to heal and bind our wounds.  Even as we are redeemed through Baptism, we find ourselves falling short of the imago Dei within us and so we must continue to allow God to transform us in our daily lives. Advent shows us that we still need transformation. We often forget or overlook this dimension of this time of year.

We are not called to remember the events of salvation history from a distance, rather, we are called to enter into the darkness within our own souls so that the Word made flesh can dwell more fully in our hearts. You and I still need Christ to shed His light in those dark places we hide from Him and from others. This is the beginning of metanoia or “soul transformation.” Bishop Barron states:

“We must know and, more to the point, feel in our bones, what is wrong with us; we must look it in the face and acknowledge it with uncompromising honesty. Without this “searching moral inventory,” without this journey into our own inner Hell, we will not feel the compunction to shift our way of being and seeing. And, at the same time, we must awaken what is god-like in us, what is rich and fecund and unbroken, what is in continuity with the saving designs of God.”

We cannot fully allow God to transform us if we do not enter into the recesses of our own soul and seek to open ourselves up to God’s grace working in the darkest parts of us; the parts that cause us the most shame and pain. We all have them, but often we ignore them until they coming bubbling to the surface and surprise us. In reality, they won’t surprise us so much if we understand what the Fall has done to us and we focus on our constant need for a Savior. This is not to view ourselves as depraved or to lead us into despair. Instead, it is how God begins to bring us more and more into the light and into the freedom only He can give to us.

We must understand, however, that this descent into the darkness within our own selves is arduous. Bishop Barron honestly explains the difficulty:

“Confronting one’s own shadow, the spirit masters concur, is always a dangerous business, and the road to healing is always blocked; hence courage is called for.”

As we progress spiritually and find ourselves facing these dark places within us, fear can overtake us. The assault of the flesh, the world, and the Enemy can seem overwhelming. We may feel ourselves failing and think that we are not up to the task. It tends to be when things seem darkest that grace heals and strengthens us the most. Christ is always working for our salvation and this descent into our own personal Hell is not done alone. He is with us and the light He gives to us is not extinguished by the darkness we find within us. This is a part of the process of “soul transformation”. The descent to the deep places within is non-negotiable in the spiritual life. It must be done. We cannot progress in holiness without confronting ourselves at some point in time. It is precisely this requirement that so many people avoid.

Advent is a call to enter into darkness. It is as we walk into ever darker nights in preparation for the Christ child, Our Savior, that we should ask Him to reveal the sinful places within us and the wounds we carry. We must ask Him to give us the strength and fortitude to walk into those places we do not want to have to confront. By allowing Him to lead us through that darkness, we will find ourselves being transformed from the deepest levels of our being and we will begin to radiate even more the imago Dei within us out towards others. We will be transfigured. We will be free to see as He sees and to love as He loves. Let us pray that God may transfigure each one of us so that we can shine like the sun when “the dawn from on high breaks upon us” this Christmas.

image: monkographic / Shutterstock.com

Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe, written by St. John Paul II

Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe, written by St. John Paul II

 Philip Kosloski | Dec 12, 2018

One of the first prayers he penned as a pope.

Shortly after St. John Paul II was installed as pope on October 22, 1978, he made plans for his first apostolic trip. It was to be in Mexico at the end of January, only a few short months into his pontificate.

There he made many appearances and speeches, including a short pilgrimage to the shrine that holds the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe north of Mexico City. There he paused for a few moments to recite a lengthy prayer to the Virgin Mary.

 

O Immaculate Virgin,
Mother of the True God
and Mother of the Church!
You, who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity
to all those who ask for your protection;
hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust,
and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.
Mother of mercy,
Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice,
to you, who come to meet us sinners,
we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love.
We also dedicate to you our life, our work,
our joys, our infirmities and our sorrows.
Grant peace, justice, and prosperity to our people;
for we entrust to your care
all that we have and all that we are,
Our Lady and Mother.
We wish to be entirely yours
and to walk with you
along the way of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church:
hold us always with your loving hand.
Virgin of Guadalupe,
Mother of the Americas,
we pray to you for all the bishops,
that they may lead the faithful
along paths of intense Christian life,
of love and humble service of God and souls.

Contemplate this immense harvest, and intercede with the Lord
that he may instill a hunger for holiness
in the whole People of God,
and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious,
strong in the faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries.
Grant to our homes
the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings,
with the same love with which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God.
Blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother of Fair Love,
protect our families,
so that they may always be united,
and bless the upbringing of our children.
Our hope, look upon us with compassion,
teach us to go continually to Jesus
and, if we fall,
help us to rise again,
to return to him, by means of the confession of our faults and sins
in the Sacrament of Penance,
which gives peace to the soul.
We beg you to grant us
a great love for all the holy Sacraments,
which are, as it were,
the signs that your Son left us on earth.
Thus, most holy Mother,
with the peace of God in our conscience,
with our hearts free from evil and hatred,
we will be able to bring to all
true joy and true peace,
which come to us from your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit,
lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

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Immaculate Conception & Mary as a Model of Faith: by Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

 

Immaculate Conception & Mary as a Model of Faith

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

This post is also available in: SpanishItalian

The Gospel of Luke presents Mary, mother of Jesus,  as the model of faith, showing us what faith must include to be authentic and effective.  And imitating Mary’s virtue is key to an authentic Marian devotion and an adequate understanding of the deepest meaning of the Immaculate Conception — that it’s all about grace.

The Beatitudes rank high on the list of all-time favorite Bible passages. But what is beatitude, anyway?   In the bible, a “blessed” person is someone who has received gifts of the greatest value, gifts that lead to true fulfillment and lasting happiness.

THE FIRST BEATITUDE

If I were to ask you to name the first beatitude, you’d probably say “blessed be the poor in Spirit.”

According to Matthew you’d be right, but not according to Luke.  At the very beginning of his gospel, Luke reveals that the very first beatitude is uttered by a woman filled with the Spirit, speaking of another woman overshadowed by the Spirit.  Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed.” (Luke 1: 45).

Is Marian devotion important in Christian life?  This has been a bone of contention between Catholics and Protestants for nearly 500 years.

BLESSED IS SHE WHO HAS BELIEVED

Let’s look at the evidence in just the first chapter of Luke.  First, the Angel Gabriel honors her with the greeting “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:29).  Then Elizabeth prophesies “blessed are you among women.”  Next the prophet John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice.  Then, in her response to Elizabeth, Mary prophesies “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk. 1:48).

But it is Elizabeth’s final words to Mary that hold the key to understanding why she is to be honored, namely, her faith.  “Blessed is she who has believed.”

BY GRACE, THROUGH FAITH

One of the battle-cries of the Protestant Reformation was “Faith Alone!”  One key conviction that united the many disparate strands of the Reformation was that it is impossible to earn God’s favor by our good works, but rather we receive his love as a pure gift, a grace, through faith.

Now consider Mary.  Did she crisscross the Mediterranean planting Churches like Paul?  Did she give eloquent sermons like Stephen (Acts 7).  Did she govern the Church like Peter?  No.  Her claim to fame is that she simply said yes to God.  She believed He could do as he said and would do as He said.

FAITH AS SURRENDER

But true faith is not just intellectual conviction that God exists or that He can do thus and such.  Faith involves entrusting oneself, abandoning oneself to God, willing to submit to his will.

That’s why Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26).  She surrendered her plan for her life, and yielded to God’s plan.  And she did this not once, but again and again, even when he left her to begin his public ministry.  And when that ministry led to the horror of Calvary, her faith stood its ground at the foot of the cross.

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

So Catholics honor Mary for being the perfect example of the greatest Protestant virtue.  Ironic isn’t it?  And the deepest meaning of that disputed doctrine, the Immaculate Conception, is that it was the grace of God working mysteriously from the moment of conception that made possible Mary’s exemplary life of faith.  Even her faith is a gift of His grace.  It’s all grace, according to Catholic doctrine.

Mary, of course, knew this.  That’s why she responded to Elizabeth’s praise with the humble, exuberant prayer known as the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  She is like the crystal-clear pool that reflects the suns rays back to the heavens. So no one needs to fear that honor given her will detract from the majesty of Her divine Son.  She deflects all the praise given her right back to God, the source of her greatness.

TRUE MARIAN DEVOTION

So the answer is that Marian devotion is indeed necessary in Christian life.  But what is true devotion to Mary according to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council?  Not sentimental piety or gullible preoccupation with every rumored apparition.  But rather, imitation of her virtues, particularly her faith (Lumen Gentium 67).

This article on Mary as the model of faith as the source of Marian devotion is offered as a reflection on the Scripture readings for the 4th Fourth Sunday in Advent cycle C (Micah 5:1-4a, Ps 80, Hebrews 10: 5-10, Luke 1:39-45) and cycle B ( 2 Samuel 7, Romans 16:25-27, and Luke 1:26-38) and for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Genesis 3:9-20; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1:3-12; Luke 1:26-38).

Originally posted on Dec 04 2018

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

From a colorful and varied background as a professor of theology, a father of five, business owner, and professional performer Marcellino D’Ambrosio (aka “Dr. Italy”) crafts talks, blog posts, books, and videos that are always fascinating, practical, and easy to understand.  He is a popular speaker, TV and radio personality, New York Times best-selling author, and pilgrimage host who has been leading people on a journey of discovery for over thirty years.  For a fuller bio and video, visit the Dr. Italy page.

Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical?By: Edward Sri’s

Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical?

By: Edward Sri’s

 
Dear Friends, here’s an article for this week’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It’s based on my new book covering every New Testament reference to Mary: Rethinking Mary in the New Testament

Is the Immaculate Conception just another example of Catholics exaggerating Mary’s role, putting her on par with Jesus?

From the outside, some might look at Catholic Marian doctrines this way: Jesus is a king, so Catholics make Mary a queen. Jesus ascended into heaven, so Catholics say Mary was assumed into heaven. Jesus was like us in all things but sin, so Catholics make up the Immaculate Conception to make Mary untouched by sin as well.

But the Immaculate Conception is actually all about Jesus. In fact, everything Catholics believe about Mary is there not to focus our attention solely on her, but to help us understand and love Jesus more.

This is especially the case with the Immaculate Conception. God didn’t make Mary “full of grace” for her own sake, but to prepare her for the child who would dwell in her womb. The doctrine helps us understand the mystery of her Son better. It points to how the child in her womb is not an ordinary human child, but the divine Son of God. And how fitting it is that the all-holy God would dwell within a woman who was a completely pure vessel—a spotless tabernacle, a holy temple for the divine presence she would carry in her womb!

But is there any Scriptural basis for this doctrine?

Where in the Bible?

Take a moment and imagine the quiet life of one young Jewish woman who from all outward appearances seems to be rather ordinary. She is a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, and she is probably in her early teen years. She lives in a small, insignificant village called Nazareth. Her name is Mary.

Suddenly, in the midst of her simple, routine life, an angel of the Lord appears to her and says, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).

No angel had ever greeted anyone with such exalted language. Gabriel addresses Mary not by her personal name but with a title, “full of grace.” As St. John Paul II once commented, “‘Full of grace’ is the name Mary possesses in the eyes of God.”1

Mary’s New Name

In Greek, the word commonly translated “full of grace” (kecharitomene) indicates that Mary already is filled with God’s saving grace. Indeed, God has prepared her for this defining moment. Chosen from the beginning of time to be the mother of the Savior, Mary has been shaped by God to be a pure, spotless sanctuary in which his Son will dwell. The all-holy Son of God will enter the world through the womb of a woman who is “full of grace.”

This Biblical revelation of Mary’s unique grace sheds important light on the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which the Church celebrates on December 8. According to this doctrine, Mary was conceived without original sin, full of grace, full of God’s life dwelling in her.

While the word “full of grace” does not definitively prove the Immaculate Conception (the word itself doesn’t mean, “you who were conceived full of grace”), it does tell us she already had a profound grace working in her before the angel Gabriel every appeared to her. The word could be translated, “you who have been and continued to be graced.”

 

 
 
 
 
Edward Sri’s newest book, Rethinking Mary in the New Testement
 
 
Mary Already Had Grace
Though some Bibles translate this word “favored one,” it actually indicates much more than God looking with favor on Mary. In the only other instance when the New Testament uses this rare verb, it describes a profound interior transformation having taken place in people’s souls.

He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed (echaritōsen) on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us (Eph 1:5–8).

Notice the impact on the Ephesian Christians being graced. They are described as having “redemption” and “forgiveness of their trespasses” (1:6–7). Indeed, the verb is associated with the saving, transforming power of grace that makes Christians adopted children of God who are redeemed and forgiven of their sins.

By being called kecharitomene, Mary is being depicted as someone who has already experienced the same grace as the Christians in Ephesians 1:6—someone who already has received forgiveness of sins and redemption and has become a child of God. It’s no wonder one of the Mass readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is from this very passage in Ephesians 1!

Doesn’t Mary Need Salvation?

Still, some may wonder how Mary could be spared the effects of Original Sin. Isn’t she human? Doesn’t she need salvation like everyone else?

Mary is completely dependent on Christ’s work of salvation. But there are two ways one can be saved. One can be saved from a great disaster either by being rescued from it or by being prevented from falling into it in the first place. If my toddler who does not swim falls into the swimming pool, I can jump in to save her. But if I happened to notice her leaning over the pool and about to fall in, I could catch her just before she hit the water. In both cases, my daughter is saved by her father.

The same is true with how our Heavenly Father can save people from sin. He saves the rest of the human family after we have entered this world devoid of the life of God, wounded by Original Sin. But he could save an individual before being wounded by sin, by filling them with his life from the moment of their conception, by creating them “full of grace.” And that’ what the Church throughout the centuries has seen in this woman from Nazareth—that she was, indeed, conceived “full of grace” to prepare her as the holy dwelling place for the Son of God.

This article is based on Edward Sri’s newest book covering every New Testament reference to Mary: Rethinking Mary in the New Testament

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ADVENT HOPE AND THE ROOT OF RESTLESSNESS: reblogged

ADVENT HOPE AND THE ROOT OF RESTLESSNESS

One of the themes of Advent is watching and waiting. A kind of patient, alert spirit is cultivated. The spirit of hope.

We are to sit on the edge of our seats, waiting for the show to begin. We’re at the bus stop, looking down the road any sign of the bus we feel is already late. We’re sitting in stillness and in contemplation waiting to hear the word of the Lord.

The opposite of this patient, watchful and alert spirit of waiting is restlessness. We wander around aimlessly like a madwoman with wild hair. We channel hop looking for yet another entertainment. We fidget and fuss and worry and bite our nails with nervousness. We grumble and complain and bark with impatience.

What is it that makes us so restless and so unhappy?

Some say it is desire. The root of all unhappiness is desire.

We desire what we do not have, and we desire more what we cannot have.

But what is at the root of that desire? I think it is something else.

It is fear. The nameless fear in the middle of the night. It is the fear that haunts our waking hours as a gnawing restlessness that focuses itself in desire.

We desire as we hunger and we don’t know what we desire or for what we hunger.

That desire and restlessness is rooted in fear.

“But what am I afraid of?”

That’s just the thing. We don’t know what we’re afraid of. The fear is formless. The fear is simply there as a ground level anxiety in our human condition.

At times, of course it comes out as real fear and anxiety. Some small thing sparks it or some great concern fans the flames and the fear erupts in full terror. The fear comes out as nervousness and discontent, impatience and irritability and gazing sleepless into the dark.

More often the fear surfaces as resentment towards others, suspicion of others and condemnation of others.

Why do we bad mouth and blame the other? Because we fear. We fear they will have something better than us. They will have something we cannot have. They will be better than us and shame us and their superiority will put us down and we fear.

Why do we strive so hard to succeed and be better than others? Because we fear.

Why do we work so hard to earn so little and then spend it on stuff we don’t need? Because we fear. We fear being alone and not being secure. We fear not being loved for who we are so we try to be loved for what we have.

Why do we put on artificial masks and do things and say things to people who we don’t like in order to win approval from them even though their approval means nothing? Because we fear.

Why do we attack other racial groups, other socio economic groups, immigrants, Democrats, Republicans, the rich, the poor, the Catholics, the Protestants, the bishops, the clergy, the people, the neighbors, the children ,the adults, the parents, the students, the teachers. Why do we attack and blame most anyone but ourselves? Because we fear.

Fear is the root of original sin for the original sin is that of pride: “I am the best. I am like God.” That’s pride, and that ugliness springs forth from fear.

Fear at the foundation which is fear of God.

That is why the proverb is so profound: “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

Not fear for its own sake, but the realization that the fear is there, and once we realize that the fear of the Lord is there like a silent beast in the darkened cellar of our lives we can begin to face the fear.

Then one day, if grace is given and the journey leads that way, then one day if the door is opened and we see our way there we come to realize at that very same depth that the message of the angel is always, “Do not fear. Do not be afraid.”

This is an Advent message from the angel to you. “Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid because God is with you. He is on his way.

Perfect Love is about to enter the world and as we know, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”

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