And so this first conviction was to help my Catholic friends to see the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, to show them the Bible, and to show them that in the Bible, you just accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and that's all it takes. None of this claptrap: Not Mary, not the saints, not purgatory, not devotions, just asking Jesus to be Savior and Lord.
Around that time I was dating a girl who was Catholic, and we were becoming more serious. But I knew there was no future in our relationship if she remained Catholic. So I gave to her a very large volume, a book by Loraine Boettner entitled Roman Catholicism. It's known as the bible of Anti-Catholicism. It's four hundred and fifty plus pages filled with all kinds of distortions and lies about the Catholic Church. But I didn't know that at the time, so I shared it in good faith with her. She read it from cover to cover. She wrote me that summer and said, "Thanks for the book; I'll never go back to Mass again." And I say that with a certain shame and sorrow, but I say that to illustrate the sincerity that many Bible Christians have when it comes to opposing the Catholic Church. I figured that if the wafer they're worshipping up on that altar is not God, then they're idolaters, they're pagans, they are to be pitied and opposed. If the Pope in Rome is not the infallible vicar of Christ who can bind hundreds of millions of Catholics in their beliefs and practices, then he's a tyrant. He's a spiritual dictator pure and simple. And because I didn't think he was the infallible vicar, I thought it was very reasonable for me to help Catholics to see the same thing in order to get them to leave the Church.
The only Catholic in my family on both sides was my beloved grandmother. She was very quiet, very humble, very holy, I have to admit. And she was also a devout Catholic. When she passed away, I was given her religious belongings by my parents. I went through her prayer book and her missal, and then I found her rosary beads. All of this stuff just made me sick inside. I knew my grandmother had a real faith in Jesus, but I wondered what would all of this mean. So I tore apart her rosary beads, and I threw them in this waste can. I thought of these beads almost like chains that at last she was broken free from. That was the second aspect of my own outlook: that these people might have some faith but it was just surrounded by lies, and so they needed loving Bible Christians to get them out.
The weakest person I ever heard of was someone who wouldn’t read a book about Christ because—as she admitted—she knew it would change her, and she didn’t want to have to change. Change takes
(AP Photo/Matt York)
courage; repentance takes courage. Before that it takes something else: it takes recognition of one’s own sin, one’s own weakness. Eyes that cannot see clearly are “weak” eyes; souls that are uncomprehending or undaring are “weak” souls.
To not see one’s weakness is perhaps the greatest weakness of all.
Both instances of Jesus asking for comprehension came about over food: the first time over what feeds the soul of humanity, which is the Bread that comes down from heaven; the second over what laws humanity must follow before they may eat.
That’s what all the drama and controversy of the synod is about: who may feed on Jesus, the Living Bread, and who is insufficiently washed.
Do we still not understand?
“The weak,” Pope Francis says, those in need of medicine arethe unrepentant—the people who don’t even realize that repentance is needed because they are sustained by false, puffed-up foundations of modern feel-goodism.
“The weak” are also those whose dependence on the rulebook (and it’s a sound one) leaves them unwilling to trust any word beyond it. A simple willingness to allow discussion is enough to convince them that the Church—which Jesus said would last forever because it was Bride, and that he would be the Bridegroom to the end of the world—is ready to collapse.
“The weak” are those who have commingled their theology with their ideology, as though they were flesh and blood—sustainable only in support of each other.
“The weak” use the words “unrepentant sinners” as though they are not constantly in need of repentance themselves.
“The weak” sneer at others for “not getting it,” because I’m pretty sure that when Jesus asked, “Do you still not understand?,” it was was with pity, not malice.
“The weak” are you, and me, and them. Whoever they are.
“The weak” are also part of “the poor” Francis keeps talking about too. “The poor” who hear the Good News and accept it and then load it into a cannon to shoot at others, because they are weak.
“The poor” are those who hear the words of the Bride of Christ and think she is blowing hot air, because if she is not, they must change, and they fear to because they are weak.
“The poor” may hear the saints and the prophets and the people and the popes but think the only possessor of the whole truth is the weak little voice within them, which goes,but, but, but, me, me, me, I, I, I …
We are all “the weak.” We are all “the poor.” We are all, in some nook or cranny of the soul, “unrepentant sinners.”
And our weakness comes from hunger, whether we know it or not.
In an age where self attention rules, it's amazing how blind we truly are for Whom we hunger, for What we really need.
Good Lord, open our eyes to see, our hearts to understand.
It’s been nine days since their family’s sudden moment of grace. Nine days since Pope Francis laid his hands on their 10-year-old son.
And now it’s 6 a.m. on a Monday, and Chuck Keating is laying his own hands on Michael’s body. Chuck soothes his boy, whose limbs are stiff from severe cerebral palsy, so he can gently roll Michael over in bed to change his diaper.
“Buddy, relax,” Chuck murmurs. “Relax. Relax.”
Michael, one thin arm outstretched, starts moaning.
The Keatings’ lives are defined by moments like this one, when it’s not even dawn yet, and Michael’s feeding-tube monitor is beeping, and his twin brother, Chris, is inventing his own smoothie recipe in the kitchen, and older sister Katie is trying to find her field hockey gear. Their days unfold under the gaze of dozens of Elmo dolls, because Michael can see the color red best, and under the wooden cross above his bed, and under the words on his bedroom wall: “Everyday holds a possibility of a miracle.”
A miracle — they always believed in it. And then they got one.
They almost didn’t bring Michael. Church officials had picked the band at Bishop Shanahan High School, where Chuck is the band leader, to play at Philadelphia International Airport to welcome Pope Francis on Sept. 26.
Chuck, 45, and his wife, Kristin, 43, lifelong Catholics who met in college, were thrilled.
Kristin, a fourth-grade public school teacher, planned to take Chris and Katie, but she thought bringing Michael was out of the question.
The lift on the family’s wheelchair-accessible van does not work anymore, making it difficult to transport him. His body can get dangerously overheated any time he is outside in hot weather. He needs to be catheterized every four hours.
But then the family’s priest gave a homily at Mass about the many Philadelphians who were vowing to leave town during the papal visit because of road closures.
“He said that people shouldn’t be going out of their way to avoid the pope, they should be going out of their way to do what they can to be there,” Chuck recalls.
He told Kristin: Let’s bring Michael.
So all five Keatings met the excited band in the Bishop Shanahan parking lot at 3:45 a.m.
As Francis stepped off the plane hours later, the band played the song closest to Philadelphians’ hearts, “Gonna Fly Now” from the movie “Rocky.”
Minutes later, the 78-year-old pontiff got into a waiting car. It began to drive away — and then Francis spotted Michael. He motioned to the driver to stop the black Fiat.
And then suddenly 13-year-old Katie was taking video, and crying, as the leader of their faith strode up to her brother, kissed his head and uttered a blessing. Chuck was looking away, overcome by emotion, then turning back to shake Francis’s hand. Ten-year-old Chris was putting his hands to his head, thinking, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.” Kristin was squeezing the pope’s hand — “so soft” — and understanding only the emotion, not the words Francis said in a language she does not speak.
A language she does not speak, a language most refuse to understand. Read the whole thing and understand... personal filtration systems are hell.
The other day I read a beautiful conversion story, a witness story of a woman I have long admired, Kirsten Powers. She is a Fox News Commentator. And while I do not always agree with her political perspectives, she is a solid journalist, she gives fair consideration to all issues, and is, to my mind, a very classy lady.
But it's the following words that caught my eye in Msgr. Pope's piece:
I pray that Kirsten Powers will grow strong in faith and deep in conviction that Jesus is Lord and the lover of her soul.
“But Father, but Father….!” I hear some of you saying, “She did not become Catholic! How can we praise this!?” Well, all I know is that we are all on a journey. And the Lord has surely led some of the best Catholics through the Evangelical denominations ultimately to the Catholic Church.
And I will add that their time there (in the Evangelical denominations) was not a detour or wasted. In fact some of the greatest converts to the Catholic Church bring many gifts from their time as Evangelicals: Love for Jesus, the understanding of a personal and intimate walk with the Lord, a love for Scripture, and a zeal for souls.
At a personal level I would love for Ms. Powers to one day find herself in full union with the Catholic Church. For now I am joyful she found Jesus and I trust Jesus to lead her. Rejoice with me, rejoice with her, Jesus is joy, he is Lord and Shepherd. He shepherds us rightly.
Well Msgr. Pope, that one day has apparently arrived:
Fraternal correction is defined as the admonishing of one's neighbor with the purpose of reforming him, or, if possible, preventing his sinful indulgence in the first place. The very idea of this makes America 2015 ™ cringe, because even to most Christians, those who are responsible for fraternally correcting each other, the concept of evaluating the behavior of another person is absolutely taboo if not wholly laughable. How did we get here? Tons of hypocritical fraternal correction? Maybe, but I doubt it. Because even if you are a moral zero, the truth is still the truth. It doesn't care whose mouth it comes from. I should still recognize it as the truth. The ten commandments recited by any mouth are the same words, and I need to heed them regardless of the identity of the messenger at the moment.
Warnings of the wages of sin in today's first world are seen as disrespectful, antiquated, invasive, rude, uncool, judgmental, self-righteous and self-congratulatory. They are almost never viewed, by the majority, as what they are intended to be: borne of love, or what they are commanded by God to be: a spiritual work of mercy [see here for an expounding on that concept... *Rick].
I'm fairly certain that fraternal correction gets a bad rap because no one wants to stop sinning, not because of a long history of fraternal correction gone awry. The West praises and extols the open minded, open mouthed, enlightened, and progressive. Consent is the singular litmus test for the inherent good of a human act. The only sin is to call something a sin. In this climate, the ultimate deference you can tribute to someone is to respect their choice, regardless of how destructive the consequences, respect their lifestyle, no matter how counter to the Gospel it screams.
The thing is, we do have to honor the conscience of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we do have an obligation to stop tinkering in the lives of the unchurched if they tell us to bugger off. But atheist Penn Jillette once observed that he had no patience for non-preaching Christians, because they were essentially watching him stand in the way of a speeding train, that is, if they really believed what they claimed to. So faced with these two poles, what does a well-intentioned Catholic do?
Commentators have taken Francis’s speeches and sayings and attacked him or claimed him as a Marxist, a unionist and a radical environmentalist. I don’t think the pope is proposing an alternative system of politics or economics. He is simply reminding each of us that we have a moral obligation to be kind and generous to the poor and disadvantaged — especially if we have been fortunate. If you have a problem with this message, you have a problem not with Pope Francis, but with Jesus Christ.
The rest of the WaPo piece has but passing interest to me in that Zakaria is quoting known Catholic dissenter Garry Wills (you can read more about him at this Crisis post), someone I think to have a key Catholic screw or two missing but I digress.
"I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets–that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue–that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions– that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time–that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you — and I beg you to believe me–multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing–less than nothing, a positive impediment–measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are."
H/T to my cyber-friend Tod Worner for the find.
Who, you might be asking, is Malcolm Muggeridge?
Two quick reads for insight into who the man was and who he became can be found here and here.
Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy.”
Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began...
And the Catechism is right clear as well:
2013 "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity."65 All are called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."66
In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.67
2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.
2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.
I can attest to the battle aspect of pursuing holiness. I say that because frankly and bluntly, I suck at being holy. Seriously.
When I think of holy men and women, I think of those who are gentle, meek, humble, kind, quiet and sweet. I am rarely any one of those things at any one time, much less all of them at once. In fact, I think it not to be a stretch to say that I'm the opposite of those things daily.
Yet, I want to be holy. I do. I'd love to one day, when I'm dead and gone, have someone remember me as a holy person. That would be significant. That would be incredible. That would be miraculous.
I say all this because yesterday, I came across what follows:
“Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness… Consequently, it is not the fact that we have never erred but our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints. And we can all learn this way of holiness”
I have a huge capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness. I'm constantly willing to kiss and make up... or at least hug and do so.
I'm willing to bet many of us do who are striving to be faithful.
Pope Benedict's words are a game changer in many respects. He's suggesting that we who are earthy, we who are chief among sinners, we who offend frequently and fall way too often, we have a chance to not only be holy but... to be saintly.