“If no one is Pope, EVERYONE is pope!” Without a visible head, there is no principle on earth for unity in the Church. The Protestant experiment tried to replace the Pope with Scripture and gave it sole authority. But Protestants cannot agree on what Scripture says and have no earthly way to resolve their conflicts. While they say that authority resides in Scripture alone, the fact is, in claiming the anointing of the Holy Spirit and thus the ability to properly interpret Scripture, they really place the locus of authority within themselves and become the very pope they denounce. Having denied that there is a pope they become pope. If no one is Pope, everyone is pope.
I have read that some objectors think Catholics arrogant in asserting that we have a pope whom we trust to be anointed by God to teach us without error on faith and morals. But which is more arrogant: to claim there is a pope (not me), or to in fact act like one myself?
In the end, the Protestant experiment is a failed one. Many estimates place the number of Protestant denominations as high as 30,000. Personally, I think this is exaggerated—but not by much. Protestants all claim the Scriptures as their source of the truth but differ on many essential matters such as sexual morality, authority, the necessity of baptism, whether once saved is always saved, etc. When they cannot resolve things they simply subdivide. There is an old joke, told even among Protestants, that goes,
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!” Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.
A strange little joke, and not entirely fair since most Protestants of different denominations that I know get along fine on a personal level. But the truth is, the denominations disagree over many very important things. The Protestant experiment is a failure that leads only to endless division. The Church needs a visible head. The Bible alone does not suffice, for there are endless disagreements on how to interpret it. Someone must exist to whom all turn and who all agree will resolve the differences after listening.
I don't resent in any way my Protestant friends who have problems with Catholicism. I had problems for years but something (the Holy Spirit I'm now convinced) kept me returning, in one sense or another, to the Catholic Church, the Church I now call home and will never leave.
She is the fullest representation of the truth, a conclusion I've drawn after much reading and study. And she points me in the direction of Christ, through Mary His Mother, through the Saints, through tradition, through Scripture, through the liturgy, through her Bishops, Priests and Deacons, through her monks, friars and nuns.
I drifted through the morass that Protestantism had for me become and landed, thankfully, on the Rock upon which Christ built His Church.
I'm seeing a smattering of my fellow believers using Matthew 6 to criticize the ALS ice bucket challenge:
Teaching about Almsgiving. 1 “[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them;a otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. 2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites* do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
I'm no theologian, no Scriptural expert and despite the fact that I've slept at a Holiday Inn Express numerous times, I'm not going to play one now.... however... my thinking on this begins with the notion that plucking a Scripture out of its context is problematic and particularly so here.
Isn't Matthew 6 about giving to the poor and destitute? The ice bucket challenge is about giving to research purposed in finding a cure to a devastating disease. I'm not seeing the connection though perhaps I'm being a tad too literal.
But if we're going to engage in Scriptural swordplay, I can't help but think of two more Scriptural references, beginning with Luke 18:
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. 9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Verse 11 being the verse that speaks loudest to me.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. 16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
Is the ice bucket challenge a good deed? Isn't a light being shone on it? I'm thinking the answer is yes to each question.
There's lots in the culture we Christians need to be critical of. Lots. But there are also good things out there happening that we need to be encouraging, paricularly when the cause is so clearly positive.
I would, carefully, ask that those who are critical of the ice bucket challenge spend some time with a family having to deal with ALS.
I think an hour or two would do it.
This is, to me, a good cause. And if Jesus is willing to participate, I'm thinking we should all be willing:
His knowing smile and everyman disposition are instantly recognizable on screen.
Those qualities were not lost on some 2,000 Knights of Columbus, their families and church leaders who were delighted by a surprise encounter with actor Gary Sinise during the fraternal organization's Aug. 5-7 convention in Orlando.
Sinise traced the deepening of his own spirituality and faith in part to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was invited, as a celebrity, to support first responders and later service men and women serving in Iraq.
He noted the example of Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain for the New York Fire Department who died helping victims in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
"His simple prayer, 'Lord, take me where you want me to go. Let me meet who you want me to meet. Tell me what you want me to say. And keep me out of your way, ... is very special to my wife and I," Sinise said.
"In his last homily given on Sept. 10 the day before he died, Father Mychal said ... each of us has no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us,'" the actor added. "Father Mychal would lay down his life for others the following morning. I have met so many selfless and courageous people who inspire me each day to carry on the mission."
In the late 1990s, Sinise said his wife, Moira, was in Chicago performing in an Irish play set in a tavern when she started to reconnect with the Irish Catholic side of her family. Moira was not raised in a religious home but her mother was Catholic by birth and her father was Methodist, according to Sinise.
Soon after, Sinise said his family was in North Carolina where he was working at the time, when a hurricane approached.
"As we are racing down the highway in the rental car, trying to outrun the storm as lightning and wind and rain and thunder are chasing us ... Moira, out of the blue, turns to me and says, 'When we get back home I'm going to become a Catholic, and our kids are going to Catholic school,'" he said.
After two years of classes, on Easter Sunday in 2000, Sinise's wife was confirmed in the Catholic Church "and my children and I were there by her side. We were so proud of her and how far she had come," he said.
In 2010, on Christmas Eve, he told his wife and kids they were going out for a special dinner. Unbeknown to his family, he had been attending private sessions to be confirmed, he said.
So before their dinner the family stopped to see a priest, "and in a small quiet ceremony on Christmas Eve, surrounded by my family, who I love and cherish dearly ... I was officially confirmed into the Catholic Church. It was a very special night in our lives."
"The church has been a rock for me and my family in some of our darkest and most difficult times," Sinise told the Knights.
Mr. Sinise's story resonates.
When my wife was fighting breast cancer, when things were a bit rough at the office some time ago, and especially now that evil seems to be running ramshod globally, the Church has been and continues to be a rock for me. She has become my proverbial port in the storm.
She can become the same for you dear reader. She can.
Think of falling in love. You begin by finding this girl's eyes or laugh or kindness attractive, and perhaps not much more attractive than another's, but as you get to know her and share some parts of your lives, one day you realize that you find her attractive in a way you cannot reduce to a liking for the different aspects of her appearance, personality, and character. She changes (to take my own case) from a girl with a heart-melting shy smile and gorgeous blue eyes sitting up front in the choir to Hope.
What you now think of her begins to affect how you see her, especially the aspects of her personality or character that are or might be flaws. What you had taken for impatience you now know to be enthusiasm, and what had seemed a self-centered disregard for others' feelings you now see as single-mindedness.
What really are flaws you understand as the blemishes one invariably has in a fallen world, but you believe that they are, so to speak, accidents and not substance. In this you are not giving her the benefit of the doubt, as if the reality were disputable, but seeing her with a charity that lets you see her real beauty, marred but not erased or covered by her flaws. (If you are blessed, she sees you in the same way.)
But in the middle of this romantic movement from attraction to love, you ask many questions and even offer many objections: Do we agree on the fundamental things? Does she share my commitment to Christ and His Church? Would I care for her if she didn't have that heart-melting smile? Why does she do this? Why in the world does she think that? How could she possibly believe those things?
This is the same movement of mind and heart the average convert experiences on his way into the Catholic Church. People find themselves drawn to the Catholic Church because something in her attracts them, like the order of the liturgy or the depth of the theology. When the romance begins to feel as if it might develop into commitment, they begin to ask questions and pose objections. If they persevere, they come to love the Church, and the way they ask the questions, and the questions they ask, change. They move from debating the Church to discovering the Church.
This description may be of some value to those given the chance to respond to people drawn to the Church. Catholics, and even some converts themselves, do not always understand this movement. They respond as if conversion were a matter of intellectual conviction, and emphasize the superiority of the Catholic case to the Protestant or the secular. The Church does have the better case, but they would often do better to emphasize The Thing itself, rather than what it is not.
I'm coming to understand more about how I'm drawn, not so much to getting folks converted though there's lots of appeal personally in that but making people aware of what I'm finding attractive about the Church. I'm also coming to understand that I'm not particularly good at it but, thank God, I'm finding others that are.
My prayer is that in some small way, I can be a match-maker of sorts, matching folks to the beauty, the mystery, the allure, the security, the comfort, the challenge, that is the Catholic Church.
Shh... don't tell anyone but... I'm about to do something I hope will bear fruit in a big way, hopefully sooner rather than later but... I'll settle for later if I must.
A loved one needs to take a week long study trip as part of his job. He was told to bring an iPad or a tablet if available as it would make things simpler for him. He doesn't have one so... here's where my plan gets unhatched (rubs hands gleefully while grinning).
I'm going to let him borrow my iPad, on which is the Kindle app, on which is the newly downloaded book by Jennifer Fulwiler titled Something Other Than God. I'm going to ask him to consider reading it as he should have some spare time on his hands and it's a great read from what I'm hearing.
In Augustine’s Confessions, the first Western autobiography ever written, we discover the probing journey of a brilliant man, traveling through a maze of philosophies before emerging into the light of Christianity. The destination brought him to tears for though he sensed Christianity to be true, it was the last place he expected to turn.
Years later, when Oxford professor C.S. Lewis embarked on his own pursuit of truth, he too ended up at Christianity, converting with great hesitancy: “I gave in, and admitted that God was God … perhaps that night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”
And then there was Jennifer Fulwiler. When Jennifer stood in a Catholic Church on Easter 2007, preparing to become Catholic, there was hardly a more unlikely convert. Born and raised in a skeptical home, which valued Carl Sagan more than Jesus, Jennifer developed an ardent atheism. She rejected God, mocked religion, promoted abortion, and chased happiness above all through pleasure, work, money, and partying.
Mr. Vogt of course has more, including a Skyped interview with Jennifer well worth watching.
She tells the story of going to her grandparent’s place in the country as a young girl, and digging an ammonite fossil out of a bank by a stream. It was an exciting moment, and yet contemplating the fossil she was filled with existential despair. The ammonite had lived its day, and all that was left was this fossil. Her life would be the same: here today, gone tomorrow, fossilization if she was lucky, oblivion if not. Her chances for fossilization were not a comfort. Her description of that moment is chilling, and I’m glad I’ve never felt the same way.
Though she searched, she found nothing that would override that sense of dread and meaninglessness except an endless round of fun and excitement. By living in the moment, and keeping herself very busy, she could for a time forget the pointlessness of it all.
And this lasted until after her marriage with Joe. Those parties, and the fine dinners, and the wine tastings, they were all just ways of staving off despair.
And then something happened, and their lives took an abrupt left turn. The conversion process (a lengthy one, to be sure) had begun.
Will goes on and includes a reference to my confirmation Saint, Justin Martyr, that had me chuckling.
And then there's Simcha Fisher, from whom I stole the title of this post:
It's a thoroughly delightful read, with no slow passages. Even more remarkably, it has no insincere passages. Fulwiler sees with clear eyes and reports with honesty, humor, and hope. This book will speak to Catholics who have forgotten just how compelling our Faith really is, and to unbelievers who believe that thinking, research, and honesty have no part in religious conversions. Highly recommended!
I confess to not having it read it myself, except for portions of the first chapter prior to downloading it to the Kindle but plan on doing so... maybe even today as it does seem to be a quick, funny, and compelling read but... let's face it... the real reason for this post, these reviews and my taking the time to write a little about it myself is... so that he who shall remain nameless will read it... and will, as a result, ponder deeper things.
And hey, maybe you dear reader, would do the same.
I know someone close to me about to face scary surgery. I know someone else facing some serious financial troubles. I know a few others who no longer have jobs and thus far have not been successful in finding a new one. I know someone else whose very young daughter is facing potentially scary surgery. And of course, there's the unsettling news coming seemingly from every corner of the globe.. it's all weighty and wearying and worrisome.
What to do?
Some of you may have ways of coping, some of you may not. Me? I turn to that which has yet to let me down, that which ebbs and flows admittedly but that from which I draw strength, stability and security.
Today, I find what follows and it offers some level of comfort. Not the song itself or the tune but the message.
The struggle ends. Hold on. There'll soon (relatively speaking) be rest and redemption.
Hold on. Just hold on:
I’m Tired I’m worn My heart is heavy From the work it takes To keep on breathing I’ve made mistakes I’ve let my hope fail My soul feels crushed By the weight of this world
And I know that you can give me rest So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win Let me know the struggle ends That you can mend a heart That’s frail and torn I wanna know a song can rise From the ashes of a broken life And all that’s dead inside can be reborn Cause I’m worn
I know I need to lift my eyes up But I'm too weak Life just won’t let up And I know that you can give me rest So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win Let me know the struggle ends That you can mend a heart That’s frail and torn I wanna know a song can rise From the ashes of a broken life And all that’s dead inside can be reborn Cause I’m worn
My prayers are wearing thin Yeah, I’m worn Even before the day begins Yeah, I’m worn I’ve lost my will to fight I’m worn So, heaven come and flood my eyes
Let me see redemption win Let me know the struggle ends That you can mend a heart That’s frail and torn I wanna know a song can rise From the ashes of a broken life And all that’s dead inside can be reborn Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn
It's always good to know the impact I'm having on readers. Found in my in-box last night:
Beyond disturbing ravings of a self-proclaimed hero. Your concept of misogyny is beyond misguided. You represent noone but your own delusions. Sorry for your pain and suffering. To bad you feel the need to pollute the internet with your bull crap. Your website is the biggest advertisement against Christianity I have ever seen.
Please consider sparing the masses and taking your meds. For your sake mostly. I'll take the traditional definition of gentleman any day. There is a point when you are not productive but actually damaging and hateful towards civilized Christians, environmentalists and feminists. Your myopic view of the world and its problems is toxic. No one is listening but your psychiatrist is waiting with his prescription pad. Do take care of yourself and medicate. It is very sad to see a sick person exploiting himself and his delusions for attention.
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
I've come to believe firmly that the Pope's views on economic inequality are sourced in this teaching. I believe with certainty and firmness in the dignity of every unaccompanied child coming across our southern borders. I see the loss of potential and cannot imagine what the parents are feeling about the deaths of the boys killed on that beach in Gaza yesterday.
Do I still believe in conservative values and principles and how the application of both are key to society's success? Yes. Hell yes.
But I also believe that they must be under-girded by this concept, so beautifully emphasized by Catholic teaching, of human dignity and its sanctity.
We have a responsibility to care for the poor. Children cannot ever be dismissed as mere invaders. And the deaths of innocent children must always be grieved.
To ignore this teaching is to begin to lose our humanity. To dismiss this teaching is to cross a threshold that will not be easily stepped back over. To ridicule this teaching is to admit to and confess a dangerous soullessness.
My embrace of Catholic teaching on the dignity of every person is making me more human.
Trust me, and those who live or interact with me, when we all say I need to be more human.
A Catholic who is sane looks at this and is glad that the Administration is doing the smart thing and calling in the largest charitable organization on planet earth to do one of the things it does best: offer works of mercy to desperate people. A Catholic driven mad by ideology forgets that the focus is on the desperate children and launches into foolish conspiracy theories, or terrors that “this might make Obama look good” or fantasies that the desperate children are part of a plot by George Soros to make conservatives look heartless, or suspicions that the Church agencies involved are complicit in a scheme to “liberalize” the Church or various other crazy blather that take our eyes off the fact that those children are Jesus Christ in desperate need of help.
Eyes on the prize. This is a chance for us as Catholics to bring glory to God by being there for the least of these. That’s all that matters.
Yes, there are some coming across who are criminal. Yes, some of these kids are sick, infested with scabies or worse. Yes, the Feds should be doing more to enforce existing law.
But no, I cannot ignore Catholic teaching on the dignity of every human being and the notion that in the least of these, there is Christ.
I cannot and call myself Christian. I cannot and call myself Catholic.