Friday, December 14, 2012

Suffering Together

If one member suffers, all suffer together.
1 Corinthians 12:26 

See if you can relate to this experience.  

You heard today's horrific news of yet another senseless school shooting and the snuffing out of innocent life and your first reaction is one of shock and dismay.  But following closely on the heels of that reaction is a deep sigh of relief that it was not one of your children or loved ones who were killed.  That was my reaction.  And it's just here that I'm convicted that I have not yet fully understood or experienced the love to which our Lord has called us.  For when I do, I will realize that all are our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and children.  If we love others as much as we love ourselves- if others truly are our neighbors- then their suffering is our suffering.

Tonight I am mourning.  I am not mourning as for my own children for by God's grace they remain healthy and safe.  Yet I sense that there must be some degree to which I must enter into the sorrows of those who lost their precious loved ones today and weep with those who weep.  

I cannot live there for that is a ticket to insanity.  We were not designed to live perpetually in grief.  Yet I believe the Lord would be pleased that as we offer our prayers for the families devastated by this tragedy we would add also our tears.  

Take some time and intentionally enter into their grief.  Perhaps our prayers will be stronger and their comfort will be greater.  And as you shed your tears, remember also to pray that such incidents will not be repeated.  

Lord, have mercy on us all!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent- Prepare For the Coming of the Lord

Today marks the Second Sunday of Advent.  This 4 week season has been given to us by the Church in order to help us prepare for the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ (Christmas).  Whenever the Church celebrates a great feast it prepares with a time of fasting.  Most people don't think of Advent as a time of fasting.  While it isn't nearly as intense as Lent, it still is intended as a time of penance.

When we speak of the coming of the Lord it is intended in three senses.  First we are preparing for the coming of the Lord into the world at Christmas.  Second, we are anticipating that some day our Lord will return in power and glory to judge the living and the dead.  We use Advent as a time to focus our attention on being prepared for that time.  Third, we are preparing for the Lord coming to us each day in new and deeper ways. 

This week we focus on the ministry of St. John the Baptist.  He is sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  He does so by calling us to repentance.  In his words, we are to make very crooked way straight, fill in every valley, and level every hill as a way of making a highway for our God.  We are called to a thorough and intense scrutiny.  Ideally, we do this daily.  But sometimes it gets away from us.  Advent offers us the opportunity to ensure that things are right between God and ourselves.

I invite you to a most holy and blessed Advent!  Go deep and root out all that is opposed to God.  Seek Him and the abundance of the Grace He offers.  Prepare for his coming: today, at Christmas, and in the end when He returns.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

St. Louis and The New Evangelization

Today is the feast day for St. Louis.  He was a very godly ruler in France in the 13th century.  In today's Office of Readings is featured an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his son.  In it he gives some great advice that can be followed by anyone even if you're not going to inherit the rule of a country.  However, this made me begin to wonder what our country would look like with a truly godly President.  True, he would not be a king and could not do as he wants without the help of others in our government.  Yet, what kinds of things might we expect of a leader who truly wanted to lead his people in godliness?

Perhaps he would begin by working to do away with unjust laws.  Laws protecting things like pornography and abortion come to mind.  But there are others.  The current debate on marriage would be a good place to start as well.  If St. Louis is an example then there are a lot of things he could personally do to help the poor.  This would, in turn, encourage a public policy to do the same.

At this point I can hear someone protesting that this would be an unjust imposing of one's personal views on the nation.  And that's the point!  The fact is that we have numerous views imposed on us.  It is the essence of democracy that the majority imposes its views on the minority.  The media routinely imposes its views on the public and in recent times we have been suffering at the hands of various judges who impose their views on the nation, many times overriding the will of the majority.  In fact, in every age and in every form of government, and in every society someone or some groups are imposing their views on the others.  Since this is a given, then why is it that only Christians are thought to be the exception to this rule?

In contrast we see someone like St. Louis who realized that someone in his position would necessarily impose his view on his nation.  But he soberly contemplated that reality and then did something very positive with it.   He governed by Christian principles so that he loved his subjects because they were his neighbors made in the image and likeness of God.  If we were to have a truly Christian President I am convinced he would do the same thing.

What does any of this have to do with the New Evangelization as I mentioned in the title of this post?  Everything!

In a democracy the government is us.  Each of us has the opportunity to have a part in forming public policy.  We do this by voting and by speaking out on the issues of the day in a way that leads to a moral formation for our nation.  The New Evangelization is all about bringing the Gospel in a new way to an audience that has heard it before.  It is a call to renewed dedication and vigor in bringing this message to our nation again.  What kind of nation do we envision as an effectively evangelized nation?  Certainly one that is more morally sound and more loving to one another.  Certainly one that cares for our neighbors at least as much as we care for ourselves.  Certainly one that enacts laws, not according to what the populace wants, but according to that which is truly beneficial for the common good.

These are but a few thoughts on government and the New Evangelization.  It is simply the beginning of a conversation in  which there is much more to be said.  But the question is will we even begin the conversation?  As we reflect on St. Louis and the potential that exists in a nation that truly honors God may we find the strength and fortitude, not only to begin such a conversation, but to see it through to a most beneficial conclusion!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Full Presence of the Lord

Sometimes it takes me a while...

Last weekend we had the wonderful privilege of attending the Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville.  It was the first time we attended a conference at Franciscan.  It was the first time we had ever been to the campus.  What an experience it was.  I knew it would be good. I've heard so many talk about how good these are.  But I didn't know it would be this good.

I don't remember how far into the weekend it occurred, but I knew the Lord wanted my attention and to say something to me.  I have gotten into the bad habit of doing most, if not all, of the talking when it comes to prayer.  I am accustomed to thinking of prayer as talking.  But it isn't.  It's conversation, which means it's both talking and listening.  There's to be a dialogue, an exchange.  Prayer actually goes beyond conversation.  It is fundamentally becoming aware of God's presence which is always with us.

Anyway, God began communicating to me.  He was asking me why I am always so angry, so frustrated.  Why do I so often ignore the needs of others and think only of my own?  I knew the answer.  It was because somewhere along the line I stopped loving others.  And why was that?  Because I no longer had a sense of God's love for me.  It isn't that I thought God doesn't love me.  Nor that I was not aware of His presence.  It was simply that I was not thinking about the immensity of God's love for me and therefore I was not able to give it away.  The Lord offered me an opportunity to change all this.  Would I open my heart and let Him come in and impact me to the core, transforming me into a channel of His love?  All I had to do was answer "yes".  I said yes.  He came in and began to work.  He wasted no time.

During the Saturday night Holy Hour I had a revelation of something I have believed for quite some time:  Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist!  I looked at the Lord in the monstrance and thought, "This is not a symbol of Jesus.  It's not like Jesus.  It doesn't even represent Jesus.  It's Him!"  With that came a new dimension in prayer.  All of a sudden I could hear Him speaking to me.  And what He was saying was transforming my life.  We heard from a lot of well known speakers over the weekend and they were all very good.  But the best moment was when I heard from our Lord Himself.

Sometimes it takes me a while.  It's taken me a whole week to record this reflection.  It's taken the better part of a lifetime to really get what many Christians already understand: God loves us, really loves us, and if we let that love pierce us to the core it changes us and enables us to become the means by which the Lord is daily, moment by moment, sharing His love with others through us.

If you ever have an opportunity to attend a conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville, take it!  But even more, the next opportunity you have to be before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, take it!  Listen to what He says to you.  Let His love pierce your heart.  Then go out transformed by  His presence to be a transforming agent in this world.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Her Children Rise Up and Call Her Blessed: Reflections on Marian Devotion

My journey into the Catholic Faith reached its 5 year mark this past Easter.  I’ve learned a lot over that time.  One of those things is that there’s a lot more to learn and that I likely will never learn it all.  One of the areas of learning I am undergoing is in regard to Marian Devotion. 

As a Protestant all the things the Catholic Church believes about Mary scared me.  I thought Catholics worshiped Mary.  I thought it was idolatrous and offensive to God.  I have discovered it is nothing of the kind, but rather that it is something good, encouraged, and even necessary.

What do we mean when we speak of devotion to Mary?  We simply mean that we recognize that the saints are alive and well and continuously interceding on our behalf (see Heb. 12:1; Rev. 5:8; 8:3).  Mary is among the saints.  In fact, we believe she is queen over them all.  So it stands to reason that she is constantly engaged in prayer on our behalf.  So we pray, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”  Notice that we are not worshiping Mary.  We are asking for her prayers.  This is similar to calling up a trusted Christian friend and asking them to pray for you.  Only it’s better because Mary is in the very presence of our Lord and her relationship is such with Him that her prayers are more effective than the best of us ever would be.  Note also that we refer to her as the Mother of God.  This is a very precise theological term hammered out at the Council of Ephesus in 431.  Its intent is to safeguard the doctrine of the incarnation: Jesus is truly and fully God.  Therefore to refer to Mary only as the Mother of Christ and not as the Mother of God was deemed to undercut the incarnation.  So the Church determined that this would become one of her proper titles.

The Church has also defined a couple of other things about Mary.  She is Immaculate, which is to say, she was conceived without sin by a special grace of God due to the merits purchased by our Lord on the cross.  Mary needed a savior just like we do: “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,” (Lu. 1:47).  The difference is that she was saved from ever experiencing sin whereas we are saved from being in sin.  The Church also calls Mary Ever-Virgin to emphasize that once she gave birth to our Lord her womb was sacred space and could not be returned to common usage.

With all these things in mind Catholics believe that Mary is our Mother as well as the Lord’s.  She was given to John when our Lord hung upon the cross (Jn. 19:25-27) and the Church teaches that by extension she was given to the Church as our Mother.  Another way to see this is to acknowledge that if we who believe in Jesus are in Him then His Mother naturally becomes ours.  So it is that we come to what it means to be devoted to Mary.  It means that we love her and honor her as we would our own mothers. 

In the hymn the Church calls the Magnificat we hear Mary say these words: “Behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,” (Lu. 1:48).  What does this mean?  I believe it is tied to what is said in Proverbs 31:28- “Her children rose up, and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her.”  When we call our mothers blessed it is only meaningful if we act like they are.  No mother is pleased if her children call her blessed and then ignore her and disobey everything she says.  Rather a woman is honored when her children act like she is indeed blessed.  So it is with our Mother.  When we call her blessed it is a statement of relationship.  It means that we are intent on listening to what she is saying and obeying her.  So what is she saying? The same as she has always said: “Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye,” (Jn. 2:5).  Mary always points us to Jesus and devotion to her has its end in union with Him.  This is why the Church emphasizes it so much. 

It has taken a long time for me to shake my previous biases against our Blessed Mother.  But now that I have I am beginning to discover the wonderful treasure she is to us.  I want to encourage all to explore this aspect of our faith more deeply so as to discover this treasure and rise up and indeed call her blessed.  When our hearts are being formed by her direction we shall indeed be in the deepest union with our Lord Jesus Christ and made fit for heaven.  Isn’t this our goal?  Then why not avail ourselves of every means necessary to attain it, especially this one which was given by our Lord Himself?

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is
the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen!”

Saturday, June 9, 2012

St. Columba

Today is the feast of  St. Columba, also known as St. Columcille.  St. Columba was born in 521 in Ireland.  He was part of the royal family of Ireland at the time but his life was devoted to the Church from an early age.  He was ordained a priest and founded many monasteries throughout Ireland.  However, about the time he was in his early forties, a dispute arose over a coveted manuscript.  St. Columba used his royal connections to raise up an army and do battle over the issue.  His side was victorious, but about 3,000 souls were lost on the battlefield.  Either as an imposed penance, or in remorse for his part in it all, St. Columba left Ireland and went to what is now Scotland to evangelize the Picts.  He took 12 men with him in imitation of our Lord and founded a monastic community on the island of Iona, just off the coast of Scotland.  He had resolved to win as many souls for the kingdom as were lost that day in the battle.  History says he accomplished this goal and exceeded it.  For the rest of his days he was a missionary.  He was  known for his prayers, study, evangelizing, and miracles.  St. Columba died on June 9, 597, while attending the midnight prayers.

I first encountered St. Columba through a novel, the title of which I cannot remember.  I read this long before becoming Catholic.  Shortly after I became Catholic I had a series of events that were continuing to draw my attention to him.  I decided to do some more research.  I discovered that St. Columba and I shared a hot temper for which we had many occasions of regret.  I also discovered he was about the age I was at the time when he began the work he is most known for- evangelizing Scotland.  Since preaching the gospel has always been close to my heart I saw another connection between us.  So I decided to take St. Columba as one of my patron saints.  I ask for his prayers, especially that God would grant me a similar success to his in reaching the lost with the gospel of our Lord.

The Church does not officially list St. Columba's feast day as today.  However, that's not unusual.  Numerous saints share the same feast day, but only some are officially celebrated in the liturgy of the Church.

I invite you to find out more about St. Columba and join in celebrating his feast day today.  May God grant to the Church of our own day a like missionary spirit to his that we may diligently preach His gospel and have the joy of bringing in a harvest of souls to the glory of His name!

St. Columba, pray for us!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

God Save The King!

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way."  I Timothy 2:1,2

I am grieving, as I know are many others, over the public position our President has taken to sanction open sodomy.  I am sure there are many who are offended that I use that term rather than the more PC homosexuality.  But that's the thing with sin.  It's venom is not lessened by calling it something else.  I am not speaking against anyone who finds themselves wrestling with same sex attraction but who are waging a battle of chastity to combat it.  I am speaking about those who have thrown aside all restraint and plunged headlong into the depravity of sodomy.  

As I was saying, I am grieved that our President has chosen to be so vocal in his support of such immorality.  I am not surprised.  I am grieved.  Our President has unfortunately chosen to walk the road of fame, fortune, and popularity and embrace the evils that are being called for by so many in our society.  It is unprecedented to have someone in his position do such a thing.  

I am not writing this in any spirit of anger.  Rather, I realize that our President is placing his immortal soul in grave danger and he is encouraging our nation to do the same.  It reminds me of when St. John  the Baptist rebuked Herod for his adulteries.  It cost John his life.  One wonders how far away such things are here.  

There has been much written on the statement of President Obama.  And there has been much that has been said about it.  But I believe we need to pray for our President as never before.  Not because we want him to enact different policies and not because we're afraid of what he'll do if he's re-elected.  But rather we need to pray for him because virtually his every decision betrays a depravity and arrogance that can hardly be imagined and will not likely be changed apart from the supernatural power of God's grace.

Our President has made a policy of mocking God and then attempting to convince people that this is part of some struggle or evolution of conscience.  It isn't.  The whole thing is orchestrated.  Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life, (Gal. 6:7,8).  

My friends, those of you who fear God, I beg your prayers and intercessions for our President.  Storm heaven with your intercessions and beg that God's grace will be poured out on our President.  And while you're at it, pray for our nation who in many ways has lost its soul.  God have mercy on us! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Precedent of Council

Today the Mass readings begin to cover the story of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.  We see that when a dispute arose in the early Church they gathered in council so they could compare the Tradition they had received.  At this stage most of the apostles were still alive and able to relate how they understood the Gospel entrusted to them by our Lord.  This incident set the precedent, followed ever after by the Church, of calling a council of the leaders of the Church when a dispute arises that has not been settled at a lower level. 

This whole story reminds me that as Catholics we look to the Church to guide us as we believe that the Holy Spirit was given for just this purpose and that when we hear the voice of the Church, we are hearing the voice of our Lord (cf. Luke 10:16).  Unlike our Protestant brothers and sisters who ask, "What does the Bible say?" we ask, "What does the Church say?"  Protestants find this terribly unnerving to say the least, but it is as it should be.  The Church is the author of the Sacred Scriptures and has been given the authority to interpret them.  When we listen to the Church we understand both what She has taught in writing (Sacred Scripture) and by word of mouth (Tradition) (see 2 Thess. 2:15).  When the apostles and presbyters met in council in Jerusalem we do not find them asking what does Scripture say, but rather we hear them discussing the Tradition as it was handed downt to them by our Lord.  Each person who testifies is telling of how he understands that Tradition. 

The last time the Church gathered in such a council was in the early 1960's at the Second Vatican Council.  Unlike most councils, there was no major issue of dispute.  Rather, the fathers of the Council recognized that things in the modern world were rapidly changing and the Church needed to keep up without compromising any of Her teaching.  I began reading the first document they released which deals with the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium).  I've read this document on other occasions.  But this time I wanted to take it slowly and prayerfully.  I was not disappointed.  There is so much beauty in the depth of thought with which the document opens.  The various teachings of the Church are all interwoven to such an extent that they cannot be separated.  Salvation history comes alive as the Church discusses the need to make certain changes to the liturgy while retaining the essence of what it has always been. 

One thing that might be surprising to many people when they begin reading Vatican II documents is what they don't say.  So many people think everything changed with this Council.  But that's not true.  To read the documents themselves rather than to listen to what people say is very helpful.  If you haven't already done so, and you want to know what the Council actually said, I encourage you to read the documents themselves.  You will hear a great deal of wisdom and see the continuity between this Council and those that have preceded it. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reflections on the Feast of St. Mark

St. Mark is an inspiration to me.  The reason is because he was a failure in a really big way.  What do I mean by that?

St. Mark was the cousin of St. Barnabas and accompanied him and St. Paul during their first missionary journey.  For some unknown reason, Mark abandoned the team.  When Paul and Barnabas returned and were getting ready to set out for a second journey, Barnabas wanted to give Mark another chance.  Paul said no way.  Imagine being on the bad side of St. Paul if you want to do anything in the ancient Church.  That's where Mark found himself. 

If the story ended there we wouldn't be talking about it today.  Paul took Silas and continued his missionary work.  Barnabas took Mark and they began a different missionary journey.  Whatever happened in the ensuing years, Mark proved himself trustworthy in spite of his earlier failure.  By the end of his life we hear Paul giving him a recommendation: "Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me," (2 Tim. 4:11). We also hear St. Peter referring to Mark as his son in the faith (1 Pet. 5:13).  Tradition says that Mark was the spokesman for Peter and that his gospel is probably from Peter's point of view.  Mark is credited with having laid the foundation for the Church in Alexandria. 

As I said, Mark is an inspiration to me.  I have failed the Lord more times than I care to think about.  Some of those failures have been public and earned me some bad feelings on the part of others.  But I know that if I continue to remain faithful that God will erase my failures and provide opportunities to serve Him that have the potential of leaving something for eternity. 

Regardless of where you find yourself on this feastday of St. Mark, whether a victor or a failure, take heart as you consider the example of St. Mark.  Nothing is impossible with God if we will be faithful to what He has called us to do, even if the person speaking against us happens to be a St. Paul.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Our Cross

I am becoming a fan of St. John Cassian. I offer the following selection from Day By Day With The Early Church Fathers, entitled Our Cross as a reason why:

The fear of the Lord is our cross. Those who are crucified no longer have the power to move or turn their limbs in any direction they please. Similarly, we shouldn't fix our wishes and desires on what pleases and delights us now, but according to how the Law of the Lord constrains us. Those who are fastened to the wood of the cross no longer consider present things or think about their preferences. They aren't distracted by anxiety and care for tomorrow and aren't disturbed by the desire for any possession. They aren't inflamed by pride, strife, or rivalry. They don't grieve during present pain and don't remember past injuries. For while they are still breathing in the body, they consider themselves dead to every earthly thing. Instead, they send the thoughts of their heart ahead to where they know they will shortly follow. So when we are crucified by fear of the Lord, we should definitely be dead to all these things. That is, we shouldn't only die to wickedness, but also to every earthly thing. We should fix the eye of our minds onto the place we constantly hope to reach. For in this way we can destroy all our desires and fleshly affections.

Taken from Institutes 4.35

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Eve of the Triduum

The holiest season of the Church draws near. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are known as the Easter Triduum. I believe that the degree we enter into the joy of Easter is directly related to the degree that we really live through the Triduum.

On Holy Thursday we recall the Last Supper in which our Lord inaugurated both the priesthood and the Eucharist. But it was also the night of His betrayal. All of His disciples, save John, left Him. From a strictly objective viewpoint it would appear that all He taught and worked for was now lost. Holy Thursday brings tragedy, confusion, doubt, and despair. How can God's plans truly succeed when we find ourselves in such circumstances?

Good Friday is the day when our Lord gave His life for our sins. No one took it from Him. He gave it. He is, after all, the Son of God. As He said, He could have called legions of angels to His side. In fact, I often wonder if they were waiting for such a call as they also watched in horrified silence as the Lord of the universe was so mistreated by mere sinful men. Oh what a different picture it would have been if they could have done what their hearts desired. But I digress. Being, then, the Son of God it was not possible for any mortal, or all mortals combined, to put Him to death. But He freely gave His life for it was the only way possible to redeem these same mortals whom He loved more than His own life.

We call this "Good" Friday, not because His death brings any pleasure to us, but it was because it was only by means of His sacrifice that salvation has come into the world. It is good from God's standpoint as well as ours.

Holy Saturday is the day of silence. Jesus really died and was buried. When Saturday morning dawned the rest of the world went about its business as usual, but the early disciples were devastated as there had been no miracle to deliver their beloved Lord from death. Now they huddled together trying to make sense of it all and figuring out what their next steps would be.

We have a tendency to want to rush to Easter. We don't want to linger in these painful and uncomfortable moments. But we need to reckon with their reality. They have much to do with the life we are called to live every day.

I have friends who have heard the "C" word: cancer. Death stares them in the face and in response to repeated prayers of anguish there seems only the stark silence of Holy Saturday. Where is God? How could He let this happen? These were the questions of the early disciples. They are still with us today. There are others enduring equally devastating circumstances. Where is Easter morn for them? Mark this well, God has not promised that all of this life's circumstances will have a happy ending. But He has promised victory in the final outcome when death is finally defeated and we live in the light and glory of His face for eternity. That's the message of Easter and the message of the Gospel.

As I sit on the precipice of the Sacred Triduum these are some of my thoughts. I am asking for the grace of God to walk through these days and experience in the depths of my being what they offer. I am also asking that for those I know who are not merely walking through symbols but the reality of what they point to, that they too will have the grace to endure and press on as seeing the joy of the resurrection before them, even if it seems like a fading dream. May God grant us to truly know Him... in the fellowship of His sufferings and in the power of His resurrection.

May your Sacred Triduum and Easter be especially blessed!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Radical Catholic

Think about the word, "Catholic". What comes to mind? Most people will think in one of two ways. The outside world thinks of Catholics as people who are politically active for socially conservative causes such as opposing abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. They also may see Catholics as wound too tight with all their religious rituals and rules. Conservative Christians who are not Catholic tend to see Catholics as compromising because their lives often differ very little from the rest of the world around them who are living in sin. I think most of us can see how these two descriptions often fit most Catholics that we know today. But I want to propose a different model.

This model is not different in that no one has ever done it. Many have. We call them Saints. In fact, there are many who are living this way today. But they are often unknown and unnoticed, in part, because they are holding close to the Faith and live humble lives. The model I propose is that which I call the Radical Catholic.

The word "radical" probably conjures up images that many do not readily associate with how one should live out the Faith. Let me define my term. I mean by radical that we are not afraid to live out the Faith in its entirety the way our Lord taught and modeled it, and the way it was given to us by the apostles and their earliest successors. In the early Church, while we see evidence of human failing, we see a lot more of this radical lifestyle the Lord has given us. So what does this look like?

Such a lifestyle begins, lives, and ends in prayer. By prayer I do not mean the mere recitation of words, even if they be those of our most cherished prayers such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary, or others. Rather I mean that we internalize the words of such prayer in such manner as to be truly transformed by them and conformed to the image of our Lord. Prayer is the lifting up of the heart to God. It is the sigh after heaven. It is the panting for the presence of God like the deer yearns for the running streams (Ps. 42:1). Only such prayer underlies the radical life. This prayer reaches out in faith to grasp God and insist on His ways being accomplished here on earth as surely as they are in heaven. It does not cower before God, but reverently, yet boldly, comes before Him to make our requests known.

Prayer produces a holy life. Prayer that does not do so is not really prayer. We may be saying the words and going through the motions, but it's not piercing our own hearts. Prayer is not merely talking to God but also hearing Him talk to us. This results in a more holy life. Holiness means to be set apart for the Lord's own purposes. It is to be separated from this world and separated unto God. Most of us only pay lip service to this. The radical Catholic lives it out.

The first steps of holiness require a withdrawal from the world. Just as our Lord began His public ministry by withdrawing to the desert, so we must leave the things of this world in order to hear more clearly the voice of our God directing us to what is most pleasing to Him. Separation of this sort begins right where we live. What are my habits? Are they godly? Are they contributing to eternal life or are they hindering my journey? Most of us will discover that we have a calendar filled with meaningless activity from an eternal perspective. There are things that need to go. We must confront our own vanity. What about the things we have, the clothes we wear, the ways in which we entertain ourselves? All of this must come under the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. "Search me, O God," (Ps. 139:23,24). Going on from there we will need to learn the practice of what the saints of old call mortification. It means to limit food, rest, pleasure, and comfort for the sake of bringing our flesh in submission so as to make us most fruitful in the Spirit.

Once these things have been addressed, then the Radical Catholic finds his life is to be given up for the Lord (2 Co. 5:14, 15). I know many Catholics who are faithfully serving to help the poor and oppressed. That's good. But the radical Catholic will take it one step further and not only do such good works in Christ, but be ready always to give an answer for the reason why (1 Pet. 3:15). Furthermore, this one will make it a primary goal of life to bear witness of the Lord by telling others this good news (Mk. 16:15). While such witness is certainly more than words, it can seldom be less than words. If people do not hear the gospel from our lips they will merely think we are nice people and their own lives will remain unchanged. We live in time, but we labor for eternity. Let us not allow another opportunity to escape us of telling all people of our Savior and His infinite love and Grace.

This certainly is not an exhaustive rendering of what it means to live as a radical Catholic, but it's a start. The Church and the world are in need of such. I know of many Christians, outside of the Catholic Church, who are living this way. But to you who are Catholics, will you dare to live the life of the radical Catholic? May an army within our Church rise up and answer, "YES!"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Renewing The Blog- Recalling The Past

It's been quite some time since I wrote anything here. Looking back at my very first post I find a number of things that resonate even clearer today. Specifically, I still find myself on that path of exploring the depths of the Catholic Faith to live out the best of what I have found. I want to live as a radical Catholic and I am searching for others who will join me. With that brief introduction, I share again my thoughts as a new Catholic from 2007.


I was born and raised in the Assemblies of God, a denomination of the Protestant Pentecostal tradition of Christianity. For a while I was a minister in this denomination. However, at one point I was introduced to the writings of the Church Fathers. I found a level of faith and practice that was revolutionary, profound, and consistent with everything I had read in the New Testament. This set me on a journey to re-capture this ethic. In the course of time I left the AG and joined a new denomination called the Charismatic Episcopal Church. There, I learned more of the ancient faith. I thought, prayed, and reflected further on my journey. I briefly held ordination as a priest within this group. But I was still searching. I knew I was still looking for something more.

Eventually I came to believe that I was looking for the Catholic Church. And so I continued to study, pray, and have conversation. I was recently received into the Catholic Church with my family. But my pilgrimage continues.

I no longer feel that I need to find another church, or tradition. I am convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church. I believe with all my heart this is the Church that Christ founded. It is the one, true Church. That is not to say that truth cannot be found outside of it. But, simply, I believe the fullness of truth resides here. However, having said that, I still long for the radical lifestyle lived out by those early Christians and imitated by countless saints through the ages.

In my short time within the Catholic Church, I have found many exemplary individuals who have borne witness to me of this ancient and precious faith. Yet, I am painfully aware that in the main there are a number of areas where the ancient faith and its modern (read popular) practice part ways. It is here that I still find myself on a pilgrimage. For I want nothing less than the complete imitation of Christ, and full communion with Him. I long for a complete integration of my faith such that my thoughts and actions will mirror His in this present world.

I intend to use this blog as a means to place in writing what I am feeling or thinking. I invite you, my readers, to feel free to interact with me if you so choose.