Who Knew Dirt Could Smell So Good?

Today is the day. The beginning of a new season. The first day of Spring. New life is springing up around us, nature is “refreshing” after the cold and darkness of Winter. Teresa of Avila reminds us that “Just as there are seasons in the world around us, so there are in our interior life”. Our lives often mimic seasons with physical warmth and cold, psychological highs and lows, and spiritual light and darkness. This week I found myself emerging from my own physical Winter as a Spring began to blossom from the depths of my spiritual soul.

Upon entering the Catholic Church, I often pondered the path God wanted me to follow. I have prayed for direction, I have pled for clarity. I have heard Him calling, and I have tried to answer that call each time. I answered His call when I decided to serve on the RCIA team, I answered His call when I led a Lenten small group for a few years, and I answered His call when I agreed to take on Jr. High Youth Ministry. When I answered His call to serve as the Director of Religious Education at St. Peter’s I knew I was still heading the right direction, and that has not changed. Each time I have answered His call, He has led me down paths I never knew existed, and even though there have been obstacles that seemed overwhelming blocking my path, He always “has my back” as long as I keep my faith in Him. Always. I have known for quite some time that I am right where God wants me to be.

As I sat listening to Curtis Martin this week at the Amazing Parish Conference, he spoke about evangelization and discipleship, and I was reminded of the simplest of requests that Jesus asks of us. “Come, and Follow Me”. As Martin continued to speak, I reflected on those words and the most amazing vision began to unfold within me. I finally understood why I stepped up to help in RCIA, why I decided to lead the Lenten Small Group, and why I served nearly six years at OLPH in Jr. High Youth Ministry. I have never doubted why I am at St. Peter’s but His plan is so clear now. His will for me took a considerable amount of time. It took time for me to understand my own human imperfections. It took time for me to overcome my own human weaknesses that kept distracting me from His vision. It took time for me to open my heart so fully that He could “spring” his plan from deep within my soul.

One of my favorite paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has always been #520, which tells us that Jesus is our model, the perfect man, “who invites us to become his disciples and follow him”. This paragraph may sound obvious to many people, because each of the four Gospels have an account of Jesus actually speaking these words, but I never fully understood the depth of His call for me to serve. I never realized how much He had formed me in my philosophy for religious education. I never knew His plan for me was not necessarily the message, but the journey in front of me.

We are all called to be disciples, we are all called to follow Him, but we are not all called to serve the same way. St Therese of Lisieux said, “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness”. The same can be said of our own discipleship, our own service, and our own journey with Him. My journey is far from over, but I have discovered a new joy; a new way to serve Him in ways that will bring His Good News to more people. The flame within my soul is on fire once again, as I incorporate this new calling into my personal life, my work life, and most importantly, my faith life. This week, I was in the right place at the right time as God allowed my faith to blossom and now it’s time for me to get to get my hands dirty and get to work. St. Paul told the Colossians in Chapter 3, Verses 23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ”.

Spring has sprung, and to commemorate this first day of Spring, I am happy to reveal that I will be praying for you. Yes, you. He has called me to share my journey in a way that will help spark a flame in others and help them learn more about Him as they continue on their journey. Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, specifically so they could pray for each other, hold each other accountable, counsel each other, and most importantly, share their testimony. It may take some work, there is nothing wrong with hard work. Proverbs 14:23 says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty”. I can see the path that God has laid out in front me and I am ready to roll up my sleeves. Margaret Atwood wrote, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt”. Who knew dirt could smell so good?

Good night, and God Bless You!

Three Things…

Every now and then I will be referring to different websites, more as a personal reference, to keep the information within them on my radar. If they benefit you too, then so be it. 🙂

#1. An Interesting Read… Why I Became Catholic In Spite Of Everything I Heard

#2. Important points to remember when making a good confession. Twelve Things To Remember About Confession

#3. A Look At The Sunday Obligation. Does TV Mass Count?

Say What?!?

Abp. Ganswein says “No Proof” God Exists

[Interviewer:] If someone were to ask you: Your Excellency, prove to me that God exists. What would you answer him?

[Ganswein:] There is neither proof that God exists, nor is there proof that God does not exist. Faith does not operate based on [rational] proof. Faith lives by witnesses and witnessing. If I am convinced by a witness and by what he says, then this sets [faith] ablaze. Everything else does not lead to faith but remains outside of faith. This is true also, and especially, in our times.

When I read this article, I was dumbfounded. Granted, his answer may seem “acceptable” to some people, but the truth is, it is a slap in the face when it comes to Catholic Faith.

The First Vatican Council in the late 1800’s made it clear in the document Dei Filius that the existence of God is supported through reason. The council also admonishes those who disregard their roll in the church and her teachings.

Therefore We, fulfilling the duty of our supreme pastoral office, entreat, by the mercies of Jesus Christ, and, by the authority of the same our God and Savior, We command, all the faithful of Christ, and especially those who are set over others or are charged with the office of instruction, that they earnestly and diligently apply themselves to ward off and eliminate these errors from the Holy Church, and to spread the light of pure faith.

And since it is not sufficient to shun heretical depravity, unless those errors also be diligently avoided which more or less nearly approach it, We admonish all men of the further duty of observing those constitutions and decrees by which such erroneous opinions as are not here specifically enumerated, have been proscribed and condemned by this Holy See.

It seems Archbishop Ganswein may need a refresher course on the dogmatic constitution of the Catholic faith.

Changing, Not Changing, Lord Have Mercy

Here are some interesting articles for your reading enjoyment…

How I Changed My Mind About Pope Francis by Matthew Schmitz

Then Amoris Laetitia came out. In it, Francis sought to muddy the Church’s clear teaching that the divorced and remarried must live as brother and sister. “I have felt the Church’s teaching on marriage land like a blow, yet I take no encouragement from this shift,” I wrote. It was clear by then that my initial rosy assessments were wrong. Francis meant to lead the Church in a direction that I could not approve or abide. He believes that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.” This renders him unable to resist the lie that says a man may abandon one wife and take up another. Instead, he reassures us that we can blithely go from one partner to the other without also abandoning Christ. This is the throwaway culture baptized and blessed, given a Christian name and a whiff of incense.

Church Teaching on Communion cannot be changed, says Cardinal Burke

Cardinal Burke, a canon lawyer and former head of the Vatican’s supreme court, told Arroyo: “Exactly what Pope St John Paul II is what the Church has always taught and practised, and my concern is that Amoris Laetitia seems in some way to permit an interpretation which leads to a practice which contradicts the constant practice of the Church. And that simply is a source of the gravest concern for me.

Praying the Jesus Prayer: Mercy With Every Breath

Growing up Catholic, I had never heard of the Jesus Prayer, at least not in the form in which it has been cherished and prayed by Orthodox Christians for centuries. The simplest formula of this brief repetitive petition – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” – was of course vaguely familiar from the Gospel stories it echoes: the cure of the blind man (Mark 10:46-52), the publican’s humble confession in the parable (Luke 18:9-14)

Purgatory Is Something That Happens, Not Somewhere We Go

I was reading an interesting article this morning, titled “5 Myths About Purgatory That Too Many People Still Believe (Maybe Even You!)“. It was a good read, but I got stuck on one point in the article that I feel needs a little clarification, if not minor correction…

Under the first myth, “Purgatory is a second chance at salvation”, the author writes,

Truth: At death, a person’s eternal destiny is sealed: he will either spend eternity in heaven or hell. Purgatory is a temporary place that people who are already assured of heaven may go to in order to prepare for heaven. So, once in purgatory, a person can’t alter their eternal destiny – there are no second chances after death.

The author quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1030-1032, while describing the Catholic Church’s doctrine on Purgatory and is correct that there are no second chances after death, but makes an error when referring to Purgatory as a temporary “place” to be rather than a temporary “state” of being. Some may think these two things are the same, but they are far from being anything alike.

Once a person dies, their fate is sealed. Their eternal destiny is either Heaven or Hell, not Purgatory. Purgatory is not a “place” where someone goes for eternity. We must remember that Heaven and Hell exist outside of time and space, and once we die, so do we. While we all know that Jesus died for our salvation, we also know from Scripture that “nothing unclean can enter Heaven” (Revelation 21:27), so unless we die completely wiped clean of our sin, we must be cleansed before entering Heaven. How many of us can say that we have not sinned since the day we were “saved”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which relies on scriptural references, further defines the consequences of sin as well as the punishment and cleansing of those sins in paragraphs 1472-1473, which state:

1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man.”

The Catechism makes it clear that every sin, even venial sin, carries some amount of dirt that leaves temporal “stains” on our soul that must be cleansed before we are truly clean enough to enter Heaven. This temporal cleansing can occur here on Earth before we die or it may occur after we die when we enter the temporal state we call Purgatory. Purification of our souls is something that begins to happen, as soon as we die, when we enter the state of Purgatory, not the place of Purgatory.

Some may argue that the state of Purgatory does not exist, because it is not mentioned in the Bible, to which I would add that the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible either, yet most Christians believe in the Trinity. I would also ask why the thought of such a state for the purification of souls seems so offensive? Scripture clearly indicates that people were praying for the dead just before Christ became incarnate on Earth, as well as after he began his Earthly ministry. 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 states,

“He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.”

I find great comfort in knowing that Purgatory exists, because I know there is little chance that my soul will be purely, completely, cleansed before I die, and once I make it there I know that I will be spending an eternity with the God who created me. 🙂

My Thought For The Day – Human Dignity & Politics

Being without sin, casting the first stone, and passing judgment on others has nothing to do with the politicization of human dignity.

The dignity of each human being is the foundation of the moral vision for our society and the measure of each individual, and institution, is whether they threaten or enhance the dignity of the human person.

Once we permit ourselves, or our politicians, to erode the basic respect for human dignity, we place other things, and other topics, above the importance of human dignity, above the value of others.

If we do not stand up for the dignity of every individual, and the value of that dignity, who are we as a people?