Category Archives: Church Teaching

When Good Friday Comes

Why me? Why now? Why is this happening?!

That’s what we do when things go wrong. We ask, “Why?” We look for the reason. We search for answers to, “Why?” because we desperately hope that knowing the why will somehow help us begin to put things back the right way.

And sometimes we tell ourselves that if we just knew how things would turn out in the end, we would be able to relax a little bit. This struggle wouldn’t be so hard if we knew the outcome.

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” 

(Matthew 20:18-19)

It’s easy to forget that Jesus told the disciples exactly what was going to happen to Him, before it happened. Good Friday was laid out in clear terms: I will be handed over, mocked, scourged, and crucified.

I am going to be killed. Brutally tortured, in fact.

But—on the third day, I will rise.

And of course, it happens. The agony, the betrayal, the torture, the death.

The disciples witness Good Friday, just as Jesus promised. –And most of them run in terror.

Did they forget what Jesus said? Did they forget that this was all part of the plan? Did they forget that He would rise?

I seriously doubt it. When things go wrong, we ask, “Why?” Surely as Good Friday is happening each of the disciples remembered: Jesus told us this would happen.

So why did most of them run?

Well, we can’t say for sure. But I can venture a guess.

If I put myself in the disciples’ shoes, my reaction to Jesus’ prediction of the Passion is probably going to be like Peter’s: “Jesus, no! I won’t let this happen.”

No, Peter. You’re not thinking as God does. This is happening. And you’re not supposed to do anything about it.

Well that would certainly shut me up, and confuse me a bit. But upon learning that I’m not supposed to try and stop it, my personal reaction would probably be mostly to comfort myself with the fact that, when it was all over, Jesus said He would rise.

Pray that you will not enter into temptation.

Of course I’ll pray, Jesus. But at the end of this you’re still going to rise, right? I got this. I can hold strong for Sunday.

Stay up and pray with me. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Sure, sure. I’ll pray. I’m praying, ok? Just gonna lay here and rest my eyes some while I pray.

My hour is at hand.

Good Friday came as Jesus promised. And, even though the disciples knew what was going to happen three days later, most of them still ran in terror.

They had the knowledge that this was all “part of the plan,” but when your friend and Savior and Lord is being tortured…who cares about the plan? Why is this part of the plan?! This is awful. Just awful. Make it stop.

…Sound familiar?

Good Friday is coming. {Maybe it’s already here.}

Yes, Jesus has conquered death and we can, and do, live in that victory. But Jesus promised that we would undergo trials and suffering, too.

This is all part of the plan.

“Do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you; But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly”

(1 Peter 4:12)

So, when you encounter the Cross, don’t run. It won’t make it go away.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are called to do something to fix it.

Pray. Cry. Sweat. Embrace. 

Victory will come. Indeed, victory has already come.

Take up your cross, and follow Him.

If You’re Looking For A Way Around The Teachings of The Church, That’s On You, Not The Pope

It happened again.  The Pope changed infallible Catholic moral teaching while on a recent flight during an interview with the press.  And as everyone knows, this is exactly how Church teaching changes.  On an airplane.  With reporters.  And an individual pope totally has the power to change infallible, unchanging doctrine of the Church.

Ok, nothing in the above paragraph is true.

Still, people (mostly Catholics in “damage control” mode) are freaking out over the most recent pope-in-the sky interview.  The latest revelation: Contraception is ok, sometimes, according to Pope. (Oh, and Donald Trump isn’t a Christian.  But you probably already knew that).

By saying what he said, he is “relaxing” the teaching on contraception, according to some.  He is opening the door to understanding contraception as not always being an absolute evil.  He is misleading and confusing the faithful, according to others.  He should just stop conducting interviews with the press, if many had their way.

I would just point out that what he actually said was in answer to a question regarding “avoiding pregnancy,” not contraception.  Of course, to the world, the phrase “avoiding pregnancy” is totally synonymous with “contraception-” I mean, is it even possible to not get pregnant without using birth control?!  Yes, in fact a much more surefire way to “avoid pregnancy” is to practice abstinence.  If you’re married, practicing periodic abstinence, or NFP, to avoid pregnancy has always been perfectly acceptable in the eyes of the Church if there are serious reasons for doing so.  Potential disease is obviously a serious enough reason.  Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.  That’s what the Pope said.

In the process, he also mentioned a case in which nuns were supposedly allowed to use contraceptives as an act of defense against rape, which, yes, confuses the issue a bit.  I’m not going to dive into it too much here because I don’t pretend to know the Holy Father’s heart.  If the contraception in cases of rape thing is news to you, here is an article that explains what that is all about.

The Real Crux Of The Issue:

My intention in writing this post isn’t really to take part in the damage control efforts.  It is pretty well covered by now, and by people much smarter than I am 🙂

I wrote this post really just because I wanted to say that if you’re looking for a way to bend God’s teaching to your own whims, my personal feeling is that you’re probably not waiting on the Pope to tell you it’s ok to do so.  Case and point: Every time this happens that the Pope says things in ways different than the faithful would have wanted him to, you have the media reporting major changes in Church teaching, faithful Catholics reiterating what Church teaching actually is, and some angry Catholics finger-wagging at the Pope to be quiet.

The truth is, not a whole lot will be different two days from now.  The people who take seriously the teachings of Catholic faith will still believe in the truth of humanae vitae, those who think they know better than the Church will still practice contraception– regardless of what the Pope said or didn’t say in this interview– and the rest of the world will go back to thinking us Catholics are just as crazy as we ever were.

You either want to follow God and His commandments, or you don’t.  Perhaps the Pope thinks that those who want to love God with all their hearts will read further than a USA Today headline for their moral formation—I’d like to think so, at least.  I understand that it is frustrating to read a CNN headline that says: “Pope suggests contraceptives could be used to slow spread of Zika,” but I find it much more troubling that so many of us would buy into the notion that a one-liner from the Pope on an airplane would reasonably give any halfway serious Christian the impression that the Church is changing Her moral teaching regarding contraception.  If you love God, I have to believe you’ll give it a bit more thought than that.

That’s my two cents on the issue, anyway.  If you’re looking for what the Church teaches, stick to the Catechism, not the latest news headlines.  And instead of rolling our eyes and wagging our fingers, why not just rejoice at the opportunity to share the beauty of the Church’s teaching with others!

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“The Catholic faith is like a lion in a cage. You don’t need to defend it – you simply need to open the cage door.”

– Archbishop Fulton Sheen

 

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God’s Law or My Conscience?

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Ever been told (as I was recently) that in the Church today, many Catholics are opting to follow their *conscience* rather than “the bishops” when it comes to certain moral teachings?

What do you make of that?

Well let’s take a look in the Catechism, because it may surprise you to learn that these people–though somewhat misguided–are not totally off base in crying “conscience.”

CCC 1790: A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.

Did you know the Catechism teaches this?  Man is obliged to follow his conscience.  It makes good sense, really.  The Catholic Church, contrary to certain popular belief, does not intend for us to check our reason at the door.  How awful and illogical would it be to insist that God, the source of all reason, would require man to act contrary to the certain judgment of his conscience!

Unfortunately, it seems that many who invoke the Church’s teaching on conscience when it comes to the more difficult moral teachings stopped reading a little short.  In the very same line, the Catechism goes on to make clear:

CCC 1790 [continued]: …Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

Translated into even simpler terms, this basically says: Man is not perfect, and can sometimes make mistakes in his judgment (even the ones he is “certain” about).

Think about it.  Haven’t you ever been so sure of something, only to find out that you were, in fact, wrong?

If you answered “no,” you’re either lying, not human, or only a few hours old.  The fact is we all make mistakes sometimes.

So, am I saying that God’s law trumps conscience?

It is actually sort of a trick question.  You see, our conscience, properly understood, is nothing other than God’s law working in our hearts.

Citing guadium et spes, the Catechism characterizes conscience beautifully:

CCC 1776: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”

This is important to grasp:  Too many people–both in and out of the Church–understand “The Church” as basically just some lifeless institution run by old men set on enforcing ancient rules and customs because some guy who lived 2,000 years ago supposedly wanted it that way.  And if we are all good little boys and girls who play by the rules, we won’t have to go to Hell when we die.  Keep the rules, and don’t ask questions.

You guys: This is not what Catholics believe the Church is!  Jesus established the Church so that we could come to know Him, personally, today.  As Catholics, we believe Jesus is alive, and works through His Church.  In the Biblical canon of Scripture (which the Church compiled), in the sacraments, and in the infallible dogmas and doctrines of the Church–we have the opportunity to learn about and to meet personally Jesus Himself.

So, to a Catholic, it is tremendously important to let the teachings of the Church inform and permeate our conscience when it comes to moral decisions.  I am bound to be wrong sometimes.  But as a Christian, I do not believe that God ever will be.  So when my heart tries to tell me something that runs contrary to the infallible teaching of Jesus as taught by His Holy Church, I can trust with confidence that my heart is the one that needs changing.

Isn’t this how we come to know the heart of Jesus?  We yield our hearts over to Him not simply because “The Church says so,” but because we trust that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  In our yielding and in our struggle to understand the “why” behind those teachings we might find hard, we come to know Jesus Himself.  And that is the whole point of being a Christian.

To me, the infallible authority of the Church on defined matters of faith and morals is incredibly freeing.  Still, I recognize that, to others, accepting the authority of the Church can be a great struggle, or even seem stifling to personal freedom.  If you fall into that second camp, then I would encourage you to take a closer look at what you immediately think of when you hear the words: “The Church.” Do our minds immediately go to that group of old men making up rules in the Vatican?  Or do we really understand “The Church” as Jesus Himself, calling us into deeper relationship with Him?

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The End Of The World

This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King, and the final Sunday of the liturgical year before Advent begins on November 29th.

If you have been paying attention, you may have noticed the readings at mass on Sundays have taken a somewhat “ominous” turn.  We have started dealing with end-of-the-world themes and hearing preaching about Jesus’ coming judgement at the end of time.  All of this can be somewhat confusing: As the rest of the world begins its Christmas-time celebrations by singing cheery tunes and indulging in sweet desserts, those of us in the Church might be tempted to think of the readings on Sundays as being kind of a “downer” on the whole holiday spirit.

Just when we are ready to get excited for Christmas along with the rest of the world, the Church has us dwelling on the apocalypse—What gives?

Consider this your heads up.  When you hear in the coming weeks preaching of the Son of Man coming on the clouds, separating the wheat from the chaff, or the coming tribulation of the end-times, it’s not meant to put a collective “bah-humbug” on your holiday cheer.  Rather, it’s a reminder of why Jesus came into the world in the first place.  And as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the first time our Lord Jesus came into the world, it is only appropriate that we also look forward to, and prepare our hearts for, the day when He will return, as He promised.

Jesus Is Coming, And Has Already Come

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

“Parousia” is a fancy word from ancient Greek that means, a “physical presence” or “arrival” of someone.  It is most often used to reference Jesus’ Second Coming.

When Jesus came into the world the first time, He was born in the bitter cold of night, into a poor family, and laid to sleep in the stable animals’ feeding trough.  It sure didn’t look like the King of the Universe had just entered the scene.  As we draw nearer to His Second Coming, or parousia, we are promised to be presented with various trials and tribulations.  In those times, we will likely ask ourselves, “Where is God?”

When we are faced with those trials, let’s remember that it’s not only true that Jesus came long ago in a stable in Bethlehem, and it’s not even just that He will come again.  Jesus has come, Jesus will come, and Jesus remains here with us, present in the Eucharist.

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“Every Eucharist is parousia, the Lord’s coming, and yet the Eucharist is even more truly the tensed yearning that He would reveal His hidden Glory.”

(Ratzinger, Eschatology)

We need not fear Jesus’ second coming at the end of time, and we don’t need to be anxious about the tribulations that He will lead us through as we prepare to meet Him.  With the eager anticipation of a child as Christmas draws near, we take this time to kneel before Christ present in the Eucharist, and even dare to ask that He might hasten His coming, when the glory and splendor of the King will finally be made manifest!
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“A Family Which Shows The Spirit Is Alive And At Work”

Last week, my husband and I traveled with our two kids to the east coast to meet up with my side of the family.  After a day or so of having fun exploring New York City, all 12 adults and 15 kids piled into a bus to attend the Papal Mass in Philadelphia, which concluded the World Meeting of Families.

I had a simple prayer intention for The Holy Father’s visit to the US last week.  Like many others, I prayed that Pope Francis would be led by the Holy Spirit, and allow the Spirit to do His work through the events of the visit.  So I was happy to read that, in the Pope’s final homily of the visit, the Holy Father reminded me that I am called to do just the same thing in my vocation:

Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong!

The joy of my family–the joy of all families– lies in showing that the Holy Spirit is “alive and at work.”  As far as I can tell, the best way to do that is to actively seek and see the will of God in everything.  

This, of course, is easier said than done.  Thankfully, our God is a generous and loving Father, always waiting for us to turn to Him even after we stray from His commands.  May we always seek to praise God in all that we do!

Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name!

 

Here are a few pictures from our Papal Mass adventure:

Yes, matching tshirts were made for the occasion.

Yes, matching tshirts were made for the occasion! (Big thanks to our friend, Nate, for making the design for the back!)

 

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I love my husband 🙂

 

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Pope Francis’ biggest fan!

All glory to God in everything!

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