Here’s wishing you and your family a happy and glorious Easter. As the Catholic Church starts a new year, may we make a resolution to truly form a converted heart and follow the path of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
There was an interesting article on ETWN discussing the results of a Gallup poll of Catholics on various moral issues. The article breaks down the opinions between churchgoing and non-churchgoing Catholics. The results are as you would expect — churchgoing Catholics agree more with Catholic dogma than their non-churchgoing counterparts. However, I wasn’t so much interested in the results as I was in the notion of a non-churchgoing Catholic.
There was an interesting article on ETWN discussing the results of a Gallup poll of Catholics on various moral issues. The article breaks down the opinions between churchgoing and non-churchgoing Catholics. The results are as you would expect — churchgoing Catholics agree more with Catholic teaching than their non-churchgoing counterparts. However, I wasn’t so much interested in the results as I was in the notion of a non-churchgoing Catholic.
To me, a non-churchgoing Catholic is a contradiction in terms. It is like saying you are a non-cooking chef. Would you want to go to a doctor who was self-taught because he or she did not feel that medical school was necessary for his or her profession? Do you think an athlete who never takes time to practice will make it into the Olympics?
Like sports, hobbies, or a vocation, one’s faith requires time and dedication to have a greater meaning. To get the most from your Catholic faith, you have to listen to what the Church teaches either by reading Her official documents, listening to your parish priest, or listening to the Holy Spirit in prayer. In all cases, being a member of the Church requires active participation. Participation is so important that Mass attendance is a precept of the Catholic faith. A precept means that it is one of the minimum requirements of being Catholic. Other precepts can be found here. Note that a precept is something that is actionable, not a belief. The reason why actions and participation are so important to the Catholic faith is because they allow you to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ whose life’s work was publicly spreading the Word of God. Thinking of it another way, no one ever became a saint by hiding their faith. Being Catholic means living it publicly in our words, thoughts, and actions.
Our faith is rooted in celebrating Mass dating back to the secret meetings of early Christians during the rule of the Roman Empire. The Catholic faith was always meant to be something lived instead of a mere thought exercise. This is evidenced by people who have risked their lives throughout history by actively displaying their Catholic faith. While I’m not saying we should all become martyrs, the fact that so many people have risked their freedom and lives should put in perspective our flimsy excuses for not praying, fasting, or attending Mass.
Ask yourself, what do you DO that makes you a Catholic as opposed to someone of another faith or no faith at all? To me, that is a very difficult question to answer because 99.9% of my life is spent no differently than anyone else. While I believe in the major truths of the Catholic Church, do I live out these beliefs daily or are they merely phrases I recite mindlessly in prayers? Do my actions reflect my Catholic faith or defy them?
As we enter Holy Week, all Catholics, churchgoing and non-churchgoing, should take inventory of their faith. I know that I mentioned this in earlier posts about making room for God in our hearts and learning about the Catholic faith. Sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves and reflect on whether we are doing all we can to imitate Jesus. What positions of the Catholic Church do you agree with and which ones do you not? Regardless of what side you fall on, do you understand the reasoning and logic behind the Church’s position on many moral issues? After all, we don’t want to be blind followers of Church doctrine nor mindless detractors of issues we have not approached from all sides. On the issues where you and the Church disagree, do you stick to your beliefs because you have a fully-informed conscience or is it because it makes your life easier or you more popular?
It is no wonder why that Gallup poll shows that churchgoing Catholics are more in tune with the Church’s teachings. To look at it from the other end, it is not surprising that people who do not dedicate time to practice their faith stray from the Church’s teachings. It’s not that one side is brainwashed or the other side is more “progressive” and open to new ideas. It’s not that one group is good and the other is bad. We all have our shortcomings and sins that we need to correct. Looking at the precepts, I’m sure all of us have occasionally failed to live up to them. This is why we need the Mass so we can orient our “moral compass” and imitate the path of Jesus Christ. In addition to the graces given in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Mass provides us an opportunity to reflect on our Catholic faith. While technically we can reflect on our faith anywhere, the Mass sets aside time in our chaotic lives to really focus and listen to how God calls us to live.
Let us pray that we make time in our lives for God. We should pray for those who have rejected God’s Word either outright through their actions or have just lost hope because practicing their faith didn’t produce the results they hoped it would. Let us pray that we all have the courage and endurance to follow God’s truths even when they seem counter to our lifestyle or more difficult than we would like. Let us pray that in the holiest week of the year, as we accept many new people to the Catholic faith, that we remember just what a gift it is to have Jesus Christ in our lives.
It’s always a good time to visit and shop in the RosaryMeds Store.
I discuss my thoughts on an article I read regarding how many Catholic in France disagree with the Church’s teachings and feel that Pope Benedict should step down.
While I usually stay away from commenting on news and current events, I came across this article and felt that I should provide my thoughts. After all, we pray and meditate on a much deeper and more meaningful level when we tie them into the struggles and concerns of everyday life. We never pray in a vacuum, but instead thank God for His wondrous deeds and ask Him for guidance. Remember, prayer is a dialog with God. And like any conversation, we want to make sure we have something interesting to talk about. Hopefully this post will give you a little something to think about.
I read this article today on the Catholic Exchange reporting how many Catholics in France are displeased with the Church’s position on many social issues as embodied in many recent statements of Pope Benedict. The article read:
More than 80 percent of those polled said they want the Church to “modify its position” on contraception and abortion. Le Journal du Dimanche reported that “significant majorities” want the Church to change the teaching on remarriage after divorce as well as homosexuality.
The article goes on to discuss protests in front of Notre Dame cathedral and calls for Pope Benedict to “step down” as pontiff. I think what a lot of people miss is that the Catholic Church does not arrive at Her stances on various social issues based on popularity polls. Just because a large group of Catholics disagree with the Church does not make the Church’s views wrong or evil. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit who reveals God’s natural law that does not depend on the momentary whims of society. The Church cannot take something that is a sin and rationalize it as a good just because a large population of society wants it that way. That is like saying 2+2=5 because that is what many people believe. No matter how many polls you take or how vocal that “2+2=5” crowd may be, the math will never add up. Similarly, many brilliant saints and Doctors of the Church have crafted the Church’s doctrine after years of study, debate, and prayer. You cannot throw their work out the window simply because you do not like their results.
Let’s look at this from a Biblical perspective. Jesus never asked his apostles for a vote on what He should do. Jesus did not change his messages and teachings in order to gain favor amongst the Roman and Jewish authorities. Jesus did not take a poll on whether the adulterous woman should be stoned or not. In His agony in the garden, Jesus never told God that he discussed the issue over with the apostles and they voted, 10-2 (Judas was absent for the vote), that Jesus should not be arrested. Instead, Jesus said that He would do God’s will. I am sure many people would argue that Jesus could have reached many more people if He had just “lightened up” a little and compromised. But Jesus knew that the truth was something to be boldly proclaimed, not compromised in order to gain popularity.
Many of today’s Catholics lack that humility to put their faith in God and His Church and follow Her laws. No doubt, the Church puts forth a mighty challenge. And many of us would rather see the Church bend and preach an easier path than for us to step up and accept that challenge. It is human nature to hate being wrong and we often like to blame the person who points out our weaknesses. But we also must keep in mind that the Pope is merely a messenger of the Holy Spirit. He does not arbitrarily make up rules and replacing him would not somehow reverse universal truths. In the article, Damian Thompson, the editor of Britain’s Catholic Herald, had this to say about the Pope which I think sums up the Church’s position nicely:
In the spirit of martyrdom, the successor of St Peter chose not to take the easy path but to speak the truth boldly. At a time when he has been recently subjected to sustained assaults in the world’s media, his courage and determination are an inspiring example of genuine love for the suffering.
So let us pray this week to listen to God’s truth. Instead of wishing that God’s ways were different, easier, and fit inside society’s current trends, let us strive to be the people God asks us to be. It is not easy to live as Jesus calls us to live and the first step is usually admitting our failings through the Sacrament of Confession. And let’s face it, when caught between God’s truth and society’s whims, who is going to win in the end? I don’t see God or His Church bending because of the results of a straw poll. So let us pray to imitate Jesus, God’s always-faithful servant, and accept His truth.
It’s always a good time to visit and shop in the RosaryMeds Store.
A message from the Virgin Mary from Medjugorje. She asks us to awaken our souls for Easter and be open to the truth of Jesus Christ.
Here is another message from Our Lady at Medjugorje. Like the earlier message, I ask that you read it with an open mind even if you are highly skeptical of the events surrounding Medjugorje. If you don’t think that these messages come from Mary then please think of them as coming from a priest or prayer book. It does not make the message any less truthful.
Dear children! In this time of spring, when everything is awakening from the winter sleep, you also awaken your souls with prayer so that they may be ready to receive the light of the risen Jesus. Little children, may He draw you closer to His Heart so that you may become open to eternal life. I pray for you and intercede before the Most High for your sincere conversion. Thank you for having responded to my call.
I like Mary’s call for a renewed effort or “awakening” of prayer. I have to admit, lately it has been difficult for me to pray earnestly. For some reason I feel distracted and my prayer time has felt more burdensome than meditative. This message is a great relief that I’m not alone in feeling weary on my spiritual journey. Jesus knows that for many of us prayer does not come naturally and easily. But he urges us, through His Mother, to dig deep down and make that extra effort to pray and do His will because ultimately it is good for us.
This message reminds me of a doctor telling the patient that, although the recovery from an injury or illness may be difficult, he has to persevere and stay on his regiment to be healed. Similarly, we are prescribed a spiritual regiment of prayer and fasting to bring us into God’s grace. Many of us (myself included) sometimes don’t want to take our spiritual medicine. Maybe we refuse to take it because we do not see immediate results and get discouraged. Or maybe we make our own “adjustments” to our prayer life instead of following the doctor’s orders. I know I skimp on prayers all the time telling myself, “I’ll be extra good about it tomorrow.” Only, tomorrow comes and I fall into the same pattern of putting off prayer, fasting, or acts of charity for another day.
In the remaining days of Lent, let us make an earnest effort to listen to God and what He asks of us. Mary tells us that it is time to wake up from our “winter sleep.” As we all know, waking up in the morning can be difficult but we also know that we can’t stay in bed all day because we have obligations to our family, friends, and jobs. Mary asks us to wake up spiritually because everyone ultimately has an obligation to God. So now is the time to stop hitting that spiritual “snooze” button, wake up, and live our lives for God. Let me be the first to say, “Good morning and have a great day!”
My thoughts on the Virgin Mary’s message at Medjugorje on March 18, 2009.
There is a small village in Bosnia-Hercegovina called Medjugorje. In that village, the Virgin Mary has been giving messages to six individuals since 1981 through the form of apparitions. To some, She appears every day while others only receive an apparition once per year. There is vastly more to the story of Medjugorje than I can explain in this post. If you like, you can read more at http://www.medjugorje.org.
In addition to my rosary meditations and other spiritual musings, I thought I would start posting Mother Mary’s messages. While many people are skeptical of the messages coming from Medjugorje, I encourage you to still read them. Even if you do not think they are authentic, there is still a great deal of spiritual truth behind them. The messages are great meditations and really make you think about your relationship with God. So I ask that you read this with an open mind.
Dear children! Today I call you to look into your hearts sincerely and for a long time. What will you see in them? Where is my Son in them and where is the desire to follow me to Him? My children, may this time of renunciation be a time when you will ask yourself: ‘What does my God desire of me personally? What am I to do?’ Pray, fast and have a heart full of mercy. Do not forget your shepherds. Pray that they may not get lost, that they may remain in my Son so as to be good shepherds to their flock.
Our Lady looked at all those present and added: Again I say to you, if you knew how much I love you, you would cry with happiness. Thank you.
I think this is a wonderful message during the season of Lent. Mary asks all of us to introspect our hearts and souls and ask ourselves how much room we have made for God in our lives. Are our hearts only filled with the desire for money, power, social status, and earthly comforts? Or, are we filled with fear and doubt? In these uncertain times, have we made any room in our hearts with the faith that Jesus Christ will be with us through any trials we encounter?
Like many of Her other message, Mary calls us to pray and fast. These are the tools by which God enters and occupies our hearts. While God is always wanting to be in our lives, we have to make room to let Him into it. Praying and fasting is a way of doing a little house cleaning of our souls in order to prepare it for God’s graces. So let is follow Mary’s advice. We should fast and pray and see what spiritual junk lingers in our hearts that we can let go to make room for God. Do we keep any grudges toward others that we can let go? Do we spend every day with a constant anger towards other people or groups? Do we complain about any unfair circumstances and harbor animosity towards those who seemingly have it easy? Are our causes just and a reflection of God’s natural law or are they merely shallow justifications to make our lives easier? Let us take a long look at ourselves and ask, “Have I made room for God today?”
It’s always a good time to visit and shop in the RosaryMeds Store.
I discuss how you can improve your prayer life by measuring how often your pray and do other spirit-building activities.
I recently acquired a Garmin Nuvi 265wt GPS unit. Along with the usual GPS features, this one includes something called an “EcoScore.” This is your “economy score.” The GPS monitors your speed and how smoothly the car starts and stops. It rates your driving on a scale of 0-100. The better you drive (no jack rabbit starts and stops, not spending time idle, not driving at excessive speeds, etc.), the higher your score. This feature turns my daily commute into a little game where I’m trying to change my driving habits to reach a higher score. Unfortunately I have not broken the 80 barrier for my average EcoScore on my daily commute. I’m hoping that one of these days, if I can catch a lot of green lights, I will hit an 85 average score.
So what does this new, shiny gadget have to do with your prayer life? OK, I would be lying if I didn’t put that into my post to brag about my new GPS device a little. But it got me thinking about how much more effort I put into various tasks when I know I’m being measured or rated in some way. I play hard in sports because I want to win. I work out hard at the gym because I want to keep a trim waistline or be able to do more push ups over time. I’m focused at work in order to get projects done ahead of schedule. In general, competition makes people perform at their best.
I think part of the reason why many people are turning away from their faith and prayer is because they do not rate their prayer life. Because they do not see some sort of tangible, measurable result from their prayers they turn to activities where they can see more visible results (like the accumulation of money or possessions). I think that if people started rating their prayer life the same way they measure their bank accounts you would see a run on rosaries. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am in no way comparing prayer and faith to sports and work. I don’t want to trivialize prayer by turning it into a competition with others. Just to put things in the proper perspective, on a scale of 1-100 I bet most of us are a two or three at best when compared to the example set by Jesus.
Instead of prayer being a competition with others, I want to challenge you to make prayer a competition with yourself. Ask yourself, how often do you pray earnestly? How often do you go to church, pray the rosary, attend adoration, and go to confession? Do you contribute time and/or money to charity? I’m sure no matter where you are in your faith journey, there are ways you can improve. Especially during Lent, we should rate our prayer life and compare that to where we want to be. Let us look to the Lord and the Catholic Church as our coach in this competition.
Here are a few things to get you started on rating your spiritual life. Remember, this is used to measure your current habits against where you want to be, not measure yourself against others. If you are rating yourself against others you might as well knock off some points for pride. Look at this list, or create your own, and see if you can improve each week. It’s time to evaluate your Prayer Score!
- Go to Sunday Mass: +1
- Go to Mass on a weekday: +2
- Pray the rosary: +2
- Go to confession: +5 (+10 if it has been more than five years since your last confession)
- Go to adoration: +5 (+20 if you stay all night)
- Fast for a day: +4 (+7 if you fast on bread and water only)
- Say grace before each meal: +1
- Read a chapter in the Bible: +2
- Donate money to charity: +3
- Donate time for a charitable cause: +5
- Learn something from the Catechism: +3
- Commit a venial sin: -2
- Commit a mortal sin: -10
- Do not defend the Church or the faith when others mock it: -5
It’s always a good time to visit and shop in the RosaryMeds Store.
My rosary meditation on the Second Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Scourging. I reflect on how, through suffering, we mimic the ways of Jesus Christ.
This week’s rosary meditation focuses on The Second Sorrowful Mystery — The Scourging. Before being condemning Jesus to death, the Roman authorities brutally whipped Him as was the sentence for various crimes at that time. While innocent of any wrongdoing, Jesus suffered greatly for preaching God’s truth which undermined any human authority, particularly the Roman’s. Scourging, like other forms of corporal punishment, helped cement Roman dominion over their territories and deter anyone who dared to speak out against them.
Jesus’ suffering is one of the harder aspects of His ministry to understand. It is easy to think of Jesus as the great teacher or the miracle worker. It is much more difficult to picture Him, God made man, as someone battered and bruised like any one of us. So why does He choose this time of great suffering and hardship to be the most human instead of showing His divine nature? After all, would not more people come to believe in Him and His way if He miraculously stopped His torturers from harming Him? Wouldn’t a legion of angels descending from Heaven to defend Jesus turn the most skeptical into believers?
Jesus’ suffering and death mimic His ministry. While I often wish that Jesus’ message was, “follow me and you will be on easy street for the rest of your life,” I know that He doesn’t let us off that easy. He did not teach that no harm will ever come to those who believe in Him. In fact, He taught repeatedly that following His way would be fraught with inconveniences, hardship, and suffering. It is an unfortunate that our earthly kingdom and God’s kingdom are largely incompatible and you can only live for one of them. But Jesus repeated that those who kept the faith, despite any suffering, would find their reward in Heaven. Like His parables, His message through the scourging was that those who endure great hardship by living for His kingdom will be the first to inherit it.
When I think about those who suffer I break them down into three main groups. There are those who are actively persecuted, suffer, and even face martyrdom for their unrelenting faith in Jesus’ word. In many places such as Africa, the Middle East, India, and China, being Catholic is incredibly dangerous. But these people are our greatest example of living Jesus’ way since they face physical suffering and even death because they keep the promise of one day coming into the kingdom of Heaven. While many of us will never face such extreme hardship we should pray that we can learn from their example of faith and commitment.
The second group is lot larger, but I fear that its membership numbers are dwindling. These are the people who suffer small hardships in their daily lives in order to live their Catholic faith. These hardships include small sacrifices such as not eating meet on Fridays, taking time out for Mass, and fasting. However, in more extreme cases they risk losing friends, quitting jobs, or moving away because they find themselves in situations that are in direct opposition to their faith. While I would like to say that giving to charity and praying should always be moments of great comfort and happiness, in reality those can be times of small difficulty and hardship. Sometimes turning off the television to pray or putting some more money in the collection basket at church are incredible challenges. After all, those who do not live by any faith do not have these obligations and can watch as much television as they want or spend their money on themselves. But we should pray that we live the truth of Jesus Christ always despite the perceived hardships it puts on us. We must remain strong to His message despite the increasing volume of society’s message that faith in God is not important and is just silly superstition.
I fear this last group grows by leaps and bounds daily. These are the people who suffer because they have lost their faith. They suffer because they make bad decisions that, while marketed as making life better, actually make their lives worse. Sure, many of them have nice homes, plenty of money, and fancy clothes. While they laugh at the rules and regulations of organized religion and seem to be perfectly content with life, they are often the most unhappy. Basically, the message of a better world to come is drowned out by the message of “do whatever you want whenever you want.” You only have to look at their faces or hear the anger or despair in their voices to know that their lifestyle has only brought them nothing but anguish and misery. And because sometimes our pride is greater than our faith, we do not admit that our decisions are wrong, ask Jesus for forgiveness, and try to find the correct path of His truth. For obvious reasons, these people need the most prayers. Let us pray that they find the courage towards taking that first step in reconnecting to their faith and filling that void with Jesus’ love instead of easy choices and material possessions.
Let us remember that life involves suffering in some way or another. Jesus did not come into this world to eliminate suffering as seen in His own suffering through His scourging. We should pray that we gather the strength to follow Jesus’ example whether that means enduring life’s small hardships of living the faith or reconnecting with the Church after following a more worldly path. Remember, we do not suffer alone but are called to a life where we share these burdens together along with Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, and the saints and angels. Have no fear; you have a great support group!
Lent is a time to get spiritually fit and our souls in shape for God. I’ve outlined some activities you can do during Lent to prepare your soul for Easter.
The season of Lent is already here. This means that it is time to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for Easter. Think of this as your spiritual equivalent of a New Year’s resolution. It is time to get our souls in shape so that we can fully embrace our faith and Jesus’ love.
In the Gospels, Jesus spent forty days in the desert before starting His public ministry. In that time, He prayed and fasted. But He was also repeatedly tempted by the devil. In a similar way, Lent poses many temptations and challenges for the modern Catholic. We live in a world that no longer values self-sacrifice. The idea that someone would deliberately deny himself something is a very alien concept in a society where you can get anything you want whenever you want. But the point of fasting, sacrifice, and preparation during Lent is to clear out our hearts and minds of all these material goods and make room for God. Like a diet, Lent is a time to clear our souls of all that “junk” we accumulate in our daily lives (work, money, politics, wealth, power, etc.) and really focus on our faith and relationship with God. While it is so easy to treat a day in Lent as just another, normal day, let us really make an effort to make these days extraordinary by taking more time to examine, prepare, clean, and mend our hearts for God.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, prayer is our spiritual exercise. So below I have prepared a Lenten spiritual fitness checklist. And like any exercise program, I’ve divided it into different levels so you can go at your own pace. The clock is ticking folks so lets get moving!
- Give up something you enjoy (chocolate, cookies, coffee, television, video games, etc.). Whenever you have a craving, fill it by saying a prayer.
- Arrive early or stay after mass on Sunday and say an extra prayer.
- Actually sing the hymns and speak up during responses at mass. Participate!
- Find an annoying habit or sinful behavior that you do. Make an earnest effort not to do it.
- Go to confession at least once.
- Do not eat meat on Friday. But that does not mean you should go out and have a lobster dinner either. Remember, this is a time of sacrifice.
- Pray daily.
- All the beginner tasks.
- Meditate on a mystery of the of the rosary daily.
- Read scripture daily.
- Go to the Stations of the Cross at least once.
- Go to adoration at least once.
- Fast once a week.
- Learn something new about the Catholic faith by reading the Catechism.
- All of the intermediate tasks.
- Pray all four mysteries of the rosary daily.
- Fast twice a week.
- Refrain from having or going to large, boisterous parties. Instead, use that time to pray.
- Make plans to meet with your parish priest in a non-religious setting. Get to know your priest outside of Church. Remember, they are human beings and like social events too.
And here is a little motivation from the ultimate spiritual fitness guru, Pope Benedict XVI:
It’s always a good time to visit and shop in the RosaryMeds Store.
This week’s rosary meditation centers around the First Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Resurrection. After Jesus’ death on the Cross, the Roman and Jewish authorities thought that they had taken care of that “troublemaker.” However, despite His death, the solid rock walls of the tomb, the large boulder sealing the entrance, and the guards, nothing of this world could silence the Truth of Jesus Christ.
Jesus rose from the dead showing us that our earthly death is not the end of our existence. We are more than just physical beings in that we have eternal souls. Jesus calls everyone to a new life with Him for all eternity. We should all remember that our lives here on earth are only temporary. What’s a few decades on this planet compared to the infinity of the next life? I’m not saying that our earthly lives are unimportant. We must make the most of what God has given us and live to the best of our abilities. But we should remember that there is more to our existence than what we can see and hear.
If we are eternal beings, why do so many of us live as if our entire existence is bound to this world? The news is filled with accounts of people trying to accumulate as much wealth and power as they possibly can regardless of the effects. We live in a culture where people live only for the moment without regard for the consequences in this life, let alone the next one. We continually commit all the oldest sins in the book (lie, cheat, steal, lust, greed, anger, envy, etc.) as if they were virtues because we have this misguided notion that as long as no one finds out, we did not do anything wrong. As humans our faith is inherently weak. We hear that there is more to our existence than this world. We might even say we believe it. We proclaim it every time we pray The Creed. And yet, we frequently do not have enough faith in those words to put away our sinful ways and fully embrace the life of grace to which Jesus calls us.
A priest on ETWN once told a parable that I think communicates this mystery’s message quite well. He likened this world to a giant land bridge. The bridge is so long and wide that it appears more like a continent than a crossing. We hear that at the end of the bridge there is a place more glorious than whatever we can imagine. And yet, so many people, not believing what lies ahead, build their entire kingdom on the bridge. They believe their castles and treasures are all they need and they ridicule those who do not built their own castles but continue on their journey. The kings shout, “Don’t you know there is nothing on the other end? Why don’t you build yourself a castle and gather as many riches as you can?” However, one day the oceans rose and submerged the land bridge taking all the castles with it. The travelers, always packing lightly and moving with haste, made it to the other side safely while the kings drowned trying to hold on to as much treasure as possible.
The moral of the story is that those who only live for this world (the bridge) might not make it to the other side (Heaven). It is those who remember that bridges are not permanent and always make their focus the “other side” who will make it into Christ’s kingdom. So, are you a king or a traveler? How many times are you like the kings and do not believe that there is more than what you can see, hear, and touch? How many times do you live only for this world despite the calling that Jesus desperately wants you to live for His kingdom in Heaven? He rose to a new life much like we will rise to a new life after our earthly death. The question is, will you be so bound by the treasures of this world that you did not make room in your heart for the treasures of Heaven?
This mystery makes clear that Jesus conquered sin and death, rose to new life, and He calls us to a new life with Him. He gives hope to everyone who tries to live honestly and faithfully despite the hardship it causes in a world that values immediate gratification. Those who are truly faithful realize that there is nothing that can be gained here on earth that remotely matches what can be gained in Heaven. We should pray that we gather the strength to live for Jesus’ kingdom in Heaven despite all the temptations that bombard us to live only for this world. We must also pray for those who live only for this world and do not have the faith that a much better life lies ahead.
Pop quiz! Can you honestly answer these questions without looking them up?
- Can you name all 10 Commandments (bonus if you get them in order)?
- How many sacraments are there? What are they?
- What are the three parts of the Holy Trinity?
- Who are the four Gospel writers?
- Who was the first pope?
- What are the four dogmas about Mary?
How many did you get right?
- All of them: Someone’s been reading their catechism!
- Some of them: There’s always room for improvement.
- None of them: Boy howdy! We have some work to do.
I’m guessing that most of you fell in that middle category (myself included). As I was driving today it hit me just how little I know about my Catholic faith. While far from being a great theologian I should at least know the basics of something that is supposed to be of great importance to my life. When you think about it, countries and societies are drawn along very few lines. We group each other mainly along gender, ethnicity, and religion. So if being a Catholic makes up a large part of who I am why do I know so little about it? And not just me, but it seems like everywhere you turn you see and hear people who do not know the basic foundations of Catholicism. We see it from the “casual Catholic” to even very educated priests.
The basis for our faith is very simple — a love for God. But how can we love Him and His church if we do not make the effort to really know Him? We go about saying that we are Catholic without knowing what defines the Catholic faith. Think about it like this. Would you marry someone after your first date? Of course not. In order to love someone you need to know him or her. A relationship requires a commitment of time and attention. Of course there is that spark; that little indescribable feeling you get when you are around someone you love. But that does not completely replace the knowledge of one another that is required for a strong relationship. The same goes with our relationship with God. Prayer is that “spark” which moves us closer to God. But prayer alone cannot replace learning, knowing, and practicing our faith. We have a much fuller relationship with God when our prayer is matched with understanding the basis for those prayers.
It is of growing importance and urgency that Catholics really embrace their faith and learn it. No doubt you probably know that many people are leaving the Catholic Church. While many do not leave the faith for another religion, many stay in name only and do not actively participate. We have all heard descriptions like “Christmas and Easter Catholics”, “Buffet-style Catholics”, “Casual Catholics”, etc. I believe that a lack of knowledge about Catholicism has created this mass exodus. People are losing that strong foundation in their faith, rooted in knowledge and understanding, to the point where the Catholic Church really becomes meaningless in their lives.
If this sounds like doom and gloom, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Remember that our simple prayers can transform even the most hardened hearts amongst us. I truly believe that a single prayer, said earnestly, has the ability to reach millions. Remember, the Catholic Church started with one man and a dozen apostles. And with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there is no limit to what a few people can achieve. If we make an earnest effort to learn our faith we will see greater returns on that investment than we can possibly imagine. Because that knowledge, combined with prayer, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit has the power to save souls. And in the end, that’s what truly matters.
If that was the pep-talk, it is now time to discuss strategy. What can we do to grow in faith and love for God? After all, we do not transform from couch potato to St. Thomas Aquinas overnight (if you do not know who he is, consider learning about him as your homework). Here’s a very simple start — read the Bible. I know, it’s a huge book that will take forever to read right? Well, you may not have all eternity to read it, but a lifetime should be plenty of time for most of us. I’m on year three of reading the New Testament and I’m almost done (just three more chapters to go). It’s amazing how much more you get from the Bible when you read chapters in full as opposed to hearing snippets in daily or weekly readings. The foundation of the faith is all right there at your fingertips waiting for you to discover it.
Not ready to give up your couch potato ways? That’s all right, me neither. I really enjoy watching television and browsing the web. But I know I can carve out a few minutes to enjoy some Catholic programming or read some Catholic news. In the long run, I am much better served keeping up to date about the Church than watching reruns of “Friends” and “Seinfeld”. There are many great Catholic video and radio channels on the web that you can access almost anywhere.
Two feeds I like to watch are the Catholic News Agency:
And the Eternal World Television Network:
Happy learning! Remember, millions of souls depend on it (no pressure or anything).