5 Ways to Keep the Cross in Christianity

I came across this article on Catholic Exchange about how there are many in the Church who want to free Christianity from the cross. And yet, this article makes a good point about how you can’t separate the cross from Christianity because you can’t separate Jesus from the cross. Or, as the article puts it, “There simply cannot be a joyful Easter without there first being a Good Friday.”

The article says that the Church faces a lot of enemies within:

Sadly, at the very highest levels of the Church, there are men who are opposed to the Gospel of Christ. They despise the cross and they want a Christianity free from it. They want a Catholicism sanitized of sacrifice, of repentance, of dying to self, of carrying one’s cross to follow Christ. They want an easy religion—a religion that accommodates us in our sin, that pats us on the back and assures us that everything will be ok, a faith that requires nothing of us.

To create this crossless religion, they believe they must change the Church and her immutable teachings. All their thought is bent upon it, and they are currently using every machination in their power to accomplish their aim. Perhaps their chief method is to question what is settled—to whisper like the serpent of old, “Did God really mean what he said?”

This article seems timely given that the Synod on the Family is taking place. I know that Pope Francis has asked everyone not to politicize the Synod. But I still can’t help but wonder who is more passionate at this point in history — those who want to remove the cross or those who seek to preserve it? I know that preserving the cross won’t make you the most popular. But neither are needles and scalpels and you don’t see doctors giving those up.

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“Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”

The article ends with 4 ways we can keep the cross, and hence our salvation, alive and not be deceived by those who wish to remove it. Here is the summary:

  1. Learn and embrace the teachings and traditions of the Church
  2. Receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist
  3. Stay close to Mary in prayer
  4. Pray and sacrifice

When looking at this list, I can’t help but think about the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. As I wrote about in The Rosary for the Rest of Us, God set aside a special place for Mary, not just in her earthly lifetime but in ours as well. She has appeared throughout the ages giving us advice and tools with the promise of eternal joy to those who use them.  I think Mary’s guidance can be summed up in some simply, yet important, tasks which mirror what was offered in the Catholic Exchange article:

  1. Pray — How can you have a close relationship with Jesus if you don’t take the time to talk to him?
  2. Read the Bible and other Church teachings — How can you love and embrace your faith if you don’t take the time to learn it?
  3. Fast — How can you love God with your whole being if that being is constantly attached to earthly pleasures?
  4. Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation — How can you remain close to God with a barrier of sin between you two?
  5. Receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist — How can you love and embrace the Catholic Church without receiving her cornerstone sacrament?

English: The statue of the Assumption venerate...

When you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, remember to integrate these five tasks into your routine. Doing so will not only remind you about the importance of the cross but also embrace it. As Jesus commanded, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus didn’t make the cross optional. It’s as fundamental to our spiritual life as air and water are to our physical one. Following these routines will remind you of the cross’ importance and not let you be deceived by those who wish to whitewash it out of Christianity.

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Because I said so…

Picture this.  You’re watching a football game and in the middle of a play some yahoo, frustrated with his team’s performance, jumps from the stands and runs on to the field.  He manages to take the ball from the quarterback and runs into the end zone.  He spikes the ball and declares that he’s such a great football player.  Meanwhile, his drunken friends in the stands are also cheering him on by telling everyone just how great of a football player their friend is.  However, that fan’s shenanigans ultimately do not mean anything. His touchdown wouldn’t count for either team, and his effort would not go down in any official record book.  And no amount of cheer leading or yelling from either him or his friends would change the fact that he is not an actual football player that has an effect on the outcome of the game.

English: Caroline Kennedy speaks during the fi...

And so we shift from football to the Democratic National Convention.  Here we have Obama and other Democrats cheer leading for their base.  Many people who spoke basically said, “Look at us! Look at how compassionate and pro-life Obama and the Democratic party is!”  But like the yahoo who ran onto the football field acting like a football player (and his drunken friends who echoed that claim), simply proclaiming you are compassionate and pro-life doesn’t make you so.

For example, we heard Caroline Kennedy say how a women’s reproductive health care is under attack because of the stricter abortion laws passed in many states.  She said that her Catholic faith would not allow her to support such laws.  I don’t know what theology class she took or what priests she consulted, but the Catholic Church is definitively against abortion in all forms.  Implying that the Church supports abortion in any way is a gross distortion of the truth and is scandalous because it misleads other Catholics who aren’t educated in their faith.

But the real woppers came from former congresswoman, Kathy Dahlkemper.  She went one step further than Caroline Kennedy and actually tried to make the argument that Obama is pro-life and that ObamaCare is the most pro-life piece of legislation ever passed in the Unite States.  Her words were:

So when people criticize Obama for his record on abortion, she continued, “you can turn on them and say, ‘He is pro-life.'”

Well that settles it.  There is no more debate.  Obama is pro-life because someone said so.  Never mind any of the hidden abortion funding in ObamaCare, the HHS contraception mandate, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, the cancellation of federal funds for adult stem cell research, and the attacks, blackmail, and extortion from the federal government towards any state that tries to restrict abortions or defund Planned Parenthood.  Never mind the glowing endorsement Obama got from Nancy Keenan, president of National Abortion Rights Action League Pro-Choice America (NARAL), at the start of the DNC.  Never mind what Obama and the liberal left do, they are pro-choice, pro-life, whole-life, no-life, and whatever else they want you to think they are… because they say so.

Our Lady's Island Church of the Assumption Eas...

The twisting of facts and the outright lies at the DNC regarding contraception, abortion, and the teachings of the Catholic Church remind me the importance of the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption.  We remember in this mystery that Mary calls us to forge a deeper relationship with her son, Jesus Christ.  Part of forging this relationship is coming to know Jesus as the Truth and not distort it to fit our wants and desires.  But this is an understanding we only receive when we pray, read the Bible, learn the Catechism and tradition of the Catholic faith, receive the sacrament of Reconciliation, and receive the Eucharist.

There will be many people and groups that will try to confuse you and distort the truth in the upcoming weeks.  The Caroline Kennedys and Nancy Pelosis of the world will try to use their twisted view of the Catholic faith to serve their political ends instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them in making wise decisions.  It is so important to make an effort to learn and understand your faith so that you won’t be swayed by anyone’s empty words, promises, and distortions.

I think it’s fitting to end with a small prayer:

Oh Lord, be with us now in this time when Your Word is so distorted or ignored in this world.  May we seek the guidance of Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the angels and saints to understand Your Truth and find the energy to follow it.  We pray for the conversion of those who choose to speak in Your Name to solely fit their personal ends instead of humbling themselves to truly listen and follow You.  Amen.

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Understanding the Catholic Church’s “Users’ Manual”

I did something stupid — I updated the BIOS on my computer’s motherboard thinking it would solve a problem with my CPU fan.  As a result, my computer blue screened at Windows start up.  So I was without a functional computer for over a week resulting in lost productivity and a lot of frustration.  For those who aren’t computer geeks like me, I tried updating my computer and ended up breaking it.  This small ordeal taught me a lot about the details of my computer and how changing one little component can have far reaching consequences.  It also taught me a lot about faith and dogma.  Sometimes in life, when we ignore little warnings and the wisdom of others, we can find ourselves in a whole heap of trouble.

I could not find any updates or fixes for my noisy fan problem on my computer manufacturer’s website.  However, I did find a similar update file elsewhere and installed it despite all the warnings on the manufacturer’s website saying I should only use the updates they provide.  I thought I knew better.  I thought the update file I found would work just fine and all the warnings were for people with much less computer experience.  But as I quickly discovered when I turned my computer into an expensive paper weight, there’s a reason why the manufacturer’s website had those warnings.  I would have saved myself a lot of grief by heeding the manufacturer’s advice.

What does my experience breaking my computer have to do with the Catholic faith?  It taught me a great lesson in the importance for dogma.  The rules, guidelines, and teachings of the Catholic Church exist for a reason.  They act like a user’s manual and warranty for one’s spiritual, mental, and physical well being.  And when someone decides to ignore those rules and warnings, like we do when we sin, unpleasant difficulties can emerge.

Think about some of today’s hot button theological topics that popular culture criticizes the Catholic Church over like premarital sex, artificial contraception, divorce, abortion, embryonic stem cells, homosexuality, natural law, existence of absolute evil, and the objectivity of sinful behavior.  They often criticize the Church without really looking at the Church’s history and why it teaches what it teaches.  It isn’t that the Church wants to control everyone’s lives or destroy our fun.  Quite the opposite, the Church’s teachings are meant to protect us from harm and give us the best possible opportunity for happiness.

Let’s look at premarital sex as an example.  If you were to read any anti-Catholic (or just a secular) publication, you would think that the Church is just “old fashioned” and has a fear of women’s sexual freedom because it is run by a bunch of old, celibate men.  But if you actually look at the Church’s teachings, you will find that one of the reasons for coming out against premarital sex is to strengthen the bonds of marriage and allow a couple to experience a deeper sense of love for each other.  When people wait, they increase their chances of living a happier life.  The Church’s stance is even supported by a lot of secular research that shows that the divorce rate is lower for those who are virgins when they marry.  When you look around society and see the STDs, higher divorce rate, and just general unhappiness that has come from “free sex” you come to see the logic and wisdom on why the Church teaches you to wait for marriage.  It’s not always easy to do what is best for us.  Like impatient children that “just want it now” because “we feel like it,” many people dismiss the Church’s teachings only to find hardship, anger, and sadness.

Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Rubens)When I think about the rules and dogma of the Catholic Church, I think of the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Assumption of Mary.  I have said multiple times that Mary is our guide in finding ultimate happiness in God’s heavenly kingdom.  She is joined by saints, theologians, and others who have contributed over the last 2,000 years to the collective knowledge of the Catholic Church.  We owe it to ourselves to listen to Mary and these other guides through prayer and read the Church’s “users’ manuals” such as the Bible, the Catechism, encyclicals, and other teachings.  We owe it to ourselves to build up knowledge of our faith so we can make decisions that will lead us closer to God’s grace and not stray when society tempts us to live contrary to the faith.

I lost a week to a broken computer because I didn’t heed the warnings.  When you don’t heed the Church’s wisdom, you could lose much, much more — happiness, your life, your freedom, God’s grace, and His heavenly kingdom.

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Our Lady’s Messages: February 2011

The Virgin Mary’s February, 2011 messages focus on perfecting prayer and working towards converting our hearts and minds toward God.  Mary offers Her assistance to anyone who asks for it.

Our Lady’s message to Mirjana Soldo on February 2, 2011

Dear children; You are gathering around me, you are seeking your way, you are seeking, you are seeking the truth but are forgetting what is the most important, you are forgetting to pray properly. Your lips pronounce countless words, but your spirit does not feel anything. Wandering in darkness, you even imagine God Himself according to yourselves, and not such as He really is in His love. Dear children, proper prayer comes from the depth of your heart, from your suffering, from your joy, from your seeking the forgiveness of sins. This is the way to come to know the right God and by that also yourselves, because you are created according to Him. Prayer will bring you to the fulfillment of my desire, of my mission here with you, to the unity in God’s family. Thank you.

Mary’s message does not focus on any particular mystery of the rosary, but praying the rosary in general.  I know that many of us have a difficult time remaining focused while praying.  We tend to go into “auto pilot” where we recite the words of the prayers but think about other things.  I know that I often start thinking about scenes from movies, television shows, or something else I saw or heard.  Or, thinking about an intention I have may inadvertently sidetrack me.  I might begin a decade by praying for all those driving to work; that they remain safe in their travels.  I then start thinking about my car.  “When did I last take it in for service?  What did the mechanic find?  How much did he charge me?  What’s that squealing noise?  I should remember to have that checked out.”  And the next thing I know, I’ve blown through the entire decade without even realizing it.

Mary Magdalene, in a dramatic 19th-century pop...
Image via Wikipedia

Mary asks us to really focus on the quality of our prayer.  I’ve mentioned this before about trying to find perfect prayer.  Here’s a tip when you find yourself mindlessly reciting words — STOP PRAYING! Take a few seconds to clear your mind of those distracting thoughts.  Then pick up that rosary and start praying again with renewed focus.  Possibly that day just is not a good day for focused prayer.  There’s no shame in realizing that you are too distracted to really give God your full attention.  Just resolve that you will try again later with renewed vigor.  If Mary’s tone in Her message is any indication, I think God prefers one sincere prayer over one hundred mindless recitations.

Our Lady’s message on February 25, 2011

Dear children! Nature is awakening and on the trees the first buds are seen which will bring most beautiful flowers and fruit. I desire that you also, little children, work on your conversion and that you be those who witness with their life, so that your example may be a sign and an incentive for conversion to others. I am with you and before my Son Jesus I intercede for your conversion. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary asks us to act as a “sign and an incentive for conversion to others” by the example we set.  The Gospel from February 6, 2011 echos that same sentiment when Jesus asks us to be a light to the world of His love and goodness.  Mary asks us to focus on our conversion by walking the path Jesus lays before us instead of the one the world shows us.  I know that Jesus’ path can look difficult and scary at times.  He puts down a pretty grand challenge by asking us to be perfect.

The good news is that we do not travel that path alone.  Mary, through The Assumption, offers Her assistance.  She looks down from Heaven to help us walk that road.  She gave us the rosary, one of the strongest prayer tools in our spiritual arsenal.  She gives us messages in the form of apparitions to steer us in the right direction.  She spends all Her time an energy trying to put as many of us on the right path towards Heaven and She will never be too busy to help those who need it.  So take up that challenge of praying and living perfectly as Jesus asks.  You will never achieve perfection (after all, we are imperfect beings), but you will be a much better person and deeper in God’s grace than if you never tried at all.

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