Catholic Identity

I love to talk about Catholicism and God in general, except with other Catholics. I know how terrible that sounds. I’m exhausted trying to convince fellow Catholics of the truth and beauty of their faith. I’m worn out by Catholics who reject the teachings and Sacraments of the Church, but still consider themselves “practicing Catholics.” It’s time to address the problem, so hang on because the Come to Jesus Meeting is about to commence. Here we go . . .

  1. Stop being ashamed to be Catholic. Don’t give in to the modern world’s view of sacred tradition. Your faith and your Church are beautiful gifts established by Christ Himself. It is ancient and true and breathtakingly beautiful.
  1. Saying you’re Catholic is not an insult to people of other faith traditions and Catholicism is NOT less than or equal to other faiths. The Catholic Church possesses the fullness of truth. Full. Not less. Yes, there are rays of truth in other faith traditions, but only the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth. Own it and celebrate it – then invite others!
  1. The Eucharist. We have HIM! This should not require clarification, but apparently it needs to be said. The Catholic Church through apostolic succession (broken in the protestant reformation) makes Jesus truly present to us in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. Through a total gift of love, we are able to take into our bodies The One who created us. In the Eucharist we receive God’s love and supernatural grace! No amount of praise and worship music or Zen meditation can achieve this intimacy with God!
  1. Christ gave St. Peter the keys to the Kingdom, not you. Three chapters into the creation story, humanity is messing things up. We ate the forbidden fruit and then hid from God. At that very moment God declared his plan for our salvation (Genesis 3:15). God knew that after the sacrifice of the new Adam he would establish His Church on earth and give it a leadership to preserve and protect God’s truth. Guided by The Holy Spirit, the Pope in conjunction with the Bishops (Magisterium) protects and discerns God’s truth. There is no option as a Catholic to “follow one’s own conscience” in moral matters that have been dogmatically settled by the Magisterium. The Church clearly and consistently teaches the truth about the sanctity of life and God’s plan for marriage among other topics. As a lay Catholic you don’t get to decide you know better than the Church. You can’t be pro-choice and Catholic. To be Catholic means you assent to the truth taught by the Church – all of it. All. Of. It.
  1. You can’t ignore the sacraments and still call yourself Catholic. People love to tell me they are Catholic when they find out I write and teach about the faith. The next question is usually me asking them where they attend Mass. The response is usually an evasive statement about planning to consider maybe trying the local parish downtown next Easter. Life is just too busy. We have a lot going on after all. Awkward silence. Let me clarify; Mass is not optional and neither is Confession. Mass attendance every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation are required as is regular Confession (once a month is a good routine). If it has been 10, 20, 30 years since your last Confession, now is the time to return and to be reconciled to your Heavenly Father. God’s love and mercy is waiting for you and so is your authentic Catholic Identity.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “The things that we love tell us what we are.” This reality is on display in the Church today. Do we love our faith, our Sacraments, and our Sacred Tradition only on Christmas and Easter? Do we treasure the truth or just convenient truth, you know, the one that makes us popular with our liberal trendy friends? Do we move with the political and cultural sentiment or do we stand for Someone who is Eternal Truth?

Your Catholic faith is not a sometimes identity to put on and take off according to the calendar or political climate; it is a supernatural and indelible seal placed on your soul. As Catholics we are set apart from the ordinary world and called to greatness/holiness. Through the Catholic Church we experience an intense and intimate relationship with God, which is made possible through the Sacramental life. This is what and Whom we love and this is what we are.

Reclaim your Catholic Identity.

The Peace of Forgiveness

I am a spiritual toddler. I take a few steps in the right direction and then I stumble and fall. I scramble to my feet again and now forgetting my intended direction, I wander off before falling again. Overwhelmingly, I seem to be moving more often with gravity than with direction or progress. I am falling again and again and wondering at my painful lack of progress.

St. Catherine of Siena said that true progress in the spiritual life must include “perfect self-knowledge.” I am perfectly aware that I have so many blind spots in my self-knowledge that I am not even perfectly sure of my own name sometimes.

Recently, I have been thinking about forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? Admittedly, I am not good at this. Actually, it would not be a stretch to say that I do not forgive – not really. Not fully.

Only weak people forgive.  Yes, this is the lesson of my childhood.

I have fantastic parents, but one side of the family makes holding a grudge an Olympic Sport, and they win Gold Every. Single. Time. The other side of the family could sit in a room with their hair on fire and not even acknowledge the smoke in the room. The CIA can’t keep secrets as long as they do.

So between ignoring problems and holding resentment and grudges for decades, I didn’t really learn much about conflict resolution. What I did learn was to hold onto pain and never forgive. That’s how you win, right?

That’s the thing about not being able to forgive. It is painful. It bothers and festers and sickens the soul. It does not bring peace yet that is the one thing a hurting heart thirsts for most when it has been hurt. Peace. I just want peace.

What now St. Catherine? Here is some kernel of self-knowledge, but what do I do with it?

Now we pray she would say. So I pray and I pray, and then the silence. I talk too much when I pray. My head becomes a noisy monologue and so now I have learned to sit near the tabernacle in silence and listen.

Show me Lord how to forgive and how to heal and how to have peace when others offend and hurt me! Then silence. This is usually when I’m reminded that peace isn’t the absence of something (conflict, anger, pain) but the presence of someONE.

I don’t think of forgiveness in the same way I once did. It isn’t winning or losing or punishing someone or admitting defeat. It isn’t controlling someone or being under his or her control. It is about peace – restoring joy to life.

I’m still stumbling along. Forgiveness is still a struggle, but I know that when I am filled with the fire of God’s love and grace, I have peace and I am able to surrender the pain and hurt caused by others to God’s providence.

Fill me Lord with your grace and love. Remind me that your grace is at work in me. Lead me to your heart and conform my own heart to your will. When I am filled with the Holy Spirit there can be no room for anything but love. Through that love, may forgiveness and mercy materialize in me.