Category Archives: Holy Spirit

7 Things to Know That Will Change Your Next Mass Experience by Matt Nelson

“Take, eat; this IS my body.” Mt 26:26

I believe that we live in an age where fallen-away Catholics don’t really know what they’ve left, non-Catholics don’t really know what they’re missing, and many Catholics don’t really know what they’ve got. They don’t really know the Mass.
The Mass is the climactic form of Christian worship and within it is contained the greatest miracle on earth. It is a mystery in the fullest sense, and yet, it is comprehensible. As Christians we possess faith, but do we possess understanding? Do we even seek it? I know personally that my understanding of the Mass and what happens during it is inexcusably deficient, mostly from neglect. But I (and you) can change this — and it begins here.
I want to help change your next Mass experience, by the grace of God. So I’ve compiled a list of 7 interesting facts about the Mass, each with a brief explanation. I hope you learn something new!

1. The Mark of the Christian
The Sign of the Cross that marks the beginning and end of the Holy Mass, and which signifies the sealing of the Word of God “in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts” at the reading of the Gospel, has its origin in the first centuries of Christianity.
Tertullian wrote in the mid-3rd century:
“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross” (De corona, 30).
The sign of the cross, done by faith, has immense power. St. Benedict once did the sign of the cross over a poisoned drink meant to kill him, and as his hand moved reverently through the four directions of the cross, the glass shattered. What would have happened if he had been insincere, or worse, not blessed his food and drink at all with the sacred sign? God only knows.
Each sign of the cross is also a sign —a renewal even — of one’s personal decision to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. How many times have we gone through the “motion of the cross” instead of the “sign of the cross”?

2. “And With Your Spirit”
When the Christian people respond “and with your spirit” to the priest’s greeting (“The Lord be with you”) in the Holy Mass, it is not just a polite (and somewhat odd) response. It is a profession of faith in the power of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It recognizes the unique action of the Holy Spirit in the ordained priest, particularly in the Sacraments. Remember, for example, it is not the priest who changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ — it is Jesus Christ. Thus, the priest receives the power to serve as a special instrument of the Holy Spirit at his ordination; that is, when he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders through the “laying on of hands” (see 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).
Here’s what the 4th century bishop, St. John Crysostom,wrote about these words and their meaning:
“If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher, you would not, just now, when he ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace, have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.’
Thus you cry out to him, not only when he ascends his throne and when he speaks to you and prays for you, but also when he stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice. He does not touch that which lies on the altar before wishing you the grace of our Lord, and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.’
By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar.”

3. Kiss of the Priest
The priest kisses the altar in veneration, recognizing it as the sacred place where Christ’s once and for all sacrifice will be made present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus’s death is re-presented in the Holy Mass as a celebration of the New Covenant Passover, just as the Old Covenant Passover was made present each year it was celebrated (see Ex 12:27). St. Paul contrasts the Eucharistic sacrifice to the pagan sacrifice in 1 Cor 11. Jesus is therefore not re-sacrificed at each Mass but rather, His one sacrifice becomes present to us as He is eternally presenting Himself to God as the sacrificial Lamb of God (Heb 7:25; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Cor 11:26; Rev 5:6).
Around 70 A.D. Church leaders wrote this about the Eucharistic sacrifice (the Mass):
“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

4. What’s Inside the Altar?
Did you know that many Catholic altars have a relic placed inside?
Father Carlos Martins, CC, of Treasures of the Church describes relics in this way:
Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes. First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh. Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 302, contains the following statement:
“The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. Care should be taken, however, to ensure the authenticity of such relics.”

The bones of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (a disciple of John the beloved apostle) were venerated in the early Church, for example:
“We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp [A.D 156])
For more, I also discuss relics in this recent article.

5. Cross or Crucifix?
A cross with a figure of Christ crucified must be present on or near the altar. This is mandated by the Church. A bare cross or a cross with Jesus depicted in a non-crucified way (like the modern “resurrected” Christ portrayal which has become more common) does not meet this requirement. Like St. Paul in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, we preach Christ crucified as an ultimate sign of God’s love for us and the salvation won for us through His crucifixion:
“we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23; see also 2:2)
The crucifix, properly understood, is not an image of a mere gory execution; rather, it is a sign of the once for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God (1 Cor 5:7).
The General Instruction for the Roman Missal states:
There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations (GIRM 308).

6. Sit, Stand, Kneel and Bow
A genuflection before the Jesus in the tabernacle is not meant to be a purely physical action. It requires a simultaneous “bow of the heart.”
The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless (Inaestimabile Donum 26).
Some people may wonder what’s up with Catholics and all the bowing, standing, sitting, kneeling that they do in the Mass. It’s a good and honest question. Catholics assume these gestures because of who and what they are encountering in the Mass — the King of Kings and His Word. In the case of veneration with the body, the body leads the heart.
Consider these words from C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters:
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls” (Letter IV).
Our postures matter, especially in the Mass — the climax of Christian Worship. As King David writes in this beautiful Psalm:
“O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God…” (Psalm 95)

7. The Fraction Rite
After the consecration (when the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus) but before Communion, the priest breaks off a piece of his “big” host and adds it to the precious blood (which still maintains the physical properties of wine). This breaking and commingling of the broken piece of the Body with the Blood is rich in significance:
First, it is not a separating of Christ, as though a “part” of Christ is here and a “part” of Christ is there. In each molecule of the consecrated host, the resurrected Christ is totally and perfectly present in His infinite divine substance.
Second, this “breaking”, called the “Fraction Rite”, follows Christ’s breaking of bread at the Last Supper and is rich in biblical significance (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Cor 10:16).
Third, the commingling of the broken fraction with the blood in the chalice symbolizes the reunification of Christ’s body and blood in his glorious resurrection.
Now here’s an interesting tidbit to end off this post:
Originally, this Fraction rite and commingling had another important significance. At each Mass, the priest would break off a piece of the host (as he does now) but then, that consecrated fraction would be sent to another celebration of the Eucharist at another location. There, the fraction sent from the parish “down the road” would be commingled with the blood of Christ. The fraction of the host from that Mass would then be sent off to another Mass, and so on. This ritual created a great sense of unity among the faithful in the Mass, and signified the continuity of the eucharistic sacrifice in the Church (Mal 1:11; 1 Cor 10:17). This practice was known as fermentum, but has fallen out of practice in modern times.
If you would like to read more about the specifics of the Mass I highly recommend Mass Revision by Jimmy Akin to get you started.
See you in the Eucharist!

Visit Matt Nelson at Reasonable Catholic

The Birth of Mary and the Protoevangelium of James by Deacon Marty McIndoe

If we asked most Catholics who Mary’s parents were they would probably answer Anna and Joachim. But if we look in the Holy Bible there is no mention of Mary’s birth or the name of her parents. So how do we know their names? The simple answer is through tradition. As Catholics, we believe that God reveals His truths to us through the Holy Bible AND through tradition. Tradition was sacred to the Jews (we all know that great song from Fiddler on the Roof) and is also sacred to us. St. Paul tells us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
On September 8th we celebrate the birthday of Mary. This is exactly nine months after we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. This feast was celebrated no later than the 6th century. An eastern Saint, St. Romanos, a deacon who composed numerous liturgical songs, wrote a hymn celebrating the birthday of Mary. The hymn was quite popular and used in liturgies to celebrate the birthday of Mary which helped lead us to the feast day. The Eastern Churches first celebrated it and then within a century the Roman Church celebrated it. St. Romanos relied heavily upon the apocryphal writing, The Protoevangelium of St. James, in composing the lyrics to his hymn on the Nativity of Mary.
As an apocryphal writing, we must realize that the Church decided that this book was not inspired as scripture and it was not placed in the canon of the bible. However, this writing has been seen as a good source of tradition from the earliest times of the Church. Most scholars believe that it was composed around 145 AD. Because of this, and the language structure, we know that St. James did not write it. However it came from an area where St. James had followers and there may be some things passed on from him in the writing. In view of all of this, and with a certain amount of caution, I would like to share some of the points covered in the Protoevangelium concerning Mary and her birth and upbringing.
The Protoevangelium does repeat many items found in the scriptures concerning Mary and the birth of Jesus. But it adds details prior to that not mentioned in the sacred scriptures. It tells us that her parents were named Joachim and Anna and that Joachim and Anna were unable to conceive for many years and that both of them became depressed at not being able to have children. It tells us that Joachim became so depressed that he went out to the desert to live in solitude in a tent where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights pleading with God. At the same time, Anna grieved not having Joachim with her and not being able to become pregnant. She prayed that God would bless her as He had blessed Sarah with Isaac. The Protoevangelium tells us that an angel appeared to Anna and told her that God had heard her prayer and that “you shall conceive and bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world”.
About the same time, an angel appeared to Joachim and told him that God had heard his prayers. He was told to go to Anna and that Anna would conceive a child. Nine months later Anna gave birth to a little girl and they name her Mary. The Protoevangelium tells us that at the birth Anna said, “My soul has been magnified this day.” The writings go on to say that Mary walked at six months old. When she was one year old, Joachim held a great birthday feast for Mary and invited the priests, scribes and elders and all the people of Israel. The priests blessed Mary saying, “O God of our fathers, bless this child and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations”.
The Protoevangelium tells us that at the age of three Joachim and Anna took Mary to the temple to be raised there hoping that her heart would be captivated by the Temple. When they gave her to the priest he kissed her and blessed her saying, “The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel.” The priest put her down on the third step and the grace of God came upon her and Mary danced with joy and the people loved her.
The Protoevangelium goes on to tell us that Mary stayed in the temple until she was 12 years old. At that time the chief priest received a visit from an angel while in the Holy of Holies telling him to assemble the widowers of the people and that God would give a sign as to which widower He chose for Mary. When all of the widowers assembled the High Priest again prayed to God for a sign to show which widower would receive Mary as his wife. When a dove appeared and landed on Joseph’s head, the high priest declared him to be the one who was chosen. At first Joseph declined saying that he had children and was an old man and it wasn’t good for him to take such a young girl. The chief priest reminded Joseph that it was God’s will and Joseph said to Mary, “Behold I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave you in my house and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to you. The Lord will protect you”.
As interesting as all this is, we must remember that the Church refused to recognize the Protoevangelium as sacred scripture. We cannot be sure of any truth found here, but as I said earlier, this is a very early writing that passes on at least some of the tradition handed down about our beloved mother, Mary. It might help us imagine a little better the life of the most significant woman who ever walked the earth (and rule in Heaven). Hail Mary full of grace…….
As Saint Augustine said, “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER MARY….WE LOVE YOU

 

RIVERS OF LIVING WATER – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal by Deacon Marty McIndoe

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the RIVERS OF LIVING WATER 2017 Catholic Charismatic Renewal Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh last month. This conference was designed to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Since it was the Catholic Charismatic Renewal that led me in to the Church back in 1972 and has fed me so well with its Spiritual Fruits, my wife and I decided we had to go celebrate. I am so glad that we did. The Conference ran from Thursday July 29th through Sunday July 23rd. Many thousands of people filled the Pittsburgh convention center with songs of praise and witness to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church today. Pittsburgh was chosen as the place to have the conference because the Renewal started near there.


From February 17th through the 19th in 1967, several Duquesne University students gathered at the ARK AND THE DOVE Retreat House (see picture) to experience more fully their Baptism and Confirmation. After considerable prayer, the Holy Spirit came down upon them there as in a New Pentecost. They experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This changed their lives dramatically and empowered them to go out and tell others and the Charismatic Renewal began, initially at Catholic Colleges and in local parishes. It quickly spread throughout the world so that today there are over 120 million Catholic Charismatics in the Church today. There were bus trips out to the Ark and the Dove Retreat house. My wife and I went and were so glad that we did. It is definitely a Holy Place (see pictures).

Top: Retreat House chapel where the students gathered to receive the Baptism in the Spirit.  Bottom:  Cross and Spirit placed on Retreat grounds to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  In the back you can see the DOVE house.  The large blue house is the ARK.

The Conference had large gatherings and masses for all those in attendance and included song groups that sung in English, Spanish and Haitian. There were workshops for all three languages to supplement the General Sessions. Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, from Brooklyn emceed the event. Msgr. is fluent in many languages and went back and forth in all the General Sessions. Msrg. Is a good friend of mine who actually prayed over my wife and I for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit while he was a seminarian. Bishop Sam Jacobs, and two other Bishops, were celebrants at the masses. The music and prayers of praise were outstanding.

Three bishops and many priests and deacons celebrated mass.

Another good friend of mine, Eileen Benthal, is a member of the English music group, Living Praise (see picture) that sang at the Conference. Being at the general sessions was like being in Heaven on Earth. Each general session had a keynote speaker. They included, Patti Masfield, Esther Garzon, Ralph Martin, Mario Castaneda, David Mangon and more. Father Dave Pivoka moved so many people with his homilies. Damian Stayne led a healing service where hundreds of people received miraculous healings. In the midst of so many things to do, the Conference planners took time to present a slide show featuring many of the early leaders of the Renewal. They also included, and honored, those who have died. Throughout all of the sessions, the power of God was continually being manifest. God was certainly at work.

Living Praise song group

The breakout sessions included many notable teachers and speakers such as my good friends, John and Theresa Boucher, Mary Healy, Sr. Nancy Kellar, Mary Beth McLanski Green, Vinson Synan, Michelle Moran, Fr. Bob Hogan, Dave Van Vickle, Alan Schreck, Dan and Caroline Dirkes and others. There was something for everyone. I attended a priest and deacon workshop by Bishop Sam Jacobs. He was fantastic.
On Saturday evening we had Eucharistic Adoration and then a Eucharistic procession out of the Conference, through the city streets to a park about a mile and a half away. Thousands of us went in the procession carrying lit candles. We started out of the Conference center going through their wall of water, which reminded me of Moses parting the Red sea (see pictures). It was a very moving experience and a sign of witness to the city.

We started our evening candlelit Eucharistic procession by passing through the walls of water at the Conference Center.  It reminded me of Moses dividing the Red Sea.

The Eucharis was carried under a canopy as we all sang songs of praise.

We closed the conference on Sunday by celebrating the Mass of Pentecost with Bishop Sam Jacobs presiding. The whole weekend was a witness to the Power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. I know that it invigorated me. God is so good.

The streets were alive with the sound of music.  This is outside our hotel.  The spirit of joy and praise carried on throughout the hotels and restaurants and city streets.

Several times, Popes have addressed the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Below you will find some of the most important quotations that have given the Renewal light and strength. ICCRS has published a book with all the messages and addresses which the Popes have given to the CCR: The book, “Then Peter stood up…” – Collection of the Popes’ Addresses to the CCR from its origin to the year 2012.

Pope Paul VI
“How then could this “spiritual renewal” not be “a chance” for the church and for the world? And how, in this case, could one not take all the means to ensure that it remains so? […] Nothing is more necessary for such a world, more and more secularized, than the testimony of this “spiritual renewal”, which we see the Holy Spirit bring about today in the most diverse regions and environments. Its manifestations are varied: deep communion of souls, close contact with God in faithfulness to the commitments undertaken at Baptism, in prayer that is often community prayer, in which each one, expressing himself freely, helps, supports and nourishes the prayer of others, and, at the basis of everything, a personal conviction. This conviction has its source not only in instruction received by faith but also in a certain experience of real life, namely, that without God, man can do nothing, that with him, on the contrary, everything becomes possible.”

Saint John Paul II, Pope
“The Catholic charismatic movement is one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council, which, like a new Pentecost, led to an extraordinary flourishing in the Church’s life of groups and movements particularly sensitive to the action of the Spirit. How can we not give thanks for the precious spirituals fruits that the Renewal has produced in the life of the Church and in the lives of so many people? How many lay faithful—men, women, young people, adults and elderly—have been able to experience in their own lives the amazing power of the Spirit and his gifts! How many people have rediscovered faith, the joy of prayer, the power and beauty of the Word of God, translating all this into generous service in the Church’s mission! How many lives have been profoundly changed! For all this today, together with you, I wish to praise and thank the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Benedict XVI
“What we learn in the New Testament on charism, which appeared as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, is not a historical event of the past, but a reality ever alive. It is the same divine Spirit, soul of the Church, that acts in every age and those mysterious and effective interventions of the Spirit are manifest in our time in a providential way. The Movements and New Communities are like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. We can, therefore, rightly say that one of the positive elements and aspects of the Community of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely their emphasis on the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having recalled their topicality in the Church.”

Pope Francis
“You, the charismatic Renewal, have received a great gift from the Lord. Your movement’s birth was willed by the Holy Spirit to be ‘a current of grace in the Church and for the Church’. This is your identity: to be a current of grace. […] You have received the great gift of diversity of charisms, the diversity which becomes harmony in the Holy Spirit, and in service to the Church. […] The Charismatic Renewal is a great force meant to serve the preaching of the Gospel in the joy of the Holy Spirit. […] You, the people of God, the people of the Charismatic Renewal, must be careful not to lose the freedom which the Holy Spirit has given you! […] I expect you to share with everyone in the Church the grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit (a phrase we find in the Acts of the Apostles).

Life in the Spirit by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The Life in the Spirit Seminar  – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

This year we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church.  Today there are over 160 million Catholics involved in the Renewal in over 230 countries.  At the heart of the Charismatic Renewal is the Life in the Spirit Seminar.  I would like to look at this great gift.  But before I do this I would like to give a brief history of the renewal.

It is quite apparent that the early Church had the elements that are found in the Charismatic Renewal today. Many of our communities and our Saints also seemed to possess many of these same characteristics over the ages.  However, by the modern age most of this seems to have gone dormant.  At the beginning of the 1900’s something very special happened.  It really seems to have started with a nun in Lucca, Italy, Elena Guerra (1835-1914), the founder of the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit, whom Pope John XXIII was to beatify and give the title “Apostle of the Holy Spirit”in 1959.

Near the end of the 1800’s, Blessed Elena wrote 13 letters to Pope Leo XIII asking him to dedicate the new century, the 1900’s to the Holy Spirit.  Pope Leo was very interested in doing everything he could to bring unity to the Church.  He hoped to unite the Orthodox as well as Protestant sects and he saw the power that the Holy Spirit had in bringing forth unity.  He was very open to Blessed Elena’s desire to bring the Holy Spirit out more in the Church.  In 1895 he wrote an apostolic letter calling all the faithful to pray a special Novena to the Holy Spirit for Pentecost.  In 1897 he wrote another letter, an encyclical on the Holy Spirit.  The bishops all seemed to like these letters but didn’t act on them.  Blessed Elena,  in her sixth letter to Pope Leo said, “It is true that right after the publication of that encyclical, which I believe was dictated by the Holy Spirit, many bishops thanked Your Holiness.  And this was good. But wouldn’t it have been better to obey?

Sister Elena and Pope Leo did not give up.  Sister Elena asked that at the very beginning of the new century, Pope Leo dedicate the century to the Holy Spirit.  On January 1, 1900 Pope Leo XIII ushered in the new century by solemnly invoking the Holy Spirit over all of Christendom.   It should be noted that he included ALL of Christendom, not just the Catholic Church.  He chanted the Veni Creator Spiritus.  This new century was now begun with the Pope praying for the Holy Spirit to come on all Christians.  Only a few hours after his prayers, a Methodist woman by the name of Agnes Ozman started speaking in tongues in Topeka, Kansas.  This was seen as the beginning of the Pentecostal renewal in the Protestant Church.  In the early 1900’s the Pentecostal Renewal flourished and grew.  Today there are over 700 million Pentecostals.  In 1962 Pope John XXIII opened the Vatican Council II invoking the Holy Spirit and using the phrase, “a new Pentecost”.  Five years later the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church began  when Catholic professors from Duquesne University went on a Cursillo in Pittsburg and started studying the Holy Spirit.  A new Pentecost flowed among them and is still very active today.  As the renewal began to grow, a Life in the Spirit Seminar was developed to help people be open to the Holy Spirit.  I went through that Life in the Spirit Seminar in 1972 and it led me in to the Catholic Church.  It helped me to discover the power of God’s Holy Spirit and the riches within the Catholic Church.  I was welcomed in to the Church in 1973 and my life has been totally changed.  I have seen so many gifts of the Holy Spirit made manifest through so many different people.  I have seen so many miracles and lives changed to follow Jesus.  I strongly believe in the fruits that this Life in the Spirit Seminar brings forth.

Pope Francis seems to also believe in the fruits of this seminar.   Addressing a worldwide retreat for clergy at St John Lateran Church in Rome, the Pope reminded his audience of priests and bishops from 90 countries that they were dispensers of grace, and could never love or forgive too much. “Speaking of dispensers of grace, I ask each and all of you that as part of the current of grace of Charismatic Renewal you organize seminars of Life in the Spirit in your parishes and seminaries, schools, in neighborhoods, to share Baptism in the Spirit,” said Francis. “It is catechesis. It is catechesis that produces, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the personal encounter with Jesus who changes our life. (from Goodnews Magazine, ccr.org.uk and catholicnews.org.uk).

The Life in the Spirit Seminar has several forms and can be done over several weeks, or one weekend.  It usually consists of seven talks.  Here are the normal titles used for each seminar talk:

1 –  The Explanation Talk

2 –  The Sign up Session

3 –  Seminar 1: God’s Love

4 –  Seminar 2: Salvation

5 –  Seminar 3: The New Life

6 –  Seminar 4: Receiving God’s Gift

7 –  Seminar 5: Praying for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

8 –  Seminar 6: Growth

9 –  Seminar 7: Transformation in Christ

10 – Continue in a Charismatic Prayer Meeting

 

I would highly recommend that if you haven’t already done a Life in the Spirit Seminar, or even if you did one many years ago, search your parish or local parishes for one and attend it regularly.  I think you will be glad you did.  Please, if you are Catholic; choose one given in a Catholic Church.  It is designed especially for you and makes references to our Sacramental life.

For more information on being baptized in the spirit, click on this link which brings you to an earlier article I wrote:  What is the Big Deal About the Holy Spirit

For more information on the 50th Anniversary Jubilee Conference in Pittsburg click here:  Charismatic Jubilee

 

 

BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC – How the Mass Could Save Your Life by Timothy P. O’Malley – reflections by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               You probably noticed that in the topic I called this a reflection, not a book review.  My purpose is to share with you how this book touched me.  I will leave a real book review to those more skilled in the process, like Pete Socks from Catholic Stand.  To begin with, you must know that I absolutely love the mass.  I am a daily communicant and I believe that the mass is the “source and summit” of my faith.  When I saw this book I immediately pre-ordered it.  I highly respect Timothy P. O’Malley as an author and he was writing about a topic that was dear to my heart.  I did worry about the first part of the title, BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC.   I saw it as a cute spin on “born again” but I never considered the mass boring.  The second part of the title was more to my liking, HOW THE MASS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.  I know this statement to be true.

               From the very beginning I saw what Timothy P. O’Malley was getting at in looking at the “boredom” of the mass.  He shows how there is good boredom and bad boredom.  The good boredom is the space where you can allow God to work.  In it we can ponder on the wonders of God at work in the mass.  The bad boredom is really a time where we allow ourselves unhealthy distractions from what God is doing.  The author gives great examples of good boredom and bad boredom.  He really makes you think about how the mind and its thought processes can lift you up spiritually.  There is no doubt that the author has a great love for the mass and for liturgy in general.  I see a lot of myself in him.

               The book takes just about every part of the mass and applies personal stories, as well as scripture and quotes from theologians, Saints, Popes etc. and creates a space for your own personal reflections.  It even includes questions at the end of each chapter to help you reflect on what was just given to you.  Some of the questions even challenge you to actions that will help you in better understanding the gift of the mass and liturgy.  I cannot think of any adult or teen that wouldn’t learn and grow by reading this book.  Whether you are a seasoned Catholic, or a new Catholic, this book is for you.  I can also see that it could be used to help non-Catholics better understand the mass (and hopefully decide that they too need the mass).

               As I said earlier, I am a daily communicant who really loves the mass.  This book gave me some new insights in to the mass and liturgy, even though I have been doing this since I became Catholic in 1973.  It gave me a better appreciation for the signs used in the mass.  His discussion of how when his mind might wander and then get caught up in the smoke rising from the incense in to the light of the sun made me better appreciate the use of incense (which we really do not use enough).  I loved the author’s suggestion of how we really should enshrine THE BOOK in our homes.  For many years we always kept a large bible open in a prominent area of our living room.  Somehow we got away from this.  I now plan on starting doing this again.

               I really loved the chapter dealing with the homily.  As a person who often does both weekday and Sunday homilies, I was moved by what Dr. O’Malley said.  He recalled how one day he took his toddler to the back of the Church because the toddler was fussy.  He admitted that he himself was fussy because the homily was not on target and was too long.  He recalled that the homily was not on target because it did not connect to the Gospel.  It was filled with too many personal stories.  Now, I have no problem with some personal stories, but I realize that everything that I say during a homily must connect to God’s word.  I recalled what was said to me by the Bishop who was ordaining me.   He handed me a book of the Gospels and said, “Believe what you read, Teach what you believe, and Practice what you teach”.  I actually keep a small plaque on my desk saying this so that I always remember what being a deacon is all about.  We too often hear that the Catholic Church suffers from poor homilies.  Actually, I have been lucky that the bishops and priests and deacons that I have been exposed to usually give great homilies.  This book inspired me to be better in my preaching.  It also reinforced my love of liturgy and the mass.  I know that I could tell you more, but I really believe that the best thing that I can tell you is to go out and get the book and read it.  Actually, don’t just read it, ponder it.  God is so good.  Thank you Dr. Timothy P. O’Malley for this gem.

Teach as Jesus Taught – in 12 Easy Steps by Deacon Marty McIndoe

TO TEACH AS JESUS TAUGHT – IN 12 STEPS

Jesus was a fantastic teacher.  We can learn from His example, and from the scriptures, how we too can be a great teacher.  Whether we are a professional teacher, home school teacher, religious education teacher, parent or grandparent, Bishop, Priest or Deacon, layperson, we can follow 12 easy steps to teach as Jesus taught.   

The first six are about you; the last six are about your teaching 

1 – Keep growing in your own personal relationship with Jesus

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

 

2 – Dig in to the Scriptures

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16

 

3 – Stay in touch with the Holy Spirit

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”  John 14:26

 

4 – Be a person of service/ministry

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” 1 Peter 4:10

 

5 – Take time for focused learning

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” 1 Timothy 4: 7,8

 

6 – Take time to rest and pray

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11: 28-30

 

7 – Know your students

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” 1Peter 3:8

 

8 – Teach in stories

“Jesus told them a story to teach them that they should keep on talking with God and not give up.” Luke 18:1

 

9 – Seize teachable moments

Read any of the more than 50 parables of Jesus

 

10 – Engage other viewpoints

““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5: 43-47

 

11 – Keep up with dialogue

There are many bible verses that present stories of people in dialogue with each other.  Good teachers also dialogue with their students.

 

12 – Teach by example

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

 

Final thoughts:

 “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”  Titus 2:7-8

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”  Luke 6:40

 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

 

And finally, “What we need is a cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience.”  Saint Francis de Sales

The Gift of Healing; and some miracles I have witnessed by Deacon Marty McIndoe


               In 1 Corinthians 12 verse 9, St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of healing.  We have heard numerous accounts of Jesus healing people, and even of the disciples healing people, but do we still believe that healings occur?   Is this gift still present to us today?  Do we have to be a Saint in order to have this gift?  I personally believe that this gift is still very present among all of God’s people.  I have seen several miraculous healings with my own eyes.  I would like to take a few moments to look at this precious gift of healing that God has given his people.
               First of all, it used to be assumed that illness and sin go hand in hand.  You just have to read the bible to see how often the two are put together.  I think that we have to be careful to avoid thinking that sin causes sickness.  Sickness seems to just happen to people, some good people, and some sinners.  It doesn’t discriminate between the two.  There is no doubt that some sins might bring about sickness.  For instance, promiscuity and sex outside of marriage may very well bring about sexually transmitted diseases.  Not properly taking care of our body, can also bring about illness. These things are pretty obvious, but most illnesses are caused by various factors that don’t include sin.  We are called to live as holy people, outside of sin, but many who do still get sick.  It just happens.
               We are very fortunate to live in a time when medical science can deal with many illnesses and bring about healing.  God created our body to be able to heal itself in many ways (minor cuts, etc.) but there are so many illnesses that need the help of medical science.  I really believe that God has given to our doctors and nurses and other medical personnel the gift of healing.  He has given them the ability to go for intense schooling to help treat our illnesses.  He heals through the very work that they do and we should recognize that.  Probably the best way to receive any healing is through the combination of medical help and prayer.  A good friend of mine who is undergoing medical treatment just told me that he can feel the power of prayer at work through the treatments.  I think this is so true.  All healings are really miraculous, even those through “normal” medical means.
               Sometimes there seems to be times when the gift of healing is made manifest in very remarkable ways.  I remember one time attending a Priest’s and Deacon’s conference at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  On one evening of the conference they opened it up to the public to attend a “healing mass”.   There were several priests at that conference who were known for having a healing ministry within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and they were going to pray for healings.  I was sitting in a huge tent with fellow priests and deacons and members of the public, when I noticed a man coming in who was blind.  He had two family members with him to help him.  He sat about four chairs away from me.  I remember thinking that he must really be hoping to be healed.  The mass started and after we all received the Eucharist, the priests began leading us in a healing service.  One of the priests went down among the people sprinkling them with Holy Water.  When he came to us I remember feeling the water hit me and I heard a loud crying out sigh from the blind man.  I looked over and he was praising God and dancing in place.  He took off his dark glasses and was looking all over.  The people who brought him were crying.  I kept looking over to him and he began to look through his wife’s purse, picking up individual items and staring at them incredulously.  He had been healed.   It was a remarkable sight to see.
               Another time my wife and I were on retreat at the St. Augustine retreat center on Staten Island.  We were attending a healing retreat given by Father Francis MacNutt.  Fr. Francis was known for having the gift of healing.  There were several healings at that retreat, but one that I really remember was of a young college age girl who walked with difficulty and wore one shoe that had a platform on it making it about six inches higher than the other shoe.  She explained to us all that she had been in a very bad car accident and that they had to operate and take out about six inches of her leg bone that had been crushed.  The raised shoe platform was to make up for that six inches of missing bone.  Even with the platform shoe on, she walked with great difficulty due to other damages to her hip.  Father MacNutt prayed over her for an extended period of time.  I remember hearing someone near her during the prayers saying that they saw the leg growing.   I had to really doubt this and it was getting late so my wife and I went to bed.   The next day we saw this woman walking perfectly normal with no shoes on.  I still remember her playfully, or should I say joyfully, running up and down the stairs.  She had to go around for the rest of that day with no shoes on because now both legs were the same length and the raised shoe was a problem.  I know, this is hard to believe, but I saw it.  I also remember her mother coming to pick her up from the retreat and seeing her back to normal.  She was in shock.   Yes, God does do miraculous and remarkable healings.   I have seen others and heard of others and have no doubt that miraculous healings occur.
               The problem that I have is that I don’t understand why some people are healed and some are not.  Right after that Staten Island retreat, I came home filled with expectant hope of healings for some people that I knew.  One of them was a young teen age boy with cancer.  His parents attended the prayer meeting in our parish and I knew them to be faith filled people.  I remember going over to their house to pray with their son fully confident that he would be healed.  Unfortunately he wasn’t, and died shortly after.   I do believe that in death we receive the greatest healing possible.  Still it is hard to lose a young person like that.  Unfortunately, this has been repeated several times.  I know that God heals, and I also know that death is the door to great healing, fullness of life in Him. 
               We cannot know why some people are healed, and some don’t seem to be.  But we must know that prayers and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick do work.  We also must trust that in any of our sicknesses and our pains, God can use them to bring about the good.  It is all about a God who showers us with miracles every day because of His great love for us.  No matter what, He is at work in our life and leads us to the fullness of life in Him.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and How She Personally Brought a Miracle to My Family by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               January 4th is the feast day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  She is the first native born American to be canonized the Church.  She is a convert, was married with children, and the woman who started the first Catholic School in the United States.  She was a prolific reader and loved the scriptures and the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She also gave me the gift of my daughter (see below).

               Elizabeth was born two years before the American Revolution and was from the upper class of New York City.  She married a wealthy man and was extremely happy for many years.  Unfortunately, her husband became quite ill and lost his import business.  She cared for him and his younger siblings when his parents died.  Elizabeth brought her sick husband to Italy to help his health, and they stayed with friends, but he finally died there from tuberculosis.  While in Italy she was influenced by their friend’s Catholic faith and converted to Catholicism.  She returned to the United States to settle in Baltimore.  There, at the suggestion of the president of St. Mary’s College, Elizabeth started a secular school.  It didn’t take long for Elizabeth to decide to change it to a Catholic School.  She started an order of sisters known as the “Sisters of Charity” (following closely the rule of St. Vincent de Paul in France) who helped children by establishing schools and orphanages.  Even though Mother Seton contracted tuberculosis herself, she worked tirelessly guiding the order.  Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming Catholic.  She was beatified by Pope John XXIII in 1963 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on September 14th, 1975.

               Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton is very special to me.  I attribute the gift of our daughter to her.  My wife and I desperately wanted children but after many years of trying and then going to doctors, we decided that God wanted us to adopt.  The doctors never found anything wrong with either of us, but we were never able to conceive.  Back in the 70’s it was very difficult to adopt.  I didn’t have the money to go through a private adoption and I was worried if we would ever have any children.  One day, both my wife and I felt, through prayer, that the time was right for us to go through an agency to try to adopt a baby.  We really wanted a newborn, but most agencies just laughed when we told them.  However, we felt inspired to not give up and to keep trying.  We called the Long Island Adoption Services number and they told us to give a call to New York Foundling Hospital in Manhattan.  They said that this hospital offered classes twice a month on ways to adopt.

               When we called NY Foundling Hospital, the woman on the phone seemed so excited.  She told us to come in to the next meeting that they were having on September 14th, 1975.  We signed up for that and drove in that day.  We found ourselves in a room with eleven other couples and one single person.  The social worker came in and said she would explain different ways to go about adopting.   She first said that she would show us pictures of some older children that were awaiting adoption.  Most of them were special needs children that really tugged on your heart.  They were also older children.  She then explained ways that you could adopt younger, normal (I really don’t like that word, but that is what she used) children.   At that time, Korean children were popular and she explained how to get them.  She also told us that there were a number of black American children available and how to get them.  She then paused for a moment, quite dramatically, and said that she had something very important to tell us.  Both Martha and I were sitting there a little stunned by all that had been presented to us.  We were quite curious what was left to tell.

               The social worker said to us that for the first time in about eight years, their “white infant” list was growing short.  Their adoption committee decided that they could not advertise that they were taking new names for this list because too many would apply.  Since they placed only two or three babies per year, they decided to open the list only to the people who showed up at the next adoption class, the one we were attending.  Martha and I both looked at each other, recognizing that this was no coincidence that we were here.   We knew God was at work.  We immediately put our names in and were told that we would be contacted in within 30 days by a social worker.  Martha and I walked out of the class and went downstairs and went in to the chapel to thank God.  We knew we were there as part of His plan.   I remember a large statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton just outside the chapel.   If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that she winked and smiled at us.  We later found out that New York Foundling Hospital was operated and founded by the Sisters of Charity who were founded by Elizabeth Ann Seton.   We were told that the process could take several years, first we had to be checked out, and then we had to wait until we were next on the list and a baby arrived.  Martha and I drove home to Long Island praising and thanking God.

               A little before Christmas in 1976 we were called and told we were next up.  It was a great Christmas for us.  On January 4th, 1977, we were called and told that our daughter was born the day before and we could pick her up at New York Foundling Hospital on January 7th.  I looked on the calendar and we were called on the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  We had remembered that when we were driving in to the initial session in September 1975 at New York Foundling, the radio was covering the news that Elizabeth Ann Seton was just canonized that day.  We had received our daughter through the Sisters of Charity, the order she founded.  We saw the hand of God at work in all of this and felt that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was an integral part of his plan, and knew we had to name her Elizabeth Ann McIndoe.  Our social worker told us that she had been doing this for many years and had never seen a baby go to a couple that shared so much of the same ethnic background as the child.   Not only was our daughter from basically the same Irish, English and a little Italian background, but her mother was Catholic and her father protestant, just as Martha and I had been.  Our social worker told us that Elizabeth’s birth mother became pregnant in High School and would not abort her baby due to her Catholic faith.  I thank God that her birth mother saved her life and offered her for adoption.  She was a very strong, faith filled young woman.  Our social worker told us that many of the babies that they placed were born to drug addicted mothers and needed special medical help.  Elizabeth was born from a drug free mother and in perfect health.   God is so good. 

               The evening before we had to pick our daughter up in Manhattan a winter storm was brewing.  We woke up to find about 11 plus inches of snow on the ground.  The roads were not good and we had to drive almost 60 miles in to the city.   I called the hospital and told them that we planned on coming no matter what the weather.  It was a slow trek in to the city, but we made it.  Nothing was going to stop us from getting our daughter.  A last worry was parking near the hospital.  If anyone has been to NYC, they know that parking is always a problem.   When you have a snow storm, it becomes much worse as there is no place to put the plowed snow.  I remember coming up to the hospital, praying that God would get us a parking spot close to the hospital.  Just as we pulled up to the entrance we needed, a parked car pulled out and gave us a place.  God answers prayer, even for parking spots.

               We drove home with our little miracle adopted baby.  We were so very happy.   To this very day, exactly 40 years later, our daughter has brought us so much joy.  She has also given us three wonderful grandsons who light up our life.  There has never been a time that I haven’t thanked God for the precious gift he gave us, through adoption, of our daughter, Elizabeth Ann.

               Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, we thank you for your role in bringing us our FANTASTIC daughter.  God works through His Saints.  God is so good!

 

 

 

ASSISI, THE HOME OF ST. FRANCIS by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Back in 2004 I was blessed to be able to make a retreat in the beautiful, and old, city of Assisi in Italy.  It was wonderful.  Assisi has the charm of being unchanged since the middle ages.  It also has a true sense of PEACE about it, unlike I have seen anywhere else.  It is certainly a most wonderful place to visit.  I want to share with you some pictures I took there.  God bless you and may St. Francis always lead you to Jesus and the true PEACE that only He can give.

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A statue of St. Francis found in the grounds of nearby La Verna, a place he loved to retreat to.

 

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Looking from the top of the mountain down on to the city of Assisi.  This old section of Assisi was never developed over because the new city was built below it.

 

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Assisi was actually originally a Roman city.  Here is a Roman temple built before the birth of Jesus.  This is in the town square and was a temple to Minerva.  In the 300’s the Christians made  it in to a church now called Mary over Minerva.  I was blessed to assist at mass inside here.

 

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The Church of Mary over Minerva with the middle aged church tower built next to it.  This tower was present at the time of Francis.

 

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One of the city gates built by the Romans

 

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The Church of St. Claire.  This church contains the remains of St. Claire as well as the original cross of San Damiano that spoke to Francis telling him to “Rebuild my Church”.

 

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One of the many small, but beautiful streets of Assisi.

 

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A bell tower of St. Stephen’s church.  A place that Francis loved to visit.

 

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Another quaint street of Assisi.  Great food throughout the city (typical of Italy).  One restaurant that we ate in existed in the time of Francis.  It had a Plexiglas floor that allowed you to see the Roman ruins it was built upon.

 

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Since Assisi is built on a mountain side, many of its streets consist of stairs.

 

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The large Church built over the grave of St. Francis.  It is absolutely beautiful inside.

 

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The outside lawn shows the Franciscan Tau symbol as well as the PAX symbol.  St. Francis was all about the cross and peace.

 

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The actual grave of St. Francis.  The front wall was removed to be able to see his stone coffin.  We had mass here.

 

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Another quaint street of Assisi.

 

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We walked down from Assisi to the Church of San Damiano, as Francis so often did.

 

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On the walk down, we saw the beautiful olive groves with a farmer burning off clippings.

 

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The Church of San Damiano.  It was originally built in the 900’s but had fallen in to ruin by the time of St. Francis.  He loved to go there to pray.  One day the cross inside spoke to him telling him to rebuild the church.  Originally, Francis took this to mean physically rebuilding and he started that.  Later he realized that he was told to rebuild (spiritually) the whole Church.

 

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The cloisters of San Damiano.

 

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Looking up to Assisi from the Church of San Damiano.   Beauty and Peace and God’s Spirit fill all around here.

I hope that this pictorial view of Assisi has helped you to appreciate the beauty of the place St. Francis called home.  If you haven’t been there yet, I hope you get a chance to go.  May our good Lord bless you with His peace.

Is The Bible Alone The ‘Word Of God’? by Matt Nelson

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When it comes to Christian doctrine the word “alone” is a very heavy word; for it comes with the burden of proving an absolute statement. Words matter—especially divinely revealed words; and correct interpretation of those words matter most of all.

We have to be especially careful with biblical phrases or passages that we hear and pray often. These can become so cliché that we fail to think about what they really mean and glaze over them without thinking about them. Remember: we are to love God with all our mind (Lk 10:27) and therefore we should never stop allowing the written Word of God to penetrate deeper into our intellect, the site of understanding. As Frank Sheed often reminded his readers, every new thing we learn about God is a new thing to love about God.

Furthermore, grasping the true teaching of Christ and the apostles aids us in our own growth in holiness and assists us in becoming the most effective evangelists we can be. St. Paul writes:

“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4:16, KJV)

So is the Bible the Word of God? Yes.

Is the Bible alone the Word of God? Not according to the Bible.

For one, Jesus himself is the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:1). But the Scriptures also reveal God’s Word to be something both spoken and written, something passed on by word of mouth and by letter (see 2 Thess 2:15).

All Christians can agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God; for the Scriptures are theopneustos (God-breathed) according to Paul (2 Tim 3:16). But as I’ve mentioned above, God’s Word does not come to us merely by the Bible alone.

Sometimes the divine word travels directly from God’s mouth to man’s ear, such as it did to Abram in the Book of Genesis:

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen 15:1)

These words are in the Scriptures now but at the time they were not; instead God’s holy Word was spoken directly to Abram in a vision.

The risen Christ appears to St. Paul and speaks to him after his conversion; but there is no direct transcript of this encounter between Paul and the Lord in the Scriptures. Surely, however, the words spoken by Christ directly to Paul can be considered “God-breathed.” Consider also when God speaks to Jesus—his beloved Son in whom he is well-pleased—at his baptism in the Jordan (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11).

Here’s what I’m getting at: God’s inerrant Word comes to man in different ways than merely in writing. That the Bible is the sole rule of faith was never the view of the early Christians for, just like St. Paul and the apostles, the early Church writers held that tradition was to be revered and upheld for the sake of orthodoxy (or correct belief).

St. Ireneaus, and a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the apostle, affirmed tradition on many occasions—especially when addressing the heresies of his time. He writes:

“With this church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree—that is, all the faithful in the whole world—and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.” (Against Heresies, 3:3:1–2)

Now let’s get this straight: when Jesus gets after the Pharisees for their “traditions of men” he is not condemning all traditions; he is condemning religious traditions that directly contradict the Word of God and the Christian way of love.

Apostolic tradition is a whole different ball game.

Protestants might be tempted to respond by saying, “Fine! But what Ireneaus means by “apostolic tradition” is the Scriptures.” But that’s a groundless assertion. No early Church writer ever affirmed this notion of sola scriptura. No passage in the Bible affirms that only the Bible is to be considered apostolic tradition (in fact, the Bible directly contradicts this as you’ll see). And finally, most of the early Christians had no access to the Gospels and epistles of the apostles (or copies of them), and the New Testament Scriptures were not even formally determined to be inspired until the fourth century. The gospel of Jesus Christ was primarily communicated to the earliest Christians by preaching!

Often Catholics are criticized by Protestants because they put sacred tradition on the same footing as sacred Scripture. Catholics assert that Scripture and tradition “flow from the same divine wellspring.” But this insight into the status of tradition has its roots in the Bible. In fact, tradition is something that comes to man from God in both written and oral form—the Bible itself is a tradition, for its contents are not declared in Scripture but rather have been discerned by the Church itself with the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is an interesting (and often overlooked fact) that both Catholics and Protestants put their trust in the discernment of the Catholic Church in this matter of the “inspired” contents of the Bible.

St. Paul explicitly refers to oral and written tradition in his second letter to the Thessalonians:

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thess 2:15)

And in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul refers to the word of God as something passed on by word of mouth (and not just by letter):

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thess 2:13)

And HERE Paul refers to the oral tradition passed on as the Word of God. Similarly in 1 Peter, apostolic preaching is referred to as inspired by God:

“‘[T]he word of the Lord abides for ever.’

That word is the good news which was preached to you.” (1 Pet 1:25)

Again, the point is that God’s inerrant Word (his divine and errorless revelation) comes to man in several ways and this is evident in the Bible, especially through the writings of St. Paul.

The Word of God is always perfect and without error; but it is not always in writing.

God can speak his Word directly to man interiorly. He can speak through visions or miraculous encounters. God speaks to man through the Scriptures. And God speaks to man through the sacred oral tradition of the Church (the foremost example being the “tradition of the New Testament books.”

G.K Chesterton saw the practicality of tradition, both in religious belief and in society. He wrote famously:

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.”

In other words, the voices of those who have died before us matter; and especially the voices of the apostles. Christians thus have a duty to interpret the Scriptures in unison with the tradition of the apostles, for they have looked him in the eyes and heard him speak; they have watched God move among man. It was the apostles, and them alone, that could say:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” (1 Jn 1:1)

Check out Matt’s website at: http://www.reasonablecatholic.com

 

The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 2 of 3

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The Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus and His disciples visited many times.

We can see by the year A.D. 110, in the writings of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John, yes “that” John, that the Church had bishops that had authority. That they were to obey the clergy and deacons, just as they would the apostles. They were also supposed to regard the bishop as a “type” of the Father. (…hmmm, sound familiar?) Also note that the Eucharist was only valid if the bishop or by a person authorized by the bishop were to celebrate it. They had a council and a college of apostles and without these it could not be called a church. Why? Because Jesus provided an authoritative teaching body in the Church to maintain the Truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. Ignatius even calls the Church, the Catholic Church! Sounds like what we refer to today as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Read for yourself.

Ignatius of Antioch

Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery 1, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries 2 of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.

Be you subject to the bishop as to the Lord, for “he watches for your souls, as one that shall give account to God.” (Heb 13:17) Wherefore also, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order that, by believing in His death, you may by baptism be made partakers of His resurrection. It is therefore necessary, whatsoever things you do, to do nothing without the bishop. And be you subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall be found in Him. It behooves you also, in every way, to please the deacons, who are [ministers] of the mysteries of Christ Jesus; for they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would a burning fire. Let them, then, prove themselves to be such. (Letter to the Trallians 2:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

1- presbytery translates in English as priest, ministers.
2- Mysteries of Christ, also translated as Sacraments 

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

The early church was NOT an unorganized band of Christian followers, but a very organized group, even though they were most of the time practicing their faith “underground” due to persecution. There were no factions or splinter groups that were allowed to stay in operation, but as Ignatius points out, if you were not in union with and under the authority of the bishops, then you were not following the Church that Jesus Christ established.

In the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, also a disciple of John the Apostle, written around A.D. 160 we can see that the Church at the time was Catholic and shows that the church was seen as a unified Church.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 160]). –> Read online in its entirety here

We also see in the writings of Saint Irenaeus in A.D. 189 that he refers to a unified Church. Of important note, this writing comes from his Letter Against Heresies. He is pointing out in the letter that any who teach a gospel outside of the unity of the Catholic Church are teaching heresy.

Irenaeus

The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]). –> Read online in its entirety here

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the church? (ibid. 3:4). –> Read online in its entirety here

Did he say that we are to lay hold of the tradition of the truth? Yes, he did. And how did he say we should solve disputes and questions about what we should believe? We should have recourse to the ancient churches, which at this point in history were only around 200 years old. Still, that is a long time. Yet, here we are 2000 years later, and yet those outside of the Catholic Church, do not follow his advice.

 

LOOK FOR PART 3 ON WEDNESDAY

THE PASSION OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

The_Head_of_Saint_John_the_Baptist_on_a_Charger

The Church calendar is filled with many celebrations of the Saints and Holy Ones who went before us.  Usually the celebration date is scheduled on the day that person died.  We do that to recognize that the death day is the day the Holy One entered in to heaven.  In the Church calendar we celebrate the birthday and the death day of only three people.  The first is Our Lord Jesus Christ.   The second is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The third is St. John the Baptist.  It certainly doesn’t surprise us that we celebrate Our Lord’s birthday or Our Blessed Mother’s birthday.   The fact that we celebrate ONLY one other’s birthday and death day tells us how important St. John the Baptist is to the Church.  On June 24th we celebrate the feast day (birthday) of St. John the Baptist, and on August 29th we celebrate his Passion (death day).

Jesus himself says this about St. John the Baptist, “among those born of women, there has risen no one greater that John the Baptist”.  So who then is this very special person?  John is recognized by the Church to be the Last of the Old Testament Prophets, and the first of the New Testament.  His own birth was quite miraculous, like many of the prophets that preceded him.  His parents were well beyond the normal child bearing years.  An angel, Gabriel, appeared to John’s father, the priest Zechariah, and foretold his miraculous birth.  Gabriel told Zechariah that John would be “great before the Lord” and would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from within his mother’s womb”.  Even his name, John, was divinely inspired.  It means, “The Lord is Gracious’.  When the Blessed Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John.  As soon as Mary spoke, John the Baptist leaped within his mother’s womb.   The word translated “leaped” is the same word the Old Testament used when telling us that David danced before the Ark of the Covenant.  David leaped and danced before the Ark of the Old Covenant and St. John the Baptist leaped before the Ark of the New Covenant (Mary).  Truly, as the angel said, John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from within his mother’s womb.

John was certainly a man who was quite different from most.  Scripture says that as a child he grew and became strong and then lived in the wilderness until the day of his manifestation to Israel.  St. Mark tells us that he was clothed in camel’s hair and ate locust and wild honey.  This was the same as Elijah the prophet.  St. Mark also tells us that the appearance of St. John the Baptist was connected with Isaiah; he says, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare the way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”.  When John made his appearance, the people recognized him as a prophet and they came out to him in large numbers.  He had numerous disciples who followed him.  He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand and the people had to repent.              He baptized people as a sign of repentance.  Jesus came to John to be baptized and John protested saying that it is He who should be baptizing.  Jesus convinced John to baptize him, and he did and we have the beautiful  Trinitarian theophany where the Holy Spirit is seen and God the Father’s voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved son”.

John was quick to say that he must decrease while the Lord must increase.  He told his disciples to follow Jesus.  John was the one who called Jesus, “The Lamb of God”.    John was known for speaking out the TRUTH, no matter what the consequences were.  This is what finally brought about his passion.  John had publically rebuked Herod the Antipas telling him that his marriage to Herodias, his brother Phillip’s wife, was unlawful.  Herod threw him in prison but did not want to kill him because Herod knew that John was a Holy prophet and that the people loved John.  Herodias hated John and, through some trickery with her daughter, was able to have the king behead (if you don’t know the story, read Matthew 14: 1-12).  John’s disciples came quickly to claim his body and then immediately went to tell Jesus.  It is interesting to note that Amiens Cathedral in France claims to have the skull itself.  The history of it appears to make it quite probable.  In 2010, archeological digs in a fifth century Cathedral of St. John, found parts of a body buried in a marble box under the main altar.  Carbon dating shows these bones to be of a first century Middle Eastern man.  They may very well belong to St. John the Baptist.  In 2012, National Geographic covered this.

So why is St. John the Baptist so important to us?  Personally, especially for today, the example he set in always standing for the truth, no matter what the consequences, is extremely important.  Also, the fact that he did everything he could to try to prepare people for the coming of the Lord should resound within us.  We too, are called to prepare people to be ready for the coming of the Lord, either by their first encounter with Him, their many encounters with Him, their encounter with him at death, or his second coming in glory.

I would like to share a prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for Aug 29th.  “God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be a herald of your Son’s birth and death.  As He gave His life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in your Gospel.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, for ever and ever.”

 

The Dynamic Duo: St. Peter and St. Paul – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

StPeterStPaulImage of St. Peter and St. Paul (available at www.orthodoxgoods.com)

June 29th marks the Catholic Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Since these two men are usually considered the most important Christians of the apostolic age, you would think that they would each have their own Feast day.  However the Church, in its wisdom, has always celebrated these two men together.  We can learn a great deal about living as a Christian, and about Church structure, by looking at these two fascinating men and their relationship to each other.  They both died in Rome and their bodies remain there to this day.

According to Roman legend, Rome was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus.  Their background and early raising was quite tumultuous and their decision to found together a new city proved fatal for Remus.  Ambition and sibling rivalry reared its ugly head, but the city of Rome was founded.  Rome became one of the most powerful cities (and Empire) in the world, but it lost its worldly power about 400 years after Jesus was born.  About 25 years after Jesus died and resurrected, two new brothers (in the Lord) founded a new spiritual city of Rome which to this very day maintains its spiritual power throughout the world.  St. Peter and St. Paul have been considered the new co-founders of this spiritual city of Rome.  Early Christian writers made this comparison many times.  We know St. Peter as being the first Pope and St. Paul as being the greatest evangelist, and scripture writer.  Let us take a look at their relationship.

St. Peter was hand chosen by Jesus to lead the Church.  Peter had known Jesus and followed Jesus for many years.  He was a true disciple of Jesus.  St. Paul, on the other hand, never met Jesus until after Jesus died and rose again.  In actuality, St. Paul was an arch enemy of the early Christians because of his zeal to remove the followers of the Jesus sect from his most loved Judaism.  St. Paul was even there for the first martyrdom of St. Stephen.  St. Peter fervently loved Jesus, and St. Paul fervently loved Judaism.  When St. Paul met the Resurrected Jesus, on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, St. Paul was literally knocked to the ground.  This one time meeting with the resurrected Jesus was enough to totally change St. Paul from persecutor of the Church to evangelizer for the Church.  The early Christians, including St. Peter, were quite skeptical but came to see the change in St. Paul and his zeal for building the Church.

We don’t know for certain how many times St. Peter and St. Paul met, but scriptures tell us of three incidents.  The first one seems to occur around the year 51 when in Galatians 1:18 Paul tells us that he went to visit St. Peter in Jerusalem for 15 days.  The interesting part of this is that the word that St. Paul uses for the visit is historeō which has a very rich meaning.  It implies meeting to gather data, to learn, observe and inquire.  Our word history comes from that root.  That must have been an interesting meeting.  St. Peter was probably still somewhat skeptical of St. Paul, and St. Paul was probably trying to learn as much as possible about Jesus and His followers.

In Galatians 2:1 St. Paul tells us of another meeting he had with St. Peter 14 years after the first meeting.  St. Paul came to Peter and James and John, the pillars of the Jerusalem Church, to present to them his form of evangelization and to verify the fruits of his evangelization.  He seems to have been checking with them to make sure he was doing it well.  St. Paul records that they found nothing to add to what he had been preaching and that they recognized him as being the evangelizer to the Gentiles.  They gave him their right hand of fellowship and encouraged him to keep preaching to the Gentiles while they preached to the Jews.  He ended by saying, “They only asked us to remember the poor– the very thing I also was eager to do.”

The third time that scriptures (again Galatians) mention the two meeting is at Antioch.  This some people play up as a confrontation between the two.  However, it appears that it is a great example of collegiality, and fraternal correction.  The background for this meeting goes back to the Council of Jerusalem where St. Peter made the judgment that Gentile converts to Christianity did not have to observe the Jewish kosher laws.  Now when St. Peter was in Antioch, he was staying with many Jewish Christians who felt that new Gentile converts should keep the kosher laws.  Peter even followed the kosher laws when he was with them.  St. Paul brought to the attention of St. Peter that he was being hypocritical.  It appears that St. Paul really did this out of love and for fraternal correction and that the bond of love that they each had for Jesus triumphed.  Later scriptures and tradition show that these two men kept their fraternal love for each other.

We know that towards the end of their lives, both St. Peter and St. Paul move to Rome.  All of the early Christian writers talk about them being the new brothers who formed the new Rome.  This time, however, there was no ambition or rivalry to separate them; quite the contrary.  Tertullian, an early Christian writer born in 155 tells how both St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned together during Nero’s persecution and both were martyred by Nero.  He recalls that they spent many hours together in jail sharing their stories of spreading the Gospel and he added that they blessed each other for their upcoming martyrdom.  St. Peter was crucified upside down (he said he was not good enough to die the same way as Jesus) in the Vatican square and immediately buried in a nearby cemetery, now below St. Peter’s in Rome.  St. Paul was beheaded with a sword.  He was a Roman citizen and due a quick death.   He was beheaded at quae Salviae, which is now known as Tre Fontane (three fountains).  According to legend, when the sword cut off St. Paul’s head, it bounced three times and at each spot where it landed, a spring of water sprung forth from the ground.  His body was taken away and buried nearby.  The beautiful Church of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls stands over his burial place.  It is interesting to note that the Tiber River flows through Rome.  St. Peter was martyred and was buried on one side of the Tiber, and St. Paul was martyred and buried on the other side.  Early Christian writers see this as both “founders” having given their blood to bless both sides of the city.  Though these two dynamic men were individuals, they were seen as a major force of  a unified two.

St. Peter was a simple Jewish fisherman with probably little education.  St. Paul was well educated (taught by the best rabbi in the land) and a Roman citizen.  They both were good Jews.  St. Peter was married and St. Paul was a celibate.  St. Peter was impulsive and St. Paul was enthusiastic.  They certainly had their differences.  They both have in common that when they met Jesus their lives were totally changed.  They both loved Jesus and His Church.  Even though both were quite dynamic men with great leadership skills, they learned how to work with each other for the good of the Church.

For us today, we should see that when we truly love Jesus, we change for the good.  When we truly love the Church that Jesus founded, we learn to work together with each other, even when we don’t always agree with each other.  It is almost incomprehensible to understand how these two men accomplished so much in such a short time.  The only way we can understand that is to see them as lovers of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, who respond to “go forth” and spread the good news and build up the body of Christ.  I can only imagine the great time the two of them are having with Jesus right now.  I look forward to meeting them some day.  St. Peter and St. Paul pray that we too can love Jesus with all that we are.

 

Holy Orders in the Church – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

OrdinationZoomHR098My ordination by Bishop John R. McGann on October 4, 1980 in Sacred Heart Chapel in Brentwood, NY.  I am kneeling and my wife is standing behind me.

Most Dioceses have their ordinations in the month of June, so I thought this would be a good time to look at Holy Orders in the Church.  The word ORDER comes from the ancient Roman language and means an established civil body, or governing body.  All organizations need some form of hierarchy, and the Church is no exception.  However, the Church is not like any other organization, it is supernatural in nature, established by Jesus himself.  When the Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost it made a significant change in them.  It empowered them to spread the good news and to develop the church.  Our modern design of Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest and Deacon) dates back to the very beginnings of the Church.  Since the Apostles were all good Jews, as Jesus himself was, and since God was at work from the very beginnings with the Jewish nation, it is not surprising that our Holy Orders closely resemble the Jewish priesthood.

In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the chosen people were constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  He even chose one of the twelve tribes, Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service.  The priests were “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  Our present day liturgy reflects that close relationship to the Jewish priesthood of Aaron and the Levites.  Here is a sample from the Church’s liturgy:

The Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops:

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . .
by your gracious word
you have established the plan of your Church.

From the beginning,
you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.
You established rulers and priests
and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you. . . .

At the ordination of priests, the Church prays:

Lord, holy Father, . . .
when you had appointed high priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help them in their task. . . .

you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men. . . .
You shared among the sons of Aaron
the fullness of their father’s power.

In the consecratory prayer for ordination of deacons, the Church confesses:

Almighty God . . .,
You make the Church, Christ’s body,
grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple.
You enrich it with every kind of grace
and perfect it with a diversity of members
to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.

You established a threefold ministry of worship and service,
for the glory of your name.
As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi
and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.

 

The Church today has, just as the early Church had, three main offices of ordination.  The first, and highest, is the Bishop.  The second, and closely related, is the Priest.  The third is the Deacon.  The Bishop and Priest are together seen as Sacerdotal (priestly) while the deacon is seen as helpers to the Bishops first, and Priests second.  Usually the Bishop is seen as a Pastor of a diocese and is often needed as a teacher.  The Priest offers the mass in local churches and the Deacon is called to serve where He is directed to by the Bishop.  All three are ordained.  You can see how early this structure was by looking at a quote by St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was born only 17 years after Jesus died.  He said, “Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters (priests) as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.”

The Ordination of Bishops, Priests and Deacons are done only by Bishops who are in the line of apostolic succession.  That means that when Bishop John R. McGann ordained me, back in 1980, I know that he was ordained by a Bishop who was ordained by a Bishop who was ordained by a Bishop…..going back all the way to the Apostles.  This is called Apostolic Succession.  The Church keeps records to ascertain that this occurs.  The power of ordination has thus been passed down by the Apostles to all of us who are validly ordained.  So what is this power?  Quite simply, it is the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is a permanent grace given to allow the ordained minister to carry out his mission within the Church that Jesus himself formed.

We know that no Bishop or Priest or Deacon is perfect, indeed they are human, but the grace of the Holy Spirit still works through them for the building up of the Church.   It is Jesus, and His Spirit that ultimately works through the ordained minister.  The unworthiness of the minister does not keep Jesus from working through him.  St. Augustine states this quite strongly when he says, “As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.”

The man who is ordained must go through a substantial training and preparation program.  At the heart of it has to be his own conversion to Jesus and His Church.  St. Gregory of Nazianzus says it so beautifully, “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized (make divine) and divinizes.”  And the Cure of Ars says, “The priest continues the work of redemption on earth. . . . If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love. . . . The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

Being a Bishop or a Priest or a Deacon is not an easy thing.  However, it is a great thing.  I thank God for calling me and giving me the strength and power to minister as a Deacon.  God knew what he was doing when he set up the Church.  The call to ordained ministry is an important call.  We should all do what we can to encourage men to look in to the ordained ministry.  We should also say a “thank you” to those who serve us now.  God is good.

 

The Visitation of the Ark of the New Covenant – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 369Statue of Mary and Elizabeth at Ein Karem in Israel, the place of the Visitation.  Plaques of the Magnificat, in various languages, are on the wall behind them.

I know, the title of today’s Feast is The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  But in all actuality, scripture and the Church see the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.  You have to really appreciate the links between the New Testament and the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) to fully understand this.   I won’t go in to the full explanation of TYPOLOGY, but suffice it to say that many things in the New Testament point to the Old Testament.  Many things in the Old Testament are better understood because of the New Testament.  Saint Augustine said that “the Old Testament is the New concealed, but the New Testament is the Old revealed” (Catechizing of the Uninstructed 4:8).  One easy example of TYPOLOGY is when Jesus himself refers to the bronze serpent of Moses (that was hung on a pole to bring life to the Israelites) as a type of his own crucifixion.

If you remember the stories from the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was seen as God’s own presence to his people.  It was carried forth in battle to assure victory and was kept in the Holy Temple to be worshipped.  It was so holy that no one could touch it.  When Uzzah, the son of Abinadad touched it, he immediately died.  The Ark of the Covenant contained three items; the tablets on which God wrote the ten commandments, a piece of manna from when God fed the Israelites in the desert, and the rod of Aaron, the symbol of priesthood of the first priest of Israel.  This ark was prominent in the life of David and Solomon and many others until it was hidden when invaders came in to Israel.  It was never found and is still hidden somewhere in Israel.  Just in case you are wondering, Indiana Jones did not find the Ark of the Covenant; that was just fiction.

So why do we consider the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant?  There are many reasons, but I will list a few.  First of all, when Mary was told that she would give birth to Jesus, the angel told her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her.  This word overshadow is the same word that the Old Testament used for God’s Spirit overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant.  The only place this word is used in the New Testament is here, overshadowing Mary.  This shows the parallel of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant and that same Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant.  Today’s Feast shows another very good example of TYPOLOGY.  Mary comes to visit Elizabeth when both of them are carrying child.  Mary is pregnant with Jesus and Elizabeth is pregnant with John the Baptist.  As soon as Mary greets Elizabeth, we are told that John the Baptist leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth.  This makes us look back to King David when he danced before the Ark of the Covenant and leapt for joy.  The words, “cried out for joy” here for both Mary and the King David before the Ark of the Covenant are the words used for liturgical dance and joy.   The readers of that day would have understood this.

Another interesting thing is that when King David was able to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant he said, “How can the Ark of the Covenant come to me?”  Elizabeth said to Mary, “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  See how close these are.  Luke also tells us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months in the hill country.  The Old Testament tells us that David kept the Ark in the hill country for three months.  There are other parallels, but I would like to end with one final thought.  Let us compare what the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant contained and what the New Testament Ark of the Covenant (Mary) contained.

The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the very Word of God, written on stone.  The New Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the Work of God, made flesh.   The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the Manna that God sent to feed the Israelites.  The New Testament Ark of the Covenant contained the Bread of Life, Jesus, who feeds His people with the Eucharist.  Finally, the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the rod of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel.  The New Testament Ark of the Covenant had within it the New High Priest, Jesus.  Isn’t God AWESOME?

What is the Big Deal about the Holy Spirit by Deacon Marty McIndoe

HolySpirtFlames

The last four articles I posted were about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost.  So many other bloggers have spent a great deal of time talking about the Holy Spirit at this time of Pentecost.  There is good reason for that.  Pentecost itself is a Feast of the Church that is of major importance (along with Easter and Christmas), and the day the Church celebrates as its “birthday”.  Pentecost is all about the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles, Mary and other disciples.  It brought a dramatic change to them, and should also bring a dramatic change to us.  St. Cyril of Alexandria (born 376), in his Commentary on John says, “The Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life”.  This was definitely seen in the lives of the disciples.  How about your life?  Has the Holy Spirit caused you to live a new life?

First and foremost I believe that the Holy Spirit EMPOWERS us to be the person that God has called us to be.  Both the Scriptures and the Church have tried to put words to what the Spirit does.  We hear about the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as the Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I would like to briefly take a look at these to help us all better understand the role of the Spirit in our lives.  Jesus himself told us that it would be better for us for Him to leave so that the Holy Spirit would come to us.  That tells us how important the Spirit should be in our lives.  Frankly, we don’t always think about the Holy Spirit.  It should be thought about and called upon in our normal living, not just at Pentecost.

All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us in Baptism and later strengthened and sealed in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  The gifts are given to us to build us up as well as to build up the Church.  The Church (and Isaiah 11: 1-2) tells us that there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.  They are Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment (or Counsel), Courage (or Fortitude), Knowledge, Reverence (or Piety) and Wonder (or Awe).   When we use these gifts, there is a definite change in our attitude and in our very being that manifests itself as the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  The scriptures (Galatians 5: 22-23) and the Church tell us that these Fruits are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-control, and Chastity.  It is no coincidence that these Fruits are the very attributes of God himself.  It only makes sense that as His children, we are like him.

In 1st Corinthians 12: 1-11 we find listed the Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These are sometimes referred to as the Charismatic Gifts.  These gifts are given for the building up of the Church.  St. Paul makes it very clear that there are a variety of Gifts that are given.  He says that some Gifts are given to some people and not all receive or use the same Gifts.  He makes it very clear though that all of the Gifts are given by the One Spirit for the building up of the One Church.  Throughout the ages, these Spiritual Gifts have manifested themselves in various ways.  You only need to read some of the lives of the Saints to see how these gifts have come forth in various times.  In today’s Church, the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church has brought in a new emphasis on these gifts.  St. Paul lists these Gifts as, Speaking in Tongues for private prayer (Romans 8:26), Tongues and Interpretation for the Community (1 Cor 14: 1-17), Prophecy (1 Cor 14:32), Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom, Discerning of Spirits, Faith, Healing, and Miracles.  For more information about these gifts, go to the National Catholic Charismatic website at http://www.nsc-chariscenter.org .

So how can we grow in our openness to the Holy Spirit and its Gifts?  First of all, ask.  It is so important that in our daily prayer life we ask to be open to the Spirit and the gifts It has to give us.  Secondly, it is the Eucharist that can help us to be more open and to reflect the Fruits of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit.  Receive the Eucharist as often as you can.  Thirdly, study the scriptures.  It is the Holy Spirit that inspired the scriptures.  Start by looking up and praying those scriptures I have mentioned in the article.  Fourth, read the lives of the Saints.  They lived out a real openness to the Spirit and its Gifts.  Fifth, put yourself in to a small community of believers that are also trying to grow in their relationship to the Lord and His Spirit.  If you haven’t already done so, try attending a Catholic Charismatic Prayer meeting.  I would suggest one associated with your Parish, or a nearby Parish.  It might seem a little different to you at first, but try it out a few times to see the real source of growth that can be found there.

God’s Gift to us of His Holy Spirit is so very precious and so important to our spiritual growth.  It gives us life and helps us to grow into the child of God that He wants us to be.  God bless you in your journey.

 

 

A Most HOLY room, the Ark of the NEW Covenant, the Holy Spirit, the Sequence and a little bit of Typology by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 624 Israel 628 Israel 629 Israel 630In these pictures of the Upper Room, you see first, the interior; second signs of the Muslim Mosque; third,  a brass olive tree donated to Israel by the Catholic Association, and lastly, a column showing a Pelican feeding its young by taking blood from its side.  This was an early Christian symbol of the Eucharist.  When the Ottomans took over Upper Room, they removed all Christian symbols but this one.  They did not understand its meaning.

In Jerusalem there is a building known as the Upper Room (or Cenacle).  The present day structure is in Jerusalem on Mount Zion and dates to the 1200’s.  It is a reconstruction made by the Crusaders using three out of the four original walls of the original structure from the time of Jesus.  There were earlier reconstructions as well.  It is a very HOLY building since it was used by the disciples for The Last Supper, The Washing of the Disciple’s feet by Jesus, Several Resurrection Appearances by Jesus, and the Election of Matthias as an Apostle to replace Judas.  Lastly, it was the place where the Holy Spirit descended upon the Disciples on the Feast of Pentecost.  It is such a Holy place that the early Christians used it as a place of worship, a synagogue (remember the Early Christians in Jerusalem practiced Judaism).  In 384 the first large Christian Church was built right next to it and was known as the Church of the Apostles.  The traditional Tomb of David is right below it.  The Church of the Apostles, next to the Upper Room, was torn down by the Muslims in 1009 but Crusaders later took back the area and built the present reconstruction of the Upper Room.  The Franciscans kept custody of it until 1552 when the Ottomans overtook it and they turned the Upper Room in to a Mosque.  You can still see signs of the Muslim usage.  In 1948 the government of Israel took it over and gave the Franciscans administrative control again.

This Holy room, the Upper Room is where our Church first began.  The Disciples were unable to do much of anything after Jesus Ascended in to Heaven.  They seem lost and powerless.  However, with the Blessed Virgin Mary amongst them, the Power of the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost and they were given the power to go out and form the Church.  It is interesting here to throw in a little typology.  In scripture study, we use the term typology to show the way that the Old Testament (Hebrew scriptures) and the New Testament are related.  I would like to point out one thing about Pentecost regarding this.  In yesterday’s post, Dan Gonzalez showed how Pentecost is a Jewish feast day.  We, as Christians, see it as the birthday of our church.  In looking at this we should look back to the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles where we hear the story of the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built.  In this account, the scriptures tell us that 120 priests gathered for the dedication and a sacrifice was put on the altar.  We are told that when the Ark of the Covenant was brought in to go in to the Holy of Holies, God sent fire from the sky to burn the sacrifice on the altar.  When we look at the New Testament book of Acts we hear that the disciples and other followers, totaling 120 people, gathered in the Upper Room.  The mother of Jesus, Mary, who is known as the New Ark of the Covenant gathered in the center of them all.  God sent down the Holy Spirit upon them all as tongues of fire.  In both accounts of the beginning of the Temple and the beginning of the Church, 120 people gathered with the Ark of the Covenant and God sent down fire.  Our Lord is awesome.

As we celebrate this Holy Feast of Pentecost, let us give thanks to God for giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit and for the gift of the Church.  Our Pentecost liturgy has a Sequence put in along with the normal scripture readings.  This really should be read at every mass of Pentecost, but is quite often skipped over.  Here is a copy of this Sequence.  Read it over and see the precious gift that God has given to us in the Holy Spirit.

 

Sequence — Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Alleluia.

 

Note: Veni Sancte Spiritus is a true masterpiece of Latin poetry. In rhyme scheme, it is complex and gorgeous; lines one & two rhyme with each other, and line three always ends in the syllable –ium. In meter, the sequence is a very faithful example of trochaic dimeter. In content, it is a magnificent meditation on the Spirit’s guidance through consolation & desolation. So much is lost when this sequence is not sung in its original Latin.

 

A Very Special Gift by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Israel 632Looking up to the Upper Room (Cenacle) in Jerusalem

As we approach Pentecost this weekend, it is important for us to see what a precious gift God has given us in the Holy Spirit.  This feast dates back to the first century and finds its beginning in the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples nine days after the Ascension of Jesus.  In all actuality, Scripture shows us that this Spirit has been promised to us by God since the earliest times.  The Old Testament is filled with references to the Holy Spirit beginning with the second verse of Genesis where it is said that the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.  When the Church blesses the water to be used for Baptism it says, “At the very dawn of creation your Spirit breathed upon the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness”.  The prophets are continually making reference to the Spirit.  The prophet Joel tells us that God will POUR out His Spirit upon us.  The prophet Ezekiel says, “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life”.  There are too many references to the Holy Spirit within the Old Testament to cover in this short article.

The prophet, John the Baptist, when seeing Jesus tells us that He will BAPTIZE us in the Holy Spirit.  Jesus himself promises us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He tells His disciples, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  Right before His Ascension Jesus tell His disciples, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Paraclete, Advocate or Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”  There are so many New Testament references about the promise of the Gift of the Holy Spirit that we could not list them all here.

After the Ascension of Jesus, His Disciples, and His mother Mary all gathered in the Upper Room (Cenacle) to pray.  They were saddened by His leaving and seemed lost as to what to do next.  I think that it is so important to remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary was there praying with the Disciples.  She is the Chosen Spouse of the Holy Spirit and her prayers are so very powerful.  As I grow in my own faith and openness to the Holy Spirit, I grow in my love and adoration of Mary.  The Disciples were so blessed to have her join them in prayer.  We too are so blessed to have Mary join us in prayer.

At his Ascension Jesus told His Disciples to go out to every nation and spread the Good News.  The Disciples were totally unable to do this command and just sat in the Upper Room and prayed.  They prayed for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit for nine days (this is the source of our own nine day novenas) and on the feast of Pentecost it came to them.  Luke, in Acts Chapter 2 tells us, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”  This Holy Spirit empowered them to be able to do the command of Jesus and to go out to the entire world to proclaim the Good News.  You only have to look at the Disciples demeanor before and after Pentecost to see how this Holy Spirit can really EMPOWER us. The Church considers Pentecost its birthday, because the Disciples were now empowered to form the Church.

So what does all this mean to us today?  We are given that very same Spirit that the Disciples were given and it should EMPOWER us too.  We are given the Spirit in Baptism and are called to see it released more within us at Confirmation.  The truth is that many people do not know the POWER that is within them.  Do you?  St. Paul tells us that Spirit that is within us is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  Now that is a powerful Spirit.  So why do we not always see this?  I believe that quite simply it is because we don’t know about it that much and don’t ask to be baptized, or fully immersed, in the Holy Spirit.  It is like someone gives you one million dollars and puts it in your savings account.  Unless you know that it is there, and ask to use it, it just sits there.  We need to learn that not only is the Holy Spirit within us, but we need to learn how to use it.  A good study of the Scriptures and Lives of the Saints can help us with that.  Even better is just learning to call upon the Holy Spirit.  When is the last time you did that, and when is the last time you prayed to the Holy Spirit?  Also, ask your mother Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit to join you in prayer for the Holy Spirit just as she joined the Disciples at Pentecost.  Another great source to opening up to this Spirit is by attending a Life in the Spirit Seminar.  Many parishes offer this, especially through their Charismatic Prayer meeting.  Seek one out; it will change your life.  I know that it changed mine.

 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

 

When Being an Easter People is a Bad Thing – by Meg Hunter-Kilmer

PentecostKimHappy Easter, friends! We are an Easter people over here–all 50 days of it. So along with my feasting (and there has been plenty of feasting) all during the Easter season I’ve been trying to use the stories from Acts as much as I can. After all, Acts is our Easter book, right? We read from it every day of Easter. So let’s be all about the Apostles and the amazing work they did, especially during this Easter season!

Until last week when I realized: almost none of the Acts of the Apostles takes place during Easter.1 Because during Easter, the Apostles weren’t out doing anything. For forty days they were being taught by Jesus, learning to forgive sins and feeling their hearts burn within them as he opened the Scriptures to them. And then he ascended. And maybe they felt empowered by the great commission or maybe they felt afraid and alone or maybe they wondered if this wasn’t another 3-day psych-out. But whatever they were feeling, here’s what they did:

They kept to themselves.

“They were continually in the temple praising God,”2 which is great. They “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”3 They were in fellowship and in prayer amongst themselves, but they weren’t going out. They weren’t preaching Christ crucified or offering his mercy to the nations.

They had an excuse: they hadn’t yet received the Holy Spirit.

What’s our excuse?

We received the Holy Spirit at baptism and his presence was strengthened in confirmation. We claim his name over our lives every time we cross ourselves. We’ve been called and filled and sent out.

But most of us are still locked in the upper room.

We’ve met the risen Christ and many of us have been transformed. Like Peter our sins have been forgiven, like Mary Magdalene our broken hearts healed, like Thomas our doubts satisfied. We’ve been made new. And now we’re sitting around doing nothing about it.

Oh, we might be in the temple day in and day out. We might be meeting in fellowship and even praying together. But we’re not reaching out to the world.

I wonder what happens when the Spirit comes down as tongues of fire and we refuse even to open the windows, let alone go out into the streets. My hunch is that it doesn’t look pretty and doesn’t end well.

That’s where we’ve been as a Church for far too long. In the West, at least, we’ve been focusing inward, trying (halfheartedly, in most cases) to take care of our own. But when a missionary Church locks itself in an upper room, nobody gets fed.

This year on the Vigil of Pentecost, people all over the world are praying in a special way for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They’re praying that the power of God will be released in their lives, that they’ll live in the freedom of the Spirit. I think one of the most powerful ways that we’ll experience this is by giving God permission to touch hearts through us. If we decide that we’re going to unlock the door and walk out into the streets, proclaiming Christ and living the book of Acts, we’ll be transformed just as much as those we meet. We’ll move past Easter (still filled with Alleluias) and live in Pentecost as though it were Ordinary.

This Pentecost, the Spirit is coming down. Let’s open our lives to him and go out to set the world ablaze.

 

 

1- That we know of anyway. Certainly not during the first Easter season.

2 -Luke 24:53

3-  Acts 1:14, though they weren’t really his brothers

Meg Hunter-Kilmer is a hobo missionary. After 2 theology degrees from Notre Dame and 5 years as a high school religion teacher, she quit her job in 2012 to live out of her car and preach the Gospel to anyone who would listen. 49 states and 16 countries later, this seems to have been a less ridiculous decision than it initially seemed. She blogs at http://www.piercedhands.com

 

One Mistake We Make When We Want to Make a Difference as Catholics by Shaun McAfee

cropped-PentecostGLASS.jpg

Do you have Catholic heroes?

When I converted to the Catholic faith I was on fire to make a mark. Having been into blogging before I converted, my conversion gave me a deep zeal and the new information I had learned was quickly converted into content. But it ran out quickly. The more I wanted to be like my heroes, the more impossible that became, and the more frustrated I ended up.

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but there are many Catholics who are just crazy about Catholics. I mean it. I mean it like I mean I absolutely love thick cut, applewood smoked, crisp and greasy bacon. There’s a serious error many commit and I’m guilty of it, too. And I’m not talking about the bacon.

It all began when…

No, it didn’t ever really begin. It’s sort of ingrained into us. We have a problem with being innovators sometimes. We see something that entertains us, and we want to replicate it. We grow to look up to someone, and we want to be just like them. We create this picture in our mind of what a successful Catholic looks like, and we convince ourselves that we cannot be good Catholics or fulfil our purpose until we achieve X, Y, Z.

Imagine the pressure!

Imagine the pressure of the ambitious seeker who read Tim Staples just once, had to convert, converted and the whole nine yards, then felt the call to convert other souls—cause after all that’s what the Bible says we’re called to do—and got started. This person read every book, listened to Catholic Answers Live every day, and was determined to make their mark. Then, just a few months later, the blog this person started wasn’t getting traffic. There was an initial spike, but the ideas were running out, too. The zeal was not converting to numbers as quickly as his/her conscience had. Suddenly, it all seemed like a waste of time. How was this person ever going to replace Scott Hahn?

For real, that’s the idea some people create in their mind. Especially bloggers; but it happens to so many Catholics. The zeal sometimes creates tunnel vision for us, and we create one single lane that we must follow in order to feel like we’re making a difference.

It makes sense, really. But don’t fall into this trap! It’s terribly attractive to look at our Catholic heroes and want to be just like them. While it’s healthy to follow their example, it’s not healthy to narrow our vision on God’s will. Doing that only suffocates our openness to the Holy Spirit and deafens His voice.

I think the pressure people put on themselves when they gain their newfound zeal caused tunnel vision in many people. To avoid this, here’s a couple things to keep in mind:

First, you must focus on personal holiness before you step out and attempt to education and evangelize others. I’m not talking about being a hypocrite, because removing the log in your own eye is much more about clear vision than about hypocrisy. There are nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Interestingly, God chose the dove to represent the Holy Spirit, whose wings are made up of nine main feather stems. You must develop the fruits of the spirit in order to truly take fight.

Second, after developing your personal holiness and taking flight, you’re able to use the corresponding gifts of the Holy Spirit. But be conscious of the temptation of that tunnel vision. God has a unique plan for you. What would the world look like if we were all Scott Hahn? There would be a lot of Bible knowledge and handsome beards. No, seriously: remember that Martha’s revelation was understanding that there is something more important that impressing ourselves (and others) with our works. What really matters is how we spend our time with God. Mother Angelica didn’t get into the art of media until her later years. She was able to be so effective because she made priority of the Mary duties, then the Martha.

Third, be yourself. The world will tell you that you need to go out into the world and find yourself. But what you really need to do is find the One who already knows who you are. When you get to know God, whose depth of closeness and relationship is endless, you’ll really get to know who you are.

Hero worship can create a false sense of duty and achievement, contentment and virtue. There’s so many ways to be Catholic. It might not be apologetics or writing. It might be having a certain amount of children. It might be a degree you have to get or a teaching job you have to have. It could even be the priesthood or cloistered life. Whatever it is, don’t be over-eager. The only thing you need to be eager about is knowing and developing your relationship with the One who is eager about you. The rest falls into place.

Check out this article and others at Shaun’s home at the National Catholic Register – http://www.ncregister.com/blog/smcafee/