Category Archives: Catholic

Being Catholic in a nutshell: Why go to Mass every Sunday? (or every day even!)

I’ve decided to write some short answers to the stuff even Catholics don’t seem to know the answers to. I hear these questions a lot. So here’s the first one:

Why do Catholics have to go to Mass every Sunday? What is the Sunday obligation all about?

It’s like this. On the night He was betrayed Jesus took bread and wine during a liturgical meal (a Passover) and said, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood” and then “Do this in Remembrance of Me.”

He didn’t finish the meal but went out to the Garden of Olives where He was betrayed and arrested. He was put through trails and torture before taking His cross and completing His Passion – a word that means to pour out – on Calvary, where He was crucified and died.

On the Third Day He rose.

Every Mass is a re-presentation (meaning to make present again but not a re-sacrifice, as that’s not possible or warranted) of that once and for all Sacrifice made by Jesus for us and our Salvation. When we go to Mass we are in a way actually there with Him as He offers His Body and Blood and then we can go forward and eat His Body as He commanded in John 6 so we can have Life in us.

Knowing that at each Mass we are drawn into participation with the Passion and can receive Him in His risen self; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity then we are automatically obliged to do so under the First Commandment. We must put God first.

So, those who think doing something else is more important than being with God in such a profound way are making something else more important than God.

That’s it in nutshell.

Sitting on a hard bench.

I can’t remember where I heard this but someone, sometime said s/he thought the reason churches had wooden pews was so that the pew-sitter didn’t get too comfortable. Christ isn’t a comfortable person.

This weekend we have had the ember days of the Triumph of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows. Both uncomfortable remembrances. The Triumph(or exultation) of the Cross came about like this:

St. Helena (mother of Constantine the Great) had found the true cross at Jerusalem and rescued it. She left part of it in Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulchre and took the rest back to Rome. Around 614 the Persians stole the portion of the cross from the Holy Sepulchre. Things went wrong for the Persians after that (an echo of what happened to the Philistines when the stole the Ark of the Covenant). In 629 the Emperor Heraclius took the cross back and carried it in fine procession back to Jerusalem and Calvary. However, upon reaching the city he found he couldn’t go on. Bishop Zacharias pointed out that Christ had not been so finely dressed when He carried the cross. The Emperor changed to a penitents robe and carried the cross the rest of the way.

We are proud to preach Christ crucified and know that He has commanded us to take up our cross each day to follow him. A hard bench in church is perhaps a very small reminder of that.

Our Lady of Sorrows with her seven swords of sorrow comes the following day. Despite the great suffering laid on her she continually said “yes” (Fiat) to God.

imgYesterday I listened to the Catholic Answers programme with Steve Ray talking about the horrible persecution and mass martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East. He spoke of a nun whose entire family had been slaughtered and a Christian man whose heart was cut out and eaten raw by one of the the Muslim terrorists. We know what’s happening in Syria and some of us at least are horrified that our Governments want to aid the terrorists who are murdering as many Christians as they can get hold of.

Then after Mass yesterday a man spoke to us. He had come from Bethlehem with some of the beautiful olive wood carvings that he and his fellow Christians make. It’s all they can do to stay afloat there. The wall has done them much damage and they are trapped between Israel’s need for security on the one side and Islamic persecution on the other.

If you can possibly buy some olivewood carvings that will help Elias and his fellow Christians.  They are sold HERE and at ACN HERE 

Olive wood, he told us, is the second hardest wood in the world. Some of the carvings, which must be done by hand, take 8 months of work.

There’s nothing comfortable about that.

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I blame the Catholics.

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ

St. Jerome

There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Ven. Fulton Sheen

It’s been known for a very long time that Catholic Schools are not producing Catholic adults. In fact the very opposite. Concerns have been raised over and over again, and no action is taken.  Parents who don’t know their faith cannot pass it on to their children and if they think their children will get the faith in school, they are wrong.

A few things have happened recently that has brought home to me that Catholics are often the problem. Let’s take marriage for example.  Some gay people think Catholics are anti gay marriage because Catholics are anti gay people. They can point to the sudden resistance to gay marriage where before this, the shocking breakdown of marriage, the use of contraception and even abortion among Catholics has barely raised an eyebrow. Catholics are no better than anyone else when it comes to sexual morality, divorce and anti-children behaviour. It does seem quite late for the outcry over what is called “gay marriage.”

Recently, I’ve had two conversations with someone who does take their faith seriously and knows it reasonably well. I was told that she feels isolated at times even among fellow Catholics because she practices and understands her Faith and even some of her friends who attend Mass, simply have no clue and want to follow the culture rather than the Church.

I have also been told that when a few Catholics were faced with a question from a protestant about why Catholic baptise babies that not one person there could answer the question!

Invincible ignorance is ignorance that can’t be avoided – but I really don’t believe all that many Catholics are genuinely invincibly ignorant; they simply can’t be bothered to find out.

St Peter gave us a strict command:

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone to asks for a reason for the hope that you have. Do this with gentleness and respect.

1 Peter 3:15

If we are going to obey this command then we are obliged to know the answer to the questions we might be asked.

I don’t really blame those young’uns who, having been through years of Catholic school and in at least one case, a (pseudo) Catholic  University don’t even know why we baptise babies. I don’t blame the questioner, who despite belonging to a “Bible alone” church hasn’t enough knowledge of Scripture to see where whole families are baptised and no knowledge of the history of the Church to see babies were baptised throughout. The only time in the early Church infant baptism was questioned was on whether to wait for the child to be 8 days old, in continuity with the Old Covenant law on circumcision; receiving the answer that as “baptism now saves you,” (1 Pet 3:21) that a baby shouldn’t have to wait. Remember infant death was much more common back then.

Catholics in the west are heading towards a third generation of Catholics who haven’t a clue about Christ, His Church, Scripture or even basic morality.  They walk around soaking up the culture and unaware or even uncaring that the most important person in their lives – God – is practically a stranger to them.

I constantly hear a call for the laity to take up the battle. But a laity going into battle with no generals or officers and totally unarmed are going to be spiritually slaughtered. Starving sheep cannot become shepherds.

Thankfully there are some good things happening, mostly coming from America, but some from Australia too. There are good catechetical and Scriptural materials on the market and free radio and podcasts to help us learn our history and faith.

Mother Angelica who surely will be canonised very quickly when her time to go home comes, set up the Eternal Word Television Network and from her work a global network of TV and radio in at least three languages (I’m aware of English, Spanish and German) goes out. Now, I know many people are concerned by the quality of some of the TV work and I have to agree, but some of the radio affiliations are excellent.

ICCThere is also the amazing work done by The Institute of Catholic Culture. They offer all the events free online as video or audio and you can literally learn the Faith, it’s history, Scripture, ethics and morality. It’s all done for parish level most lectures are of a fantastic standard.

Catholic Answers has an excellent  question and answer format where anyone can phone in with a question. They have programs especially aimed at non-Catholics, atheists and others.

The Coming Home Network has freebies including Deep In Scripture.

Like many people I have a wall of Hahn, but there’s free audio too. Dr Hahn also offers Scripture Study for free Buy his books! They aren’t difficult to understand and if God is the most important person for eternity then a few dollars/quid on books by Dr Scott Hahn is an investment – so long as you read them.

There is so much out there now – thank God for American universities like Franciscan Steubenville and Ave Maria and Christendom etc.

Ignorance is not bliss and it needn’t be that way.

Four Popes and an Encyclical

Papa-and-Pop-PopWell, it’s all happening in the Church at the moment! Pope Francis has published the encyclical Lumen Fidei which was begun by Papa Beni and then the two men worked together on it. You can download it as a pdf; look top right corner. Then using Calibre a free ebook converter and ebook manager thingy, you can make the encyclical suitable for your ereader and load it on.

Then the Vatican has announced that both Pope John XXIII and Bl. Pope John Paul II are to be canonised together. They are waiving the requirement for a second miracle from Pope John XXIII. The second miracle from Bl. Pope John Paul II has happened but details havent’ been released and meanwhile the MSM over here are saying the first miracle is dodgy.  I would really like the spokesperson for the Vatican to make some clear statements on all this.

The Anchoress has a good overview including the consecration to St. Michael.

I have to admit I’m a bit foggy about what’s happening here. I don’t know why the second miracle requirement has been waived or why the second miracle attributed to the prayers of Bl. Pope John Paul II hasn’t been released properly and what is going on about the rumours of the first miracle not standing up to scrutiny. Knowing how extra-cautious the Church is about miracles and how even a hint that it could have happened through other means will mean it isn’t ratified as official, I am confused about what’s going on.  The Vatican press office does have a reputation for muddled announcements so it could be that.

Anyway, hopefully some clarity will be arrive over the next few days.

Forgiveness. What is it and how do you do it?

Having had to hear the rather sad calumny against people with severe chronic illnesses like FMS and ME that we are ill because we don’t forgive and this. along with being angry and lonely, has made us ill, I’ve been reconsidering the whole subject of forgiveness.

Jesus made it a commandment. “Forgive your enemies,” and “Forgive your brother”, (meaning all relatives and friends). He said this in various ways at various times. If it’s a commandment (and it is) then it’s something we must do with our will, not just a feeling. In His commandment Jesus offers no wiggle room such as “forgive anyone who says sorry” or “forgive those brought to justice”.  He is, in fact, rather stark in His commandment. We are just to forgive.

There was a tendency I remember of saying “forgive and forget”. This is probably fairly easy for someone like me who can’t remember much anyway, but for someone with functioning memory that’s not possible. For someone who has been systematically abused, it’s completely impossible. You can’t tell someone to “forget” as memory isn’t under the will. You can help someone not dwell on bad memories, which is part of the will, but you can’t make someone forget.

Back in my psychi nurse days a friend of mine noted that many of the patients with schizophrenia had been seriously abused, often in childhood. The question  was raised whether those with a predisposition to such a serious mental illness could be tipped into illness by abuse. There are no answers to this; and anyway we knew just as many patients who had lived normal happy lives until the disease struck. We do know that schizophrenia is rooted in having too high a dopamine uptake, but why this happens and how is still a mystery. While modern medicine loves to blame patients and their families, there is actually nothing to back up this “blame the patient” approach in psychotic illness.

But there are many people who have very good reason to be unhappy, anxious and angry about the way others have treated them. So what can they do to forgive those who have wounded them either through selfishness, thoughtlessness or maliciousness? How do we obey the command Jesus gave us to forgive? And why did Jesus insist on it anyway?

In the Old Testament God says, “Revenge is mine” (Deut 32:35). That means it isn’t up to us to take revenge or want revenge for the wrongs done to us. If we can pray for those who persecute us (Matt 5:44) then we are on the right way to forgiveness. If we can genuinely hope for the best for the person who has hurt us, for heaven for them, then we have made the act of will to forgive.

Some people have said it’s easier to forgive another’s sin against us if we understand our sins against God. This may be true up to a point, but there are some sins that others perpetrate against us that we wouldn’t dream of doing, no matter how badly behaved we might be. It isn’t helpful to measure our sins against sins that are so monstrous we couldn’t even consider committing them.

All we can do is accept we too sin. Then we must be sure we ask for forgiveness for our sins. But if the person who has hurt us is never sorry all we can do is leave it in God’s hands.

And that’s why Jesus commands it. There’s nothing more freeing, more peace bringing than forgiving the other and putting their salvation into God’s hands. The act of forgiveness is healing to the person who has been wronged. That’s the root of Jesus’ command. Forgive your enemies because it’s good for you.

If we believe the terrible warnings Jesus gave us and the witness of saints over the years we know with deep sorrow that hell is not empty. Jesus offered forgiveness to anyone and everyone. All we have to do is accept the gift. If we offer the gift we cannot force the other to take it, any more than Jesus forces them to take His forgiveness. If people don’t want to be sorry or accept forgiveness they don’t have to. But you surely can’t look at a crucifix for very long without realising that He did that as He did that for each of us, our forgiving others can’t be so hard, especially as He will give us what we need to do it.

Forgive even those who project their own problems onto you. Resist the temptation to wish for retribution or even justice. Pray and ask for mercy for them as you would want mercy for you. And resist the other temptation that comes with being hurt by someone who does something you would never dream of doing. Resist feeling superior, even if they never say sorry.  While being so magnanimous with your forgiveness don’t trip into the pit of the Pharisee. 

Forgiveness is really wishing well for the other, wanting their redemption.  Those, rather strange, pseudo-christians who scream damnation on others have absolutely no idea what they are doing (or at least I hope not). Pray and leave it up to God. 

This forgiveness malarkey; it’s not as easy as you might think is it?

For those easier to solve moments  “Hey now, hold on, there’s a better way to solve this conflict, hey now, hold on, there’s a better way —-hug it out, hug it out..

The Ascension of Our Lord and a side note about St. Dismas

It’s the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord today although locally here it won’t be celebrated until Sunday. In this piece in which Pope Francis speaks about the Ascension he notes how joyful the apostles were when Jesus ascended into heaven. He points out that the  disciples knew Jesus hadn’t been taken away from them, but that He remained with them forever.  He had promised “I am with you, even to the end of the age.” And they knew He always spoke the truth.

I was going to try and write something meaningful about the Ascension but my brain is on a go slow.

So can I, instead, mention poor old St. Dismas. (Yes, I do have a soft spot for him).

It seems to be a popular question these days to ask if St. Dismas, the good thief, crucified with Jesus, did anything to be saved and whether he passed through purgatory.

If people think that Purgatory is a “place” you go to after death and Jesus said “This day you will be with me in Paradise” I do understand there might be some confusion. But if, as I suspect, many questioners are saying Dismas didn’t suffer purgatory (and in a weird extension that I don’t understand they then say therefore there is no purgatory) then it makes me think of “invisible illnesses”.

First; Purgatory is a process in which a soul is cleansed of attachment to sin and makes the required reparation for those sins as nothing unclean can live with God.  St. Paul describes it as being saved “as if through fire” where only the “gold and silver” are left.  It was certainly part of popular thought that Purgatory was a place with a time linked to earth where people would be purged over days, years or even centuries but this has been clarified by the Church and we are reminded that Purgatory is a process first and  foremost. We can do a whole lot of it this side of death; so as Blessed Pope John Paul II said “Don’t waste your suffering!”

St Dismas was crucified for his sins. He accepted this astonishingly cruel way to die and even had the courage to speak up first for Jesus and then to beg for His mercy, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

To suggest that Dismas didn’t do anything and that he got off lightly is a bit like saying to a person with severe chronic illness “But you don’t look ill.” Perhaps St. Dismas could be made patron saint of “invisible illnesses”.

I am sure this questioning of what St Dismas went through is a very modern thing. Our culture of individualism has slid into blind selfishness and reached the point where even those who are supposed to be Christian can fail to see the suffering of another to such an extent they actually deny it. They deny his courage as well.

It seems to me a short (and dangerous to the soul) step between shrugging off what St. Dismas did in his last hours to shrugging off what his cross mate Jesus did for all of us.

Love one another…how?

Yesterday’s Gospel was St. John telling us how Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34)

Father D picked up on the fact that Jesus said this was a “new commandment” and said how new was it when throughout Scripture God has tried to get people to love one another? It was a good question.

Jesus said it was a new commandment because of how He wanted us to love. Having set His example in washing their feet and then feeding them with His Body and Blood (because God is not constrained by time – but that’s another issue) and Judas has left to do his dirty deed.

Jesus then says He is giving them a new commandment, that they love one another – not in the comfortable sense of love but as HE has loved them. In the Greek St. John uses the word “agapete” (from agape) for Greek has more than one word for love depending on what kind of love was being spoken about.

Agape love is the giving love that in Latin is charitas which in English we call charity – that is giving. Charity in it’s real meaning has a much deeper meaning than dropping a few unneeded coins in a box. Agape-charity is sacrifice. We give something we need (or think we need) for the sake of another.

This is the love that demands we forgive our enemies and love them and pray for those who persecute and damage us.

Jesus suffered hugely for love of us and poured out every last drop of blood for us. When He calls the disciples to do the same He means it. There is no way on earth we could obey that commandment.  We are naturally selfish and self serving. Surely He’s asking way too much of us!

Thankfully the context for this otherwise impossible commandment is that He has just provided the Eucharist, the soulfood that gives us what we need to be able to obey that commandment.

In English we bandy the word “love” around in such a way that we often forget what it means in different circumstances. Jesus knows exactly what He is saying when He uses the word love and if we are going to love the way He wants us to, we had better be sure we get to grips with His meaning of the word, rather than what we would rather it meant.