Saturday, July 26, 2014

Authority

A childhood friend wrote to me recently.  She was never that interested in any church and really didn't discuss much about it with me until about a decade or so ago.  At that time, she politely asked about a prayer some people were saying together at a Catholic funeral.  I told her it was the Rosary.  I explained the Rosary--how it is a meditative form of prayer concentrating on the lives of Jesus Christ and His mother Mary.  Since she is not Catholic, I also provided her with the Scriptures for each of the "mysteries", the stories that one contemplates on while praying, so that she could see that it is Scriptural.  Her response was gracious.  Later she even attended of my sons' first communion.

Well, she apparently had a "meet Jesus" moment in recent months and has been asking questions.  However, the questions have gone from polite and curious to accusatory and downright anti-Catholic.  I don't know what kind of "prayer ministry" she's joined but they seemed to have convinced her that Catholics are not Christians or not "saved."  She has been convinced that my soul is in danger and that I can't possibly understand what a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ (because I'm Catholic).  How can otherwise well-meaning people be so hateful to other members of the same family--God's family?  I believe it is the influence of the dark one, the one who does not want Christ's Church to be one as Christ Himself wished it to be.  I've tried to be patient and tried to be loving but it is extremely difficult to get past the feeling of betrayal.

She started off by sending me a letter telling me that I had been on her mind a lot lately.  She said, "I don't know why the thoughts come to mind over religion, its [sic] not really over being saved or not, its more of believing something that just isn't correct." So, after years of not going to any church, asking respectful questions, and listening to explanations from me as to why I am a Catholic, she's decided she knows what is "correct."  I couldn't possibly know better than her charismatic group.

She asked me a question a couple of months ago about an interview she'd heard with a priest who had stated that the Real Presence in the Eucharist was the center of His personal relationship with Christ.  This phrase, "personal relationship with Christ," raised a big red flag for that fledgling Christian zealot.  She asked me if I "could never take the Eucharist again would [I] be close to the Holy Spirit/Jesus, the Personal Relationship as Catholics put it."  As a matter of fact, one Catholic put it that way.  That priest doesn't speak for every individual Catholic.  However, I did try to explain to her that I had no objection to the priest from the interview expressing his feelings that way.  After all, how much more personal can you get than to meet Christ in the Flesh. There is nothing more intimate, more personal than Christ becoming a part of you in a real, mystical way every time you go to Mass.  But, this tack never satisfies.  I understand that Protestants, especially some of the latest off shoots of the mainstream Protestants, such as Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc.  These off-shoot sects as those who are now doing strange things like not celebrating Easter or Christmas and perpetuating lies like St. Patrick, bishop and missionary to Ireland, was not Catholic because he never mentions the Catholic Church in his writings (1-Very few of his writings have survived the intervening 14 centuries, 2-There was no need to "mention" the Catholic Church, it was the one and only Christian church in existence at the time).  They are so against any hint of tradition that might in any way lead back to the Catholic Church that they make things up about Catholics and about historic tradition.

She persisted on this tack however, insisting that I answer whether or not I would have a "personal relationship with Christ if I could not have the Eucharist."   I told her that was not a fair question.  It would be something similar to whether or not I could ever eat breakfast if I could never have eggs again.  Now, I know my example is a little absurd but I couldn't think of anything better off the cuff.  I can still have breakfast--I just can't have eggs.  I can still have a "personal relationship" with Christ without the Eucharist, but why would I want to?  What closer relationship to a person than the person themselves--in person!!!  When I go to the Eucharist (Greek word for thanksgiving), I am with Him, He is Present, and He is in me at that moment.  How much more personal is that?

1800 yo copy of Paul's letter
Her latest insult not was to ask me about authority.  She said they had talked about authority in her "prayer ministry class."  She said the class "was all around who has the Authority given by Jesus and the Holy Spirit? [sic] Much of what the book of Hebrews speaks."  She doesn't specify just what Hebrews "speaks" of authority.  If she is talking about the absolute obedience that some protestants believe is implied in Hebrews 13, she'd be wrong about the Catholic Church.  While Catholics do believe that Church leaders have authority in spiritual matters, Catholics are not now nor have they ever been mindless drones of a huge religious machine.  All one has to do is look at the rate of conversions in the Catholic Church.  Twice as many are entering the Church as leaving it, and many of the converts are the more educated of former Protestants.

But not only does my friend ask about authority, but she then equates Catholics to Mormons when she asks, "Is it only given to Men like LDS/RLDS/FLDS?"  No, we don't believe authority is "only" given to men.  The authority in the Church was given to Christ, who passed that same authority to His apostles.  The Holy Spirit was then sent by Christ to give the apostles the courage and strength to live out that authority in the Church.  The Holy Spirit is now the soul of the Church Christ founded and guides her leaders to this day.  That is the authority the author of Hebrews was referring to in chapter 13.  Christians do not act as mindless drones, but neither do they make up an aimless body.  Th
LDS Temple Salt Lake City
is comparison between the LDS and the Catholic Church is more than insulting and I will not tolerate this insult anymore.  The Catholic Church was founded by Christ upon Peter and the Apostles almost 2,000 years ago.  The LDS has no such founding or authority, having been founded by a crazy man about 150 years ago on his own fictional writings.  There is no comparison.

She asked if it were "maybe Pastor's and Deacons?"  If she means Protestant pastors and deacons, then my answer would be a no.  While Protestant Churches have some of the Truth Christ left for us, they lack much of it.  These Pastors and Deacons did not get their authority from the Church Christ established, therefore, no they don't have the authority of interpretation or the giving of the Eucharist.  They have some authority over their own church, their own little kingdom as it were, but they do not have the authority Christ gave the apostles or the Church.

Jesus gives the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter
She then asked "Is it [authority] the Pope and Priests and Saints of the Church?"  The simple answer is yes at least about the pope and priests.  I'm not sure that saints have authority per se on their own.  Saints are examples of Christian living and the holiness that we should all aspire to.  But the Pope was appointed by Christ Himself.  Christ chose Peter as the Rock upon which the Church is built.  He commissioned Peter to "Feed my lambs.  Feed my sheep."  This is an obvious referral to Christ, the Good Shepherd, passing the job as the shepherd of His sheep on earth to Peter.  He made Peter His visible representative on earth.  Minimizing what Christ did or saying it isn't so just because you don't think it should be that way, doesn't change the fact that Christ did indeed put Peter in charge of His Church.  He also commissioned the other apostles--"Go into all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  Christ commissioned them as the first priests.  It is that simple.

The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles
"Did it [authority] die off sometime after the 12 Apostles where put to death?"  No.  Why would it?  Christ founded His Church on the apostles--founded, not just tossed out there temporarily.  Look in the book of Acts.  Matthias was commissioned to take Judas' place among the twelve.  If authority was to "die off" with the apostles, why would they choose a replacement for one of them?  It would be pointless.  Obviously, the 11 thought it necessary to choose and train a replacement for the future of the Church.  Also, the "Council of Jerusalem" also points to the continuation of authority.  There really would be no point in hashing out the issue of whether or not one had to be a Jew to be a Christian, if they felt they had no authority to decide for future generations.  So, easily the answer to that question is NO.

"Or by some wild chance ignored by Christians over the years,..."  So, when Christ said, "...the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" or "I am with you always" He had to have been lying.  The Church was founded by Christ, emboldened and given life by the Holy Spirit, and watched over by generation upon generation of disciples of Christ, but only "Christians" now know what Jesus meant by those words.

She says that "...we who have knowledge/understanding given by the Holy Spirit and reading the Scriptures we all have the ability given to us if we pray and seek the Holy Spirit?"  I would then ask her as I would any misguided Protestant, "What makes you right and not Joe Smith down the street?  You two don't agree with each other but you both say that the Holy Spirit and Scripture guide you.  So, who is right?"  Most Protestants don't think that deeply about what they've been told to believe.  The vast majority of Protestants believe what their Pastor or whatever they call their leader tells them to believe.  Why do some Protestants believe baptism is necessary and some just believe it is water over their heads?  Jesus said, "Go...baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  So, He just meant the original 12?  No one else needed baptism?  What about the Lord's Supper?  Since it is just a symbol to most Protestants, some churches don't even bother with the farce of reenacting it.  Jesus said, "When you eat this bread and drink this cup..."  Why don't they think Jesus' words are important?  He said when you do it; he didn't say if you do it.  Why do Protestants believe it is okay to say, "This is what we believe: x, y, z" and then just find those convenient Scriptures that support their beliefs while ignoring the rest of Scripture?  It is sad and not a little hypocritical.

 When I told her I found some of her questions disrespectful and a little insulting she said, "It didn't surprise me that you have no interest at this time. I hope sometime we might be able to enjoy talking of such things."  I don't mind talking of such things, but, I'm sorry, we are not on equal footing in this matter.  I am much more educated in my Faith and in Christology.  She may be part of a pentecostal group that believes that the Holy Spirit is guiding them--that doesn't make it so.  Telling me that I must know I'm wrong because I passionately defend my faith (which she did in a different email) is just ludicrous.  If you want to talk, let's talk, but leave the insults out of it. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My best friend

It has been a very long time since I had a real best girlfriend.  A girlfriend I could talk to on the phone for hours at a time.  Someone who understood how I felt and would let me talk about anything and everything until I was all talked out.

My sister was my best friend growing up.  We talked all the time.  We fought as sisters do and we'd make up.  Nothing could separate us.  That is, until she got married.  Then most of the time she was so wrapped up in the day to day of an 18 year old trying to take care of a tiny apartment, and being pregnant that she hardly had time for me.  As things became more routine, we eventually got our best friend groove back.  Then I joined the Air Force.  For the first few months, I was not able to talk to my best friend very often.  I had very few chances to call home during training and she was busy with her second child.  But, after I got stationed at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, DC, we were able to talk more.  We would talk an hour or more once or twice a week.  It was nice to have a best friend.  That seemed to change when her marriage fell apart.  Apparently, I could not sympathize in the right way or say the right words.  So, the calls became less frequent.  She visited me once, after I was married and pregnant with my first child.  She was divorced and seeing a muslim immigrant.  Later she married a friend's cousin from Pakistan.  She resented the fact that I would not come to her wedding in Pakistan.  At that time I was living in Germany, had two toddlers and I was not about to go to a third world country on my own or with two little ones and endanger our health.  When I was pregnant with my fourth child (and only daughter), she got angry at me on the phone.  Later I found out that her (second) husband didn't like her talking to me on the phone when he was home.  He felt that we were conspiring against him.  And, because I didn't know about or help her out of her abusive situation, she seems to have blamed me for it.  She later left the abusive SOB with the help of another friend.  I didn't know why she wouldn't talk to me until years later.  Since then, she has remarried her first husband but only spoken to me a handful of times.  Our best friend phone calls ceased 14 years ago and have never resumed.  I rarely get so much as a Christmas card.  It is a hole in my heart and life that can never be filled.  Although she said she's forgiven me (for what I am still not sure), she still doesn't speak to me unless we happen to be in the same place which doesn't happen very often.

So, I've tried to forge friendships with women around me.  I thought I had a friend in when we lived in Germany.  She was an officer's wife however and made it quite clear that enlisted wives were beneath her.  We went on a tour of Belgium together, with my two oldest sons (toddlers at the time) in tow.  While she enjoyed having the company, she made it clear that I was not only not her first choice but that I was actually a burden on the trip.  The purpose of the trip was to scout locations for a wives club (which was combined enlisted and officers wives at the time--that changed later) outing.  So, no we did not get close.  Oh, but Belgium is where I discovered the saint that would become my patroness, St. Walburga.  It was the first time I ever saw a woman saint depicted with a bishop's crook in her hand.  I later found out that Abbots are considered of the same rank as bishops and are often depicted with bishop's crooks.  St. Walburga was a physician, and abbess who later took over the whole abbey of men and women when her brother, the abbot died.  I took her as my confirmation Saint when I became a Catholic at Easter, 1998.

Since I was older than most mothers who had children the same age as mine, I usually had little in common with them.  Women my age have teenage or adult children, so they don't want to be around someone with young children.  In Texas, our parish had a wonderful women's group that had women of every age and situation.  It was great to be a part of a group at least, even if I could not find a close friend among them.  By then I had four children and, believe it or not, that was unusual even in a Catholic parish.  The support and friendship I felt there was wonderful, but I was sorely disappointed when we came to Oklahoma.  The parish here has no women's group and when I asked if we could have one, people looked at me as if I had two heads and asked why would we need such a group.  So, no women's group.

When I decided to home school, that made me even weirder.  Catholic homeschooling came out of the Protestant homeschooling movement which had been going on for decades before Catholics started doing it in large numbers.  However, when you are in a town (in Texas, mind you) where there is one Catholic Church in town and one on the outskirts of town, no Catholic schools at all, and you are one of the few white families (our parish was about 60% Hispanic, 30% Filipino, and 10% white--this is my estimation) it is very difficult decision on what to do about education.  However, there are schools such as Seton (since 1980) and Kolbe Academy Home schools that are Catholic and help you give your kids a good Catholic education.  I joined the on base home school support group.  They were very nice ladies, but they made it abundantly clear that Catholics weren't welcome to many of their activities.  The librarian there was great; she supported all home school mothers.  She would ask the group every year what books to order to help them.  She would fit as many of the books on our wish list as she could in her budget.  However, none of these women were going to be a close friend.

Here in Oklahoma, I've tried, too.  I even thought I had a friend who had children the same age as me.  As we got to know each other, I thought we were good friends but, like all the "girlfriends" I've had before, she was younger and had already established friendships.   I was invited over for group things but rarely did we do things together.  The first time she hurt my feelings, I tried my best to just take it and never let her know.  I think I was successful because I believe to this day she doesn't know how her actions hurt me when she picked another "friend" over me.  I tried not to let it make me bitter but in some ways it has.  I would write more about the hurts and disappointments over the years but I believe she reads my blog, so I will end it here.  I am trying to let it go and just be friendly when we see each other.  

I have one friend now with whom I talk on occasion, but it is the same thing.  Her two kids are grown and I am still raising mine.  So, we have lunch together.  Sometimes we go to a play or musical together.  The last time we went out we saw "Sister Act" on stage.  It was fun and funny.  I had a good time.  But, still not best friend fun.  I can't call her and talk for an hour on the phone and bear all to her.  I enjoy her company but it is not the same as my best friend/sister that I miss so very much.

As I go through my cancer treatment, I feel very much alone.  I have no best girlfriend.  I have no one to talk to until I'm done talking.  That best friend is gone and I feel alone.  I do have a "cancer buddy", as my daughter has named her, with whom I am talk sometimes.  She went through something similar to me in the Fall.  However, she's pretty much done and my journey goes on.  But, we only talk here and there.  It is usually an hour at a time but only about once every other week or so.

My mother has been my rock.  She stayed in the hospital with me both times and kept me company.  She lets me blather on the phone and get things off my chest.  I feel bad sometimes though because she has an ailing mother (my grandmother is 90 next month) and a daughter going through cancer treatment.  She's kind of sandwiched in between.  She's been wonderful.  I guess my mom is the best friend I can have for now.  While there are things I cannot tell her, I can tell her a lot.  God bless moms!  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cancer and all that Goes with it--Again


St. Agatha prayer card
Note: This was written in May.  I have had another mastectomy since.  I will write on that soon.

Well, It looks like I get to go through the whole nightmare, again.  Yes, I should have had my other breast rechecked at the time.  Yes, I probably should have insisted on a double mastectomy.  But, I did not want to have healthy tissue removed.  I was taking tamoxifen.  That was supposed to block the hormone receptors in the cancer cells.  Apparently, it didn't work.


Last week I had a biopsy. The doctor had me go through yet another mammogram.  Afterward, I noticed that the technician had a mammo on the light box.  However, it was the pictures taken in August, not the one I had done in April.  So, if they are working off my old one, why didn't they biopsy my right side then?  Wow, it could have saved me a whole six months of anxiety, wondering, and pain.  However, if the biopsy comes out positive, I may save myself a trip to the OR. I put off my reconstruction for this and may be able to have it done at the same time as my second mastectomy.  Now, I just have to wait a couple of days for the results and the decision on surgery.

As small as our community is at church and civic groups, I find it interesting that people I'm acquainted with don't know about my mastectomy.  I thought that rumor would go around like wild fire.  I am amazed and pleased at the same time that my life is not grist for the rumor mill.  But I also notice that when people do find out about it, they seem to expect me to look like an Amazon warrior--you know, the mythical female warriors who had one breast cut off to make bow and arrow easier to use in battle.  I had a simple mastectomy of one breast.  The surgeon removed all the breast tissue.  He lifted the muscle off the rib cage, inserted an expander, and sewed the skin back together.  I feel very self conscious in tight clothes because to me it looks very odd.  My daughter says no one else notices the odd shape of my left breast or that it has changed its shape and size over the last six months.  It still makes me feel strange, especially the sleepy flesh feel of it.  It is not me but it is what I have to live with now.  My husband is understanding and says he is okay with the artificiality and ugliness of it.  It is one of those strange things you never really thought you'd be talking to your husband about when you were a girl.

So, my cancer odyssey has begun again.  Hopefully, if I do have another mastectomy, I won't have to worry about cancer again.  But, you never know.  I had no risk factors for breast cancer (except, as my good friend Paddy says, I have breasts and I'm  a woman. 




Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Catholic Layman's take on the "Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants"

In researching a paper, I came across an article titled  Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants.  The author did not say, in the article, what her affiliation was but claimed to be neutral for this article.  Here are her 12 "simple differences" and some clarifications from a Catholic layman.
Pope Francis

1. The Pope. Catholics have a Pope, which they consider a vicar for Christ — an infallible stand-in, if you will — that heads the Church. Protestants believe no human is infallible and Jesus alone heads up the Church.

Of course the pope is a "difference" between Catholics and Protestants.  The very name "Protestant" bespeaks of the protest of certain men and their followers in the 16th century who left the Church and founded churches on their own feelings, opinions, and personal interpretation of Scripture, and protesting against the authority and doctrine of the Church.

The pope is the vicar of Christ.  It is a title of honor as well as jurisdiction meaning that he is the earthly head of the Church, representing our true Head, Jesus Christ.  Christ Himself appointed Peter as His vicar when He said, "Feed My lambs...feed My sheep" (John 21:16-17).  This authority has been placed in the hands of subsequent popes with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit and soul of the Christ's Church.

The pope however is not infallible in the way Protestants believe the word to mean.  Infallible does not mean he is sinless or never makes mistakes.  The pope goes to confession just like every other practicing Catholic does.  He is not perfect; he does sin.

Actually, infallibility is a charism (a gift or grace from God in order to do something God asks of us) given to the  pope which makes it impossible for him, as pope, to declare any error in doctrine.  This infallibility only applies to proclamations of doctrine that he has prayed over, has run by many theologians and bishops, and declared or proclaimed from the "chair of Peter."  While the pope's other writings and teachings are considered authoritative, they are not all infallible.

An example of an infallible declaration is the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854:
...for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." [emphasis mine]

Notice the declaration (in quotes) and how it is meant to be for "all the faithful."  This type of proclamation is protected by the Holy Spirit.


St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC
2.  Big, Fancy Cathedrals. Catholics have them; Protestants don’t. Why? Catholicism says that “humanity must discover its unity and salvation” within a church. Protestants say all Christians can be saved, regardless of church membership. (Ergo… shitty, abandoned storefront churches? All Protestant.)

I can only address some of the many reasons for the "big, fancy" Catholic Cathedrals.  1) They were meant to model the Church after the Kingdom of Heaven.  When one steps into a cathedral (especially the vaulted, medieval ones) you are meant to feel as if you stepped into that Heavenly place.  2) The stained glass windows, statues, wall paintings, mosaics and tapestries of the medieval and middle ages Cathedrals were there to tell the stories of Scripture to illiterate worshipers.   The vast majority of the population lived just above poverty level, with no time to sit and learn to read.  (Even Emperor Charlemagne was illiterate.)  Statues and pictures of saints tell the stories of these wonderful Christians who are a part of the family of God.  In other words, they are family portraits.  3) The artwork in the cathedrals was both education for the people and gifts from the artists (or patrons of the artists).  4) The cathedrals, generally, were built by the people over a century or more as  a gift to God--a form of worship to God.

I would like to know where the quote "humanity must discover its unity and salvation" within a church came from.  I'm not sure what the author is trying to imply here.  The Catholic Church believes that Christ founded one Church and meant it to stay one ("...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.").  So, that is the unity, but it is not about the building.  The Church believes that salvation comes through the Church, however tangentially.  There is the salvation part, but that is not about the building either.  Maybe this is just a case of a Protestant not understanding Catholic vocabulary.?  Who knows.

While it is true that there are crappy store-front Protestant churches, there are also some pretty spectacular Protestant Churches such as the Washington National Cathedral, the Episcopalian Cathedral in DC which took over a century to build in modern times.


St. Walburga
3. Saints. Catholics pray to saints (holy dead people) in addition to God and Jesus. Protestants acknowledge saints, but don’t pray to them.

It is important to clarify here that Catholics do not pray to "holy dead people".  We talk to our living family members.  When we pray to the saints, it is indeed in addition to praying to God, but it does not replace praying to God.  One, we believe the saints to be alive ("He is not the God of the dead but of the living" Mark 12:27) and with Christ their Savior.  Two, we pray to them to talk to God for us, just as we ask the other members of the family of God on earth.

I don't what Protestants acknowledge saints, except Orthodox and Lutherans, at least not in the same context.  Many Protestants believe that all "believers" (In quotes, because believers is whatever their personal definition of a believer might be) to be saints.  Therefore, the meaning of the word doesn't even correlate. 

Holy Water font
4.  Holy Water. Catholics only.

Here the author did not even explain if or why holy water is a problem.  Why holy water?  Yeah, that's a difference, of sorts...

Here are some points on holy water:
--Water was used to ceremonially wash the body before entering the Temple in Jerusalem and it was a custom in the early Church as well.
--Holy water is used for baptism.
--Holy water fonts are available in Catholic Churches to remind us of our baptism and ceremonially cleanse us upon entering the nave (the main body of the Church).
--Catholics are sprinkled with water at certain Masses, reminding us of our baptism and our baptismal promises.
--On the altar, the priest pours a small amount of holy water in the chalice, indicating the water which came from the side of Christ along with His blood.
--The priest purifies his hands (ceremonially washes) before the Eucharistic prayers.
--It is a sacramental, not magic.

Fr. Morris, seen on TV
5. Celibacy and Nuns. Catholics only.

Celibacy was advocated by Christ and soon followed by the Early Church.
The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.' But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'  (Matthew 19:10-12; emphasis mine)
The writings of the Church fathers show that, in the early Church, married priests were not the accepted norm in the main centres of Alexandria, Antioch and Rome. They were considered a "problem" that existed in the outlying regions. By the third century there were almost no married priests and several councils put the issue to rest until around the 9th century when many bishops and priests took wives and had children. The state of the priesthood fell to an all time low.  A huge problem emerged with priests "willing" Church property to their families. Up to that point, the principle of celibacy was never completely surrendered in the official enactments of the Church. In 1123, celibacy was made official. Although, throughout history there have been scattered instances of abuses of the Canon Law, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently stuck to this position on celibate priests.  (Catholic Bridge, "Why Can't priests get married?")
Ingrid Bergman in Bells of St. Mary's
In this day and age of clergy divorce, adultery, and "Preacher's daughters", the importance of singular dedication to God and their calling should be very apparent.  What some anti-Catholics do not understand is that there are married priests in the Catholic church.  Yes, they are the minority, but they do exist.  Celibacy is a discipline in order for priests and other religious to dedicate their whole lives to God without the distractions of spouse, children, and family responsibilities.  Men who become priests are responsible for a much bigger family--Christ's family.

In point of fact the Catholic Church is not the only church with nuns.  Both the Anglican church, and the Orthodox church have nuns, and the Lutheran church has "deaconesses".  I don't know much about Protestant nuns but Catholic nuns are women dedicated to Jesus Christ alone.  They spend their days praying for the salvation of the world and doing good (humanitarian) works.  This can only be a good thing.


6. Purgatory: Catholics only.

Yes and no.

Purgation  or Purgatory is not only Scriptural but traditional.

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Revelations 21:27 tells us that nothing impure will enter Heaven.

Purgatory is simply a place or state of being in which Christians are cleansed or purged of all stain of sin before entering Heaven.  It is neither a second chance, nor a place or state without hope.  Anyone who is in Purgatory or in the state of purging knows that they will be in Heaven once the cleansing is complete.  Since it is after this life, time does not exist there, so we cannot say that you spend a certain amount of "time" there because time doesn't exist there.

There are other Christian sects that believe in purification before Heaven but will not call this state or process Purgatory in opposition to the Church.  So, actually there are Protestant sects that do indeed believe in it, they just don't call it that.
  
7. Scripture: The be-all, end-all for Protestants is “the Word of God.” For Catholics, tradition is just important as scripture — maybe even more so.

What the blogger fails to point out is that Scripture is part of Catholic Tradition. It is the most important part of the Tradition of the Church.  It is extremely important to the Church and her members.

 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."  (CCC 132)
Protestantism that I have personally experienced has traditions of their own that is every bit as important as Scripture.  Scripture alone as the "be-all, end all" is a protestant tradition not based in Scripture.


One of my favorites for Children
8. Catechism: Protestant kids memorize the Bible. Catholic kids get catechism.

It is not quite as black and white as that.  The "catechism" that Catholic kids "get" includes Scripture.  While Catholic Children don't memorize large chunks of Scripture word for word, they learn whole sections and stories by heart.  Ask any Catholic kid about Creation, Moses,  the Prodigal Son, or the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Last Supper, or the Passion of Christ, I bet you'd be impressed.  The catechism is a concise outline of the Faith passed down for twenty centuries which includes Scripture.  Children learn their Faith and learn why the Church believes what it believes.  The Catechism, including the children's version, is filled with the rich gift of Scripture. While many Catholic children can't spout memorized Scripture on demand, properly catechized children can tell others about what is in the Bible and what we believe about it.


Vatican Council II
9. Authori-tay: In Catholicism, only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret the Bible. Protestants hold that each individual has authority to interpret the Bible.

 Yes, the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture.  Christ sent the Holy Spirit to His Church at Pentecost for this very reason.  He guided and inspired men who wrote the Scriptures, who taught the Scriptures, and interpreted the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit-guided Church gave the Bible as we know it to the world--even the Protestants.  And, there has been nearly 2,000 years of Catholic theologians, scholars, and councils studying and interpreting Scripture, why would an individual believe they've come up with something new?  That is the height of hubris.

The error of individual interpretation of Scripture is what gave us the "33,000!" (I'm quoting the blogger, now) different Protestant denominations, churches, or communities--however they want to distinguish or name themselves.  There are protestants fighting protestants.  Just one example would be the importance of baptism for salvation: one groups says it is necessary, others say you're just getting wet.


10. Sacraments: Catholic are the only ones to have the concept of the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony). Protestants teach that salvation is attained through faith alone.

Ironically, those that claim that their only authority is Scripture don't or won't understand that the only place that the words "faith alone" are found in Scripture, they appear in the negative.   

"So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17, NAB)
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:17, KJV)
Faith produces fruit or it is dead, after all, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19, KJV)     

These sacraments are beneficial in the order of grace and all seven were instituted by Christ.  God's free gift of grace helps us with our faith, and our faith gets stronger with each sacrament we partake in.
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. (CCC 1131)

Mary, Mother of God
11. Holidays: Catholics have 10 Holy Days of Obligation (which mean they must go to Mass). Protestants are more like, “Just come to church on Christmas, that’s all we ask.”

This blanket statement is much too general.

Yes, the Catholic Church in America has 8 Holy days of Obligation (2 of the original 10, Epiphany and The Body and Blood of Christ, have been transferred to Sundays) in addition to our Sunday obligation.  The reality is that all Catholics are obligated to go to Mass every single Sunday of the year.  The other eight days are in addition to the Sunday obligation.

The Nativity (Christmas)
The ten (the eight with the other 2 now on Sunday) days are:  Mary, Mother of God (January 1), Epiphany (Sunday after January 1), Ascension (either the sixth Thursday of Easter or the seventh Sunday of Easter depending on the diocese), Body and Blood of Christ (Second Sunday after Pentecost), The Assumption of Mary (August 15), All Saints (November 1), Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8) and Christmas Day (December 25).

As for Protestants, I don't agree with the blogger's blanket statement.  In the Baptist church in which I grew up, it was expected, if not an outright rule, that all good members of that church went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evenings.  Also expected was attendance to any "revivals" and extra prayer meetings.  You were told in the minister's message how you couldn't be a good Christian if you didn't give time and money to God.  I'm sure that this "obligation" is still true in many Protestant churches today.
 
The Eucharist and Heaven
12. Communion: In Catholicism, the bread and wine “become” the body and blood of Jesus Christ, meaning that Jesus is truly present on the altar. In Protestantism, the bread and wine are symbolic.

While true, this is a broad generalization.  The Catholic Church does believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  The main reason is because we believe Christ words literally.  We believe He meant what He said:

Then he took bread, ...saying, 'This is my body given for you'...He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.' (Luke 22:19,20)
Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28)
Also, in the Orthodox and Lutheran traditions the bread and wine are more than symbolic, but expressed in a different way than the Catholic Church.

I, personally, feel sorry for Protestants who claim they believe in what Scriptures say, yet ignore what Scripture actually says.  If communion is just bread and wine (actually grape juice in most Protestants circles), what was the point of doing it in the first place?  Just going through the motions seems a lot less efficacious than believing in Christ's words.  

Conclusion: Christians have a lot more commonality than differences.  We all are sincerely trying to follow Christ and His teaching. Our Lord taught us to love God and love one another. Do I think Protestants are wrong on many levels?  Yes or I would not be a Catholic today.  I have found Christ, His Church, His family.  I am completely in love with my Savior and I believe that I am doing my best to follow Him and help my children know and follow Him.  Other Christians waste a lot of time, money, effort, and hatred on fellow Christians.  It is sad, really, because that is not what Christ intended. We are all God's children and we all deserve respect.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday Meal

Tonight I look forward to eating a full meal.  Yes, I did fast; I am not old enough yet to be "excused."  Went to Mass this morning, but immediately gave it to stress and irritation by getting angry with my teenage daughter.  The problem was resolved after our walk home and lots of deep breaths.  Then came the apologies and prayers for forgiveness.  (sigh)

Well, tonight we are having Macaroni and Cheese and Romaine Salad--Lenten meal 2


 
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
Topping:
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Romaine Salad

Prepackaged Romaine Salad (Romaine, carrots, cabbage)
Cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
Chopped dill weed, parsley, and chives 
 
 Toss all ingredients

Vinegrette
1/3 c. Balsamic vinegar
2/3 c. Extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Brown sugar optional
salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy! 

Ash Wednesday

Somebody on facebook said it well, "Catholics wear ashes to mark themselves as sinners, not holy or special. It's a scarlet letter, not a gold medal."
  

"For dust you are and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rules for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Lenten Fast, Again

This is a repeat of my post from last February, just before Ash Wednesday.  I thought it could use repeating since most people seem to forget from year to year.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence.  All Catholics who have reached age 18 and are not yet 60 are required to fast on these days.  All Catholics who are age 14 and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.
 
Fast and Abstinence Requirements for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
--Eat only one regular size meal.
--Eat two smaller meals (or less) that do not equal your main meal.
--Do not eat or snack between meals.
--Do not eat any meat, soup made with meat, gravy, or broth, or any other dish prepared with meat.
 
However, if you cannot, for health reasons, fast think of another sacrifice you can make on those days.  My son is a type 1 diabetic, he is now 19 but he can not fast.  I suggested that he "abstain" from his iPod and computer for the day.  That is a sacrifice for him.

Let's not forget the most important things to remember during Lent: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving.
 
Added 2014:  Why do Catholics fast (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent? [For a full answer go to this article at Catholic.com.]  Here are a few snippets:

"Lent bears particular relationship to the 40 days Christ spent fasting in the desert before entering into his public ministry (Mt 4:1-11)."
 
"Fasting is a biblical discipline that can be defended from both the Old and the New Testament."
 
"Abstinence from certain foods is also a biblical discipline."
 
"By having the sign of the cross made with ashes on their foreheads, Catholics mourn Christ's suffering on the cross and their own sins, which made that suffering necessary."