Take up your cross Saturday, Oct 8 2011 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Compassion (1897)

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels…”
Luke 9:23-26 NAB

The strangest Catholic doctrine? Saturday, Apr 30 2011 

I have said before that I had a “Catholics believe some wacky things” attitude prior to my conversion.

What was the wackiest thing?

Transubstantiation, of course. Who could possibly believe that when they take communion, they’re really eating Jesus? What kind of malarkey is that?

Yet when I found myself in the midst of converting to Catholicism, I ended up having almost no problem with transubstantiation. Catholic teaching regarding the Eucharist was nowhere near the top of my “things I’m not sure I can agree with” list as I delved into Catholic doctrine. I read what the Church had to say and that was that. And that’s a credit to God and God alone, as I was raised believing firmly that the Lord’s Supper was meant, like baptism, to be purely symbolic. While as a new Catholic I didn’t understand the Eucharist at all, I believed the Church was correct. I believed first. Some modicum of understanding came later.

Believing does not require understanding; we could believe very little about the world otherwise. So we are, thankfully, not called to understand everything we’re commanded to do. We can’t. We’re not God. Instead, we’re called to follow directions, to act in faith. God’s commands are clear. In obeying God and trusting that our obedient actions have functions even if we can neither see nor understand how they work, we invite God to use our faithful obedience to bring us to a greater — if perpetually incomplete — understanding of God and our place in Him and His in us.

Like most of my posts here, this post is intended to address a point of Catholic doctrine from the perspective of a convert from an evangelical Protestant denomination. I do not intend to cover every facet of this issue. That’s not possible in a little blog post. (If you’d rather have book learning first, here you go; my post will be here when you’re done!) I want instead merely to share a few things that have helped me as I’ve sought that elusive understanding. These things might — I hope — be of to help others who have a similar evangelical Protestant background and who are curious about Catholicism.

Let’s start with the Gospel of John. The account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is well-known even among non-Christians—if not in exact detail, then at least in concept. But the overall concept is not what I want to discuss at the moment. Instead, let’s look at an exact detail in John chapter 11.

…[Jesus] then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”

So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”

But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.”

John 11:11-14 NAB

We see here that Jesus spoke clearly when His disciples misunderstood Him.

Even in this uncomplicated matter—they would have figured out what He meant later on when they arrived to find Lazarus dead—Jesus corrected them. Jesus spoke clearly so that they might understand.

Now let’s back up to John chapter 6. Jesus is speaking.

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

John 6:48-66 NAB

Here’s my summary of what we’ve read in this passage.

Jesus makes an alarming statement: “I am the bread of life.”

The Jews are incredulous! “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”

Jesus reinforces His alarming statement. “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. […] Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

His own disciples are incredulous! “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Jesus further reinforces His alarming statement. My own paraphrase: “This is not the most shocking thing you will hear or see. You must believe it and obey, but God will help you.”

Many of His disciples left him because of these alarming statements.

In light of the passage we read earlier from John chapter 11, one thing is conspicuously absent: Jesus saying “No, no, you’ve misunderstood. I’m not saying for you to literally eat my flesh.”

The Jews question what Jesus has said, and what does Jesus do? He repeats Himself.

His own disciples question it, and what does Jesus do? He repeats Himself.

Some of His disciples leave Him because of it, and what does Jesus do?

He doesn’t say “No, come back! You’ve got it wrong!”

No. He simply asks the Twelve if they, too, will leave. He knows what their response would be, knows their hearts, and yet He asks, to hear what they will say. (God is fond of having things said aloud, out in the open.) Peter says:

“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:67-68 NAB

And yet evangelical Protestant denominations insist that Jesus could not possibly have been speaking of us literally eating His flesh. If Jesus had meant anything else, would He have allowed his disciples to leave him over a silly little misunderstood metaphor? No, they knew what He meant. They knew He was speaking literally. If they thought otherwise, what might they have been thinking as they walked away? “He said we have to eat His flesh. That’s some heavy symbolism. We can’t handle that.”

No, it’s clear from the context that everyone who heard Jesus knew exactly what He was saying. Some of them simply refused to believe Him.

Later, when they misunderstand Jesus regarding Lazarus, we see that He corrects them. We also see that on other occasions He even explains His parables to his disciples in private. But what we have here is not a parable. Jesus was speaking clearly.

Later, at the Lord’s Supper, with His disciples:

While they were eating, 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 NAB

Jesus was with His disciples, and this was important to Him. Jesus was speaking clearly. “This is my body. This is my blood.”

Indeed, when Jesus was born, Mary laid Him in a manger—a feeding trough. And at the end of His earthly life, Jesus became the Lamb, on Passover.

The Passover is instituted in Exodus 12. The Israelites must not only apply the blood of their Passover lambs to their doorposts, but they must also eat the lambs.

In his book, The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, theologian Scott Hahn tells us on pages 22-23:

But Passover had more than an ordinary importance in Jesus’ life; it was central to His mission, a definitive moment. Jesus is the Lamb. When Jesus stood before Pilate, John notes that “it was the day of preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour” (19:14). John knew that the sixth hour was when the priests were beginning to slaughter the Passover lambs. This, then, is the moment of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

Next, John recounts that none of Jesus’ bones were broken on the cross, “that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (19:36). Which Scripture was that? Exodus 12:46, which stipulates that the Passover lamb must have no broken bones. We see, then, that the Lamb of God, like the Passover lamb, is a worthy offering, a perfect fulfillment.

In the same passage, John relates that the onlookers served Jesus sour wine from a sponge on a hyssop branch (see Jn 29:29; Ex 12:22). Hyssop was the branch prescribed by the Law for the Passover sprinkling of the lamb’s blood. Thus, this simple action marked the fulfillment of the new and perfect redemption. And Jesus cried out, “It is finished.”

Jesus died for us. Jesus is clearly the Lamb. But we have a role to play in maintaining the covenant. We have to eat the Lamb. Not symbolically, not figuratively, not metaphorically. Really.

I believe in the Resurrection. This is central to the faith of every Christian denomination. We believe a man died and rose again.

…Did you see what I just said? A man died and rose again! We Christians say this so often that we might not always realize the enormity of it.

Allow me to use some ungraceful emphasis:

We believe a man DIED (horrifically! willingly!).

We believe there was no hocus-pocus, no pretending, no trickery.

He was REALLY DEAD.

He was dead for DAYS.

Then He CAME BACK TO LIFE.

That’s more than a little far-fetched to non-believers. Yet we Christians believe it! God came to Earth to walk with us, He died, and He came back to life.

Before the Resurrection, He did many other amazing things, otherwise impossible things. For example, this same man fed thousands of people from practically nothing: five loaves of bread, two fish. He had very little to work with and yet He did the impossible and then some. If any Christian believes that the Gospels are the inspired, inerrant Word of God, then he or she believes that this happened as it was recorded. This really happened.

These two miracles, the Resurrection and the feeding of the five thousand, are the only two found in all four Gospels.

It is absolutely not a stretch to conclude, then, that Jesus was speaking literally when He said, “This is my body… This is the cup of my blood.” Some of His followers left Him because He said they had to feed on Him. Even today, this is so; many cannot accept what the Church has taught since long before their own denomination was formed.

Why? Because it’s not possible for the Eucharist to be the Body and Blood of Christ? Because it’s difficult to believe?

…If that’s the reason, I think we can take a step back and agree that nothing is impossible for God. This is Jesus, God walking on earth, who died and came back to life, who fed thousands of people from what couldn’t possibly have been enough (and they ate and were satisfied). Jesus can feed every one of us from His own flesh if He wants to. So it absolutely is possible. And if you’re a Christian, you already believe some difficult things, like someone coming back to life and then actually ascending bodily into Heaven (another thing that really happened).

In the Catechism, the Church teaches:

In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father “once for all.” His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.

CCC 1085

It is so beautiful. Read this again: “…all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all.” That is the how, as much as we can understand it. God created our time and is therefore outside of it; the one sacrifice of Christ can be made present wherever and whenever in time God wills, infinitely, in His infinite mercy, so that all of us can belong to His family and experience His love if we so wish.

The Church—the institution responsible for educating the multitudes, literate and otherwise; for “feeding the thousands” with the Gospel for several centuries prior to the Biblical canon as even Protestants know it today first being confirmed—teaches that Jesus meant what He was saying when He said, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. […] For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” To believe otherwise requires some convoluted reasoning defying either the words Jesus said or even His own nature. But Jesus was speaking clearly, and Jesus is one with God.

In the midst of the discussion of the bread of life in John chapter 6, Jesus says (emphasis mine):

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen (me), you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it (on) the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day.”
John 6:35-40 NAB

Really — smack in the middle of talking about Moses and the manna that the Jews’ ancestors ate and Jesus being THE Bread of Life, Jesus says those words. “…everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life.”

Can it be that Jesus means that He will raise on the last day anyone who comes faithfully to Him at the Eucharistic table and “sees the Son and believes in him”?

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, when the priest says, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” what he’s holding is Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Where can you get this Bread of Life, and get it daily — daily bread, not “once a month (if even that often)” bread — all around the world? From the direct successors of His disciples.

Prior to my conversion, I had no idea that daily Mass is commonplace. It is. The Mass is offered every day. And the Church exists all over the world, in every time zone. And at every Mass there is the Eucharist. And the Eucharist is Jesus.

So if the Eucharist is Jesus, then Jesus is with us; He is with us in the flesh, all over the world, every hour of every day.

____________________________

Then Jesus approached and said to them,
All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 NAB

____________________________


“…they knew him in the breaking of the bread.”
Luke 24:35 DR

____________________________

Pertinent resources:

Scripture Catholic: The Eucharist

MassTimes.org (Find out where and when the Mass is offered anywhere in the world)

Jesus Did Not Invent “Church Shopping” Wednesday, Mar 23 2011 

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 158r - The Christmas Mass the Musée Condé, Chantilly

How do you know where to go to church when you’re traveling?

Though I was not traveling, a week ago I went to Mass at a different parish. It was a little bit of a trek and it was in Spanish. Why I went there is a long story, but in the end, to fulfill my Sunday obligation to attend Mass, it was the only option I had.

I’m sad to say I do not speak Spanish and I therefore did not get anything out of the homily. But I did go home thinking again about the universality of the Catholic Church. Catholic means “universal.” That the Church is catholic, or universal, is one of the four marks of the true Church (one, holy, Catholic, apostolic).

The parish I visited last Sunday is the fourth parish where I have attended Mass outside of my own parish since my conversion around this time last year. I have felt equally at home in every parish I have visited. Aside from sometimes having to ask where the restrooms are (and, on one occasion, misinterpreting the directions and opening the exterior door to the sacristy before Mass), I have never once felt lost or uncomfortable or out of place. Each building and parish is unique, but all are the Church. All teach what the Church teaches. The Mass is the same, the readings are the same. I found the Mass I attended by going to my diocesan website to look up Mass times for other parishes; I can find the same information for parishes all over the world at masstimes.org. Customs differ across countries, but it is all the Mass.

Contrast this with finding another church to visit on Sunday morning when you’re an out-of-town Protestant. People from centrally-managed denominations might not have to give it much thought. But for others, especially non-denominationalists or [insert qualifier] Baptists… really, it’s going to be a gamble, isn’t it? Which church is going to have the right doctrine? Which church is going to teach your kids the right things in Sunday school? Which church most closely resembles your home church? In which church will you feel most at home, most welcome? Do you even bother going if you can’t be sure of the experience you’re going to have? You’ll be at the mercy of the preacher, which really means you’ll be at the mercy of the congregation. The church might purport to be this or that kind of Baptist, but the preacher could regularly spout nonsense for all you know (seeing as how you’re new in town). And only if the congregation has a problem with what the preacher is saying would anything ever change. A certain church which is constantly in the news lately is one rather extreme testament to that fact.

Should you have to actually pick up and move to a new area, changing churches can be fairly traumatic. Some people end up having to go “church shopping” for weeks or even months. Indeed, when I was a Protestant, I once heard someone sagely affirm that “if you’re ever in a church where everyone believes the same as you do, take a good look around, because you’re by yourself.”

Does that speak of one Body? Does that speak of universality?

Finding the “right church” shouldn’t be so difficult. If your church is the “right church,” then you ought to be able to find its exact doctrinal duplicate in all corners of the earth by now—and, unless you live in a country in which Christians are persecuted, you ought to be able to find it without having to search so arduously. Especially if you happen to believe you’re living in the “end times.”

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,

wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
Revelation 7:9 NAB

It cannot be true that Jesus meant for us to have to go church shopping. Jesus left us with certainty: the Apostles, who had the responsibility and power of ordaining new bishops over new churches. The bishops were the teachers, and the faithful were not judges who could fire them but students who learned from them. It was a top-down organizational model. There was no church autonomy, theologically. If there were, we would not have the Bible; the Church developed, confirmed, and preserved the Biblical canon as we know it today. If Christ’s Church is actually an invisible collection of all Christians on the planet, rather than a defined and visible Church, could you imagine us all getting together to determine the Biblical canon now? It would never get done. Ever. No one would agree. This is why Jesus left us the Church, and then the Church preserved God’s Word with His perfect help. The Apostles and other early Church bishops took great pains to maintain consistency; read the New Testament and note that they had to combat heresies even in the first generation after Christ. And yet the Church is still here and still teaches the same doctrines. Two thousand years of theological consistency.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.
Matthew 7:18-20 NAB

Jesus came to show us THE WAY, not hundreds of ways, not whichever way fits best within your personal comfort zone. There can be only one truth. And if the truth exists, then it has always existed since the time of Jesus, as Jesus said it would:

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18 NAB

Jesus also said to His disciples:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:14 NAB

Therefore, if Jesus did not lie, then His Church has always existed and has always been visible. The Holy Spirit has always guided the Church and, in His perfection, has safeguarded the Truth. The Catholic Church you see today is the same Church that existed at the time of the Apostles. Pope Benedict XVI can trace his apostolic lineage all the way back to St. Peter in an unbroken line. No doctrine has ever been reversed. The bishops have handed down Church Tradition along with Scripture through the ages, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
Luke 10:16 NAB

And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.
2 Timothy 2:2 NAB

Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 NAB

If you are Christian but you are not Catholic, then you belong to a church which has branched away, and you cannot be certain you are getting the Truth as Jesus intended for you to hear it. A church cannot be the true Church if it is newer than the Catholic Church. It cannot be the true Church if it is the one that did the branching away. But chances are, somewhere pretty close to you, there’s a Catholic parish where you can go to see Jesus and hear His Word just as first-century Christians did—studying God’s Word (which was read aloud), breaking the Bread.

In case anyone reading this is considering attending Mass to see what it’s like but is worried about “sticking out,” I will note that when visiting a new parish I have never to my knowledge stuck out as a newcomer unless I have announced myself as such. And when I have needed help because of unfamiliar surroundings, everyone has always been kind. In my most recent experience, the Mass in Spanish, I did have to ask a deacon which building was actually the church (the parish had a few large school buildings as well and I think I came in the back way); this turned out to be a good thing, because when I saw the deacon again inside, he was very kind and retrieved a bilingual missalette for me. I suppose if I were to visit a very small parish in the country, it’s possible that I might stick out in that most people around me would realize they had never seen me before (not that I would mind), but even in my semi-rural town my own parish is large enough that newcomers can blend in if they so desire. I know this because I was once the fearful newcomer who didn’t know a thing about the Mass. I sat in the back, off to the side, where I could watch others’ gestures and postures and step out of the way during Holy Communion. I worried so much about doing something wrong or offending people around me. But my worries were unnecessary and unfounded. You do what everyone else does, or you don’t. No one is going to kick you out for not kneeling or not making the Sign of the Cross or not saying the Creed (which you can find in the missalette if you want to read along while everyone is reciting it). You will probably notice others just sitting back and watching or not going forward during Holy Communion. And while I see many of the same people every Sunday, I still see people I’ve never met before, but I don’t give it a second thought. They might usually sit somewhere else or go to a different Mass (we have four Sunday Masses) or they might be from a nearby parish, or they might not be Catholic at all.

Odds are no one is going to be busy figuring out why they’ve never seen you before or why you don’t participate fully; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re there. So just go and observe, and reflect on the fact that God gave us five senses with which to experience Him. The Mass is beautiful, holy, and sacred, as is God.

____________________________

But you, beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand
by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,

for they told you, “In (the) last time there will be scoffers
who will live according to their own godless desires.”

These are the ones who cause divisions;
they live on the natural plane, devoid of the Spirit.

Jude 17-19 NAB

____________________________

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
Matthew 7:24-27 NAB

____________________________

Pertinent reading:

How I Solved the Catholic Problem
“In place of the “One Faith,” I saw in Guatemala hundreds of “faiths,” hundreds of competing preachers. When there was One Faith, Christianity swept the world like wildfire. At no time in the history of Protestantism has an entire pagan nation turned to Christ. I thought of all the many pagan groups to whom the Catholic Church came and preached the Gospel and who were converted to Christ as a result: the Slavs, the Irish, the Gauls, the Saxons, the fierce Nordic races, the Japanese, Indians of South America, Africans, the list was endless. And here we were in Guatemala as “missionaries,” making Catholics into Protestants. These people had been Catholic for five hundred years. All we were doing was “converting” Christians to our way of understanding the Bible. Not a very impressive thing when you compare it to the 2000 years of Catholic evangelization.”

The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth
“The central thrust of this piece is that Catholic liturgy offers the best interpretive paradigm for studying the Book of Revelation.”

Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth
“The Bible, sacred Tradition, and the writings of the earliest Christians testify that the Church teaches with Jesus’ authority. In this age of countless competing religions, each clamoring for attention, one voice rises above the din: the Catholic Church, which the Bible calls “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).”


God has a Mommy. Saturday, Jan 1 2011 

His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5 NAB

Many Protestants gloss over Mary’s role in the life of Jesus. An instant wariness often emerges at the very mention of Mary’s name, a watchfulness in case the speaker should cross over into Catholic territory. At the same time, many Catholics “don’t do the Mary thing,” perhaps because they simply don’t have a confident understanding of the place Mary can or should have in their lives. As a Catholic convert from an evangelical Protestant denomination, I can empathize with both groups. I want to share a few things which have helped me to better understand the Blessed Mother’s place in the Church and how I should regard her.

Prior to beginning my conversion process, my first major hurdle regarding not only Mary but conversion in general was prayer. I had no problems praying; even at my lowest points I still talked to God. But I had a well-intentioned aversion to praying to anyone but God, because I equated prayer with worship. This is likely the greatest reason for so many Protestants believing we Catholics “worship Mary.” We’ve got statues and pictures of her in God’s house and we pray to her. If prayer is worship, then praying to anyone but God is idolatry.

Resolution: prayer is communication. Prayer can be worship if you intend it as such, the key being what you say.

I have a distinct memory of saying, at some point many years before my conversion, that “Mary is just as dead as everyone else,” therefore she couldn’t possibly hear anyone praying to her anyway. (Forgive me, Blessed Mother.) I had been taught the concept of “soul sleeping.” And yet so many people speak fondly of how loved ones who’ve gone before them are looking down on them from heaven—right now! Already!

If that is so, do you suppose they can hear you if you talk to them? “Hey, Great-Grandma, I’m thinking of you today.” There’s absolutely nothing in Scripture to say they can’t. And there absolutely is a plethora of Scriptural evidence that they can hear us and that our instruction to pray for one another will be carried out in heaven as well, and is already being carried out in heaven. So “Hey, Great-Grandma, I’m thinking of you today; will you please pray for me?” can be just as effective as asking someone in person to pray for you.

We pray for one another. When we are in need of help ourselves, we pray to God for that help, and then we often ask others to pray for us, too. Why? We enlist as much help as we can because we know prayer works. The difference in the Church is that Catholics know they can ask saints in heaven to pray for them as well. The prayers of those no longer burdened by the concerns of our physical world are likely to be much more powerful because the saints in heaven are closer to God (literally, proximately) and because their prayers are constant.

We Catholics know God is the one in charge. Yet God has commanded us to pray for one another. Who better to have praying for you than God’s own mother?

God put Jesus on earth in the care of humans. Jesus loved with a perfect love, always. Therefore the love of Jesus for His earthly father and mother was—is!—perfect, stronger than any love any of us can possibly conceive of or experience for anyone here on earth. And Mary loved her Child. And since Mary loved her Child, she would want the best for Him, would want what He wants. Jesus wants us to know what love is and to join Him in heaven, and therefore Mary wants the same things and works for the same things. She wants whatever her Son wants.

Still, even many Catholics balk at the idea of praying to anyone but God or asking anyone but God for help, because there is only one Mediator and that is Jesus Christ. But this reasoning ignores our Biblical exhortation to pray for one another; it even goes so far as to pretend that we never ask others to pray for us or that others’ prayers are ineffective. God, for His own reasons—perhaps just because He enjoys seeing our love for each other in action—wants us to help each other in this way, through intercession, even though he doesn’t at all need our help. Why would that stop in heaven?

We all understand that all good things come from God, but God often chooses to allow those good things to come to us through the aid of others so that we can experience the love of Jesus Christ firsthand, in a very real and present way. It is, after all, only through the aid of Christ that we are able to join with God in heaven if we choose to follow Him. And it was through Mary’s consent to God’s will that Jesus was brought forth to us, and it is therefore through Mary’s help that we have salvation. Why did God involve Mary, a human, at all? God didn’t have to have it this way; God chose to have it this way. We had better pay attention to God’s choices.

Paragraph 970  of the Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes from the Lumen Gentium:

“Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men … flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it.” [LG 60] “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but sharing in this one source.” [LG 62]

So you must see that the Church in no way ascribes any power to Mary which is not ultimately God’s. Mary’s influence “flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it.” We Catholics can ask her to pray for us when we need help, and her constant assistance magnifies her Son’s glory. It’s as if she’s constantly saying, “Look at what my Son can do—look at Him, really look!” …because she wants everyone to see Jesus. She wants everyone to come to her Son and join them in heaven.

What about Mary’s perfection, her supposed “Immaculate Conception” and sinlessness?

I had a big problem with all of that as well. I was raised to believe that Jesus was the only perfect human being ever to have walked the earth, and I completely misunderstood the term “Immaculate Conception.”

It was when I read Scott Hahn’s Hail, Holy Queen that I first came across the phrase “Ark of the New Covenant.” This is a truly ancient concept, but it took reading a library book written by a modern-day plain-speaking Catholic theologian for me to even be exposed to it. And it’s perfectly logical. Those were the lightbulb words for me. Ark of the New Covenant. Think about the Ark of the Old Covenant, the strict instructions God gave for it. Why would God pay any less attention to the construction and preparation of the Ark of the New Covenant? That Ark is Mary. Catholics believe God prepared Mary for her task from the moment she was conceived in the womb of her own mother—that being the Immaculate Conception. From the very first moment of her existence, she was free of the stain of original sin, and God also preserved her from sin for the rest of her earthly life. The vessel which first contained our Lord would be no less than perfect. And God can do all things. God is capable of effecting perfection.

In this same vein, I had another lightbulb moment recently when pondering Elizabeth’s words when Mary visited her:

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:39-42 NAB)

The last line is the basis for part of the Hail Mary prayer—“Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” When praying the Hail Mary I had often wondered how “blessed is the fruit of thy womb” fit into the picture. Why isn’t it “blessed art thou by the fruit of thy womb”? Isn’t that more accurate? But Elizabeth says Jesus is blessed, in the very same breath in which she says Mary is blessed, both within the context of Mary’s pregnancy.

I’m sure this exists in countless places in Catholic scholarly works, so don’t think I’m claiming to have made some great discovery, but this helped me so much: While thinking about why the words are “blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” I realized that Elizabeth was saying that Jesus is blessed by Mary. Mary is a blessing to Jesus. Mary’s faith in God was a blessing to Jesus, and therefore also to us. In the same way, Mary’s perfection and holiness were God’s gift to His Son, and therefore also to us.

What about being “devoted” to Mary? Isn’t that taking things too far?

As I began my conversion process, I often encountered the concept of “devotion” to Mary or to a particular saint. It made me uneasy. Devotion sounded a little too much like worship. Again, however, I simply needed a slight reorientation. I had a narrow mental concept of devotion. What it really means in this context is emotional attachment. I read that somewhere a long while back, but I have no idea where, so I’m sorry to say I can’t share. But reading “devotion” as emotional attachment helps immensely. And it’s not calling something by another name to make it sound better; it’s calling it by the right name, thinking of it the way the Church does instead of imposing our own preconceptions on our reasoning.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an emotional attachment to the mother of God, or to your own mother, or to your children. In the case of Mary and the saints, devotion can also indicate a desire to emulate. Because they lived holy lives worthy of imitation, we turn them into role models, often choosing saints whose lives or situations were similar to our own. So we feel a kinship with them, and we converse with them and we ask them to help us by their prayers.

Mary is the ultimate role model. Mary did what God wanted, up to and including watching her Child die a painful and wrongful death for crimes He didn’t commit. Mary obeyed and obeyed and obeyed. That is worthy of imitation. And Jesus loved Mary; therefore Mary is worthy of our love as well.

Jesus is God, but Jesus is also human. Jesus has a Mommy. As we discussed earlier, Jesus loves with a perfect love, always. No matter how much you love your mother, Jesus loves His mother more. If she is perfect, then she wants only what is good; and if she wants something, would her loving Son deny her if it fits into that Big Picture which we ourselves are too small to see?

There is nothing threatening about Mary. We pray to Mary for help and she prays for us because she loves us, because we are her Son’s precious family. We do not worship Mary. Nor does Mary want anyone to worship her. She would be the first to tell you to focus on Jesus instead. But we can talk to her as we do our own mothers. We can ask her to pray for us, as we would ask our own mothers to do so. We can have pictures of her in our houses as we do of our own mothers. We can have pictures and statues of her in God’s house, too—because she’s God’s own mother and it is good to be reminded of her. She is special and holy, unique among God’s creatures as the Ark of the New Covenant. And just as she was a gift to Jesus, Jesus made her a gift to us all: “Behold, your mother.”

____________________________

Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah,
and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage.
Then he sat down upon his throne,
and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right.
“There is one small favor I would ask of you,” she said. “Do not refuse me.”
“Ask it, my mother,” the king said to her, “for I will not refuse you.”
1 Kings 2:19-20 NAB

____________________________

Pertinent reading:

— Is Mary’s Queenship Biblical? — Excerpt: “One biblical theme sheds light on these questions and serves as a key for unlocking the mystery of Mary’s queenship: the Old Testament tradition of the “queen mother” in the Davidic kingdom. In the monarchy of King David, as well as in other ancient kingdoms of the Near East, the mother of the ruling king held an important office in the royal court and played a key part in the process of dynastic succession. In fact, the king’s mother ruled as queen, not his wife.”

— To the Disciple He Said, Behold Your Mother (Pope John Paul II)

— Why do Catholics pray to Mary?

____________________________

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the LORD is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of our death. Amen.

 

Miscarriage Friday, Oct 15 2010 

Madonna mit Kind by Egger-LienzI’ve wondered for a long time whether I should ever share this with anyone. I told my husband, of course; but I didn’t know whether anyone else would understand or even believe me.

So I’ll put it out there. If it helps someone, I’ll be happy. If anyone thinks I’m crazy, that’s their right. But this is my experience, a gift I received and will always carry with me.

I mentioned in my conversion story that my second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at about nine weeks. I was heartbroken. I quit my part-time job to stay home with my toddler. She and the new baby would have been 22 months apart.

About a year and a half later, a few months after the birth of our second daughter, I started on the road to conversion to Catholicism. The Church teaches that life begins at conception. I had believed that before, but I wasn’t sure if that included babies like the one I had miscarried so early. It was a great comfort to me that I could pray for the baby. Even though the baby had left us before we could even hold it, we had brought another soul into the world for God. A real soul.

We didn’t know whether the baby had been a boy or a girl. I decided that since the baby had a unique identity, the baby ought to have a name, so I gave the baby a gender-neutral name: Jordan.

Early in 2010, I was praying late one night to know, somehow, whether Jordan had been a boy or a girl. That didn’t ultimately matter, of course, but I still wanted to know. I thought it would help.

As I was praying, right in the middle of a sentence, very abruptly, an image popped into my head and I was instantly speechless. My brain was humming quietly. What I was seeing was not flat like a photograph. It was like a slice of actual memory, with depth, but it was still, paused. It was a little girl with curly blonde hair, in my living room, in front of my sofa. She was smiling. She resembled my oldest daughter but was not my oldest daughter. She looked frail.

The image, the moment, the memory I never actually got to live… it stayed with me for about a minute. I desperately wished I had my husband’s artistic abilities. I wanted to draw her. I got up and grabbed a pencil and piece of paper and tried, but I couldn’t. I’ve never been able to get pictures from my head down through my fingers and onto paper.

The intensity faded and I tearfully thanked Jesus. My baby had been a girl.

Not that night, but later, I gave Jordan a feminine middle name, Marie, after my late great-grandmother.

I have asked the Blessed Mother many times to hold my Jordan Marie for me and give her the motherly comforts I never could. I have asked St. Martha to take her under her wing. I have thanked God for allowing me to be pregnant with Jordan Marie, even for so short a time. Even though I still cry for her, am crying right now, I know she’s with Jesus in heaven and one day we’ll get to see each other face to face and do together the work that God has for us there.

I’m okay most of the time, but some days I’m reminded of her, of what might have been, and it all comes back.

Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (website, Facebook). I will light a candle for the Wave of Light at 7pm for my baby Jordan Marie and for the babies my friends have lost, especially losses later in pregnancy and after birth. And I’ll be praying for peace and comfort for us all.

____________________________

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:13-15 NAB



Womanpriests Tuesday, Oct 5 2010 

Institution of the Eucharist by Sassetta.This wasn’t going to be my next post; this wasn’t on the agenda at all. But on Sunday, as I was finally reading last week’s local paper, I encountered the word “womanpriest” for the first time. This “womanpriest” was scheduled to be celebrating Mass. In a Presbyterian church.

I was shocked. Even prior to my conversion I did not much care for the idea of women leading churches. Women have a place in worship, but not as the head of a church.

I don’t understand why a Catholic would defy the Church in such a way. Why not pick another faith, perhaps one in which you can find women heading up churches? Really, you might as well, if you think the Church can be wrong about who can become priests… because that would mean the Church does not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You’d have bigger problems at that point than who can be a priest. You would have to to figure out which church you ought to belong to instead. What criteria you’d use in your evaluation, I have no idea; “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” are already taken and they point to the Catholic Church and no other.

Why would someone strive to become a leader in an organization about which they have an inadequate education? Any properly catechised Catholic should know that if the Church is incorrect in declaring that only baptized males may be ordained as priests (CCC 1577), then the Church does not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit and can be incorrect about many other things.

If the Church does not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you might as well choose another faith, plain and simple.

This is all or nothing territory. The Church cannot be right only 99.99999% of the time where doctrine is concerned. If it’s ever once in doctrinal error, your entire world ought to crumble, because the Holy Spirit doesn’t make mistakes. And the Church would have had to have made a mistake to begin with in order to declare a reversal of previously defined doctrine, because doctrine is either true or not; it doesn’t change with the times. Discipline and practices can change, but not doctrine.

In the unlikely case that anyone reading this happens to be someone trying to celebrate the Mass as a female priest, please stop your abuses and read the Code of Canon Law. Try these parts: “A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly” (link)… and, “The minister who is able to confect the sacrament of the Eucharist in the person of Christ is a validly ordained priest alone” (link). If you think for some reason that none of that applies to you, then you need to ask yourself why you’re Catholic if you think the Church can be wrong about this. If the Church can be wrong about those parts, then this part can be wrong too, in which case you should be very worried: “Through baptism men and women are freed from sin, are reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church” (link). Really, do you think you’re going to hear God say “Well done, my good and faithful servant” for leading His children astray through your invalid celebrations of the Mass? This is serious. You are leading people away from the Church. Your acts are compounded in gravity by the effect your acts have upon other Catholics and even upon non-Catholic believers. If you don’t care what the Church has to say, if you don’t think the Church has the authority to infallibly define what makes a Mass or an ordination valid, then why are you Catholic? Why are you sowing your discord here? I’m not really suggesting you leave the Church; I’m suggesting you stop and think. A Catholic cannot do what you are doing and still believe the Church has authority from God. If the Church does have that authority, then you, as a female, cannot be a validly ordained priest. If you don’t believe the Church has that authority, if you just think the Church does some good works in the world, then why do you want to be a priest?

I read a recent Time article (with a painfully obvious bias) related to this in which I found these words:

…Lee is conducting Mass for 25 Catholics gathered in front of a coffee-table altar in defiance of the Pope. “Rome says you’ll be thrown out of the church for being here,” says Lee, “because I’m a woman.”

“Rome says”? Such divisive us vs. them language. That doesn’t speak of One Body.

The article describes one womanpriest’s church as “a five-year-old San Diego splinter parish.” A splinter parish? Do those words fit in with “one, holy, catholic [universal] and apostolic”? If you’re attending a Catholic Mass in a Protestant church or in someone’s home using a coffee table for an altar because the priest is a renegade as far as the main body of the Church is concerned, chances are something is seriously in question regarding the validity of your Mass. An invalid Mass cannot fulfill your Sunday obligation. What it can do for you is another question, and the answer is nothing good.

More to the point, if you are receiving what you believe to be the Eucharist from an invalidly ordained priest, you are not receiving Jesus. You are consuming bread and wine and nothing more. You might as well be receiving communion in a non-Catholic church. If receiving the Eucharist as a Catholic is important to you because you believe only the Church can give you the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, then whether the Church says the priest is validly ordained ought to be important to you as well.

If you’re not a woman priest but the fact that there will never be women ordained as priests bothers you to the point of anger, please pray about it. Sincerely ask for understanding. It will come. I’ve had my tearful moments with certain points of Catholic doctrine; believe me when I say I’m no stranger to this approach. It works.

Women priests, realize that there’s a definite line between “God, I know the Church has Your perfect guidance but I can’t bring myself to agree yet; please help me to understand,” and “God, you’re wrong and I’m going to convince as many people as I can!” A certain someone took the latter line of thinking a few millennia ago and he might currently be busy whispering in your ear. You don’t have to listen. Recognize the lies for what they are. The Truth does not change.

Why the Catholic Church is My Forever Home: My Conversion Story. Wednesday, Sep 29 2010 

“Why? Why the Catholic Church?”

I’m always tempted to take the easy way out and answer, “Because it’s right.”

But I can’t do that, because such an answer would imply that what I believed before, as a Southern Baptist, was wrong. And that’s not quite right. The more accurate response to the why question is, “Because it’s complete.” What I believed prior to my conversion was not wrong at its core. My faith and worship were simply missing a few very crucial elements, among them history and education.

Education does include history, of course; you can’t know history if you don’t learn it. But I really mean my faith, my denomination, was missing a history. I had never been conscious of the fact that while my home church was founded in the early 1800s and my denomination was formed in the mid-1800s, the Catholic Church claimed to be founded by Jesus Christ Himself. That’s not a couple hundred years of history. That’s a couple thousand. That’s quite a history.

Does history matter? By “does it matter,” I mean does having that much history, the most history, mean the Church deserves consideration? Prior to my conversion, I’d have said no, because no matter how long it’s been around, the Church wasn’t right but now we Protestants have it right and we’re good to go.

Except there is no Protestant Church. There are hundreds of Protestant churches with a little c. And a couple other churches on the side. And they’re all different—sometimes in tiny ways, but in ways still large enough to have prompted a new denomination. Don’t agree with your church? Make your own church! Then when the Bible says to tell it to the Church, you get to pick which one. Right? So who’s right? Everybody? Nobody?

I spent some time here and there studying the differences between several Protestant denominations for a few years prior to my conversion. I had stopped going to church. I didn’t feel right at church any more. It felt hollow. Some things didn’t sit well with me, subtle things, attitudes, interpretations I didn’t feel were correct. I drifted so far that I didn’t feel any compulsion to go to any church at all on Sundays. And when I thought about how I had once promised God in all sincerity that I would raise my children for Him, I couldn’t see myself raising my children in what I knew of church. But I left it at that. I was lazy. I didn’t scour the earth for the right church. I figured “going to church” wasn’t really necessary, anyway, so long as I had faith in God and prayed.

So when I found myself thinking more and more about the Catholic Church and whether it was THE right one out of all the hundreds of churches out there, it wasn’t during a period of search. The first inklings actually came while I was reading a series of fiction books set in 18th-century Scotland.  The books are in no way about Catholicism. They’re simply historically accurate fiction set in a delicate time where religion and politics are concerned, and one character in particular is a devout Catholic, so I picked up on lots of Catholic details that I never knew before. In the midst of it all, and with other little things about the Church that kept popping up elsewhere in my life, it hit me that I knew very little about Catholicism.

Yet I didn’t decide to do much research beyond that. I knew I didn’t know much, but as I was unaware of the history of the Church, I didn’t know the extent of what I didn’t know. I felt no urgency. I’d spent too long talking to God but not waiting to hear what He had to say to me in return. It took a direct message from God—and I sincerely believe that’s what I got—to get me to really open my ears back up Him.

In May of 2009, I was very pregnant with our second child, due in just a few weeks. I was also very, very anxious. My first birth experience was a traumatic one—24 hours of labor plus three hours of pushing—culminating in an emergency c-section, my recovery from which was slow and painful. As a baby my first child was highly sensitive and high-needs (except for sleep; she didn’t seem to have a high need for sleep!), and she and I had many breastfeeding challenges at the beginning. I had been pregnant one other time since, in 2008, and that pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage at 9 weeks. Despite a frightening bleeding episode at 13 weeks with this, my third pregnancy, I had made it that far, almost to the finish line, carrying a burden of fear the entire time. The pregnancy had been physically grueling as well. I’d had morning sickness at the front half (which I hadn’t experienced with the first or second pregnancies) and pelvis separation and hip pain issues at the back half. It hurt so much that I could barely walk and had to use a cane. And while my OB had granted me permission for a “trial of labor” to try and avoid another c-section, I didn’t feel the odds were stacked in my favor given that my first baby had had such a big head like her mommy.

What I did feel was fear. I just could not see myself going through all of that ever, ever again. I figured I had two arms for two kids and that was enough. I didn’t want the risks of tubal ligation or any of the other newfangled methods of “getting fixed,” so I started trying to talk my husband into The Big V, which I’d read carried far fewer risks overall.

That day in May we had gone to a 25th anniversary party for some relatives of my husband’s. Afterward we were hungry and I, of course, didn’t feel like cooking, so we decided to head for some fast food. On the way to the restaurant I was trying again to convince my husband that a vasectomy was a good idea. He insisted that he didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken. I want to be clear that he wasn’t saying “No, you get fixed” — this was all my idea, not his. He had always said he would like a big family (he’s one of five boys) but he would be okay with whatever I wanted… as long as it didn’t involve surgery for him. I tell you what, I was petrified down to my bones of ever being pregnant again. I had determination firmly on my side. I think I might eventually have gotten my way.

When we got to the restaurant, I had to visit the ladies’ room for the five hundredth time that day, so my husband sat down at a table to wait with our daughter while I went. There was an older woman, probably in her sixties, sitting at a table near them, and when I got back from the restroom she was talking to my husband. I assumed the woman was waiting for someone else, as she was by herself and hadn’t even had a tray of food at her table when we had arrived.

But she was really by herself.

She had started talking to my husband to compliment him (he told me later) on our daughter and on my pregnancy and she told him about her sad experiences with her own family. After I returned she repeated for me that she’d had only two children. She said, “If knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had two, I’d’ve had twelve.” She told us again and again what a good thing these children of ours were. She said she was all alone now, just her and her pets; her husband and her children were gone.

She spoke to us for only a few minutes. After she left, I queried my husband about his conversation with her. He told me she had had two children, a boy and a girl. The girl had died at age five, and the boy had accidentally shot himself as a young man, leaving her and her husband childless. And then her husband had died.

Not ten minutes before that encounter with that woman—who wasn’t even eating anything when we got there, who wasn’t there with anyone else, who’d just been sitting there as if waiting for us to get there—I had been trying to make my own husband complicit in ending my childbearing years for good.

I cried, and cried, and cried, right there at the table.

And I cried a lot more over the next few days.

But I relented. I let go of my own wants and rationalizations and, above all, my fears. I opened my mind up to the idea of more children. Who was I to say “No, God, no more blessings, please!” …Really, who was I, to say that to God?

The birth was textbook perfect. Five hours, one push. Not one hour of pushing—one push. And the baby was perfect. She nursed. She slept. She was so content and settled, absolutely night and day different from her big sister.

It was not long after the birth that I opened my mind again, this time to all the Catholic bits and pieces that had been popping up in my life. I asked Catholic friends for book recommendations aimed at Protestants. I read Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn. And then I signed up for RCIA—Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults—which started in my local parish at the end of summer.

I found that any hangups I’d heard about were suddenly minor, and then nonexistent. I wished—I wish!—I’d looked at the Church years ago. I had never before let the Church speak for herself. I’d always believed what I’d been told—which wasn’t much, really; my old church wasn’t preaching anti-Catholic this and that all the time. But I’d heard enough here and there to form an attitude of “Catholics believe some wacky stuff.”

What an unfounded attitude. In the past I had made fun of the idea of transubstantiation without researching the scriptural basis the Church gives. I had dismissed the notion of confession as silly and unnecessary without researching the scriptural basis the Church gives. I had assumed Catholics “worshiped Mary” without bothering to see what the Church said for herself and without researching the scriptural basis the Church gives. I didn’t see why the Pope was so special but never bothered to see what the Church said about the Pope.

Here’s where history and education collide. Catholic teaching and tradition regarding transubstantiation and the Eucharist, confession, Mary, the Pope—all of that came first. Way first. Way before my former denomination was formed. And I’d never had a clue. Not a single clue. I’d never bothered to educate myself. Once I did decide to seek and submit to God and to seek education regarding the oldest church there is, once I let the Church speak for herself, I found the Truth.

I was confirmed Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 2010. Now I have a seat in heaven every time I go to Mass, and I taste and see Jesus Christ Himself. I am so happy. My marriage, which wasn’t bad to begin with, is better than I could ever have hoped for. My husband is exploring RCIA himself. We still have only two children, but we’ll have several more, God willing—not necessarily twelve, but I’ll never say never. All of our children will grow up in the Church. They will be raised to respect life and to love and serve others. I continue, I will always continue, to study Catholic theology and apologetics (starting with easy-to-read things my mommy brain can handle), and I learn something wonderful and new all the time… but it’s only new to me. The Church has been at this for almost two thousand years. The Church has been the repository for the Truth the entire time. And the Truth doesn’t change. If the Church was right in the first century after the crucifixion of our Lord, then it’s still right. Jesus would not have left us here to drown in error, error, and more and growing error for 1500 years until the Reformation. The Holy Spirit is better than that. “On earth as it is in heaven”? What does that mean? Heaven doesn’t look like hundreds of denominations. Heaven looks like the Mass.

Matthew 16:13-19

Luke 10:16

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