Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

A Saint from Saints

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was called the “Greatest Saint of modern times,” by another great saint, St. Pope Pius X. Shortly after her death in 1897, her fame spread quickly, and her spiritual auto-biography—Story of a Soul—became an overnight success. In it, she recounted the growth of her interior life due to the workings of grace, culminating in her final words before entering into the abode of the blessed, “Oh, how I love him!” The ‘Him,’ of course, was Jesus. Despite her terrible disease of tuberculosis, which by the time of her death had consumed much of her lungs and capacity to breath, she remarked how her sufferings were joyful, as they drew her closer to her Beloved, Jesus. When I first returned to the Church in the early 1990’s, I tried reading her writings. I must admit, when I read some of them for the first time, I had to put the book down. The love and affections conveyed there were just too much for me. I confided to her sadly and secretly in the depths of my heart, “Thérèse, I don’t love Jesus like you. Further, I don’t even want to love Jesus like you did…but I want to want to.” She has been working on that part of my prayer ever since. Thus, when I was able to travel to Lisieux this summer with my teenage daughter, Claire Thérèse, to visit the wonderful shrines dedicated to her and her now canonized parents, I recognized her hand in all of this, nudging me—pushing me—to grow closer to her Beloved. To add extra leverage, she brought in her parents, Zélie and Louis. In learning about her parents, I understand better why Thérèse became such a great saint. In...

Rome and Reasons for Hope...

I just returned from my second pilgrimage to Rome in the last 10 months. This one was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Apostles of the Interior Life community, a Roman/American community of consecrated women, priests, and laity, of which I am a lay member. The Lord God lavished grace upon grace upon me, and gave me reasons for hope in this time of world-wide moral struggles. It is for this reason that I compose this entry. God is utterly generous and gratuitous in the bestowal of heavenly gifts.  Of this truth, I am a living witness. So, if you feel anxious or worried about this present darkness, be at peace and confident in this fact–in Christ, the battle is won, and the victory is ours. Consider the following: Without realizing the audacious events that were about to unfold in the U.S. regarding the Supreme Court and the redefinition of marriage, we were given the privilege to celebrate Holy Mass in the crypt of the  tomb of St. Peter directly beneath the High Papal Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 26. While attending Mass, I was able to peer continually over the priest’s shoulder to eye the actual tomb of Peter. Immediately after the homily, all of the married couples present were invited to approach the altar and renew our wedding nuptials. My wife was able to enjoy the pilgrimage with me, so we were deeply honored to be able to renew our vows with all of the other wonderful married couples. Only later that afternoon did we find out about the SCOTUS ruling. After my shock and anger subsided, I realized what had happened earlier in the day–I renewed my marriage, along with around 20 other...

Grace and Works

In two previous posts, I expressed concerns I have about Catholics attending non-Catholic bible studies due to unbiblical assumptions that Catholics unwittingly incorporate into their thinking, making certain teachings from the Church difficult for them to swallow. On more than one occasion I have heard comments from Catholic adults say things like, ‘I just don’t buy the Mary thing;’ Or, ‘where is that teaching found in God’s Word;’ or ‘I don’t need to go to confession if I’ve accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior;’ etc. You can read the posts dealing with these faulty either/or suppositions on Mary here, and the Sacraments here. The point is, all of the teachings of the Catholic Church are found in God’s Word, because God’s Word is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14.) I am not at all opposed to ecumenical discussion and mutual study of the Sacred Scriptures. I am simply pointing out that, as Catholics, we need to be aware that often non-Catholic Christians assume either/or oppositions we don’t assume. In this last post in the series, I wish to briefly discuss one last either/or assumption that deals with grace and human effort. The Protestant Reformers argued that grace is a free gift from God. No problem there. However, they further taught that human effort was opposed to the gratuitous nature of this gift. In other words, if you have to do something to receive grace, it is not free. For many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, this is the issue of the Reformation. When it comes to salvation, either God is doing everything, or He requires our help, which is where the works come in. If a believer must have faith and...

The Touch of Grace

In my previous blog, I shared some concerns I have regarding Catholics who attend some non-Catholic bible studies. As I indicated, I often discover in their thinking assumptions that are un-biblical. I summarized these in a series of either/or assertions: either you go to Christ, or Mary and the saints; either you receive grace spiritually (not sensibly) or you don’t receive it at all; and grace is either a free gift, or you have to do something, which means that its not free. In this post, I wish to examine the second another either/or assumption that can be unknowingly be presupposed in the understanding of our relationship with Christ. I summarize it as follows: either grace is given spiritually, or it’s not given at all. If some Christian (here read Catholic) tells you that you must enact some ritual (i.e. the Mass, or some other Sacrament,) to receive grace instead of a pure profession in Christ, he is placing an obstacle between you and Christ. At first glance, this certainly seems correct. God is pure spirit. His life and power come from His own eternal reality as pure spirit. Grace, the gift of His life and power to human creatures, is therefore a spiritual reality, and benefits us in our spirit. Therefore, grace must be received spiritually, or it’s not received at all. If God had not become man in Christ, I would completely agree with this. However, the reality of the Incarnation reveals the mystery of God’s new relationship with creation: The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us! (Jn 1: 14.) This means that the pure, eternal Spirit–God– has now permanently and irrevocably wed Himself to His creation by taking it unto Himself as Jesus Christ, the God-man, and now acts through His material world. This...

Mary, Mother of the Both/And...

In my career as a Catholic catechist, I have noticed that one of the problems with Catholics attending some non-Catholic bible studies is that they begin to integrate assumptions that are actually non-biblical. These assumptions not only make it difficult to understand the bible in the spirit in which it was written, to paraphrase the Catechism, but also undercuts the foundation on which so many of our Catholic beliefs are based. The assumptions that undercut orthodox belief can be summed up in a series of either/ors: Either one goes directly to Christ or indirectly (here read superfluously) to another; Either Grace is given to us spiritually or it is not given to us at all (i.e. through visible/sensible means); Grace is either a free gift or we must do something to receive it, in which case it is no longer free. With these either/or assumptions, Catholic belief becomes untenable as a Christian faith system. This is why so many Protestants think that it is their duty to save us from certain damnation. But are these assumptions themselves biblical? In these next few blog entries, I intend to show how they are not only unbiblical, but that they attack an orthodox understanding of Christ. Today, I would like to examine the view that either we go to Christ, or we go to Mary. According to this view, prayers to Mary and the saints are at best superfluous, at worst, an evil distraction that get in the way of “pure” belief in Christ. The deeds and teachings of Christ and His Apostles in the New Testament offer clarity on the matter. There are so many references that show us how closely Christ identifies Himself and His mission with other men that...
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