Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

All Souls, Purgatory, and the Bible...

On All Souls Day, the Catholic Church offers prayers and liturgies for the repose of the dead. As Catholics, we are called by the Church to focus our spiritual energies to assist these poor souls, who, though saved, are still in need of purification. Our prayers and sacrifices assist them in this process of purification as a means used by God to communicate purifying grace to them. After all, He is the vine, we are the branches so that He produces his fruits of grace through us.  The practice of praying for the dead actually predates Christianity. In 2 Maccabees 12: 41-45, Judas offers prayers and sacrifices for his fallen comrades to make “atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.” Some argue that the books of the Maccabees are not inspired scripture. Leaving that argument aside for now, we can at least look at them as historical books detailing accepted pious practices of God’s people some 300 years before Christ. If that is the only place in the Bible where we find any reference to purgatory, many Protestant Christians argue, then that is a weak support for such a practice. Fortunately, we know as Catholics that all of our doctrines are indeed found in the Word of God, as is the doctrine of Purgatory. Hence what follows is a biblical understanding of the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. The book of Genesis recounts for us the far reaching repercussions of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden. This sin, we find, brought about four consequences which I will summarize here (Gen 3: 16-24): First, their sin brings about disharmony between persons. God tells Eve that both her relationship to her husband and children will now...

Sense of the Faith-Lacking...

The latest Extraordinary Synod of Bishops has captured the attention of the world in its discussions on marriage and family, but the reasons behind this interest are questionable. St. John Paul II once said that the way of society goes by way of the family. Thus, decisions regarding the family have a universal impact. The interest of what appears to be the entire world can be interpreted as a good thing, provided that the interest comes from a genuine desire to promote and protect the sanctity of the family. To the extent that they come from desires to redefine and/or lower the moral expectations of the family, the interest is misleading, dangerous, and futile. This past year, bishops from around the world gathered information from the pews to help guide their pastoral responses to the issues faced by Catholic families worldwide. The Bishops are also receiving testimonies from couples and families during the synod to further assist their decision-making. From these sources, we discover that many, many Catholics are cohabiting, divorcing and remarrying without receiving a declaration of nullity from their previous marriage, are acting on same sex attractions, and expect to receive communion while in these relationships. Surprise! Surprise! This data, many are arguing, captures the Sensus Fidei, or Sense of the Faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Sense of the Faithful is understood as a “supernatural appreciation of the faith, shown by the universal consent in matters of faith and morals manifested by the whole body of the faithful under the guidance of the Magisterium. (cf. the glossary, and #92 CCC.)” It has been traditionally  understood to be a reliable litmus test for sound doctrine. Changing the teachings of the Church, some argue, is...

Hidden Treasures, Blessed Adventures in Italy...

Pilgrimages reflect and remind the pilgrim of his sojourn on earth. They are not vacations, but, rather, journeys into God’s providence. It is a time of recognizing what is our true goal, union with God in heaven, versus what is merely the means to get there, our life on earth. We often get those two mixed up. I recently returned from leading a pilgrimage to Italy. I was reminded several times that I still lack patience and charity, and so my earthly pilgrimage still has a long way to go in achieving its end. Nevertheless, this pilgrimage was for me a truly blessed adventure. God never allows our own weaknesses and sins to completely deter Him from accomplishing what He wants to do in us. He only asks that we allow Him the opportunity. I experienced profound grace at every destination. It would take too long to recount the entire journey, but there were some hidden treasures that are worth sharing. Our pilgrimage started in Florence. Florence possesses some of the greatest art treasures on earth and is an art-lover’s paradise. One of the sites that really struck me was the convent of San Marco. This ancient monastery is less known compared to some of the other art museums in the city. 600 years ago, inside this old Dominican cloister, lived a friar and master-painter named Fr Angelico, Blessed Fra Angelico, as St. John Paull II beatified him in 1982. He was asked by his superior to paint frescos inside each monk’s cell. Those frescos are still there, and their splendor has not faded with the passing of the centuries. The holiness of Fra Angelico radiates through his work. Michelangelo said of him, “he must have seen heaven to...

Changing the World By Changing Yourself...

Carol staggered through the overcrowded streets in Pattaya, Thailand, deeply troubled by what she witnessed: bar after bar where women could be bought and sold as slaves for sexual desire. She witnessed black magic, drug use, intoxication—the smell of evil. She even witnessed a three year old offered for prostitution. This experience inspired her to begin a ministry aimed at rescuing young women from such a hopeless life of enslavement. Michael is a truck driver, and by his own admission, a recovering addict of many vices. When he gave his life over to Christ many years ago, he discovered the power of Jesus to heal and forgive, and decided to offer himself as an ambassador of hope for the addicted. Michael has been offering recovery counseling and encouragement for almost 20 years, now. Randy is a physician who grew weary of the antilife philosophies he encountered in a profession that is supposed to be aimed at helping sustain life and promoting health. He decided to do something about it. He now helps lead a physician’s guild for Catholic doctors who wish to practice according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I have had the pleasure of getting to know all three of these individuals, as well as many, many others just like them, through a program called the Spiritual Mentorship Program in Kansas City, Kansas. I am an eye witness to the transforming power of grace and of the powerful creativity of God in the lives of His beloved. Working closely with my School of Faith team, as well as with the Apostles of the Interior Life, a religious community from Rome, Italy, I have been overwhelmed at the focused intensity of the Holy Spirit during our time...

Darkness His Only Friend...

(The following is an re-posting of an experience I had when visiting the Holy Land. For this Triduum, will you keep darkness from being Jesus’ only friend?) Some scholars call the Holy Land the ‘Fifth Gospel,’ because when visiting there you are walking into the bible itself. The only word that I use when I reminisce about my trip to the Holy Land last summer is ‘incredible.’ This is the most appropriate term to describe my experience. I spent much of the time unable to wrap my mind around what I was seeing. Touching the slab where our dear Lord’s body was laid in the tomb of the Holy Sepulcher—incredible! Sitting down on the green grass where Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves—incredible! Receiving the Eucharist at the Church built on the ruins of St. Peter’s home in Capharnaum while looking out of the church’s window  to gaze at the very synagogue where Jesus first taught about eating his flesh and drinking his blood—incredible! Yet, of all of the incredible experiences that I had, the one that sticks out as most incredible is not even mentioned explicitly in the Gospels. Although it may not be explicit, it is nevertheless most probable. The night of His arrest, Jesus is taken to the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest. As high priest, Caiaphas would have been selected from Jewish ‘high society;’ from a notable family of the priestly cast. He thus enjoyed a lavish mansion as his domicile. Once brought to Caiaphas, Jesus was interrogated, beaten, accused, judged, and condemned by the laws of the leading Pharisees. This all happens in the dark of night so the charade of these Temple leaders would remain hidden, thus avoiding a riot with the people who hailed...
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