Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

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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...

A Father who can’t Feed his own Kids...

Everybody knows there are plenty of people, including mass-attending Catholics, who don’t really like the priesthood. There may be a lot of reasons: maybe they think it’s a relic of outdated patriarchy, maybe they think it’s a silly ceremonial job, or maybe a decade of child-abuse headlines have firmly associated the ideas of priesthood and perversion in their minds. But what’s particularly unfortunate is how many people who actually do like the priesthood – who do celebrate the hierarchical structure of the Church, who do encourage their sons to consider the sacrament of Holy Orders, who do acknowledge that sacerdotal consecration creates “another Christ” – what’s unfortunate is how many of these people never have anything nice to say about any actual priests. They seem to like the idea of priesthood considered abstractly, but they don’t seem to like how it plays out in real life. How many Catholic children on the drive home from mass on Sunday hear their parents complimenting the priest? Or do most of them hear insults prefaced or concluded with a blessing, as though that somehow makes it a pious sentiment: “God bless Fr. So-and-so, he has no social skills.” “God bless Fr. So-and-so, it’s a good thing he became a priest because he never would have made it in the real world.” “You’d think they’d give Fr. So-and-so a little training in public speaking at the seminary, God bless him.” I’m hoping to give my kids a different perspective – not only on the priesthood, but on actual priests. When I was growing up the dad of a friend of mine was wheelchair-bound with a degenerative disorder that left him almost completely immobilized. There were five kids in the family, and they always struggled to make ends...
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