31 October 2008

Catholic Charismatic Renewal 2.0

When I was becoming Catholic I was thrilled to know that the Charismatic Renewal was active in the Church. What a joy to find that there were more Spirit-filled charismatics in the Catholic Church than all non-catholic Pentecostals and Charismatics put together!
I did have a few disappointments. It took much searching to get information on the Renewal. Many Charismatic web sites are outdated or poorly maintained. Local prayer groups are hard to find or they are stagnant.
Some things I did find encouraging. The CCR is a grassroots movement within the heart of the Church supported by hierarchs, especially the last several Popes. It is Catholic first, THEN Charismatic. There were no celebrities--there are some leaders who stand out, but they don't have personality cults around them.
The Holy Spirit placed some things on my heart about the future of the Renewal:
*More cohesion, coordination, and cooperation.
*More visibility and a stronger web presence.
*The next wave of leadership must be trained.
*Be prepared for tremendous growth.
I don't know if this was a prophecy or not, but I have a strong feeling that many Protestant/Evangelical Charismatics and Pentecostals will be coming into the Catholic Church. Weary of being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, they will be searching for the stability and authority that the Church offers. The Lord wants shepherds ready to feed them and help them recover from spiritual abuses that they come out of.
Let's get ready for the next chapter in CCR history!

30 October 2008

Faith or Magic?

In his awesome book "New Seeds of Contemplation", Thomas Merton discusses the "theology of the devil". He describes many wrong attitudes, exaggerations, and errors that deceive many who think they are following Christ. What I found most interesting is the description of how "faith" is diabolically defined. This was written in 1961, before the popularity of the nonsense promoted by Oprah or the "word-faith" ideas of televangelists.

The theology of the devil is really not theology but magic. "Faith" in this theology is really not the acceptance of God Who reveals Himself as mercy. It is a psychological, subjective "force" which applies a kind of violence to reality in order to change it according to one's own whims. Faith is a kind of supereffective wishing: a mastery that comes from a special, mysteriously dynamic will power that is generated by "profound convictions". By virtue of this wonderful energy one can exert persuasive force even on God Himself and bend His will to one's own will. By this astounding new dynamic sould force of faith (which any quack can develop in you for an appropriate remuneration) you can turn God into a means to your own ends. We become civilized medicine men, and God becomes our servant. Though He is terrible in His own right, He respects our sorcery, He allows Himself to be tamed by it. He will appreciate our dynamis, and will reward it with success in everything we attempt. We will become popular because we have "faith". We will be rich because we have "faith". All our national enemies will come and lay down their arms at our feet because we have "faith". Business will boom all over the world, and we will be able to make money out of everything and everyone under the sun because of the charmed life we lead. We have faith.

29 October 2008

Beware of Spiritual Arrogance

Those of us who take our Christian faith seriously can easily fall into elitism. That is, an attitude that we are somehow more enlightened or holier than the "average" Christian.

During Apostolic times the Jewish Christians looked down on the gentile believers. When new religious orders appeared on the scene they met resistance: consider the opposition faced by St. Francis, St. John of the Cross, or the Jesuits. Though these are examples of the establishment opposing change, our saints could easily have judged others as being less spiritual for not understanding them. But they didn't.

I bring up all this because I occasionally run across folks in the Charismatic Renewal who consider the "regular" Catholic to be inferior. They often ignore anything that doesn't come from a Charismatic source. "How could someone who hasn't been 'baptized in the Holy Spirit' have anything worthwhile to say?"

This attitude was common in the early days of the Renewal, not just among Catholics, but Protestant Charismatics as well. Prayer groups became islands where the "enlightened" gathered. Some left their churches and ended up in established Pentecostal congregations. I think that this attitude contributed to the stagnation of many prayer groups and the disappearance of others.

If we tell people that they need the baptism in the Holy Spirit because their current experience with God isn't good enough they'll close themselves off. Just because someone is uncomfortable with the gift of tongues, prefers traditional forms of worship, or quiet prayer does not make them inferior. The pious little old lady sitting quietly in Mass every day may have more of the Spirit in her big toe than my entire prayer group put together!

An emotional experience like the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not required in order to have spiritual gifts. A confessor can have the gifts of knowledge or wisdom even if he doesn't speak in tongues. God supplies each of us with gifts for the building up of the Church and the only requirement is our openness to the Holy Spirit.

At confirmation every Catholic experiences their personal Pentecost. Wouldn't it be cool if those being confirmed spoke in tongues when the Bishop blessed them! But, alas, they don't. Does this mean nothing happened? Of course not.

I am thankful to be in a parish that is officially Charismatic with an active prayer group. We sing in the Spirit during portions of the Mass. Our worship is upbeat and lively. Our prayer group is active and attended by young and old. I wish that all Catholic parishes were like mine, but that doesn't mean mine is "better".

We must love our brothers and sisters and appreciate their gifts. We must recognize that the Holy Spirit dwells in all Catholics and pray that they open themselves to more and more of His blessings. And finally, we must humble ourselves and admit that there is still more that we lack no matter how Charismatic we happen to be.

28 October 2008

More of God

There is always something MORE that God can give us.

He is without boundaries like a shoreless ocean.

We can never get enough.

The Holy Spirit wants to lead all of us into a deeper relationship with Christ.

He wants to energize us and enhance our prayer life.

He wants to set us free and bestow gifts.

But we can't "conjure" the Holy Spirit.

He leads as He wills.

27 October 2008

Associating with Non-Catholics, 1892

It is the Correct Thing To...
Be willing and ready at all times and under all circumstances to give the reason for one's religious beliefs when asked to do so by a sincere seeker after truth.
To avoid argument merely for the sake of argument.
To say nothing needlessly to wound the feelings and religious opinions of those out of the Church.
To refute calumnies against the Church when they come under one's notice.
To remember that all minds cannot see alike; that certain minds unillumined by the grace of God are utterly unable to grasp religious truths which are perfectly clear to even a little child who has studied its Catechism faithfully.
To be firm always in one's adherence to the teachings of the Church, even at the risk of giving offence to others outside her pale.
To remember that "a liberal Catholic," in the sense in which the term is usually understood, is often no Catholic at all.
To know that right and wrong is a matter of conscience, even where one has a false conscience.
To know that a Catholic has no excuse for having a false conscience.
To know that ignorance is hardly an excuse for a Catholic, for there is every chance afforded for knowing the truth.
To know that Catholics are excommunicated who marry before a Protestant minister.
To remember that example is more powerful than precept.
It is Not the Correct Thing...
To be unable to give a lucid explanation of one's belief.
To be fond of arguments and religious discussions.
To be careless about what one says, and the use of expressions calculated to give offence.
To weakly agree to slanders on the reputation and integrity of the Church or her ministers.
To manifest surprise and impatience at the failure of any one to grasp a truth that seems so plain to one's self.
To forget that whilst truth remains ever the same, the lamp of Faith, which is God's grace in the soul, may burn differently at different times and may even for some reason be withdrawn altogether; and that as a blind person cannot perceive the objects in the room, although the objects be there, so a soul left in darkness cannot perceive truth, although truth exists as plain as ever.
To imagine that because one cannot see a truth it is therefore not so.
For a Catholic to say that one Church is as good as another; for every intelligent Protestant knows that a consistent Catholic cannot think so, and that a Catholic who says he does is telling a deliberate falsehood.
To try to find excuses for doctrines which the Church never taught.
To act in any way that would bring reproach on the Church or give scandal to those either in or out of the fold.
~From "The Correct Thing for Catholics" (1892) by Lelia Hardin Bugg

26 October 2008

Priesthood Sunday

How humbly Thou dost obey Thy priests! One word from their lips and Thou dost come down upon the altar in Holy Mass and renew the Sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner. Thou dost permit Thy priests to give Thee as the Bread of Life to those who come to the Holy Table; Thou dost not shrink even from the unworthy. Thou dost allow Thyself to be carried wherever Thy priests bear Thee. Heaven and earth are subject to Thee, O King of Glory, and yet Thou dost lower Thyself before Thy sinful creatures, living with them in the Sacred Host--offering Thyself for them, coming to their hearts in Holy Communion.

~Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D.
For more on the vocation of the Priesthood, visit:

25 October 2008

The Seeds of God's Love

For it is God's love that warms me in the sun and God's love that sends the cold rain. It is God's love that feeds me in the bread that I eat and God that feeds me also by hunger and fasting. It is the love of God that sends the winter days when I am cold and sick, and the hot summer when I labor and my clothes are full of sweat: but it is God Who breathes on me with light winds off the river and in the breezes out of the wood. His love spreads the shade of the sycamore over my head and sends the water-boy along the edge of the wheat field with a bucket from the spring, while the laborers are resting and the mules stand under the tree.
It is God's love that speaks to me in the birds and streams; but also behind the clamor of the city God speaks to me of His judgements, and all these things are seeds sent out from His will.

If these seeds would take root in my liberty, and if His will would grow from my freedom, I would become the love that He is, and my harvest would be His glory and my own joy.

~Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (1961)

21 October 2008

Like Mary at Communion

O Jesus, I wish to imitate Thy dear Mother, especially in her devotion to Thee in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

It was the summary of her last years on earth. How fervently did she unite herself with Thee as St. John daily offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in his own home. She saw the Sacrifice of Calvary repeated before her very eyes, though now in an unbloody manner.

With what ardent love did she daily receive Thee into her heart in Holy Communion! It was the same Body she had conceived of the Holy Ghost at the Annunciation, the infant Body she had carried in her arms at Bethlehem, the bleeding Body she had seen hanging in torments upon the Cross on Calvary, the glorified Body which had ascended into Heaven.

What emotion she must have felt as she knealt in Thy Eucharistic presence and recalled all those happy and sorrowful events of her life with Thee! Her faith and love pierced the thin veil which seperated her from Thee.

Help me to love and imitate her as Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament because she gave Thee to me. From her, the most pure Virgin, Thou didst assume flesh and blood so that Thou mightest redeem me and become the Food of my soul in Holy Communion.

~ Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D.
"A Novena of Holy Communions", Day 2

20 October 2008

A Pure Sacrifice

One attack against the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is that Jesus was crucified "once and for all" (Hebrews 10:10 & 14) but we crucify Him again every Mass. I've tried to explain that we are actually returning to Calvary each Mass, not re-doing it, but they usually can't wrap their minds around that.
Jesus did similar "time travel" at the Last Supper when He brought His future sacrifice into the present moment.

Something interesting that is fun to show "Bible Christians" is that Our Lord desires incense and sacrifice to be offered continually:

For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations," Says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:11 NKJV)

The Hebrew for "a pure offering" is "minchah tahowr" which means a "sacrifice pure".

Did you know that at least four masses occur every hour in the world?

The prophecy of Malachi is fulfilled in the Catholic Church!!!

18 October 2008

Roodscreen and Jumbo Screen

The image of Pope Benedict XVI reading the Bible on a live television feed is projected inside the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Rome Oct. 5. Pope Benedict XVI kicked off a Bible-reading marathon Oct. 5 on Italian television. The pope read for several minutes from the start of the Book of Genesis live from his apartment at the Vatican while other speakers read in the Basilica of Holy Cross. (CNS photo/Alessandro De Meo, Reuters)

I like the way they tried to make the jumbo screen TV fit in with the church architecture--notice the fancy gilded cross on the top. I think the Holy Father is on to something. Equip at least one parish in each diocese with a big screen and use it to simulcast homilies. Even better, the hours of prayer from world-wide monasteries--bring back Matins & Vespers to parish use via sattelite!

14 October 2008

The Path

Christian faith is not a system. It cannot be portrayed as a complete, finished intellectual construction. It is a path, and it is characteristic of a path that it only becomes recognizable if you enter on it and start following it.

They [religions] do not save people, so to speak, as closed systems and through faithfulness to the system; rather, they bring redemption only when they bring men to the point of "asking after God" (as the Old Testament puts it), "seeking His face", "seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness".

~Pope Benedict XVI "The Truth of Christianity?"

06 October 2008

Papal Authority Essay - Part 1: The Bible

In my introduction I told of my journey from Evangelical to Orthodox to Catholic and how my biggest hurdle was the question of Papal authority. In this post I will discuss how the Bible helped me understand the importance of the Holy Father as successor to St. Peter.

Matthew 16:13-20 is the essential text to begin this discussion:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

One who holds the "keys of the kingdom" carries the authority of the king and acts on behalf of the king when he is absent. (Compare Isaiah 22: 19-22 where Eliakim, the master of the palace of King Hezekiah is given the keys to the kingdom.) By passing down these "keys" the successors to St. Peter empowered by the Holy Spirit are able to safeguard the Church from attack. Without this authority the truth would be up for grabs.

Also notice:
-St. Peter is always listed first (Mt. 10:14; Mk. 3:16-19; Lk. 6:14-1 5; Acts 1:13)
-Is sometimes the only one mentioned (Lk. 9:32).
-He speaks for the Apostles (Mt. 18:21; Mk. 8:28; Lk. 12:41; Jn. 6:69).
-When our Lord selects a group of three for some special event, such as the Transfiguration, St. Peter is in the first position.
-Our Lord chose to teach from St. Peter's boat.
-At Pentecost St. Peter preached to the crowds and told of the mission of the Church (Acts 2;14-40).
-He performed the first miraculous healing (Acts 3:6-7).
-St. Peter also received the revelation that the Gentiles were to be baptized (Acts 10:9-48)
-He sided with St. Paul against the need for circumcision (Acts 15).
As an Orthodox Christian I was taught that even though he was the leader of the Apostles, he was simply "first among equals". So, I went next to Church History to consider what the Fathers and the Councils have to say. And that, dear reader, is where we will go in our next installment.

05 October 2008

October: Month of the Rosary

Last year, as each of you is aware, We decreed by an Encyclical Letter that, to win the help of Heaven for the Church in her trials, the great Mother of God should be honored by the means of the most holy Rosary during the whole of the month of October. In this we followed both Our own impulse and the example of Our predecessors, who in times of difficulty were wont to have recourse with increased fervor to the Blessed Virgin, and to seek her aid with special prayers. . .

Pope Pius XIII, Superiore Anno, 1884

01 October 2008

Protection of the Theotokos

Today is the patronal feast day of this blog: Holy Protection of the Theotokos. Over the years, and especially recently, I have developed a strong devotion to this image of the Blessed Virgin. You may have noticed her at the top of this page

On October 1, 911, during the reign of emperor Leo the Wise, there was an all-night vigil in the Blachernae church of the Theotokos in Constantinople. Standing near the rear of the church was St. Andrew the Fool for Christ, and his disciple Epiphanius. At four o’clock in the morning, the Theotokos appeared above the people with a veil spread over her outstretched hands, as if to protect them. She was surrounded by angels and saints. Seeing this, Andrew asked his disicple, “Do you see the Queen and Lady of all is praying for the whole world?”

My first step into the Catholic Church began at Holy Protection Byzantine Catholic Church in Denver, CO.

I continually place my life under her protective mantle.