Why are there so many rules in the Catholic Church? Why must things be done a certain way to attain salvation? I don't know because I'm not a mystic.
But I get it. And personally, I'd rather it be tough and somewhat burdensome. Getting to heaven is important and it should take some hard work and discipline. This makes sense to me.
The Super Bowl is important. To get there it should take hard work and discipline. This makes sense to everyone. It's a life's work of doing things in a certain way on a grueling schedule. Why should attaining salvation be any different? Should you be able to phone it in?
Faith is always an issue, but so is drive on the road to athletic supremacy. It comes to some so easy but others must force themselves until they start to see results in their routine.
Some have the gift of faith. Others need to work at it. An evangelical might come to you and say "you must accept Jesus." You might know that this is probably a good idea, because you know the message is righteous, but you can't just blink your eyes and start feeling amazing about it. Maybe you can, but I can't.
What saves people like me is the rich tradition of the Catholic Church and the lives of the saints. Through tradition and revelation we are given a road map, or routine/workout, not unlike the path to the Super Bowl for the athlete. By studying the lives of the saints I know what to shoot for. This is my play book. A good congregation with holy priests is my team.
I have a workout, play book, and a dependable team. I'm not going to make it to the Super Bowl any other way.
People often say "I stopped going to church because I wasn't really getting anything out of it. I can pray on my own. Good luck with that. Try getting to the Super Bowl on your own. You may get fit (how many times have you heard the non-religious say "I am a spiritual person") but you won't make it to the final championship. You need more.
This was just a long and super cheesy way of saying that the only way to obtain what the Catholic Church promises is to follow the rules and study the play book. You're not going to get bonked on the head with joy just by showing up to mass willy-nilly.
If I could suggest one thing that each parish could do to improve everything about their Catholic experience, it would be to dismantle 99% of the existing alter server programs in the world. My parish is an exception, and that's why I go there obviously. Today, there was a mass for over 80 alter boys that were going on a hike together after a 3 day retreat where they met each morning for 4 hours with the vocations director from the order that serves our parish.
Not only was it moving, you had the sense that it was a mini-priest factory which is exactly what the alter server program should be. And it works. In the last three years where I've been paying attention, at least two seminarians have entered studies with the same order that serves us, The Oblates Of The Virgin Mary. And the rest of them have a very strong record of staying with the Church to build families that also stay with the Church.
Many parishes face the possibility of no priests in the future, but even if you have a priest, wouldn't it be nice to have one from your own neighborhood? Do you want one from some far off third world country that you've never heard of where they happen to be a lot holier than the flock you run with? It's great that those priests exist, but wouldn't it be better if they served along side someone from someone homegrown?
So here's the plan. If you get the chance, suggest to your pastor that you scrap the current alter server program and start over from scratch. Then you start planning a new one. If there were girls in the old program, let them join in the effort to create a special girls group that will prepare them to be wives, mothers, and college students. Re-create your alter server program for boys only. This is the only way to increase participation among boys, and to eventually create some priests. I repeat. This is the only way.
If there is one girl in it, most young boys wont want to do it. It has then become un-masculine, like a cheer leading squad. Sure, you will get some boys who are forced, or some effeminate boys that like being in a girls group, but you wont get ever increasing numbers of strong boys who want to do it like you will if it is a boys only, masculine oriented club.
You can whine about how that's not modern or "p.c." but the point is to create priests and strong catholic boys, not placate anti-Catholic forces of the modern world. Most people that want girls to become priests wish that as a second choice. Their first choice is that the Catholic Church not exist at all.
You can name it something cool to get boys even more interested. At Holy Innocents in Long Beach they call it the "Knights" of something or other. Get it? It's so easy, it's sitting right in front of your face, but who's going to take the first step?
People ask me this several times a week. I love him of course. However, Pope Francis is a Jesuit in Modern times, and I just got done reading a book called The Jesuits by Father Malachi Martin. It's scary and depressing. It details the change it the Jesuits from "The Pope's Men" of St. Ignatius, to the guys calling themselves priests but firing machine guns to over-throw governments in Central America in the 1980s.
What kind of Jesuit is Pope Francis? Well, his focus on the poor could go either way, right? Does he want us to give all our money to the poor and completely deconstruct Western capitalism, or just keep them in our hearts and share more with them?
Whatever the case, it's not going to hurt any of us to focus more on the poor both materially and spiritually. He's already inspired me to do little things like take the bus once in a while.
I think the best way to get to know him is to read his writings. He just released his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, co-authored by Benedict XVI. Read it. But since it's a co-authored thing, it might not give us a clear picture.
For a great picture of what he's like I would read this book of interviews he did as Cardinal Bergoglio; very hot item right now! I know I'm acting like I've read it, but I haven't. But I did order it from Amazon and it is sitting in front of me right now. That's something, right?
Everybody I run into is asking me what I think of the recent announcement by the Holy Father that he will resign. The most ignorant comments I hear are that he is hiding something or that scandals in the church are forcing him out.
If you get all your information about what's going on in the Catholic Church from the Los Angeles Times, network news, or talk radio, you are ignorant of the papacy of Benedict XVI. You think it's all about scandals because that's all you hear about. I don't have time to explain everything to you. If you want to know the truth, study church doctrine, traditions, and papal encyclicals and letters that get issued all the time.
I don't have any inside information, or even any particularly well formed opinions, about the resignation but I do have a gut feeling. My feeling is that the Holy Father made a decision long ago that this was the best way to handle papal succession. He's a brilliant man. It's been said that he has the intellect of a great philosopher and the piety of a 1st communion candidate.
It makes sense to hand over the reigns while you still have all your faculties. AND he's right about the amount of energy that the papacy takes today. It takes more. The world is changing. Brilliant, divinely inspired, or just common sense, it matters little. He's a great pope that has done wonders to restore respect for traditional principles of the Catholic Church like faith, prayer, Eucharistic adoration, Latin mass, and strict adherence to the magisterium.
The mere fact that he is still alive is likely to influence how the college of cardinals vote for his successor. To me, that is the best news of all.
What's this? I'm not exactly sure, but as a daily communicant, I know I'll find out someday.
I’ve been getting some interesting feedback from my Catholicism lately.
How do you do this with your background?
Do you take heat from people in the entertainment business
who generally trivialize religion, or even work to attack it?
Is your church “culty?” (I'm like, "not enough, really.")
Given an opportunity to explain my Church, some people want to start taking
notes because most have never heard someone explain the
awesomeness of this ancient institution to them in a way that didn’t sound Jesus
I have no special gifts. They just don’t get out much. I
only have one secret. And that is daily mass. Some people don't even know that masses are offered every day. They are. They are short, sacred, and uncrowded. (You unusually get a bench all to yourself!)
Most people believe in God. And most Catholics will at least
profess to believe his real presence is in the Eucharist handed out to the
people during each mass.
Well, if you believe that this wafer contains the real presence
of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the 2nd person of the Holy
Trinity, why wouldn’t you make every effort to be there every day?
We all go through periods where this would be tough to
impossible, but what I’m saying is that if you understood the benefits of being a Daily Communicant you
would arrange your life to attend make it possible, the same way you arrange your
life to make sure you have enough to eat some shelter. If God is truly in the tabernacle, what are we doing out here? Shouldn't we get back in there?
So what are the benefits of daily mass attendance?
Metaphysically, most of it is impossible to explain, at
least for me, and it differs for everyone but I’ll list a few concrete things
that happen to everyone, and will happen to you.
marriage will improve. That should be enough, because nothing is more
important, especially if you have kids. If you are a man this is especially
true. A wife will not get very far complaining to her friends and sisters about
her daily mass attending husband. Who cares if he leaves the toilent seat up if
he’s at mass every day. Everyone will want to trade her for you. The only thing that compete with this habit would be to suddenly love shopping. That would be a conversion of a different time that soon she would regret. Although you would probably remain friends. As a father, the mere sight of dad on his knees praying is an image that will burn many things into a child's psyche, all of them good.
2.If you are a married woman, your marriage will eventually improve. Improvement
will come slower however because the reality is a wife attending daily mass is
something many men would gladly complain about to their friends. Your rewards
come from prayer and sacrifice. You are praying and sacrificing for a
conversion. The conversion will eventually happen if you are faithful. I
believe this. Ask St. Monica. And your children will be profoundly effected by this pious act. Everyone wants to believe that their mother is holy, and you will be. What a great gift to give your children.
you are single, you are going to find a mate that will last a life time. This
you will not find by learning to salsa dance.You will either find one there, or be introduced outside of church as the "one who attends daily mass." This cuts out the riff-raff.
will quickly realize that you are not going to confession as much as you
should. Even if this wasn’t your original intent, daily mass will do this to
you and the benefits of the regular cleansing your soul of mortal and venial
sins is so powerful, your spirituality will rise to new levels. New graces will
befall you, and so on, and so on.
will surround yourself with other holy people praying for you. This is just a
physical fact. You’re spending 30 or so minutes in a room with Jesus, a priest,
and other daily communicants. This is the place to be. This is where you will
find a peace each day unlike any other that you can hope to find in any other
place. People do a lot of strange and dumb things to find some elusive peace
they think might be out there. They follow gurus and yogis from cultures far
from their own, when real peace is in their back yard. Don’t be like them. This
is like trying to find a “smarter mother” because you are not satisfied with
your own who loves you and is right in your home. Only a dumb kid would do that. Mary is your true mother. If you seek
another, you are as dumb as a kid trying to find parents who will let it eat
Skittles for dinner.
will learn your faith. By being exposed to the liturgy of the mass every day,
you will eventually have most of the entire Bible read to you for free while
you sit on your butt. Not only is that a good deal but it kind of makes you a
biblical scholar. By hanging around you will eventually be exposed to
traditional prayers that everyone else knows but you forgot, and other
traditions like The Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Liturgy Of The Hours, The Spiritual Exercises of St.
Ignatius, or The Diary Of St. Faustina. Papal Encyclicals will be pointed out
to you. The Glorious Communion of Saints will become your new BFFs. And I mean
F. You will pray the Rosary, daily, eventually. This is huge. These things separate the pros from the amateurs. Why be a philistine
about something so important as your role in the 2,000 year old Universal Catholic
will learn how to defend the Church. This comes easy after experiencing some or
all of the above. The Church was there for you when you and your family wanted
to be baptized, confirmed, wed, and buried. Why not pay a little back by
learning to defend it when jealous haters are on the attack?
The above is true, so what are you waiting for? And I’m just scratching the surface
here. If you can think of any other benefits of daily mass attendance, or have
any questions, please put them in the comment section.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes that reasonable minds may disagree on how to arrive at what some might call “social justice” in this world. It could be by a political and economic system like the one proposed by Barack Obama, where the government takes a large role in attempting to create economic equality. Or it could be more like the system proposed by Mitt Romney, where the government takes a back seat, or “gets out of the way” so free markets can “lift all boats in a rising tide.” Catholics are free to support either way to help bring about a better nation. However, the Vatican is firm about what are commonly called in the Catholic Church the “non-negotiables.” Catholics may not vote for a candidate that is “pro-choice” when there is also a candidate running that is “pro-life.” This is elaborated on further in this EWTN article .
This is a very simple one for PRACTICING Catholics. You may vote for anyone you want for President on Nov. 6, but you may not vote for Barack Obama because there is another candidate on the ballot who is Pro Life. In my state that is only Mitt Romney. You may write-in another pro-life candidate. You don’t have to vote for Mitt Romney, and no Catholic official will order you to do so. Not voting at all? This is at least a venial sin when the lives of so many unborn lie in the balance.
It is said that only 20% of American Catholics go to mass. If you don't even go to mass, I guess you don't care about sins on your conscience but if you claim to be a practicing Catholic, you must help shoulder the burden of the Non-Negotiables.
One of the most compelling things about the Catholic Church for me is its profound resignation to free will. God gives each of us the gift of free will. When people ask "How could a loving god allow this, or that?" They really mean they haven't thought this through much, but their bitter about something. Free will is the ultimate gift to creation. Free will creates the cruel Stalins and Pol Pots of this world, but it ultimately triumphs with the Mother Theresa's and St. Max Kolbes as well.
Even more compelling than this is that to get the honor of the highest calling of all in life, that to become a priest or nun, you have to use your free will to create a fertile field for God to plant the seed. Then you have to be open to hearing his voice. That's why priests tend to be such good men.
If you are blessed enough to hear this calling, you could do a lot worse than joining the order of the Oblates Of The Virgin Mary out of Boston. I post this because Fr. Jeremy, who is the Director of Vocations is in town through August at St. Peter Chanel. It's a good time to be an Oblate priest.