I Vote My Beliefs

So I really don’t like it out here.  You know, out here in the public square.  I don’t often confront someone unless I feel very strongly about something.  And, if I do say something, later I will inevitably think of something I wish I had said.  That’s how an introvert’s mind works and I am most definitely an introvert. I don’t think quickly on my feet or have quick responses, but give me some time to think about things and then I can give you my opinion or my side of the argument. So here I am attempting to explain what I feel about the upcoming election in written form .  It has been edited and reedited and edited again until the words feel just right. So here goes…

I vote pro life so I will vote Republican in the upcoming election. As a Catholic Christian, I believe life begins at conception so abortion is off the table for me and my vote.  In an early Christian document called the Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, it is written “You shall not murder a child in destruction nor shall you kill one just born.” Other sources translate it to mean “you shall not abort a child or commit infanticide.” This document is thought to have been written toward the end of the first century and was used as an early teaching manual for new Christians. So during the first century, Christians were taught that abortion is a sin and I believe it remains a sin today. Just because a democracy or its judges vote to allow abortion does not make it right. Jesus came to show us the Truth and I believe His Truth is unchanging. In John 14:6, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” Truth is timeless and is not changed by the vote of a congregation or country or by judges who sit on the Supreme Court. I believe God, our creator, wants us to live a certain way according to His wishes and not by our wishes. If we choose to follow Christ, then we must choose to follow His teachings.  It may not be easy to hold these beliefs. With it comes difficulties and suffering, but persevering in them will also bring me much joy in eternity. Someone once said,  “Truth doesn’t change because of our ability to stomach it.” The candidate may be tough to stomach, but his party’s platform is one I can support.

Now on to my next point. Please watch the following video of Hillary Clinton at The Women in the World Summit last year.

Hillary Clinton wants to change my  “deep seated religious beliefs.”  How does she propose to do that? Freedom of religion permits a person to practice or live out his or her religion as he or she believes and this practice can be done publicly. As an American, I have this right based on The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution. Among other things it ensures that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion. So I have the right as an American to practice or express my religion as I believe. It becomes an issue for me when a presidential candidate states she wants to change my beliefs as a Christian. This is one of the reasons why many came to the New World all those years ago…so they could live out their faith as they felt they should.

So if Hillary Clinton is elected, am I to expect my government  to dictate my religious convictions? Aside from the fact I think a democracy is the greatest type of government around, I don’t have much faith in it instructing me spiritually.  I think separation of church and state has been taken to an extreme and there is an absence of God in our government. I don’t think today’s America is what the founding fathers had in mind when they drafted our founding documents. I am having to face the fact that we are increasingly becoming a secular society that doesn’t want God’s input on heavy matters of life or death. However, as an American, I want my Christian beliefs to be heard and respected.  Sadly, I am now accused of being against women and their right to choose. I am called a bigot because I don’t hold that women should have a choice. What about those babies, the most vulnerable of humanity, who are allowed legally to be killed in the womb? They had no choice regarding their conception or their death. Remember slavery was legal once too. Because something is legal does not make it right.

Hillary Clinton’s plan to change “deep seated religious beliefs” concerns scares me. If elected she could select up to three new Supreme Court justices. How will their likely progressive views change the practice of religion in America? Will the public exercise of my religion be slowly taken away from me by future Supreme Court rulings? Will I have to worship in private so as not to offend anyone? How can I be a “light to the world” behind closed doors? Could I even share the Good News with others in that environment? Will religious hospitals be mandated to offer abortions or contraception by our government? As a nurse, would I have to assist with an abortion by my employer? Could I be fired if I refused?  Will my tax dollars pay for abortions or insurance that covers abortifacients? Will I be prosecuted and persecuted because I hold different beliefs than my government? It’s something I have thought about a lot lately. I’m most sad that my grandchildren might live in an America that has  little regard for a person’s religious convictions or the lives of the unborn. I mourn that our country has devalued life as it has.

The debate between the two sides is angry, hurtful, and contentious. There seems to be little respect between them. If anyone from the opposite camp reads this, I want you to know I grieve the contention between us. I’m sad we’re engaged in this argument. However I must recognize I was warned about this battle a long time ago. In the passage from the Gospel of Matthew 10:21-23, Jesus said people would hate me because I follow Him and  I know He speaks the Truth.

 

 

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Posted in Catholic living, Holiness, Religious liberty, Truth | Leave a comment

I think she nailed it…

My daughter wrote this post the other day on her blog.

She writes about holiness, so I want to share.

 

https://apfrein.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/hard-and-holy-things/

 

 

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Reasons to believe

Let me see if I can put this into words.  I woke up this morning at 3:06AM with a sense of serenity which I attributed to my faith in God.  Then in my foggy state of mind, I started slipping into a dark sadness that was real and I thought this has to be what hell feels like. Let me explain.

I have had a blessed life.  I am the child of two loving parents who took care of me, provided for me, encouraged and nurtured me. I have not had the experiences of horror that some people have had during their childhood.  Believe me…I was never hungry. Never cold. Never frightened. Never in danger.  All my needs were met.  There was safety and security and love. Bombs were not going off in the tiny town where I lived and guns were not a threat in my life.  I never encountered anyone who I thought would do me harm as a child. I had an innocent, safe, idyllic childhood.  I never experienced violence, abandonment by family, a natural disaster, or abuse. My life as an adult has been blessed as well.  My husband and I have created a happy home where we raised three great kids who are now creating their own happy lives. I am thankful everyday for these things.

Having said that I must admit that my life has not been perfect.  Life on this earth never will be.  Along the way I had difficult experiences as well.  My daddy died when I was fourteen. After witnessing in my husband what a loving father means to children, I realized even more the loss I experienced at my father’s death. Some of  the people I have encountered in life have been less than kind to me and made me very sad.  Some of the things I hoped for never happened which greatly disappointed and discouraged me.  What I am trying to say here is that, while I never had to survive a terrorist bombing or personal violence in my life, I have had experiences that wounded me deeply. Compared to others’ injuries, my wounds were mild.  But, for me, those hurts contributed to my own personal hell. The feelings I experienced were temporary and didn’t last, but they were very real at the time and caused me to despair.

I realized this morning at 3 AM that hell must be the constant and unending experience of despair, and also, frustration, loneliness, betrayal, hurt, anger, sadness, abandonment, fear, emptiness, depression, pain, loss, grief, hopelessness, ugliness, resentment, jealousy, envy, weariness, insecurity, hatred, etc, etc, etc.  The list goes on and on and then there’s the fire and brimstone to consider. Hell is a place or thing I don’t want to experience.

In contrast, I believe heaven is the eternal experience of serenity, joy, comfort, happiness, security, peace, well being, rest, love, kindness, mercy, hope, beauty, loveliness, belonging, purity, encouragement and so on and so on. Heaven, I think, is a place or thing to be desired and hoped for.

Interestingly, in Hebrews 11:1 we are told this: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Because of my faith, I am confident and sure there is a heaven; in addition, I am also sure there is a hell. Heaven is what I hope for. It is where my soul will find rest. My life may not have been the hell that some people have lived on this earth, but I think I have had glimpses of what hell would be for me and I do not want to go there.

So, what do I do with this realization? My faith tells me that I must love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, soul, and mind and I must love my neighbor as myself.  I must live out my faith in a much more private and public way.  I must go to God in prayer so that I might know Him and that He would know me and those prayers should be less about me and more about Him. What does He want me to know? What does He want me to learn from this sacred time with Him? What does He want me to do for others? How should I live my life so that others would know Him through me? Then I have to go into the world and be the hands and feet of Jesus. I must be the light that shines before others through good deeds and because of those deeds, God is glorified. God is glorified because it is only by God’s grace that I love enough to care for my fellow man and act on that love.

I must encourage the despondent and comfort those who are sick and are suffering.  I must find time to visit the lonely and forgotten ones around me.  I must soothe the wounds of those who have been hurt.  I must not hide my light under a basket.  I must be courageous in my faith so that others might know the source of that light, which is the love of Christ.

Now, this courage and public display of an inward conviction does not come easy for me.  I am an introvert through and through. Spoken words don’t come quickly to an introvert in a pinch. (That’s why you are reading this because it has been edited lots and lots! Introverts are much better writers than speakers.) However, I also believe that God will give me the grace to do what He wants me to do when He wants me to do it.  I just have to consciously get out of the way and let God work in me every day.  Every day I must seek out the Kingdom of Heaven and what God wants for my life.  If I do that, considering again what Hebrews 11:1 tells me, I believe I have the assurance of the heaven I hope for.

Thanks be to God!

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Red and Yellow, Black and White

It has been in the news a lot lately.  First, we learned about a celebrity’s use of the ugly “n” word and her subsequent fall from the public’s  grace.  Then, when the Trayvon Martin verdict was announced, our country was suddenly at a boiling point over the anger on both sides of the case.  The issue underlying these two examples is racism. This makes me anxious because when we are racist in our thoughts, words, or actions toward other people or prejudiced against a certain skin color or nationality, we disappoint God. When we disappoint God, we sin. And that is not good.

As Catholic Christians, we are taught in our Catechism that all men are created in the image and likeness of God and equally endowed with rational souls that give us certain rights because we are created in His likeness.  All men are redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ and so enjoy equal rank or dignity. According to God’s design, all men and women regardless of color or nationality are worthy of respect and are of equal standing. Jesus died for all of us.  The problem is that many times humans don’t follow God’s design and fail to see the value of every living soul on this earth. So discrimination and prejudice rear their ugly heads, and hatred and anger and contention grow and things get really ugly because people get hurt.

In all of this ugliness, we have to remember to look at what God’s design is because that is where beauty can be found.  God tells us to love.  We are to love like the good Samaritan who cared for the beaten stranger on the roadside; we are to extend hospitality to the poor, crippled, lame and blind when we throw a banquet and I think it would please the Lord to have people of different skin colors attend too; and, we are to clothe, feed, and visit our sick brothers and sisters in prison no matter what their status, color, or creed is. I admit it is tough because we can be suspicious of the differences between the races and creeds of the peoples of the earth, yet this is what God calls us to do. This is the love that we are called to and what a beautiful world it would be if we all loved like that.

As I pondered the heated arguments about racism I realized I have a beautiful example of people of different races getting along well in my own small, Southern community.  For the last eight years, our parish has been served well by missionary priests from Africa and South Vietnam.  It may surprise some that we are served by missionary priests here in America, but yes, Africa, where Catholicism is exploding, sends priests to America to serve the Church. These men fill the vacancies we have in our parishes from the lack of vocations in American seminaries. We are a country served by missionaries.

The first African priest who served our parish was from Nigeria. Father Athanasius is a humble quiet man who has a generous and kind heart and only wants to serve others.  Before he was sent to America, he had a music ministry in Nigeria that raised money to educate orphaned children. He was our pastor for three years. Honestly, I admit I was concerned about having a black man come into our area to minister and shepherd us.  I didn’t know how well he would be accepted.  It was a beautiful thing to see how receptive our congregation was to his messages of love and forgiveness and serving God. Our son-in-law was fortunate to have Father A instruct him when he decided to join the Catholic Church.  He has since moved to another parish and has won them over as well.  It didn’t surprise me, because he took his solid message of God’s love with him and shared it with that church just as he did us.

Currently we have three priests who serve this area of the Delta  in eastern Arkansas.  Father Benoit is from the Congo, Father Honest is from Tanzania, and Father Martin is formally from South Vietnam. These men continue the work of Father A and continue to teach us lessons that have touched my heart and made my faith grow.  They are well educated (all Catholic priests are) and pass that knowledge on to us. They visit the sick and dying and baptize our babies and eat at our tables.  They have gotten to know our families and pray for them by name.  They laugh with us and celebrate with us and mourn with us as the occasion requires.  They minister to us and teach us to strengthen our relationships with our Creator. Their desire is to lead us to heaven to be in the presence of God.  We have grown to love these men and appreciate their sacrifice of leaving their homes and their families to serve us. They struggled to learn our language so they could teach us the importance of having faith in God. Learning a language for travel is quite a different thing from learning a language well enough to teach ideas and concepts and doctrines. How many of us would expend that much effort for the sake of another’s soul?

These men quietly go about their work and love and care for us as their flock.  We are their sheep and we love them. By witnessing these priests and the love they have for their congregations and the love their congregations have for them, I have had a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God looks like and how our world could look if we all returned to the design God had planned all along. I pray that we will and that we commit to it completely for the sake of all of us.

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Mary, Mary, Mary

The first thing I want to say in this post is this:  Catholics do not worship Mary.  Catholics do not worship Mary.  Catholics do not worship Mary.  Said another way: Mary is not worshiped by Catholics.  Anyone, Catholic or not, would be committing grave sin if they worshiped Mary because we are to worship God alone.  This is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 971.     So, anyone, Catholic or not, who believes we do worship Mary is sadly misinformed. What we do is honor Mary who is the mother of the Son in our Triune God.

We have special devotion to Mary because she is the mother of our brother and savior, Jesus Christ.  In Luke 1:38, we read that Mary was the first Christian filled with the Holy Spirit after she consented to the angel Gabriel by saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Later in Luke 1:48-49, we read that “all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me.” Mary, herself, tells us what would happen as a result of the Incarnation. All generations will call her blessed, which is what we Catholics do when saying the rosary.  The rosary begins with these words, “Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus,” which come from the first chapter of Luke in verses 28 and 42. The rosary prayer has its origin in the Bible! The word blessed means holy or sacred or worthy of adoration or reverence in this context.  Also, the word “pray” comes from the Latin word precari which means to entreat or ask. Prayer is a form of communication.

So, when saying the rosary, we honor Mary, the mother of God, and the idea of honoring the mother of the King is something that has its roots in Jewish history.  Scripture supporting the position of the “queen mother” is found in the Old Testament in Psalms 45:9, I Kings 2: 17-20,  2 Chronicles 15:16, 2 Chronicles 22:10, and Jeremiah 29:2.

Why does Jewish history matter to this post?  Because Jesus was a Jew who worshiped in the temple, taught in the synagogues, and studied the words of the Old Testament.  Judaism is fulfilled in Catholicism.   The promised Messiah comes to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.  He proclaims His kingdom, is crucified and died, rose again, ascended and now reigns in heaven beside God the Father.  As Catholics we observe the sacrifice of the mass representing Christ’s death in thousands of churches all around the world every single day. Early Christians, who were Jews themselves, would have known and understood the connection between Jewish history and the coming of the Messiah. They would have honored the mother of the Messiah as the queen mother was honored in the Old Testament.  And they would have recognized the importance of the sacrifice of the mass as a continuation of the worshiping of God that took place in the Temple during Old Testament times.  Again, Judaism is fulfilled in Catholicism.

Now I know what you are thinking.  What about those beads?  What is this rosary that Catholics emphasize so much?  It is a prayer in which we ask Mary to pray to God on our behalf.  We are not asking her to grant or answer our prayers.  We are asking her to make a petition on our behalf to God for us.  I wrote about the first phrases of the rosary in the paragraph above.  The next phrase  of the rosary is this: “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. ” Where did Catholics get this idea?  Think back to the Bible stories you learned about Jesus.  Can you recall His first miracle?  You may remember He turned the water into wine at the wedding at Cana and He did it at the request of Mary, His mother.  Think of it.  The wine steward told Mary about his predicament and Mary told her Son and He turned the water into wine.  That is the premise of asking Mary to pray for us.  God answers the prayers.  Mary only asks for us.  We believe we can bring our concerns and our needs to Mary and ask her to pray to Jesus Christ on our behalf.

This practice of asking Mary to pray for us comes from our belief about the Communion of the Saints.  We believe that the saints are those who are in heaven.  They are in the presence of God.  If they are in the presence of God, we feel we can ask them to petition God on our behalf for our needs.  After all, isn’t God the god of the living and not the dead?  The Gospels tell us that.  Didn’t Jesus converse with Elijah and Moses at the transfiguration?  Those believers who are in the presence of God are more alive than we are. As Catholics, we believe we can ask these saints to pray or intercede for us just as we ask fellow believers on Earth to pray as well. In Revelation 8: 3 and 4 we read, “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.”  The saints say prayers to God.

This intercessory prayer does not in any way change the fact that Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and men.  In I Timothy 2: 1-6 we read,  “First of all, then I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet an peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.  This is good and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was given at the proper time.”  The saints, who are fellow Christians or our brothers and sisters in Christ,  intercede for us with their prayers and Mary as the queen mother intercedes for us as well.

Yes, I do pray to God myself about these concerns too.  In all cases, I know it is God alone who will answer these prayers.  Now I want to make it clear that Catholics do not have to have this devotion to Mary; however, as Catholics, we believe we can ask the Blessed Mother to intercede on our behalf and I must tell you I definitely believe this works. It only took me 25 years to understand this concept.  The thing about Mary is that she only wants to bring us closer to her Son because we reflect on the major life events of Jesus during the rosary.  If you look up the story of the wedding feast at Cana in John chapter 2, you will see that Mary said, “Do whatever He tells you,” in verse 5.  The “He”in this verse is Jesus Christ, her Son.  Mary tells us to do whatever Jesus commands.  Once I began to say the rosary on a regular basis, my faith began to grow exponentially.  My faith in Jesus Christ has grown and my faith as grown in general.

Our family has many examples of prayers being answered.  Those prayers were made to God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and to Mary and the saints.  Our son, Anthony, was born with a congenital heart defect and had to have corrective surgery at two months of age.  The evening after his surgery the doctors reported to me that Anthony was struggling to maintain his blood pressure and things looked grim for him.  I called my husband, who was at home with our 19 month old daughter, and gave him the  prognosis.  He and his parents said a rosary about midnight for Anthony’s health and it was at midnight that doctors reported a change for the better in his condition.  Countless prayers were said for Anthony all those years ago and today he continues to be a healthy example of what prayer and medicine can do.

We recently became the proud grandparents of our first grandson.  He is answered prayer personified.  Our daughter faced difficult infertility issues for 2 1/2 years before she conceived and gave birth to Beau on June 5, 2013.  My husband and I prayed unceasingly for a child for our daughter and her husband.  I prayed the rosary daily on her behalf for over two years asking Mary to bring my prayer for my daughter to God.  It was a joyful day when Kathryn announced her pregnancy last October.  Then, when Beau was ten days old, he faced an infection that had to be treated with IV antibiotics.  It was a frightening time for our family, but again our prayers were answered and Beau was discharged in good health.  Of course, I prayed to God and to Jesus as well for their protection, mercy, and care in all of these situations.  But, the great thing about intercessory prayer to the saints is they continue to pray for us about these same things even when we aren’t praying.  Continuous prayers sent up to God on our behalf is a very good thing.

So, yes, I do firmly believe in prayer. Moreover, why wouldn’t I use all help available to me from God during the trials I face? And also, why not send up my gratitude to God in the same way in times of triumph?  I ask daily for your prayers and for the prayers of the saints, because, in the end, the answers all come from Him.

Posted in Communion of saints, Mary, prayer | 2 Comments

Joy in Christ

 The Bible tells us we are promised joy as Christians.  Here are just a few Bible verses that promise this joy.

Galations 5:22-26-  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;  against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we love by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.”

John 15: 11-  These things I have  spoken to you, that my joy may be in you,, and that your joy may be full.

Acts 13: 52-  And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 15: 13-  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

James 1: 2-  Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  Any let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

3 John 4- No greater joy can I have then this, to hear that my children follow the truth.

Philippians 4:7-  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ.

Read from Conversion Diary by Jennifer Fulwiler, an atheist to Catholic convert who blogs. In her post” Life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful…” she compares her new life in Christ with her life as an atheist.

“But here, I believe, is the metric that really matters: Do I have more joy now than I did then? And that’s where the contrast is off the charts.

Joy is something different than happiness, and it’s a whole lot different than surface-level pleasure or physical comfort. It’s something divine in origin, not subject to the ups and downs of human emotions, a kind of ecstatic contentment and explosive peace that can only come from contact with the Source of all life and love himself. I may have more challenges now than I used to, but they also don’t bother me as much as they would have before. When I would be in a mildly bad mood in my old life, it was like my discontent would sink right down to my bones. There was nothing to pad my soul, so even the slightest bumps in the road would rattle me to the core of my being. Now it’s like my soul is bubble-wrapped with joy. Even on the worst day, there’s only so much that my worldly circumstances can get me down. Sure, I still notice and feel and dislike the bad emotions, but they no longer have the power over me that they once did, because underneath it all, where there was once nothingness, there is now joy.

It’s a beautiful thing. But here’s the catch: the more intimately we know Christ, the more joy we’ll have…but Christ is the very embodiment of self-sacrifice, of pouring out oneself for the sake of others. In other words, going to fancy meetings in skyscrapers and driving a nice car and hosting luxurious parties are probably not going to bring you a whole lot of joy. But living a life ordered toward the service of others will. So, even though I have a long way to go in the selflessness department, I make a whole lot more sacrifices for others now than I did before my conversion. And I’m not joyful in spite of that fact, but because of it.

The more I think about this, the more ready I feel to welcome those cameras tomorrow. I think I’m okay with my life being documented the way it really is. Because, if it all goes well, they’ll end up showing a hugely pregnant woman waddling around her not-super-clean house, sometimes getting frustrated with all the chaos, walking past old pictures of herself where she was obviously thinner and richer, and it will be the story of someone who has learned that life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful.”

Now I have a question for you…why do you pursue your faith?  Each of us will have his own answer.

Some may say so that they can live forever. Some want a beautiful mansion in heaven. Some want to be reunited with loved ones. Some are scared of hell.

For me, it is so I can be in the presence of the God who provides that joy and peace that surpasses all earthly understanding.

Many of us can’t sleep through the night anymore.  Our minds keep clicking…

Many are sad and depressed and anxious for one reason or another…maybe this life has disappointed them, people have let them down, or they are chasing after things of this world that will not fulfill them.

I have come to realize that for me, heaven won’t be living forever, golden streets, beautiful mansions, or seeing loved ones again.  It will be standing in the presence of the God who created love.  Who is love.  Who infuses us with His love when we love others.

I will run to my heavenly father like a child who knows that everything will be OK.  I will rest in His loving arms and know that Abba, my Father, will make everything all right. He will tell me, “Hush, now, my little one, you can rest now.  You’ve come home,” and He will soothe my tears.

So when I’m there and all my anxieties are gone,  when there are no more worries, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more sadness…there will be peace and there will be joy.

And the promise of that heavenly joy, fills me with joy and hope for that heavenly peace while I’m on this earth even now.  I wish for you this joy as well.

Posted in joy, Thoughts, Truth, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“What must I do to be saved?”

So, I grew up Baptist in the South during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  I went to church every week.  I attended Sunday School on Sunday morning, Training Union on Sunday night, and Prayer Meeting and choir practice on Wednesday night.  Every summer I went to Vacation Bible School, pledged my allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible.  Then there were the revivals.  Oh, the revivals!  The big question was always asked: “Are you saved?”  When I was about eight I was baptized in the little church in Monroe, Arkansas and then again when  I was about ten, because I finally understood, I thought, what a profession of faith meant…I had asked Jesus Christ to come  into my heart and be my personal lord and savior.  I was saved!  I grew older and while in high school and college I didn’t always behave as a professing Christian should behave,  but if you had asked me if I was saved, I would have said yes.

Now it is 35 years later and I will become a grandmother in June. YEA!!!!  Many things have changed in my life during that time.  I married; my husband and I raised three children; we worked together to support our family; and, I became a Catholic when I was 27 years old.

I guess as a Baptist I always had questions about whether my profession of faith was enough to gain heaven.  In fact, if you looked in the Bible I used during college, you would find “works ?” scribbled in the margin by the verse in James 2:24, which reads, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  I wondered about the other verse, James 1:22, that talked about being “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”  Paul’s writing also created some anxiety for me.  In Philippians 2:12,  Paul writes to the Church in Philippi, Greece, and instructs them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”   In Romans 2: 6, we are told that God “will render to every man according to his works.” I didn’t think I ever got an adequate explanation how these verses aligned with the definitive action of me making my personal profession of faith.  It seemed the Bible was telling me there was more required than just proclaiming Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.  Yes, that was part of it, because we are told in the Gospels to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you mind.”  However, we are also told to “love our neighbor as yourself.”

My understanding of salvation has definitely changed since my conversion.  Here I will attempt  to explain and give you a brief, truncated explanation of salvation from the Roman Catholic Church’s perspective.  We must proclaim Him as Lord, but we are also told to love…and along the way, we have to deal with sin.

A brief explanation would be that our salvation depends on the amount of God’s grace in our souls; but, how do we get that grace?

The first thing you need to do is “repent and be baptized.”  Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told his disciples in Matthew 28: 19, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  Now I could do a full post about infant baptism in the Catholic church because we do baptize infants, but for now, suffice it to say, we must be baptized.  The infant is baptized based on the faith of its parents who promise to raise the child up in the Catholic faith. The adult must repent and be baptized.  In doing so, he admits that he is a sinner and needs the redeeming action of Christ in his life.  Baptism renews us and washes away our sins: original and actual sin. Only the adult would have actual sins that would need to be cleansed, but the infant and adult must deal with the effects of original sin in their lives, which can be thought of as the tendency to sin in our lives.  We aren’t to blame for Adam’s sin, but we must recognize our sinful nature and wash that away.  After that, if we died coming out of the waters of baptism, we would be saved because God’s grace would have filled us at baptism.

If, however, we continue to live, we must add to this scenario.  Here I will quote from Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating, who does a good job of explaining our teaching on salvation.  “For Catholics  salvation depends on the state of the soul at death.  Christ has already redeemed us, unlocked the gates of heaven.  (Note that redemption is not the same as salvation but is a necessary prelude.)  He did his part, and now we have to cooperate by doing ours.  If we are to pass through those gates, we have to be in the right spiritual state.  We have to be spiritually alive.  If  a soul is merely in a natural state, without sanctifying grace, which is the grace that gives it supernatural life, then it is dead supernaturally and incapable of enjoying heaven.  It will not be allowed through the gates.  But if it has sanctifying grace, then heaven is guaranteed even  if a detour through purgatorial purification is required first.  The church teaches that only souls that are objectively good and objectively pleasing to God merit heaven, and such souls are one filled with sanctifying grace.

The saint who  never committed a mortal sin and the lifelong sinner who did not stop sinning until he repented on his deathbed will each gain heaven, although the one will have to be cleansed in the anteroom of purgatory.  When they get to heaven the one with the greater capacity for love will enjoy greater blessedness there, although each will enjoy it as fully as he is capable.  As Catholics see it, anyone can achieve heaven, and anyone can lose it.  The lifelong sinner can remain that to the very end and then he becomes an eternally lost sinner.  The apparent saint can throw away salvation at the last moment and end up no better off than the man who never did a good deed in his life.  It all depends on how one enters death.”

So how do we become spiritually alive?  Through sanctifying grace.  This sanctifying grace comes from God in the process of justification,  an ongoing process, which begins at baptism as I wrote earlier.

Grace is a gift of God’s supernatural life in you.  It is the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become adopted children of God.  Our soul is infused with grace by the Holy Spirit and, by it, our soul is healed of sin and begins to become Christ-like itself.  As Catholics, we believe we receive grace when we receive the sacraments and when we lead a life pleasing to God.  Whenever I attend church, pray sincerely, fast, give to charity, love my neighbor, or read and imitate the scriptures, I receive grace that comes down from God himself. Whenever we take one step toward God, He runs to meet us and gives us more of His grace.  It is this grace that we hope to have in our souls the moment we die.

If we live our lives oriented to Christ and if we are open to receiving this grace, we will go through a process of justification and sanctification.  We will have a true eradication of sin and will experience true sanctification and renewal in our lives.  We will become Christlike in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  We will detach from sin and be purified. Faith, hope and charity will pour into our hearts.  We will be conformed to the righteousness of God and we will become more like Him everyday.   In I Thess. 4:7, we learn: “For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness.”  In Hebrews 12:14, we are told: “Strive for peace with all men, and for  the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  In Revelations 22:27, we are told nothing unclean shall enter heaven.  We must become holy ourselves.  This is sanctification. We get guidance on how to live out this call to holiness from the Gospels and the teachings of Christ, because, holiness is simply applying the principles of the Gospel to the circumstances of our everyday lives- one moment at a time.  The Gospel of Matthew gives great examples of living in this holiness from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Many non-Catholics accuse us of trying to work our way to heaven.  This is not true.  We are saved by the grace of God and that begins our journey of salvation.  By faith we receive the grace God promises us. By nurturing the relationship we have with our God through worship and prayer and study and by loving our neighbor, God’s grace is poured out on us to love even more.  It is the constant infusion of grace from God that makes us holy and prompts us to do acts of charity and mercy.  Grace helps us love, which is the “work” God asks us to do.

So, “are you saved?” asks the fundamentalist.  The Catholic answers, “I am redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross and like the apostle Paul I am working our my salvation in fear and trembling and I do all this as the Church has taught, unchanged, from the time of Christ.” See Philippians 2:12-13.

Another important aspect that must be mentioned here is that, as we make this journey of justification,  we must deal with the sins we commit along the way for we all sin and disappoint God.  The Catholic does this through the sacrament of reconciliation or confession.  It is another essential part of our sanctification, but that requires another post on another day!

If you are interested in learning more, read Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating and Redicovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly and The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  All are exceptional resources for apologetics and for learning how to live an authentic Catholic life.

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