The Church Is Holy

Ever so often you come across a great book that speaks powerfully and succinctly and challenges you in your spiritual life. For me one such book is Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed. The book was selected for our monthly book club. We are actually reading it across two months.

This morning I was reading a chapter entitled “The Visible Church.” In this chapter Sheed takes the four marks of the Church that we find in the Nicene Creed that we recite every Sunday: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” Allow me to share with you what Sheed says about the fact that the Church is holy.

“Three characteristics of the mark of Holiness are, as has been said, the teaching, the means, the saints. It may have been noticed that, in treating the first two, the teaching and the means, we brought in the saints; it may be wondered what is left to say of them in the third. But in all three characteristics they are used differently. In the teaching we saw them as the unchanging standard the Church sets; in the means, we saw them as witness to the our weakness that holiness is possible even to us.

“Now, at last, we come to them as evidence to the whole world that the teaching is true teaching and the means are effective means. For the saints are the people who have accepted wholeheartedly all that Christ, through His Church, offers them.

“In other words, it is by the saints, and not by the mediocre, still less by the great sinners, that the Church is to be judged. It may seem a loading of the dice to demand that any institution be judged solely by its best members, but in this instance it is not. A medicine must be judged not by those who buy it but by those who actually take it. A Church must be judged by those who hear and obey, not by those who half-hear and disobey when obedience is difficult.

“No Catholic is compelled—not by the Church, not by Christ—to be holy. His will is solicited, aided, not forced.

“Every man must make his own response. The saints have responded totally, the rest of us respond partially, timorously (afraid to lose some sin in which we especially delight), or not at all. The saints in their thousands upon thousands stand as proof that, in the Church, holiness is to be had for the willing. Every saint is certain evidence that, if you and I are not saints, the choice is wholly our own.

The Church Is Holy

Charity + Humility = Holiness

st-vincent-feast-featured-846x444

Today’s saint is Vincent de Paul. Many of us are familiar with this French saint because of his many works of charity. Many Catholic parishes have a St. Vincent de Paul Society that seeks to provide food and shelter to those in need. St. Vincent de Paul lived from 1581 until 1660. He was canonized in 1737 by Pope Clement XII.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society was founded in 1833 by French university students and is present in 132 countries. This charitable organization is dedicated to the service of the poor. I have heard wonderful stories of loving service from the local society in our St. Peter’s Parish.

In an article found on the website aleteia.org, blogger Philip Kosloski writes: “Two hallmarks of Vincent’s spirituality are attention to the poor and a healthy dose of humility.” The two virtues together led him to a life of holiness and can serve as a blueprint for our lives as we follow him in holiness. In that spirit, here are some quotes from our saint that will encourage and challenge us to live holy lives in our own time.

  • The poor are your masters. You are the servant. 
  • Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying. 
  • Be careful to give no credit to yourself for anything; if you do, you are stealing from God, to whom alone every good thing is due. 
  • The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it. 
  • Go to the poor: you will find God. 
  • We should spend as much time in thanking God for his benefits as we do in asking him for them. 
  • Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances. (A good reminder in the Kavanaugh hearing) 
  • Fear not; calm will follow the storm, and perhaps soon. (A good reminder in the Church scandals) 
  • Virtue is not found in extremes, but in prudence, which I recommend as strongly as I can. 
  • There is nothing good that does not meet with opposition, and it should not be valued any less because it encounters objections. (A good reminder as we seek to live as faithful Catholics!)

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

Image from Vinformation
Charity + Humility = Holiness

Called to Be Holy

On this final Monday before our televised interview with Marcus Grodi on the “Journey Home” program that will air on EWTN, Monday, September 10, at 8:00 p.m., I want to address another topic we discussed that led me into the the Catholic Church: A call to be holy!

fullsizeoutput_a

“Becoming Catholic is not a rejection of my Wesleyan roots nor of the wonderful years of exciting ministry with Trinity Grace Church. My discovery is that this is the next step of many years of desiring to know God better and longing to live a life of holiness” (July 25, 2015)

Looking back on the statement I wrote a little over three years ago might seem that my desire was misplaced, dear reader, in light of the current turmoil in the Catholic Church. You might ask how one finds holiness in the midst of all that is happening.

I have to back up and explain that I had the privilege of growing up and ministering in a tradition that over its history, beginning in 1844, emphasized the message of holiness that John Wesley proclaimed. I must honestly say that I had a lot of misconceptions of what this message of holiness actually was and how it would manifest itself in my life. I saw it more as something that would happen at a specific time–a decision of surrender like conversion–that would take away my predisposition to sin. I can’t blame anyone but myself for a defective understanding on the Wesleyan doctrine of “entire sanctification.”

So what is there in the Catholic Church, in spite of the flaws of clergy and laity alike, that draws me to holiness? For me it is a way of life. It involves surrender, for sure, but also discipline, realizing that without the work of God in my life I cannot live a holy life. It leads me to get up on time and spend significant time in prayer, in reading the Bible, in devotional reading, and daily Mass. One of the disciplines that I never imagined ever in my life is learning about holiness through the ministry of the Blessed Virgin Mary in praying the Rosary. That practice has honestly revolutionized my life.

The following quotes are a few I came across in my journey into the Church.

“Christian ‘perfection’ is not a mere ethical adventure or an achievement in which man can take glory. It is a gift of God, drawing the soul into the hidden abyss of the divine mystery, through the Son, by the action of the Holy Spirit.” — Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness

“The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2015

“O holy redemption, it is you that prepares the way for God! O perfection! O boundless submission, it is you that draws God deep into the heart! Let the senses feel what they may, you, Lord, are all my good! Do what you like to this tiny being, let it act, be inspired, be the object of your purpose! I have nothing more to see or do, not a single moment of my life is in my own hands. All is yours, I have nothing to add, remove, seek or consider. It is for you to direct everything. Sanctification, perfection, salvation, guidance and humility are your responsibility. Mine is to be content, dispassionate, passive, leaving everything to your pleasure.” — Pierre-Jean de Cassaude, Abandonment to Divine Providence

I look forward to sharing more with you next Monday on EWTN.

Called to Be Holy

Verses You Never Hear in Church

bible-rosary

I made an interesting discovery this week and decided I would share it with you today. To give context there are several things that I need to point out.

  1. I spent almost 60 years of my life in Protestant evangelicalism.
  2. I entered the Roman Catholic Church a little over two years ago.
  3. The vast majority of my ecclesiastical life in Protestantism was not centered on daily and weekly liturgical readings. We were more free-style in our Bible reading in church.
  4. Since coming into the Catholic Church the lectionary dictates all Scripture read in public worship.
  5. During the last 10 to 15 years in evangelical circles there has been and continues to be a lot of conversation around several Scripture passages that speak to the issue of homosexuality.
  6. The recent Archbishop McCarrick scandal is revealing a likely connection between homosexuality and the abuses that took place in Catholic churches and seminaries.
  7. In light of this most recent sexual abuse scandal some laity and some Catholic media are making that connection, but there has not been any recognition from the Church hierarchy to that regard. In fact, one could say there has been a rather laissez faire view of homosexuality among average Catholics.
  8. The final point, and the discovery that I made this week: none of the passages that I referred to above in #5 are included in the lectionary readings that the Catholic and major Protestant denominations use. We’re talking about the Revised Common Lectionary for Protestants which in turn is based on the Ordo Lectionum Missae a three-year lectionary produced by the Roman Catholic Church following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

I found this very interesting when I compare my findings with the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states:

Chastity and homosexuality
2357 
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (Genesis 19:1-29; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:10), tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona humana 8). They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358  The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359  Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Please hear me! This is not meant to be a “heavier burden of condemnation” to those who experience and struggle with same-sex attraction, but a call to our pastors and bishops to give us the “full counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and help us toward “holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Verses You Never Hear in Church