See You This Evening!

Tonight  our televised interview with Marcus Grodi on the “Journey Home” program will air on EWTN, at 8:00 p.m. If you don’t have access to EWTN on your provider, you can go to ewtn.com and click on “Watch/Listen” on the lefthand side of the screen. From there you will scroll down and click “Live” and then click on “EWTN United States” and then click on the live video.

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I would love to interact with you after you see the “Journey Home” episode. Feel free to reach out to me through the comments portion of the blog. Or email me directly at orationi2015@gmail.com.

God bless!

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See You This Evening!

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!

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“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

“One—that the world may believe”

I postponed this post from last Monday due to more urgent topics. Over the next several Mondays I want to focus on some topics that were key in my journey into the Roman Catholic Church. Three weeks ago today Charlotte and I were interviewed by Marcus Grodi for the “Journey Home” program that will air on EWTN, Monday, September 10, at 8:00 p.m. “Desiring unity in the Body of Christ” was one of the things I talked about.

Unity in the Church, I now realize, was an underlying theme throughout much of my life. Two weeks ago I mentioned the book How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps by Christian Smith that I picked up and read at least three times. In February 2015 I continued to respond to his points: “Start to notice church fragmentation and disunity.” On February 16 I wrote the following in my journal:

I am a third-generation Pilgrim Holiness/Wesleyan. Most likely due to a song I sung as a child “The Happy Day Express” I had the idea that all Christians were a train that had Jesus as engineer and the closer the many churches were to the Bible, the closer they were to him in the engine. In my mind my denomination was right up there next to the engine. I felt sorry for people who were born into other denominations and were further back on the train.

As a young teen I wasn’t too worried about church fragmentation and disunity because my denomination was the product of a series of mergers, the most notably taking place in 1968 to form The Wesleyan Church. The theme of the merging conference which served as the logo of the church for years was “One: that the world may believe.” I took great pride that my denomination was playing an important role in answer to the prayer of Christ that we all be one.

At the age of 30 I found myself in Spanish language school with my family preparing for missionary service in South America. This experience brought me into contact with missionaries who were Christian and Missionary Alliance, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Fundamentalist Baptists and even Oneness Pentecostals. We were able to have fellowship together, but we were always aware of our differences  and tried not to talk about them. This became more pronounced as we interacted with some on the mission field who held us at arm’s length because of the differences we held over eternal security. That my denomination believed that “there is no height of grace from which we cannot fall,” cast doubt on the validity of my Christianity.

Some of the best years of our lives are those we have been experiencing most recently, being part of a non-denominational network of churches that for the most part seems to have captured the spirit of first-century Christianity. Yet even in this idyllic setting we have the challenge to bring people together from various backgrounds, experiences and denominations. So often we are trying to go back to see how Scripture can hold us together as we deal with the realities of doing church 15 years into the 21st century.

I have great love and deep respect for all that I received from my roots in The Wesleyan Church and also the fresh breath of the Spirit that I experienced in the non-denominational church we served with for eight years. One of the strong impressions that Jesus laid on my heart from the age of 12 was a desire to see his prayer answered, that his followers would be one so that the world would believe that the Father sent him. I came to recognize that that would not happen through either one of the wonderful church experiences I had been privileged to experience. This could only happen through the Church that Jesus founded. It came down to me being obedient to Jesus. I had to obey in answer to his prayer.

“One—that the world may believe”

A Sense of Belonging

Over the next several Mondays I want to focus on some topics that were key in my journey into the Roman Catholic Church. A week ago today Charlotte and I were interviewed by Marcus Grodi for the “Journey Home” program that will air on EWTN, Monday, September 10, at 8:00 p.m. “A Sense of Belonging” was one of the things I talked about.

Early on in my journey, in December 2013, I picked up the book How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps by Christian Smith. I read it once, read it again to Charlotte, and then read it for a third time. I began to interact with his statements. The first statement was “Begin to feel rootless.” This I recognized as having to do with a sense of belonging. What I will share here is my journal entry on December 10, 2013 as I wrestled with that sense of belonging and something I will develop more deeply on the “Journey Home.”

To begin with, on a general level, I have always sensed rootlessness. I am a “third culture kid” (TCK), having been taken by my parents from our Midwest (Indiana) culture to the jungles of Suriname, South America at the age of six. I spent the next five years there before coming back to Indiana just before my twelfth birthday (in 1968!). I never felt that I belonged and didn’t understand why, until many years later after I had settled in New York City. I thought it strange that in 1987, at the age of 30, as I traveled to Costa Rica for language school I felt in a sense I was “going home.” Yet I never felt completely at home in the Latin culture, only more comfortable. While in college I took interest in my family history due in part to a feeling of rootlessness. I longed to know where I came from; where my family came from and what was their story. 

I love history, especially church history and it was in my church history course at Asbury Theological Seminary that I first learned about Apostolic Succession. My professor, a United Methodist expressed some pride that he could claim “apostolic succession.” I wasn’t really sure what that meant or even if it was all that important, yet I wondered if I could claim the same. I pretty much figured out that I couldn’t. So, yes, even ecclesiastically, I have felt rootless. 

This has increased even more as I no longer serve in a denominational setting, but as part of a non-denominational church that is a hybrid of many Protestant evangelical traditions. While I appreciate the openness to and practice of liturgy, it seems we constantly need to identify ourselves and find roots in the shallow sands of non-denominational Protestant evangelicalism. I have felt this acutely as we wrestle through issues such as homosexuality, women in ministry, membership requirements and even our preaching topics and schedules.

One of the great gifts that coming into the Catholic Church has given me is a sense of belonging–a deep sense of history–being part of the Church that Jesus founded upon his Apostles. Blessed John Cardinal Newman is often quoted, but it is very true: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” A sense of history and belonging was a key component my conversion to the Catholic Church.

A Sense of Belonging