Saturday, June 29, 2013

...And In Jesus Christ...

As we continue on with the Apostles' Creed we arrive at the second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  In this, we are introduced to the Son of God.  The Son is both divine and human.  God becomes incarnate taking on our limitations of the flesh and along with that our temptations and sufferings.  Jesus is born through the intimate connection of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit of God.  We know from Catholic teaching that Mary was conceived free of original sin.  In this way God acted in Jesus Christ to prepare the way for the salvation of the world in this first act.

Catholics must be clear on this idea of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Jesus could not be born with the contamination of sin. So, in order to achieve this, God had to prepare the way by initiating the salvation process.  It is often said that Mary is the first recipient of Jesus salvific act.  The purity of Mary is essential for God to enter into the world to save us from our sins.

Once born into our world, Jesus assimilates into his place in the world and in time begins to teach the people around him about the nature and deep love of God.  This teaching becomes threatening to the authority around Jesus--both the Jewish and Roman leaders.  At the hands of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate Jesus is tortured to make him renounce His claims of God.  Finally he is sentenced to death on the Roman Cross.  Once more an agonizing torture until Jesus breathes his last breath and commends His Spirit to God's care.

Like any human, Jesus' body is removed from the cross and laid in a tomb.  This signifies the last step of life on this earth.  The chapter should be finished and the book complete!  But it is not!  In the next blog entry I will continue with our Creed.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


If I think about the concept of nothingness for too long my mind wanders too far.  We really can't conceive of the absence of everything material and otherwise easily.  Our first encounter of this nothingness in the Book of Genesis in the very first chapter: "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss" (Gen 1:1-1:2a, NABRE).  And God creates from this chaos.  The term often used for this is the Latin term ex nihlo.  This means that God creates something from nothing.

For me, this is an important aspect of God.  Hope springs from this whole concept of an Almighty God who can create everything--all things visible and invisible.  If God is Creator of all, then why could we not put all of our trust in God.  I am sure that of humanity with its free will allows us to trust either in ourselves or others or in God. When I thought about trusting in God or others, I am always reminded in that old saying that suggests that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.  I sure have trusted often in my own decisions or taken advice of others around me, only to see sin and failure.  Experience is clear for me in this.  And when I have studied God's Word in Scripture, I have always found peace and holiness.  There have been times when that peace or holiness took quite a while to happen, but it always has happened.  St. Padre Pio once said, "You can't give God deadlines" (from the book Padre Pio Under Investigation).   

God has created heaven and earth and all that is.  God created us as well.  God knows each one of us inside and out.  The Psalms remind us of this, "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb.  I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!  My very self you you knew; my bones were not hidden from you" (Psalm 139:13-15, NABRE).  How amazing this is!  God knows our needs and desires.  God also knows everyone else as well.  Since we are not alone, God also knows how we can achieve those things we must achieve in order to make this world and our own lives the best they can be.  Here is where we must trust in the power of God to create this perfection in and through us.

Each day I must place my whole life into God's hands.  I pray you will trust God, too!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Creed

There are several "creeds" that can be recited in the Catholic Church.  There is the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Anthanasian Creed.  The word creed comes from the Latin Credo, which simply means "I believe."  The creeds were the result of a group (such as the Nicene Creed finalized by the Council of Constantinople in 381) and their effort to overcome some type of heresy attacking the Catholic Church.

For me, these creeds help me to identify how God is active in our world.  From time to time I will slowly read and pray these creeds to strengthen my faith and to better understand our Church.  After all, I returned to this Church and I really do want to understand how to become a better Catholic.  The better you can understand something the closer you can feel to it.  And for me this is how I have come to love our rich Catholic heritage.

In the next few blogs, I wanted to look into the simplicity of the Apostle's Creed as a prayerful exercise for those of us who have returned, or are considering returning to the Church.  Perhaps this meditation of the Creed will stimulate some thoughts and help us all to better understand our Church.

I believe in God the Father Almighty.
The words "I believe" are not just some pipe dream, or some fantastic thought of what might be one day.  Rather, belief is the living out of your faith.  It is hope in a reality that is promised to us by One who delivers on promises.  Saint Paul puts this much better and more poetically when he says in Hebrews 11:1: "Faith is the realization of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen" (NABRE). Those two words alone, "I believe," took me on along journey away from and back to the Catholic Church.  I left the Church mainly because I was not really well catechized as a child.  Oh sure, I memorized the necessities of the old Baltimore Catechism in the early 1960's, but there is more to forming a child's faith than memorizing abstract thoughts and words.  I had lots of questions and I actually had a decent prayer life as a young child, but the direction was not very strong for me in the early days.

It was what came after the "I believe" that took me a long time to rediscover.  For almost 25 years after I left the Church I wanted to have something to trust and believe in.  I found my way into Eastern thought and New Age philosophies.  Some of them did tickle my fancy!  They all played on my eagerness to analyze philosophies.  I was a young man in search of something to stimulate my mind and not necessarily my heart and soul.  By the way...there is plenty of things out there to trap you into thinking you are a magnificent genius and intellectual.  On each of the roads, I found some relatiely short satisfaction, but ultimately I was left empty inside.

One day in late Spring of 2005, I was invited by a dear friend to attend a daily Mass.  I agreed to go, and then I was immediately struck by the very real tug on my heart as I entered the chapel on a warm Friday morning.  I had been away for nearly 25 years and I had actually become a Protestant pastor along the way.  But when Mass began, I felt the presence of God the Father Almighty.  It was a real and very clear presence.  It WAS REAL!  God the Father Almighty is real.  I could say with certainty "I believe in God the Father Almighty.  And in the days after that Mass the Father Almighty proved why we call him Almighty.

Within only a couple of months I felt led to resign my 5 year pastorate in my Protestant church and go to Confession and accept the divine mercy of God who can move mountains and hear prayers of the many people who wanted me back in the Catholic Church.  God can work in and through so many people and events to complete His Will.  And His Will included my return to the Catholic Church.

In my next installment I will continue to the next few sentences in the Apostle's Creed.

Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Getting Into It

When I returned to the Church I wanted to be involved in some way in the life of the Church. When I left the Church I was on the fray and not at all involved. Then again, I didn't bother to see what the Church had to offer. Hindsight is great! There was and still is so much to do to become an active member and feel a sense of being a member of the body.

At the parish level there are lots of ways to keep involved in the church. Just read the Sunday church bulletin. Ask for a list of parish groups to see what piques your interest. On a wider level there are other organizations that need support and your help. I joined the Knights of Columbus to help out the community.

If you feel called to form your spiritual life with a bit more structure, there are many secular third orders and associations that meet and form their members in a path to seek God and follow Him.  Some of the more popular secular orders are the Secular Carmelites, Secular Franciscans, Oblates of St. Benedict and the Dominican Third Order. There are Formal Catholic associations that follow rules of life. The one I belong to is The Brothers and Sisters of Penance of Sy. Francis. We strive to follow the first Rule set forth by St. Francis for his secular followers. This rule of life is known as the Rule of 1221.

Depending upon where you are at in life and where you feel you are being led will certainly contribute to what group or organization you will become involved with. But I cannot stress this next thing enough... before you choose a place to involve yourself, pray first! Prayer is our "go to" source of advice and help. God will guide us to just the right place for you and for me.  Realize, too, that there each pathway and organization has some limitations and each has areas where you may struggle a bit. But if you seek the right path through prayer, God will go e you the necessary grace to stay with it.

One final note on this, remembered to keep your eyes on Our Lord, Jesus Christ I whatever direction you go!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Whether you have returned back home to the Catholic Church, or you are thinking about that possibility, or you are somewhere in between you have a story to tell.  I am sure of that, because I have spoken to many Catholics who have left the Church, some who wanted to return and those who have returned.  I am one of those returning Catholics myself.  I have my own story, too!

When I have spoken to people who have come back to the church I discovered a common thread.  Everyone said that when they were away from the Church, they said the Church never really left them.  One of the most common factors that brought most people back was a great desire to receive the Eucharist.  From my own story I can tell you that was the biggest reason I wanted to come home to the Catholic Church.

When I came back, I had a desire to become more involved in the Church and to get a better foundation of my faith--a better understanding.  If you are someone who has just returned or is considering returning to the Catholic Church, I can assure you that there are many resources, communities and ways to get a much better understanding of the Catholic faith!

We all know first hand how difficult life can be!  We need a strong faith life to see us through the trials and tribulations of this earthly life.  We need a glimpse of the life to come.  It is my hope that this blog along with your input will help us all to grow in our Catholic faith and ever closer to God through Jesus Christ!