Wednesday, December 12, 2007

During Advent, I have promised myself to spend less time blogging and on the internet. But I thought that I would post the link to an interesting blog article. I know that during the Christmas season there are some people concerned about the 'pagan' origins of Christmas. For those of you forced to debate this issue, I thought that I would give you some ammunition.

Sure enough, this time of year a variety of Messianics, Jehovah's Witnesses, non-denominational types, and others, are out to prove that Christmas is pagan and those who celebrate it are engaged in sinful activity. I have seen the paltalk rooms and the websites, filled with hefty doses of discredited 19th century historical treatises. I am not remotely convinced by these arguments, because I do not accept the basic logic that leads one to conclude Christian holidays are pagan.

The rest of this article can be found here: The comments that follow the author's article are interesting also.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Advent-What The Heck Is That?

Before I became Catholic I am uncertain if I had even heard of Advent. Yes, I knew of the other winter celebrations such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Ramadan and of course, I celebrated Christmas. I was even aware that some pagans consider the Winter Solstice a holiday. But Advent? I suppose that I could blame my ignorance on being brought up in North Carolina which is predominately Protestant, mainly Baptist. What ever my reason, I had no idea when I became Catholic what Advent was.

I am going to guess that I wasn't the only Non-Catholic who had never heard of Advent.

So, what is Advent?Advent is the beginning of the Church year. It is a period of four weeks in which Catholics contemplate the coming of our Saviour's birth. Our secular society has turned Christmas into a gross commercialized spectacle. But Advent helps focus us back onto the true meaning of December 25th, the coming of the light into the world.

For me, this period of reflection is helpful and comforting.

I try to put off Christmas decorations and baking until the first week of Advent. This helps me to tie the religious meaning into the holiday.

Advent starts this Sunday and I will try and post something each week about how my family ties this into our everyday life. Remember though, I am a convert, so some of this is still new to me. LOL

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why Do Catholics Keep Jesus On The Cross?

Twice, I've had close friends inform me that Catholics do not believe that Jesus rose again from the dead. Despite my assurances that we do indeed believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, my friends were certain that I was wrong. Where they got such incorrect information I do not know.

So for the record, yes, Catholics believe Jesus rose from the dead. I promise you, I wouldn't get up early on Sunday morning to attend mass if I didn't believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead! I'm far to lazy to attend a weekly memorial for a nice human(which is all Jesus would be if he hadn't risen from the dead)

More often I get asked by non Catholic Christians, "Why do you, Catholics, keep Jesus up on the cross?" The perception, among some Protestants is that we Catholics spend too much time thinking about Jesus' death and not enough time contemplating his resurrection. If this is true then Catholics are in good company.

In 1st Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 23. Paul says, "...but we preach Christ crucified..." But Jesus is risen, what is Paul speaking about? Doesn't he know that we shouldn't be concentrating on Jesus's death? Again in Cor 2:2 Paul writes, "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."

Some have expressed distaste at the thought of depicting Jesus at his most vulnerable. Guess what? This should make you uncomfortable. Every lash that he took, every blow that drove the nail into his hands was caused by you and me. Our sins hung Jesus on that cross. The crucifix is the ultimate expression of the lengths that a loving God will go to reach us. For me, gazing at a crucifix is a humbling experience.

There are some Protestants who take offense at the crucifix because they view it as idolatry. In order for a crucifix to be an idol then Catholics would have to honestly believe that Jesus Was the crucifix. We don't. The crucifix is merely a representation of his death and suffering. Catholics don't view the crucifix as Jesus himself. Ironically those who get upset over the crucifix being an idol don't worry about carrying pictures of their loved ones. Photos are representations just like the crucifix. If the crucifix bothers you then to be honest you should empty your wallet and albums of all photos.

Just for the record, I take no offense at the bare cross itself. I understand that it as a symbol of Christian faith and I own a couple of bare crosses myself. I personally, though, think that the bare cross is a very empty symbol for Christ's resurrection. After all, Jesus came down dead from the cross. So, if one got nit picky, then the empty cross would actually symbolize defeat. Jesus rose from the tomb, not the cross. In order to represent his victory over death(which is what some Protestants claim the empty cross does) one would have to wear a little copy of the tomb or a tiny rock.

All Christians, both non Catholic and Catholic, exist in a world that is not always friendly to our faith. Instead of tearing apart one another's symbols maybe we should just be happy to meet a fellow believer.

Missing Baby-Sad Outcome

According to the local news the mother confessed to storing her deceased infant in the attic of her house. What a horrible outcome, especially when you consider that she reported the baby missing the day that the child's father returned from the Middle East!

The 25-year old mother finally confessed that she found her baby dead one morning and became frightened. Neighbors reported smelling something rancid for several weeks but couldn't find the source.

This is a small community so gossip does get around. My son works with some people who live close to the deceased infant's house. They told him(again this is second hand) that the grandmother had been sick several weeks and had stopped visiting the house. Apparently up to that point the grandmother had been assisting in the care of the children. According to my son's co employees, the grandmother took and passed a lie detector test, so it appears that only the mother carried out this crime.

What a sad outcome for this little baby, our community and everyone who loved this child.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Eucharist


Have you ever read either the bible or a book written by a Christian author and had one of those ah-ha moments? Well, this certainly happened to me this afternoon. In fact, I sat straight up in the bed that I was reclining with my youngest daughter and hubby as they were watching football and shouted, "Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!" Now they are both pretty used to me being a bit crazy but this struck even them as strange. My husband asked what was wrong. I informed him that nothing was wrong, but a bible verse had just been made clear to me.

I was reading David Currie's book, Born Again, Born Fundamentalist. David Curie, like me, is a convert from Protestantism. Unlike me, he is much better educated, having received a degree from Trinity International University and studied in the Masters of Divinity Program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

From the very beginning of the book he is respectful of Protestants, a point that wins him accolades from me. Curie writes of his fundamentalist parents: I had no doubts that my parents were following the truth of God in the best way they knew. They taught me that commitment to the truth is always worth the effort, regardless of the sacrifice. Later he writes about the Theologians that were often invited to eat dinner at his childhood home: I found these men to be Christians of the highest character, intense and earnest in the commitment to God. Curie is not embittered by his fundamentalist background or education.

So what had he written that gave me such a jolt? Well, it started with his quoting John 6:26-59 To save room in this post, I will put the exact biblical quote in the next post but you can certainly look it up yourselves. Remember as you read that many of Jesus' students(Not the original 12 disciples) left him over this teaching.

This is what Curie writes about the passage:Let's review the passage. First, Jesus defines what we must do for God: we must believe in Jesus. The Jews then ask for a sign from Jesus to prove he is worthy of belief. Jesus responds by claiming that he is 'the bread of life'. This is an analogy just like "I am the door' or "I am the vine." It could be understood in a multitude of ways, unless Jesus goes on to explain his analogy. He does exactly that: "This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world." Jesus says the bread of life is his flesh. Lest we not understand whether he means flesh in the real, physical, touchable way, he tells us next that it is the same flesh that will be given up on the Cross! He goes on to say that this flesh must be eaten by his followers.This analogy has been clearly explained. There is no doubt about its meaning.If the flesh that we eat for eternal life is meant in only a 'figurative way' or 'spiritually speaking' then so is the flesh of the crucifixion! Jesus equates the two. Either they are both literal, or they are both figurative.

I'll put the biblical passage up in a separate post, Monday. I have to get ready to go to Mass tonight and tomorrow is Sunday. But here is the one verse that you should pay special attention to:John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

My own view is that in order to make this whole passage figurative, one must ignore the verse in red, in which case you are doubting that Jesus is predicting his death!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don't Catholics Worship Statues?

While cleaning out my shed, I found a tattered, black and white photo of my father. I was ecstatic. You see I have never met my father, although from what I have been told he was a wonderful man. Five weeks after giving birth to me, my 21 year-old mother received notice that my father had been killed in action. He had been sent to Vietnam when my mom was seven months pregnant, so he never got a chance to hold me or even get to know me.

Of course I revere this photo. The image of my young father, dressed in his uniform, and smiling broadly at the camera is something that I will always treasure. By looking at the photo I have a means to both honor and remember him. Am I somehow worshipping my father’s photo by giving it a prominent place on my mantle piece? Of course not. I know that it is just a picture, no matter how treasured, and that my real father is no longer alive.

The same concept is true of Catholic artwork. No one thinks that a bit of plaster is the real Virgin Mary. Paintings, statues and religious artwork have no actual power.

Some will argue that there should be no religious artwork at all. They will point to Exodus 20:4 that states you shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth. Let’s pretend for a moment that this verse wasn’t completely taken out of context. Read literally it would mean that we can use no visual images at all, not artwork, not movies (which are visual representations of living things), not even photographs. Remember the verse itself makes no exception for non religious artwork.

God, himself, commanded the Israelites to make statues to adorn his temple. Exodus 25:18-20 Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the ends of the propitiatory, fastening them sot that one cherub springs direct from each end. The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them; they shall be turned toward each other, but with their faces looking toward the propitiatory. Considering that these statues were connected to the ark, it is hard not to call them religious in nature.

The verse though is actually taken out of context. The next verse reads Exodus 20:4 You shall not bow down before them (idols) or worship them. For I, the Lord, am a jealous God…. This makes defending the Catholic practice very easy. We do not worship idols or statues. You can not accidentally worship something, worship has to be purposeful or else what is the point?

I will occasionally have conversations with some non-Catholic’s who will point out that Catholics do certainly kneel in front of statues. Kneeling by itself is not an act of worship. This can be proven by many examples. Men are certainly not worshipping their intended bride when they kneel while proposing. We are not worshipping the sides of our beds when we pray before we retire. For many years society knelt in honor of royalty. This was not a form of worship but of respect. Today, bowing is common in Asia, yet no one believes that Asians are worshipping their friends and family.

Even in the bible we find people bowing down without intent to worship. Some examples are Genesis 19: 1-Lot bows his face down to the ground before the two angels and he is not corrected by them. Genesis 18:2 Abraham also bows to the ground in front of angelic guests. Again this is not worship but a way to exhibit hospitability and respect due to guests. In II Samuel 9: 8 we are old that Jonathon’s son bows to David. Just from studying the bible alone, we can deduce that bowing or kneeling is not, by itself, an act of worship.

Just as I can look at the photo of my father and remember someone that I never knew, Catholics can contemplate religious artwork and be reminded of the holy men and women who have passed on into heaven and whose lives remain an example for us all.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sacramentals-Batteries For The Soul

Romans 1:20 Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse

There are many people who are moved emotionally and spiritually by nature. Mountain vistas have often moved me to contemplate the divine. Perhaps it is the immensity of ranges such as the Rockies or the softer, rounder curves of the smaller Appalachians, but I find it difficult to deny the existence of God when I am looking at such scenes.

Does the fact that I feel God’s presence when I am observing nature mean that nature itself is somehow divine? No. It merely means that, for me, the beauty of nature assists me in being open to the God’s ever present Grace. Nature doesn’t produce that Grace, God does.

God loves us intensely. He wants to reach our hearts. But we sometimes underestimate how well he understands human natures. He didn’t create one dimensional creatures but sensual beings who depend on all five senses to process the world around us.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus used mud and spit in John 9:6 to heal a blind man? Was it because mud and spit somehow have magical properties? No, of course not. The power to heal came from Jesus, himself, not the mud and not even his spittle, but God is not above using material from our world to connect with us.

Being human, there are moments when we feel distant from God. Perhaps we have too many bills or are worried about our marriage. In reality, God is still as close as always because we have his ever present grace with us. The problem is with us, not God. Some people, during these moments, put on religious music to recharge their soul, to reconnect with God. Sacred music, of course, does not produce grace but it can put us in a more receptive frame of mind.

Sacramental (Not sacraments) are items such as holy water and blessed candles, and rites such as exorcism and actions such as genuflection that moves us to cooperate with and receive God’s grace. In other words, they help recharge us and make us mentally more receptive to receiving God’s grace.

The Catechism states: 1677 Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.
1678 Among the sacramentals blessings occupy an important place. They include both praise of God for his works and gifts, and the Church's intercession for men that they may be able to use God's gifts according to the spirit of the Gospel.
1679 In addition to the liturgy, Christian life is nourished by various forms of popular piety, rooted in the different cultures. While carefully clarifying them in the light of faith, the Church fosters the forms of popular piety that express an evangelical instinct and a human wisdom and that enrich Christian life.

Due to the fact that I get many questions concerning the use and reasons behind Catholic Sacramentals I have decided that in further posts I will explain individual sacramentals, such as holy water.

My goal is not to convert anyone, simply to edify. I realize that some Catholic acts such as genuflecting or lighting candles can seem strange or even ritualistic but hopefully future posts will at least enlighten my non Catholic friends as to why we Catholics do these things.

By the way, if you like the title of this blog, thank my youngest son, Christopher. After reading this article for me, he came up with the title.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Confession. Not Such a Bad Thing After All.

I won't post for a few days, but I thought I'd add this one last article from Apparently, some are now discovering that confession is a not a bad thing after all.

Americans are flocking to confess their sins as Protestant churches have joined their Catholic counterparts in modernising the sacrament of penance.
Thousands of people are attending confession at weekends and just as many are posting their repentance on videos that are played back to congregations or shared on websites such as YouTube.
New technology is fuelling the boom, but so is clever marketing by Churches that are portraying confession as a form of self-improvement — always popular with Americans — rather than some sort of punishment

Here is the link to the whole article.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Opie's Candy Store

Here are my very happy daughters inside of Opie's Candy Shop in Mt Airy, NC. It is a small shop but very full of different jars of candy. For $4.99 you can purchase a pound of candy. But the fun part is that you can mix and match which type of candy that you choose!
The top photo is my whole brood, Dad and kids deciding which candy to choose. We split into two groups, we girls got our own bag to share, while the boys got another bag.
My sons complained that the girls seemed to get more in their bag but that is because my daughters took more time in deciding what candy they chose.
If you live in NC or are just passing through, a trip to Mt. Airy is well worth the stop.
Here is a link to the store's website.

Some More Images From Our Trip to Mt. Airy, NC

This is a Quaker Church that we thought was interesting.

I love old cars.

One of the Nicest Towns

Mt. Airy, NC. must be one of the sweetest, little towns that has ever existed. As we were walking around the town we noticed this cooler and bowl in front of someone's walkway. Not only is the person giving out free water but they included a plastic bowl for those people walking their dogs.

Floyd's Barber Shop

For all you Mayberry fans, there is a real, working Barber Shop named, Floyd's, located in Mt. Airy. When I passed a barber was cutting someone's hair.

Troubling Photos of SS Officers

Scouring the net, I found this article. The US Holocaust memorial Museum is unveiling a photo album of SS officers that were taken at Auschwitz. You can view the complete album on line.

The photos were troubling, not because they depict the horrors of the gas chambers-they don't- but because there is no indication that the subjects are at all disturbed by the inhuman acts that they commit off camera.

There are shots of SS officers calmly lighting trees, clowning around as they go on a field trip and laughing with their female counterparts. Remember all this is done by men who were routinely gassing innocent men, women and children.

The very normalcy depicted in these shots is grotesquely surreal. How can any human engaging in knowing genocide be able to carry on an apparent normal life without having some qualms over their actions. And yet, apparently these people were able to do so.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mt Airy

My hubby and I like car trips. We like piling into the vehicle with our four kids and seeing different scenery or stopping at the local attractions. We even get antsy if we don't periodically take one of these trips.

So, we made plans to visit Mt Airy. The location was chosen arbitrarily by us. It is the birthplace of Andy Griffin and the finale home of the original Siamese Twins, Eng and Chang Bunker. Plus my younger brother had once assured us that the area was lovely.

Let me say that Mt Airy is a delightful place. The people are wonderful and very helpful. The town is only about nine thousand people, so we were constantly told to enjoy our visit or asked where we were from. In a town so small I guess that it was obvious that we were strangers.

Mt Airy has a surprising amount of things to do. They have a coffee shop, a three floor emporium, a museum, several diners and Opie's candy shop. Mmmmmm.......

The scenery is beautiful. Mt Airy is located in the foot hills of NC, close to the mountains. So you can see the distant outline of mountains.

It was so nice that my husband said that he didn't want to return to Fayetteville!

Here is a link to a site telling about this very nice town. Please be sure to visit. You will enjoy yourselves.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What is Purgatory?

Purgatory is a place of cleansing. I’ve even heard it described as a process more then an actual physical place. It says in Rev 21:27 that nothing unclean shall enter heaven. None of us can claim to be without sin. (All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23) Even as Christians we fall sadly short of God’s mark for us. We all have told little fibs, felt envy at a friend’s success, listened to gossip or done any number of things that are displeasing to God. Yes, our transgressions are forgiven but we still need to rid ourselves of the residue that our past acts implants on our souls.

I like analogies so stick with me. Imagine that a poor man is suddenly invited to dine with the king. Excited he leaves home but can not afford any better means of traveling then walking. As he approaches the palace, the poor man is terrified that he will be turned back. Yet the steward assures him that the king is anxious to meet him, but first the traveler must wash and clothe himself in garments that the King (Jesus) has chosen. Should the poor man get angry that the King won’t see him just as he is? Of course not. Does it make the invitation (salvation) any less valid that he is asked to undergo a cleansing (Purgatory) before he enters the banquet hall (Heaven)? I don’t think so and to be honest I don’t want to meet my King without being as spiritually clean as I can be.

Purgatory is not a second chance for Catholics to work their way into heaven-as a Protestant informed me. Those who are in Purgatory are already guaranteed heaven. They are just riding themselves of all the emotional baggage that would prevent them from enjoying the bliss of paradise.

It might come as some surprise to my non-Catholic friends but they too believe in Purgatory, even though they don’t use the term. When I was Baptist, I used to attend regular Adult Sunday School Class. One day, the teacher spoke about different rewards in heaven. A student asked how it was possible that we humans not feel envy that others might be given a higher place. The teacher promised that, upon our death, our souls would be transformed and we would no longer be able to feel envy for one another or even sadness for our loved ones who remained on earth. Now that I am Catholic I realize that he had just, unknowingly, explained purgatory!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Call No Man Father

When studying the bible one must be very careful to read in context. Isolating verses can lead to misinterpretation of the biblical text. This is very apparent when one actually reads the verses adjacent to Matthew 23:9.

Matthew 23: 9 reads (The New American Bible) Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Taking this verse literally would mean that we could never call our paternal parent father without sinning. When you consider that the Aramaic form of Father could be translated as Dad, Pop, Papa, etc, then the only thing left is to call our male parent by his first name! Some will say that it is obvious that Jesus was not referring to parents, yet he did not add except for parents. Even if allowances are made for parents, we are forced to conclude that we should refrain from such terms as “Founding Fathers” or “Church Fathers!” The only way to comprehend Jesus’ true meaning is to read the text surrounding this Matthew 23:9.

Starting with the first verse in Matthew 23 and reading onward, we have Jesus exhorting his followers not to be like the Pharisees because “…They preach and do not practice” Mathew 23:3. In other words, these particular leaders were hypocrites, who expected their followers to abide by rules which the Pharisees themselves did not adhere.

In Matthew 23: 5 we are further told that “All their works are performed to be seen...” In other words, these men wanted the fame that comes from being thought Godly with none of the actual work, responsibility or love of God that is required. It was not with the aim to glorify God that these men were serving the poor and keeping the law but only to gain praise for their own selves. Jesus warned the disciples earlier about such an attitude in Matthew 6:1-8

But we reach the crux of the manner when we read Matthew 23:6-7 Jesus says of the Pharisees “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation, “Rabbi.” These men wanted honor, respect and glory. They were not humble but prideful and desired titles for themselves.

Jesus instructs his followers not only to not use the phrase, Father, but in verse 8, he forbids the use of Rabbi-or teacher. Our word Doctor is based on the Latin word for teacher. If Jesus really meant that we can no longer use the title Father, then neither are we allowed to call anyone professor, teacher or doctor. We can not even use the heading Mister or Mistress because Matthew 23:10 says “Do not be called Master; you have but one master, the Messiah. Mister is a derivative of Master. So taking these verses literally would mean that no one can be called Mr. Jones, Mrs. Smith or Miss Doe.

In his sermons, Jesus often used hyperbole. For those who are unfamiliar with the definition of this word, hyperbole is an obvious exaggeration spoken to make a point. An example would be “I waited forever.” Of course we know the speaker did not wait forever. We understand that the speaker is not fibbing but using exaggeration to make a point about the length of his wait.

Jesus, himself, used the terms Father and Teacher, when he spoke. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus says that the rich man calls out for Father Abraham. (Luke 16: 24) He speaks of teachers and masters in Matthew 10: 24:25.

Apparently Jesus’ followers all believed that the Messiah was using hyperbole, because they refer to themselves as Teacher and Father several times in the New Testament. For example, Paul not only refers to Timothy as his beloved son in the Lord in 1 Corinthians 4:17 and 1 Timothy 1:2 but even says to his fellow Christians in 1 Corinthians 4: 15 Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The beauty of understanding that Jesus was speaking in hyperbole and not commanding that no one use the titles Father, Doctor, Teacher or Mister is that we can look into the deeper meaning of the passage and discern how it applies to us today.

In today’s age of celebrity, a person’s fame sometimes appears more important then their actual morality or worthiness. As Christians we are to glorify God instead of ourselves. That is a message that is still relevant today.