In the light of President Obama’s recent equation of ISIS and the Crusades (at the National Prayer Breakfast!) I thought this article from world-class scholar of the Crusades might clear the air a bit. Also check out this video for a political/military comparison.
“The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”
[G.K. Chesterton, “Why I Am Catholic” in Collected Works, vol. III, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990, p. 127]
I am a Catholic because (of):
- Catholicism offers the full truth about God and human life given to us by God Himself.
- Catholicism’s continuity with the Church of the Apostles at Pentecost and the word that they preached.
- Catholicism’s continuity with the natural religious experience of man from time immemorial, when that experience is true and good. Just as Jesus says “I have not come to abolish but to fulfill the Law”, He also builds upon and fulfills what is true and good in earlier natural religions.“The Church from the beginning down to our own time has always followed this wise practice: let not the Gospel on being introduced into any new land destroy or extinguish whatever its people possess that is naturally good, just or beautiful. For the Church, when she calls people to a higher culture and a better way of life, under the inspiration of the Christian religion, does not act like one who recklessly cuts down and uproots a thriving forest. No, she grafts a good scion upon the wild stock that it may bear a crop of more delicious fruit. 57. Although owing to Adam’s fall, human nature is tainted with original sin, yet it has in itself something that is naturally Christian.” [Pius XII, Evangelii Praecones, 1951, #s 56-57]Looked at another way, as Newman said: “I am a Catholic by virtue of my believing in a God.” [Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Chap VI, 2, 5]
- The Catholic principle of building on, elevating, and transforming nature, the given stuff of human life, by grace. Grace builds on nature.
This includes the artistic and intellectual endeavors of pagan cultures. But the implications of enthusiasm [religious extremism/fundamentalism] go deeper than this; at the root of it lies a different theology of grace. Our traditional doctrine is that grace perfects nature, elevates it to higher pitch, so that it can bear its part in the music of eternity, but leaves it nature still. The assumption of the enthusiast is bolder and simpler; for him, grace has destroyed nature and replaced it. [Ronald A. Knox, Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion, 1950, Chapter 1]
- Catholicism’s cultural, artistic, and intellectual heritage. Intimately connected with Europe and the Eastern Churches. – a set of cultures that Catholicism has been instrumental in creating. Europe is an example of inculturation. For me personally “Europe” could almost be one of its own.
- Catholicism offers a unique path to do justice to the infinite and inconceivable love of God for us: religious orders, especially contemplative orders; and so it reminds us that Love is the foundation of our lives.
- The collection of heroes, examples, teachers, and intercessors from every time, place, age, gender, occupation, social standing:–the saints.
- Catholicism is realistic regarding the nature of human sinfulness and that it possesses the power to change it from the inside by the grace of God.
- Catholicism’s challenging but ultimately humanizing and life-giving moral and social teaching. As Chesterton once wrote: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” [G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World, Part One, Chap V]
- The Liturgy and sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist.
- Catholicism contains a spiritual, mystical, and devotional tradition giving us multiple paths to union with God and our fellow human beings that are as diverse as people themselves are.
- Devotion to Mary properly understood and how it encourages doing true justice to womanhood.
On Devotional Confession
by Bishop Austin Vaughan, Pope Herald 15 (Summer 1984):1
(Editor’s Note: Following are portions of a speech given at the World Synod of Bishops on the role of Confession of venial sins by Bishop Austin Vaughan, Auxiliary of New York.)
I would like to speak in my own name on the role of Confession of venial sins (devotional Confession) in the spiritual life of our people. (We are talking about a Confession where none of the matter is obligatory–either venial sins never before confessed or forgiven, or sins previously confessed and forgiven.)
Such confessions were strongly encouraged in the first 70 years of this century. Now they are sometimes discouraged, more often not encouraged, because they are regarded (by some) as unnecessary, or focusing on trifles, or encouraging scrupulosity, or encouraging immaturity, or wasting a priest’s time, or merely routine and hence impersonal. In recent years, some encouragement has been given to devotional Confession if it becomes a genuine spiritual experience, or if it provides some spiritual guidance or direction. I believe in the value of spiritual guidance in the Sacrament of Penance, because many people receive little or none of it elsewhere. I believe in the value of a priest’s being friendly and helpful in penance, because for many people it is their only personal contact with a priest. I believe that priests and penitents have an obligation to do what they can to make the sacrament in which they are worshipping God together more fruitful.
But I would also like to defend the value of “routine” devotional Confessions, which often do not involve any identifiable profound spiritual experience; often these Confessions are brushed aside as useless or worse.
There are many times when the Sacrament of Penance will not be an emotionally uplifting experience–either because the penitent finds it hard to confess at all, or hard to confess even some particular venial sins; or because the penitent is tired or out of sorts or distracted; or because the priest leaves so much to be desired in his response, through his own fault or through nobody’s fault; or because the penitent wants to get in and out in a hurry; or because there are long lines waiting, so the process cannot he slow and easy. There are times when both priest and penitent may be glad to get it over with.
Even then, every use of the Sacrament of Penance is an implicit acknowledgement and reaffirmation of basic attitudes in Catholic life. Let me just list 10, although there are many more.
1) Every time I go to Confession, I implicitly acknowledge that I am a sinner–not just a part of a massa damnata, but with sins of my own that were my own fault.
2) Every time I go to Confession, 1 implicitly acknowledge that God’s mercy is always available to me: that I can never get so far away that He does not care for me; that no sin is unforgivable; that God is a Father who sent His Son to save me by His suffering and death. (This has a special significance in an age when many people wonder if God or anyone else really cares about them.)
3) Every time, I implicitly affirm that God’s mercy comes through Christ. The most poorly instructed penitent knows that it is the power of Jesus, not just the priest, who is forging his sins.
4) Every time, I implicitly affirm that God’s mercy reaches me through the Church–that she is the mother who loves me in the sacrament, even when I cannot love myself and that God Himself wants me to come to Him by sharing in the Church’s life.
5) Every time I go to Confession, I reaffirm that a priest is God’s minister in a unique way.
6) Every time I go, I implicitly reaffirm that I can do things with God’s grace that I will never succeed in doing on my own. Otherwise, sometimes a purpose of amendment would be meaningless.
7) Every time, I implicitly affirm that God wants me to face my sins squarely–say I am sorry for them specifically–and mean it. This means rejecting a part of my past life, so that the days ahead can be better than those behind.
8) Every time, I implicitly reaffirm that God expects me to do better, with and through his grace.
9) Every time, I implicitly reaffirm that lie wants me to make up for my sins and those of others.
10) Every time a penitent goes to Confession, he is implicitly drawn to reception of the Eucharist.
In a sense, devotional Confession is our need for redemption come alive.
Increase of Divine Life
We live in a time when things done out of habit are regarded as having less value than those done from careful conscious choice; and sometimes, when we do things routinely, we can forget, why we started doing them in the first place. But many of our habitual actions contain judgments that are deeply a part of us, and that indicate how deeply faith in Jesus has permeated our lives. Frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance preserves my sensitivity to my own sins, and to my need for God’s help. It also assures someone who is struggling with temptations that God’s love and mercy and grace are near.
Finally, we believe that reception of the sacrament brings a growth in grace, an increase of divine life in our souls. St. Thomas Aquinas’ explanation of this in theological terms was that the infusion of God’s grace elicits a new and more profound act of charity on the part of the penitent (not necessarily art act of deeper emotional intensity, but a deepening of our commitment to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity who dwell within us). I realize that some ways of explaining grace in more recent years have obscured this truth–but it is still valid, even in a new intellectual context–and it is a part of the grasp of the faith possessed by many people. They were taught that it is good to receive the sacrament to gain grace, and they are rightly upset if this motivation is made to be of no account.
To sum up, devotional Confession has value:
1) As a means of spiritual growth for ordinary people.
2) As an intensification of the penitents own penitential sense and ecclesiastical sense and attachment to Christ.
3) As a part of ongoing conversion–especially for people who are struggling against temptations, without complete success.
4) As a means of growing in grace, in God’s life in us and with us and through us.
Our people have a right to the benefits of the sacrament, and we have an obligation to do what we can to help make those benefits available to them.
The annual Samaritan Gifts for Kids program for children in the Conneaut School District was a huge success once again due to the efforts of many local churches, organizations, schools and individuals. Those that donated bags of gifts for individual children were members of Conneaut Lake Presbyterian Church, High Street Community Church, Our Lady Queen of the Americas Church, Fallowfield United Methodist Church, North Shenango Presbyterian Church, Conneautville Church of Christ, as well as staff members of the PA Department of Environmental Protection, Crawford County Office of Assistance, and the Meadville Medical Center. In addition to the bags of gifts, many items were donated including blankets, toys, books, hats, gloves, mittens, socks, toothbrushes, hair care products, and food. Trinity United Methodist Church, Hartstown Presbyterian Church, Our Lady Queen of the Americas Church, Conneaut Lake Middle School, Conneaut Valley Middle School, Conneaut Valley Elementary School, RSVP, Dr. Tom Kellogg and Lakeside Beauty Salon were responsible for the additional donations. Many individuals, organizations and churches also contributed financially as well. Over 50 volunteers helped arrange the bags of gifts as
well as sort out all of the donated items. A total of 334 children in 144 families benefited from the program this year. May all who participated in this program have a truly wonderful and blessed new year!
The Samaritans have been blessed with many donations this Christmas season. We especially would like to thank the organizers of the Antorcha Guadalupana 5k Run/Walk event for choosing us as one of the organizations that would benefit from their donations. Thanks to this event, the Samaritans received $601. The Samaritans also received this month, thanks to our parishioners, a check from the Diocese of Erie for $312.33 from the Rice Bowl donations. Many other individuals, organizations and churches have been very generous in donating to the Samaritans so that we may help those in need in our area. May you all have a blessed Christmas and New Year.
Here’s a beautiful song by Steven Curtis Chapman, “Higher Ways,” that relates to this Sunday’s OT reading (Isaiah 55:6-9 for 25th Sunday A).