A View of Catholicism Today

This I believe. I believe in heaven.  I believe in God.  I believe each of us has a soul that after death resides with God and angels and the souls of countless others in eternity.  I believe that angels exist, reside in eternity and are God’s messengers to we dwelling on Earth.  I believe that any creature capable of loving, caring and having feelings for others has a soul that too, after death, resides in heaven.  That goes especially for animals.

I am also a Catholic

I am a mightily disturbed Catholic over the public outing of those miscreants who call themselves priests.

 

I have countless times over my adult years said “I’m a Catholic in spite of the Church.”

 

I identify as a Catholic mainly from communal, social, and family reasons.  I’m from a half Italian, half Sicilian family.  The distinction is verification that I know the difference.  I went to Catholic elementary school, Catholic high school and a Jesuit college (the distinction is intentional as many within the church cast a skeptical eye towards Jesuits, even calling the head of the order “the Black Pope”.)  My relatives are Catholic.  For the most part, my friends and classmates are Catholic.  I attend Catholic Sunday services. Quite unintentionally I’m a founding Grand Knight of my parish counsel in Maryland.  I consider myself part of my new Texas Catholic parish community.

 

Being Catholic is part of my identity.  I would not feel comfortable or honest to say otherwise.

 

The Catholic religion is based on faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s a legitimate part of what followers call Christianity. We don’t worship statutes as some think.  We don’t worship angels.  We don’t worship Saints.  We worship one God and it doesn’t, to me at least, matter what anyone calls the Supreme Being, even using the Hebraic phrase that acknowledges God but refuses to use a name to that effect.

 

I also need to be very clear that I really bridle at being asked if I’m a Christian.  If you can’t tell what I believe from the way I act then I don’t deserve to use that description anyway.

 

Another reason I don’t subscribe to the “have you accepted Christ” club is that I find it a tad insulting and just as offensive as Muslims demanding fealty to Mohammad’s cult of belief.  I say cult because any group that believes “others” who, for whatever reason, refuse to join that group deserve death is no fellowship that worships the true God.

 

If, as many claim, Mohammed was an impressive and quite successful plagiarist of world religions his epic work’s most despicable admonishment that non-believers must be slain can be traced to an equally disgusting era of intolerance of those from whom he borrowed ideas including the Catholic Church.  The Inquisition was one.  Oliver Cromwell and his Roundhead Generals genocidal slaughter of Irish Catholics as compelled by “the wrath of God” is another.  Witch trials were part of that horrid mindset.

 

The idea of any one religion claiming exclusivity to (pick a name) heaven, paradise, nirvana, or whatever the name du jour for eternal happiness might be is utter, egotistical bull.

 

My attitude is simply that what I practice as a form of worship is none of your business. As I said, my life is my membership card and if that’s not good enough for you…that’s your problem, not mine.

 

That said I have a very real problem with the historical and present Catholic Church, the regal structure of the clergy and the offenses against God and mankind that follow.

 

I can’t stand anything that walks like, talks like or has pretensions of royalty.  I’m sure it’s due to equal parts of my Sicilian/Italian genetic disdain for overbearing authority and the intrinsic importance of independence to being American.  Bow to a King or Queen or kiss a Cardinal’s ring…thank you no.  I’ve shaken a few Presidents’ hands but taking a knee to anyone or any group is out of the question.  We are all the “Chosen.”  Why else would we be here?  We all deserve equal respect until we prove otherwise.  And, we are all servants no matter if others call us by any exalted title.

 

In my seven decades as a Catholic I’ve encountered priests who understand their role as servants of God and their fellow humans, and I’ve known many who posture as divine arbiters of human behavior.  I’ve found Irish Catholic priests more often than not tend to act like petty tyrants who demand the faithful follow their every idiotic command as coming directly from the mouth of God.

 

The recent, but by no means new, revelations of the wholesale sexual depravity of some Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania and elsewhere were not shocking.  They didn’t shake my faith or cause me to jettison my identity as a Catholic.  The horrific sexual predator practices among scores of priests in Pennsylvania is but one of the most recent in a long-standing history of that abomination.  Not that such damnable behavior is restricted only to the Catholic clergy.

 

Catholicism to me is not an exclusive club, nor the only community whose membership enjoys favor with the Divine although church figures throughout history would beg to differ. I do not hold the Catholic clergy or their hierarchy of pretentious titles – monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, even the Pope – in any particular awe.  They are just men doing a job who tend to wear funny outfits.  Respect I give for the individual on a sliding scale depending on their dedication to service to all of us, humans and animals alike.

 

There is but one God. To me, it does not matter the flavor of believe espoused: Christianity, Islam, Protestant faith etc. with which one identifies.  (Islam is mentioned here with a figurative cautionary asterisk attached.)

 

A great lesson was taught me when my wife and I sought a cleric to preside over our marriage ceremony.  We made inquiries of a wide range of religions.  The local, Maryland Catholic priest declined.  He said our previous, less than successful forays into domestic disfunction, required the past unions to be annulled.  The idea that children even those from the worst parental pairings would be, in theory, the offspring of a newly deemed non-existent union was pretty offensive and insulting.  Even a minister whose website proclaimed theirs was a community of progressive thinking, acceptance, and quite “universal” that met in a glorified tree house said “no.”  One man, whose initials begin with “Kenn,” stepped forward. I believe his background was Baptist…and definitely former Marine.

Rev Kenn Blanchard at Duke University

Attending the event were many Catholics including two nuns.  One of the nuns approached me once the vows were made and documents signed and said that the Reverend’s service was the single most spiritual she’d ever seen.  No robes, no altars, no organs accompanying vocalists singing hymnal or Hollywood songs.  It was a spiritual event orchestrated by a true clergyman saying true words in honor of the true God.

 

So,in spite of the church and too many predators in priest clothing, I remain a Catholic but my form of worship is grounded in how I live my life, embrace others, open my heart to the companionship of those who passed before me and accept the many gifts, both positive and painful, the Divine One allows me to experience during my journey here.

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

are you spiritual or religious

Titles

How many times have you heard someone describing their faith status as being spiritual but not religious?  What do you identify as in your Christian walk?

As Christians we struggle with titles and identifying words for what we do and what we are.  Words have always been important.  They define us.  In a time where identity is topical.  What do you call yourself as related to Christianity?  Not only do we have goo- gobs of denominations but even more differences internally.

If you think about it, I bet it is because of the shortcomings you have witnessed, lived and survived as a Christian.  Have you heard the podcast?

Are you religious? Religion is our attempt at worshipping God in the manner of our preference. To be spiritual is to recognize the existence of God, angels and demons. That is not saying much, actually. Demons recognize God, they just don’t worship Him.

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. James 2:19 (KJV)

It is not secret that the concept of organized religion has come short for most people. If the truth be told we have come short of what God wants for us.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23

Our churches are imperfect because we are in it. There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people.

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

One thing about deciding if we are religious or spiritual is from our failing as a religious community is forgetting who the real enemy is. We fight each other. We fight the pastor. We fight the deacons. We fight non-Christians. We fight people that show us our shortcomings. We fight a lot for people trying to be like Jesus. The real enemy is spiritual. It is the unseen forces that inhabit our dwellings, and people in our lives. Being demon possessed sounds horrible but lets move away from the Exorcist type movies and think about what happens to us daily.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

Have you ever had a family event go south (go to hell) after it started off great? There was love and peace in the home and then without warning someone ignites a firestorm of mean spirited conversation that destroys the joy. It is often the family member that doesn’t go to church. Or how about after a guest comes over. It is not the guest necessarily but as if a presence came in with them that changed the dynamic of the event.

This event influences more people than presenting the Gospel. It is why it happens. It is demonic.

How about a home that goes from warm to cold. A day that goes from great to horrible as if a virus of evil passes through it. I submit that this is exactly what happened.
How about the church business meeting? Those are often the worse. Meetings held were we talk about everything but evangelizing, saving people from eternal death or helping someone. They are ripe for evil influences. Meetings were we are more concerned with parliamentary procedure than prayer. Prayer is more important than we realize.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have enemies in the spiritual realms. Satan and his minions hate you. They seek to stop your growth, delay your progress, kill your joy. What’s worse is you accept it on a daily basis as normal. You blame everything and everyone else.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  John 10:10

It doesn’t just happen in church or in the movies.   It happens so often we miss it. Think about family times that turn out to make you NOT want to be around those who love you unconditionally. Think about all the times we have allowed ourselves to be angered, frustrated, or whatever is the opposite of what God would prefer.

You ever had family dinner time destroyed? The family is enjoying themselves and feeling the love and thankful to God about their blessings and then it hits.

How about in the home with a child that all of a sudden disrespects you, hits a hot button of yours.

It happens in church. It splits the church. It undoes the fabric of a church congregation which is actually another family.

Let’s talk about demons in the movies. They often say snarky stuff at first. It’s funny sometimes. It is a diversion. The next level is often hurtful truths. They are not all knowing but having been around longer than we have and able to confer with other demons on stuff about us and our families that appear impressive. They use that information to push your buttons. It came shame us, or fill us up with false pride. And it is always subtle. There is no being in red with horns and a pointed tail to scare us. The monster comes only after your confront it and try to cast it out. Then you get the ugly thing that spits, fights, curses God and blasphemes.

Casting out demons is no joke. It is not for the weak in faith. Not many of us are strong enough to do it. Look at what happened to the posers that tried it in Acts 19:13-16

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

I don’t want you running out of the house naked and wounded.

Reading Scripture the Holy Spirit cautions us that to do it successfully it must be done by someone strong in their faith, cleaned and prepared by fasting and prayer.

In the movies, The Exorcist (spoiler alert) both priest died. Prayer is still crucial for us on a day to day activity before we deal with anyone.

Suggestions:
Before your next conversation with your spouse pray.
Before your next meeting pray.
Before your next event pray.

You want to pray to rid your home of indwelling or wandering evil.
You want to pray to protect your family while home. Think of evil as a roach in your home or church. You need to fumigate it with prayer.

Call the Holy Spirit to replace what is there. That is done through prayer and praise.

Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I want to give you a title if you must have one. Instead of being religious or spiritual, how about being a follower or disciple of Jesus the Christ. There is no ambiguity or gray area there. But I must warn you there is no middle of the road answer. You are either His or you are not…

Matthew 10:33 says “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Amen?

Make Good Choices a sign pointing to choices
Make Good Choices

 

 

What’s Killing Our Veterans?

veterans committing suicide

Is the reason behind the tragic suicides of our nations veterans guilt?  For the recently separated combat veterans of the US military I have noticed a common thread regarding faith. Many has lost their faith in God after witnessing death, destruction, and the sanctioned slaughter of civilians. Those that still have faith, struggle with “religion” because nobody is talking to them.

Even unbelievers have heard that the wages of sin are death. Most don’t like that reference because everyone sins.

A byproduct of sin is the feeling of guilt.

Guilt kills more people than we realize. For the recently separated combat veterans of the US military I have noticed a common thread regarding faith. Many has lost their faith in God after witnessing death, destruction, and the sanctioned slaughter of civilians. Those that still have faith, struggle with “religion” because nobody is talking to them.

“Every day, approximately 22 American veterans commit suicide, totaling over 8,000 veteran suicides each year.”

This statistic comes from the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report, which analyzed death certificates from twenty-one states, from 1999 – 2011. The report calculated a percentage of suicides identified with veterans out of all suicides in death certificates from the 21 states during the project period, which turned out to be 22 percent. (By point of reference, about 13 percent of U.S. adults are veterans, according to a 2012 Gallup poll.) Then the report applied that percentage against the number of suicides in the U.S. in a given year (approximately 38,000). Divided by number of days in a year, the report came up with 22 veteran suicides a day.

Most, if not all of us have felt some type of guilt in their walk of faith at some point. The only solution I have found is in the Gospel of Jesus. This is not to be confused with televangelist, the preachers of X place or the megachurch in your neighborhood. We know that real Christianity is not kosher in pop culture, society or anywhere for that matter. BUT, we are all guilty of sinning before a holy and just God. It is guilt that is behind suicides.

Most people in uniform I believe have a very high moral code. It is one of the reasons they joined the military. They came to serve. Our human moral code has a limit. If you don’t have a faith system in Christ, you have a high probability of failure.

Guilt.

We know that word. You don’t have to serve on a battlefield to identify with that monster.

In the past, Post Traumatic Stress was seen as a result of “trauma/fear overload” in combat. But now, research suggests that guilt is a key factor. According to a Marine Corps study, PTSD was found to be “more closely linked to an inner conflict rather than threats to their lives, the sight of bodies or blood or family problems.”

Who has not had some inner conflict? What if you had nowhere or no one to talk to about it?

Army Colonel Carl Castro, who is coordinating $50 million in research into suicide prevention and treatment at the Pentagon said

“The core of the issue is that it’s not that people who attempt suicide … want to harm themselves as much as they want the pain they’re currently in to stop, and they don’t see any other way out.”

The US military does try to treat service members with mental and emotional issues; but treating those individuals isn’t the main priority. Fighting wars and defending the country are. As a result, many service members fall by the wayside after they leave the service or can’t cope with the myriad stresses of military service.

So how do we combat this as a church? I believe I’ll use what worked for me, the Gospel of Jesus. I had to hear the Good Word for myself. I had t study and meditate on that Word. I had to be open to the holy Spirit. Note that I didn’t get it from any one person in church.

This guilt is exacerbated by people that are also having difficulties coping in the larger society. It is tough to receive for folks going through family issues, substance, sexual and mental abuses. Many service members have family issues that are exacerbated by lengthy deployments and separations from their families, as well drug and alcohol addictions by the military spouse, the service member, or both.

In spite of its waning popularity it is still relevant. There are many verses contained within that speak to one who is feeling guilty, or one that feels outside and in pain.

But what exactly is guilt? My definition is “feeling remorse or negatively judging yourself for things you either did or did not do, which you believe had a negative effect on someone or something else.”

I am about to die, and I cannot forget my pain. I confess my guilt; I am troubled by my sin. Psalm 38:17-18

Guilt can literally “eat away at you” like cancer.

It’s impossible to go through life without doing things we regret. But you are a spiritual being having a human experience, and you deserve to be free. Don’t think about ending your life to free yourself either. So how do you start?

First, become aware that self-forgiveness is not about condoning your past behavior or saying that what you did or did not do was okay. It’s about accepting the past as it is, knowing that it cannot be changed, and realizing that feeling guilty keeps us stuck in the past. Own it and move on.

If I can help you, I want to. I want to show you how I made it through. I want to show you that the Bible is not just another book. I’d like to be your friend.

In Christ, even the most heinous sins are blotted. Salvation is by grace, and grace forgives. After a person is saved, we will still sin, and when we do, God still promises forgiveness.

“But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).

Freedom from sin, however, does not always mean freedom from guilty feelings. Even when our sins are forgiven, we still remember them. Also, we have a spiritual enemy, called “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10) who relentlessly reminds us of our failures, faults, and sins. That is the one that keeps you down we you should be up. The devil boosts your guilt and says you’re just a hypocrite if you ask for forgiveness. Don’t dwell on guilt. Seek forgiveness and help from the Lord. Pray to the Holy Spirit daily for help and trust in Christ alone.

Spiritually, sometimes God uses guilt as a form of discipline to put us back on the right path. Guilt can lead us to repentance. So feelings of guilt are a blessing, because they push us towards God. Just like physical pain drives us to find out what’s wrong, the spiritual pain of guilt causes us to seek forgiveness.

Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23–24

Put the past behind you and move forward. Instead of dwelling on your now, dwell on God’s awesome love and grace.

If you want someone to walk with you, call, email or connect me. You are not beyond help. Life is not over. You can overcome. You can have peace again. You matter.

A broken crayon still colors.

 

You have forgotten the encouragement that is addressed to you as sons: “My son, do not think lightly of the Lord’s discipline or give up when you are corrected by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he punishes every son he accepts.” What you endure disciplines you: God is treating you as sons. Is there a son whom his father does not discipline? Hebrews 12:5-7

If I made sense to you, let me know.  thanks.