Friday, December 29, 2006

Quote of the Day

I was playing around on the internet reading stuff and found this quote, which stopped me in my tracks and made me think, "Wow, so true."

“An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded.” - John Paul the Great

I need to remember this quote to tell to my brother, who is constantly full of excuses for not doing work, for being off task, for forgetting stuff, etc. I worry that he's not taking responsibility for his actions, and his sense of entitlement is extremely overinflated. Anyway...this quote made me think of him. Maybe he'll listen to it, as long as I don't tell him it's from a pope! *eyeroll*

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Feast of St. Stephen!

Today is my namesake's feast day! Here's some info about him:

Stephen's name means "crown," and he was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr's crown. Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian Church. The apostles had found that they needed helpers to look after the care of the widows and the poor. So they ordained seven deacons, and Stephen is the most famous of these.

God worked many miracles through St. Stephen and he spoke with such wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of Jesus. The enemies of the Church of Jesus were furious to see how successful Stephen's preaching was. At last, they laid a plot for him. They could not answer his wise argument, so they got men to lie about him, saying that he had spoken sinfully against God. St. Stephen faced that great assembly of enemies without fear. In fact, the Holy Bible says that his face looked like the face of an angel.

The saint spoke about Jesus, showing that He is the Savior, God had promised to send. He scolded his enemies for not having believed in Jesus. At that, they rose up in great anger and shouted at him. But Stephen looked up to Heaven and said that he saw the heavens opening and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

His hearers plugged their ears and refused to listen to another word. They dragged St. Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. The saint prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him.

After such an expression of love, the holy martyr went to his heavenly reward. His feast day is December 26th.

St. Stephen, pray for me, that I may always put Christ first as you did!

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Modern Day Miracle

Growing up in the CoC, we were taught that miracles didn't exist anymore, which always made me kinda sad. So now, I love to hear about miracles! Here's a story of a blind man who was healed in Indiana, his was the second miracle from this particular nun, and so she was canonized soon after. Cool stuff! On top of that, the man, who was Baptist when the miracle occurred, became Catholic afterwards. (And kudos to CNN for actually doing a pretty good job on the story, no jabs to Catholicism or anything!)


Monday, December 18, 2006

Faith and Doubt

This post will probably be most understood by readers who have an affiliation with the CoC, because faith is something that is extremely understressed there. Understanding what faith itself is was a big step for me, because in the CoC we do not rely much on faith. We try to prove everything, and we really deep down believe that everything can be shown from the Bible, and so there's no need for faith because it can all be argued and explained rationally (so they say).

Often, what happens when someone from the CoC decides to leave, is that since all their faith was really in the "scriptural evidence" rather than God, when that scriptural evidence falls to pieces, their faith falls to pieces. (It goes without saying that there are always exceptions, this is just a general observation.) There are others, though, who are fortunate to somehow hold onto that thread of faith in God, and have to sort out where to go from there.

True faith is a God-given gift. It is one of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, love) which we cannot fabricate of our own accord, they must be given to us by God. And so, our reason takes us to a point, we see the reasonable arguments for the Church, but there comes a time when we must finally rest on faith, especially if there are lingering doubts. This is a hard thing to do for ex-CoCers! It is so pounded into us that any doubt is BAD BAD BAD that we're afraid of joining up anywhere unless we're absolutely 100% sure. If there are any doubts at all, it feels like we're in limbo, not able to go back but not able to move forward either.

What is important to realize is the distinction between voluntary doubt and involuntary doubt. Here's something from Catholic answers on that:

Obstinate doubt is a person’s refusal to give assent to something and persistance in this refusal through his own fault. It is important to distinguish this willful refusal to assent from merely having hesitancy or conflicted feelings about something that one accepts.

Doubt is distinguished as either voluntary or involuntary. The Catechism explains:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated, doubt can lead to spiritual blindness (CCC 2088).

Involuntary doubt is not sinful and may be experienced by any sincere believer. Voluntary doubt, on the other hand, is grave issue.

When doubts arise, we must rely on faith. Now, that statement kind of sounds obvious, but think about this...if we are expecting to understand everything and rid ourselves of all lingering doubts before we do anything, would we really have faith then? Or would we just be counting on our intelligence and reason alone to get us through? This kind of outlook could result in a very weak faith ultimately, so that if someone who converted in this way one day came across a teaching that they couldn't understand intellectually, it might cause a loss of whatever little faith they had to begin with, because they haven't been really relying on faith, just as those who relied so heavily on scriptural evidence can see their faith in God dashed as the evidence for their scriptural interpretation is dashed.

All this to say, the fact that we may have lingering doubts about some things the Church teaches is absolutely normal, and in fact is good practice for relying on faith! Remember that faith is not something that comes from us, it comes from God, and so we need to be sure to pray for faith. God knows we need it, be He also wants to see that we acknowledge that we need it, and that we know we can only receive it from Him.

A few months ago at mass, a reading from Luke was read, and my husband made a comment about different ways it could be read. Read this passage, and think of the blind man, not as physically blind, but as spiritually blind, as not being able to see the truth clearly, but wanting to.

And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:
And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.

And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.
And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.

Gives a whole new meaning to it doesn't it? For those struggling with doubt, remember this prayer, and say it often. "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." Ask for faith, and you will receive.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

O Holy Night...

Christmas is just around the corner, and so I thought I'd drag out my favorite mp3 of the worst rendition of O Holy Night ever sung. This was passed onto me from my former coworker, and we used to listen to it around Christmas and just have giggling fits over it. Those were some good times!

So, here you are, and enjoy!! (Be sure to listen to the WHOLE thing, it gets progressively "better!")

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Doctrine and Discipline

Non-Catholics often bring up the issue of disciplines that have changed in order to counter the claim that the Church is guided into all truth, which of course, is unchanging. They say, "If the Church is guided into all unchanging truth, how come before Vatican II it was a sin to eat meat on Fridays? Something can't be a sin one day and then not be a sin the next day. That just doesn't make sense," or, "How can different places require people to attend mass on different Holy Days of Obligation? If it's sinful in one place not to go, it doesn't make sense that it can be ok in another place." What they are missing is the issue of doctrine vs. discipline.

The Church was given the authority to bind and loose, and so they can require certain disciplines if they feel it is beneficial. Let's look at it this way...there are some things that are universally true to all parents and the rules are the same everywhere. For instance, I've never met a parent who allowed their child to run into a busy street (for obvious reasons). That's a universal rule, because it's universally true that running into a busy street is dangerous and could result in harm. Now, there are other rules that are flexible, and it is up to parents to decide...for instance, the appropriate curfew for their children. Once that curfew is set, if a child doesn't come home by then, they're in trouble. Why is that? Is it the actual time itself that has some universal significance? No, because different parents will set different times for the curfew. The reason a child gets in trouble is because of their disobedience.

The same applies to Holy Days of Obligation (HDOs). Now in our big family the Church, there are certain rules that are universal, because they have to do with unchanging truths. Then there are others that are left to decide to the local bishops (they may be things that will be different culturally, etc). When someone willfully ignores a HDO in their area, the sin is that of disobedience. So, it's like if a kid willfully ignores his curfew, he can't come home and say "But Johnny's curfew is later, so it doesn't make sense that I have to follow your curfew!" (Lol, well he might try, but it won't work for any capable parent!) The parent understands it's not the *time* that is the problem, it's the disobedience. We do believe the Church has absolute truth, but what days are HDOs is not a "truth," it's a discipline, which can be changed according to time and place, like a curfew can be changed depending on the age and maturity of the child, etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with coming home at 11:00 instead of 10:00, what is wrong is the disobedience. Likewise, there's nothing inherently wrong with eating meat on Friday, the sin was in the disobedience. Now that it is up to the individual to decide what he will do on Fridays, there is no disobedience in eating meat, and therefore no sin.

Doctrine, on the other hand, is unchanging because it has to do with truth. For instance, the teaching that priests must be men is unchanging, the Church has no authority to change this (as explained by John Paul the Great in ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS), but whether or not priests can marry is a matter of discipline which the Church does have the authority to change. (Not that I think they should, I've heard too many priests explain how celibacy was such a gift for them.) It's easy to confuse doctrine and discipline, but it's important to differentiate them to truly understand how the Church works.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Behind the Counter

I just had to post this hilarious blog. Having worked behind the Guest Service counter at Target for over 5 years, I can absolutely relate to the ridiculous things people do and say when trying to return stuff. I would pretty much have a crazy story or two every day that I would have to relate to hubby to keep my sanity. Having worked through every holiday for five years straight, I relish my time home and away from the whackos at the big discount stores.

Oh the joys of retail!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Infant Baptism

I haven't had a good "apologetics" type post in a while, and since I was asked about infant baptism and hadn't already discussed it, I figured I'd seize the opportunity and post about it now.

First I'll answer the "why" question...why is it that babies need to be baptized at all since they can't consent to baptism themselves? The simple answer is, Catholics believe in original sin, and believe that baptism washes away both original and personal sin. In children and infants, who have no personal sin, it washes away original sin, and infuses them with Sanctifying Grace. It makes us holy!

Now, it may be helpful to ask, what is original sin? For that we can look to the Catechism, which says, "original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense: it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’—a state and not an act" (CCC 404).

As this article from Catholic Answers explains, "This sin of Adam’s was not your ordinary sin. This was a sin that affected all mankind forever. This sin changed the course of human history. It did not just affect Adam personally; it also affected his human nature—which means it affected our nature, since we inherited it from him."

So, we are born into the state of original sin, separated from God. Baptism brings us back into union with God, and infuses our souls with Sanctifying Grace. One man’s disobedience leads to death for all; one man’s obedience leads to life for all. We see this parallel in 1 Corinthians 15:21–22: "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."

Historically, we see that infant baptism was not a problem for the vast majority of Christians until quite recently. Children were baptized in the early Church (regardless of how that was the Latin rite we baptize by infusion...that is, we pour water, to mirror the way the scriptures describe the Holy Spirit being poured on us, in the East they immerse babies.) Jews circumcised babies on the 8th day, that is how their children became Jews. When Christ came around, they were told baptism was the new circumcision, baptism was the way which children would become Christians. If it was the new circumcision, BUT it wasn't supposed to be done to babies anymore as circumcision was, surely this would have been mentioned, as the assumption would be that with this particular parallel, unless otherwise noted, baptism, as circumcision, was to be done to babies as well as adults. And yet, nowhere in the scriptures do we see any clarification that it's not to be done to babies as circumcision was.

Now, with most controversies, we find many writings in the early Church discussing the various sides of the debate. The earliest we see any talk about whether or not babies should be baptized is in the 3rd century...and the controversy was not "should babies be baptized?" but rather "WHEN should babies be baptized?" You see, some people thought that since it was the new circumcision, they should wait until the eighth day to baptize babies as they did with circumcision. The decision was made that it was not necessary to wait until the eight day.

After that, the next time infant baptism was widely questioned in any way was the Reformation over a millenium later.

So, putting aside the issue for the moment of how baptism was done, historically it can't be denied that infant baptism was completely accepted in the early Church.

Now, let's look at the issue of how baptism is done.

As far as when something other than baptism by immersion was used, it's clear that it was already happening in the first century. The Didache, also called "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," a kind of liturgical manual, is commonly held to have been written as early as 70 AD, or at the very latest, the beginning of the second century. From Catholic Answers:

In its seventh chapter, the Didache reads, "Concerning baptism, baptize in this manner: Having said all these things beforehand, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living water [that is, in running water, as in a river]. If there is no living water, baptize in other water; and, if you are not able to use cold water, use warm. If you have neither, pour water three times upon the head in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." These instructions were composed either while some of the apostles and disciples were still alive or during the next generation of Christians, and they represent an already established custom.

So again, historically, the practice of baptism by infusion was already accepted as valid at the time this was written. Basically, it comes down to the fact that baptism is a sacrament (an outward sign of an inward grace) that uses water as the physical manifestation of God washing away sins. When we wash ourselves physically, it's not necessary to immerse ourselves in a bathtub of water...we can also take showers where water pours over us. There is a lot of language in the scriptures that describe the Holy Spirit being "poured" onto us, which backs this up.

I'd also mention that for those who die unbaptized, especially children, we trust in God's infinite mercy and hope with confidence in His mercy that they will be taken care of, whether that is by an implicit baptism of desire or some other way, we don't know.

And no, holy water isn't expensive, lol! It isn't bought, regular water is blessed by the priest, and this is how it becomes holy water =) Hope that helps, and kudos to Hollie for explaining Catholic stuff to people! :-D

Friday, December 08, 2006

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary. We do not worship her, rather we worship and praise God for creating her in this way so that Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, would have a pure and holy vessel untouched by sin, just as the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Word of God inside it, was pure and untouched.

Here is more about the Immaculate Conception from Catholic Answers:

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.

When discussing the Immaculate Conception, an implicit reference may be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary. The angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). The phrase "full of grace" is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. It therefore expresses a characteristic quality of Mary.

The traditional translation, "full of grace," is better than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of "highly favored daughter." Mary was indeed a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that (and it never mentions the word for "daughter"). The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind. Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning "to fill or endow with grace." Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates that Mary was graced in the past but with continuing effects in the present. So, the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit. In fact, Catholics hold, it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence.

Today is a Holy Day of Obligation, so don't forget to go to mass!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

St. Nicholas - The Real Santa

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas, the 4th century bishop who became the larger than life Christmas icon. Having come from a wealthy family, when his parents died he began to use his wealth to help the poor and needy, and he gave generously.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

See this page to read more about St. Nicholas and the traditions that many people practice to celebrate this day.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Some Holiday Humor

What's the difference between a Protestant and a Catholic?

The Protestant puts away his graven images after the holidays are over.

Thanks to Tiber Jumper for that little gem, and for the nice explanation of why Catholics don't worship statues that follows! Praise God for Beautiful sacred art!

Getting To Know You Holiday Edition

Just for Kasia! :-D

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? That's tough...but I have to agree with Kasia, eggnog at the holidays, hot chocolate the rest of winter!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? When I was a kid, it was both. There were usually a handful of "biggish" presents that were unwrapped. (Stuffed animals, globes, big plastic toys, etc.)

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I prefer white, more classic looking.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Never have!

5. When do you put your decorations up? The day after Thanksgiving!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Ummm...I love candied yams.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: Waking up and walking into the living room on Christmas morning, seeing the beautiful tree, eyeing the stockings and wondering what they were filled with. Good stuff!

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I honestly don't remember!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Growing up we never did. Now we open gifts after we get back from midnight mass, so it's technically Christmas by then =)

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? White lights with gold and red balls, gold and red ornaments that are usually a music or religious theme (angels, angels with instruments, etc), draped with garland of gold beads. So far the new cat has been VERY well behaved around the tree!

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Umm...I love the idea of it, so I think I would love it, but I don't have enough experience to actually say for sure.

12. Can you ice skate? Absolutely not, I have NO balance.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? That's pretty cherry wood music stand? As far as practicality, I love my PDA!

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Christ’s birth!

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Hmmm, I love all things mint chocolate, so pretty much anything mint chocolate, and there's a lot of that around during the holidays!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? It's still pretty new for me, but I have to say going to midnight mass (if that can be called a "tradition.")

17. What tops your tree? A nice gold star on top (which I was never allowed growing up, as we didn't celebrate Christ's birth at Christmas)

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Ok this is going to sound weird...but I think my favorite part about gifts is wrapping them!!! Lol, I love to make pretty packages, and I'm kinda sad once they're opened and destroyed, ha. But I really, really love receiving gifts too, it is my primary love language so that's a given. ;-)

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Either O Holy Night, or Ave Maria (which is not really a "Christmas" song, but it's always played a lot around Christmas time.)

20. Candy canes: yuck or yum? Yum!

21. Favorite Christmas movie? Uuhhh...A Charlie Brown Christmas? No! Rudolph!! Lol, it just brings back memories of when I was a kid =)

22. What do you leave for Santa? Now nothing, as a kid we always did cookies and milk!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!...or Advent, anyway!

Hey Hollie, since today is your birthday you popped into my head...why don't you fill this one out? And I hope your B-Day is wonderful!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My Early Christmas Present!

This adorable kitty is Berlioz, my new cat!! He is my first cat, I've never owned a cat (my sisters are both horribly allergic), and until recently I thought of myself pretty much as a strictly dog kinda person. But, hubby helped win me over into appreciating cats, and after seeing my parents (and brother) adopt Max, and trying to figure out what I wanted for Christmas, the idea of adopting a cat grew and grew on me. I finally decided once and for all that a cat would, indeed, be my Christmas present, and we went to the shelter this past Friday.

We had looked online and seen several precious cats. Once we saw the cats in person at the shelter, it didn't take long for us notice Berlioz (then named Freddie.) What I have always loved about dogs is that they are so sweet and affectionate. Most cats I have interacted with are pretty snobby...but not Berlioz! As soon as Camille and I sat down, he came right to us and started rubbing up against us, and standing on his hind legs like he wanted us to pick him up. When he came up into our laps, he started rubbing his face on ours, which was just too cute! He wasn't too playful (I'm still a bit shy around cat teeth and claws!), or too hyper, or very loud...he was just perfect! We visited with several other kitties, but kept coming back to him. He's about a year old, is super friendly, and so, so sweet and tender. We put him on hold before leaving, and then came back the next day to pick him up. We couldn't wait to get him home!

Since Berlioz has been home, he has checked out the whole house, and he tends to follow us around and want to be with us. He loves to snuggle and give kisses. Last night he was gone for a little while and we couldn't figure out where he was! We looked and looked all over the house, and finally realized he had fallen into the Christmas tree box under the bed and gotten stuck, lol! He was so quiet the whole time that we had a hard time finding him.

Well, that's about all I have to say about Berlioz for now. I'm so happy to have this sweet cat with us! I'll be sure to share more about him in the future!