Hell demystified

Recently I have had the pleasure of talking to Jehovah Witnesses. I must have been feeling the Holy Spirit that day. When they knocked on my door, I decided to engage them rather than being dismissive. After all, they only want to talk about the bible right? Don’t worry I’m not naive enough to believe their pitch. They gave me a pamphlet about knowing the “truth.” Of course, it is based on their interpretation of the Bible. One sentence caught my eye, “at death humans cease to exist.” Paradoxically they seem to believe that only the righteous will be raised. From the same pamphlet, it says, “most who have died will be resurrected and will live on a paradise earth.” So for Jehovah Witness, there is no hell or heaven, but a kingdom for the righteous that will come when Jesus comes back.

Catholic Confusion

Unfortunately, It seems that Catholics are equally confused about hell. I almost didn’t become Catholic over a misunderstanding regarding hell. One Sunday in RCIA class, the topic of hell came up. This older woman stated that she did not believe in hell for God was love. Confusingly I asked well doesn’t hell exist? What does the church teach? The debate went back and forth. Opinions flew around the room, but nobody could tell me what the church taught. Finally, the older lady looked me in the eye and say, “why do you need to believe in hell?” With that, the class ended. Racing home I vowed to look up what the Catholic Church taught.

Peace washed over me. I smiled as I read the paragraph because It was exactly what I had thought the Church taught. Let me explain.

The Truth About Hell

First, the Jehovah Witnesses are not wrong. There will be a resurrection and final judgment and a new kingdom and new earth. The problem is they deny particular judgment. They also deny hell’s existence. This goes against Catholic teaching.

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death, the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”615 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

So sorry lady from RCIA. We must believe in Hell because the church tells us it exists. Of course, that reasoning isn’t going to work for my Jehovah witness friends. They need biblical proof.

When Jesus speaks of Hell, he uses the word Gehenna (the Greek word for hell). Here are just a few passages:

But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Mt 5:22,29

Another common image is a fiery furnace.

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Mt 13:42, 50

My point is that Jesus spoke of hell or Gehenna. To deny the existence of hell, you have to say Jesus was misquoted or Jesus is lying. Now you could argue that hell will exist when Jesus comes in power. Thus hell exists after the final judgment. Yet this does not line up with all passages in the Bible.

Biblical Proof of Particular Judgement

The most obvious passage begins on Luke 16:22, which describes the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus lived a life full of suffering and hardship. It describes how when Lazarus dies he is carried to Abraham’s bosom. The story goes on to say that the rich man also died. He was being tormented in the netherworld. While the rich man begs Abraham to relieve him, Abraham cannot because there is a gap between them.

If Jesus did not want us to believe in life immediately after death, why did he tell this parable? Clearly, Jesus was okay with immediate judgment after death.

Jesus also acknowledges life right after death when speaking with the thief. In Luke 23:43, Jesus tells the thief that today he will be with Jesus in paradise. Thus we do not have to wait for the kingdom of God to be fully here. Our place is decided by our actions in this life.

Thus we must say diligent and awake.

Catholic Church and Hell Now.

Having examined the Catechism and the scriptures, it has become clear that Hell exists. Likewise, we know that souls enter heaven and hell immediately. So the only loophole now is who is in hell. The Catholic Church has this to say regarding who is in hell.

God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:619

The fact that no-one is predestined has led some Catholics to speculate that hell might be empty.

Bishop Barron has famously said that we may have a reasonable hope that hell will be empty. In other words, God wants to save everyone. If anyone is in hell they have chosen to be there, Bishop Barron optimistically believes that nobody chooses to go to hell.

Yet the Bible paints a different picture

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few

Few find the road that leads to life. Thus I believe hell to be full; although, I trust in the mercy of God

My Final Thoughts on Hell

Hell is not a pretty picture. Nobody wants to imagine anyone eternally suffering. Thus I used to have beliefs similar to Jehovah witnesses. I thought God destroyed the souls in hell. Maybe over a long period, but one day there would be no more evil souls. One day I was meditating on this idea when a voice spoke in my mind. It said, “I could never destroy a beautiful soul no matter how wicked.” If you are a mother, I think you understand. You could never destroy your child no matter how bad they are. Sure you may separate yourself from them, but you still love them. God is a good father and he acts the same way. He separates himself from us, which cause us enormous pain, but he wouldn’t dare destroy us.

To Learn more about Bishop Barron’s opinion watch this

Harry Potter ban

My introduction to the magical world of Harry Potter began in 3rd grade.

Every day Mr. Winberg would read us aloud from the book just before the school bell rang to let us out. He did it repeatedly until he was asked to stop by the administration. They were afraid that our impressionable minds couldn’t tell fact from fiction.

But I’m glad happened.

In a way, the incident spearheaded my own pathway into reading. I vowed that I would finish the story. Not knowing where the teacher had left off, I devoured the book cover to cover. Each year marked the tradition of getting the new Harry Potter book. It was definitely a part of my childhood.

Eventually, I would grow to appreciate other works. In Middle School, I became slightly obsessive over Lord of the Rings. I almost went to a convention! From Lord of the Rings, I would gravitate to the lessor known epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. Somewhere in between, I would be fascinated with Arthurian legends.

Ultimately it all comes back to Harry Potter.

Magic

Magic vs Religion

All the epic fantasies that I grew up with have some sort of magical system. So what is magic?

Magic seeks to manipulate spiritual powers. It is a very technical enterprise. If I say the right words or combine the right ingredients, I will get my desired outcome.

Despite what my former pastor would say Catholic liturgy is not magic. The consecration of the Eucharist is not magic, but a prayer. It begins:

Be pleased, O God, we pray,

to bless, acknowledge,

and approve this offering in every respect;

make it spiritual and acceptable,

so that it may become for us

the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ.

This marks the difference between magic and religion. The latter seeks to beg God or gods to help with their request. fn

The Historical Tension

The introduction of Christianity to ancient cultures brought with it a tension with the practice of magic. In one hand, the New Testament itself seems indifferent to magic. The Magi bring gifts to the baby Jesus. On the other hand, the dynamic between divine miracles and magical illusions can be seen in the story of Simon the Magician (Acts 8:9-25). In this story, Simon the Magician attempts to buy the power to perform miracles specifically the power to baptize people with the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, this did not go over well and Simon the Magician is asked to repent.

Catholic Teaching Today

“All forms of divination are to be rejected:  recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone” (CCC #2116).

So divination is wrong because it seeks to obtain knowledge from a source other than God. So one cannot practice magic and be Catholic.

The Controversy regarding Harry Potter

So why am I talking about magic? Well, there was a controversy involving a Catholic high school and Harry Potter.

You see, history repeats itself. Father Dan Reehill had the bright idea to remove the Harry Potter book series from St. Edward Catholic school.

His reasoning?

The books present magic as good and evil. It glorifies the act of divination, conjuring the dead, and casting spells, therefore, the readers can be persuaded that those acts are not sinful. He also alleges that the cures and spells were inspired by real cures.

He has a point, but then, I’m hoping he removed Lord of the Rings and Narnia too. If not, he just comes across as a hypocrite.

Magic in Lord of the Rings and Narnia

Does Lord of the Rings and Narnia fit Fr. Reehill’s description? Let’s look.

  1. Does the work present magic as good and evil?

Yes, Lord of the Rings and Narnia surely fit. Gandalf is one of the good guys, yet he is a wizard, who does spell casting. Gandalf can conjure fire and create light. Galadriel, who also does magic, is also depicted as good. So good that she withstands the temptation of the one Ring.

Narnia is in a similar way. Both Aslan and the White Witch have magic. Other beings both good and bad have magic.

Therefore, his first description fits both literary works

  1. Glorifies divination, conjuring the dead and casting spells**

Lord of the Rings showcases divination through Galadriel’s mirror, where she can see past, present, and future events. Gandalf does spell casting. The only thing left out is conjuring the dead. In my opinion, the fact that Lord of the Rings does not describe conjuring the dead does not shield it from the same criticism. Lord of the Ring glorifies divination and spell casting through its positive depiction of the characters, who do these things.

Narnia doesn’t fare much better. In those stories, the Centaurs are a noble breed of proud warriors, who seek wisdom from the stars. They are skilled in astronomy and divination. How is this any different than astrology? Does CS. Lewis get a pass because he wrote a Christian allegory?

  1. easily pursued others that the acts are fine

While Harry Potter was my gateway into the fantasy genre, Lord of the Rings captured my imagination. I wanted to be a magical Elf. I joined the fan club website. Bought Lembas (Elven bread) and went on adventures. Could I have then fallen prey to paganism and pop spirituality, yes. Yet that doesn’t mean the work isn’t worth reading.

My opinion about Harry Potter

There has been a rise in occultism and pseudo-paganism in recent years. While we can point fingers at the media (of which Harry Potter seems the least offensive, I’m looking at you Netflix Sabrina the Teenage Witch), the real culprit is ourselves. We have removed beauty, wonder, and reverence from our liturgy and wonder why people flock elsewhere. We deny the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit and act surprised when people search elsewhere for supernatural power. If there is a notable difference with Harry Potter, it would be that it places magic not in some faraway land, but in a modern setting. Yet if the church operated to her full potential, the idea of modern magic would not be so appealing.

  • For an opinion that is different than mine go here.

Left Behind: What do Catholics Believe?

Does anyone remember the Left Behind series?

Growing up, my mom was a fan. She let me ready the kid’s version of the book.

Those books scared me a lot.

I remember vividly the descriptions of people disappearing. One minute they were there and the next minute their clothes would be in a pile in front of you. I thought that would happen to me. Jesus would leave me all alone.

As someone with a disability, this is equally terrifying. I found myself wondering what would happen to me if Jesus took my parents or caregivers when I was on the toilet.

Thus I stopped thinking about the final judgment.

Theology behind Left Behind

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while. . . . And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth.” Revelation 20:1-3, 7-8

Protestants, who believe in the events in the Left Behind series, take the above passage literally. They believe in a thousand-year reign of Christ called the Millennium. Christ will establish this reign when he comes again in glory just before he judges all souls at the last judgment.

What About the Rapture?

The rapture is the name for the event where people disappear. There is a debate in Protestant circles. Some people believe that God would not torture his people. Thus, He raptures them before the time of persecution (pre-tribulation). Others believe that the rapturing of the elect occurs after the time of persecution(post-tribulation). For those who believe in pre-tribulation, Jesus comes three times: He comes as an infant; He comes to rescue his elect; he comes to instill his reign and final judgment. Yet the three visitation view is not biblical.

Mathew 25:31-46

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Passage Explained

Jesus never describes more than one coming. In the above passage, he implies that the final judgment takes place immediately after his second coming. Thus Protestants, who believe in a millennium, fail to reconcile the words of Jesus in Matthew with Revelation.

Catholics don’t read Left behind series

I remember I was talking to a catholic once and somehow we got on the topic of end times. I think a new Left Behind movie was coming out. My questions about Rapture and end times confused him. As a Catholic myself, I now know that Catholics don’t say much about end times. Yet every Mass we recite “he (Jesus) will come again to judge the living and the dead.” So clearly we at least believe he is coming back.

Like Protestants, Catholics believe in a tribulation. This tribulation will shake the faith of the believers and they will worship the antiChrist, which is anything that causes humanity to worship itself. After this period of trial, Christ will come and judge everyone both living and dead. At this point, the dead will reunite with their bodies. Lastly, God will transform the material world. (See Catechism 675 -677)

But What About The Millennium?

For Catholics, the thousand-year period is presently here. Jesus reigns from his throne in heaven. The angel binds the devil so that he cannot hinder the preaching of the gospel. When the devil gets loose, that will start the tribulation. Catholics take seriously the command to stay awake and be vigilant for we do not know the hour that the Lord is coming.

End Times: What’s The Point

When properly understood, the end times offer immediate value to one’s spiritual life. For starters, it causes us to be alert and gives us a purpose. We can respect God and his sense of justice. Lastly, we can have hope of life after death. The latter of which can be comforting to those grieving the loss of a loved one. I know that I can have peace in the fact that God will take everyone at once. I hope in and rely on God’s mercy that I may be a sheep and enjoy even with Christ.

For more information, check out this post from Catholic Answers

Can NFP be used as Contraception?

” When all the smoke has cleared, contraception was invented because of our lack of self-control” Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners1

Long before I knew about Theology of the Body or Natural Family Planning (NFP), I was enrolled in my Christian ethics class tasked with writing a final paper. As a new Catholic, I wanted to challenge myself to defend the Church’s teachings on contraception. Admittedly, I had had a hard time accepting this teaching. For the paper, we had to use two different methods of arguing our point. I chose to argue the scripturally and philosophically contraception is morally wrong. For the philosophical piece, I chose to cite Thomas Aquinas’ defense of self-control as a virtue.

Fast forward, I’m reading Theology of the Body. I read the above quote from Christopher West. Laughing on the inside, I think to myself, I could have written that sentence.

Yet Catholics make everything so dang complicated. Note, I don’t mean the Church, I mean individual Catholics. Let me explain.

NFP Week

NFP week occurs on July 21-27 and boy, there was conflicting information. Twitter was an especially confusing place. People accusing others of having a “Contraceptive mentality” simply because they wanted to space out their children.

As someone, who wants only two biological children (I am open to adopting much more), the moral imperative to have as many kids as possible scares me.

Luckily the keyboard warriors of twitter don’t define Catholic theology.

What is NFP?

NFP or Natural Family Planning involves using a women’s natural cycle to determine if a woman is fertile? It can be used to avoid pregnancy or to have a baby. There are many different types of NFP.

Creighton model

This model requires a woman to measure her cervical mucus before and after she goes to the bathroom. Depending on the color and texture, a woman is either fertile or infertile. There are classes a woman can take to help her know what to look for when measuring mucus.

Sympto-Thermal model

In this model, a woman measures whether or not she has cervical mucus. She also measures her temperature every morning at the same time. Based on these measurements, she determines her pre-peak, peak, and post-peak. It used to be inconvenient to have to measure your temperature at the same time every day. Now though, there have been breakthroughs in wearable technology. A quick internet search showed me a band worn under the armpit and an in-ear thermometer.

Marquette Method

This method is the newish one on the scene. It involves testing women’s hormone levels using a fertility monitor. While this method is reliable and easy to understand, it is too expensive for most women. It requires a woman to purchase both a fertility monitor and strips. Yet it is the easiest method to follow if you have the excess money to spend.

Effectiveness

By now, dear readers, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “why to go through all that work if artificial birth control is 99% effective.” Well, the reason I chose to highlight the above NFP methods is that they are 98%-99% effective with perfect use. The keyword, of course, is the perfect use. So let’s talk imperfect use.

In imperfect use, artificial birth control pills are 92% effective. The Creighton model ranges from 95%-98% effective. The Marquette model ranges from 89%-86% effective. Lastly, Sympto-Thermal model is 98%-92% effective.2

I know that is a lot of numbers to throw at you. My point is that, except for the Marquette Model, all of them are on par with artificial birth control. The latter of which comes with negative side effects.

Okay so all things being equal, why is NFP morally better than artificial birth control?

Christians have a moral obligation to choose NFP.

Self Control

But the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

As Christians, one of the signs that we are one with God is our growth in the fruits of the spirit. Check out that last one, yep, it is self-control. We should always strive with God’s grace to grow in self-control. By denying sex for a little while 6-10 days a month, you are practicing self-control.

Why NFP is not Contraception

Sex that creates life necessitates that a woman and a man have vaginal intercourse. Thus, the church requires all sexually acts entail vaginal intercourse. When a couple has vaginal intercourse and the woman is naturally infertile, this does not render the sexual act objectively sterile. Contraception, on the other hand, renders the sexual act objectively sterile. Christopher West puts it this way,

Contraception is the choice of engaging in an act of intercourse but doing something to render it sterile. Couples who engage in NFP, when they have a just reason to avoid pregnancy never render their sexual actions sterile.3

Thus NFP can never be done with “contraceptive mentality.” Sex with NFP is always open to life.

  1. West, Christopher. Theology of Body For Beginners (Ascension Press 2009), pg 113.
  2. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/1115/p924.html#afp20121115p924-b23
  3. West, Christopher. Theology of Body For Beginners (Ascension Press 2009), pg 111.

Female Priest: What is the Big Deal?

Female Catholic Priest: They exist?

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Catholic female priest. I was attending an organ donation religious panel. To my dismay, traditional Catholicism failed to make an appearance. Rather the panel had Judaism, Islam, and Protestantism represented. As I sat with my co-workers, this lady wearing a Roman Collar comes up to our table and sits down. After an exchange of small talk, she declares that she is a Catholic priest.

At this moment, my eyes got wide. She passes her business card, which read, “member of the independent Catholic Church.”

Now I started laughing on the inside about the oxymoron that is independent Catholic. You cannot be independently universal. I sighed and put the incident behind me until this year.

Opening the Door to Women

I taught 7th-grade religious education. When we got to the chapter on Holy Orders, I thought it would be good to interview a priest.

So I asked the youth to come up with questions for the priest. Inevitably the question of why priest can’t be female came up.

The priest said, “well, Jesus selected all males to be his apostles”. So far the answer is correct, but then it took a turn for the worse. “Yet we know that women are equally a part of the body of Christ. We know that some of Jesus’ disciples were women. Thus maybe women will play a larger role in the future.”

Shocked, I push back a little. “Father, I thought priest was male due to being in persona Christi and the fact that the Eucharist is Jesus’ male body.”

He replied, “that is very interesting, I have never heard of that argument.”

It honestly makes me wonder what is taught in seminary.

Argument Against Female Priest

Apostles versus Disciples

All of Jesus’ followers were disciples. Some of his followers were apostles. So- what’s the difference? This is explained in the gospel of Mark

“He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: [he appointed the twelve:] Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

So apostles have authority from Christ and have permission to preach. This is all very good.

Yet some might say, Jesus was just conforming to societal expectations. Jesus chose males because in his time males had authority. We live in a different culture, thus we do not need to follow Jesus’ example.

This ignores how Jesus elevated women.

Jesus Restores Female Dignity

In the gospels, Jesus radically treated women. Women were not objects to Jesus. This can be seen in Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan women at the well. First a little context. Jesus enters the town of Samaria at noon. It’s hot at that time. Nobody in their right mind would go and fetch water at this time.

Yet Jesus sees a figure approach the well. It’s a woman. Instead of ignoring her as the culture would dictate, Jesus chooses to engage with her. He listened to her and respected her. The Samaritan woman became a witness for Christ. Speaking of witnesses, women were the first witness to the resurrection. Mary Magdalene was one of the first people to see the risen Christ. Back in Christ’s time, women were not legal witnesses. If Jesus cared about cultural expectations, his first appearances would have been to men.

Mary as New Eve

Everyone knows that Catholics honor Mary, Jesus’ mother. Most protestants argue that the legitimizing of the Catholic church led to political corruption. The practice of honoring Mary resulted from this corruption.

There’s just one problem; the dates don’t add up. Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity 300 AD. Honoring Mary occurred much earlier.

St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d.202) compared Mary to New Eve.

Just as Eve, wife of Adam, yet still a virgin, became by her disobedience the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary, too, espoused yet a Virgin, became by her obedience the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race… And so it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by Mary’s obedience. For what the virgin Eve bound fast by her refusal to believe, this the Virgin Mary unbound by her belief. (4)

This quote stresses Mary’s role as the cause of our salvation through her obedience.

Hence, Mary is honored as helping to bring about our salvation. Christ is the new Adam and Mary the new Eve.

What does this have to do with a female priest?

Well If the early Christians thought Mary should be respected, what better way to do that then make her an apostle. Yet that’s not what happened. Rather the eleven apostles drew lots and nominated St. Matthias. Thus even though Mary was the most likely choice for an apostle, they still went with a male follower.

By making Mary the new Eve, the Church demonstrates its respect for women. Yet, the early church including the eleven apostles maintained an all-male priesthood. To understand why we must understand the relationship between the Eucharist and the priesthood.

The Function of Priesthood

Old Testament

The Old Testament describes the story between God and his chosen people, the Israelites. The Old Testament describes the Israelites as a holy nation and a kingdom of priest. Yet God also set aside the tribe of Levi for liturgical worship. The Old Testament structure becomes fulfilled by Christ.

New Testament

By our baptism, we are made priest, prophets and kings. Yet just like in the Old Testament, there is a secondary priesthood. The Levi was responsible for procuring sacrifices for the Israelites. This function is fulfilled by Christ. Jesus Christ takes on death and defeats it. Because he is God, his saving act has infinite merit.

Yet the question remains, how are the effects of Christ’s saving act applied to us? Jesus’ sacrifice is applied to us throughout time through the institution of the Eucharist. The same body that was shed on the cross is made available to us through the transformation of bread and wine. Christ’s one sacrifice presents itself in the Eucharist. Similarly, Christ is the great high priest that works through the ministerial priesthood. (CCC 1544).

The priest, when performing his priestly duties, acts in the person of Christ. When a priest is acting in the person of Christ, the priest must symbolize what is happening. Thus, when the priest says the words, “this is my body,” the priest must have a body similar to Christ. In other words, the priest must have a male body.

Female Priest: Ultimately a Lie

All sacraments must symbolize what they represent. Water cleans objects. The sacrament of baptism cleanses us of sin. Thus, water is required to represent the cleansing nature of baptism.

In the sacrament of Holy orders, a person pledges to be Christ for the people. Christ was male. Thus, the person must also be male. Having an office exclusively for males may seem strange for today’s society. Yet acknowledging the biological differences between male and female should not diminish the dignity due to women. A woman cannot claim to share in Christ’s physical body for to do so would be a lie.

Title Recovering from perfectionism written above crucifix

Recovering From Perfectionism

I have a confession. I am recovering from perfectionism.

On the surface, perfectionism doesn’t seem like a bad thing. After all, what is wrong with wanting the best. According to Robert McGee in Search For Significance perfectionism can lead to compulsion or withdraw. Lately, I have seen this vicious cycle in my own life.

For those who don’t know, I have been looking for a job for the past couple of months. I tend to go after jobs with a lot of energy. Submitting resumes and writing cover letters with gusto, until I get rejected. Then I fall into despair, feeling angry, frustrated, and like a failure.

Rinse, recycle, repeat. If only there was some truth that could set me free from this vicious cycle.

To all the perfectionist out there, I bring you the good news.

Jesus bought you through his sacrifice on the cross.

The basic gospel message: Jesus paid the debt that we could not pay to free us from sin. So your performance doesn’t matter. Jesus has done it all. Just believe in Jesus and he will look on you as righteous.

It sounds good until you start asking questions.

Who did Jesus pay? If it’s God, well then God doesn’t sound very loving. What kind of loving father would condemn his only son to a painful death to satisfy some sick sense of justice? If it’s the devil then that’s even more problematic. Jesus aka God shouldn’t owe the devil anything. Maybe it is the debt of sin itself? Yet if that was the case, why not just cancel everyone’s sins? You don’t need the theatrics or the sacrifice.

Also, why would God be merely content to call us righteous rather than making us righteous? After all, didn’t what God spoke in creation come to pass? For example, didn’t God say let there be light and there was light? So when God calls me righteous, wouldn’t I become internally righteous?

We must have a proper understanding of justification and atonement, otherwise, we fall into either despair or perfectionism.

Justification: the Truth that Combats Perfectionism

Robert S. McGee states that to eradicate the fear of failure, we must accept that Christ died for our sins. We must accept that Christ takes our sins and covers us with His righteousness. Since Christ has done it all, there’s nothing I can do. It all just seems too easy. Thus, justification is the forgiveness of sins and the declaration of righteousness.

Is it just me or does it feel like something is missing? Under this framework, there is no room for becoming a new creation. Yet St. Paul clearly says,

17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 2 Corinthians 5:17

God does justify us as a free gift in response to faith. This justification accomplishes two things. First, it forgives our sins, and second, it makes us a new creation. God is not content to declare us righteous rather he wants to make us righteous.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

Since Paul says we can hope in sharing the glory of God, we know that we do not yet possess the glory of God. Likewise, we know that God prepares us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10) and we know that God will complete his work in us (Philippians 1:6).

Hence justification is not a one-time declaration, but rather it is a lifetime of growing in righteousness.

Atonement: An Act of Love

God is not angry at us. God did not punish his son, Jesus, to appease his wrath. Rather, Jesus came to restore our relationship with the father. Jesus took on flesh to elevate our own human nature. Jesus freely chooses to become satisfaction for our sin. Thus he lovingly frees us.

When I look at the crucifix, I do not feel shame nor condemnation. Rather I feel joy and overwhelmed by the father’s gift of love. His body is broken for us, not for us to remain sinners, but to become like God through self-giving and mercy.

I do not become like God through merely assenting to what Christ has done. Rather, I become like God by relying on God’s supernatural grace that God freely gives me through prayer, sacraments, and works of love.

Goodbye Perfectionism

When I first became Catholic, I was worried about scrupulosity. I worried that I would feel this pressure to do good works in order to earn my salvation. Yet a funny thing happened. I became less ridged. The church’s expectations are clear. if I follow them I will receive supernatural grace. I do not earn the grace due to my effort, but Christ promised to aid his bride, the church.

I ask the Christ will aid me knowing that the work he began in me at baptism, he will finish in me until I am the spotless bride of Christ.

The Indianapolis Archdiocese made the correct decision.

A Reflection On The Debate Regarding Gay Teacher

Headlines filled my twitter feed. Indianapolis archdiocese removes Catholic standing from Jesuit school over a dispute regarding the gay teacher.

Immediately, the usual suspects begin rushing to the school’s defense. They cite unjust discrimination. Catholic Church only cares about sexual sin. They target gay and lesbians to make themselves feel more righteous.

I have heard it all and I’m here to set the record straight. This is about authority. It has nothing to do with the teacher’s sexual orientation.

Let me explain.

Defending the Indianapolis Archdiocese

Public verse Private Sin

So the Archdiocese justifies the firing by saying,

All faculty are ministers and as such, they’re public and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic teachings.

But the liberal Catholics cry, why don’t you fire every Catholic, who uses contraceptives?

When I entered into the Twitter debate, my favorite example was why don’t they monitor food intake and fire people for gluttony and greed.

The problem with all of those examples is that they are all private sins. Gluttony requires a person to take pleasure in food.

Thomas Aquinas said it best, “too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily.”

There’s a certain internal attitude one must have to be greedy or gluttonous.

Contraception is something a person does in the privacy of one’s own home.

Just like the government, the Catholic Church can’t invade the privacy of the marital chamber.

Marriage; however, is a public declaration. It is a signing of a piece of paper that becomes part of a public record.

The Catholic Church believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

By participating in a same-sex marriage, the teacher has publicly declared an opposing view on marriage that is contrary to church teaching.

Anytime anyone publicly declares anything contrary to church teaching, that person will be fired.

An analogous situation would be participation in a black mass or working for an abortion clinic.

I believe that if the man had not been married and just in a homosexual relationship, there would have been no justification to fire him. Thus it is not an attack on his orientation.

Rather it is a direct attack on the Archdiocese’s authority over marriage.

Speaking of authority….

Who’s the boss? Archdiocese or Brebeuf Jesuit preparatory high school

First, What does Catholic mean?

At its very basic Catholic means universal.

To be universal, the church must be united.

To achieve this unity, a Catholic organization must be united with Catholic authority.

The bishop is the supreme authority over Catholic organizations in a diocese.

The school wants to be independent. They say, “always maintained control of our school’s operations and governance, including our personnel decisions.”

Sorry, you can’t be independently universal. That makes no sense.

Final thoughts

Ultimately liberal Catholics will make this story about unjust discrimination.

Don’t be fooled, it is solely about authority.

Does the church have the authority to define marriage? Does the bishop have authority over Catholic organizations?

Any Catholic in good standing should answer yes to those questions.

Yet a Brebeuf Jesuit preparatory high school wants to answer no to those questions and cries when their hand gets slapped.

Catholic means having universal assent with church teaching. There’s no room for individual conscience.

Thus the Archdiocese is right.

What about the snakes? Worldliness part 2

Dear reader, This is part 2 of a series regarding what it means to be worldly. You can read part 1 here.
A discussion with my mother inspired me to write this post. The discussion began when I had made a comment regarding my 7th-grade religious education class. I had admitted my shock upon discovering that the whole class disagreed with the Church’s stance that marriage is between a man and women. My mom claimed that the kids were acting compassionately so of course, they would disagree. I expressed that I believe that if they continue to follow Christ and continue to be members of the Church, they need to understand and accept the Church’s teachings. My mom argued that one can follow Jesus and not accept everything the Church teaches. However, I pointed out that even Jesus defends the traditional notion of marriage in Mark 10:6-9,

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.

I argued that even if you explain away what the Old Testament says about marriage or the writings of Paul, you cannot be a follower of Jesus and ignore what he says about marriage. My mom replies, “didn’t Jesus say that we should handle snakes and not die, we don’t follow that.” I must admit I was stumped.
Continue reading

What does it mean to be worldly

Before being confirmed Catholic, I went to a lot of different Protestant churches. Every church emphasized the theme of not being of this world. As Christians we were told to be a part of the world, but not in it. This took many different forms; some churches prohibit drinking, others feel called to redeem the world. According to the latter, one could use worldly tactics as long as it glorifies Christ. I remember how the Young adult pastor at Vineyard church held a meeting on Halloween and gave a whole sermon incorporating Twilight. Catholics, for the most part, take the opposite approach. Most Catholics desire a liturgy free from worldly influences, which explains why music is so controversial. In most parishes, it feels like going back in time. I think the uninitiated or uninterested tend to have difficulty swallowing church teaching because there exists a disconnect between parish life and their own. This leads me to wonder, “what makes a person worldly?” Continue reading

A defense of Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Six days ago Lizziesanswers posted a video on youtube titled 20 Strangest Parts of Catholic culture. Lizzie recently became famous among Catholic circles for her openness about her conversion to the Catholic Church.  I believe her story resonated with many Catholic converts including myself. In this particular video, she addresses things that appear weird to outsiders, but cradle Catholics accept as normal. Topics covered include lax attitude about alcohol, relicts, praying for the dead, prayer cards, and modern miracles from Marian or Jesus apparitions. She found modern miracles weird because her previous faith tradition taught that the Charismata had ended in the early church. The question remains, how does one define the Charismata and what role do they play in everyday Catholic’s lives. Most Catholics lack a familiarity with the Charismata. The Charismata gifts commonly include gifts such as healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy. However, some Catholics have experienced the charismata due to the Catholic Charismatic renewal and the practice of Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The Catholic Charismatic Renewal teaches that every Catholic should experience the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Other Catholics disagree and take a much more guarded approach in an earnest desire to protect the effectiveness of the sacraments. Reading and responding to the misunderstanding expressed in the youtube comments of Lizzie’s video prompted me to address the following questions: how does one describe Baptism of the Holy Spirit and does this description fit compatibly with Catholic sacramental theology. Based on scripture, the Catechism, and the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Baptism of the Holy Spirit fits compatibly with Catholic sacramental theology.

What is Baptism of the Holy Spirit

One must note that Baptism of the Holy Spirit is poorly named. The name describes, not an event like the sacrament of Baptism, but rather a continuous experience of the Holy Spirit. The phrase ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit does not describe a new outpouring, but an experience that must accompany the sacraments of Christian Initiation namely Confirmation. Ralph Martin describes it as,

an experience of the Spirit that is often accompanied by a deeper personal encounter with Christ, characterized by a glimpse of his Lordship, an experience of the Father’s love that is personal and deeply liberating, and a new awareness that we are truly not orphans but that the Holy Spirit is truly present and ready to encourage, convict, guide, and help us understand the things of God” (Martin, “New Pentecost” 17-18)

One may fear that if we say that a Baptism of the Holy Spirit experience must accompany our Catholic spiritual life, and so many people fail to have this personal encounter, then it seems the sacraments are ineffective. People, who express this fear, are well-intentioned, but fail to realize that the work of the Holy Spirit extends beyond the sacraments.

What the Catechism says

The Catechism is very specific about the work of the Holy Spirit.

“The Holy Spirit is “the principle of every vital and truly saving action in each part of the Body.”247 He works in many ways to build up the whole Body in charity:248 by God’s Word “which is able to build you up”;249 by Baptism, through which he forms Christ’s Body;250 by the sacraments, which give growth and healing to Christ’s members; by “the grace of the apostles, which holds first place among his gifts”;251 by the virtues, which make us act according to what is good; finally, by the many special graces (called “charisms”), by which he makes the faithful “fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church.” (Catholic Church, “catechism” 798)

According to this passage the Holy Spirit works in five ways: Word of God, Baptism, sacraments, virtues, and Charisms. The Catechism lists these gifts hierarchically, meaning that the gifts given through the Word of God, Baptism, sacraments, and virtues take precedence over those given by charisms. The Holy Spirit works through Baptism by uniting us with the body of Christ. This means that Baptism unites us to the mission of Christ and calls us to take on the role of priest, prophet, and king.

Through faith and Baptism we participate in Jesus’ office of Priest, Prophet, King (Catholic Church, “catechism” 783-786)

The Holy Spirit also works in the other sacraments especially Confirmation. Confirmation has the following effects: “brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:  it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”; it unites us more firmly to Christ;  it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;  it renders our bond with the Church more perfect; it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross” (“Catechism” 1303).  So after Confirmation, we as believers should 1. use the gifts of the Holy Spirit better, and 2. defend the faith better. The gifts conferred to us at Confirmation are mentioned in Isaiah 11:2.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord

Let us break each one of these down. Wisdom pertains to the ability to ascertain the divine truth and judge accordingly. Understanding describes the ability to see God and have divine insight. Counsel entails the ability to allow God to direct us in matters of salvation. Might or fortitude has to do with the attitude of perseverance even in the mist of dangerous obstacles and the assurance of everlasting life. In other words, you know that God has got your back. Knowledge refers to the ability to determine the right action in accordance with matters of faith. Fear of the Lord depicts the attitude of reverence towards God that causes a person to never want to be separate from Him. A validly confirmed Catholic, who regularly partakes in the sacraments, should display these gifts daily. The Church refers to these gifts as sanctifying gifts, because a person utilizes them for their own sanctification. Lastly, the Holy Spirit may choose to dispense charisms upon a person.

What are Charisms

The Catechism of the Catholic church makes special mention of the charisms and treats them as a distinct working of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism states,

Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world. Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms. (“Catechism” 799-800).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not provide a definitive list of the charisms. Likewise, it does not provide a way for a person to receive these special graces. One can infer that it involves surrendering to the Holy Spirit and asking the Holy Spirit for these special graces. In order to have an idea of the type of gifts involved, one must look to the scripture cited in footnote 255.

What scripture says about Charisms

Footnote 255 in the Catechism points to 1 Cor. 12:7 and draws a direct parallel between this passage and the charisms. 1 Cor. 12:7 states,

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit,and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Most view speaking in tongues as the most controversial of these gifts so I would like to take a few moments to address those controversies. Those, who disagree with speaking in tongues cite the fact that the words spoken in private prayer do not resemble any known language and thus does not correspond to the events in Acts. Acts 2:5 states,

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

This passage would seem to imply that God gives tongues as a  gift for evangelization in that it allows a person to preach the gospel regardless of a language barrier. While true that if a person speaks tongues publicly to a body, there must be an interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:27), there exists a secondary dimension of the gift. St. Paul states that,

  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. (1 Corinthains 14:2)

Hence, it seems that there exists a secondary private tongue that one speaks directly to God. Thus, it makes sense that certain people may receive unintelligible utterances. However, some may protest that this contradicts the Catechism in that The Catechism sees charisms as designed to build up the Church. My reply emphasizes the word, “indirectly.” Private tongues can build a person’s faith and trust in God and therefore equip them to serve the church better. I know that in my own life when I have faced doubts about God’s love and goodness, using tongues in private prayer solidifies His goodness.

Synthesis of the gifts of the Holy Spirit

To summarize what I have covered so far. The Catechism divides the gifts of the Holy Spirit into two categories: Sanctifying gifts and Supernatural Gifts. The Sanctifying gifts include sharing in the office of priest, prophet, and king as well as those in Isaiah 11:2: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, and Fear of the Lord. Every Catholic has access to these sanctifying gifts through Baptism and Confirmation. The supernatural gifts include healing, miraculous power, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. The Holy Spirit at its discretion gives these gifts for the building up of the Catholic church either indirectly or directly. Not every Catholic receives supernatural gifts equally, but every Catholic should desire to receive the supernatural gifts. The Renewal considers tongues as the gateway gifts because it helps strengthen the faith of the believer, but a person may not receive tongues as the initial charismata.

What does this have to do with Baptism of the Holy Spirit

In my opinion, when a person experiences Baptism of the Holy Spirit, they have a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. This brings with it a new desire to live a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit as witnessed by displaying wisdom, understanding, counsel, might and fear of the Lord. I also believe that by going deeper and surrendering to the Holy Spirit that they receive special supernatural gifts. Increasing awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit received at Baptism and Confirmation describes the goal of Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Is Baptism of The Holy Spirit necessary?

The hierarchical nature of the gifts of the Holy Spirit clearly allows the Holy Spirit to work outside of the sacraments and encourages a person to encounter the Holy Spirit personally. However, if this happens organically, does one need Baptism of the Holy Spirit. No, if you already work on living a life practicing wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, and fear of the Lord and you remain open to receiving God’s supernatural gifts. However, as the Catechism states this experience must occur. Martin agrees, he states,

 Whether the release of the Spirit is due to an awakening of sacramental grace, or merely the fruit of prayer, the important thing is that it happen.” (Martin, “sacramental fruitfulness”).

However, most Catholics need to reawaken the sacramental graces, not because of the ineffectiveness of the sacrament itself, but rather our own disposition never intended to receive the effects of Confirmation. Aquinas hints at this when he writes about the effectiveness of Baptism,

As Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii), “God does not compel man to be righteous.” Consequently in order that a man be justified by Baptism, his will must needs embrace both Baptism and the baptismal effect. Now, a man is said to be insincere by reason of his will being in contradiction with either Baptism or its effect. For, according to Augustine (De Bapt. cont. Donat. vii), a man is said to be insincere, in four ways: first, because he does not believe, whereas Baptism is the sacrament of Faith; secondly, through scorning the sacrament itself; thirdly, through observing a rite which differs from that prescribed by the Church in conferring the sacrament; fourthly, through approaching the sacrament without devotion. (Aquinas ST 3, q. 69, a. 9)

If Aquinas says this of Baptism, surely the same applies to Confirmation. Most people undergo Confirmation as teenagers and do not fully embrace the Confirmation effect, which is to make us more open to the working of the Holy Spirit. The work of the third person of the Trinity continues to be neglected and abused due to a misunderstanding about the role of the Holy Spirit. The practice of undergoing a Baptism of the Holy Spirit attempts to rectify this neglect by focusing on the gifts and encouraging Catholics to use the gifts in their daily lives.
 
 

Work Cited

  1. Catholic Church.  Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Vatican: Libreia Editrice Vaticana, 1993.
  2. Martin, Ralph. “Sacramental Fruitfulness and the Power of Pentecost.” Homiletic & Pastoral review, 1 Aug. 2016
  3. Martin, Ralph. “A New Pentecost? Catholic Theology and Baptism in the Spirit.” LOGOS: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, 4, 13, Summer 2011.
  4. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (ST) I, q. 43, a. 6
  5. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (ST) 3, q. 69, a. 9