Because We Are A Bible-Believing Church III: The Chair of St. Peter

I have been on this planet for roughly 49 and a half years. I have been a Christian for roughly 39 and a half of those years and a Catholic Christian for 5 years come the Easter Vigil. So what? So I never knew until a few years ago that February 22 is the Feast Day of the Chair of St. Peter.

I also was ignorant of the fact that Catholic tradition states that it was on this day that Our Lord made His declaration about St. Peter as being the keeper of the keys.

Consider this one of those “pleasures of finding things out” moments I wrote about on around New Years a few years back. In italics below is a note I found on Catholic Exchange about this day in Church history.  My edits and expansions of additional Bible references are included, but full credit for this post should go to CE.

Rookie that I am, I really, really have a lot to learn about the history of the Church. But I have found that an understanding of history is very helpful as I make my way through this world in other areas.  Why wouldn’t the same be true of Church history?

Here begins the article from Catholic Exchange:

Upon This Rock

Today the Church celebrates the feast day of the Chair of Peter. This celebration dates back to at least the fourth century. The Calendar of Philocalus, made in the year 354 and having dates going back to the year 311, marks February 22 for this feast. According to very ancient Western liturgies, February 22 was the date that Christ appointed Peter to sit in His place as the authority over His Church.

When Jesus asks the apostles “Who do you say that I am?” Peter alone replied as follows,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter,and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

The “chair” of course, is the position, the authority that was given to Peter. This can also be called the Petrine authority or the authority of the pope. Peter, alone among the Apostles, was given the keys to the kingdom. Jesus said to him, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19) The Apostles would immediately understand, as would any first-century Jew, what Jesus was referring to when He said “keys to the kingdom.” This was a reference to Isaiah 22 where it refers to a king delegating his special authority over his kingdom to his prime minister. In essence, Jesus was setting up His kingdom on earth (the Catholic Church) and he was delegating His authority to Peter to rule over it until He comes again. In giving Peter the authority to bind and loose, Jesus was essentially stating that He would back up the decisions that Peter would make. Of course, the Church teaches us that this does not refer to all Peter’s actions, but in matters of faith and morals, Peter does have the authority to speak for Christ.

And all this despite Simon Peter’s weaknesses and flaws as a regular guy. Our Lord foretells that Peter will deny him. But first, He tells the Apostles this at the Last Supper,

“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you  that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

And He singles out Peter with the following information that He prayed for Peter before fortelling his denial of Him,

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:28-32)

Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide His Church. This promise is made to guide Peter and the popes throughout the ages, in union with the bishops, in shepherding His Church. Peter, or the pope, however, is the shepherd who watches over the flock until Christ returns. We see this in Scripture also when Christ, after His resurrection and just prior to His Ascension, says to Peter, calling him by his former name (before Christ changed it):

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Referring to the other apostles)
Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
He said to him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).

Jesus is our true Shepherd, but He has asked Peter to watch over His flock until He returns to earth. Christ is the King of Kings and He has delegated His authority to Peter and all those after Peter who would sit in the “Chair of Peter” throughout the ages until He comes again in His glory. So Scripture makes it very clear why the Church celebrates this special occasion.

Thanks be to God.

Confession: Thanks to Gloria.TV and Archbishop Sheen

Readers of this blog know how much we have been discussing the Sacrament of Reconciliation here lately.  Webster started it the day before St. Valentine’s Day. He followed it up with this post the day after Valentine’s Day and a poll that drew over 250 votes. I threw in this post on Scriptural references to the Sacrament and Webster wrapped the discussion up with the thought that we can’t help ourselves.

Prior to these posts, I had a little fun juxtaposing pop singer Seal with some thoughts from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Completely speculative on my part (for sure) to try making sense of Seal’s lyrics and Sheen’s thoughts. But I ask you, where else but at YIM Catholic would you ever have seen these two linked in a post? Sheeeeesh!

After returning from my daughter’s Girl Scout Thinking Day event, I was pleasantly surprised to see a video of Bishop Sheen speaking on Confession in a post by Padre Steve at his blog Da Mihi Animas. Bishop Sheen’s video is below.  But look at what other treasures there are over at Gloria.tv as well. Music clips, news clips, tons more Bishop Sheen clips, marriage tips, etc. It’s almost like a Hulu for Catholics!

I couldn’t keep this resource to myself, but felt compelled to share it with you all. Want a search string on Confession? They have it. I hope you enjoy this and bookmark Gloria.tv for Catholic programming available on your schedule.  They have over 306 pages of programming so far, and hopefully more in the pipeline. Here is Archbishop Sheen on Confession:

http://www.gloria.tv/media/51377/embed

A hearty Bravo Zulu (well done) and thank you to Padre Steve!

For Lenten Music from the East

I found this today, while playing tiddly-winks (er, I mean plotting a course to the next waypoint) with Webster in the cockpit. It is from the Eastern side of the family and very appropriate for Lent, don’t you think?

This is based, in part, on Psalm 141,

Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hearken unto me, hearken unto me, Lord I have cried unto Thee, Hearken unto me, attend to the voice of my supplication, when I cry unto Thee, hearken unto me O Lord.

Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice, hearken unto me O Lord.

Set O Lord and watch me before my mouth and a door of enclosure round about my lips.

Incline not my heart unto words of evil to make excuse with excuses in sins.

With men that work in iniquity and I will not join with their chosen.

The righteous man will chasten me with mercy and reprove me as for the oil of the sinner, let it not anoint my head.

YouTube Preview Image

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies

This is your co-pilot speaking. It’s been kinda quiet here at YIM Catholic today. Well, that’s because it’s Lent and Webster and I are cruising at 38,000 feet.  Oh, not literally, but figuratively for the next 38 days. But we haven’t flown the coop completely. We’re still around, but when you are on a long cross-country flight (like the 40 days of Lent) you have to be gentle with the controls so as not to upset the passengers. [Read more...]

YIMC Book Club, “Mere Christianity” Week 5

This week we read Book III, Chapters 6, 7, and 8.

Its discussion time, Book Club members! This week’s readings are all from Book III, and Mr. Lewis is showing how politically incorrect Christianity is. All these new changes that many denominations are going through today? I think Jack would be dismayed, but that is my two cents only. I’ll throw my hat in the ring with G. K. Chesterton, who wrote,

The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

Chapter 6 is on Christian Marriage. Nothing new here for practicing Catholics. Of course, that doesn’t mean that this Sacrament is an easy, slam dunk either. It is a Sacrament that is also a vocation. Jack has a lot to say, and all of it is sound and in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church, if not extremely unpopular today. But he said this institution of marriage should possibly be set up as a two-fold institution, one for the Church (think Sacrament) and one outside the Church.

Jack holds forth on a concept not discussed much in terms of a marital relationship, justice, as well as on the different viewpoints between say government and the Church in terms of our ability to control our appetites and impulses. He writes,

If, as I think, it is not like all our other impulses, but is morbidly inflamed, then we should be especially careful not to let it lead us into dishonesty.

He then makes some salient points about the problem of divorce and how one party (government) sees it as just another contract, which holds about as much weight as any other contract; meanwhile, Christians (and the Church) see divorce as a train wreck to be avoided at all costs. Anyone who works in the legal field can tell you that no-fault divorce has become a major growth industry since Jack wrote these words. And as a child of divorce, I am not shocked: I agree with Jack. Who then has the audacity to say,

So much for the Christian doctrine about the permanence of marriage. Something else, even more unpopular, remains to be dealt with. Christian wives promise to obey their husbands.

And that means you agree with this too, Frank? Uh-huh. Looking forward to reading the comments!

While contemplating burning me at the stake, and cursing the name of C. S. Lewis, move on to Chapter 7, on forgiveness—and just in the nick of time! I think Jack does a really good job here of talking about forgiveness with a real-world perspective, especially with the command to love others as ourselves. Here Lewis lets the cat out of the bag on the falseness of self-love. He says, Look in the mirror and realize that if you don’t love everything about yourself, then guess what? Think of that when you are loving your neighbor.

I don’t know how many of you like his argument about soldiers fighting one another, as a “nothing personal” situation.  He uses an example based on the war that had just concluded, mentioning the Gestapo and other scary words.  Here’s Jack,
The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything-God and our friends and ourselves included-as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.
Loving an enemy doesn’t mean that punishing them is unwarranted either. As Jack says, and I’ll paraphrase, just because I love myself doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be subject to the death penalty if I commit murder. Now, before we get into a fur-ball about the death penalty and Church teaching, what Jack is saying makes sense. Think about this in terms of the posts we have been doing about the Sacrament of Confession. Think of this in terms of what a real examination of conscience is. It means taking a hard look at the part of ourselves that we don’t love, repenting for it, praying about it, and coming to the Sacrament for forgiveness and absolution in a concrete way.
After all, our souls are immortal. Jack explains the Christian perspective like so (bold is mine):
I imagine somebody will say, “Well, if one is allowed to condemn the enemy’s acts, and punish him, and kill him, what difference is left between Christian morality and the ordinary view?” All the difference in the world. Remember, we Christians think man lives for ever. Therefore, what really matters is those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or a hellish creature. We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one’s own back, must be simply killed.
Chapter 8 is on The Great Sin, which Jack identifies as Pride. Personally, I had to come to terms with this one, and when I finally did, I had no choice but to become a Catholic. I still have to fight this one and probably always will. Blaise Pascal spelled it out for me, Thomas à Kempis held forth on it, and St. Teresa of Avila too.  She pointed me to the capper in my own personal struggle with pride, Francisco de Osuna’s Third Spiritual Alphabet. Look back at this hot link and you will see where I think Jack may have gotten some of his material. Here is a chapter de Osuna writes entitled The Devil’s Army, which is mainly about pride.

Back when I was waiting for my RCIA class to get started, I had a discussion with someone about how pride was my biggest weakness. I hadn’t read Jack’s book yet, but the conversation was hauntingly similar to these passages. In the end I simply said, If you don’t believe you have a problem with pride, then you haven’t examined this issue closely enough. I knew I did and left it at that. Which is almost exactly the same way Jack sums up this chapter:

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.
And with a collective sigh of relief, I hope you read that being “proud” of your regiment, son, daughter, etc., really is not Pride. Most likely it means that you have a fond love of or for that entity. Pride is disordered love of self, and one which puts self above all others. Including above God. Ouch!
Now it’s your turn, YIMC Book Club members! How did you take these chapters? What were the passages that resonated with you. Don’t hold back!

Because Gregory the Great Wrote Such a Poem for Lent

The Season of Lent is upon us. This is one of those mysterious times of the year that, before I was a Catholic, I always wondered about. Growing up, we never observed Lent. Of course, now I know that Lent is celebrated by not only the Catholic Church but also the Orthodox Church, and it is even celebrated by some of the mainline Protestant churches. [Read more...]

Because We Are A Bible-Believing Church II, Confession

A little over a month ago I wrote a little post, Because We Are A Bible Believing Church.  Webster’s two recent posts (here and here) and our poll (see sidebar) on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Confession) have generated plenty of comments from readers. In light of the fact that a good number of you may not be Catholic, I think it’s a good idea to let you know how I approached this Sacrament prior to my own conversion. And how my understanding of Scripture led me to accept the Church’s teaching on Confession.

For the record, I’m no expert apologist for the Faith or anything. The first notion I had was that Catholics (and the Orthodox) have it easy. Just sin all you want, hit the confession booth, and viola!—you’re free and clear to go sin again! Ain’t it grand? Just make it back in time to confess before your demise, and all will be well! Those crazy Catholics are on to something here!

But then I wondered to myself, how come if this deal is so good, nobody seems to be taking advantage of it? I never recall my wife going to Confession, that is, until I did. Of course, thinking this through I ran smack into the wall of wondering if maybe I was the one who had it easy. You know, sin all I want, say a quicky prayer for forgiveness and viola!—the all-clear signal.

Back in the days when I was going to prove how wrong Catholicism was, I figured this Sacrament would be an easy one to disprove. And then God stepped in and said, Take a look at what I said. Here is what I found (bold highlights are mine) with the words of Our Lord as a primary source.

And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins“—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings. (Matthew 9: 2-8)

Maybe this is just a wacky translation. But I don’t think so. Or maybe it only means Jesus was able to do this! Of course! He could, but what of that last sentence? Hmmm. What else is there? More from the Gospel of Matthew, and again Our Lord does the talking,

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:18)

What a long and involved process that is. Definitely includes the “church.” And I thought to myself, How many are in the Confessional? Two. And there are prayers for forgiveness. Not to be an intellectual or anything, but if I have any sort of Faith in God whatsoever, then it stands to reason that the standard of “wherever two or more are gathered in my name . . . it shall be granted to them” is being met here. This just makes sense. And notice no extensive disclaimer to the effect that one of the parties must be perfect, sinless, etc, etc. Sounds like a plan with real-world applicability to me.

After Christ was crucified, died, and buried, He rose again and appeared to the disciples. And what was one of the first things He told them? Take a look here in the words that St. John hands down to us about this event,

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:22-23)

I started to see  the light because God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, said these words. I know this is a weak argument, because using God as a primary source should be sufficient, but I still had to follow this through. Shock will do that to someone who thought this was some man-made impediment. What did the rest of the New Testament say about this subject? First up, St. Paul:

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:17-20)

Reading this passage closely, I was left thinking that surely this does not mean that only the original Apostles alone were entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Isn’t it obvious? Paul is writing to the congregation in Corinth and calling them ambassadors for Christ. Throwing on my Anu Garg hat, ambassador is defined as,

1. A diplomatic official of the highest rank appointed and accredited as representative in residence by one government or sovereign to another, usually for a specific length of time.

2. A diplomatic official heading his or her country’s permanent mission to certain international organizations, such as the United Nations.

3. An authorized messenger or representative.

4. An unofficial representative: ambassadors of goodwill.

In which case, this definition works, if doubt about whom the priest represents (Christ, as we believe by tradition) is still a stumbling block. I’m just saying that to me, this again strengthened the argument from the above mentioned primary source. I kept looking and found this in the Letter of James:

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. (James 5:13-16)

And this passage also upholds the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick! Sheesh! A double-play! This idea of mine that the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be easy to disprove was only pointing to my own deep ignorance. And will save the sick person and the Lord will raise him up doesn’t just mean the body will get well. Maybe it won’t. But the soul? For the last straw, another of the original Apostles weighs in on this, this time St. John:

I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God. And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours. If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly. We know that no one begotten by God sins; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the evil one cannot touch him. We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one. We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Children, be on your guard against idols. (1 John 5:13-21)

Reading this closely, again and again, I saw the highlighted passage above—right in the thick of statements that may lead you to think you can just pray for forgiveness yourself and that is sufficient. What do we do in that case of deadly sin, John? And what of my much cherished notion that sin=sin? Here, St. John is saying there is sin and there is SIN. Gulp!

Here is what I thought to myself: I don’t need to see the Catechism on this Sacrament for me to understand that it is correct. I decided to take St. John’s advice and be on my guard against idols. Myself, my own pride.

Because You Requested It (Music for Mondays)

Happy Monday!  Are you still snowed-in? Hopefully not.  But in case you need a lift before heading out to shovel your driveway, have a listen to this sundry mix from the (not quite famous) YIM Catholic Music for Mondays archives. We’ve got it all this week from Pop to Poetry.  Thank God someone invented YouTube!

We start off with a couple of selections suggested by readers last week, in response to posts. This one was sent to us by Maria and is sung by renowned bass Paul Robeson. The words are from one of our favorite non-Catholic poets, William Blake, from his poem Jerusalem (from Milton),

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green
And was the holy lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen

And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills

Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spears o’clouds unfold
Bring me my chariot of fire

I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
‘Til we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land
‘Til we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land

YouTube Preview Image

Our next selection was also sent in by a reader: Ennio Morricone directing the theme music from the movie The Mission.

YouTube Preview Image

This is Seal singing Prayer for the Dying from his second album.  One of our readers wrote that she thinks of this song whenever she hears of someone’s untimely death.  This song is about all of us though. Is Seal Catholic? I have no idea. I only recall these words of Our Lord when he was questioned by the Sadducees in the Gospel of Matthew (22:29-33),

Jesus said to them in reply, “You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven. And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

So Seal croons,

There is a light through that window
Hold on say yes, while people say no
‘Cause life carries on

YouTube Preview Image

Speaking of Our Lord, here is one of my favorite modern Catholic hymns sung by a choir from the St. Mary Parish in Alpha, New Jersey.  Here is their blog. Maybe this hymn is one of your favorites too?  The lyrics are based on Psalm 16,

Keep me safe, O God,
for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord,
“You are my Lord, my only good.”
The gods of the earth are but nothing,
cursed be those who delight in them.
Those who run after foreign gods
only have their sorrows multiplied.
Let me not shed blood for them,
nor their names be heard on my lips.
O Lord, my inheritance and my cup,
my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.
The best part has been allotted to me.
Delightful indeed is my inheritance!
I bless the Lord who counsels me;
even at night my inmost self instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
for with him at my right hand,
I will never be shaken.
My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices;
my body too will rest assured.
For you will not abandon
my soul to the grave,
nor will you suffer your holy one
to see decay in the land of the dead.
You will show me the path of life,
in your presence the fullness of joy,
at your right hand happiness forever. 

YouTube Preview Image

Ash Wednesday is coming up in a few days.  Let’s all go to Church. After all, as this song (which helped make Kansas’s reputation in the late 1970s) notes, all we are is Dust in the Wind.

YouTube Preview Image 

Because I Am Dust

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog was entitled Because This May Be My Last Mass. I wrote it based on my experiences in the Marine Corps when I saw the photograph of a Navy chaplain administering the Eucharist to Marines on Iwo Jima.

I suppose it is easy to consider the idea that you may die today when you are engaged in combat. But as I sat in Church today as Lent approaches, the same thought entered into my mind. This may be my last Mass.

Will it be my last Mass? Not if I can help it. But the fact of the matter is, I really have no idea. Having just gotten over a flu bug, I realize again how poor and weak I actually am. Someone commented on my first post from sick-bay, “Have you been taking your vitamin C?”  No, I have not. Not since I was almost killed in an accident have I wasted any time or money on vitamins.

Of course, I haven’t completely abandoned trying to eat “healthy” while having a balanced diet either.  I just don’t think of my body as something I can control, like I may have thought at one time. Today’s readings helped me along in this, as I was reflecting that Ash Wednesday is only a few days from now and the Lenten season will begin.

Paul writes to the Corinthians and I emphasize in bold,

If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.

Before I was a Catholic, I was a fair-weather sort of Christian. It is still a temptation to be one now. You know, it’s easy when things are going right to be thankful to God. But in the Summer of 2001, I almost became dust in the sands of the Mojave Desert.  Two of my comrades lost their lives. I was hospitalized for 5 1/2 weeks and convalesced for 6 months. My Marine Corps career came to an end as well.

I don’t have any memory of the event at all.  My brother Marines at the scene have told me a few things. They tell me I said I wanted to see my kids, for example. My mother says I wrestled with an angel the way Jacob did. I don’t really know why I was spared. Maybe it was so I could write these words for you. To remind you that you are dust as well, and that at any moment your version of eternity will begin.

In today’s Gospel reading from the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord says,

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. . . . Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.

Kind of leaves you with an uneasy feeling, doesn’t it?  There is nothing fair-weather in those words. But they speak to my soul, if not to my body. These words also remind me of something G.K. Chesterton wrote as well,

The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

So on Ash Wednesday, my family and I will go to Church and have the mark of the Cross traced on our foreheads. A mark that says we are not of this world. As the mark is made, these words will be said,

From dust you came and to dust you will return.

What humbling words to hear. What a subtle reminder of my own poverty. For rituals like these, I became a Catholic. Because I need to be reminded of my place in the grand scheme of things and to whom I have pledged my allegiance while I am here.

The first time we went to Church on Ash Wednesday was in 2008, right before I was accepted into the Church. I had been going to Mass for close to 18 years with my wife, and we had never gone on Ash Wednesday ever before. I remember being amazed at how many people were at the service. I remember thinking to myself, These people understand.

I’ve never missed going to Church on Ash Wednesday since, and I intend to never miss it ever again. That is, right up until my last Mass.

Thoughts on Temperance on a Friday

I’ve been thinking about these thoughts written by C.S. Lewis in the current YIMC Book Club selection Mere Christianity.  They are from chapter 3 of Book III, The Cardinal Virtues. I thought of this when I saw this photograph of Our Pope and a tall glass of beer. Hats off to Athos over at Chronicles of Atlantis.

It reminded me of something Benjamin Franklin said, Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Here is what my new friend Jack Lewis has to say on the subject of Temperance,

Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its meaning. It now usually means teetotalism. But in the days when the second Cardinal virtue was christened “Temperance,” it meant nothing of the sort. Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further.

It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotallers; Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is the teetotal religion. Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much, or because he wants to give the money to the poor, or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself. 

But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons-marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

Still not sure? Here is what Our Lord says about such things in the Gospel of Mark, (7:14-23) from the Daily Readings earlier this week,


The Heart of Man

After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable.And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and then out into the latrine?” Thus He declared all foods clean. 
 
And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

So be temperate, and prudent, and all the other Cardinal virtues. It’s almost Miller-time at Casa del Weathers.  Even if I’m under the weather, (ha-ha, no pun intended) it’s still one beer per man, per day in my household.  Adios, and please drink responsibly!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X