EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
The examination of conscience is a Catholic dance move, it’s one that goes on secretly, it’s kind of like the pregame for mass, you go through these steps to make sure your groove is right and that you are bringing yourself to the floor with the right attitude of heart and mind. It’s about getting the right attitude mentally and emotionally and spiritually for what’s about to happen when you begin making all those signs of the cross and bows and kneels.
An examination of conscience is an essential part of Christian spirituality, whether you’re Catholic or catholic. (Because let’s be honest, no one wants to really be outside a church as awesome as the One, Holy, Catholic(meaning universal, but we can get into that later), and Apostolic Church.)
However, an examination of conscience is not an opportunity to get all caught up in all that “woe is me!” nonsense that can distract you from the real purpose of a good examination of conscience. The purpose of a good examination of conscience is not to behold your own sinfulness, but to behold where you’ve breached proper relationship with God and neighbor.
The difference between these two mindsets is incredibly important and not to be overlooked or taken lightly. What matters in the examination of conscience is not how closely i can nitpick and scrutinize myself, but how closely I can behold Christ in the midst of looking at myself both with and through Him. In 1 Corinthians 11 St. Paul talks about discerning the body so that we may eat worthily, and I suspect it is not only the mystery of the Lord’s body he is discussing, but also of each other, as the Body of the Lord. When we can come to the table having been restored by Christ, it is to celebrate His grace, and to remember His call to live in communion with God and neighbor.
So, in order to do a proper examination of conscience we start with the Ten Commandments, because those tend to cover most things. This will be slightly different from a general examination in that I wrote some of these questions myself and either added them to or substituted and combined other questions that fit together. I use this one, but have also added questions for those of you who might be married or have children.
1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
-Do I seek God in prayer?
-Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart and through the actions of my life?
-Have I been involved with superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult?
-Do I surrender myself to God´s word as taught by the Church?
-Have I ever received communion in the state of mortal sin?
-Have I ever deliberately told a lie in Confession or have I withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession?
-Are there other gods in my life? Money, Security, Power? In what ways can I bring Christ’s lordship to the forefront of my spiritual life and my earthly desires?
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
-Have I used God´s name in vain: lightly or carelessly?
-Have I not taken the resurrection or Christian hope seriously?
-Have I been complacent towards the duty of charity, or neglected being a peacemaker?
-Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord´s Day.
-Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?
-Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest?
-Do I take seriously my own need for rest and spiritual communion with God and others?
4. Honor your father and your mother.
-Do I honor and obey my parents and the Church?
-Have I neglected my duties to my spouse, children or neighbors?
-Have I given my family and friends a good religious example?
-Do I try to bring peace into the lives of those around me?
-Do I care for the aged, the infirm, and the unborn with corporal acts of mercy?
5. You shall not kill.
-Have I had an abortion or encouraged or helped anyone to have an abortion?
-Have I physically harmed anyone?
-Have I enjoyed or approved of violence thoughtlessly? Have I supported a war without cause or too passionately?
-Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading him or her into sin?
-Have I been angry or resentful?
-Have I harbored hatred in my heart?
-Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization or self-harm?
-Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization, artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization?
-Have I carelessly approved of war or armed conflict?
-Have I participated in or approved of euthanasia?
6. You shall not commit adultery.
-Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?
-Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?
-Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?
-Has each sexual act in my marriage been open to the transmission of new life as well as the communion essential to proper sexuality?
-Have I been guilty of masturbation or other sexual selfishness?
-Do I seek to control my thoughts and imaginations?
-Have I respected all members of the opposite sex as persons, or have I thought of other people as mere objects?
-Am I a seductive person, or do I live in such a way as to keep myself and others from temptation?
-Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words,actions?
-Am I careful to dress modestly and carry myself with dignity?
7. You shall not steal.
-Have I stolen what is not mine? Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen?
-Have I been guilty of excesses in either socialist/communist or capitalist practices?
-Do I waste time at work, school, and home?
-Do I gamble excessively, carry on too strong a social life, or work too much thereby denying my family of their need for me?
-Do I pay my debts promptly?
-Do I seek to share what I have with the poor? Do I give to the Church?
-Have I cheated anyone out of what is justly theirs, for example creditors, insurance companies, big corporations?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
-Have I lied? Have I gossiped?Have I ruined the reputation of another person with slander?
-Do I speak badly of others behind their back?
-Am I sincere in my dealings with others?
-Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?
-Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?
-Have I injured the reputation of the faith by living it insincerely?
9. You shall not desire your neighbor´s wife.
-Have I consented to impure thoughts and desires?
-Have I caused them by impure reading, movies, television, conversation or curiosity?
-Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations?
-Have I taken my own relationships and friendships seriously as my opportunity for service and love?
10. You shall not desire your neighbor´s goods.
-Am I jealous of what other people have?
-Do I envy the families or possessions of others?
-Am I greedy or selfish?
-Are material possessions the purpose of my life?
That’s about it. After this, which you can do at home on the way to mass, in the Church while you wait your turn, or any time during the week, you might want to say a prayer. For some, the act of contrition prayer will do. For others, the liturgical prayer before confession will suffice. I personally enjoy St. Symeon the New Theologian’s prayer before confession:
O God and Lord of all! Who has the power over every breath and soul, the only One able to heal me, hearken unto the prayer of me, the wretched one! And, having put him to death, destroy the serpent nestling within me by the descent of the All-Holy and Life-Creating Spirit. And vouchsafe me, poor and naked of all virtue, to fall with tears at the feet of my spiritual father, and call his holy soul to mercy, to have mercy on me.
And grant, O Lord, unto my heart humility and good thoughts, becoming a sinner, who hath consented to repent unto Thee, and do not abandon unto the end a single soul, which has united itself unto Thee and has confessed Thee, and instead of all the world has chosen Thee and has preferred Thee. For Thou knowest, O Lord, that I want to save myself, and that my evil habit is an obstacle. But all things are possible unto Thee, O Master, which are impossible for man. Amen.
O Jesus…, strengthen our souls, open out the way for us, and, above all, intoxicate us with your Love! Make us into blazing fires to kindle the earth with the heavenly fire you brought us.
Taken from: the Forge, Chapter 1 #31
I shall grab this bead
and say a psalter,
a prayer, with my mother
I shall grab this bead,
this little counter,
this little object, so full
of divine potential
I shall count the times
with this little bead,
and I shall mark
the passing seasons
I shall witness passiontide
the Stations, and Lent
I shall grab this little bead,
insignificant, supremely significant
and hold it
I shall pray with my Mommy
for she wears stars in her hair
and has sought me from the corners
that I might join her in her prayers
I shall grab this bead
and my soul will magnify the Lord
for the works he has done
for the raising of the Lowest one
I shall grab this bead, and pray for mercy
mercy from the Lowly Son
Who’s Loving blood shall flow to me
and be my drink at Calvary
I shall grasp this calling bead,
and join the conversation
I shall hold this prayer bead
and become grasped by illumination
I will grasp another bead,
holding on for dear life
knowing that the calling comes
but not without a price
I shall seek the Defender of the weak
by counting with my Mother
and we shall weep great tears,
in the arms of the Sustainer
My Mother and I shall have spoken for the world
joining with your lowly son, and all the ills
saying with great gratitude
be it done unto me according to your will
And then we shall lift up our voice
with all our sisters and our brothers
as we rejoice in Family, One Father, One Spirit
One Messiah and One Mother
I originally penned this in September of last year, i thought it appropriate.
In these times of violence and brutal, savage sexuality, we have to be rebels: we refuse point blank to go with the tide, and become beasts
We want to behave like children of God, like men and women who are on intimate terms with their Father, who is in Heaven and who wants to be very close to — inside! — each one of us
On May 1, 2011, some 1.5 million pilgrims, fans and other religious and faithful stood waiting eagerly in Rome as the late Pope John Paul II was advanced one step closer to sainthood. I wish I could have been there, since Pope John Paul II has had such a profound impact on my life. However, I was glad to know that it happened, and that the faithful can add to their repertoire another modern saint, another guidepost to the way of Jesus Christ. The Los Angeles Times wrote a great article on the matter.
I read some liberal blogs from secularists who feel Pope John Paul II failed to defend the innocent from sexual abuse during his pontificate. I’m not going to debate all that today, I’ll deal with that fallout in the coming weeks, as I find the time and the energy to respond to the wolves, and some faithful and the concerned and confused.
When we talk about heroic virtue, and the power of God in the 20th century, two names come to mind, as they should: Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II. The former, a doubt ridden depressed nun, the latter a charismatic leader a man of the people, a pilgrim and a friend to all. Both are saints.
Some hushed tones and some outright definaces have broken out over this Pope’s beatification and namely for three reasons: Some say he did not punish vehemence and liturgical scandal enough, others say he promoted a pluralism of religions, and finally others complain about the “declines” in Catholic life and culture since his pontificate.
I’d like to say this briefly in response: Beatification requires two things: a miracle, which here is a matter for medical doctors and scientists and a life of heroic virtue. Some claim that this heroic virtue was not universal in John Paul’s life as saints require. However, a man who brought communism to its knees, saw a revitalization of Catholic life and culture and added over a million new faithful to the fold, as well as the enduring legacy of conversions influenced by this pope and his ministry seem heroic enough to me, besides the man’s personal saintliness. The devotions, the spiritual guidance, the mental and moral integrity that pour forth from his words are gracious and sweet, and consoling in a world devoid of hope.
I too, as an atheist agreed with the cries of Santo Subito, which poured out in Rome not too many years ago. I feel as if this is a momentous day for many reasons, and I stand by the current Pope’s decision to beatify Pope John Paul II.
When Pope John Paul II ascended to the chair of St. Peter, he brought with him a strong heart, and the courage of a love which faced some of the gravest sins of our time with clarity of intent and charity in practice. Pope John Paul II leaves us a legacy of love, and the courage to remember that “We are the Easter People, and Halelujah is our song.”
Blessed Pope John Paul II, shepherd of God’s flock, pray for us, that we might be safe from the wolves which encroach even now, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Here is Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at the beatification Mass for his predecessor:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering.
Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!
I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who on this happy occasion have come in such great numbers to Rome from all over the world – cardinals, patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, brother bishops and priests, official delegations, ambassadors and civil authorities, consecrated men and women and lay faithful, and I extend that greeting to all those who join us by radio and television.
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (Jn 20:29). In today’s Gospel Jesus proclaims this beatitude: the beatitude of faith. For us, it is particularly striking because we are gathered to celebrate a beatification, but even more so because today the one proclaimed blessed is a Pope, a Successor of Peter, one who was called to confirm his brethren in the faith. John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith. We think at once of another beatitude: ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven’ (Mt 16:17). What did our heavenly Father reveal to Simon? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of this faith, Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus can build his Church. The eternal beatitude of John Paul II, which today the Church rejoices to proclaim, is wholly contained in these sayings of Jesus: ‘Blessed are you, Simon’ and ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!’ It is the beatitude of faith, which John Paul II also received as a gift from God the Father for the building up of Christ’s Church.
Our thoughts turn to yet another beatitude, one which appears in the Gospel before all others. It is the beatitude of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary, who had just conceived Jesus, was told by Saint Elizabeth: ‘Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord’ (Lk 1:45). The beatitude of faith has its model in Mary, and all of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary, beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter. Mary does not appear in the accounts of Christ’s resurrection, yet hers is, as it were, a continual, hidden presence: she is the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community. In particular we can see how Saint John and Saint Luke record the powerful, maternal presence of Mary in the passages preceding those read in today’s Gospel and first reading. In the account of Jesus’ death, Mary appears at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25), and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles she is seen in the midst of the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14).
Today’s second reading also speaks to us of faith. St. Peter himself, filled with spiritual enthusiasm, points out to the newly-baptized the reason for their hope and their joy. I like to think how in this passage, at the beginning of his First Letter, Peter does not use language of exhortation; instead, he states a fact. He writes: ‘you rejoice’, and he adds: ‘you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls’ (1 Pt 1:6, 8-9). All these verbs are in the indicative, because a new reality has come about in Christ’s resurrection, a reality to which faith opens the door. ‘This is the Lord’s doing’, says the Psalm (Ps 118:23), and ‘it is marvelous in our eyes’, the eyes of faith.
Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasizing the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. All of us, as members of the people of God – bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious – are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church. Karol Wojtyla took part in the Second Vatican Council, first as an auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Krakow. He was fully aware that the Council’s decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church. This was the theological vision which Blessed John Paul II discovered as a young man and subsequently maintained and deepened throughout his life. A vision which is expressed in the scriptural image of the crucified Christ with Mary, his Mother, at his side. This icon from the Gospel of John (19:25-27) was taken up in the episcopal and later the papal coat-of-arms of Karol Wojtyla: a golden cross with the letter ‘M’ on the lower right and the motto ‘Totus tuus’, drawn from the well-known words of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in which Karol Wojtyla found a guiding light for his life: ‘Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria – I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart’ (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 266).
In his Testament, the new Blessed wrote: ‘When, on 16 October 1978, the Conclave of Cardinals chose John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, said to me: “The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium”‘. And the Pope added: ‘I would like once again to express my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, to which, together with the whole Church – and especially with the whole episcopate – I feel indebted. I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us. As a Bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice. For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate’. And what is this ’cause’? It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Square in the unforgettable words: ‘Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!’ What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all the others.
When Karol Wojtyla ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its ‘helmsman’, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call ‘the threshold of hope’. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an ‘Advent’ spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.
Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a ‘rock’, as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Eucharist.
Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. How many time you blessed us from this very square. Holy Father, bless us again from that window. Amen.”
I know that here at the Practical Catholic we talk a lot about the existential and spiritual value of suffering. But today, I want to flip the coin, a lot like Jurgen Moltmann whose own Theology of the Crucified God was the opposite side of the Theology of Hope, so too, my own heavy emphasis on suffering could use mediation, clarification and a dash of joy.
I am not a dour, harsh or extremely pious saintly man. Suffering has always made sense to me. I have learned that in accepting suffering with maturity we find redemption.
Pope Benedict said something once that indicates well where I have been journeying theologically and so I offer it here:
It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.— Pope Benedict XVI ( Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi)
However, note how the Holy Father says this acceptance asks us to transcend a limited perspective and see where we might find a wellspring of joy in the midst of trial. It is our arduous, daring and joyful task to create meaning in the midst silence. For the scriptures tell us, the saints testify, that Christ is our peace and our joy in the midst of suffering.
So, we turn once again to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and to his wisdom.
The Holy Spirit gives us joy. And he is joy. Joy is the gift in which all the othe gifts are included. It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with ourselves, that which can only come from being in harmony with God and with his creation. It belongs to the nature of joy to be radiant; it must communicate tself. The missionary spirit of the Church is none other than the impulse to communicate the joy which has been given. -Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, 2008
Remembering this, we can be confident that this radiant joy, the joy of Anna, of Symeon, of Mother Mary and Paul and Peter and John, of Jesus Himself is itself an act of solidarity. Their rejoicing, the rejoicing of the saints is not removed from the sinful reality of the widespread human condition. It is in fact an act of faith taking place in the midst of sin’s chaotic order. Joy is a re-orientation of the human towards life in the midst of death. It is an act that communicates God to His people through Divine illumination in the life-giving Spirit of the Lord Who is Life and Love Himself.
Let us not be afraid of Joy, let us not be timid in the face of the unbridled, scandalous pleasure that God brings to a broken world.
Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rarer. Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak. When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer. I don’t have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice.
I can understand that. There is a moral attitude at work here. But this attitude is nonetheless wrong.
The loss of joy does not make the world better – and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus and courage to do good.
Joy, then, does not break with solidarity. When it is the right kind of joy, when it is not egotistic, when it comes from the perception of the good then it wants to communicate itself, and it gets passed on. In this connection, it always strikes me that in the poor neighborhoods of say, South America, one sees many more laughing happy people than among us. Obviously, despite all their misery, they still have the perception of the good to which they cling and in which they can find encouragement and strength.
In this sense we have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately only faith can give. That the world is basically good that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and to be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too can rejoice and receive good news.
All I can say is: Amen. I know I need to remember to trust that the world is basically good, and that Creation is en route to redemption. I know I need to remember that joy too is a form of solidarity. I think we could all use that.
Lord, you alone dwell in unapproachable light, and to thee we ascribe Glory.
In the Name of the Father, Who created me, with the Son who liberated me, in the Holy Spirit who renews life over the face of Creation. Amen.
Lord, hear our prayer:
That we might find courage on the pilgrim path, we pray. For those who find their decisions clouded, grant your guiding light.
Lord, for those Who face life and death, we pray You show your mercy. For the weak and theweary, hear our prayer.
For the clergy and religious, that you may draw them deeper into your infinite love, and that we too like them may forsake all that comes before You.
For you are the life which is the Light of men, and we rejoice in having found you. For while we were without you we had darkness, but you O Lord, have made our eye good, and filled our body full of Light.
Give us thy holy light, that we too might be in and through thine all good and Penetecostal Spirit the life of men insofar as we embody you and forsake all else that has come before. We humbly pray.
In the Name of the Father, the source and wellspring of Love. The Son, the eternal Beloved, and the Holy Spirit, the bond of love stronger than Death, we pray. Amen.
I have been thinking a lot about Christian perfection and I have to agree with Nikodomos of the Holy Mountain. We must always beware that we do not confuse the methodology of holiness with holiness itself.
There are many who say that the perfection of Christian life consists in fasts, vigils, genuflexions, sleeping on bare earth and other similar austerities of the body.
Others say that it consists in saying many prayers at home and in attending long services in church. And there are others who think that our perfection consists entirely in menta prayer, solitude, seclusion and silence. But the majority limit perfection to a strict observance of all the rules and practices laid down by the statutes, falling into no excess or deficiency, but preserving a golden moderation.
Yet all these virtues do not by themselves constitute the Christian perfection we are seeking, but are only a means and a method for acquiring it.
You must learn that perfection consists in nothing but coming near to God and union with Him, as was said in the beginning. With this is connected a heartfelt realization of the goodness and greatness of God, together with the consciousness of our own nothingness and our proneness to every evil…This is the law of love, inscribed by the finger of God Himself in the hearts of His true servants!
This is the renunciation of ourselves that God demands of us! This is the blessed yoke of Jesus Christ and His burden that is light! This is the submission to God’s will, which our Redeemer and Teacher demands from us both by His word and by His example
Amen. Perfection is not in rote memorization or rote actions, it is not duty-based but love based. An ethic of love requires constant and immediate attention. We must love our neighbor, and even our enemies, this is the way of perfection.
As we pursue Christ in our various spiritual traditions, in our multifarious schools of perfection, let us remember that many prayers and great fasts are the means, not the ends.
That’s all from the Practical Catholic today. Thanks for reading.
I very much wish I had stopped to take pictures tonight. I had a wonderful evening, and to come clean: I did not enter the Church tonight. I thought to, I wanted to, but in the end, I am glad I decided to wait. I’m exploring still, and I’m young and the whole wide world is before me.
I journey with an open heart and a curious mind, and love and support my friends who made it all the way.
My reasons for not entering are more circumstantial than anything and it truly was my desire to go through with conversion. However, my life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and surprises, and this was one of them.
However, Chirst is Risen! Indeed He is risen!
And that meant two things for this wandering and practically Catholic ex-protestant: Easter Vigil, and Pascha with the Orthodox.
Easter vigil is a really solemn and thoughtful rite. I went to a latin mass for it, and it was long, but rewarding. The liturgy was intense, and the litanies were heavy to bear. But having brushed up on my Latin, I found the whole experience rewarding, and I understood a great deal more than I expected to.
The candles and other sacramentals were great, the blessing of the fire and the darkness of the church was also wonderful. I did feel a bit like Harry Potter enter Hogwarts wince the church had a full processional into the sanctuary by candlelight in a dark sanctuary. The ladies were also wearing vintage hats which made the whole experience that much more interesting and memorable.
Then, after the kneeling, the prayers and the litanies were said and done, we rushed south to join the Orthodox for their Pascha service.
The service was beautiful, and since it was my first time in an Orthodox Church I was absolutely enthralled by the entire setup, the standing and the plethora of icons. The ikonostasis was gorgeous, and the whole thing was an experience full of light.
I loved everything about the liturgy, and the fellowship.
The feasting after the liturgy was also wonderful. The people celebrated Christ and their fasts and everything else with excitement and vigor, with triumphant shouts of “Christ is Risen!” With the response “He is risen indeed!”
Christ is risen, and while I didn’t get to eat Jesus, and I very much wish I had, I got to be with friends, much Like Frodo, before he leaves the Shire. I felt myself in good company all night, and when we are with the body of Christ, that’s what’s important.
I cannot wait for the day when I fully share in Holy Communion, but I’m glad that day was not today. I have time, and I will continue faithfully pursuing the Good, The True and the Beautiful, until such a time as they shall have claimed me for themselves.
Thank you for journeying with me, and if I have disappointed some of my readers, I apologize. It’s been a good time, and I intend to keep blogging here at the Practical Catholic, since, well, I’m practically Catholic. Feel free to drop in, leave comments, whatever, as usual.
I’ll keep you guys posted on changes as they come. Thanks for all the love, all the comments and al the support. Christ is Risen! And that’s what matters in the end.
Christianity is Scandalous, and this week almost more than any other in the entire year. The media loves publishing news on scandals, on faithlessness, on how the historical jesus was a magician, or a prophet, or just some guy.
Yet, the perverse and intolerable scandal is not in these soundbytes and snippets of misinformation. The real scandal is that flesh and blood matter. The true scandal is that Christians believe in reincarnation, but into themselves more fully alive.
The Christian message of hope that we shall all be raised as we are, with bodies, with life flowing in every action, that’s the real scandal to a world drunk with gnosticism. That God crucified stands in the gap and gives us his life, as we finally and fully offer Him the possibility of death, this is what’s scandalous.
So we turn to the Church Fathers, to see historically where the Resurrection became so entrenched with this business of bodies and a resurrection.
St. Irenaeus, a Church Father from about 100 years after St. John the Apostle offers us some insight. From the earliest Christianity, life has always mattered, what we do here and now has been irreducibly important, that’s the real scandal.
That this creation is made to receive God, to be filled with Him, to be overflowing in His love and light, that’s the scandalous message that the God of the Hebrews makes known to the entire world in His act of suffering.
If our flesh is not saved, then the Lord has not redeemed us with his blood, the eucharistic chalice does not make us sharers in his blood, and the bread we break does not make us sharers in his body.
There can be no blood without veins, flesh and the rest of the human substance and this the Word of God actually became: it was with his own blood that he redeemed us.
As the Apostle says: In him, through his blood, we have been redeemed, our sins have been forgiven.
We are his members and we are nourished by creatures, which is his gift to us, for it is he who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall.
He declared that the chalice, which comes from his creation, was his blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood.
He affirmed that the bread, which comes from his creation, was his body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body.
When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the word of God, the eucharistic elements become the body and blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow.
How then can it be said that flesh belonging to the Lord’s own body and nourished by his body and blood is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life?
Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians that we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. He is not speaking of some spiritual and incorporeal kind of man, for spirits do not have flesh and bones.
He is speaking of a real human body composed of flesh, sinews and bones nourished by the chalice of Christ’s blood and receiving growth from the bread which is his body.
The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things.
The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s word they become the eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ.
In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father.
Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness.
-Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 5,2, 2-3: SC 153 30-38) (from the Office of Readings for Thursday of the Third week of Easter)
It is my conclusion that the most scandalous thing about Christianity is not the news hype, or the surface things that people draw attention to, but the deeper core. The Christianity calls all people to take responsibility for their actions, for reality, and to recognize that God enters history as a character within history is the real scandal. That God enters into history as man, and entrenches Himself with us, to redeem us, the make us as He is. That’s what should be causing headlines.
Today at the Practical Catholic, we’ll be looking with Pope Benedict at the erosion happening in societies across the world and what Christians can do in response. So here we have a few Pope Benedict XVI quotes from various sources to help us along the way.
The Holy Father says:
If we cannot have common values, common truths, sufficient communication on the essentials of human life–how to live how to respond to the great challenges of human life–then true society becomes impossible.
How true this is. Where there is no communication, no culture, no shared experience, there is no society; because there is no people. There remains only a vast and foreboding, unforgiving sea of individuals ready to crash upon each other and the world with the slightest wind. Without a common basis, we have not the vaulted pluralism we’re taught to embrace, but Babel, in all the confusion and madness of a society with no binding forces. Already we are seeing the tensions of this fragmentation breaking out across cultures.
Without common values and truths, such as in the socieites we find ourselves in, we find the fabric of society torn like Joseph’s cloak, by a great many tribes which would like to lay claim to the title of favored. Leftists, conservatives, anarchists, nihilists, secularists, objectivists, the shallow, the entertainers, the entertained, all vying for control against each other. Tribalism can indeed spawn differentiation, but without some common ground, and in the face of increasing jargon not only in the academies but in the cultures; we shall be left with madness. In the end this tribalism can only result in the decline of all their claims, and the alienation of one from the other. Babel is the happenstance when society tries to become God.
Pope Benedict XVI goes on to say:
We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires. The church must defend itself against threats such as “radical individualism” and “vague religious mysticism”. [emphasis added]
Pope Benedict does not play language games, he is unconcerned with the postmodernist’s corner on untruth. Neither should we be. Notice how he calls relativism a “dictatorship” instead of agreeing that no values and no Truth are the way forward for society. What many fail to recognize is that imposing nihilism and arbitrary tribalism is a form of dictatorship. Where untruth or half truth is the common order, there can only be oppression. Political correctness has asked us to abandon our value-laden language and to pick up a new language proper to the secular forum. However, this secular newspeak is value-laden against the traditional claims of the Western world and as such, is a poison rather than a new order. We can and should bring our own conviction laden language to the table, if we’re going to have any sort of real dialogue at all. Misinformation and restrained convictions are not the proper building blocks for a democracy. The Holy Father offers us a visions of the State according to our Catholic heritage:
The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern.
We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need.
The Church is one of those living forces.
The State is incapable of providing everything, as it should be. America is not God. It cannot provide our financial or societal security forever. It cannot even do that today. Recent economic woes prove this to many, if not all of us. Perhaps these economic straits might detach some American from unnecessary levels of patriotism and return them to the Church. As Pope Benedict says, “Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes not divine, but demonic.”
Let’s bear that in mind, as we approach issues of social justice, Truth, and society. Because, it is not politics that binds us all together, nor even culture, it is Christ. The Church is the institution which binds up culture, God and man, and encapsulates their various energies into a life-giving force for the betterment of the world. Where socieities make room for Christ and His Church, they too shall be recognized, and He shall make room for them.
This is the Holy Father’s final verdict on Truth’s relation to the Christian life:
Let us say it once again: the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity. Yet this capacity to suffer depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon.
Christians, faithful flock of the risen Lord: Be not afraid! Defend Truth in Love, and fear not the wolves that have been sent among you. We live in dark days, but we have hope, hope that our suffering is not in vain, hope that God is with us, and a firm faith that Love is True. Be Hopeful, through the virtue of patience, and await the redemption of all things. Keep your eyes fixed on that, as you enter into your daily lives. Be unshaken in the midst of trial. Be saints.
Lord, we are glad to find ourselves in your wounded palm. Grasp us tight, squeeze us hard make us lose all our earthly wretchedness, purify us, set us on fire, make us feel drenched in your Blood
—And then, cast us far, far away, hungry for the harvest, to sow the seed more fruitfully each day for Love of you
This is truly the prayer of a lover. Hans Urs Von Balthsar said “lovers know the most about God,” and he was right. Notice the absence of selfishness and the purity of intent that emanate from these words.
He asks to be brought close, to be drenched in the most precious blood, but only then to be cast out into the harvest as a worker. May we all be so bold and so daring as to join these prayers both in word and deed. Then we shall be practical, Catholic.
Sometimes we hear love described (you’ll have heard me mention this more than once) as if it were a movement towards self—satisfaction, or merely a means of selfishly fulfilling one’s own personality
—And I have always told you that it isn’t so. True love demands getting out of oneself, giving oneself. Genuine love brings joy in its wake, a joy that has its roots in the shape of the Cross.
This is the Heart of Christian doctrine on love, that it calls us not to selflessness or selfishness, but a controlled, intentional and thoughtful self-emptying. To share in the Divine Life is to have discovered this self-emptying and to have found the joy in it. Let us bey joyful in the cross, and have our joy knit to us tightly always in the shape of the cross.
We are children of God. —Bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed
—The Lord uses us as torches, to make that light shine out… It depends on us that many should not remain in darkness, but walk instead along paths that lead to eternal life
The quote speaks for itself.
We’re in Holy Week, and I wish you all the greeting of Peace from God Our Father and Jesus Christ Our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Here at the Practical Catholic, I am having a wonderful time preparing to celebrate the most sorrowful death and the glorious resurrection of Our Lord.
In St. Maximus, be aware of the word passions, which in the entire Eastern Tradition means: The emotions that control you. Things like sexual desire, anger, envy, desire for material wealth, rejection, fear and some types of love. These emotions are always attempting to assert their control over the human person.
Passions are at their heart expressions of ego-centered behaviors and thoughts that separate the person from Christ-likeness. Passions can be rewritten for good, and so St. Maximus here encourages us to do that very thing by means of practicing graciousness to overcome rejection.
If you bear a grudge against anyone, pray for him and you will stop the passion in its tracks. By prayer you separate the hurt from the memory of the evil which he did you and in becoming loving and kind you completely obliterate passion from the soul. On the other hand, if someone else bears you a grudge, be generous and humble with him, treat him fairly, and you will deliver him from the passion
*This selection is from “Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings” translated by George C. Berthold