May 8, 2012

Spicy Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Spicy Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

How is that for a long name for a recipe? I couldn’t figure out which adjective was the most important, so I just included them all. I think my favorite part is the fact that its spicy.

It’s been awhile since I posted in this blog, though now that the school semester is wrapping up, I will have all summer to post again. Boom!

I know this has nothing to do with Catholic stuff, but I was playing around with my own concoction and I was surprised it turned out great. So I had to go ahead and blog just so that I could document it.

So here goes:

–1 28oz can diced tomatoes
–2 14oz cans chicken broth
– 1 tsp dry basil
–a dash or two of red pepper
–1 tbs garlic powder
– 1 tsp black pepper
–1 tsp salt
–1/2 cup milk
–1/4 cup flour

Its easy. I just poured the chicken broth and can of tomatoes in a pot and spiced it with the basil, red pepper, and garlic powder. I let it boil, then reduced to low heat, covered it, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

In a separate bowl I mixed milk, flour, salt and pepper. I whisked it until it was smooth, and then stirred into the soup. I let it boil again for about 2-3 minutes.

Spicy, Creamy, Chunky, deliciousness.

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August 2, 2011

Interested in Becoming Catholic, or Simply Learning more about the Church with no Strings Attached? RCIA is for you!

I just wanted to take a minute to let anyone who might be interested know that RCIA is approaching at Catholic Churches all over the country, and to open an invitation to anyone who would like to participate. RCIA runs from September until Easter, and serves several purposes: becoming Catholic if you are not, simply becoming more educated about the Catholic Church (no strings attached), and refreshing your faith if you are already a Catholic.

The most well-known and most used purpose is for people who aren’t Catholic, whether they have never been Christian or whether they are part of another form of Christianity and would like to come into full communion with the Church. RCIA stands for “Rite of Christian Initiation as Adults”, and has been around since the pre-reformation days in which the Catholic Church was the only Christian Church (which is why it stands for “Christian” rather than “Catholic” initiation, even though many people who go through the program are already Christians). However, over the years its purpose has expanded. RCIA is also there to serve those who simply want to learn more about the Catholic Church for their own educational gain. In other words, signing up for RCIA does not commit you to join the Church. You can simply sign up to hear the lectures, have all your questions about the Church answered, and hear firsthand, from priests and others educated in the Church,` what the Church actually believes, giving you a perspective that is different from the misconceptions about the Church that you may hear elsewhere. Also, if you are already Catholic and feel like you need to be refreshed on what you have already learned, you are encouraged to sign up for RCIA to gain a deeper and renewed understanding of your faith.

RCIA is something that I have been a part of at my parish, St. Charles in Nederland, for three years now. I first went through RCIA in 2008-2009 as a “candidate” (an already baptized Christian who is looking to come into full communion with the Church), and it was a wonderful experience. I learned so much, met and fellowshipped with other Christians,  made new friends, and through all this grew closer to God. In the two years after that, I have been a part of RCIA as a sponsor, which is someone who helps others out with their questions about the Church and walks alongside those who are making a decision to become Catholic. I absolutely love it and I plan to be a part of RCIA again this year.

Therefore, if you are interested in RCIA for any reason, whether you want to become Catholic, simply want to learn more about Church Teachings with with no strings attached, or want to refresh your Catholic faith, please let me know by messaging me on facebook or commenting here. RCIA at St. Charles in Nederland meets every Thursday night, starting in September, from 7 to 8:30pm. Food and snacks are provided, as participants alternate bringing food to share, and you will certainly meet new Christians, make new friends, and have a lot of fun, as there is always a great turnout.

So think and pray on it, and otherwise have a blessed week! 🙂

 

P.S. If you are reading this and you do not live in the Southeast Texas area, every Catholic Church has an RCIA program at the same time of the year, so simply contact your local parishes to find out which one has the best and most recommended program.

June 29, 2011

Praying to Saints–A Powerful Form of Intercessory Prayer

It has been awhile since I made a post, due to time constraints, but this blog has not been far from my mind! I still have so much that I feel I need to cover and so many misconceptions I would like to clear up, and tonight I think I’m going to pick up with the issue on praying to saints.

It’s no secret to anyone that Catholics pray to the saints (in other words, Christians who are in Heaven)…and this is true! What is untrue, however, is that this means Catholics worship the saints. The word “pray” is not synonymous with “worship”. Pray, by the original definition, means “to ask earnestly”. Ever heard that old fashioned saying “Pray tell me…”? That phrase, utilizing the word “pray”, is a form of asking. Therefore, simply saying that Catholics pray to the saints does not in any way imply worship.

Worship is for God and God alone…all three parts of Him. The Chatechism of the Catholic Church (which is basically a giant document that covers the Church’s belief and theology on everything pertaining to God, Scripture, Tradition, and life) will tell you that the Chruch’s official belief is that, again, Worship is ONLY for God. The Catholic Church does not condone the worship of anyone other than our one God. (I apologize not for redundancy…I felt that that fact bares repeating).

If Catholics don’t worship the saints, then what are they doing praying to them??

Let me ask you, whoever “you” reading this may be, a simple question. If you are going through a rough time, and could really use some prayer, what is the first thing you do, after (or perhaps before) praying to God yourself? I assume that most of you would say that you go to your best friend, family member, or fellow member of your congregation, and ask them to pray for you. But why…why would you ask someone else to pray for you, when you have a direct connection to God? Why not just pray to Him yourself…it’s YOU he wants to hear from, and there is no mediator between God and man besides Christ, right?

You ask a fellow Christian to pray for you in times of need because two praying hearts are better than one! Especially if the person you came to is someone you trust as a strong Christian and a mighty prayer warrior.

This is why Catholics pray to saints.

The saints are simply Christians who are in Heaven. As Christians, we are one family, despite our current place in our spiritual journey (still enduring here on Earth, or experiencing eternal life in Heaven). Therefore, the saints, just like the Christians here on Earth, are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are at the foot of God’s throne, worshiping Him for all eternity and serving as prayer warriors for those of us enduring the hardships that life on Earth brings. So just like you can ask your best friend or pastor to lift you up in prayer and intercede on your behalf, you are also provided with heavenly prayer partners to do the same.

Personally, when I am struggling with something, I first spend some quiet time with God myself. Then, I may go recruit those I trust to pray for me as well. I’ll ask my husband or my best friend to pray for me, as well as a saint in Heaven. Because prayer is powerful, and in tough times, I need all the prayer I can get!

 

“For when two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them” –Jesus Christ; Matthew 18:20

May 27, 2011

Not a God of Disorder

I Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace…”

This one verse is not much, but it when I read it, it confirms what I already knew in my heart about God. In a world full of turmoil and confusion, God is a refuge from this, as He is a God of order. This knowledge of God reaffirms my belief that Christ would not merely ascend back into Heaven without establishing an official Church, teaching office, and an ordained leader. He would not go back into Heaven without forming an office that would continue after the apostle’s death…a succession, so that His Church may remain consistent. A God of disorder and confusion might do such a thing as to leave us without an established Church, but that is not our God. And He certainly would not have left us with a only book, even thought it is a Divinely Inspired book, as our only source of the Truth. In His time period, that would have been the most disorderly thing He could have done. Books were few and far between and only the wealthiest owned them. It wouldn’t be for another 1700 years before the common man, whom Jesus died for, would have not only access to books, but the ability to read.

But our God, a God of order, had a plan to make sure that we would have a Church with orderly leadership and consistent Teachings. He sent His Holy Spirit over the Church to guide it, so that as an institution it would be divinely inspired. Yes, at times the leaders of the church would sin and do ungodly things while in ministry, but because of the Holy Spirit, this would not affect the infallibility of the oral Church Teachings, just as the sins committed by the writer’s of the Bible do not affect it’s infallibility. Jesus made it so that years later we would not have to debate on what He meant on various issues, for He provided for us the Truth through His Church.

When man broke away from this Church, this is when disorder and confusion occurred. It opened the can of worms for people to begin interpreting Scripture and Church Teachings their own way, and forming churches based on this personal, subjective interpretation. Christ had already spoken His Truths to His first apostles and ordained them as leaders of His Church. He sent His Holy Spirit to guide it so that what Jesus spoke to the apostles would be orally passed down over the years and these spoken words would be the divinely inspired Word of God (a divinely inspired game of telephone, if you will).

But in the reformation when man rejected this Church and decided to break away, he stepped outside of this divine guidance. Although the Holy Spirit is still very much present in the hearts of those who followed the separation and the Holy Spirit is present in all Christian churches (as the Catholic Church teaches), the God given promise of consistent, infallible interpretations and teachings is not guaranteed. This is why churches today are still being broken apart and new denominations are still being created due to theological disagreements, yet the original Church Jesus founded has been, theologically, the same since He handed the “keys” to Peter.

I wanted to share this with you all, but tonight I’m going to keep my post short and sweet, as I have a list of things I am hoping to accomplish this evening.  Good night and peace! 🙂

May 23, 2011

The Church Didn’t Come from the Bible…The Bible Came from the Church

Here is a concise time line of the history of the Bible, which may prove to be informative and helpful! 🙂

AD 33: Christ establishes His Church in the days before ascending back into Heaven, (Matthew 16:18,19), therefore not leaving His flock untended and fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 22:21-23.

AD 33: God sends His Holy Spirit over the Church on the day of Pentecost, so that it may be divinely guided, and the Teachings will not waver.

AD 51-121: The New Testament books are in the process of being written over the course of these years, as well as other early Christian writings that did not make it into the New Testament canon: the Didache (AD 70), 1 Clement (96), the Epistle of Barnabas (100), and the 7 letters of St. Ignatius to Antioch (107). Although the works are not the inspired Word of God, they can be used as historical documents through which we can see what Christianity was like during this time.

AD 67: Peter, the first bishop of Rome (which later became known as “pope”), was martyred in Rome, as the government did not allow Christianity in the city at that time. Peter is buried there, and his grave can still be viewed by travelers and residents of the city.  Paul was also martyred in Rome this same year.

AD 67:  Linus became the first successor of Peter, the second pope, after Peter’s death. Before Paul’s death, he references Linus in his 2nd letter to Timothy.

AD 140: Marcion, a businessman in Rome, taught that there were two Gods:
Yahweh, the cruel God of the Old Testament, and Abba, the kind father of the New Testament. Marcion eliminated the Old Testament as scriptures and, since he was anti-Semitic, kept from the New Testament only 10 letters of Paul and 2/3 of Luke’s gospel (he deleted references to Jesus’s Jewishness). Marcion’s “New Testament”, the first to be compiled, forced the mainstream Church to decide on a core canon: the four Gospels and Letters of Paul.

AD 367: This is the first time the list of books in the New Testament, as it is today, is decided upon and physically written down, by Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, in one of his letters.

AD 382: Pope Damasus I, reaffirmed the Athanasius’ list, making a list of them himself, in their present number and order.

AD 393: Since nothing bishops decide on is without accountability, the council of Hippo met in this year. The council of Hippo officially reaffirmed the list and order of the New Testament as it is today, first written down nearly thirty years before by the Bishop of Alexandria. It is at this council in this year that the New Testament as we know it today became declared the infallible Word of God, by Christ’s Church, nearly 400 years after Christianity began.

AD 397: At the Council of Carthage, the early Church leaders reaffirmed both the New Testament canon and the Old Testament canon as the infallible Word of God. This includes the 7 books of the Old Testament that modern day Protestants reject. It’s safe to say that this year is the official birth year of the Bible as we know it today.

AD 1536: Over a thousand years later, in his translation from Greek to German, Luther removed seven books from the Old Testament canon. I Maccabees, II Maccabees, Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, and Baruch. His followers supported this, and today Protestants do not recognize these books as the infallible Word of God. Luther then proceeded to place 4 New Testament books, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation in an appendix, claiming they were less than canonical. However, this was quickly shot down, as his followers were not in support of this.

AD 1546: Due to the hoop-lah Luther was causing, the Church met again in the Council of Trent to reaffirm, once and for all, that the 27 books of the New Testament canon, that was spoken by the Church so long ago, was indeed the infallible Word of God.


Most Protestant Christians, when asked, will say that they believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God because they have faith. After all, you can’t say that you Believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God simply because Scripture says so…that’s circular reasoning (if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter that it said it was, right?). I think we can all agree on that. Therefore, by accepting the Bible as the infallible Word of God, you are accepting the infallibility of at least one of the Oral Teachings in the Catholic Church…you believe something that was spoken by the early church Fathers, and has been passed down to you today.

I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God, because I believe in the infallibility of the Teachings of the Church in which Christ formed. The Holy Spirit guides the Church so that even though the men who lead the Church are sinful by nature, the Church itself remains infallible, and they are therefore able to produce the divinely inspired work of the Holy Bible.

Sources/Places to Look for Affirmation:

Over the past few years, I have done much research on the history of the Church, which ultimately lead me to it. I adopted some wording in some of the explanations of dates from this site: http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/timeline_of_how_the_bible_where.ht  In addition, any secular Church history book (I say secular because they are unbiased sources) will confirm the discussions that took place in the 300’s and 400’s at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage.

Here are some additional links:

http://www.ntcanon.org/index.shtml

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm (chronological list of popes)

http://www.ntcanon.org/Athanasius.shtml#Festal_Letter (references the writings of the Bishop of Alexandria, who first comprised the list of the New Testament)

Other writings from Church leaders and people of these times serve as historical documents through which we can see what was happening in the Church, particularly by those who attended these historical councils. (Some of those can be found here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/churchfathers.html). Early writings from those who participated in the Council of Trent show the need to reaffirm the 27 books of the New Testament, as Martin Luther desired to remove 4 of them.

Bibles from pre-Martin Luther days have been preserved in museums across the world, confirming what the Old and New Testament canon comprised of before the 1500’s, in which include the 7 books Protestants reject, proving that Martin Luther later removed them.


May 21, 2011

My Journey to the Catholic Church: Scriptures I Couldn’t Ignore (part 1)

There came a moment in my walk with God, back when I was questioning the reason behind so many denominations and where I fit in all that, in which I asked myself why I believed what I believe. In the past, I simply ignored these scriptures and focused on what I did know, but when God began to reveal to me His Church, there were certain scriptures that I simply could not ignore.

Of course, I have referenced this scripture multiple times in my previous blogs: Matthew 16:18-19 “For I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.”

This verse was pretty much overlooked by myself when I would read my Bible. It didn’t make much sense to me. Once God began to teach me, however, and I truly looked at this verse, it could not be more clear. From everything I know about Jesus, He would not want to ascend back into Heaven without leaving His flock (that’s us, Christians) under someone’s care. He was giving Peter the job to seat in His seat until He returned.

Although Peter was a sinner, He graciously entrusted him to look over His Church and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit make decisions on His behalf, so that Christ’s people may grow and be happy as follower’s. Think about a mother of a young child who has to go to work during the day: she may entrust her child under someone else’s care until she returns. The person who is caring for the child will then follow the mother’s instructions in caring for her child, and if something comes up that the mother did not specify in her instructions, she will make a decision on the mother’s behalf. However, the caregiver is not the mother of the child. In the same way Peter and the modern day pope and bishops are not God, but in Christ’s absence they have the responsibility to guide us and the authority to make decisions on issues that arise over the years, on behalf of Christ and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit over the Church (remember the second part of the verse: “whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven”)

If I was still skeptical, the prophetic Old Testament scripture that directly mirrors Matthew’s words appears in Isaiah 22:21,22:  I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the House of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

I have always known that the “Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed”, as they say. Much of the words of the New Testament come directly from Old Testament prophecies, and the act of Jesus forming His Church and creating a teaching office and authority is one of them. Notice that in both the Isaiah prophecy and the Matthew recollection, the words “keys” are used. In this time period, “keys” were given to the prime minister when he took office (that is what is happening in Isaiah). Jesus was not handing Peter a literal set of keys, but signifying that He was establishing an actual office, not just a role that was to end when Peter died.

Another Scripture that MAJORLY stood out to me was Matthew 23:2,3: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. (words of Christ)

A lot of people, myself included at this time in my life, find it hard to believe that the Church that Jesus established can be infallible, because over the years many of the leaders have made grave mistakes. It’s true, many of the leaders of the Church have done ungodly things. One century old example is the selling of indulgences, which was the product of some parish priests and their greed. At this time, there was no media as there is today and it may have taken weeks or even months for the local bishop to get wind of what was going on and take action against the priests, which explains why it seemed to have been condoned. A modern day example is the scandals of priests who have committed molestation. Please understand: neither of these issues are condoned by the Church or a part of Church teaching. These were mistakes made by men. Jesus did not promise that the men themselves would be perfect: indeed, they are sinners just like you and me. Jesus promised that the Teachings of God spoken through the Church, and the Church’s role of sitting in the seat of Christ, would be infallible.  This is the same concept as the fact that the writer’s of the books of the Bible made mistakes, that were just as sinful as the aforementioned mistakes committed by church leaders, but that does not make the Bible any less infallible.

However, just as the pharisees sat in the seat of Moses in the Old Covenant, here in the New Covenant the Church that Christ established, and the teaching office that guides it, sits in the seat of Christ. And just as Christ commanded the Jews to follow the teachings of the Pharisees (just to not follow them in the sinful acts they committed, which were not the teachings of God, or claimed to be), in the same way we as followers of Christ are supposed to respect and follow the guidance and leadership of the God ordained leaders of the Church which sits in the seat of Christ.

One major point of contention Martin Luther had with the Church when he initiated the reformation was the selling of indulgences, which, as mentioned before, were mistakes made by men and not condoned or taught in Church Teachings. I think if Martin Luther and the other leaders of the Reformation would have meditated on this verse and spent more time in prayer about what Jesus meant when He said this, they may have rethought their decision to separate from the Church and create imminent division, which would continue for centuries after his death. Jesus’ words in Scripture were meant to speak to us today. I believe that Jesus’ words to the Jews about obeying the Pharisees who sit in the seat of Moses was also meant for Martin Luther and the father’s of the Reformation.

I’m going to pause here for now. I have several other Scriptures that I’d like to share what God has showed me through them, but I don’t want one post to be too terribly long, so they will come later.

Of course, anyone can take one scripture and interpret it to mean whatever they want it to mean (that is why there are so many different Christian sects), and this fact strengthened my faith in Christ’s Church even more. Christ established a teaching office on Earth and sent His Holy Spirit over it so that what His words would remain consistent. When I realized this, I chose to reject man’s numerous interpretations of Scripture and only believe God’s own interpretation of scripture, which He allowed to be spoken through His Church over three centuries before the New Testament canon was even finalized.

May 12, 2011

Where in the Bible does it say that everything has to be in the Bible?

When questioning beliefs of the Church, the one thing people always go back to is “Where is that in the Bible?” While all of the Teachings and Traditions of the Church coincide with principles and references in the Bible, not every Teaching or Tradition is specifically mentioned in the Bible in a clear cut, direct manner. When people cannot find a scripture that directly references a Catholic belief, their immediate response is, “Where is that in the Bible?”

A few years back, when I was anti-all-things Catholic, due to lack of knowledge, I asked this question often. Then one day, I got an answer that made me think: “Well, where in the Bible does it say that everything has to be in the Bible?”

As I thought on this comment, I began to find that not only does it never say in the Bible that everything related to Christ and His Teachings has to be in the Bible, but in fact the exact opposite is stated:

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15

St. Paul is referencing two mediums to knowing Jesus’ truth: the letter, which is the many letters that he himself and the other apostles wrote that later came to make up a huge portion of the New Testament canon (in layman’s terms: scripture), and word of mouth, also known as oral tradition.

Let me pause here to clarify: The Bible is the Holy, infallible Word of God, and the Church teaches this. Scripture is very important. However, the Church teaches that Scripture is not the only source of infallibility Christ gave to us. The oral Teachings of the Church, passed down from Jesus to the first apostles to their successors today, are also infallible.

The fact of the matter is, everything Jesus said was infallible and every event that happened in relation to Jesus is significant to our faith as Christians. But not all of these things were physically written down.  What was not written down was spoken through the Church. And just as the Bible was physically written by sinful men, yet remains infallible because of the Holy Spirit’s divine guidance, so are the Teachings of the Church considered infallible because of the same phenomenon. Although leaders of the church have sinned and made mistakes along the way, God has promised that the “gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18b), and alas, the oral Teachings of God have remained consistent throughout the years.

There are a couple of prime examples of divinely inspired, oral Teachings of the Church that Protestant denominations also hold. One is the concept of the Holy Trinity (one God, in three parts) No where in Scripture is the word “Trinity” found, and although there are indirect references to the concept, there is not a direct verse that states that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all together make up ONE God. In fact, it wasn’t until approximately 400 years after Christianity began that a council of church leaders met and made this Teaching an official Teaching of the Church. This is an oral Tradition of the Church in which all mainstream Christian denominations subscribe.

Another example is the compilation of the New Testament as it is today. The New Testament and the books in which comprise of it were not agreed upon and made official until the year 395, over three centuries after Christianity began. So, obviously, no where in the Bible does it specifically say Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, etc. etc. etc. are the infallible word of God. Yet, we believe they are, because the Church that Jesus established to sit in His seat in His physical absence, the Church that was being lead by the Holy Spirit, decided that these writings were divinely inspired. Well over a thousand years of this teaching being consistently, orally passed down, all Christians still believe these books make up the Bible and are the infallible Word of God.

We all know that Christianity began when Jesus ascended back into Heaven, very much alive, and sent His Holy Spirit over His Church. But at this point, as mentioned before, there was no Christian Bible as we know it today, nor would there be for over three hundred years. Even after the New Testament was officially decided upon and compiled, ownership of books were few and far between, due to lack of technology at the time. And even after the invention of the printing press, over a thousand years later, most common people did not know how to read, as it was not a priority in those days as it is today.  Therefore, it was simply not practical nor logical for the only source of divine inspiration to come from a book, and Jesus, a product of that time, was well aware of this.

Yet Christianity still persisted. This is because Jesus did not just leave us with a book to guide us, He left us with a Church. He did not just send His Holy Spirit over the writers of the New Testament to proclaim His infallible word, He sent His Holy Spirit over the leaders of the Church, to orally pass down His Teachings from generation to generation, so that this game of telephone might remain divinely inspired, despite the sinful nature of the men who were to proclaim it. And although not all of these Teachings were physically written down, they remain the infallible Word of God.

May 10, 2011

Misconception #3: The Catholic Church Discourages Scripture Meditation

Common misconception states that Catholics do not read the Bible, nor are they encouraged to do so.  On the contrary, the scripture readings for the entire, universal Church are decided upon months in advanced by the God ordained leaders of the Church. Many people feel this takes the Holy Spirit’s guidance out of the equation. However, since the Church sits in the seat of Christ in His physical absence and is being lead by the Holy Spirit as promised, this is not the case. The only thing that is taken out of the equation is spontaneity, and to believe that the Holy Spirit cannot work by planning months in advance is putting Him in a box. Indeed, the Holy Spirit leads the Church such that each book of the Bible, even the commonly overlooked books, are studied and given the attention God intended for it to have.

The fact is, if you were to attend mass every day for 3 years, you would have the entire Bible read! And that’s just in church, that’s not counting studying it on your own time, which of course the Church highly encourages you do.

Discouraging individual Bible reading and meditation is not scriptural, nor does it coincide with the teachings of the Church. The Church considers scripture, amongst other things, an “aid for meditation”. The Church encourages that you read the scripture readings before coming to Church on Sunday and reflect upon them, and that you make yourself knowledgeable in the scriptures as a tool against Satan and to become stronger in your faith. The Church encourages that you inscribe the Word of God on your heart and let it guide you in your thoughts, speech, and heart.

However, the Church does speak against individual interpretation of the Bible, which is entirely different from meditation, and the two mustn’t be confused. Indeed, poetic scriptures such as Psalms and Ecclesiastes can speak different things to different people, and this is okay as that is the function of those particular types of scripture. However, the significance of the Gospels and the interpretations of  New Testament doctrines have already been revealed by Jesus to his apostles, and have remained constant in the approximately 2000 years since the Church began. God does not contradict Himself, nor does He lie, so He will not give someone else, a thousand years later, a new, different interpretation of the Gospels or New Testament doctrines. It is important to understand that this is not saying that the Holy Spirit can only speak to and/or reveal things to Church leaders. I italicize for emphasis because many people think that saying God will not reveal new interpretation of scripture means that He cannot speak into the hearts of individuals, and this is NOT what the Church teaches.

Indeed, if someone is following Christ and has the Holy Spirit is dwelling in them, God will continuously speak into their heart and reveal things to them along the way. When my husband asked me out on our first date, God spoke into my heart that it was okay to date this man. When my husband was contemplating asking me to marry him, God revealed to Him when the time was right to ask. When I felt as if I needed to pray for someone, but wasn’t sure who, I simply began praying and God revealed to me who it was who needed my prayer. The Catholic Church would concur that when you are in a personal relationship with God, He will speak into your life constantly in such ways. The only thing He will not speak is new revelations of scripture interpretation to you, because these have already been revealed years ago, and God does not change.

Study scripture. Meditate upon it day and night. “Hide it’s words in your heart, that you might not sin against God” (Psalm 119:11). Seek understanding of scripture, but seek the understanding where Christ has already revealed what He meant to say.

“Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ” — St. Jerome

May 5, 2011

Finals Are Causing a Slight Delay. . .

I just wanted to take a minute to let those who follow this blog and those who have asked me questions know that I have not forgotten your questions! Unfortunately, this last week of school and the imminent finals have prevented me from spending the time I feel is necessary to thoroughly answer all the questions and address all that I feel is important. However, they are at the forefront of my mind and this blog is my first priority as soon as I have a good chunk of spare time in between finals!

Good luck to those who are in the same boat and stressed about the end of semester responsibilities, and just remember: so long as you study hard and do your part, God will meet you halfway and be there with you as you take your exams!

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will be established” –Proverbs 16:3

April 29, 2011

“What is the Point in the Pope?”

One question I received in response to my last post, which happens to be a common inquiry people have about the Church, is “what is up with the pope? Why is he necessary?”. I understand this feeling, because I used to question this as well. I thought that Catholics worshiped the pope and looked to him as God, believing that He is an infallible human. There are a lot of things people think Catholics believe when it comes to the pope and most of them do not coincide with what the Church actually teaches. So let me give you the other side of the story.

I need to start off by explaining, as I have kind of touched on in previous posts, that the universal  Catholic Church is essentially one Church.  It operates as one, it believes as one, and it worships as one. The only reason the Church is separated into separate buildings across the world is simply because it is physically and logically impossible to get every Catholic in the world in the same place, at the same time. Therefore, there are only different church buildings to serve different areas. A small town or city may have just one church building, whereas a larger populated city may have one per a certain amount of square miles. This concept differs from other Christian churches, in that with others you may have two churches of the same denomination within two miles of each other, who remain separate not because of geographical  boundaries or issues with space, but because there are certain things they are not in accord with each other about, which causes them to remain separate.

Since we are one Church, we have, like any other church, leaders who are ordained by God to shepherd the flock. Since there are geographical distances between this one church, a system was created to assure that we remain united as one family, one body of believers, all in one accord. Each individual church building (called a “parish”) is lead by one or two priests (depending on the size of the parish). A group of parishes that are all in close proximity to each other are part of a “diocese”. The parish I serve at, St. Charles in Nederland, is part of the diocese of Beaumont—or, Beaumont and surrounding areas. Another nearby example is the diocese of Galveston-Houston. Each diocese is lead by a bishop. It’s the bishop’s God ordained responsibility to shepherd those in his diocese, and to assist and advise the priests in the diocese in shepherding their individual parishes.

And the pope? Well, he’s just another bishop. He is the bishop of the diocese of Rome. And since Rome was chosen as the capitol location (because if it is one Church, then logically somewhere has to be designated as the central location), then the bishop of the diocese of Rome was given the role as the spokesman for the other bishops and for the Church.

Something I think a lot of people who hold misconceptions about the pope miss is that every Christian church has a teaching office of some sort and every Christian church has a designated leader and spokesman, in order to effectively lead the flock closer to God.

But isn’t it dangerous to give that much power to one man?

The pope is not without accountability. All of the bishops work together, through constant prayer and meditation, to decide how they can best shepherd their people, how they can lead their people the closest to God, just like the leaders of any other Christian church strive to do. When a decision has been reached, the pope serves as the spokesman for the Church, but he has made no decisions by himself. These men have no power of their own, nor are they infallible. They are men, with faults and shortcomings just as you and I. The Teachings of the Church, however, spoken by Jesus through the bishops, are believed to be infallible.

(((Read: the Teachings of the Church that are believed to be infallible are denoted with a capital “T” in the word Teaching. For example, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, one God in three parts, which is not directly referenced and named in scripture, is considered an infallible Teaching of the Church. Big T Traditions are believed to be the Word of God, spoken through the Church which sits in the seat of Christ. There are other traditions, such as the celibacy of priests,  that are susceptible to change and are not claimed to be an infallible Teaching of God)))).

Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He established a physical Church here on Earth for his believers to call home. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven. Whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19

Jesus was physically leaving. He would always be with us through the Holy Spirit and always a prayer away. But physically, He was going back home to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. But he did not leave us with nothing. He established a physical Church to stand in for Him during His physical absence. He graciously entrusted Peter and his apostles to lead His people closer to Him and to guide them in worship.

Peter, the first bishop, answered the call of Jesus.  Together with the other disciples, they established the Church and, as we read about in the book of Acts, different apostles brought the Church to other nations. An apostle would then lead and shepherd a community in this new place.  (Sound familiar from what I was talking about before? 😉 This was the beginning of what later would be known as a “diocese”) Over the years, Christianity spread, and this tradition of apostolic succession remained. Approximately 2000 years later it still stands.

The pope and the other bishops today are the successors of Peter and the first apostles, who answered the call of Christ and established His Church, as one body of believers, in one accord, as Jesus desired for it to be.