Feb 262018

OMAHA, Nebraska – It’s brought order out of chaos, meaning to a life that had become dry and mechanical, and a closeness to Christ that Chelsie Promes could not have imagined.

It’s the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – entry into full communion with the Catholic Church through months of classes and prayer that culminates with baptisms, confirmations and first Communions at Easter Vigils in parishes across the archdiocese.

“It has opened my eyes to seeing that God is always present,” Promes said of her growth in faith as she prepares to join the church. “He loves me. He is my first love. He’s given me a way of life. I can tell that by living through him, knowing he is at my side.”

Father James Keiter, pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Menominee, where Promes and her husband are members, said Promes is one of three people he is helping prepare for full communion with the Church. Her husband, Jeremy, also is attending the classes.

“She’s on fire! Such a genuine joy as she learns about the faith,” said Keiter, who also is pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fordyce and St. Joseph Parish in Constance. “Her husband is Catholic born and raised, and he has questions, too.”

Nicely written story original from CNS by Joe Ruff. I would like to see more such stories regarding members of RCIA and what brought them to the Church.

Mar 082016

There are not many instances where my headbangin’ tendencies and my Catholic faith cross.

Iron Maiden pay respects at Blessed Oscar Romero’s tomb

Iron Maiden paid tribute to Blessed Oscar Romero during the British heavy metal band’s stop in El Salvador on their current world tour.

During a concert at the Estadio Jorge Magico Gonzalez in San Salvador, El Savador’s capital, a crowd of 9,000 people cheered when the band’s drummer Nicko McBrain put on a t-shirt featuring an image of the murdered priest and the slogan, “Saint Romero of the Americas”.

Before the concert, McBrain and his bandmate, guitarist Janick Gers, visited Blessed Romero’s tomb in the Crypt of San Salvador Metropolitan Cathedral, Associated Press reports.

Now I knew Nicko McBrain joined a Presbyterian church in Florida around 1999, so this is rather interesting.

Dec 092015

Traditional Christmas carols have been a love of mine since I was a child. The beauty of them always just stopped me in my tracks. The secular Christmas songs never had the same pull for me. Sure they were familiar and comfortable and brought pleasant feelings for the season. A part of the seasonal vocabulary like drinking hot chocolate and sitting before a fire.

I had really no idea what traditional Christmas carols really meant. I had a vague awareness of Jesus and knew nothing of the theology regarding the incarnation much less anything regarding the Blessed Trinity. Still some subliminal message regarding they sacred hymns still stirred me.

You know you are getting old when you can remember singing sacred Christmas carols in a public school. I was always part of choirs and enjoyed nothing better than singing these sacred carols. Actually caroling was also a joy. My atheism was willing to dismiss anything regarding belief in God and to ridicule it. But the exception was for these traditional Christmas carols all about the birth of Christ.

So each Christmas I would turn on the radio to listen to my favorites. Every year though I was hearing less and less of my favorites and more and more of the “Christmassy” songs more about winter and a Hallmark sentiment of the season. This drove me to Protestant radio stations to get my fill. I was even willing to put up with the “Christian indoctrination” of these stations between songs. Many events in my life, especially my multitude of bad decisions, were for the first time opening me up to this “indoctrination”. Protestant radio was kind of the second movement of my conversion that I could detect.

So yes I love, love, love traditional Christmas carols and I could listen to them all month. Still over the last couple of years I have been trying to develop a more deeper advent of a time of expectation. Delaying this love of carols to a time closer to Christmas. This along with developing a deeper awareness of Christmastide and that these carols could be my joy through at least the Epiphany of the Lord.

As part of this I decide to explore music appropriate for Advent and this time of expectation and thinking about the various comings of Christ and his kingdom.

One thing that proved use for this was the “advent” of streaming music services where you pay a monthly fee for access to their catalog. So first I started to search around for traditional hymns for Advent and to build up a list of them. Then I would search for these hymns and add several versions that I liked of specific hymns to an Advent playlist that I could play and shuffle.

One of the surprises I found from doing this was that there were a bunch of traditional Advent hymns that I grew to love. Most of them I would never have heard before starting my Advent project.

I have used multiple streaming music services. Starting with Spotify, RDIO, Google Play Music, and now Apple music. So I keep rebuilding my Advent playlist. Still the catalogs for all these services are mostly the same with some exceptions so can usually find the same versions of hymns across all of them.

I’ve found though that there seem to be rather few albums available dedicated to the season of Advent, but that you could find a lot of the hymns individually mixed in with other hymns.

Of the albums I found so far these are my favorites:

Advent at Ephesus – Benedictines Of Mary, Queen Of Apostles – Pure perfection.
Advent Carols from St. John’s – Choir Of St. John’s College & Christopher Robinson
Gregorian Advent – Hubert Velten conductor Cantarte Regensburg
Advent Promise – Roger Wilcock & The London Fox Players
Music For The November Feasts – The Schola Cantorum of St. Peter’s in the Loop

So what are your favorite Advent hymns and Advent albums?

Aug 062015

Growing up in Portland, Or I lived across from a rather large, beautiful, and hilly park that I had spent hundreds of hours of my childhood in. It’s name was Mt. Tabor and I had no idea the name had any significance. So on this Feast of the Transfiguration I am once again reminded that ignorance is not bliss. I can now laugh at all the literary illusions from scripture that passed me by.

Now though when it comes to having faith I can remark with Peter “It is good to be here.”

Jun 052015

The Anchoress noticed that Tod Worner — following the recent Pew report on diminishing Catholic numbers, and the glee that inspired in some corners — decided to write a post on why he will not be leaving the Catholic church. Organically this grew by with additional posts from other Catholic bloggers and Elizabeth Scailia started posting links to these here. Her own entry here.

I’ve been tempted to add to the plethora of posts on why you are staying in the Church. My problem is that I am tempted toward pride in regard to this. For example saying “Because it is true”, while accurate for me is also an intellectual pride. “I am intelligent enough to follow the truth!” Totally bypassing the role of grace. That I believe because God gave me the sufficient grace despite all my shortcomings. Certainly their is cooperation in grace, but God moved me first.

Years ago I wrote a post about “Conversion and Mr. Magoo.” Mr. Magoo always ended up at the correct destination, but despite his own endeavors in reaching the end. He was clumsy and totally without an innate understanding of the world around him. He confused things for what they are with something else. Still he ended up at the right place. If that isn’t a metaphor for my conversion I don’t know what is.

Once I was foolish enough to think “I read myself into the Church.” That it was intellectual arguments alone that lead me to the truth. Sure it was the overwhelming truth of the faith I found everywhere I looked, but I was led to this with “sheer grace” as St. John of the Cross would say. Still I also appreciate the both/and aspects of the faith. God gave me the grace of faith and also the intellect to be able to see the truths of the faith (eventually). Other bloggers have written convincingly on these truths and the orchestral nature of these truths.

One quote from St. Joan of Arc during her trial concerned “Are you in a state of grace”? Her reply was “If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God so keep me”. A truth of humility I strive for and know I miss the mark. Yet am also thankful that I am self-aware enough through grace that I miss the mark.

So why would I not ever leave the faith? Mr. Magoo arrived at the right destination and he could not credit himself for this. I hope to equally stumble towards heaven. That despite my continuous blunders I arrive at the only destination that matters. Plus despite the Mr. Magoo reference it is not blind faith. With St. Peter I say “Where would I go Lord, you have the word of everlasting life.”

Funny how I intended to write a sentence as to my own pride and why I am staying in the Church and ended up writing a post on the subject anyway. I just hope that I did not point to myself, but to the persons of the Holy Spirit and the grace I have received.

Further reading:

May 202015

Over the last week I have seen plenty of commentary regarding the latest Pew study “America’s Changing Religious Landscape”. I’ve seen such commentary cycles before regarding their studies. As usual there is a lot of narrative making by different camps. By those who rejoice in news of any declining of Christian population, the gloom and doomers, the statistic arguers, along with the “this is the solution to the problem” camps. As par for the course there is a lot of noise mixed with useful data.

As a pessimistic/optimist, these types of studies don’t mean much to me. As I have written before Dickens described Church history when he wrote the famous opening lines:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …

Really his description in the Tale of Two Cities reminds me of St. Augustine’s City of God where he compares the City of God and the city of Rome at the time representing the secular world. There have always been swings both ways in which one city dominates the heart of the various cultures.

A lot of what I see are the “if only we do this” group who take whatever they are a proponent of in the first place as the solution. As a both/and kind of person I see positive contributions from many of these suggestions, but not that they are the one solution. Still what really surprises me is that the projections are not much worse. I still find myself surprised at the path my own faith journey took from atheism. When I see fervent young people practicing their Catholic faith I am surprised again. Despite the non-stop and seemingly overwhelming bombardment of messages people still pick up the cross and follow Jesus.

In an odd way it strengthens my faith that the world is not so much worse. Looking at all the despairing signs of the time with the culture of death and the attack on marriage I feel all these points of negative data should point at a much worse cultural situation. That I can discern movements of the Holy Spirit in all the goodness I do see. The modern world seems to be a factory producing crooked lines, yet these lines do not always stay that way. I think of the story of Joseph’s brothers throwing him in the well.

You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see, and might save many people.

I am not surprised that it also appears to be an increasing number of people who have some level of faith, but no ties to a community in that regard. But again I would have forecast that “Me and Jesus” and Sola Scriptura where you become your own interpreter would appeal more to our individualist streak. The rebellion towards having any authority over you. Checklist theology where you look for the church that matches your take and POV on the issues. Really this individualist take on religion appeals to much of the American spirit that you would think nones would be growing in leaps and bounds. Yet there is still the sense that this requires some kind of community.

It is always disconcerting when you see people leaving the faith. Especially as the reasons given usual show many misunderstandings. More often something personal than something theological. Seeing the “pearl of great price” I can wonder how they could give it up? Various scandals certainly play a role in this. Yet I have found my own faith to be scandal-proof. I came in to the Church just before the wave of priestly sexual scandals. While horrified at such stories I find myself repeating with St. Peter “Lord, where would I go? You have the words of eternal life.” Still there has been more than one occasion with I repeated this phrase in light of the news of the day. I consider it a minor miracle to have this viewpoint as it is contrary to my native pessimism.

Maybe what has helped me is that I came to believe in the Church before I believed in all she teaches.

“I would not believe the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.” St. Augustine (Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, chapter 5)

So instead of going down an internal checklist to see if the Catholic Church’s teachings matched up to my expectations, I instead struggled to learn what she taught and why she taught it. Not that this was an easy process. Much that I considered true had to be reexamined and that was not fun at all. Sometimes I feel the arc of my life is learning about another thing I was wrong about. Since the scope of my wrongness was so wide I am still funneling down to a point. When you search for truth the annoying thing is that you might find it and have to once again change in response. Even as a Catholic where hopefully I have indeed narrowed this down with the help of the Church; I still find that my prudential reasonings often end up in hindsight as “doh!”.

Often times when I write something I wish I was an actual writer instead of somebody with thoughts who manages to string together words and phrases. This post is an example of this as I try to advance my own “if only we do this” agenda for evangelization. Ecclesiology as a subject for apologetics seems to me a rarity. Usually much focus is on a set of familiar topics. That more focus should be on the authority of the Catholic Church and why this is so. The nature of the Church and her teaching authority given to her from Jesus is bedrock to my own faith. Still I realize that I make the same mistake as everybody else with their own hobbyhorse solutions. In that there is no cookie-cutter evangelism and that it has to be personal to every person. What will appeal to one person could drive away another. The temptation towards the narrative instead of actually listening to another person and seeing where you might be able to help. So with that in mind I try to read the various articles regarding responses in the new evangelism and try to add new tools without aways selecting the trusty hammer I prefer.

There has always been a tension in the Gospel call in that to be able to go out and spread the good news, you must first go out of yourself. I find myself often thinking “if only they would do this” or implement some program. Then I realize that again I am shifting my own Gospel responsibilites to others. Being self-reflective sucks when you are often in the wrong.

Mar 272013

Patheos has asked bloggers to finish the sentence: Why I Am A

They’re giving us 200 words to answer. I don’t need 200 words to tell you why I am Catholic. I only need four:

Because Catholicism is true.

St. Thomas Aquinas gave me the tools I needed to understand my experience of God

It’s that simple. It’s not a matter of “belief.” Belief presumes that there’s some option: that I have a choice in my favored model of reality.

No such choice exists. (I would have chosen … something else.) As I tell my students: this is Truth. You either accept Truth, or you reject Truth. What you want to “believe” is wholly beside the point.

My whole life I looked for truth. I shed this faith as soon as I was able, along with what I saw to be its silliness, emptiness, and illogic. I thought I found a better model for reality in the god of the philosophers, but it did not suffice. Fifteen years after I lapsed, I was given a profound experience of the living God.

I doubted it. I resisted it. I applied reason and logic to understanding it, and reason and logic are what allowed me to come back. I was given the gift of a conversion experience, and the church gave me the tools to test it. And in testing it, I found my way home again. (source)

When I first saw this question asked today and some of the responses, my own thought came down to the same Because Catholicism is true. This first response in my mind still seemed incomplete to me. Catholicism is true, yet most people and even many Catholics don’t believe all the truths of Catholicism. So for me my real answer is Because of grace and that Catholicism is true.

Also for me the temptation early in my conversion was to assign the source of my conversion to my intellect (such as it is). That I had grasped that Catholicism was true and thus I became a Catholic. Other turning points in my life were also predicated on that same reasoning. A intellectual pride that I was willing to change my current belief if given evidence for why I was wrong. I viewed my conversion almost in Pelagian terms without crediting really the sheer grace of God in all that he provided me. Now I can see it a bit more clearly in realizing the gift of faith while also seeing my own cooperation in responding to that grace.

It was ironic that my efforts to redouble my atheist faith turned out to be my own reaching out to God. I was seeking truth and was slowly (very slowly) realizing all my atheist pat answers were not the fullness of truth I expected.

As an application developer one of the things I do is to write unit tests to verify that the code I had written performs as expected. When code is checked into a continuous build server, that server runs all the unit tests to make sure a change did not break other areas. I mention this since in the back of my mind there is a form of a continuous build server always evaluating my observations to verify if what I believe is true. A form of what St. Paul’s said in 1 Thessalonians 5:21. It is only with the Catholic faith that truths keeps ringing through. There is zero incongruity with the faith and the reality I am able to observe. When a test seemed to fail it always turned out it was my understanding of the faith that was lacking.

So praise to the Holy Spirit and that my inner Mr. Magoo was still able to respond to the faith despite going down so many wrong paths.