Sunday, February 28, 2010

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

I found myself stymied in a conversation about baptism the other day. I dug a hole and couldn't find my way out to save my life (or, really, my dignity). The biggest mistake I made was when I was trying to also explain the exception of baptism by desire; the other person took it as meaning that baptism wasn't necessary. So then I was saying that we have to be baptized, and she kept thinking that I just said that you didn't have to be baptized. Yeah, it was beautiful. By the end, I was so stuck that I about convinced myself that Catholics were crazy!*

There was another large problem in this conversation. It was big, it was bad, and it was not my fault. It turns out that it is very hard to explain the reasons that you believe something without the proper grounding in history. She has a very beautiful and simple faith, but her belief system is one that is entirely rooted in an evangelical interpretation of the Bible. She has so little background in history that this interpretation seems to her to be merely a "plain sense" understanding of Scripture. She has no idea that there are other interpretations that also make sense. She has never been exposed to them in depth. Okay, maybe I'm making some assumptions here, but that was how she approached the conversation.

It's so frustrating to me. It's frustrating to me when Protestants automatically take the position that the Catholic view is wrong without having the least understanding of why it is taught. It's far more frustrating to me when Catholics just follow along because "that's the way we do things" without having the least understanding of why we do things the way that we do, or where to find it in Scripture or history. Not that I think that Catholics should have to spout tons of verses of the tops of their heads (though I would love it!), but that they should at least know where to look so they could find it. Shoot, I'd settle for Catholics having a vague understanding that there is some kind of Scriptural basis for what they believe even if they have absolutely no idea what it was!

Throughout the conversation, I had no Bible handy nor did she, so we were both floundering in I-Know-the-Bible-Says-Something-about-This-Somewhere Land. It did not help matters. I also would have loved to bring in the teaching of the early Church fathers, but wouldn't you know that I left all five of my monstrous volumes in the other coat pocket that morning.

What are your thoughts? What must we do to be saved? As a Catholic, I believe that baptism is a necessary part of salvation and actually effects the grace that it symbolizes. M's view was that baptism is important, but is merely an outward sign of an inward salvation that has already taken place.

I would like to be clear that I think that there are very compelling scriptural arguments for both sides of the argument. I don't really get frustrated when people disagree with my way of seeing things. I get frustrated when people have never taken the time to look at why they believe as they do.

I plan to try to write out some more of my thoughts on this; you know, all the things that I wish I could have said if I'd had enough time and all my resources handy. But first, you should write. I know that there are a lot of Catholics that read this, and I would love to hear how you would explain it. But I also know that not everyone is Catholic and I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts, too.


*Okay, not really, but I certainly wouldn't blame her if that's the impression that she got of Catholic teaching.

Things I Don't Like to Think About

*The space behind the toilet. I like to forget that space exists. If I remember, then I feel compelled to stick my hand back there and clean it. Nasty!

*That cheese is mold. I know that it is, but I love cheese, and I don't love mold. I was not excited to see a cheese that I bought the other day was advertising that it got its mold from Italy. I'm pretty sure that Italian mold is just as moldy as American mold.

*That we supposedly swallow an average of 12 spiders a year in our sleep. First of all, whoever came up with that crazy number? How would you do that research? I choose to believe that I swallow an average of 0 spiders and insects per year. In fact, I choose to believe that my bed is an insect free zone, and there are never any insects near it. Ever. (On the other hand, I knocked down a LOT of cobwebs yesterday, so I was a little worried about revengeful kamikaze spiders last night.)

Denial much?

Maybe, but why does living in denial have to be such a bad thing?

On a completely unrelated note, I would estimate that as of yesterday the ground around here was about 90% snow covered. Do you know what that means?? It means that it's not 100% snow covered!! You don't know how beautiful those dirty patches of dead grass are. There might even be a Spring in our future!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Today in Mass

Little moments in Mass are sometimes my favorite. The first reading was from Jonah today, and the priest at his homily called our attention to his favorite verse in the reading:

"God called Jonah a second time."

No matter that the first time Jonah took off running the other direction, needed a huge storm and had to cool his heels in the belly of a whale. Nope. Jonah didn't deserve it, but God called him anyway. Further, God called him not only to preach repentance to the Ninevites, but in order that he himself could repent.

I love that He doesn't stop when we don't get it or don't listen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Free on a Tuesday (In Which I Ramble. A Lot.)

For about a solid month or so, I have been at a basketball game or a wrestling meet every Tuesday night. Now I find myself not at a gym anywhere, but hanging out at home. It's novel and strange, and it feels like Wednesday, because Wednesdays are my free night.

At first I thought I would get some much-needed vacuuming done, but then I sat down to read a book instead. Then I thought that I would finish most of that book, but a friend called and I talked to her instead. Then I decided that I would get on the computer and write a really great blog post. I wasn't really sure what the topic would be, because I have so many great ideas right now (not that they'd be great to read, mind you, only that I would like to write them.) Instead, I'm writing this and wondering if the Chicken Korma that I want to try to make with my friends will be good, or whether they'll ban me from deciding our Thursday night meals.

I love the high schoolers that I work with. I will miss being a part of things up there, but I am reveling in the opportunity to do a lot of things or a lot of nothing.

I am also thinking that it is almost a week ago that Lent started. I can't believe it's been that long already! Is it wrong for me to admit how easy it's been so far? It turns out that I may be doing something wrong, because rather than feel deprived this Lent, I feel free. I'm kidding. I mean, I feel free, but it probably means I'm doing something right. It may mean that some of my Lenten changes need to stick around when Lent is over. Of course, part of this new found freedom is not being at work until 9.

We are apparently approaching the record of the most snow fallen since that started keeping records. We are about 10 inches short of the all time record. On the one hand, it's a record I'm not too excited to break. On the other hand, if we get 8 more inches of snow and then it stops, I will be highly annoyed. Pretty much, if we get any more snow at all, I hope we go for broke and get the record.

One example of how this winter is gone: My dad is concerned that his bosses are getting too tough and might overwork him this week. He said he might have to go to work 5 whole days this week! Oh, the humanity! (Yes, he's being sarcastic. Snowstorms have kept him home at least once a week for a number of weeks.)

I could keep rambling. (For example, I could tell you how much I like hummus.) But I think I should spare you. You probably have something more important to do. I do to0, but I'm kind of enjoying avoiding it all. :)


Friday, February 19, 2010

Three Days in...

Lent has just begun. I hope everyone's off to a good start! I didn't get to go to Mass on Ash Wednesday because of work, but other than that, it's good here. I went to Mass this evening (praise God for the wonderful priest at my parish that works to have a daily Mass twice a day throughout Lent) and the priest had a great homily about fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

He pointed out that there is something about fasting, about self-denial of our bodies that opens up our souls. But he told us that we couldn't stop with fasting; we also had to add prayer. All I could think about was that when we fast we are creating a space in ourselves, and that through prayer we are inviting God to fill that space. Then he reminded us that this openness to God should lead to loving our neighbor. I really like that he didn't just call it "almsgiving", but reminded us that all of it is to lead to love of God and love of neighbor.

You know, I never thought about that connection. It makes sense that they fit together in that way, but I never saw how one led to the other like that! Maybe you knew it all along, but sometimes I need a little help.

Here's wishing you a grace-filled Lent!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Trust

When you strengthen a muscle, you have to consider strength, endurance and power. You can have some of the qualities, but be weak in some of the others. I'm beginning to think that perhaps some of the virtues that God tries to teach us have to be trained in the same way. I don't know if trust is technically a virtue, but whatever. I'm going with it.

If you are going to train a muscle in strength, you look at high loads and low repetitions. I have had those moments in trusting God. The burden seemed too great and was heavier than I could have imagined, but it typically didn't last more than a couple of weeks at a time, usually no more than a day or two. Then there was usually some kind of respite, though there are times that the break was very short before it came back.

Endurance training is low loads, high repetition. That's where I feel that I am right now. There have been very few of those moments that seem so impossible. However, there is a low grade challenge that never stops. Months go by with little to no let up. It gets old. Like a marathoner, it's not that any one step is so terribly difficult, but 26.2 miles of steps breaks a body down, uses up all the reserves.

I also feel like I am in a weird place right now when it comes to trusting God. I know that He has a plan. There have been times when I knew that intellectually, but doubted it for all intents and purposes. I know that He loves me. That's one that I never doubted, but definitely have grown to understand much more deeply through challenges. So I think that I would say that I trust Him, but now I find when I lift up prayers, I find myself wanting to duck. I hate to admit this, but it's true. It's like I am completely Him to send me exactly what I don't want. I can trust that it will ultimately be the best for me, like a parent giving a child some nasty but necessary medicine, but I certainly don't expect it to be pleasant. I pray that He will finally fulfill this desire of my heart to be a wife and mother, but resign myself to the fact that He's going to say "no" again. It doesn't seem like real trust to me, but I don't know what to do about it. Also, I'm simply tired of praying over and over again for the same things with no change in the situation.

One thing that I know that I need is humility. Part of my problem right now is that I want my way- and I want it right now-, and I'm mad that God doesn't agree. As to the rest, I don't know. I don't know how to trust God and surrender to His will without being convinced that His will is going to be the opposite of mine.

I don't know how it all works, but I will tell you this. I went to Mass this morning, and do you know how many times the priest used the word "trust" in his homily? I don't know either, but it was a lot. I missed a lot of the words in between, but that word stood out every time. You might think I'm crazy, but God was using that priest to speak that word to me over and over this morning, and I desperately needed to hear it.

But seriously, I need some help. It's like I'm living in Reverse Prosperity Gospel Land where I think that the more that I trust God, the worse off my earthly situation will be. As much as I hate the prosperity gospel, I know this is wrong, too. (Also ridiculous given that I have amazing family and friends and that I live in a nation that's often quite comfortable even with the current economic conditions.) Has anyone else ever struggled with this, or am I picking daisies so far out in left field that home plate is not visible anymore?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's!

I'm not a huge fan of this holiday. The pink hearts, cheap chocolate, way overpriced roses and sappy greeting cards just don't do it for me. And I can't even make fun of it, because I'm single, so it just makes me sound bitter.

Can I be honest? I am a little bitter. Well, no. Maybe bitter isn't the right word, but I don't like the holiday, and being single is definitely a part of that. Don't get me wrong, I don't want chocolates and roses. I certainly don't want someone to buy me jewelry or anything like that. I just want someone. I am so very tired of being alone. I'm tired of the ache that is never gone. I'm tired of asking God to do something about it and always having Him say no.

I haven't decided yet whether I really think Valentine's Day should exist. Maybe I should look at the pros and cons.

Cons: It's all about cliches. There's the one about the things that you should buy for your sweetie, the one about the couple that doesn't buy that stuff because they are above that kind of tackiness, or the one about the bitter single people.

Pros: Love is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated. Perhaps not with heart balloons, but it is something wonderful. So do something for me. If you have someone to celebrate V-day with, take some time to simply enjoy that they are there. Thank God for them. If, like me, you are single, then take the time to thank God for the love that He has placed in your life. Like the love of family and friends. His love.

I'm going to let the pros have it.

Have a happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Doing God a Favor

I did God a favor the other day. Have you ever done that? Well, I was feeling pretty magnanimous that day and decided to do what I could. The situation is that I have a weekly Adoration time at our local chapel. I've been able to be fairly consistent, and the only times that I've missed have been occasional vacation times, which I've been able to get covered. A couple of weeks ago, I just didn't make it for the first time ever. There was a blizzard, so it's not like I was being lazy, but I still felt a little bad. Fast forward a week. I had worked a long day, and was just finishing up with a make up basketball game about the time that my hour of Adoration was supposed to start. I hadn't had supper, and I was going to be at least 10 minutes late.

It's amazing how a good excuse one week leads me to be more willing to allow for another excuse the next week. Never mind that the chapel was on the way home. It was late. I was tired and hungry. Surely God would understand if I didn't come in one more week. I'd get back on track the next week. After all, I shouldn't be working any more late Mondays.

I started my drive home, but by the time I got about to the turn off for the chapel, I'd had a change of heart. Look at all the things that God had done for me. Surely for His sake I could put off eating for a few minutes longer. For His sake, I could put aside my tiredness and wait a few minutes longer to go to bed. Almost before I knew I was making the decision, I found the car heading in the direction of the chapel. Not going to lie, I was a little proud of myself for setting aside my wants for God.

I no more than walked in the door when it struck me full force.

I. Am. An. Idiot.

There is nothing like the presence of God to bring me to my knees, to make me realize that I wasn't there because He needed me. I was there because I needed Him. He is the food that I needed far more than any physical meal. He truly is the rest and refreshment that I most seek. I walked in tired, hungry, and burnt out. I walked out refreshed, and so very thankful that God would use even my idiocy and pride to do me the favor of drawing me closer to Him.

**Note: The week after this happened, we had another really bad storm, and they even closed the chapel. I'm so glad I didn't give in to the excuses and have to go 3 weeks without Adoration!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Lent/Chocolate Connection

Lent is coming, and now it's soon. It will be here in just one week! This forces me to ask a question. Why is it so popular to give up chocolate for Lent? I have actually heard people sort of look down on this as a Lenten offering because it seemed pointless. What's spiritual about chocolate? How does this help a person grow closer to God?

I thought that the questions seemed valid, but I knew there had to be some kind of an answer. I have given up chocolate for Lent in the past, and I can tell you as a chocoholic that there is something about it that can draw a person closer to God. I also figure that one of the reasons that it can be a popular one is that other people have found it to help as well. So what is it about giving up chocolate that can bring a person closer to God?

I think it's the conscious reminder in day to day life that there is something more in life than what is right before us. Turning down that brownie right in front of you keeps you mindful that there is something more important than that brownie. It is a little way of saying that I want to grow closer to God right now even more than I want to eat that brownie. It's not that the brownie is bad, it's just that the discipline of turning away from that builds our spiritual muscles and helps build us up on our spiritual journey.

I think that it's the discipline of Lent that I love so much. I also love that it tends to cut down the noise in our lives. A lot of people either cut back on TV or internet or find extra time to pray. I think those things also help us refocus and get our eyes back on God. I don't know exactly how, but the whole season of cutting back on the excesses prepares me for Good Friday. Somehow the austerity of it allows me to participate in some small way with Christ rather than simply hearing about it. Maybe that's overstating it, but I don't know quite how to describe it, other than to say that I think Lent is a wonderful practice that I would highly recommend to anyone that wants to grow closer to God.

There are a few things that I have found that work for me to help me to get the most out of my Lent:

1) Pray about what God might be leading you to give up. Don't be afraid to give up something that might make you redefine the word "need" in your life. For example, some people "need" soda to get them through the day. They might actually go through withdrawal without it. Giving up a so-called need requires you to lean on God to get through it. Then again, I've seen people go a little crazy overboard with what they want to give up as well. Finding the right balance is definitely a matter of prayer.

2) If you're going to give something up, it's often good to focus on one or two things. Rather giving up TV, internet, chocolate, and soda, maybe just pick one thing. Otherwise, it can become overwhelming.

3) While you give something up, find something to replace it with. For example, if you give up a certain TV show, replace part of that time with some God time, like reading the Bible, journaling, Adoration or finding an extra Mass to go to. If you give up Starbucks, use the money that you save to give to a charity.

4) If you're Catholic (and you're welcome even if you're not) I highly recommend trying to find at least one extra time per week that you can get to Mass. I know that's not always possible, but if you can do it, do it. My parish always offers extra evening Masses during Lent, and as far as I'm concerned that is absolutely the best part of Lent. I went two years in grad school with Mass on Sunday and very little in between to sustain my faith. One Lent I did this and suddenly I found God again when I didn't even know I'd been missing Him.

5) Sundays. They really don't count as part of Lent, because Sunday is the day that we remember that Christ was raised from the dead. That trumps Lent. Don't be afraid to celebrate Sundays, but don't use them as the day to glut yourself on whatever you gave up. Some Lents, I still didn't let up on Sunday. That went against the spirit of what Sunday is. Other years, I've pigged out on Sunday. Kind of ruined Lent for me, because that goes against what the spirit of Lent is. One thing I did one year is that I would always eat a doughnut on Sunday. Since I gave up doughnuts for Lent, I would get myself a chocolate milk on Sunday instead. Still something to make Sunday a celebration, but not going out and getting three doughnuts to make up for the ones I didn't get throughout the week.

6) Whatever you decide to give up for Lent, be sure that you are firm about it. If you give up cake, except when it's someone's birthday or on a special occasion, then what's the point of giving up cake? If it doesn't hurt a little, it won't help. On the other hand, don't let your firmness get in the way of charity. Sometimes patients will bring in special treats for a thank you. I'm not going to throw their effort in their faces by saying that I won't accept it because I gave it up for Lent.

7) The last thing that I would say is that it is good to not make a big deal of whatever you give up for Lent. The fewer people that know about it the better. Sometimes it is necessary; for example, if you give up internet and you are a blogger that I read, please let me know so I don't worry that you have perhaps fallen and broken all your fingers and you can't type.

Obviously, not all of these will apply to everyone, it's just some of the things that I have found through trial and error that seem to make a difference for me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Creationism, Evolutionism and Freeing Darwin

Can I just say that I love Christoph Cardinal Schonborn? Because I do. I am a fan of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and this man was the general editor of that particular book. I appreciated that. However, when I got a chance to go see him a week or so ago, I came away very, very impressed. First of all, this man is smart. He is fluent in six different languages, which is (hmm, give me a minute to do the math... Got it!) five more languages than I am fluent in. He has a doctorate in theology and when you listen to him, you know that this is a man that has a brain and knows how to use it. And yet, he is also a very down to earth man with a very evident love of God and a shepherd's heart that longs to bring people to Christ. I wish you could have heard his homily, people. You would see what I mean.

I was even more excited when we got to the talk that he was giving afterwards and I learned that he was going to be touching on some of the themes from his book, Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution and a Rational Faith. Right up my biology studying, theology loving alley. Now, I guarantee that what I try to tell you here will in no way do justice to his talk. For one thing, I can't write with a German accent. I can't give you the timing of his words, and I can't convey his presence to you. But anyway, still some great points that I can pass on and can't wait to share.

The thing that I loved the most was how he talked about the need to bring faith and reason together. Faith is not the same as reason, but it is reasonable. There are elements of faith that are above reason, but they are not contrary to reason. Reason, for it's part, should not be dictated by faith. It's job is to be able to study things that can be observed or thought about. However, faith is what can give light to what is found by reason, in order to make sense of it all.

From the words of my papa, JPII, "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth- in a word, to know himself- so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to know the fulness of truth about themselves." (From the encyclical, Fides et Ratio.)

He spent time discussing that we have a God that created with a purpose. His creation was in some way a sign that points back to Him. If that is the case, faith and reason should not be separated, but should in fact complement one another beautifully. Then came my favorite part where he applied faith and reason to ideologies of creationism and evolutionism.

Of evolutionism, he reminded us that there has to be an order and a purpose to the universe for it even to be possible to study it. As he said, you can't study chaos. If all things were completely random, then how could you have any basis for scientific study. Therefore, to divorce reason and science from faith and from belief in the existence of a Creator is just stupid.

Then he told us that because he believes in the Creator, he is accused of being a creationist. To which he replied that there is plenty of scientific evidence that shows the world is greater than 6000 years old, and that to ignore that evidence is just stupid.

(Actually, on both of those points, he said, "it's stupid. Stupid." It gave me a little joy inside to hear him emphatically denounce both of those parts of the respective theories.)

He finished by pointing out that there is no such thing as "Einstein-ism", and that he would like to free Darwin from Darwinism. He wants us to simply be able to study what Darwin had to say based on it's own merits, and not as part of an ideology. I especially loved that he asked why he should be afraid of any discovery that science had to make. In what way would that affect his faith? It does not decrease it, but rather increases the wonder of his faith in the Creator that created such an amazing universe.

Fantastic talk. Now one of these days I think I'm going to have to get the book!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Along Came a Snowstorm

Can I just say that I'm excited to have time to do stuff again? To sit and read blogs, and not just skim them. To follow the links if I am so inclined, and especially to comment (this is why "blogging" is a verb; just reading them is no fun if you can't participate in some small way). Last week may have only been a week to you, but it felt like two weeks to me. I am a pansy, and should I work much more than 40-45 hours in a week, I wilt. I don't know how people do it that work 60-70 hour weeks regularly, but I could not handle it. 60 hours of work related activity was about 20 too many in my book.

I even had to give up my Saturday for a con ed course. Thankfully it was a really good one, but I need TWO days of weekend. One just doesn't cut it. I got up today and wasn't sure how I could handle the upcoming week, especially Monday and Tuesday. Monday was supposed to be 10 hours and Tuesday 15. But then this little snow storm came along. I got to leave work early today, my early morning meeting tomorrow got rescheduled, and the chances of the basketball game happening tomorrow are between slim and none. I'm as sick of snow as the next person, but I have to say that this particular snowstorm has excellent timing! It's not ruining a single fun plan of mine and because of it I get to sleep in tomorrow and have an evening tomorrow night. Not bad.

I know you're probably bored now with various postings about my schedule; I don't blame you. But guess what! This also means that I get to write a real blog post, too. I can't guarantee that it'll be worth the wait, but I know I'm excited to get a regular blog post up where it belongs.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Crazy Week

I have so much to say and so many posts to write right now. And no time to do them in. I may not be around much this week, but then there may be more here to read than you ever wanted to! You know how it is; either feast or famine. Have a great week!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Facts from the Weekend

1) Sun is fantastic.

2) Time with family and friends is even fantastic-er.

3) When driving, adrenaline will keep you awake even better than green tea.
**This knowledge brought to you thanks to our sponsors: wayward deer and erratic drivers.

4) I have a very deep respect for Christoph Cardinal Schonborn.

5) My bishop is funnier than my sisters' bishop.

6) I miss bare ground. Even brown, dirty, dingy ground. Enough with the snow!

7) Cheesecake brownies are amazing.

8) Being away from home and not at work is wonderful.

9) Did I mention that the sun is amazing?