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Questions for Catholics

Here are a few questions regarding how practioners of the Catholic faith understand certain aspects of their practice and theology.  Anyone who would care to resond is welcome and I look forward to hearing what people have to say.

  1.  What does the Sacrament of Reconciliation mean to you and how does it affect your day-to-day life?  How does Catholic teaching on reconciliation motivate you to deal with conflicts with other Christians?  Does going to confession at times function as a substitute for confessing to people whom you have wronged?
  2. What is your experience with the Catholic laity as a whole?  What level of participation and understanding do you sense among Catholic congregants on a broad scope?
  3. Do you have any experiences with indulgences?  Please tell if you do.
  4. How does Marian devotion impact your spiritual life (if it does)?
  5. What does “infallibility” of the teaching office of the church mean in your view?
  6. What differences do you see between the participation, general sense of identity and commitment between people who were raised Catholic and people who have converted to Catholicism?

Thanks to whoever will indulge me with answers to some of these questions.  I hope this kind of inquiry can be a form of the sort of “spiritual ecumenism” that Vatican II calls for.

9 Comments

  1. Hill wrote:

    Halden,

    I’m really looking forward to responding to these great questions. I’m going to try to write something a little more deliberately. I’ve been experiencing considerable growth in my own spiritual life as a Catholic in many of these areas, and I think it will help me personally to clarify my own thoughts in this context as well as hopefully give a helpful glimpse of a (relatively) recent convert in situ in a very complex (often in a bad way) American Catholic milieu. That being said, my time spent on this blog is cutting in to my work so it may be a bit (hopefully by this weekend) before I can have something done. Thanks for the prompt.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  2. Ben wrote:

    1a. When doing or saying things, I often think, “Could I honestly explain this to the priest (or anyone else) as being ‘ok’?” Speaking my sins out loud is a weird thing, “Wow, I really did that!?”
    1b&c. I haven’t ever felt that confession somehow reduced my responsibility to reconcile with the person wronged. If anything, speaking my sins out loud has helped to convince me that I’m not so great as I feel like I am. I certainly see how some might take it to be a “get out of jail free” card, though anyone inclined to view it like that is probably not going to confession much anyway.

    2. As I think Joyce said, the Church is “Here Comes Everyone.” I’ve experienced as wide a range of understanding in the laity (and clergy!) as there are people in wider society. I don’t know how it could be any other way. Some people simply don’t get theology. But I see the larger point of your question, the often true stereotype that Catholics are simply benchwarmers. Many Catholics are simply cultural, and show up because it’s the Irish thing to do, or the Mexican thing to do (or the Vietnamese thing, the Italian, the Cajun thing etc) I would just like to squeak in our defense, that most evangelicals are self-selecting, in otherwords, the deadwood simply don’t show up at all.

    3. No experience with indulgences as a big part of my prayer life. I wear a scapular (the little brown cloth necklace) and the Miraculous Medal, they move around and remind me to pray, I think of people over the centuries who have prayed with them on and I feel a connection with them. My grandmother wears one. Perhaps that is the basic content of the teaching of indulgences, this shared life of holiness within the Church.

    4. I love the Marian dynamic within the Church, though of course I cringe at the excess. Personally, I ask Mary to pray for me in the same way I would ask anyone else to pray for me, trusting that the Lord will listen where two and three are gathered.

    5. I usually explain it to my students like this: If a perfect DVD fell down from heaven, a perfect DVD player would still be required. In the same way I trust that the Bible is perfect in it’s teaching, I have to trust that there is an interpretive “pillar of all truth” (1 Tim 3:15) Is that crude?

    6. The converts get more attention, but I know tons of very devoted cradle Catholics. Like I said in #2, there’s a difference in people who are identified as evangelical and those who are Catholic, in that many people who have never been to church in their life will self-identify as Catholics because grandpa was. Thus when one reads about lukewarm Catholics, I think it needs to be kept in mind that most of those lukewarm Catholics are not really Catholic in any sense. (yes, i am kinda defensive about that!)

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 5:46 pm | Permalink
  3. freder1ck wrote:

    Halden,

    Thanks for this question.

    1. What does the Sacrament of Reconciliation mean to you and how does it affect your day-to-day life? How does Catholic teaching on reconciliation motivate you to deal with conflicts with other Christians? Does going to confession at times function as a substitute for confessing to people whom you have wronged?

    Confession has changed for me over the years. Confession has become a kind of an offering in which I present Christ with my several sins and ask Him to perfect me. Typically, I prepare for confession by reading a passage from the Gospel and ask for the Holy Spirit to help me name my failings.

    As a husband, I confess my sins to another daily. And in teaching or other work, I admit my wrongs and ask for ways to improve. Confession doesn’t replace this lived humility, but it reminds me of another dimension. In front of my wife, mercy often entails a mutual recognition that ‘mistakes were made.’ My failings at work are sometimes things that multiply or are tied up with the mistakes of others. Between others, my sins tend to be relativized. As sincere as I try to be, the act of asking for forgiveness encourages the other to dismiss or discount things, especially insofar as they remember their own faults.

    Before Christ in the sacrament, however, the mercy is absolute. Jesus knows what is in my heart and I offer Him both the articulation of my sin and that which I cannot express. Sometimes, confession makes me aware of a wrong that I had overlooked in which case I’ll apologize directly or take action to improve – depending on the severity.

    I generally go behind the screen, but face-to-face is good if I have a relationship with the priest. In the past year, I’ve started prefacing my confessions with ‘I want to be a better husband and father.’

    2. What is your experience with the Catholic laity as a whole? What level of participation and understanding do you sense among Catholic congregants on a broad scope?

    It’s hard to say. Sherry Weddell of the Catherine of Siena Institute (blog.siena.org) speaks of a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ culture in Catholic parishes. My experiences in Catholic Family Movement, l’Arche, and Communion & Liberation are very positive. My experience in college may be more representative: some people are active and learn about the faith while others are more nominal.

    3. Do you have any experiences with indulgences? Please tell if you do.

    In 2000, I obtained the Jubilee Indulgence twice. An indulgence is basically a combo meal that combines other practices into a neat package. Every indulgence requires proximity of Confession and Communion. It also includes prayer for the intentions of the pope and often includes prayer for the dead. Within this context one performs an act of charity or piety (eg. visiting the sick or a site of pilgrimage).

    Indulgences can be either full or partial. They can be offered for oneself (partial only) or for the deceased. In 2000, I got one for myself and another for a childhood bully who died suddenly (presuming he’s saved; if not, God can use it as He sees fit).

    Indulgence is the survival of the primitive form of penance which had a maximal form – in contrast to Confession which has something of an everyday, minimal form. I get no paperwork, no money changes hands – it’s up to me to make it complete and I don’t sweat it.

    I could blather on about temporal consequences (which would tie indulgence closer to baptism), but fact is, the Church tells me it strengthens the body, so I accept that.

    4. How does Marian devotion impact your spiritual life (if it does)?

    I didn’t receive a strong Marian education as a child. It wasn’t emphasized in Sunday school and my folks didn’t stress it either. In college, I noticed it mentioned in Oscar Romero’s homilies. When I went to l’Arche at age 20, I met a man who had an intense Marian devotion. I repeatedly asked him to explain it, but it soon became apparent to me that it had no intellectual content: it was purely affective.

    From Balthasar and von Speyr I learned that God made His plan for salvation rest upon the cooperation of the human being, Mary. In this sense, Fr. Giussani liked Dante’s phrasing for Mary, ‘the fixed term of the eternal counsel.’

    I pray the rosary a couple of times a week using the Christocentric relative clauses typical in German countries (see The Threefold Garland). Most often, I do so while walking, which I learned from an old priest professor. The rosary has changed for me over the years, but mainly its a way for me to offer up every moment of my life in the context of Christ’s life (from the perspective of Mary).

    From Fr. Giussani I also learned to pray ‘veni Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam.’ Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary. This prayer evokes Mary’s role as witness to the Incarnation (come through Mary – come through the flesh!) and has given my Marian devotion a more pneumatic dimension.

    5. What does “infallibility” of the teaching office of the church mean in your view?

    It means that the bishops reliably hand on the teaching of the apostles. Rarely, it means defining something like the Immaculate Conception.

    6. What differences do you see between the participation, general sense of identity and commitment between people who were raised Catholic and people who have converted to Catholicism?

    My wife says folks raised Catholic can be like those raised Jewish: it’s a way of life, there’s a relationship with God which can be taken for granted (think Tevia in Fiddler on the Roof). I think of Julia Sweeney (now atheist) as a sadly typical Catholic.

    My own experience is that life long Catholics fall everywhere (as I refresh, I see Ben cited Joyce!): some are devout and others less so. Education and personal desire certainly make a difference.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  4. David wrote:

    1. What does the Sacrament of Reconciliation mean to you and how does it affect your day-to-day life? How does Catholic teaching on reconciliation motivate you to deal with conflicts with other Christians? Does going to confession at times function as a substitute for confessing to people whom you have wronged?

    In all honesty, I’ve always dreaded going to confession from an early age. I think this is due to an overly legalistic impression which I gained about what confession requires, whether the confession was adequate etc etc. If one worries too much about these things it doesn’t become difficult to understand the young Luther’s desperation in knowing whether he was saved or not! Unfortunately, despite the changes inaugurated by Vatican II I think many Catholics still share this conception of what the Sacrament of Reconciliation consists of, i.e. more of an ‘inquisition’ on the part of the Priest – (c.f. Joyce’s portrayal of it in ‘A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man’. It’s this rather grim idea of what the sacrament entails that many people object to. However, my own experience in recent times has been far better, and most of my qualms about it are more to do with my own neuroses than the actual practice! I have found it to be focused on the biblical promises of forgiveness for those who have repented (for example biblical passages are read focusing on Jesus’ mercy towards sinners etc) and as a kind of meeting with a ‘spiritual advisor’, to help talk through one’s failings and how one can grow in Christ.

    I definitely wouldn’t describe it as a ‘get out of jail card’ – it isn’t actually an easy thing to confess one’s sins to someone. It also includes an element of reparation and the priest may well tell you to go and reconcile yourself with the person you’ve wrong. If you’ve wronged someone and the possibility to make it up to them is there then if one is truly repentant then one ought to do this in any case.

    That said, I confess I don’t go to confession that often, in fact I haven’t been for quite some time though I probably should.

    2. What is your experience with the Catholic laity as a whole? What level of participation and understanding do you sense among Catholic congregants on a broad scope?

    This varies widely. As with anything else, there are significant differences amongst people. Being part of the Catholic Church, however, does instill an ethos in people even when they cease to be practicing Catholics or are never particularly devout. I think this explains the phenomenon of ‘once a Catholic always a Catholic’ and can be clearly seen in someone like, again, James Joyce or Terry Eagleton. Thus many of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church continue to play a part in someone who has since left the faith. Perhaps there is even an aesthetic sensibility that remains in such a person – embodiment, ritual, symbolism all play such a role in the liturgy and life of the Church that they tend to indelibly leave their print on people (another example could be Martin Scorcese and his work).

    Of course, this sort of thing won’t sound particularly positive to those of an ‘evangelical’ bent where personal commitment is paramount (i.e. ‘accepting Jesus into your heart’) and being a Christian involves a greater role for volition. I would not wish to downplay this, but I think being a Catholic is more about being part of a Society, whether or not, as Charles Peguy puts it, one is a ‘good citizen’ or not.

    I think then, that it is not right to not consider lukewarm Catholics as not really being Catholics. They have been baptised and thus have an irrevocable connection to the Church forevermore. The practices imprinted in them from an early age may later in life stir in them once again a longing for God.

    3. Do you have any experiences with indulgences? Please tell if you do.

    Not really. I’ve read a little about them, enough to satisfy any doubts about the legitimacy of them from a theoretical point of view (an essay by Rahner on them in particular I found very helpful) but I haven’t really had much experience with them otherwise. I think the same would go for most Catholics as they aren’t really emphasised today.

    4. How does Marian devotion impact your spiritual life (if it does)?

    I’ve never had a very strong devotion, though I hope to develop it more. I’m troubled by the excesses and I admit I fail to understand such doctrines as Mary being the mediatrix of all grace and certainly don’t share the eagerness others do to push these through as infallibly defined dogmas.

    I do sometimes pray the rosary, which is of course, a profoundly Christocentric form of prayer, meditating on the life, death and Resurrection of our Saviour. I think that praying the rosary can serve as a paradigm for the role Mary has to play in the life of Christians: she can help lead us to her Son.

    Karl Rahner once remarked when asked about the decline of Marian devotion: “Too many are turning Christianity into an abstraction; and abstractions don’t have mothers!”

    5. What does “infallibility” of the teaching office of the church mean in your view?

    That the Holy Spirit will not allow the Church to lead her Children astray in matters of faith or morals. It plays a ‘negative’ role, in that the Church will be prevented from erring, not that She will necessarily couch her teachings in the best terms possible etc.

    6. What differences do you see between the participation, general sense of identity and commitment between people who were raised Catholic and people who have converted to Catholicism?

    From a personal point of view, I don’t really know any converts as I have lived most of my life in a predominantly Catholic country. I suppose that converts will often display more enthusiasm for the faith than cradle Catholics (which can sometimes irritate them!) but they can often serve as a ‘catalyst’ for infusing new life into Catholics who perhaps need a jolt to make them more actively appropriate what their faith offers them.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 1:47 am | Permalink
  5. Dennis wrote:

    Hello,

    I stumbled on your blog a few days ago and wanted to respond to your questions.

    First off, I’m a cradle Catholic who’s had 12 years of Catholic School. Never strayed but was probably at one time in my life more agnostic than anything else. Now I would call myself orthodox (with a small “o”) in my understanding and practice. I’ll answer your questions as honestly as I can.

    1. What does the Sacrament of Reconciliation mean to you and how does it affect your day-to-day life? How does Catholic teaching on reconciliation motivate you to deal with conflicts with other Christians? Does going to confession at times function as a substitute for confessing to people whom you have wronged?

    In order to respond to your question, I need to properly define what Reconciliation is. My greatest asset. The thing that I value most in my life. Above my wife, above my child, is my relationship with God. If somehow through my actions I have damaged that relationship then I need to reconcile myself to Him.

    Reconciliation to me is to bring myself back to the Body of Christ. At Baptism, we are reconciled with Christ initially and then through our own will, we separate ourselves from God through our sins.

    My relationship with God is reflected in EVERY ASPECT of my daily life. Therefore, my union with God and the Sacrament of Reconciliation affects me daily. If I have sinned (which I often do), I must repent immediately…recall it at Mass for forgiveness of my venial sins…and confess it at confession if the sin is grave or mortal. I do this for but one reason: Because I love God.

    My relationship with God is directly reflected on my relationship with other Christians. As they are members of the Body of Christ, I should treat them (as well as all people) as if they were Christ. I treat them with respect and serve them with humility. If there is conflict with them, I don’t let that dwell in me as there is no room for conflict in my relationship with others.

    If I have wronged another person, then going to confession is not a substitute. Going to confession repairs my relationship with God. If, for example, I were to have committed adultery, then I must go to confession as my relationship with God was to have been injured. Additionally, my relationship with my wife has been injured and I must seek her forgiveness as well. (And she must forgive me).

    2. What is your experience with the Catholic laity as a whole? What level of participation and understanding do you sense among Catholic congregants on a broad scope?

    My focus is on my relationship with God. It’s never a good idea to look at another person and say…”that person isn’t as good of a Catholic (or Christian) as I am.” In the United States, the Catholic Church has done a poor job of catechizing the laity. As a result, we have a church filled with members who cannot sufficiently defend their faith or understand the underpinnings of the institution.

    My function in the Church (along with all others who are properly catechized with a good understanding of the faith) is to witness to them and to all people. Not to evaluate their level of participation or understanding but to share with them the Truth. Let Christ’s love shine through me. It’s to bring all people closer to God.

    3. Do you have any experiences with indulgences? Please tell if you do.

    I have not ever sought indulgences. From what I understand, they are to relieve the extraordinary penances that were given by the clergy. They in no way buy yourself salvation.

    4. How does Marian devotion impact your spiritual life (if it does)?

    Mary is very important to my spiritual life. She is a shining example of what every Christian should be. She is a person who was completely obedient to Christ in everything.

    When I ask for her help, it’s a request for her to help me. My personal prayer goes something like this:

    “O Mary, I ask that you intercede to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I want to be able to love Him more. Please ask Him to give me the grace to better understand what it takes to love Him as you loved Him.”

    And her response to me would be the same as to the servants at the wedding in John 2: “Do whatever He tells you.”

    5. What does “infallibility” of the teaching office of the church mean in your view?

    It means that the Magisterium is protected by the Holy Spirit from error.

    Twice in Matthew does Jesus Christ say that Peter and the Apostles have the power to “bind and loose.” The first time when He addresses it singularly and directly to Peter (Matthew 16:19) and the second time He addresses all of the Apostles—in the plural sense (Matthew 18:18). What this tells me is that infallibility can occur when all the bishops with the Pope speak at a Council (e.g. Vatican II, Trent, Ephesus, etc.) per Matt. 18:18 and also when the Pope speaks “ex-Cathedra” per Matt. 16:19.

    6. What differences do you see between the participation, general sense of identity and commitment between people who were raised Catholic and people who have converted to Catholicism?

    I think that Protestants who have converted to Catholicism may have been better catechized as it was done through a search for Truth as opposed to someone who was Catholic because they were born that way. Additionally, my impression of Protestantism is that there is a greater sense of community that may not be found in some large Catholic parishes so those who have converted may be bringing some of their knowledge and gifts to that parish (e.g. strong sense of community, love of Scripture, Active church participation, etc.).

    In a lot of ways, the newly minted Catholic can breathe life into a parish.

    These were very good questions and I felt compelled to respond to them. Please let me know if anything I wrote is confusing or needs clarification.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  6. Hill wrote:

    1. What does the Sacrament of Reconciliation mean to you and how does it affect your day-to-day life? How does Catholic teaching on reconciliation motivate you to deal with conflicts with other Christians? Does going to confession at times function as a substitute for confessing to people whom you have wronged?

    I am in a transitional phase with regard to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in my daily life. When I was received into the Catholic Church, regular confession was something I looked forward to incorporating in to my life. Unfortunately, the parish I was a member of at the time (like many Roman Catholic parishes) didn’t exactly encourage a culture of regular confession. It was not as if it was discouraged, but suffice it to say, my intentions were not ultimately born out, to my spiritual detriment. I have now become a member of a parish in which regular confession is a huge part of the life of the parish (after moving across the country). This has renewed my desire for regular confession, and just today I have taken the first steps towards that goal. It is truly an amazing thing to see entire families lined up praying as they wait to go to confession before Mass. I truly believe that when one understands the Sacrament of Reconciliation properly, it becomes something one craves. The writing of JPII on this subject was immensely helpful to me. As you might imagine, sacramental confession was one of the major sticking points for me as a Protestant. I came to realize that the various “theological” criticisms levied at the practice were misguided in my view. As I came to a greater realization of the truly corporate nature of the Church and the idea that my sin, “private” though it may be, wounds the Body, a sacramental, ecclesial reconciliation began to make more and more sense. As has been said before me, a confession is illegitimate if it does include reparation and reconciliation with the person wronged by a specific sin, if relevant. My thoughts on the Sacrament in general, as a former Protestant totally opposed to it in principle, are that I lost nothing of my sense of confessing my sins to God and asking for His forgiveness and gained a much richer sense of my own sin in the context of the Body of Christ as well as the practical benefit of accountability. Resistance to sin can be a very practical matter (if your right eye causes you to sin…), and forming ones conscience in this way can be a very effective check on many temptations that otherwise remain completely private.

    2. What is your experience with the Catholic laity as a whole? What level of participation and understanding do you sense among Catholic congregants on a broad scope?

    I really liked the “here comes everybody” quote. I think we all know that it’s not too hard to find a “catholic” who would vindicate the many stereotypes held by non-catholics. Likewise, there are many Catholics out there with a rather unremarkable (externally) faith. I found this great quote from Augustine on the laity who “indulge their sexual appetites, although within the decorous bonds of marriage, and not only for the sake of offspring, but, even, because they enjoy it. Who put up with injuries with less than complete patience … Who may even burn, at times, for revenge … Who hold to what they possess. Who give alms, but not very lavishly. Who do not take other people’s property, but defend their own: but do it in the bishop’s court, rather than before a worldly judge … But who, through all this, see themselves as small and God as glorious.” Catholicism differs from Protestantism in the sense that it has such a strong cultural component that it manages to capture imaginations even with an explicit faith has atrophied beyond recognition, and this is a testament to its truth. Evelyn Waugh explains this citing Chesterton: “The Roman Catholic Church has the unique power of keeping remote control over human souls which have once been part of her. G.K. Chesterton has compared this to the fisherman’s line, which allows the fish the illusion of free play in the water and yet has him by the hook; in his own time the fisherman by a ‘twitch upon the thread’ draws the fish to land.” This utterly fails to address the question or begin to provide an accurate picture of the Catholic laity, as it is purely anecdotal. I currently attend a very active parish that celebrates three masses every Sunday: the Novus Ordo in English, the Novus Ordo in Latin and the Tridentine Rite. There are multiple choirs, a Gregorian Schola and one Sunday a month, a professional early music ensemble provides the music for the Tridentine Rite. This was a massive and blessed change from the parish I attended previously. American Catholicism has been in the midst of what might accurately be called a liturgical crisis but very promising strides have been made in resolving some of the issues behind this. I think it is worth noting that there is a significant variation from parish to parish in what you might find on any given Sunday and that this is the result of a particular difficult period that the Church has endured over the past 40 years.

    3. Do you have any experiences with indulgences? Please tell if you do.

    I do not.

    4. How does Marian devotion impact your spiritual life (if it does)?

    This is another transitional item for me. If I had problems with confession and the pope in my days as a Protestant, they were nothing compared to my Mari-phobia. I’ve made this point before, but the gap between orthodox teaching on Mary and what non-catholics (and some catholics) think is orthodox teaching on Mary cannot be underestimated. When someone says to me “but… but… don’t you guys worship Mary?” I can’t help but chuckle. To explain it to people, I have very close spiritual friends whose intercession I routinely seek, and this is clearly true for virtually all Christians. The difference for me is that in addition to those friends, I have the entire communion of saints and the host of heaven and I ask them to pray for me, too. As for Mary in particular, as a starting point, she is the exemplar of all Christians. What Mary has received is that which is promised to all who put their hope in the risen Lord. She is the first fruit of Christ’s harvest. She also provides a fascinating feminine element to Catholic theology which is far too variegated and rich for me to get in to here. When I pray to Mary, I ask her to show me her son, and in my desire to grow deeper in my relationship with Mary, I ask Christ to show me his mother (who is also my mother, just as she is John’s mother) and teach me to love her as he does and did. The quote from Rahner in the comment about abstractions not having mothers is very helpful. Marian spirituality ultimately is just another window to Christ. The light that shines through her is His light, diffracted but not diminished. There isn’t much more I can say except that I am keenly aware of all of the potential criticisms and concerns one might have about Marian spirituality, and I admit that there are excesses in parts of the Church. Given all of that, it has truly been a material blessing in my life to pursue Christ through his mother.

    5. What does “infallibility” of the teaching office of the church mean in your view?

    Infallibility is ultimately the infallibility of the Church. The Pope’s infallibility (when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, something that has only happened twice) is just an extension of this infallibility. Ultimately that infallibility is that the Church, having been founded by Christ, is “the household of God, the church of the living God and the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). Furthermore, as the successors of the apostles, the bishops hold “the keys to the kingdom of heaven and and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19). This does not guarantee the personal sanctity of the episcopacy anymore than it guarantees the personal sanctity of any Christian. Likewise it does not guarantee the church against all temporal error. As I’ve said before one has to view infallibility against an eschatological horizon. The Church is not a human institution arbitrarily moving through time. She is being prepared by her Lord for the wedding feast, and she will not be found wanting when that time comes.

    6. What differences do you see between the participation, general sense of identity and commitment between people who were raised Catholic and people who have converted to Catholicism?

    It’s difficult to speak about cradle catholics on this score, as you will find every possibility under the sun. Converts, however, tend to be especially zealous, and having managed to cut through all of the bias most people bring initially to an investigation of the Catholic Church, they tend to have a very robust faith, at least notionally. I know when my good friend told me of his growing interest in the Catholic Church, I was floored. I was literally praying for his soul because I thought he had been seduced by Antichrist. Little did I know that I had already felt the twitch upon the thread, and I was received three years later. As I alluded to earlier, the last 40 years (in my estimation) have been an especially difficult time for Catholicism, especially in the U.S. I think this has contributed, either by the lack of uniformity in Catholic devotion, poor catechesis, “protestantization” of many parishes, etc. to a general lack of Catholic identity, at least on average. At the same time, for all of the blandness that has spread, it has been matched by a reintensification and consolidation of Catholic identity in many parishes. I have truly felt a spirit of renewal and revival at work since I became a Catholic, which is a big part of the reason I take discussions with committed and theologically serious Protestants so seriously. We need you!

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
  7. freder1ck wrote:

    I would add that ‘here comes everybody’ applies not only to life-long Catholics but also to those who come into the Catholic Church as adults. Some come for marriage or family reasons. Some come for philosophical, theological or ethical reasons. Some may be drawn by the beauty of art, architecture, music, literature (I was impressed to see Barbara Nicolosi’s syllabus for RCIA in Hollywood – it includes lots of fiction. And not all who come stay.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  8. freder1ck wrote:

    B16′s Spes Savli on the nature and duration of purgatory:

    47. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming ..

    Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  9. Jim Reilly wrote:

    1. What does the Sacrament of Reconciliation mean to you and how does it affect your day-to-day life? How does Catholic teaching on reconciliation motivate you to deal with conflicts with other Christians? Does going to confession at times function as a substitute for confessing to people whom you have wronged?
    ANS: I find it both personally humbling and freeing at the same time. Knowing the need to actually tell another person my weaknesses and foibles, at least occasionally makes me think about my choices and actions. Just the act of going to the Church for confession forces me to confront my own issues.

    If there is one thing about confession, it is that it forces you to see yourself as part of the great unwashed. In that case, it makes you a whole lot less willing to condemn – be it conflicts with other Christians or anything else.

    No – It’s very much introspective and an aid toward righting whatever wrong you’ve committed.
    2. What is your experience with the Catholic laity as a whole? What level of participation and understanding do you sense among Catholic congregants on a broad scope?
    ANS: Mixed – some good, some bad, some informed some ignorant, etc. – it’s just folks

    Again, mixed, though broadly speaking I guess most are just going along.
    3. Do you have any experiences with indulgences? Please tell if you do.
    ANS: Sure – good deeds to help make you a better person. There is much confusion about indulgences – usually they are looked at as the sale of forgiveness from sin, which they aren’t. They derive from the belief that nothing unclean – sinful – will enter heaven. In Purgatory any residual love for sin, concupiscence, or effect of sin itself is purged so that when we go to Heaven we are “spotless.” Giving alms, saying prayers – doing things in this life that make us better – sanctify us/purge us in this life – are what indulgences are about and start us on the road to true perfection in heaven.
    4. How does Marian devotion impact your spiritual life (if it does)?
    ANS: I pray the Rosary daily. I meditate on the Joyful Mysteries in relation to Faith: Faith of Mary in saying fiat; Faith of Elizabeth in the hidden Savior; Faith of the shepherds in the angelic message; Faith of Simeon in the promise of God and Faith in finding Jesus in His Temple when we are separated: Luminous Mysteries – Wisdom of God in Baptism; Wisdom of God in His miracles; Wisdom of God in his teaching; the Wisdom of God in his transformation of us and the Wisdom of God in being present to us in the Eucharist: Sorrowful Mysteries – Hope in despair; Hope in physical pain; Hope in humiliation; Hope in our walk through life and Hope in death itself: Glorious Mysteries – Love in giving us eternal life through the resurrection; Love in going back to the Father; Love in sending the Holy Spirit; Love in taking Mary to heaven as he will us and Love in making us like Mary joint heirs – kings/queens, if you will – for eternity.
    5. What does “infallibility” of the teaching office of the church mean in your view?
    ANS: That God protects his Church from error in teaching matters of the deposit of faith, despite the fallen nature of His ministers and people. It’s a comfort.
    6. What differences do you see between the participation, general sense of identity and commitment between people who were raised Catholic and people who have converted to Catholicism?
    ANS: Converts are almost always more committed – they had to decide and that works often to commit them. That’s not to say that there are not committed cradle Catholics.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

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