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One Convert’s Call for Catholics to Unify Instead of Divide in This Time of Trial

Calling all Catholics: Now is the time to be a saint, be JOYFUL, examine your own sinfulness and live your faith to the fullest.

Let us unify amidst this great trial and use it as a time to growth stronger and closer to God than ever! As a colleague of mine said, “prayer and fasting must be our mainstays.” And I fully agree.

I humbly beg you to avoid judging others, using inflammatory language and setting up divisions in our faith. We must stop creating sides and dividing among ourselves as “conservative” or “liberal” Catholics and as to whether we are with Pope Francis or not. This only makes a bad situation worse, in my opinion, and feeds the enemy whose goal is division.

Instead, let us keep our eyes on Jesus Christ.

9 Reasons Catholics Should Unify Instead of Divide in This Trial

Catholic Unity

Here are 9 reasons why this one unimportant Catholic convert from a small town in Indiana humbly believes we should stop the division and unify our Church:

1. Division is not of Christ.

As my parish pastor Father Dennis O’Keeffe said last week, “Division is NOT of Christ.” SO many of the Bible verses the first week of September from 1st Corinthians were about human knowledge and division — by chance? I think not.

Of course, be sure to read all these in their full context…

1 Corinthians 2:5 “… so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 3:3-6 “While there is jealousy and rivaly among you, are you not of the flesh and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely men? 

“What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (Is this not what we are doing now: dividing ourselves as “I am with Pope Francis” or “I am not” or “Bring back Pope Benedict”? Are we not all together part of the ONE HOLY and CATHOLIC Church?)

1 Corinthians 3:18-19 “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God…” (Are we wise? Are we wiser than the Holy Spirit? I know I’m not!)

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgement on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgement before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” — Enough said!!

2. Like the Pope or not, he’s our Pope!

Catholic Church sex abuse crisis

I beg for the end of criticism and judgement of Pope Francis. Jesus Christ founded our Church on Peter, like him or not :).

As Catholics, we believe the Church rightly interprets, as guided by the Holy Spirit, when and how the Church should be organized, what it teaches and how it moves forward. This includes how the Pope is elected.

Pope Francis is VALIDLY elected according to Church teaching. He is here in this time and place for a reason.

Can we trust God on that? Or do we think we know better?

3.  It is not our place to judge the Pope.

It is not our job to judge the Pope. Is it our place to judge anyone lest we be judged? I think we should work on our own flaws first. Remember Matthew 7:5?

“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Are anyone’s eyes “clear” enough to judge except God? But really this is about judging the Pope. In fact, the Catholic Code of Canon Law 1404 (Thank you to Tim Staples of Catholic Answers for this) says:

“The First See [Pope] is judged by no one.”

I am very bothered by everyone judging what Pope Francis should do in this situation with comments like:

  • He should say this
  • He should remove such and such
  • He should resign

I think it’s quite presumptuous to think we know better than he does.

I’m trusting Peter as led by the Holy Spirit.

If something criminal has taken place, it will be rooted out by Church officials. If a lapse in judgement has taken place, the Pope will ask forgiveness and we WILL forgive him. We are Christians, remember?

Here is a great discussion of the topic by Tim Staples on Catholic Answers LIVE on EWTN. Go to 23:38 and 51:40 to hear the relevant discussions. Please give it a listen! He says it way better than I ever could!

Staples comments, “It is not the place of Catholic lay people to call for the resignation of the Holy Father. It is our place to pray.”

4. Many of the accusations are from long ago.

St. John the Evangelist Church Indianapolis

As I understand it, most of the accusations being made of sexual abuse are from prior to changes that were made by the Church in and around 2002. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report spans 70 years.

Now, I know some corruption and cover up may have occured later where officials should have been removed, and I fully agree with the USCCB, which is calling for an impartial investigation by the laity to root out the problems here.

In fact, my bishop, Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, who is the chair of the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, says that American Catholic bishops are working on reform of policy and practice and is asking for a visitation from Rome and lay investigative experts from the United States.

But, in terms of the actual sexual abuse, let’s not forget that the Church has made great strides forward in reducing this terrible atrocity since 2002.

I know in my parish I could never imagine any child alone with a priest for ANY REASON whatsoever.

As a religious education teacher, I go through a rigorous training and background check, and it is very clear to me that I am NEVER to be alone with a child without another adult present.

Father Mike Schmitz gives his raw reaction in the video below to the Pennysylvania Grand Jury Report and says he’s never seen any such activity or hints of any activity as he went through seminary and now as a priest. He explains how if there was any hint of disordered tendencies in a seminarian the head of his seminary would NOT allow them to continue:

A newly-ordained (2018) priest at my parish, Father James De Oreo, reiterated in a homily the incredibly in-depth scrutiny he had to go through with multiple 800-question psychological questionnaires, in-person interviews and repeated background checks he took again and again as a seminarian.

This is not to say this scrutiny and prudence is definitely the case everywhere, but my point is that is that the corruption IS NOT everywhere as the media would make it seem.

A 2012 Washington Post article declared “The Catholic Church may be the safest place for children.”

It went on to say:

  • “Whatever its past record, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has made unparalleled strides in educating their flock about child sexual abuse and ensuring that children are safe in Catholic environments.”
  • “Allegations of new abuse cases continue to decline, as they have since 1980, and appear to reflect the effectiveness of some of the charter’s policies as well as ongoing efforts to increase screening of seminarians and to deal with suspected abusers before they claim multiple victims.”

5. This is not just a problem in the Catholic Church.

child in prayer

Don’t get caught up in all the media coverage leading you to believe this is a Catholic Church problem. It’s not. It’s a societal problem. But, of course, the media is focused on the Catholic Church, which gives the impression that it’s only Catholics who have this problem.

The same Washington Post article from above points out that other denominations from Baptist to Judaism are facing the same issues, as is the society at large with the scandals regarding the Penn State football team, USA gymnastics and even the Boy Scouts of America.

It’s a sad fact that when adults are allowed to be alone with children, some with disordered sexual tendencies are going to commit this horrific act. The world is sinful: teachers, parents, coaches, and yes, priests and bishops, too.

And this MUST BE one of the gravest of sins, as Jesus said in Matthew 18:10:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Lastly, please remember that just because some priests, bishops, etc. commited this crime, that doesn’t mean they all do. As Bishop Doherty said in a recent newspaper column:

“The bishops and priests who had no part in the evildoing are now suffering a humiliating aftermath. The men and women in religious orders who had no part in the evildoing are suffering.”

Please don’t blame them for the evil acts of others!

6. Catholics are called to obedience to Church teaching — and that means the Pope.

As Catholics we are to be obedient to Church teaching, which also calls us to obedience to the Pope. Vatican One documents declare “He [the Roman Pontiff] is the supreme judge of the faithful.

That does not mean we can’t have opinions that differ from Pope Francis (like the environment, etc.), but it DOES mean that on certain teachings we must adhere to what the Church tells us, which includes Pope Francis as our leader.

Pope Francis has said NOTHING infallibly and nothing heretical, as some try to assert. And none of his writings go against Church teaching.

I have also had people tell me recently that the Pope is not above other bishops. Church teaching says otherwise below.

Read these passages from Vatican One, Chapter 4, Paragraphs 8 and 9 (emphasis added):

8. Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful [52], and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment [53]. The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon [54]. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.

9. So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.

The Vatican from Rome

Furthermore, I encourage all to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this subject. Read 880-887 to see what it is has to say about the office of the Roman Pontiff, or Pope, including these passages:

For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered. (882)

The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff. (883)

Why do we believe Church teaching? Because we believe Jesus left Peter in charge of his Church until His return and sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in all things and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Church teaching is the essence of our faith: trusting the Magisterium and Pope to interpret what Jesus taught and what the Holy Spirit would have us do.

Otherwise, we’re in the camp of each person figuring it out for themselves and we know how much error that causes.

7.  Jesus will not let Peter fall!

Again, credit to Tim Staples on this one, but remember when Peter tried to walk on water to Jesus and began to fall when he took his eyes off Jesus. What did Jesus do? He lifted him back up.

He won’t let Peter fall! Trust in the Holy Spirit that He will lead Pope Francis and defer to Pope Francis’ judgement that the Holy Spirit knows best.

8. Remember the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds Wikimedia commons

Credit to Father De Oreo for this well-spoken point. The parable of the wheat and the weeds speaks of the fact that the weeds (sin) must grow alongside the wheat (holiness) lest the wheat be cut when also trying to remove the weeds.

Sin, horrible sin if the devil has anything to say about it, is going to always be with us: always has been, always will be.

Bishop Robert Barron had this to say about the parable of the wheat and the weeds:

“When we discover evil, it is always very tempting to go after it with both fists, to take it out. But the warning of the Master here is extremely important. Sometimes, our zeal can lead to far greater problems, precisely because of the way evil is related to the good.

“So what should we do? Let them grow side-by-side for the time being. At the end, at harvest time, the Master will separate them out.”

That’s not of course to say we shouldn’t stop criminals from harming children! But that perhaps once we do that, we leave it to Church leaders, of which there are MANY capable, intelligent, validly-elected bishops and cardinals, not just those involved in any cover-up and corruption, to sort it out.

9. Lead with joy, not judgement!

Mother Teresa Joy

By Manfredo Ferrari via Wikimedia Commons

Who wants to join a church that judges everyone? Not me!

Who wants to join a church that is arguing amongst itself? Not me!

Now more than ever, let us display our Christian joy! Think of Mother Teresa’s wonderfully joyful face in the midst of suffering.

We draw people to the faith by the witness of our lives, which should focus on joy and peace and not judgement and criticism and hatred and vitriol. There is never a time and place for any of this.

Don’t be the Internet troll who is nasty and mean, using vitriol and curse words to make your point. If you disagree, do so with respect, humility, prayer and kindness.

If we lose our joy, what do we have? Choose Joy!

Father Schmitz says now more than ever we must be the saints God has called us to be. Go forth and be a saint and let that be the difference maker in the world and its sinfulness!

This is just one convert’s humble opinion :).

And, go ahead and post your respectful comments below 🙂 I know they’re coming!

What did Pope Francis REALLY Say? News Sources to Accurately Follow Our Holy Father

What did Pope Francis REALLY Say? Accurate Catholic News Sources for Following Our Holy Father from @ACatholicNewbie

As Catholics and non-Catholics alike get ready to welcome the leader of our worldwide Church here on American soil, the media is literally going ga-ga. Headlines and cartoons and analysts galore are filling the airwaves with all sorts of anticipation of what Pope Francis might say or do as he meets President Obama, speaks to Congress and visits the United Nations. Is he going to allow gay marriage? Divorce? Condemn capitalism?

But, reader, tweeter, listener, watcher … beware! The non-Catholic media wants to turn Pope Francis into a man who is going to turn the Catholic church on its head. But, as Teresa Tomeo likes to say: “Newsflash, the Pope is still Catholic” — and he’s not going to change a thing about Catholic church teaching, which has been held since Jesus walked the earth. We can speculate and infer and twist his words to our culture’s liking all we want, but it just isn’t happening.

I say all this to encourage everyone — Catholics and non-Catholics — to get your news about Pope Francis’ visit straight from the source … and that would be The Vatican. Go to Vatican.va and READ FOR YOURSELF what Pope Francis said. Please don’t read what the New  York Times or ABC News or NPR said he said. Nine times out of 10 they get it flat wrong.

There are lots of other great Catholic-based media sources that will also provide you with accurate information from experts and journalists who are well versed in Catholic teaching, who have covered popes for decades and who understand Church law and history.

Here are a few Catholic news sources I recommend during Pope Francis’ U.S. visit:

  • EWTN — It doesn’t get any better for television or radio than the Eternal Word (ie Jesus) Television Network. They will have around the clock coverage of the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis’ whereabouts and the Synod on the Family. Find out what’s on when here.
  • Teresa Tomeo — One of my favorite journalists for telling it like it is, but with a sense of humor :). She’ll be broadcasting her Ave Maria Radio/EWTN Radio show Catholic Connection LIVE from the World Meeting of Families this week 8-10 a.m. Eastern on Catholic radio stations. You can also stream it live via the EWTN app, tune to Sirius-XM 130 or listen online.
  • Al Kresta – Al hosts a weekday afternoon drive time show on EWTN/Ave Maria Radio from 4-6 p.m. called Kresta in the Afternoon. He’ll provide a recap of the news of Pope Francis’ visit each day.
  • The Catholic Channel on Sirius-XM 129 – They are changing themselves to Pope Radio this week. 🙂 Lots of great shows airing all day long.
  • Catholic News Agency – Continually updated coverage on all things Pope Francis and the Vatican
  • Joan Lewis – As the Rome correspondent for EWTN, Joan knows about everything there is to know about the Pope and the Vatican. Follow along on her blog.
  • Aleteia – A fairly new website with a more contemporary slant newly edited by Elizabeth Scalia. They sponsored the adorable Popemojis (emoticons & emojis for your smartphone) and will provide more youthful coverage of the Pope’s visit.
  • National Catholic Register – Solid Catholic news coverage online and in newspaper format.

What did I miss? What are your favorite Catholic news sources that get Pope Francis right and provide fair and balanced coverage?

Remember, take non-Catholic news coverage with a grain of salt and read the REAL story for yourself so you can make informed judgments and commentary on Pope Francis’ historic visit to America.

 

 

Meeting Mary in the Mediterranean

Our Lady of Ta Pinu | Gozo | Marian Shrine

Credit ViewingMalta.com

Before my Catholic conversion began, there were several stand-out moments where I felt drawn to the faith. There were other moments, which at the time I did not recognize, but in which I now see God’s providence working!

I had a light bulb moment yesterday when writing a travel article about a beautiful Mediterranean island called Gozo I was blessed enough to visit for my work back in 2006. I was not remotely interested in Catholicism at that time; however, this island, which is next to Malta in the Mediterranean, is very Catholic and filled from end to end with gorgeous Catholic churches.

We visited one in particular called Ta’ Pinu Basilica. At the time, I just remember going in the church and feeling an amazing sense of peace. I would describe it as the same peace I felt when I first went to mass of my own accord. I really have thought nothing of it since until I was writing this new article and went back to look at my notes.

Gozo Catholic Church, Basilica of Ta Pinu

Turns out, this church is a Shrine to Mary and is built where two villagers said they heard the voice of Our Lady. Many miracles are said to have happened to people who visited and prayed there. Here is the story, according to the shrine’s website:

On the 22nd June 1883, Karmela Grima a forty-five year-old spinster and great devotee of the Blessed Virgin, heard a call, while passing by the chapel on her return home from the fields which surrounded the chapel. “Come, come”, she heard a woman’s voice say. She was confused and frightened, and began to run away from the place. The voice called again, and this time Karmela realised that the voice was coming from within the chapel, she went inside and said her usual prayers. The voice which had come from the image of the Blessed Virgin asked her to recite three Ave Maria in honour of the three days Her body remained in the tomb before Assumption to Heaven.

Karmela did as the voice asked and went on her way. Shortly afterwards Karmela fell ill and remained confined to her bed for more than a year. After this time, Karmela revealed her secret to a friend, Francesco Portelli, who in turn told her that about the same time he also heard a woman’s voice asking him to pray from within the chapel. Shortly after this mysterious call Francesco’s mother was miraculously healed by the intercession of Our Lady of Ta` Pinu. The lonely chapel became a place of pilgrimage for many people on the island and beyond.

St. Pope John Paul II even visited the shrine in 1990, praying in the Chapel, celebrating mass and decorating an image of Our Lady with five golden stars. Pope Benedict XVI also mentioned Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu on a visit to Malta in 2010. I am convinced this is a VERY special place that I had no idea of at the time. I walked where St. Pope John Paul II prayed and celebrated mass!

Ta Pinu - Gozo Church

So it left me to wonder yesterday if perhaps some heavenly grace and prayers from our Mother Mary and St. Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, were granted me upon that visit. It truly was not long thereafter, perhaps not even a year, that I began to feel that calling to go to the Catholic Church.

Ta Pinu Church Gozo Basilica

Mother Mary, you are amazing and I thank you for your blessings! St. Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Our Lady of Ta Pinu Gozo, Marian Shrine

How to Read Pope Francis’ Laudato Si

Laudato Si Reading Plan via @ACatholicNewbie

OK, Catholics (and ALL people for that matter), you already know this, but I’m here to remind you that you NEED to read Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ new encyclical letter On Care for Our Common Home. Why? Sure, you can read everyone else’s summaries, but you need to read Pope Francis’ words for yourself, rather than accept someone else’s interpretation.

You want to be especially careful you are not accepting the interpretations of secular media, who so frequently take Pope Francis’ comments out of context, turning them into something they are not. Teresa Tomeo posted a great list of reliable Catholic sources on her blog.

Format Options

How can you read Laudato Si? Here are some format choices:

1) Laudate App on your smartphone – Download the free app, then select Vatican Documents, scroll to Encyclical Letter and select the top one, Laudato si’. Easy as pie!

2) Vatican website – Read it directly online here.

3) Read as a book – You can buy Laudato Si in book format from Amazon.

4) Read it as an ebook – Download Laudato Si as an ebook to your Kindle or other e-reader.

Now you know HOW to read it, let’s put together a plan to actually read it. Because it’s divided into 246 parts and, as a book, is 176 pages, plus the fact that it’s written by a pope, can make it a bit intimidating to delve into. But I’m here to tell you, I’ve started reading it, and you don’t need a doctorate to get through it. Sure, you’ll need to concentrate, but you won’t need to whip out a dictionary to understand it.

My Reading Plan

My suggestion is to make it as easy as possible to read by having it on your phone, carrying your Kindle with you, packing the book in your bag, etc., so when you get a free moment, you can pop it out and read it. Having it in multiple formats can be helpful as well, so you can switch between ereading on your phone or Kindle to the physical book.

Tackle it in bits of 12-15 parts per day. At a rate of 15 parts, you’ll be done in 17 days, and at a rate of 12 parts, you’ll be done in 21 days — either way, you’ll have read it in less than a month in free bits of time here and there.

Great Quotes from Laudato Si Thus Far

I’m just at the beginning, but I’ve already found so many wonderful things in Laudto Si. Here are just a few samplings to inspire you to read (note: my favorite parts are in bold):

  • Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. (Part 6)
  • [Patriarch Bartholomew] asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.” (Part 9)
  • “It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet” (Part 9, quoting Patriarch Bartholomew, I believe) — How amazingly well written is that sentence?!
  • What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. (Part 12)

Let us not waste the wise words of our wonderful Pope Francis by failing to read them! Now, let’s get started…

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