Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chapter 10 Friends

Friendship… The first paragraph on Chapter 10 tells the story about a father who says to his son “if you find five true friends in your lifetime, you will have lived a life infinitely blessed”. Well, I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I’ve been infinitely blessed.
The message on this chapter is of great importance. Earlier we discussed the concept of holiness: be all you can be. Well, it is safe to say that we can’t be all we can be if we don’t have the support system we need around us. Friends are just that… “A true friend brings the best out of her friends”. True friends “challenge us to become all we can be and encourage us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.”
Now, where can we find those friends? I’ve been lucky enough to find them throughout my life. They are not many, but they are the kind who inspire me to become a better person every day. However, sometimes those friends are not here with us anymore. Saints and even ordinary (or should I say extraordinary) people like Mother Teresa or Francis of Assisi can be our friends. They have had and continue to have the ability to inspire people to become better-versions-of-themselves. We can learn from them, imitate them in their actions, and hope to be as humble as they were and to be able to find our purpose in life.
Let’s not forget though that we need to foster our spirit. We need to always ask ourselves “what it will take for me to become the better person I can be?” Let’s reflect every day about how can we imitate our friends and strive for holiness. Other people has been able to do it, why can’t we?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chapter 9 Something Concrete

So what do we find here in Chapter 9? A very firm and concrete suggestion as to what we can do to further our progress along the path to Holiness. We can look dispassionately and objectively at our habits. We are challenged on page 130 to do so, and to separate them in to those that help us and those that hinder us. All of our habits are, in actuality, taking us down the path to becoming the best version of ourselves (Holiness) or down the opposite path away from God and away from what we were created to be.

What do you think of when you hear or see the word “concrete?” I think of something firm and solid, something that in this context I can hang my hat on and rely upon as true. But thinking a little deeper, it is also something that can be chopped up and removed. With enough effort it can be removed at will and replaced with something else. It is something that started out in a totally different state of being, composed of multiple elements and concrete is almost, but not quite, infinitely moldable in to most anything. Even boats have been made of concrete!

And so it is with our habits. How many of you actually took the time to “Take a few minutes right now. Put this book down. Find a piece of paper and write down a list of your habits. Think about it.”? It is a challenge, and a concrete way for us to “do something” in response to this book instead of simply reading and thinking, “well, isn’t that neat” or “I think that is true (or false?)” or simply reacting on an emotional level to what Kelly is saying in the book.

I must confess that had I not been charged with putting together the blog post on this particular chapter I would likely have read that and said to myself “well, that sounds like a good idea, I will get to it someday….” and kept reading! But I did not keep reading. I took his suggestion and put the book down, got out a pen and paper and went to work. And it was WORK, believe me! I was reminded of preparing an examination of conscience before the sacrament of Confession.

First I had to decide what a habit is, then how to organize them and then name them individually and then decide in which direction that particular habit took me. The last part was the easiest by far. I say all of this not to discourage, but to encourage you to do this for yourself in your own particular way. What worked for me will not necessarily work for you! (His suggestion to lump them in to daily, weekly and monthly was helpful though. It helps you to get a running start.) But DO attempt to get this done as soon as you possibly can, or you will never do it!

So what does this have to do with concrete? As I looked at my habits I found some interesting things. Mainly, since becoming Catholic my habits have changed! For the better! Old habits die hard, and are, like concrete, hard to remove. But they can be changed and refashioned, just like new concrete, with fresh materials in to something more beautiful, helpful and productive than what was there before! When I looked critically at my habits, I discovered that since becoming Catholic my very state of being has changed! I am working with a different, fresh set of raw materials in the Grace that comes to me through the teachings and sacraments of the Church. When I choose to cooperate with this fully, stony hard habits are transformed and molded in to something that will bear fruit in God’s Kingdom. That is an exciting prospect.

Am I therefore, by my own efforts, transformed in the best version of myself here and now? Oh my, NO. This has shown me two things. One is that, on balance, I find that I have made some minimal progress. The other is a clearer version of just how far I still have to go on this journey! I thank God that I have the entire community of the Catholic Church to uphold and support me in this journey toward Holiness.

I will close here….this has run on long enough. I will add in the comment section some specific discoveries that I made about my own personal habits, both good and bad and I hope that you will feel comfortable enough to do the same!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friends in High Places....

Matthew Kelley picked some of my best friends for this chapter. Each of the saints he discusses has bolstered me, inspired me and sustained me, but two (St. John Vianney and St. Thomas More) in a particular way. I am not a fan of holding hands during the Our Father for many reasons--but I do often imagine as I pray that these two particular saints that follow are there with me, on either side (and maybe holding my hands...) As I have learned to ask the saints for their intercessions, our friendship has grown--they are so very real to me!

It’s a pity we spend so little time getting to know the saints, because they faced the same kinds of challenges we do and they all had different strengths and weaknesses. They’ve travelled the path we are on, and their lives have much to offer. I read the “Saint of the Day” every day, and am constantly struck by how like us their lives are--though their holiness is something else. And they reached that holiness even in spite of glaring faults that persisted: tempers, appetites, despair....reading the lives of the saints really is like looking at the “study guide” for holiness.

I recently read a biography of St. Camillus de Lellis--what an amazing story: a warrior, a drunkard, a gambler, with a temper to match--becoming a tool in the hands of God took a long time and he still retained the characteristics that made him Camillus (including that temper--he gave himself a serious hernia when, angry at being cheated by a provider of wheat to one of his infirmaries, he threw bags of inferior flour, each about 100 pounds, into the street, and the unfortunate purveyor after them... ) But the things he was able to do when he opened himself to God, perhaps including the incident with the flour, and how he allowed God to pick him up again and again--amazing. By the way--his order is the source of the red cross still used today for hospital services....

St. John VIanney reaches my heart in a very special way. He was not a great intellect. In fact, his ordination was said to be an act of Christian charity, because he was so poor in his studies. However, he knew and responded to God’s call in a way that few ever do. And he did so simply by doing what the Church has always prescribed for those who would be holy: fast, do penance, pray and give alms. I doubt that St. John Vianney would have been able to give a great explanation of the theology of any of those things--he simply did as he knew, as he had been taught. And his life proved how life giving those teachings are. This is good to remember in a world that sees such practices as outdated, old-fashioned, superstitious and ineffective.

It's good to keep in mind that he became a priest after the Reign of Terror, when the faith was supressed and priests were executed for saying mass. France was almost devoid of religious practice. By his penance and prayers and his work in the community, Ars became a place of great faith once again. TImes are bad now, for faith, but they have been bad before and the Church survived. What brought Ars and its Cure through the time of darkness will bring us too, if we but do them in trust and with conviction. God is truly greater than any darkness or any human limitation, and He uses the strangest vessels to reach His ends....

John Vianney reminds me not to make things too complicated and to trust that God and His Church will lead me in the right direction. I need not understand to be obedient or to reap the rewards of moving forward in faith. The Catholic faith is not an intellectual exercise--though it is deep enough for the greatest minds, and then some. It is a way of living that makes its fruits accessible even to the "least" among us. Sometimes, I think, especially to the ones the world sees as least, precisely because they approach it with confidence and simplicity and utter trust. Those of us who would wrestle too much with ideas often fail in the "trust" category. If the saints teach us anything, it is perseverance and trust in God in all circumstances--even when things seem to be going very, very badly here on earth. I'm not there yet....but my friends are patient in teaching me how to get there....

Another story of SJV that I really like is the night the devil set fire to his bed, with John in it. It is said that the great saint just rolled over, said, “Oh, it’s just you,” and went back to sleep. The charred bed is still in his home in Ars. His quiet calm in the face of such an attack reminds me not to be fearful myself. After all, no matter what he chooses to do, the devil is just a creature and God is infinitely greater and more powerful Hard to live--but true and SJV reminds me of that.

SJV also reminds me how indebted I am to priests--as does St. Frances, whose reverence for the hands that brought him Jesus was well known. I am constantly reminded: No priests, no sacraments. No sacraments, no church. We Catholics need to be mindful of that. Perhaps we should cut our priests a little slack when they irritate us--do we not often expect a perfection from them that we cannot find in ourselves? How often do we pray--REALLY PRAY-- and offer alms and penance for our priests? John Vianney also shows us that the priest is a favorite target of the devil: strike the shepherd, scatter the sheep. Our priests need our prayers and our love (willing the good of the other as other--not mere affection, though that is nice, too), not our ill humor and our demands that everything be done our way.

And we certainly need to stop thinking of a life given over to God in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life as somehow “wasted.” How many of us with children still at home discuss the idea of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life? How many of us think that such a vocation is for other people, not for our own kids (or--if you’re a young person reading this--for yourself)?

Thomas More, the great English lawyer and martyr reminds me that it really is possible to hold fast to one’s faith and still be a force in the world at large, though it may one day cost one’s head. His simplicity of life, despite his status and wealth are compelling--he drank nothing other than water, and ate plain food--the Catholic life really ought to be austere but few of us today seek this kind of simplicity as a virtue (me included). He also has a special place in my heart as the patron of adopted children and their parents. And he looked for any way he could to take the oath and remain true to his faith--he didn’t spoil for a fight with Henry VIII--a reminder that faith has a certain elasticity that can permit us to maneuver in the world and still be true to God's call to us--IF we really know that our faith demands, and IF we are certain that we will not compromise that which cannot be compromised. Imagine what the world would be like if Catholics lived--really lived--like that.....not accepting convenient excuses from themselves or from others (like politicians) on those things that are essential.

Last but not least, the saints remind me not that their holiness makes them less aware of sin--but more so. The key to their holiness seems to lie in part in their acute awareness of how they fell short, but also in their utter trust in God to lead them through those faults to holy perfection in His own good time. Not a bad lesson for the "I'm OK-You're OK" generation.

Here are a few of quotations from my friends:

When a man takes an oath, he's holding his own self in his own hands...like water. And if he opens his fingers then, he needn't hope to find himself again.

(Thomas More (and daughter Meg) conversing in A Man for All Seasons)

O how great is the priest! If he realized what he is, he would die...God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained in a small host.

Without the sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there is that tabernacle? The priest.

Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest.

Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for the journey? The priest.

Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest.

And if this soul should happen to die as a result of sin, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calm and peace? Again, the priest.

Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is... were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth we would die, not of fright but of love... without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail.


It is the priest who continues the work of redemption here on earth...what use would be a house filled with gold, if there were no one to open the door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven. It is he who opens the door: He is the steward of the Good Lord, the administrator of HIs goods......

St. Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney

It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you can live as you wish.

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (her 100th birthday is September 4...)

Off to read about another of our kin--St. Theresa of Avila. One problem with a big family like this is that there are SO many relatives to get to know, and so little time to do so! Fortunately, there's a family reunion every Sunday....


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Path is Well Trodden

Continuing the theme of seeking holiness, the author asks: How do we do it?

He suggests that an athletic/coaching anology might be helpful. His father and coaches suggested that whatever the sporting activity, study the masters in the field. Two reasons to do this. First,to be inspired and secondly, to learn the techniques. The transition to our spiritual lives is a natural lead into the lives of the saints. These great men and women can help show us the path to Jesus and give us some helpful techniques on the path to holiness.

While there are some common objections to studying the lives of the saints such as they were born saints and did not have struggles, we are the losers if we do not study their lives. Also, we do not want to adore/venerate the saints or impose some superstitious conduct about them. But, we can imitate their good practices, and in particluar- discipline.

Many modern catholics have rejected discipline and the author reminds us of the three prevailing philosophies he discussed earlier.

----Individualism: Many catholics these days judge Mass by what they get out of it.

----Hedonism: Many modern catholics reject any tradition that is not self satisfying or gratifying or if it requires discipline.

----Minimalism: Isn't it enough to go to Mass on Sunday and say grace before meals? This is asking what is the least I can do and still get to heaven.

Jesus wanted us to imitate Him.

What is discipline and how do we get it?

Discipline is doing what we should to become what God created us to be.

Matthew Kelly asks what are we teaching our children when they have so many activities that they rush from one to the other. Are they learning discipline or is there no time for that and are they only learning to enjoy each activity on a superficial basis. That is a good question that all of us should ask ourselves.

I can remember how sports and study taught me discipline and it can be then applied to other areas of our lives.

The call to holiness is our essential purpose and the saints help to show us the way. Many modern day catholics are uncomfortable with being reminded that we are to be holy. We need to become disciplined in satisfying the gentle call of Jesus to be holy as He is holy.

What practices can each of us implement to begin the path toward Jesus and holiness?


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chapter 6 William

The "authentic life" is the title of Part 2 of the book and Kelly suggests that by living this "authentic life" that we will be doing God's will. It doesn't matter whether we are farmers, scientists, students etc. we should strive to be the best we can be.
Too often we are dragged down by our mundane routines and fall into what the author calls "lives of despair". We see polls taken where Americans are dissatified with their jobs or students who see no purpose in their education. We talk with people who see no relevance in attending church because of one reason or another.
Kelly says Christians need spiritual goals and that holiness should be the goal of a Christian. Holy persons aren't always nuns or priests but can be anyone whose life reflects God's. Each of us has talents that should be used for God's glory and to use the U.S. Army marketing slogan "Be all you can be".


Chapter 6 St. Francis of Assisi

In this the sixth chapter of Kelly’s Rediscovering Catholicism there are several headings that organize the segment entitled “What is the Authentic Life?”

Fostering the Inner Life

Modern Despair

Our essential purpose

What is Holiness?


Vatican II

The Depression

There is so much to me explore interiorly with this particular chapter. I am struck by a handful of ideas that I would like to ask the greater audience about, if anyone would be so kind as to attempt an answer for me.

1. If I try to live an “authentic” life, (see pg. 57) why is it so gosh darn hard for me to stop asking myself “What’s in this for me?” I can sometimes catch myself doing, this which is disturbing but even more distressful are the times when I with the retro-spectroscope realize that I have acted as though I was in the “what’s in it for me “ mindset when acting for the “good” of those around me. Bummer….

Why don’t I knee-jerk response just go for the “What’s God’s will for me?” attitude?

Kelly thinks it’s all about “control” issues. I don’t know. It drives me crazy. My heart and mind understand that He has designed my life perfectly to integrate needs, desires, and talents He has instilled in me. And yet…

2. So what does it mean when Kelly says, “Every honest work can be transformed into prayer.” (Refer pg 59). I like the idea that no action need ever be wasted but come on, folding clothes is a far cry from saying a rosary or is it? Mr. Kelly says that when work is tied to a prayer, it can actually be made into a prayer; work, then, becomes a privilege and no longer a drudgery and can even become a joy.

3. When Kelly touched on the issue of depression and despair that seem to be so prevalent in our culture, he introduces the notion of separation. Can people become separated from themselves i.e. separated for the knowledge of their essential purpose? Is it true that if a person becomes so distracted, so busy, so tired, that they can no longer recognize their purpose for being alive. Can whole generations of people really be so distracted from their essential purpose that they no longer even consider that they might have a reason for being here on this earth? This is a little hard to believe, but when I examine the last 24 hours in my life, maybe it’s not so hard to believe.

Is Satan that crafty that he has us so sidetracked that he wins without us even knowing he was on the playing field?.

4. Are the majority of Catholics not cognizant of the goal of Christian life or have we cast this goal aside believing that Christian life is not “conducive to modern living”? (pg. 62)

5. If Holiness is the goal of Christian life and our essential purpose, is it possible to become holy in today’s world in the year 2010? Would life be boring and tedious if we became holy? Can wealthy people be holy? Is it for an elite group of priest-like people or nuns or the like. If I were holy, would people look at me and say, “Oh, he could have been and done so much more. He had so much potential!” Kelly has interesting ideas to offer about the concept of holiness including that the most joyful people in the world throughout history have been holy people.

On page 68 Kelly makes this statement, The “discipline striving for virtue is the authentic life.” Does that mean I have to make myself practice virtue like I made myself practice the piano when I was a kid? If so, where is the Joy in that? I admit that sometimes after practicing a lot and I was finally pretty good a piece that I did enjoy playing the piano but , man, the practice stuff was brutal.

6. Finally, check out the statement Kelly makes on pg. 71. It s big one! It’s the one about activities pursued in the name of Christianity versus a “universal call to holiness”. Read that and tell me what you think That’s it for tonight.. My spouse is demanding I come to bed I’ll write more later. I hope this is coherent enough to not be confusing.

Love, St. Francis of Assisi

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chapter 5 Theodore

The author points out that some faith communities are in extreme difficulties while others are coming to life again by honestly recognizing the causes of their difficulties and taking very positive steps that inspires new life in their church. This requires an honest look at a specific faith community's actual situation. While this seems self-evident, it is easier said than done.

The basic underpinning of this chapter is to realize that we become what we celebrate. it is critical to recognize that the human will seeks what it perceives to be "a good". For example, if we fill our minds with the bad things that are seen on some TV shows, it is not unreasonable to expect that we will begin to modify our understanding of what is good and what is bad. Bad becomes more acceptable or perhaps even very good if we only feed our minds with bad things. Where are our children in this situation?

Our church is in real trouble and it is deteriorating in membership and in preaching the truth. I believe, as a general statement, that we have been moving away from the Church Christ established to something "more comfortable". That simply means we are in an age that is watering down the real truth that we should be celebrating. Truth has become relative and our wills frequently seek, not God, but worldly pleasures, wealth and power.

As an aside, about twenty years ago I attended a very large prayer meeting and retreat with other folks at Steubenville University - a marvelous Catholic educational institution. One individual, moved by the Holy Spirit, offered a prayer in some unknown language . Another individual, moved by the Holy Spirit, interpreted the prayer and stated the Catholic Church would become very large but that the real, true, Catholic Church would become very small. That, I believe, is where we are today. Our real Catholic Church has become very small.

To recover from the current malaise in our Church, we need to become holy as individuals and then our Church will again become holy and exciting as God intended. The author eloquently states: "holiness is simply the application of the values and principles of the Gospel to the circumstances of our everyday lives-one moment at a time". If we are looking for excitement in our lives, we need to try turning our needs over to God and watch Him "do His thing". Now that's excitement to celebrate. Mr. Kelly rightly states: "...it is time for us to reassess the place and priority our faith has in our lives". Our future depends on it.

The author reminds us that our churches are emptying. We lack contact with our youth. Divorce is destroying our families and vocations are scarce. From my personal experience, what we are teaching our children is "pabulum". How can we expect our children to be strong Catholics, excited about God, if we don't give them the complete story so to speak? We have serious problems and one would have to be somewhat blind not to recognize that we have them.

Mr. Kelly makes a very good point about making a strong effort to go out and bring the Church to the people. While I agree with that mission of Christ, it is my view that we must first pray for the Holy Spirit to help us "educate" the people we do have with the absolute truth and then send them out with that truth. This begins with our priests and religious educators who must fearlessly teach and live Christ's message without compromise.

Mr. Kelly concludes that personal holiness is the solution to the Church's obvious problems and I certainly agree with him. We become what we celebrate - what we think - what we believe and how we live. There is nothing as attractive as a person who is truthful or authentic. We must be all we can be.


AUGUST 12, 2010 6:01 PM

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chapter 5 What are we celebrating?

Celebrate? What do we really mean by that? What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that word?

The word has its roots in the terms solemnize and honor. And yet, what do we think of, usually? We tend to think of a special day or an event and a resulting party to go with it. I know that prior to my conversion to Catholicism my first thought was to think of the last of the definitions in the dictionary; 7. to have or participate in a party, drinking spree, or uninhibited good time.

Now my first word association with Celebrate is Mass. This is one of those subtle changes that Martha was speaking of in her comment on Chapter 4. I am not sure when this change actually took place, but take place it did.

Again in this Chapter Kelly challenges us regarding the visibility of our Faith to those around us. On page 44 he speaks of a teenager’s room. This is an easy place to throw stones in this context for sure, but step out of that room and go out in the front yard of your home. Do you see anything out there, other than the obligatory statue of St. Francis, celebrating your Faith? (and St. Francis almost does not count since even non-Christians put one out there in the garden for some reason!) Can someone simply walk in to your yard and conclude that a Catholic, or even a Christian lives in your home? Try stepping in to the front hall and the living room and ask yourself the same question. Move through the rest of your home, even in to the, dare I say it, bedroom!

Dictionary definition 2 of celebration: to make known publicly; proclaim. In part we do this by the art and the furnishings that surround us in our homes. This is a way of demonstrating and proclaiming what is most important to us. There will be family pictures for all to see for sure! How about a Crucifix? Or a statue of our Blessed Mother? Or an image of the Holy Father? Is there something highly visible that proclaims the good news of the Gospel without a word ever being spoken?

As he moves on to the concept of personal Holiness and our application of the Gospel at every moment of our lives I am “convicted”, as our Protestant brothers are prone to say, of my daily inadequacy in this regard. I am reminded of a wonderful little book to recommend by Brother Lawrence entitled “Practicing the Presence of God”. It addresses how to do just that, live moment to moment aware of God’s constant presence. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, with every decision we are choosing to move closer to or farther from God. Easier said than done, but something to strive for! A direction in which to move! On page 50 “Life should never be wasted”….then comes the clincher for we often think of this to mean “an entire life, start to finish” but no; he adds “Not one moment because life is precious”. How many moments of our precious lives do we waste?

So let us celebrate our Faith openly, working however imperfectly but to the best of our ability to be visibly Catholic, showing an example so that others might see it and wonder why we are the way we are and conclude that it would be good to join in. At that point the truth of the matter will come out and folks will realize that it is The Church, through the Mass and the other sacraments, who is feeding us and guiding us on the incredibly wonderful and exciting journey to Holiness. In this way we can show them the relevance of Jesus (see page 46) in our time and place.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Chapter 4

What does it mean to be a Catholic?

As a relatively brand new Catholic discovering Catholicism for the first time, I admit that I have a difficult time articulating what exactly that means when posed the question, "Why did you become a Catholic?"

Mr. Kelly has a valid point, that Catholics all around the world are suffering from an "identity crisis", that we really don't know who we are, what we stand for, or what makes us special. Why should Catholicism stand out more than any other religion or denomination? Because Catholicism is NOT another religion or another denomination, Catholicism IS Christianity, our very life source, the heartbeat of our soul, and our purpose for living. So why are we not bursting at the seams to share such an amazing gift with the whole world?

I think at least part of this identity crisis hails back to Chapter 2 with "Minimalism". What is the LEAST I can do and get by? We've bought into the culture of our day that we just "don't have the time" to volunteer in the nursery, to teach a Sunday School class, to sing in the choir, to organize community service projects so that we can reach beyond the walls of our parishes and take the light of Christ that we receive in the Eucharist every Sunday into a world that is desperately unhappy and in desperate need of the hope only our Savior can give. The statistics are even more damning, that only 10% of the people in a church do 90% of the work, and that number is probably very generous! We refuse to give of ourselves even to each other, and then we wonder why the world does not want to be a part of who we are. And last but not least, the one no one likes to talk about... What is the LEAST amount I can give to the church and still stay in God's good graces? If we truly loved one another as Christ loves us, would we not be falling all over ourselves to serve each other and to give of our time, our resources, and our talents? If Christ put His ALL on the Cross, why are we so reluctant to put our ALL into His Bride, the Church? Every Catholic must ask the question, "What I have done today to show the love of Christ to the world around me?" Not "what I did back when...", not "what I'm going to do...", but "what have I done TODAY?"

One problem we face is that Catholics have been vilified in modern culture with false stereotypes and outright lies about what we believe, and for some reason, we hang our heads and shift our gaze rather than stand up and speak out because we are not comfortable with who we are, and many times we don't even know what we believe. Our identity does not lie in our jobs, our hobbies, or things here on earth. Our identity lies in our relationship with Christ. We are His Bride, we are His Body, and to know who we are means becoming more like Him, the-best-version-of-ourselves. Of course, the best way to know how to be like Him is to study His life, to know His Word, and to PRAY without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).

The first Christians were ready to give their very lives for what they believed, and what we still believe today, that Jesus Christ died to save us all from sin and eternal damnation. They exemplified love for each other in their lives and their communities, they supported each other in sickness, in persecution, in good times and bad. Being a Christian was not a PART of who they were, it was EVERYTHING of who they were. In modern times, we tend to compartmentalize our lives. We have our work life, our family life, our sports life, our TV life, our internet life, our driving life (Get out of my way slow poke, I'm gonna be late for church!!), and somewhere in there, we squeeze in our spiritual life. We even view the church as a "place to go to do that thing". Christ never meant for us to use our salvation as a coat that we put on and take off at our convenience, being "Sunday Christians" and "Monday Heathens".

To establish a "vibrant identity" in the Church we cannot continue in a culture of minimalism, we must give our all, just as Christ did. We cannot stay the same, we must be, as Paul says in Romans, "transformed by the renewing of [our] minds". We must know who we are and what our purpose in life is. Like Mr. Kelly pointed out, our salvation is an adventure, it is the story of our lives. We were given a quest to preach the Gospel to every nation, and we were given a command, to love each other. How hard is that?

According to Galatians 5:22-24, the fruit of the spirit is LOVE, and out of love comes joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Joy is love's strength, peace is love's security, long-suffering is love's patience, gentleness is love's conduct, goodness is love's character, faith is love's confidence, meekness is love's humility, and temperance is love's victory. However, backtracking just a few verses (19-21), we find the fruits of the flesh which are immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, rivalry, jealously, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissension, occasions of envy, drunkenness and the like.

Want to know who you really are? What is your fruit? And that, my friends, is a very loaded question.

Your brother and sister,
Joseph & Frances

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chapter Three

Is Jesus still relevant? (better title; Shadow Chasing)

In this chapter Matthew Kelly of course answer in the affirmative. He goes on to show our basic need for happiness is found in Christ. He also shows the impact that Christ had and the rippling effect that has continued for the last two thousand years. He shows that true happiness is found only in Jesus and by following his example.

We all do search for true happiness and find it still wanting. . God said “there is no peace given unto the wicked”. Yet when we see the world searching we sometime might be incline to think they found it. Just look at all the happy people that are so successful in the world eyes. We later find out that they are having affairs, become addicts or end there own life. Jesus said “Peace I give you, not as the world gives, give I unto you”

I think a lot of what was stated in chapter three was basic Christianity 101. Happiness is found in obeying and serving. To have the attitude of Christ is to remember “That even the Son of Man came not to be ministered to but to minister and give his life a ransom for many.” This is the great paradox of which the author spoke of. In dying we live. We are called as St. Paul said “to die daily”. Mr. Kelly quotes Matt 16:24. I also like St. Luke quote from Jesus, that we must take up our cross daily and if we don’t we can not be his disciple.

So what kind of happiness can be that fulfilling? Do we actually have that type of happiness? Do we really find our completion in Christ?. Do we as St. Peter said “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” or are we like the Corinthians to which St. .Paul said “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. This is the simplicity that Matthew Kelly speaks of on page 32.

On a side note: It is kind of strange how this philosophies of Individualism has crept into Christianity (of course the type of Christianty you preach is the type of convert you get). Mr. Kelly shows towards the end of the chapter its all about the individual “Adding all of these together is still nothing compare to the impact Christ can have on your life, on my life. All the worldly success of Christ and the Church are insignificant compare to the change Christ can effect in your heart…” The greatest miracle changing water into wine (and changing dirty hearts like mine).

So it’s not really all about us but we have to have that personal relationship with Christ to be able to have that joy and to share in his sufferings.

Dundermuffin's Inspiration

Please see Chapter 1 comments by dundermuffin.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chapter 2

The second sentence of Ch.2 is as accurate a description of our ailing culture as I've found anywhere: "Our own age is one of great philosophical poverty, and as a result, we live in an age of tremendous moral and ethical confusion." We are indeed "dazed and confused," (I never saw the movie), and Kelly outlines the three "practical" philosophies on which he believes we have constructed our modern culture: Individualism, Hedonism, and Minimalism.
There are certainly many other candidates, some of which overlap with these and some we may touch on later in the book. These might include moral relativism, radical secularism, materialism, utilitarianism, and the belief that science is the only real source of truth and knowledge, and faith is somehow in opposition to science and reason.
The problems of Individualism are well outlined. I like his concept of a "false freedom," and that this is an adolescent notion. One thinks especially of the impact of Individualism on marriage and divorce, abortion, and even declining birth and marriage rates in the Western world. I do have one quibble, with his statement that "everything has been done to weaken the rights of the Church, the State and authority of any type." It seems to me that the rights and power of the State have only grown over many decades, with very harmful effects on individual (and religious) rights.
Hedonism no doubt produces a "lazy, lustful, and gluttonous" society. One of the most damaging examples is the growing addiction to Internet pornography. On a less extreme, less hedonistic level, though, are the "thousand different whims, cravings, addictions, and attachments" (Ch.3, p.28 - forgive me, Lindsay) with which we are amusing ourselves to death. The daily bombardment of these "lesser" evils and distractions in our culture is unprecedented in history, and produces a steady drift of our attention and desires away from God.
Kelly's choice of "Minimalism" surprised me a bit. Not that I think it's an inaccurate indictment. I just might have chosen one of the others above. (Having heard him speak on CD and seen his schedule, it may also reflect his impressive energy - and relative youth!). This philosophy of minimalism is all too common in the practice of our Catholic faith.
We liked the frog in the pot of water analogy. I think we can all see the slow but steady erosion of our culture and its standards of morality and behavior in the few decades of our own adult lives.
A final thought (offered while being acutely aware of the large log in my own eye): I think there are very many people in our culture who are not Christian but aren't especially caught up in these three damaging philosphies, yet are ultimately as lost and rudderless as those that are. In general, they lack a basic belief in God, that we are His children and made in His image, and that Truth and meaning in this world come through Him. Specifically, they lack knowledge of or faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

- John Paul