Facebook Apologetics

Le Sigh.

I am so easily amused, it’s really sad.

So I was browsing through Facebook a few days ago, and I get a note from a friend, asking for a bit of help with a friend of hers. It seems he has some questions about a photo she posted of Mary. Oh man, I so know where this is going.

You see, I’ve been here before. What starts as a quick, “Sure, I’ll answer your question!” quickly grows into a week long answer every attack that can be made about the Church, and be quick about it. Oh yea, and don’t make it too long, because this is Facebook, so all your answers have to fit in these cute little boxes.

Ugh, I hate it. Well, that’s not true actually, I love it. I just hate the little boxes. How the heck am I supposed to distill 2000 years of teaching into a few short one liners? Dangit, I don’t think in sentences! I think in paragraphs! I am simply not made for this task, I just talk too much. I feel handcuffed by the dang format.

So I do the exact opposite of course, and write for 15 minutes to really explain why we call Mary the Ark of the Covenant, and what do I get? A one line reply, with another snappy attack on the Church thrown in.

Again, Le Sigh.

This is the real problem with explaining the faith in the modern age. People can’t think all that much. They are too used to reading bumper stickers to understand complex topics. It just doesn’t work that way in the real world, but that is still what everyone expects. Well I’m sorry, but the truth is simply more complicated than that, it really isn’t that simple.

Let me put it this way, I could come out and say something like “The earth goes around the sun.” If I am asked to prove it, at every turn I am going to be thrown down, because while the concept is rather simple, there is really a whole lot of complicated things that go into it.  I have to explain gravity, the idea of satellites, or eternal falling. I have to explain that there is an equal and opposite reaction in the sun us as well. It’s really just not simple. So when you question me, you sure as heck better be ready to think about the answer.

If however, you get surprised when the answer is not easy to come to, you have no right to be shocked, and pretend that I don’t know what I’m talking about, because it SHOULD be simple. Where the heck is it written that it should be simple? It isn’t!

The same is true in faith. We have long tested, deeply thought out understandings of how we have found what is true, and we usually distill it down to a simple idea. Mary is the Mother of God. God is a Trinity. The Church is the Body of Christ. Yes, these are simple, but if you want to really challenge them, you better be ready for the answer, and not expect to find it in a cheesy one liner. You will find no cheesy one liners here!

All that being said, I still just love to explain our faith, and if it has to be done on Facebook, bring it on. I just have to learn to be a whole lot less wordy.

I will not however, have this discussion on twitter or by txt, so don’t even ask.

 

Top 10 Reasons to be Catholic.

10. You’ll look great. Okay, maybe not, but everything else will look better. Catholics are by nature sensual people, we are cool with things being pretty and smelling nice. We like statues, paintings, incense and good music. Even better, our churches usually reflect this, making Catholic churches some of the absolute best places to sit back, relax, and be in the presence of the almighty.

9. You don’t have to sing. Maybe you should, but nobody ever got mad at a Catholic for not singing.

8. You get to be married for life. It makes marriage way, way easier if you know you have no way out. Hmm, things are rough right now, what are my options? I could leave and be alone for the rest of my life, wishing I had somebody to snuggle with and laugh at my stupid jokes, or I could just figure this thing out and stick around. Not a tough choice.

7. You get to have lots of kids. These things are great at taking care of you when you get old. Not only that, but you can train them to do dishes and yard work. You get to sit back and relax while everything is taken care of. “I’m thirsty, go get me something cold out of the fridge!” Yup, I use that one everyday. Personal servants are awesome.

6. No matter where you are, you are home. Seriously, I can walk into any community in the world, say I’m Catholic, and they are like, “Oh, your friends are down on third street.” And they really are. Here I am in some strange town I’ve never been in before, and I just walk into the church like I own the place. Nobody stares at me, they are just, “Don’t mind him, he cool. He’s family.” Dang right I am. Chances are, if I open my mouth and talk to anyone, someone will take me out to lunch too. Sweet.

5. Our clergy have some seriously funky style. Oh yea, where else can a grown man wear a big pink cloak over his head and pull it off? Oh, they’ll call it a ‘chasuble’, or some other fancy Catholic word, but yea, it is a fancy embroidered poncho. He looks good in it too. Not only that, but the whole place changes color all the time, and the clergy can even accessorize, picking out matching clothes. It just looks good.

4. You can tell the priest just about anything, and he can’t tell anybody else. I don’t know about you, but I do some pretty dumb stuff. It’s nice to get that off my chest without broadcasting it to the world.

3. You get to be older than everybody else. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come up with some great idea, only to have me say, “Oh yea, we have been dying to protect that for about 2000 years.” Sorry, that never gets old. It gets even better when it’s an old heresy, but they think it’s a new idea.

2. We have a pope. Seriously, who could be cooler than the pope? I mean we call him “Your Holiness”! I don’t know about you, but that is a pretty darn cool way to say hello. Not only that, but the guy is always in white. All white just makes you look good. I wore a white tux to my prom in high school. It didn’t look as good on me as it does on the pope. The best thing is, he always has a cool name. JPII. Pius. Benedict. Man, I’m changing my name to Maximus or something.

1. Christ is here. Seriously, I mean right here. Christ stands at the center of every Catholic church both spiritually and physically. God is here, just chillin, waiting for you to stop by and say hello. All levity aside, that is seriously the single best reason to stick around. Where Christ is, that’s where I want to be.

 

Tools of the Carpenter

This week at class, we were talking about religious pluralism, and one topic came up that I thought worthy of mention.

Hell. Don’t forget about Hell. Don’t make it the focus of your life, but don’t forget that it is there in the corner of the room, staring back at you. Don’t forget that we are tasked not just with saving our own souls, but the souls of the entire world.

Now I’m not going to go fire and brimstone on you, but somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten what is at stake here.

You see, there has been this blossoming idea that all religions are the same, or at least, are equal in some spiritual fashion. This is insulting not only to the Catholic faith, but also to any other religion. We believe what we believe because we think it to be more true than anything else we have encountered, not because it is just as good as everything else. This is not to say that we think that no other faith has merits, it is merely saying that if they are all equal, then there is no point of believing any of them.

To be a Catholic is to believe that God Himself founded our faith, and that by its very nature makes what we believe more true than anything created by man. Now someone in another faith may feel that Jesus was not God, and that would call into question our entire understanding of the world, but we DO believe, and that is what makes us who and what we are.

So when we look at people of other faiths, what is our response? Are we called to say that they are fine, and we should leave them alone, or do we have a responsibility of some kind to share our faith with them?

Somehow, we have forgotten what is at stake here. In our culture of “I’m OK, You’re OK!” we have forgotten that things are not okay at all. There is a very real war being fought, and that war is for our very souls. There is an end to this life, and there are only two ways it can go. It is important to keep that reality in mind.

Now let me be really clear. I am not saying that anyone who is not Catholic is consigned to go to hell. I believe in the mercy of God, and I pray for the souls of both those without faith at all, and those of different faiths every day. There is however a very real value to the Church that cannot be forgotten.

You see, we have the surest path to Heaven. I’m not saying that all Catholics follow it, but it is clearly the best road to get there. Why can I say that? Because we did not build the road, Christ built it. If our beliefs were something we just made up in order to reach ever closer to the divine, then our path would have no more value than any other faith. But because God Himself took the time to create this way of life for His children, and commanded us to share this truth with the entire world, there must be some great merit for the souls of the world.

In other words, The Church is God’s idea, not ours. God desperately wants to save every child ever born from their own limitations, and created the ideal vehicle to make that happen. I’m not saying that all Catholics follow this road perfectly, but as God created it, there is simply more to the Church than anything else out there.

So to stand with the Church that Christ founded, means we can never forget that Hell is a real possibility, not only for us, but for every soul on the planet. God has given us the task of sharing the surest way to avoid that calamitous end, and we need to take that  task very seriously. It is not that other faiths do not have great value, they do. The value of the Church though is not value given her by man, but by God. We need to do our best, in love and charity, to make this available to every soul on the planet.

I like to think of this as the spiritual toolbox theory. Buddhists may have a saw, and they may use that saw really well, but they lack a hammer. Muslims may have a great hammer, but they lack a drill. Hindus may have a powerful drill, but they lack a screwdriver. Now they all have merits, and they may even use some of these tools better than Catholics. I am called to think of the constant call to daily prayer for Muslims. When was the last time you stopped in the middle of the day to get down on your knees before God? Yea, I thought so. How about deep meditation? Spent any time on that recently? I bet the Buddhists have. How good was you penance this Lent? I bet it didn’t match the Hindu.

You see, they have some tools, and they may even use those tools better than we do. But only the Church has ALL the tools. We are the only ones with a full toolbox. We may not use any one tool better than another faith does, but the fact that God has given all the tools to the Church, bar none, is of extreme value. The greatest loss though, is there is one tool every other faith is missing. That tool is the True Presence of the Carpenter Himself. That tool is the single most important, and we need to do our best to make sure it is available to anyone trying to build their spiritual house.

So we are called to share His toolbox. We have very great need to do so, there is a a choice that is rather imminent. We want to give every man to opportunity to build his house well, and on the rock, not the sand.

 

The End of Semester Number 3

So all my homework and finals are done, and tomorrow is the last day of formation classes for the semester. I have mixed feelings.

Part of me is so glad that I’ll finally have a break. Two weekends a month plus homework has been a pretty large commitment, and I’m rather exhausted. Every week it has been the same question, “Honey, do you have deacon classes this weekend?” followed by either excitement or a groan depending on my answer. It has simply been a lot of work, and a huge time drain for my family.

On the other hand, I have grown really attached to my classes, and my brother candidates and their wives. Spending that much time together, discussing things of such deep meaning has been an incredible treat, and a holy grace. To suddenly go from meeting extremely regularly, sharing deeply the things that matter to us most, to saying goodbye for the summer is rather sad. I’m sure we will get together individually over the summer, but it isn’t the same.

The highlight of the summer for us will be in August, when the class before us gets ordained. We are all excited for them, we know how long and hard they have worked, and many of them are friends as well. This will also be the first ordination I will have ever seen, and that gets me pretty excited too. It will be fun to see what, God willing, I will be going through in three years. I expect it to be a really exciting night, and I continue to send those men and their wives my prayers.

So I thought it might be nice to recap what we have been studying this semester as a wrap up, both for me, and so that you can get a feeling for what we actually do. This year we have had five main classes: Theology of Vatican II, Fundamental Psychology, Spiritual and Moral Development, New Testament Scripture, and Old Testament Scripture.

Both Scripture classes have really been overview classes, with neither one really delving into details. We learned a lot about how scripture was formed and got a good big picture view. This has been an extremely interesting class, especially over the debates that naturally arise. Some people are comfortable with the idea of scriptures being developed over time, some people are comfortable with the idea of mythology being a part of scripture, some people are more comfortable with a literal translation of scripture. The debates in this class have been really hot.

My Psychology class bored me to tears to be honest. It’s not that the teaching was not good, or that I don’t feel the subject matter is relevant. I just studied a bit too much psychology in college, and didn’t really learn anything new. I am sure I wasn’t as bored as our psychologist candidate though, he looked like he was going to fall asleep in every class.

Our spiritual development class was really interesting. While much of what it had to say was shared in the context of the psychology class, it took the next step, giving us real, concrete ways to assess volunteers in a way to truly determine their potential weaknesses and strengths in ministry. Altogether, a very practical course. (I was also pleased with the low amount of homework!)

The Theology of Vatican II was definitely the class with the most discussion by far. It seemed that every topic that was brought up brought dissension, and that makes for an interesting class. When everyone automatically agrees, or you are just being handed information, it gets rather boring. But get everyone brawling, and it really sparks the brain cells. I just loved this class. Half the time I totally agreed, half the time I was fuming at the mouth. Seriously great fun. Vatican II really stepped into new waters, and it was fun exploring the documents. I will say this though. In reading the documents themselves, I must say they are a harder read than I expected. It really taxes the grey muscle!

And now you know what we do every weekend. We sit around and get fuming mad at each other for differing views, applaud each other when we agree, and pat each other on the back and pray with each other, excited for the next time we get together. Serious fun if you ask me.

I already can’t wait for next semester.

Transit of Venus

I just love astronomy. I’m sure it’s the childhood geek in me just screaming to get out and fly in a spaceship to planet where the plants can talk.

But whenever I get the chance to see something truly spectacular, something that truly takes the imagination away, and makes me look at the real majesty of our universe head on, I always lose my breath. I will not have an opportunity to see this again in my lifetime, and that makes it all the more special.

So as you take a look at this video of the transit of Venus, remember that is another freakin planet, just slightly smaller than our own. It’s a mighty big universe out there, and God’s game of celestial pinball reminds me so clearly of just how big God is, and how small I am.