Traditional Roman Catholic Thoughts

Traditional Roman Catholic Thoughts

Reintroducing Logic and Reason to the Age of Sentimentalism

Teachable Moments

All of the posts under the "Teachable Moments" category.

We Gotta Reach People Where They’re At

Many of my critics insist on telling me that we need to “reach people where they’re at” when it comes to mainstream Catholic writers. “People are so ignorant of the faith that they can’t handle Aquinas, or Scholasticism, or Chesterton, or (insert your favorite Catholic theologian/saint/mystic/teaching authority).” Though, I agree that we do need to “reach people where they’re at,” I find the methods employed by the Church and most Catholic publishers and writers are incorrect in how they approach this issue.

I get that not everyone is at the same level of their faith. That isn’t the issue I have. The issue I have is this; Catholic speakers and their publishers keep pushing the same. exact. watered. down. Catholicism. every. single. year.

The Sermon on the Mount Carl Bloch, 1890

The concept of reaching people where they’re at should be understood in its proper context. As a convert, I had witnessed this concept first hand, and can attest to its effectiveness. Reaching people where they’re at, is a matter of not watering down any of the Truth, which has been passed on by Jesus Christ or His Holy Church, but taking the Truth and giving it to the individual, but explained at a level in which the person who is being evangelized can understand. It’s a matter of evaluating the knowledge the person has and teaching them what they do not understand so that they can come to know the Truth. You do not need to be dropping Aquinas in his complete intellectual greatness on someone who has never once heard of Christ, but, through the course of the conversation, you can use Aquinas’ concepts in a simplified form to better assist the person you are engaging.

Today, how we see the concept used is not in the form of helping people understand a complex understanding and explaining it at a level that they can grasp. Rather, what we see is them taking a teaching of Christ, watering it down, or even worse, wrapping it with either modernism or Protestantism, and presenting it as if this new teaching is just as good, if not better than the original teaching. Spoiler: it’s not. I will readily admit that I once subscribed to this erroneous belief.

If today’s Catholic books are supposed to instruct people in their faith at a lower level of understanding, then I’d expect to see some¬†improvement over the course of five or ten years. From here, we should expect to see books and material come out that is deeper and more engaging on an intellectual level, yet, we see no improvement. Instead, every other year, someone has to write a book that waters down and dumbs down some great source of Catholic knowledge that didn’t need dumbing down.

We can see this if we look at the “game-changers” of the last five years or so. We had to Rediscover Catholicism, so that we could have our churches Rebuilt, to Form Intentional Disciples, so we could consecrate ourselves to Mary over the course of 33 Days to Morning Glory, all to make an Amazing Parish.

The very fact that we have so many of these programs coming out every other year and only last longer than a couple of years goes to show that these programs flat out don’t work. Instead of going for a different approach, they end up repackaging the same ideas and rebrand it to make it appear as if it’s a brand new program that will change and engage the Catholic world. We need to look to how the Catholic Church evangelized the world for the last 2,000 years, as opposed to the last 50. The Church evangelized through a reverent and solemn Liturgy that focused itself on Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on Calvary, through simple, deep, and profound catecheses, and worship that focused on God, instead of worship that focuses on people. It is a fact that the Catholic Church grew under these conditions, yet those who continue to push the materials mentioned above will argue to the contrary. Which is why these “new and improved” programs only last for a couple of years before they become obsolete.

Jesus didn’t water down His teachings to make you feel good about yourself. He challenged you and still challenges you til this very day. When one of His disciples didn’t understand a particular teaching, Jesus used parables to ensure His disciples understood what He was discussing. He was not watering down what He was teaching, but rather, explaining it at a more basic level to be understood.

With the constant remarketing and rebranding of the same programs year after year, it would seem that perhaps the issue is that mainstream Catholic writers and publishers today do not want modern day Catholics to grow in their faith. Why? Because they would have to stop writing books and would have to go back to publishing material that isn’t “fresh.” You can read Classic Catholic literature over and over again, always finding something new and exciting which you did not catch on your first, second, or subsequent read-throughs. Contemporary Catholic Literature, on the other hand, can be read once and discarded, ready to be recycled in next year’s next hot book.

At the end of the day, it would seem that money is the key player in it all. When publishers and authors give away copies of books for only $2, it allows them to, of course, sell more books. Selling this many books allows them the opportunity to say later that a particular book has sold “more than a million copies” giving the appearance that it is a “must-have” for any Catholic home, as well as the appearance that it is an excellent book.

I do want to clarify that not all Catholic publishers are like this. For example, books published by TAN and St. Benedict’s Press are, for the most part, much older books whose purpose is to allow the reader to dive deeper into the faith and learn more. These books can also be read over and over again, gaining more knowledge with each subsequent reading.

As we begin 2016, I encourage you all to read good Catholic books, books that have existed for decades, or even centuries. While there are indeed some newer books out that are worth your time, the majority of them aren’t, especially when they water down the classics. Stay in a state of grace, go to confession, pray the Rosary, and live a holy life.

Jeff January 4, 2016 1 Comment Permalink

There Is No Middle Road When It Comes To What Jesus Christ Taught

Many people think Jesus always chose the middle ground. Thus if we are given two options, in order to be like Christ, we are to choose the compromise between the two.

Pharisee and Tax Collector

Unfortunately, this is not the case when we look at what Jesus actually told us.

Jesus Christ said He is “the way, the truth, and the life” c.f. John 14:6. He also tells us we should do all He has commanded us to do c.f. Matthew 28:20.

If Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and we are to follow His commands, this means we are to do what He has revealed to us and given to us. Likewise, we are also to follow what the Church has given us.

Sermon_On_The_Mount_Copenhagen1

If Jesus Christ commanded and taught that divorce and remarriage are to be condemned and not allowed, there is no middle road. If you love Him, you will keep his commandments, c.f. John 14:15.

The middle ground between truth and error is not truth, but error. The middle ground between two people arguing whether 2+2=4 or 2+2=5 is not 4.5. There is only one answer. It is erratic to claim otherwise.

Likewise, if Jesus Christ Himself gave us the doctrine and dogmas Catholics stick to, and if someone makes the claim “if the law does not bring someone closer to Christ, then they are obsolete” he is not being honest, but deceitful.

Jeff October 20, 2014 Leave A Comment Permalink

You Belong In This Time Period

My sister-in-law and I both like to talk about how we were “born in the wrong time period”. She argues that she should have been born in the 1700s due to her interest in old time novels such as “Pride and Prejudice” and other Jane Austen novels. She longs for a time when people were cordial and more people were sophisticated.

18th century fun

Like-wise, I feel I should have been born in the mid-to-late 1800s. Back when Catholics knew their faith and weren’t afraid to believe in it. When priests, bishops and cardinals had the guts to stand up and look evil in the face and preach the error of their ways.

TLM Bowing

But there is a deep silliness in wanting to go backwards or forwards in time to a time period in which you think that you would fit in better. God in His infinite wisdom created you to live right now. Had He wanted you to live in your desired time period, He would have done so. We always long for that which we don’t have and for times in which we unfairly assume they would be easier on us.

We all have our cross to bear, and not living in our desired time period would be one of them. On top of that, since God has given me that sense of longing for Catholicism as she was taught for a good 1900+ years (give or take), I have a unique situation in which I can share that with those today (who believe in God only knows what).

Similarly, my sister-in-law has a responsibility to share with our unsophisticated and highly uncordial culture, the finer things in life and how true men and true women are to behave in a properly functioning society.

Many of us know how bad our society and culture is today. Sin abounds. Granted, we have many benefits that the past does not hold (nor possibly the future) that make our lives much easier.

Technology allows for much more information to come through to us, both good and bad. The internet allows me to find Church Documents easily on one website from all of the Popes and Councils that I can easily reference. The built-in find tool allows me go directly to what I am looking for. Unfortunately, the internet also allows for many distractions and heresy to enter into my life that normally wouldn’t be there otherwise. But ultimately, the Truths and proper etiquette of the past, still hold true today, even if they are not practice nor enforced.

I think it is a safe assumption that if you are reading this, you too, long for a traditional sense of worship in the liturgy. You also long for priests, bishops and cardinals to stand up and defend the faith, rather than just let it go. But God instilled in you the desire for His Truth and the courage to seek it out and defend it. Thus, it is a safe assumption to make that you play a valuable role in bringing about the return to chivalry, tradition, and proper interaction.

Do not wish to be taken away from this time period, as God has purposefully put you here. Discern His will, and implement it, bringing the greatness of the past into today’s world.

How The Early Christians Worshiped On Sundays

Have you ever wondered how the first Christians worshiped? I have, and its actually fairly interesting. Today, with all the different denominations arguing about “proper worship” and what “best way to glorify Jesus”, it would be nice to know how they did it way back in the early days. Well, luckily, there are the writings of an early Christian, Justin Martyr who wrote out exactly how they spent their Sunday.

On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.

The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.

When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

Then we all rise together and offer prayers* for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.

When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.

Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.

He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: ‘Amen.’

When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.

St Justin Martyr

If you are a Catholic, it is obvious how they celebrated. It is the Catholic Mass. It isn’t a “worship service”. It isn’t a “praise and worship” event. It is a Mass.

Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church and the Catholic Mass follows all that Jesus taught us. If you want to be a follower of Christ, then you must likewise be a follower of His Church.

Jeff December 20, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

6 Ways To Eliminate Drive-Thru Confirmations

It is estimated that within 5 years after getting confirmed, about 85% of then high-school students will leave the Catholic Church. Yes, that’s right, a whopping 85% are gone. How many of them come back? Very few. As someone who has taught Religious Education for students that are getting confirmed, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering how we can better get these teens involved in their faith, and get them to have that desire to stay Catholic, after all, it is the Church of Jesus Christ.

Now, these are only ordered partially, but, I firmly believe that if these are implemented properly, we would be on a huge striving gain for not only getting legitimate confirmations (instead of the drive-thru Confirmation services that we currently have, in which most of them pretty much throw their faith right out into the trash the second they walk out of the Church), but, bringing that 85% down to a minimal 10% or even lower.

 

1. Parental Involvement is Necessary

Parents need to be involved every step of the way. I teach 10th graders. In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Confirmation occurs at 11th grade. By the time I step into the picture, most of my students have had 15 years of life lived. By now, they have 15 years of bad habits that have occurred, as well as guidance (or failed guidance) from their parents. Now, I know, this is not the case with everyone. There are some outliers on both sides, you have the Saintly parents who practice their faith and teach their faith to their children, and the children still leave the Church. Likewise, you have the parents who don’t or barely practice their faith and their kids come out to be Saintly. However, the average Catholic kid will turn out similarly to how their parents are. If your family is very Catholic, generally, you will come out very Catholic. If your family isn’t very Catholic, you will come out very not Catholic.

From what I have witnessed, the students I teach have as much interest in the class as their parents do. Some want to be there, and those are usually the ones that I see at Mass on a weekly basis. Some don’t want to be there, and those are usually the ones I never see at Mass (unless its required by the class).

When the parents actually want to be practicing their Catholic faith, the children, by default, generally want to practice this faith. If the parents are just going through the motions, “gotta make sure Susie gets confirmed”, but doesn’t practice, then why are we surprised that Susie doesn’t want to be in class, and leaves the Church the second she gets her drive-thru Confirmation? This ties into number 5, let’s not confirm students that do not want to be confirmed.

 

2. Move Confirmation Before First Communion

A long time ago, Confirmation was given to kids when they reached the age of reason, or about 7 years old. This way, the Holy Ghost would descend upon them, and make His mark on them. This way, they have those extra graces working within them while they are going through religious education and they get more out of that education. Kids would also receive the Sacrament of Confirmation before receiving their First Communion. It also showed how much more serious Confirmation was and made sure you were on pace for living a life molded within the Church.

Now, when we wait until the students are much, much older, they wonder what the point is. It then becomes an attitude that Confirmation just means that “you are an adult by the Church’s standards and can do whatever you want” or “its Catholic graduation, once you’re done, you don’t have to practice anymore”. I have lost count how many times I have heard lapsed-Catholics say these quotes. It shows how the Church has failed these Catholics.

If they are confirmed early, they will understand the faith more as they grow up, and will have all of those extra graces working in their favor, as opposed to not having those graces and not understanding the purpose of their faith.

 

3. The Liturgy

The Liturgy of the Mass is the most important aspect of Catholicism. It is when Heaven and Earth collide during the consecration of the bread and wine made Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is Catholicism 101. Yet, too often, the Masses are said without passion or meaning, the presider barely wants to be there (yes, some priests do not want to be up there celebrating the Mass or at least give this impression). Other times, the homilies are washed down to convey the idea that being a good person is all that really matters and they do not challenge us to be better Catholics or to practice our faith. Many times we hear music that is more fitting for a rock and roll Praise and Worship concert than an actual Catholic Mass. And unfortunately, a number of other liturgical abuses (yes, they are abuses) that make the Mass and all other Liturgies we celebrate, appear to be a joke, and rely completely on emotion that only lasts for as long as it is occurring.

The Liturgy is the foundation of our faith, it is where Catholics all congregate once per week, to worship, to be inspired not only by their pastor, by the music, by the awe inspiring that is Catholicism, and yet, we reduce it to nothing. Catholicism requires sacrifice, which has all been left out. The Liturgy needs to be restored (and no, I may be a Traditional Roman Catholic, but I’m not advocating a reversal of what has been done) to the reverency and beauty that it demands. Until this is done, nothing else on this list will even become accomplishable. Once this has been done, the following not only become achievable, but easy.

 

4. The Religious Education

Religious Education, CCD, Catechism, or whatever you want to call it, is rather poor. The lessons are good, but inappropriate for where most of the students are at. Before you get all upset and throw a fit, let me explain.

Most of the material that is discussed is out-dated, in that, it is full of the “Spirit of Vatican 2″ mumbo jumbo that is all about talking about how merciful God is and how He really likes us and that really, it’s all about loving Him. There isn’t much substance to it. See, most of these kids have been hearing this being taught since they were in Kindergarten. The education is still a Kindergarten education while they are growing throughout their academic careers, and then we wonder why they have no interest in learning more. Well, we don’t challenge them. They go to school (public, private (Catholic) or home-schooled) and are learning all types of high-level subjects like Calculus, Trigonometry, Biology, Physics, College-level courses, but then they go to Religious Ed (you know, the only subject that matters in the end) and its the same lesson “God loves you!”

I’m not arguing that the education is wrong, because it isn’t, but it isn’t challenging what-so-ever. As a teacher, its absolutely annoying and almost enraging when the questions that we ask the kids are so dumbed down to the point that each kid knows the answer is “Pray more”. “How can you be better close to Jesus?”, I ask. “Pray more” the kids repeat in a monotonous tone. And, how could I forget, the personalism in this!? How about we teach them more about Christ’s actually teachings, like “Go Forth and Sin no More!” or teach them about various aspects of, I don’t know, their Catholic faith? They don’t know much about why we as Catholics believe this, but, we talk non-stop about having a “personal relationship with Jesus”. Tell me, can you imagine St. Peter, or St. Paul going around preaching “Hey! You need a personal relationship with Jesus!”? Absolutely not. This is a Protestant mentality.

At one of my lessons, we somehow got onto the point of Purgatory. I and the other teachers noticed that the kids perked up, they seemed interested. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, so I asked them if they’d like to know more. More than half the class raised their hands. I assume (yes, I know assumption is dangerous) that most of them have no clue what Purgatory is, or why we believe it. We should be teaching kids about why we are Catholic. That way when they go to college and get approached by every single other religion (who know why they believe what they believe) they aren’t left like a deer in headlights, looking confused, feeling awkward and are able to defend their faith.

Let’s find out what the children know, and teach them what they should know. I have found that many people, those in religious ed and those outside, do not know the details of their faith.

 

5. Confirming Students Who DON’T Want Confirmation

(This probably won’t be an issue if we implement problem 1). This one is going to be one where I’m sure we’ll get lots of disagreement. But, there are a number of students who do not want to be confirmed. Yet, we go ahead and let them because “that’s what we’re supposed to do”. Now, I ask, how effective is a Sacrament, if you are forced into it? If you go to Confession, and you aren’t sorry, you are just going through the motion, is it still valid? The Church teaches that if you don’t have a contrite heart, if you aren’t sincere and truly repentant, than your confession doesn’t do anything. The Church teaches that if a spouse had no intention of getting married and just went through the motions, we are told that that would be valid reason for an annulment (a true, valid marriage never took place). How about Communion? Don’t you have to actually physically walk up to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord?

This isn’t at all like Baptism, in which the baby is unable to decide for herself because she is not at the age of reason. We are talking about teenagers. Teenagers who are fully competent to know what they do or do not want (whether or not what they want is good is another topic). What is the meaning of the Sacrament if we are giving it forcibly to those who do not want to receive it? When we are Confirmed we are promising to everyone and especially GOD that we are going to be faithful to the Church. If my intent is to, say, stop practicing once we leave the Confirmation Mass, I am lying to God, to those in attendance and to myself. Yet, we go ahead and let this occur.

Besides, most of the time those that do get Confirmed rarely come back to the Church. I think it’d make more sense that if they want Confirmation, then they should go through RCIA when they are older. This way, they are actually wanting that Sacrament, and then, on top of that, we see that they are actually going to practice their faith and be on fire for it. That’s what we want right? Let’s confirm those who are wanting to be Catholic, and those that will just use it as an opportunity to bad-mouth the Church later, you know the “recovering Catholics”, we can leave behind.

Frankly, we should bring back the days in which the Bishop would quiz each student, before receiving Confirmation. If the student got the question incorrect, they weren’t allowed to be Confirmed. When you practice anything, whether it be your faith or anything, you should at a minimum know why you are doing it. This point ties into the next.

 

6. No Accountability For Learning

Currently, in most parishes, there is absolutely no accountability if the student comes to class or even pays attention or learns anything. Why? If little Thomas is skipping class every single week, it is clear that he has no intention of coming to class. If I assign homework, and nobody does it, I can’t give out zeros and then hold them back a grade. We have set up a catechesis class in the Church, that in short, emphasizes that it isn’t important. If I flunk my math class at school, I don’t pass, I have to redo it. If I flunk my class in Religious Ed, I’m moved along to the next grade not having learned anything and become a distraction to those who want to be there. We in essence are subtly teaching our classes that it isn’t important, that our academic schooling is far more important. We are teaching them subtly that the world is where they want to conform to, and that religion is just a minor thing you practice if you care.

We also, like mentioned in point 4, do not teach them what they need to know. Sure, we can say that having a personal relationship with Jesus is important, but we are all flawed humans and we can subject our own views onto this said relationship. If you do not know who Jesus is, how can you even have a relationship? If I do not know what He teaches, how do I have this relationship? Let’s actually teach the children who Christ is, what He taught and what His Church, His Spouse teaches.

Implementing these ideas would be a great start in bringing back passion to those getting Confirmed and allow them to grow in their faith. Let’s make Saints, not allow them to stay as sinners.

Jeff December 12, 2013 1 Comment Permalink

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