Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yesterday I started reading something that captures a couple of my interests at the same time.

The book is the new "Island of the World" by Michael D. O'brien, possibly my favourite Catholic author. The book is set in the Balkans, starting around the time of WWII.

I admit to reading with a little scepticism. O'brien is known for his attention to detail. Several years ago, I loaned another O'brien book, "Father Elijah" to a priest friend who admired the book's description of the Vatican. The priest said that O'brien must have actually been there.

The setting of the book is the Balkans, which is about as complicated as I imagine a setting to be!

Dh worked in the Balkans for a year. So did ds. I was over there for three months. It is a beautiful, fascinating area, with an amazingly complex history and culture.

When I told dh I was reading "Island" he commented that the book would have to mention slivovic (a homemade alcoholic substance which is ubiquitous in the Balkans). Less than 100 pages into the book, there is was!

Michael O'brien is an unapologetic Catholic. His books are full of Catholicism, both subtle and overt. One cannot read them without sensing how integral his faith is to his work.

I am curious to see how the history of the Balkans is managed in this novel. Before we went over, I was told that "there were no good guys". I had trouble believing that, but after my time there, I was beginning to think it was correct.

Lately, we have been looking at history from a Catholic perspective and seeing just how it can be manipulated without anyone actually lying! I have no reason to believe that what little I know of the Balkans has not been manipulated.

I will be some time reading this large book. I will report when I am done.

God Bless

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Last things

Happy Tuesday.

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to, rather than leading, a class for soon-to-be Catholics.

The topic was "Last Things" which would be death, judgement, Purgatory, Heaven and Hell.

We are in a Military environment. It struck me, not long into the meeting, that our community has an intimacy with death that is probably a bit unusual.

I was surprised at how comfortable everyone seemed with the idea of death. I was surprised at how nonchalant the soldiers were about close calls they'd had. One fellow mentioned that he drove through a crater caused by an explosion that had only recently killed several soldiers.

Others talked of serious 'accidents' they'd been involved in where no one was killed, although it would appear that they should have been. It was not their time.

Most of us have had a close brush with the family of someone who has died.

A story was told about how some people (other soldiers) can just fall apart at the thought of death. One described the anti climax of being prepared to die, and then not having it happen.

Someone mentioned the knowledge that a kiss good-bye could be their last.

Purgatory is a doctrine that some find hard to accept. If one looks carefully, Scripture is actually quite liberal in texts that imply a place between earth and heaven. Maccabees tells us to pray for the dead. Why would we do that if they were in either heaven or hell? We are told that our works will be tested as if by fire.

Purgatory is not, as is sometimes said, a second chance, or a place where ones fate is decided. Those who find themselves in purgatory will, eventually, go to heaven.

Everyone in heaven is a saint. They may not be a canonized saint (one whose presence in heaven has been declared by the Church and whose name may be mentioned during the Mass) but if you are in heaven, you are a saint.

Heaven is a place of perfect happiness. Some people get the idea that heaven will be dull. We cannot imagine the glories and pleasures of heaven.

Hell? I've been told it will be a big party, as in the sense of unlimited sinning. Wrong again! Hell is a place of unending torment. It is eternally outside the view of God. We can't see Him, He can't see us. There will be no pleasure.

We can never judge that someone has gone to Hell. Only God knows that for sure, as much as we may speculate. We do not know if, perhaps, someone on his/her deathbed cried out to God for mercy. The Church does from time to time declare someone to be in heaven. "What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven".

Lent, the time preceding Easter, is a time where we look upon our lives and see if there are ways we may walk more closely with God. Take the time to take a look!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Comings and Goings

This is a response of sort to an American article.

One can tell from my name that I am Canadian, however I think much that is said in the article applies.

Evangelical churches are scooping up Catholics at an alarming rate. Just how alarming?

As one who once dabbled in evangelicism, and then discovered the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, I know what the attraction is (or was at the time). Warning...the peanut butter I ate for breakfast has stuck my tongue firmly to my cheek.

It is entertaining. There's some pretty girl standing up front wiggling and singing into a mic while a band of sorts plays behind her. She's singing choruses; short songs that are catchy and easy to remember. Emotions begin to run high. Oh yes, one can just FEEL the Holy Spirit moving in this place.

Once the music slows down, you know that it's time for Pastor X to come out and start expounding on his favourite bit of scripture. Or perhaps today it's expounding on his favourite shortcoming. Maybe (and many denominations seem to be founded on this one) he will give his views on the Catholic Church. He is anointed (if not always accurate).

The pastor's anointed status lasts until he hits a sore point with someone, who promptly leaves this gathering which he now feels has lost the Spirit, and finds another where he finds the Holy Spirit has taken up residence. Interestingly, the Holy Spirit will here condone whatever weakness or belief that causes M. Pewsitter to find himself at odds with his previous congregation. Perhaps M. Pewsitter decides HE has the spirit...and starts his own church.

The pattern is so predictable.

This year I have the privilege once again of helping people who wish to become Roman Catholic. Last week, someone made the comment that he thought he knew quite a bit about the Church when he started coming to meetings. He'd learned it from the other churches he'd attended. Now he knows that most of what he thought he knew was wrong.

Does that not sound like what Archbishop Fulton Sheen said?

There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—
which is, of course, quite a different thing.
Radio Replies (1938)

Earlier in the evening, the same fellow made a comment that maybe the Church needed to do more work to get its actual teachings made public. I truly hope that someday this fellow will join the ranks of catechists, apologists, evangelists who do their best to teach the Catholic faith!

I think Pope Benedict XVI, who does not seem to be one to back away from genuine Church teaching...even that which does not sit well with society or certain members thereof, will inspire many to confidently proclaim the Church.

I hope that B XVI may actually inspire some dissenters within the Church to leave it in peace. They can go and start a denomination built upon their pet belief, weakness, desire, or sin, as so many have before them.

I suspect that if one really analyzed the demographics of ex-Catholics in evangelical ranks, one would find that many are there because of a sin that the Catholic Church does not accept: Divorce and re-marriage, the use of artificial birth control. Or perhaps this new church lays out in black and white a teaching that the RC church leaves to the informed consciences of its followers. M. Pewsitter may desire the support that a clearly defined teaching can give.

I wonder if we have statistics concerning the backgrounds of people entering the Church, or perhaps re-entering the Church. How many come back and bring friends and family with them?

We have been promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church. Neither will public opinion.