Author Archives: catholichris
Archangel Gabriel then appeared
To bring great news of joy
The will of God she adhered,
Word made flesh, a little boy.
Hidden in His mother’s womb
Away from human gaze
The tiniest of Bridegrooms
In secret there He stays
Though angels and star made known
The birth of God the Son
The little King would choose a home
hidden from sight of everyone
30 years of precious silence
His words and works would not be seen
Until the Spirit made appearance
At Jordan’s banks, water serene.
Healings and miracles followed in his wake
Signs and wonders He did display
Never did He the glory take
But went to the mountains to fast and pray
Passover night, at cenacle’s table
The humble Master would show again
That of all the things that He was able
He willed to be hidden from the sight of men.
Hidden under form of food
To make for us the way
To show how we have been pursued
The Bridegroom’s love in clear display
The pierced heart that was foretold,
His Sorrowful Mother He gave away
To John the Beloved he gave to hold,
To his home she would go and stay.
Detached completely from the world
The Morning Star did fade.
Placed within a borrowed tomb
Adam’s debt had been repaid.
Desiring to be hid once more
He prophesied the Pentecost
The Spirit would come behind closed doors
flowing from His side upon the Cross
The Triune God in heart to dwell
What humility sublime
The victor over death and hell
With us until the end of time
The Father’s gift, the hidden One
The greatest grace He could impart
Was His Only Begotten Son
In womb, in host, in heart.
Written by Chris Pinnegar
“Accompaniment.” That word seemed to be thrown around a lot in Rome during the Synod on the Family in October. The Instrumentum Laboris, the working document used by the synod fathers during the Synod makes reference to accompaniment 37 times throughout the document. Yet, after reading it including the section on the “Art of Accompaniment”, I see neither a proper art or really any indication that those who wrote the document have a sense of what it actually means to accompany anyone.
I was once a child, who grew up in the context of a single parent home, where my mother and father were divorced. If the synod fathers needed an example of a life that needed true accompaniment, mine was one. My father left my mother because of her faith when I was a baby. My mother was ill, relying on disability pensions and child support for most of my upbringing. I received a lot of care from my grandparents. Yet, faithfully, my mother, grandparents, and I went to Mass every Sunday. My mother chose to remain single after the divorce for many varied reasons, even though she could have annulled the marriage, as she was married outside of the church before she was baptized. My father remained at a distance my whole life, seeing him only a handful of times a year, and he rarely spent one-on-one time with me unless he had to.
So, though catholic, my life was messy. Really messy. Yet, the presence of the local church was not present in those gaps for most of my life. It was not until I was a teenager that I was given one of the greatest graces of my life – a priest-mentor. A local priest befriended me as a teenager and took me under his wing. The priest scandals of the last ten years had not yet happened, and so there was not really a safe environment policy which prevented me from hanging out with him. This priest showed up in my life at what was the most crucial moment and not only pulled me back from the precipice of self destruction I was beginning to head down as a young teen, but he began to form me into the catholic man I am today.
This priest used to invite me over to hang out, watch movies, and help out around the church. He gave me the tools to work hard. He showed me what it is to work. He even helped me with my homework. He showed me how to communicate with everyone. He would take me on little road trips and visit shrines and different people’s homes. He taught me how to pray. He instilled in me a love and devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament by inviting me over to pray at 6am. He shared his love for the Liturgy of the Hours. All of these things led me to begin discerning the priesthood and religious life. It was what led me to become a Secular Discalced Carmelite. He showed me how to love our Blessed Lord, the Church, and people. It was his mentorship that helped me weather the storm of confusion I encountered years later after being seriously wounded by another member of the clergy. This first priest had given me what I needed in my life, an example of true fatherhood. He had accompanied me as Christ accompanies us through life – by my side, like a father.
After reading the Instrumentum Laboris and reading the reports coming out of Rome during the synod, I could not believe how many times they referenced accompaniment without providing real concrete examples of what that looks like. Yet, surprisingly enough, even President Barack Obama recognizes one of the greatest issues in our present culture that the synod simply seemed to overlook-the absence of fatherhood and how the Church should help.
In relation to my previous blog in which I discussed how the simplest questions are sometimes the most difficult, I feel that same theme carries here. True accompaniment is not a sterile task. It is messy. It gets into a person’s life and gets involved. The church does not need to throw communion to the divorced and remarried. It does not need to look for the positive aspects found in homosexual relationships. It needs to look at how it can be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. St. Joseph is the Universal Patron of the Church. St. Joseph was tasked to care for a child that didn’t belong to him. He was tasked to care for a woman who would now be a pariah in their community because she was an unwed mother. The Church needs to ask the question, “how do we be like St. Joseph?” I was a child who spent 12 years of his life without any involvement from his local church. They knew full well of my mother’s situation. No one came to our aid. Yet, we continued to file into the pew Sunday after Sunday, to hear the priest preach about serving the poor and needy.
Instead of spending so much time focussing on communion for obstinate, unrepentant sinners, the Church needs to ask now more than ever how they can become like the Eucharist, the daily bread, to those hungry for love, care, truth, and true accompaniment and then they just need to do it. You don’t need a synod of bishops to figure this out. Look around your pews, find the hurting, and reach out. Grow a heart, church.
Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest. We only need to look into the heart of today’s secular culture, into our places of work, our relationships, our families, and most importantly, into our own hearts, to see this reality played out. When it comes to things like the abortion debate, the question, “what is a fetus” is avoided at all costs. When it comes to problems in our friendships and relationships, the question of “what have I done to hurt us” is commonly the last question. These types of simple and direct questions are necessary for a healthy and complete discussion, but were they being asked in Rome during this Synod on the Family?
I recently attended the Congress for the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Canada and I was reminded about two very central themes that are not only central to our identity as Teresian Carmelites, but are in fact central to the life and renewal of the Church. After reading the different blogs, mainstream Catholic media, and the world of independent Catholic journalism, I came to the realization that the Holy Spirit is in fact speaking to the Church in this time, but I think we’re missing the message. I think the reason is that we’re not listening, and we’re asking the wrong questions.
St. Teresa of Jesus in the Interior Castle states, “As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble.” Looking at all that I have seen coming officially from the Vatican Press Office during the Synod on the Family, I can only conclude that the questions not being asked are, “who is God” and “who are we in light of who God is.” This is, however, not a synodal issue. This is a global pandemic. The identity crisis is real, as I spoke about in “Catholic Amnesia“, and it goes down to the deepest core of who we are.
The 100 dollar word to describe what is going on in the Church today is “confusion”. Yet, why be confused? Why the destruction of the family in modern culture? Why the confusion of clergy regarding the theology of marriage and human sexuality? Why the push to hand over the very Sacred Body of Our Lord into the hands of obstinate, mortal sinners?
We no longer care about who God is, and therefore do not care about who we are.
If we really cared about putting God first, we would keep His commands as Christ said, “you are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). Yet, so many of us look for loopholes and ways to dodge the commandments of God to make the Gospel more palatable. Instead of seeking to respond to God, it is like we are constantly looking over our shoulder to ensure the world isn’t watching. We want to be “relevant” and by doing so we have watered down the Gospel to the point where it is indistinguishable.
The Church today has a unique opportunity to speak the Gospel without compromise; the call to families to be little trinities in the world. The beautiful reality is that the family has a high calling which cannot be changed. Yet, if we do not ask the question, “What is the family in the light of God and Divine Revelation”, just forget about ever making a difference in the world. The more we put up roadblocks to speaking the truth, the more it will be like we are riding a bicycle and constantly sticking a rod between the spokes. We’ll fly over the handlebars time after time.
As a Secular Discalced Carmelite, I was reminded about my vocational call a few weekends ago to know myself by recognizing who God is first. St. Teresa of Jesus, the great Doctor of the Church, founded the Order of Discalced Carmelites in the midst of one of the rockiest times in the Church – the Protestant Reformation. In reading her writings in her Way of Perfection, she laments the work of Luther and states:
“And, seeing that I was a woman, and a sinner, and incapable of doing all I should like in the Lord’s service, and as my whole yearning was, and still is, that, as He has so many enemies and so few friends, these last should be trusty ones, I determined to do the little that was in me — namely, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could, and to see that these few nuns who are here should do the same, confiding in the great goodness of God, Who never fails to help those who resolve to forsake everything for His sake.”
Teresa asked the question, “What does God desire for the Church in these times?” She did not ask first, “How do we dialogue with the sons of Luther.” She went to the most important question first. Have we asked lately, “Who does God say that I am to Him?” Did the Synod Fathers as a whole ask, “What does God say the family is?” These are tough questions when faced with the reality of the need for conversion, yet, like St. Teresa of Jesus, we must say, “Yours I am, O Lord, and born for You. What do you ask of me?” Whether married, single, clergy, religious, cardinal, or Pope, all of the baptized have the responsibility to be burdened, like St. Teresa of Jesus, to do the “little” in us to live lives of heroic virtue, by prayer and sacrifice, to seek to save the lost for the sake of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which has been so wounded by the hatred of the world; to love God above all things and then to love our neighbour. Yet, so many remain confused, and so we must pray, especially for the Synod Fathers and all of the clergy. I will end with this exhortation from St. Teresa of Jesus from the Way of Perfection:
Now why have I said this? So that you may understand, my sisters, that what we have
to ask of God is that, in this little castle of ours, inhabited as it is by good Christians,
none of us may go over to the enemy. We must ask God, too, to make the captains in
this castle or city — that is, the preachers and theologians — highly proficient in the way
of the Lord. And as most of these are religious, we must pray that they may advance in
perfection, and in the fulfilment of their vocation, for this is very needful. For, as I have
already said, it is the ecclesiastical and not the secular arm which must defend us. And
as we can do nothing by either of these means to help our King, let us strive to live in
such a way that our prayers may be of avail to help these servants of God, who, at the
cost of so much toil, have fortified themselves with learning and virtuous living and
have laboured to help the Lord.
Have you ever forgotten who you were? Chances are that you haven’t, however, I found out it is more common than I realized. According to HealthResearchFunding.org, Dissociative Amnesia, which is the loss of specific memory which can include the loss of a sense of identity, occurs in up to 7% of the general population, with a minimum of 2% of people in the US population experiencing it at any given time. To put that into perspective, that is approximately 6,380,000 people all experiencing amnesia. Yet, I think there is a sort of spiritual amnesia also plaguing the people within the Church, and it is progressing.
K. Albert Little, a blogger over at Patheos, recently wrote a blog that is getting a lot of buzz called “Why the Catholic Church Must Become More Protestant.” In it, this recently converted catholic laments over the failures that our churches have made. He brings up valid points, please do not get me wrong, but he prescribes the wrong medicine. In his article he cites (without providing sources), Peter Kreeft, the famous catholic philosopher/theologian/Thomistic genius. He states that, “Peter Kreeft argues that the Catholic Church needs to do what St. Pope John Paul II’s New Evangelization has been urging the Church to do for several decades now: essentially, become more Protestant.”
I’m sorry, in what universe did the great Pope St. John Paul II ever, ever, urge the Church to become more “protestant”? I digress. Little concludes by stating, “the ultimate ecumenism—our ultimate embrace of Jesus’s prayer for us to be one—must result in a Church which is both Catholic, retaining the sacraments given to us by God, and equally Evangelical, with an orientation towards community, discipleship, and evangelism. This is, of course, the best of both worlds. This is what we should strive to attain. This is what Christ prayed for, and this is why the Catholic Church must become more Protestant.” Yet, is that the answer to the woes of the Church?
When I had my major conversion experience at the age of 12 and fell in love with Christ and the Catholic Church, one of the saving graces that I had was that I had been well-exposed to protestantism. I had been to the Sunday schools, the youth groups, the Vacation Bible Camps, etc. Why? My mother saw that there was literally nothing engaging me in my faith within the parishes in my town. As a young kid (before I rejected the faith for a short time), I used to rock out to the Christian band Petra, watch Psalty the Songbook and Gerbert (the days before VeggieTales), and the list goes on. Yet, when I experienced our Lord’s presence in my life in a real way for the first time, after a period of time of being away from God spiritually, it turned me not towards those protestant churches, but drove me deeper into the Catholic Church.
I still listen to Christian music today. I still go to Christian concerts, nights of praise and worship, and I do from time to time, listen to a sermon or two from Joyce Meyer or Rick Warren. I’m smart enough to pick out the heresies or false teachings that protestantism has embedded within it, however, there are things within protestantism that are authentically good. Yet, what I realized as a child, and what I still hold to today, is that while, as Little says, “Evangelical Protestantism, says Kreeft, has a serious market cornered on relationship-building, discipleship, and evangelization,” these things are not inherently protestant. How do I know?
I have read the Book of Acts and I know Catholic history.
The Early Church is our patrimony. You want to see a real grassroots community of disciples committed to the cause of evangelization? Look at the Early Church! The Holy Spirit used the men and women of the Early Church to spread the Gospel like wildfire across the world. Throughout history, Catholics were the ones writing the beautiful hymns of praise. Not only were we building religious communities, we were building civilization. We built art and culture that has stood the test of time and still inspires people today. Flashy lights, hip music, and cool videos, though nice, will not stand the test of time. Yet, here we are in the Western World, watching the decline of Christianity in the West (which has been overrun by protestantism), and we’re saying “We have to be more like those guys with their Starbucks and their rock music churches.”
NO WE DON’T!
PROTESTANTISM IS NOT THE ANSWER!
Blessed John Henry Newman said, “to study history is to cease to be protestant.” So many Catholics, both lay and clergy, seem to be dealing with the same issue our protestant friends have been dealing with – they have turned a blind eye to history. I love our Holy Father, but if you look at the sources used for our Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortations and encyclicals, you will find that beyond a few major Saints who he refers to in small ways, the majority of the sources he uses do not go beyond Pope St. John XXIII (1958). If you look at a lot of the major protestant writings, there is a significant gap of time between the New Testament and the Protestant Reformation that they do not mention either. In both these cases, I fear there is a type of amnesia.
The answer to the struggles the Church is facing is not to become like someone else. The answer is to become authentically who we are! The Catholic Church is inherently a family of disciples, called to live in unity with one another, and to preach the Gospel to all nations. We literally wrote the book on it, we should know. We have been this in the past and our communities can be this in the future. The key, however, lies in our willingness to let go of the politics that surrounds living the faith, and just do it.
Here is one simple way of being authentically Catholic which will benefit the Church and the world:
Get together with a group of serious Catholics on a regular basis. Pray together. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you as a group. Then ask this question: “How are we going to evangelize our families, friends, co-workers, local church, and city as individuals and as a group?” Set out a game plan. Then, go out for a beer and half-priced appetizers and hang out. For the love of God, just hang out with each other and build community. Stop compartmentalizing the faith and integrate the faith into everything you do, always looking for an opportunity to share the Gospel.
At the end of the day, community life, evangelization, and discipleship are authentically catholic things, just as much as the devotional life. Protestants may have borrowed these ideas and made them their own, but they are found originally with the Catholic Church; the Church Jesus Himself founded on a community of 12 men. Do not let anyone tell you different. We, however, need to start acting like the Catholics we are meant to be, not the Catholics that have filled the pews for decades and did nothing. We also cannot wait upon our priests and bishops, parishes and dioceses, to formalize this type of community. It is in our hands to do it ourselves, and we must. The days of greater persecution are coming when we are going to need each other more than ever before. We really need to get to know each other before then and starting working together. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the Early Church.