Category Archives: confirmation

Jim Gaffigan’s Scary Religion

jimgDefending the Faith in an increasingly secularized world freaks me out. I have to be honest. It is a tough proposition to speak the truth when you know that you might become less popular. It can be a great way to kill your pride, if you’re into that kind of virtuous practice. We live in an especially ruthless and cutthroat culture, where the true colours of people really begin to show themselves when you challenge their actions or opinions. Yet, it is precisely in those places where we might be uncomfortable that we are called to go and bring the truth. Yet, many catholics hide from the public eye, in order to retain some semblance of popularity, stability, etc. Some catholics even hold places where they could speak and people might listen, however, they choose the road of least resistance and keep their mouths shut. One such public figure is Jim Gaffigan.

Jim Gaffigan is a comedian from New York City. His skit about “Hot Pockets”, made him more widely known. He’s known for generally having clean humour. He is also a catholic with a family of five. I have always loved his comedy, personally. That being said, however, recently he began producing a show called the “Jim Gaffigan Show“, which can be viewed on Comedy Central. His introductory episode is definitely making people talk (including me – well done, Jim). In it, he explores the idea of being a catholic in the public sphere. Yet, instead of showing any sort of pride and joy in being part of the One Church founded by Jesus Christ, he instead focuses his attention on how afraid he is of being outed as a catholic.

The Washington Post picked up on this and wrote an article entitled, “What’s so funny about Jim Gaffigan’s Christianity?” In the article, they explore the fact of Jim’s fear. Michelle Boorstein, the writer of the article, interviewed both Jim and his wife Jeannie to discuss this. In the article, Jeannie shares that their endgame essentially was to show the “Catholicism they live – while also strategically ‘critique-proofing’ themselves.” It was a strategic move to protect themselves from ridicule. When asked if the episode related to Jim’s actual fear of being seen as a catholic, his wife definitely admitted that, “It’s resonant with Jim’s paranoia, that’s definitely true.”

During the episode, Jim admits, “I don’t want to get involved in the culture war. Religion is a very iffy business. As soon as you identify yourself as believing something, you open yourself to ridicule.” Is he right about some of the consequences? ABSOLUTELY! Is that a justifiable reason to never speak the truth though?

His wife goes on to say in the interview that, “He still has point of view, but he’s not going to take a stand because there are people who love Jim who are atheists, and who love Jim and are of all faiths. The Christian ghetto is a hard one to get out of if I’m only preaching to the choir.” Yet, if you watch the episode, there is not one ounce of joy that he takes in his faith. Sure, as a family they may not be using artificial birth control and may go to church on Sunday, but that is certainly not all that makes up what it means to be a real catholic in the world.

Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rom 1,16 ). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (Cfr. Matth 10,27 ). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern “metropolis”. It is you who must “go out into the byroads” ( Matth 22,9 ) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father. ~ Pope St. John Paul II to the youth of the 8th World Youth Day in Denver, CO

JPIINow, before you get your Pope Francis scapulars in a knot, I want to clearly say that I am not judging the state of Mr. Gaffigan’s soul. I am simply speaking about what he has admitted to publically, and how that compares to the call he has received in Baptism; a call that all of the baptized have received. I think in many ways all of us who take this beautiful thing called Catholicism seriously, can relate to dealing with some degree of fear of ridicule from our friends and acquaintances when speaking the Gospel. The Feast of Pentecost which we celebrated this past Sunday is a great reminder of this fact. The Apostles, though pretty solid, had not yet been invigorated by the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and preach the Gospel as they were commanded. So, they huddled up in the Cenacle and kept praying until the Promise of Jesus was fulfilled in their midst. Once the Holy Spirit showed up, they burst through the doors of the Upper Room and declared the “works of God” to the world, first in Jerusalem and spreading across the globe (Acts 2).

We, as baptized and confirmed Christians have this same gift. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us through the Sacraments, and has given us the ability to come to know the Truth, to speak and to live it in the world. For Jim Gaffigan, and I think a lot of us, we fail to tap into this reality. Yet, it is our sacred duty, instilled in us through the Sacraments, to go out into the world and “make disciples of all nations.” We must speak the truth, no matter how much the world will hate us. In light of the recent feast the Church has just celebrated, let us take this gift of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling more seriously and ask ourselves, “Are we truly unashamed of the Gospel?”

In this secularized age, when many of our contemporaries think and act as if God did not exist or are attracted to irrational forms of religion, it is you, dear young people, who must show that faith is a personal decision which involves your whole life. Let the Gospel be the measure and guide of life’s decisions and plans! Then you will be missionaries in all that you do and say, and wherever you work and live you will be signs of God’s love, credible witnesses to the loving presence of Jesus Christ. Never forget: “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel” (Mt 5:15)!
-Pope St. John Paul II

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A Priest Forever

Fr. Steve MarshThis past weekend, I had the absolute honor and pleasure of attending the Ordination to the Priesthood of one of my great friends, Fr. Stephen Marsh. He was ordained this weekend with three other men. Though it was a long journey, Fr. Steve has finally arrived, and this new chapter in his life has only just begun.

While being at his Ordination Mass, I was overcome with such gratefulness for our Priests and awe for their sacred office and how God is present to us in them. However I was also saddened to know that they are so often taken for granted, and that many Priests do and have grown cold.

When we look at Salvation History, we see throughout it the great lengths that God has taken to give us this gift of Salvation, to show us his unconditional love for us, as well has His mercy and justice. We see this in a big way in scripture with the levitical priests, who offered sacrifices on our behalf. We also see this through God giving the Israelites the Manna in the desert to nourish them.

With the death and resurrection of our Lord, this did not end. It changed. With our Priests, they offer the one unbloody sacrifice of our Lord on the cross, made present at the altar, for us and with us, at Mass. This was commanded by our Lord Himself that it be done. Jesus offers Himself to the Father and also nourishes us in the Eucharist, as he is the new Manna, the Bread of the Angels. He is present in the Eucharist in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

What a great responsibility and gift our Priests have been given, being entrusted with this sacred duty of offering us the Sacraments, without which we would not be saved. It brings me to tears, this fact that Our God loves us so deeply, so that He deigned to make real to us now, make available to us now, through his Priests, our salvation. When we sin, and put this salvation at risk, with a firm resolution to never sin again, and a good confession, we can return to our Lord. What great mercy!

Ordination this weekendSt. Francis de Sales said “O my child, bethink you that just as the bee, having gathered heaven’s dew and earth’s sweetest juices from amid the flowers, carries it to her hive; so the Priest, having taken the Saviour, God’s Own Son, Who came down from Heaven, the Son of Mary, Who sprang up as earth’s choicest flower, from the Altar, feeds you with that Bread of Sweetness and of all delight.’

We need to remember this gift always, and pray always for our Priests, that they remain good and holy, and always advancing in virtue. St. John Chrysostom said that “If priests sin, all the people are led to sin. Hence every one must render an account of his own sins; but the priests are also responsible for the sins of others.” What a great and divine duty our Priests have.

Please keep the newly Ordained Priests in your prayers, as well as all of our current Bishops, Cardinals, and Priests, that the love of God and His Church in those who have grown cold may blaze bigger than ever before, and for the rest, that their love for God and His Church would continue to strengthen and grow. May we always be grateful for our Priests, as without them, we would not have this great gift of Salvation available to us.

 

God Help Us If Jesus Is a Rockstar!

Jesus showed up in my life at one of my darkest moments. As  a young teenager, I felt like I was at rock bottom. My mother was pretty much dying, I had no father that was present in my life, I was at the bottom of the grade school food chain, and I hated God. Life sucked and I knew it. I thought about suicide and did not want to live anymore. It was in the midst of this darkness that Jesus came into my life in a real way and changed that (you can read that story here). The point is, I encountered the real and tangible love of Jesus Christ, and I began to get to know that same Jesus through prayer, through Sacred Scripture, lives of the Saints, and through the teachings of the Catholic Church. I was like a crack addict; I could not get enough of the Truth. Now pegged as a fanatic Jesus Freak, I did not even show up on the radar of the Grade School foodchain, but the difference was, I did not care anymore. I found out quite quickly, however, that I was very much alone in this faith.

maxresdefaultThe Jesus I encountered that changed my life was far different from the Jesus being peddled to us in our school religion classes. He looked even more different from the Jesus talked about in my Confirmation class. Why was “my Jesus” different than “their Jesus”? I could not understand why it was so different, when the Jesus I knew was the same as the Jesus the Saints had encountered. The Jesus of the Gospels was far different than the Jesus of my parish. This needed to be rectified and I took it upon myself to rectify it. Jesus was being misrepresented and I needed to set the record straight.

Looking back, I realize I made a lot of mistakes growing up in my faith, especially as a teenager. My naivete was only matched with the poor catechesis I was receiving from my parish and school. The type of Catholic faith I was trying to proclaim overcompensated for the lack of clear evangelization I was seeing. So my closet was filled with an arsenal of Christian t-shirts with super lame slogans, trying to encourage my classmates to start thinking about God. Armed with my WWJD bracelets and a crucifix around my neck, I thNed_Flandersought I was doing a service to the Gospel. Looking back, though my attempts were sincere, I know my tactics needed work. Nevertheless, I was determined to reset the image people had created about Jesus in their minds. I still am, however my tactics have changed

Every attempt has been made to make Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, a fluffy feel-good spiritualist, especially in the wake of the abuses in the name of the Second Vatican Council. Thanks to hippies and psychedelic drugs we have things like the play Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. The world gobbled up this garbage like it was candy, and the image of the real Jesus has faded. Protestantism in its turn has also done a great disservice of painting a poor picture of what Jesus really looks like, however, as Catholics, you would think we would know better. It turns out, however, that what Protestantism began, modernist catholics have brought to an even greater low. On top of the Protestant Jesus who does not even see your sins, the modernist catholic Jesus does not even care if you worship Him at all. They place this friendly buddy Jesus on the same level as the Buddha or Muhammad. Jesus is made out to be this kind little lamb, with surfer hair and an english accent, who hugs peoples and gives them what they want. It drives me absolutely nuts, but I know it certainly is a tactic of the devil to deceive the world into thinking that Jesus has no real credibility and is certainly not God, who does God-like things like call people to conversion.

9441972550_72b319c18b_zLast weekend, I attended a Christian Music Festival called Sonshine Festival, in Minnesota. If anyone knows me, they know I like music, and particularly hard music. Christian music has been a part of my life since my reversion. Christian music, however, can sometimes tend toward that feel-good spirituality that I absolutely abhor. Therefore, I found myself as a teen turning away from the mainstream Contemporary Christian Music, and listening to Christian metal, because I found in that genre a realism that I did not see in the mainstream. I was reminded of that fact during the recent festival I attended. Tommy Green, the lead singer of the Christian Hardcore band Sleeping Giant said something quite striking. He said before their set even began, “As I was walking over here to play tonight, I heard someone from the mainstage say, ‘You may think that we are rockstars, but Jesus is the rockstar here.’ A rockstar? GOD HELP US IF JESUS IS A ROCKSTAR!” He went on to say that, “Jesus is not a rockstar. He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords…do not let them take away what is true about God!” Now, I do not fully support the protestant spirituality of Tommy Green, but he made a valid point that I wish the entire local church could hear.

If you look across the face of the Catholic Church right now, you will see that it is the converted and reverted who are making the real differences. It is those who have come into an encounter with Jesus Christ, and who continue to encounter Him. The world is looking for credible witnesses, not people who read from a textbook. The world is trying to re-write Jesus, and idle Christians stand by and watch the Lord of all Creation be stripped of His power and credibility, not simply because they are afraid, but because they do not know otherwise. All of the problems we see within the local church stem from catholics who do not have a real and healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask any catholic who supports so-called “same-sex marriage” and the gay lifestyle if they spend a considerable amount of time in daily prayer, scripture, Eucharistic adoration and study of the Teachings of the Church. The answer will be a resounding “no”.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
Matthew 16:13-17

Jesus knew when He asked the question to His disciples that the world did not know who He was. Peter, whose primacy is shown in this moment, speaks on behalf of the disciples when he exclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. What differentiated these Apostles from the rest of the world they were in? The Apostles were with Jesus and stuck by His side. They were His friends. In our culture today, it is not those whose names are followed by a bunch of letters, or even those who have received a higher ecclesiastical status, who can truly answer the question about who Jesus is. It is those who are united to Him in prayer and obedient to His commands and to the Church He established who can authentically say “I know the Lord”. Perhaps it is important for all of us to take stock of where we stand with Christ and ask the question, “Am I an authentic witness of the Gospel, or am I just going through the motions?” It is time for us as Catholics, the promised co-heirs of the kingdom, to begin to tear down, brick by brick, the false pictures that people have of Jesus and begin to proclaim with our actions and words, who Jesus really is. The New Evangelization will never take root until Jesus Christ is seated on the Throne, and we acknowledge Him for who He is, no matter how many committees or task forces are started. Jesus must be crowned King again if the Church ever wishes to see herself restored, bottom line.

the-disputation-of-the-holy-sacrament-1511

+Mary, Queen and Star of the New Evangelization, help us to reveal the real Jesus to the world.+

 

Confirmation and an Honest Heart

confirm-benedict

It’s that time of year again! Lent is a sure reminder to all of us that the celebration of Easter is not too far away.  With the coming of Easter is also the coming of a very special sacrament for many youth and adults: Confirmation. At a recent Confirmation Mass I witnessed, the retired Bishop (who lives in residence at my parish) laid out the fact that while it was nice to see everyone there, he knew he wouldn’t see many of them again until next Easter or Christmas, or perhaps not at all.  It was a sad truth, but I was glad that he pointed it out. It acted almost as a reminder that if you aren’t going to commit, don’t say you will and then not fulfill your promise. I was honestly surprised when I didn’t see anyone walk out of the church. Perhaps it is just me, but there seems to be a misconception about the Sacrament, namely that it is only a rite of passage instead of a God-given Sacrament of Initiation.

When I was confirmed as a teenager, I put a lot of thought into it. I prayed to God to help me select a Saint. I knew what it meant to be confirmed, and I was happy I did it. I was accepting the teachings of the Church and asking for God’s help and the intercession from Saint Joan of Arc to help me grow into a holier person. Unfortunately, I witnessed many people be confirmed and only come back to Mass for Christmas and then the following Easter, or never again. In retrospect, I realize that often kids feel pressured to be confirmed, likely because it is jammed down their throats that they have to. Many parents feel they have to have their children confirmed or be looked down upon.

It is important to be encouraging, but it is also important to make sure that those who are preparing for Confirmation are actually informed about the Faith. There must be a true desire from the confirmand and their sponsor to want to know and love Christ and His Church and be fully Catholic. This sacrament is a reaffirmation of the vows made on the behalf of the confirmand at their Baptism. To receive the great graces given by God through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the receiver must be truly open. It must be a declaration from the heart to accept all that the Church teaches, and that the individual will strive to pursue and live the faith. To be confirmed with only the ‘rite-of-passage’ mentality abuses the sanctity of the Sacrament. It is like a man saying ‘I do’ on his wedding day because he felt pressured to do it by his parents, and then not remaining faithful to his wife the way he promised.

If a teen feels pressured to do something, often the first moment they can run, they will. Even if they don’t run, they may just never mentally engage the faith they are superficially practicing. I’m sure most of us know someone who stopped going to mass as soon as they left home. Many people, after being forced by their parents to participate in church have left. For them, Confirmation was just another thing they did while attending a Catholic school and nothing more.

Most parents want the best for their children. Many so-called catholic parents want their children to have some semblance of faith. I submit, however, that pushing faithless teens to be confirmed doesn’t achieve this end. The truth is that in order to grow in faith and knowledge of the truth, and in love with Christ, the True Faith must be practiced at home first. It is not enough to just have the Sacraments of Initiation and not practice the faith. To not accept joyfully the Commandments and the Teachings of the Catholic Church and still claim to be a Catholic is false advertising to the world and spiritual suicide. It may mean your child is not confirmed this year, or for several years, or perhaps at all. The question is, how much more joyful will it be for them if they truly want to be confirmed and grow in love for Christ and His church when the time comes to choose.

disciple

The disciples all submitted to Christ so that they could follow Him.

Confirmation is not a pre-graduation religious ceremony that all the kids do with their classmates for fun.  It is not a passage into manhood or womanhood like a bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah. To be Confirmed in the faith is a fulfillment of our baptism.  It is much more than a rite of passage, and parents and relatives need to treat it as such. Don’t use Confirmation as a superficial, gift-giving celebration. Don’t give porcelain crosses, but instead give them a crucifix where they can see Christ’s declaration of love for every single person. Don’t give them money, but give them spiritual bread that can be found in the scripture and in prayer.  My grandmother gave me a Bible, and I dived right into it. I still have the Bible today and I read it almost every night. Give the confirmand something that will help them grow spiritually rather than superficially. They may not appreciate it now, but by God’s grace, they will one day.

I pray for all those being confirmed this Easter, and all year round, that the Holy Spirit may be with them always.

Love,
Catholic Ruki

PS: If you are interested in how to update your parish’s Confirmation Prep program, we encourage you to check out this amazing resource!

Resources:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a2.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04215b.htm
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=582
https://orthodoxcatholicism.com/2012/06/02/series-on-the-sacraments-confirmation/

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