Category Archives: Heaven
Well? Are you hardcore? How can we define a hardcore Catholic? Is there even such a thing? The term ‘Devout Catholic’ is defined differently for many people. For some, it is just the Catholic that always goes to Sunday Mass. For others, it is the Catholic that seems to have a deep spiritual life, but perhaps doesn’t really follow every little thing that the Church teaches.
Fulfilling our Sunday obligation is only part of being Catholic. We must also frequent the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, pray daily, and assent to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. It is not enough to say “I am a devout Catholic” and think this is a synonym for being a Catholic that attends every Sunday mass. Attending Sunday Mass is an obligation that every Catholic has. Even the Pope has to attend Sunday Mass. Christmas and Easter are not the bare minimum requirements for being Catholic either.
When we look at the lives of the Saints, we see that their biographies do not only consist in attending Sunday mass. The Saints lived lives of heroic virtue, at the service of God and others. We can look at the lives of the desert fathers who committed their lives to prayer. We can look at the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and see how she devoted her life to charity and love towards those that were in most need of physical and (most importantly) spiritual nourishment. The lives of the Saints demonstrate an interior martyrdom which is a death to self and a desire to know and love Christ above all. To truly love Christ is to show the “least of these” the love of Christ in action.
Being a real Catholic is not about having a “holier than thou” disposition. Many times, the phrase “holier than thou” is said by those who feel intimidated or are offended when someone tries to help someone out of sin, even when done in charity. Sometimes they are right when they say we are being “holier than thou”. Oftentimes, when people of the world say this to us, it can make us feel like we have failed in evangelizing. If we are doing our best to love Christ and doing all that we possibly can to lead others closer to Him, then why is it received with such distaste among our family and friends? For many people, there is an internal moral crisis that prevents them from seeing things objectively. For others, however, I believe that they see a disconnect between our words and deeds. For some who do seek to live a life of virtue, they may still be shut down. Although it may not be easy for people to hear the truth, I believe that if our words are formed through prayer and said with humility and charity, our Blessed Lord will bless them in some way. The question is, how do we get through to those who do not wish to listen?
I think what it all comes down to is not to ask ourselves whether or not we are hardcore because this may create some kind of pride within ourselves. I think the real question we need to ask ourselves is this: Am I truly faithful to Christ, the Church He established, and do I live a life of service to others? Being Catholic is about loving Christ and devoted to the building of His Kingdom. It is about living life in truth and charity. It means trusting God enough to believe that His Holy Spirit is guiding His One True Church. Adherence to the teachings of the Church (and that means all of them), even if they challenge us, is key if we want to really enter into the fullness of a relationship with God. Being Catholic really comes down to making Christ the center of our lives, and encountering Him on a daily basis by making our entire life a sacrifice for Him and others. Along the way, frequenting the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion will keep us on the path when we stray and give us the strength we need the life the Christian life.
When we look at Mary, we can see the ultimate example of reverence and obedience. From her ‘Fiat’ to being with Christ in the last moments of His life on the Cross, she exemplifies what it means to be faithful. We must be obedient, just like Mary encouraged the servant at the Wedding at Cana and “Do whatever He tells you”. We must take up our crosses and follow Him daily. This Easter, we recognize in a particular way that Christ gave His very life for us. If we truly love Him, we will do the same, by laying down our lives for others.
“Each of you knows that the foundation of our faith is charity. Without it, our religion would crumble. We will never be truly Catholic unless we conform our entire lives to the two commandments that are the essence of the Catholic faith: to love the Lord, our God, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves… With charity, we sow the seeds of that true peace which only our faith in Jesus Christ can give us by making us all brothers and sisters. I know that this way is steep, and difficult, and strewn with thorns, while at first glance the other path seems easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying. But the fact is, if we could look into the hearts of those who follow the perverse paths of this world, we would see that they lack the serenity that comes to those who have faced a thousand difficulties and who have renounced material pleasure to follow God’s law.” – Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati
Strive always to confess your sins with a deep knowledge of your own wretchedness and with clarity and purity. -St. John of the Cross
If a king were to come and visit you, would you shrug off the opportunity to make your home the very best it could be for Him? If your home was infested with insects or rodents, would you still invite Him in? If it was flooded, would you still invite Him to take his shoes off and take a seat? If your home was cold and dark, would you just hand him a flashlight and tell him to watch his step? You know you could be lazy, or simply assure yourself that if he cared for you, he will accept your home as a disaster. What if you had the ability to repair everything; every infestation and mess in your home could be eradicated and all the power brought back? Would you not jump at the opportunity to welcome the King into a home worth presenting?
As Catholics, we believe that the Blessed Sacrament is truly Christ physically present. When we receive Him into our body and subsequently into our hearts, are we aware of what kind of condition our soul is in? I have been pondering lately on how to show proper reverence to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. One thing I have been reminded of is that to receive our Blessed Lord in a state of mortal sin, we not only dishonour Him, but we desecrate the Sacrament itself. We commit again another mortal sin.
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Receiving Christ in a state of mortal sin is a grave matter. Paul states in his letter to the Corinthians:
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.” (1 Cor 11: 26-29)
To receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin means that, apart from the judgment of Christ and the Church, we deem ourselves worthy to consume God Himself, even though as St. John Vianney says, “we receive Him only to sacrifice Him on an altar to Satan”. How can we dare to approach Him in such an unworthy manner? We must wait to receive Him with a clean heart rather than to receive Him knowing that, due to our sin, we are now in enmity with God. It is like betraying our spouse, and not repenting for the harm we have done to them. But God does not leave us abandoned and provided us with the Sacrament of Confession. True contrition and confession is needed to cleanse us of mortal sin.
In pursuing a holy life, we must strive to do all we can to love Christ above all. This includes ensuring that we do not receive Him in a state of mortal sin. If you are in a state of mortal sin, have not received a confession in a while, or want to make your Advent awesome, find out when your parish offers the Sacrament of Confession this week. If you can’t make it to that time, then call your priest and schedule a time. There is no need to fear asking for confession. To help properly prepare for confession, do a daily examination of your conscience to help keep your soul in check. Do not lie to yourself. If you are guilty of sin, own up to it. As Saint Josemaria Escriva would say, “At the time of your examination(of sins) beware of the devil that ties your tongue.”
A humble confession displeases Satan and, if he could, he would make you omit Holy Communion. – Thomas A. Kempis
For some of us, confession is not easy. Apologizing to someone is hard, and it is even harder to apologize to someone we love after we have hurt them. We must not forget that God’s mercy is infinite, and when we come to Him with a truly repentant heart in the Sacrament of Confession and promise to sin no more, we will come to love God more. Saint Thomas Aquinas said, “In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.” Confession makes it possible for us to properly participate at Mass with clean and joyful hearts.
When Christ came into the world, He wasn’t given the best living conditions; A manger in a stable, filled with animals. It was probably chilly in the night time, and I’m sure Mary and Joseph didn’t find it too comfortable either. That was the birth of our Lord! The Three Wise Men fell to their knees, presenting him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The question is, what gift will we offer our Savior King this Christmas? Let us take time this Advent to work on growing in virtue, in order to offer Christ the King a clean heart for Him to be welcomed into. Let our hearts be not a dirty stable, but a place we have properly prepared for a King.
Check out these other posts for more information on confession
I’ve been trying to take my kids to daily Mass when I’ve had the opportunity. It has sort of been an experiment in patience, but so far it has gone pretty well, and I enjoy being able to teach my children about the faith in a more intimate setting. I’m not always sure how much my two little ones are actually absorbing, since they mostly seem preoccupied with going through every hymnal in the pew ad nauseum or trying to pick up the elusive Cheerio on the floor, left behind by another Sunday Mass-goer (proof that there ARE other young children at Mass! At least I hope that’s the reason…).
On our way out the door one morning my son started talking to me about angels, and that we were going to see angels at the church. Intrigued, I asked him what the angels were doing at church.
“Angels carry Jesus’ cross”
“Really? What else”
“Angels carry cross, and put it down. Open book for Jesus”.
Aspirations of my son’s mystical visions began dancing in my head as he animatedly continued his description.
“Open book. Jesus say ‘Lord be with you!’”
My excitement at having a great mystic for a toddler came tumbling to the ground as I understood he wasn’t talking about the angels and Jesus, but the priest and the altar servers. Apparently, in my attempts to teach my son about the True Presence in the Eucharist, I’ve only managed to confuse him into thinking that the priest is Jesus. It’s understandable, there certainly isn’t anyone else visibly up there when I point and say “Now, Jesus is here!” during consecration.
As for the angels, there are two twin girls who altar serve at our parish, who with their cherub-like corkscrew curls, and white altar serving vestments, do in fact, look an awful lot like the pictures of angels in many of my kids’ books.
I shook my head at the silliness of it all, and tried to explain to him who all these people truly in fact are, but I began to realize that my son had a point. In his child-like innocence he reminded me of the reality of the fact that Mass is heaven on earth. In that moment, the angels are present, ministering to Our Lord who is sacrificing Himself on the cross.
It reminded me of this little pamphlet I had seen years ago, left behind in the back pew in the Basilica. It detailed the testimony of Catalina Rivas in a vision where the Holy Mass was explained to her by Jesus and Mary. In it she says:
Immediately, the Archbishop said the words of the Consecration of the wine and, as the words were being said, lightning appeared from the heavens and in the background. The walls and ceiling of the church had disappeared. All was dark, but for that brilliant light from the Altar.
Suddenly, suspended in the air, I saw Jesus crucified. I saw Him from the head to the lower part of the chest. The cross beam of the Cross was sustained by some large, strong hands. From within this resplendent light, a small light, like a very brilliant, very small dove, came forth and flew swiftly all over the Church. It came to rest on the left shoulder of the Archbishop, who continued to appear as Jesus because I could distinguish His long hair, His luminous wounds, and His large body, but I could not see His Face.
Above was Jesus crucified, His head fallen upon His right shoulder. I was able to contemplate His face, beaten arms and torn flesh. On the right side of His chest, He had an injury, and blood was gushing out toward the left side, and toward the right side, what looked like water, but it was very brilliant. They were more like jets of light coming forth towards the faithful, and moving to the right and to the left. I was amazed at the amount of blood that was flowing out toward the Chalice. I thought it would overflow and stain the whole Altar, but not a single drop was spilled.
At that moment, the Virgin Mary said: “This is the miracle of miracles. I have said to you before that the Lord is not constrained by time and space. At the moment of the Consecration, all the assembly is taken to the foot of Calvary, at the instant of the crucifixion of Jesus.”
It’s easy to forget the enormity of what is happening during the Mass, to be dismissive even of all that is actually occurring unseen before our eyes. I often wish that God would just lift that veil and let us see all that we can’t. Then of course, the world would know, would understand, would come on bended knee before Our Lord and Maker in reverence and awe.
But would we? How could we approach Him if that veil was lifted? How could we in our wretchedness even dare to come close? I think in our fear and trembling we would hide and stay as far away as possible. So instead, He hides Himself, and all the glory that surrounds us when we step foot into a church and hear those words “This is My Body….This is My Blood”. There is so much hidden from our eyes during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially when distracted by the antics of a couple of toddlers, but my son reminded me of something important that day, and I’m going to try to see a little bit more from the heart, because he is right, there are angels at my church.
There ain’t no party like a Catholic party. It’s true. What kind of people take part in this awesome Catholic party? I am so glad I asked! The Communion of Saints are the ones who make up this unending party!
Let’s chat about this Communion of the Saint variety!
The Communion of Saints comprises the three parts of the Church: the Church Militant (the baptized faithful on Earth), the Church Suffering (the faithful, suffering in Purgatory), and the Church Triumphant (the Saints in Heaven). Communion is defined as “the act of sharing, or holding in common.” What is it that the Communion of Saints holds in common? They got the spiritual goods, man! No, seriously, we share spiritual goods.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
“Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others. . . . We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head. . . . Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the sacraments. As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund”(CCC 947).
Show me the goods!
The goods we share are:
The Communion in the Faith – we share one common Faith together, which has been given to us by Christ and handed to us from the Apostles and their successors in union with them.
The Communion of the Sacraments – The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit imparts grace to us in the Sacraments. In all of the Sacraments we are united to Christ and to our brothers and sisters in the Faith. The Eucharist, above all else, is the Sacrament where this union is brought to its apex.
The Communion of the charisms – The Holy Spirit imparts upon the faithful particular yet different gifts to be used for the common good and for the Church.
Communion in Charity – Being united to Christ, the Head of the Body of Christ. When another member is hurting, we must come to the aid of that member.
All the Things – All things have been granted to us in Christ, and therefore must be used to serve our brothers and sisters. The Catechism says it well, “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy . . . and of their neighbors in want.” A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods” (CCC 952).
We do not only have spiritual goods in common (in Latin Sancta), but also we share a communion among us as persons (Sancti).
Saints Help Us!
The three states of the Church are united together because Christ is the head of His Church. From this point, we can understand better why the Church believes in the intercession of the Saints. We understand that since they are united with us, that they wish to assist us as much as they can to grow in virtue and holiness. We are united with them in Christ and therefore the effect of their prayer for us is greater than if we were not united in spirit with them. This also applies to us on earth who pray and make sacrifice for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. They are assisted by our prayers in many ways.
We are family!
It stands to reason that the Church in her wisdom follows the line in the Credo, “We believe in the Holy Catholic Church” with “The Communion of Saints”. We, the baptized faithful are a family, united in Jesus Christ. My grandfather always says, “when one hand hurts, the other hand comes and helps it”. Perhaps you have felt the pain of watching the body of Christ across the globe get slammed repeatedly. If you’ve ever spiritually winced over the Church’s struggle, please join with us in praying for the Church who is so badly hurting, because in the end, you’ll also be helping yourself.