Saturday, August 11, 2007

Defending the Faith part 2

So, In my previous post I talked about how Diane is probably at a point where a debate about the benefits of one Christian group over another would harm her. Well, just in case I wasn't sure, the Lord has made sure to keep us separated with widely different schedules. The few times we were in the house at the same time, I was running VERY late and couldn't talk even though I wanted to.

On the other hand, there is Opal. Every morning we are in the kitchen at around the same time. She's learned that I go to daily mass and she has even been to the church I go to, because "it's very beautiful". (side note: it's not really - it looks like a prison, but it's nicer than most protestant churches). She has also asked about what I learned, although in a conversational manner since Christianity is about the only thing we have in common.

Well, it so happened that she asked about this on a day one of the priests had discussed how important confession was. She then asked a question about confession! When I say I was overjoyed it's an understatement. Thank you Lord for this little blessing, I hope I didn't spoil it with an overly enthusiastic response. This is what we discussed, although I'm sure I've written it a lot better than I spoke it. Let me know if I could have said something better!

Why do you go to confession anyway? How does saying five Hail Mary's get your sins forgiven?

Well, let me explain Confession first. We are called to have a relationship with Jesus right? Sin harms that relationship and when you repent you need to do something to show it's sincere. Like any relationship, if it's damaged steps need to be taken to repair it.

Think about your friendship with Diane. Lets say you go and beat her up one day. Later you apologize and Diane, being a good Christian, of course forgives you. The next day you see her and again beat her up, this time breaking her legs. If you keep doing this Diane will stop trusting you. To show you are truly sorry you have to take steps to NOT beat her up and make reparations for doing so, like helping her do things since she can no longer walk.

In confession we need to have three pieces present; we need to be sorry for our sins, decided to avoid doing them in the future, and be willing to make amends. When we go to confession we say "My God I am heartily sorry for my sins...I firmly intend with your help to do penance, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin." So the five Hail Mary's are that step towards fixing the relationship after you've said you'd sin no more.

But still, it seems like it would be very awkward to tell a man your sins. I don't want some strange guy knowing everything I've done wrong!

We are not confessing to the priest, we are confessing to Christ. The priest acts "in the person of Christ" during confession. When we go to confession it is under the strictest seal because of that. Just as you should be able to talk to Christ in all confidence, so we can talk to the priest in all confidence. If a priest was to act on what he heard in confession it's an automatic excommunication.

To give an example, lets say you work at the Church and go to confession to tell Father that you stole money from his desk. Once confession is over, he cannot tell the police or even talk to you about it. He cannot even change his behavior and start locking his desk or move the money to another drawer.

So he cannot say anything at all about any sins?

The priest can say "I heard this sin confessed" ONLY IF there is no possibility of it every being associated with the sinner. So if he heard the confession of a murderer who killed six people and buried their bodies behind his house, he would not be able to mention it at all since it could theoretically be connected with the killer once he is arrested.

In the case of a criminal though, wouldn't he be obligated to say something?

First, how many murderers who are still committing the crime actually go to confession? Second, no, he cannot say anything, although he can give a conditional absolution or make their penance such that they must turn themselves in.

Lets say I go to confession a lot, couldn't the priest eventually say "Opal, you're in here every day confessing the same sins, I'm not going to forgive you this time."

While the priest can withhold absolution, it's usually only done in cases where it's clear the person has not repented. Lets say a guy confesses sleeping with his girlfriend whom he lives with. Until he removes himself from the sinful situation (living with the woman) he is technically not repentant and therefore the priest can withhold absolution.

However, if you are just struggling with a sin, the priest will not withhold absolution because we all struggle and fall. That is what makes confession so great, because it helps us to overcome our sins. There have been many sins I've overcome through the sacrament of confession.
Looking back, I think I should have defined the terms for her (confession, absolution, penance, etc), but I'm not sure I could even at this point. Either way, I was thrilled with the small moment of being able to teach someone about the faith. I hope the Lord continues to open her heart and helps her question, but I know that is not my job but his...even as I sit here with bated breath hoping for yet another conversation :)

Defending the Faith part 1

Wow, when I said that God guided my stupidity, I wasn't kidding.

Since my "re-conversion" I have had a love for apologetics. For about a year I haunted Catholic Answers looking to learn more about the faith. Then I drifted over to CARM to try my hand at defending the faith. I did not stay at CARM long; I couldn't handle the range of attacks from rational arguments to mud throwing and decided my charity was taking a hit.

Yet even still, I have a strong desire to defend the faith. I want to go out and tell the world that Catholicism is true, especially those who've been told so many lies about it. However, it seems the Lord kept putting in my path those who have never even considered God an option. You can't really get into a good debate with someone who doesn't care. All you can do is be a witness through your life.

Well, now I'm staying with two women "Diane" and "Opal", who are both Christian. The first time I saw the place Diane asked me if I "had Jesus in my heart." I told her that I tried, but didn't always succeed. She used to be Orthodox and had converted to Baptist. I was really excited about the possibility of talking with her about religion. Finally a person who I could debate with.

Then a couple days later I was talking with Opal and she told me how Diane had been through some hard times and was really clinging to her church. She was just telling me facts, but it's almost like I heard the Lord speaking. This was his daughter and she was at a tenuous point in her life. When I was challenged with the faith, I nearly lost all faith. I was blessed to have a wonderful support system in place outside of the Church that encouraged me to seek the Truth. What does Diane have? All she has is her church community, to challenge her faith would strand her.

So again, I'm called to be a witness through actions alone. If the topic comes up, I'll defend the faith, but I must take care not to go overboard. "Wow to him who causes one of these little ones to stumble."

So I die to my own desire to teach Catholicism to the masses, swallowing my pride and vanity at knowing the answers finally, and instead pray for her on her journey in faith. By the end of week one I'd resigned myself to being but a silent witness yet again...but the Lord had other plans!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Happy Feast of Saint Dominic!

I just wanted to wish everyone a blessed day! My work is celebrating with an ice cream social... Ok, my office just happens to be having an icecream social today. Either way, I can celebrate while obeying my Dominican spiritual director, who ever so wisely told me to eat ice cream. I love the Dominicans and I love Saint Dominic! God is good :-D

Here are a couple prayers to mark this day :)

O Holy Priest of God and glorious Patriarch, St. Dominic, thou who wast the friend, the well-beloved son and confidant of the Queen of Heaven, and didst work so many miracles by the power of the Holy Rosary, have regard for my intercessions. On earth you opened your heart to the miseries of your fellow man, and your hands were strong to help them; now in heaven your charity has not grown less nor has your power waned. Pray for me to the Mother of the Rosary and to her divine Son, for I have great confidence that through your assistance I shall obtain the favor I so much desire: (mention your intentions) . Amen.

And one for Astronomers like me :-D

Wonderful Saintly Founder of the eloquent Order of Preachers and friend of St. Francis of Assisi, you were a fiery defender of the Faith and a fighter against the darkness of heresy. You resembled a great star that shone close to the world and pointed to the Light which was Christ. Help astronomers to study the stars and admire their wonderful Maker, proclaiming: "Give glory to God in the highest!" Amen.

Saint Dominic - Ora Pro Nobis

Saturday, August 04, 2007

God's power over stupidity

As some of you may know from previous posts, I've been looking for a new apartment. Last Friday I gave up on finding a place available by the time my sublet ended on July 31st. Instead signed a lease for a place close to the Church starting on August 28th and began looking for another short term sublet. Cutting it a bit close, but I've still got time. I then started packing up some stuff and came across my sublet agreement...

Well, my sublet didn't end on July 31st, but on the 23 (which, in case you missed it, was the Sunday before). I'd been there 5 days past the end of the sublease and the tenant would probably be coming in the morning to move her stuff out. You want to talk about shock!

About an hour later, after emailing a lengthy apology, I'm frantically packing everything I own and she shows up at the door. I then realized that someone coming from two hours away would probably like to come down the night before to move out. As it was, out of the graciousness of her heart, I was given till the morning to be moved out. So that night I packed everything and dumped it at work and at the church, piling the rest into my car. At 3am I was done and at 7am the next morning the apartment was clean and I was out...without a place to go to.

So Saturday, after mass and praying for a LONG time, and feeling like a complete dork, I started looking for an immediate place to live. One of my friends offered her sofa and, although it eased my mind a great deal, I really didn't want to do that to her again (she was the one I first stayed with when the Lord brought me here in May).

That Saturday, I got a call from someone I'd been trying to contact about an apartment. She had a place available and was willing to sublet it for just a month. She was also able to let me move in that night as long as I don't mind being in a room filled with her stuff.

To make a long story short, the Lord did provide me with a place to stay for the next month, with two women in a townhouse basement apartment. It didn't look very pretty when I accepted it, but it's turned out rather nice. The girls are nice and the apartment is neat (as in moderately clean) and well built.

I thank the Lord that he provided again, I just wish he wouldn't keep waiting until the last minute. Perhaps it was so I would sign the lease for the place at the end of the month. Had I known last weekend that my sublet was up I probably would have taken the place I was looking at then, which was horrid, but available that weekend.

So what were the lessons in all of this chaos? First, I'm completely inept when it comes to remembering dates so I MUST mark on my calendar when my lease ends. The second lesson is that the Lord is able to provide for us, even when we are being complete bumbleheads. It seems we are not powerful enough, even in our stupidity, to trip up the Lord.

Prayer Requests

Adoro is in need of your prayers, since she has had a hard week. Please keep her in your prayers. Also, I'll ask that prayers be offered for the bridge collapse in Minnesota. Adoro has more on that on her page.

I also ask for prayers for three children who were taken from the home by CPS on Friday. The state is so confident that they know what these emotionally disabled kids need, that they have abandoned them with a foster mother who has no clue. Please pray for this mother's safety and that the children will receive the help they so desperately need.