Who is to blame for the culture of death? Not atheists or progressives or democrats or republicans or pro-choice advocates. No, according to Dr. John Cuddeback in his talk, Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for Life in a Culture of Death, we Christians have no one to blame but ourselves. For we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten to put on the mind of Christ. We have forgotten how to pray. We have forgotten that prayer is necessary to the life of the Christian. We have forgotten that the Eucharist, the highest form of prayer, is absolutely necessary to the life of the Christian. Prayer and reception of divine grace in the sacraments is not optional, not something extraneous to the Christian way of life but is absolutely central to it. Continue reading
Why do we get baptized or baptize our children? Why do we even need to go to church? I often hear people ask these questions of various believers, some of them teachers of the faith. Rarely do I hear them receive a good answer. Even more rarely do I hear them receive a true answer. I’ve heard people say that we go to church because we need the fellowship of other believers in order to stay faithful on our walk with the Lord. I’ve heard people say that we get baptized to show the Lord that we’re serious and ready to commit our lives to Him. I’ve heard that we Catholics baptize children because of some silly notion that baptism actually does something when anybody can see that it is merely symbolic of a decision made by a person who can reason about such things; so obviously a mere child isn’t capable of benefiting from it, much less, a baby. Continue reading
The following is Part 5 in a continuing series on the Church, salvation and the Sacraments. We’re beginning our exploration of the Sacraments themselves and where better to begin than with Baptism, the Sacrament by which we become members of the Body of Christ. (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)
In the series to follow this one we’ll be looking more closely at the Old Testament background of the Church and the Sacraments, but I want to spend some time reflecting on the Church as the Barque of Peter, carrying the faithful safely across the crashing waves of the world, guiding them on their journey home to the Father. I’ll base these reflections mostly on the sources listed below in the acknowledgements. I offer the drawing below in the hopes that it will help you to visualize what I’m saying and will help me too.
Let’s look first at the entry into the Church, the Sacrament of Initiation par excellence: Baptism.
Update: Oct 19 2012: A long while back I started a series of posts on the Mass (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, so far) and made these graphics to go with that series. I hope to get back to it and delve into the other sacraments, too, at some point. I thought I’d point these out again for anyone who hadn’t seen them before, thinking that someone might perhaps find them somewhat useful in the Year of Faith. I have found them helpful for my own contemplation. Maybe you will, too. One word: that is not a typo in the graphic below where the word is spelled creatio in Latin. So there. For once, it’s not a typo. ;)
I took the day off and didn’t get online all day yesterday. I was thinking about Part 2 of the Mass, Salvation and the Sacraments series and I got an idea of a revision of the diagrams I made for that and for Fr. Nolan’s workshop audio (available from Una Voce’s site in a zip file, updated link Oct 19 2012, link broken again May 22 2019). I’ll post them as soon as they’re finished. I’ll include zip files for them this time. Oops, can’t upload a zip file here on the free site. Argh! Oh, well.
(Update May 22 2019: Links to the Una Voce audio of the workshop are currently broken, again.) Fr. Nolan drew some diagrams on the whiteboard during his presentation last week. I’ve made some graphics of my own based on his drawings. If you’re reading the series that began in the last post, or if you’re planning on downloading and listening to his talks, you might find these useful. I still have a couple more to go, but I’m posting what I’ve got so far. Just trying to be helpful, don’t you know. We’ll explore this more fully in the other posts, but here are some things to think on the next time you’re preparing for Mass:
At Baptism we enter the Church (both figuratively and literally) and then we are on the way to becoming eligible to receive the other sacraments, as far as we are able. We enter the long boat of the Church, the Barque of Peter, and start out on our journey toward God.
As members of the Body of Christ we participate in His Death and Sacrifice on the Cross and receive the grace (and graces) we need for salvation. As Fr. Nolan said, this is how it works. This is how we are saved. By the action of Christ on the Cross. And by His grace allowing us to participate in His action by allowing us to unite with Him in His sufferings and death. We die to ourselves and offer ourselves along with Him as He offers His sacrifice throughout all time and beyond all time as our Eternal High Priest.
(Updated again, May 22 2019, currently all links to the Una Voce Northern Alabama site appear to be broken. Updated: Aug 14 2017: Fixed broken image links. Updated links to the workshop audio as of Oct 19 2012.) The following is Part 1 in a continuing series which began as a write-up of a talk by Fr. Justin Nolan, FSSP, but instead took on a life of its own and has become some rather broad reflections on salvation history as it leads up to the founding of the Church by Christ, and the Church’s role in salvation. After we gain a broad overview, we’ll go deeper and into more detail.* Acknowledgments at the end of this post.
Sacraments: Rivers of Grace
Prayer and the sacraments (and the Eucharist, the Mass, among them) are the foundation of the serious Catholic disciple’s way of life. We don’t just go to church or go to Mass on Sunday or even daily. We pray the Mass. We study it, reflect on it, we try to live a life that pre-disposes us to receive Holy Communion worthily, which doesn’t mean that we consider ourselves worthy, far from it.** We learn about the faith to deepen our faith, to give God the worship He deserves to the best of our ability, so that, through our worship and active participation in the sacraments, God can give us, and we can receive, His sanctifying grace necessary for our salvation. As Fr. Nolan says, This is how we are saved. It all comes from God, from Christ Jesus, from whom all grace and graces flow as rivers of grace from His wounded side.
We need to go deeper now to discover the real meaning of the Mass, to explore and understand and develop this life of prayer and study and reception of Christ’s grace in the sacraments. This is the heart of Catholicism, of Christianity. Without this, the rest of it has no meaning whatsoever. So let’s go back to the beginning, to the creation story in Genesis.