Understanding the Our FatherIn honor of fathers everywhere I’d like to offer something beautiful and profound to you. So I’m going to post something from Scott Hahn’s book, Understanding the Our Father. [1] It’s more beautiful and profound than anything I can write and I really want to share it with you. Happy Father’s Day! May your day be richly blessed, and the rest of your days also! :)

The “Our” of Power

This is why Tradition tells us we must go beyond our earthly experiences and memories of fatherhood when we pray, “Our Father.” For though He is a provider, begetter, and protector, God is more unlike than like any human father, patriarch, or paternal figure. The Catechism puts it this way: “God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area ‘upon him’ would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us” (no. 2779).

How has Jesus, God the Son, revealed the Father to us? As “[o]ur Father who art in heaven” (Mt. 6:9). By adding that prepositional phrase “in heaven,” Jesus emphasizes the difference in God’s fatherhood. The Father to Whom we pray is not an earthly father. He is “above” us; He is the One we profess in the creed as “Father Almighty”—that is, all powerful. Though we are weak, limited, and prone to mistakes, nothing is impossible for God (cf. Lk. 1:37).

God’s power, then, sets His fatherhood apart from any fatherhood we have known or imagined. His “fatherhood and power shed light on one another” (Catechism, no. 270). Unlike earthly fathers, He always has the best intentions for His children, and He always has the ability to carry them out. Jesus wanted us to know this, so that we could always approach our heavenly Father with childlike trust and confidence: “[W]hatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Mt. 21:22).

The Catechism teaches that “God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs” (no. 270). We know God as Father because, over a lifetime of prayer, we experience His care for us. We come to see for ourselves that He is mighty, and that He will deny us nothing that is good for us. [2]

From Heir to Paternity

Earthly fatherhood sometimes reflects these characteristics, as do those offices that assume fatherly roles in society: the priesthood, for example, and the government. Yet earthly fathers can perfect their fatherhood only by purifying themselves of earthly motives—such as greed, envy, pride, and the desire to control. They can become true fathers only by conforming themselves to the image of their heavenly Father, and that Image is His firstborn Son, Jesus Christ.

In governing, in parenting, or in priesthood, we come to exercise a more perfect fatherly role as we “grow up” in the Family of God: “[W]e are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16–17). This process is a divine corrective to the world’s distorted notions of patriarchy and hierarchy.

An ancient Christian writer, Dionysius the Areopagite, described hierarchy as something that originates in heaven, where divine light passes through the angels and the saints as if all were transparent.2 God’s gifts, then, are passed from one person to the next, undiluted. Those who are closest to God—and so higher in the hierarchy—serve those who are lower. At each stage, they give as God gives, keeping nothing to themselves.

Notice, here, how spiritual goods differ from material goods. If I have sole ownership of something—say, a sport coat or a tie—someone else can’t own it and use it at the same time. The higher goods, however, are spiritual; and spiritual goods—such as faith, hope, love, liturgy, the merits of the saints—can be shared and owned completely by all. That’s how the hierarchy works with the angels and saints in heaven.

For this sharing to take place “on earth as it is in heaven” requires the perfection of earthly fatherhood, which can take place only if we earnestly pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.” God is the primordial Father, “of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:15, Douay Rheims Version). He is the eternal model by which all human fathers must be measured. [3]

A Father Who Keeps His PromisesNotes

[1] Get a copy of Understanding the Our Father at Amazon (Kindle or print) or for Verbum. Also excellent is Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises. Get it at Amazon (Kindle or print) or for Verbum. (I’ll add the Verbum links later, their site is down right now. Oy.)
[2] Hahn, S. (2002). Understanding “Our Father”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, pp. 14–15. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing.
[3] Ibid., pp. 15–16.

Tonight just stats and a video. I hope your Holy Week has been a blessed one. Thank you for reading. God bless you!

Word count goal for the month: 50K. Nightly: 1,667. Tonight: Under 2K. Total: 44,650. Woohoo!

Dr. Scott Hahn, The Fourth Cup

Just found this to share with you. Romans: The Gospel According to St. Paul: A Nine Lesson Audio Bible Study Course from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, SalvationHistory.com.

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“An engaging, informative, and thought-provoking nine lecture series by Center President Dr. Scott Hahn, as well as Center Fellows Dr. John Bergsma and Dr. Brant Pitre, they will walk you chapter by chapter through the biblical book that most scholars consider Paul’s greatest theological masterpiece. Along the way, you’ll come to a deeper understanding of the Church’s teachings on justification, faith and works, spiritual fatherhood, the role of Israel in salvation history, baptism, the dignity of the body, the life of charity, and more.”

Read more and download the audio: Romans: The Gospel According to St. Paul.

More free Catholic audio in the Resources pages.

I posted a brief version of my conversion story on the About Me page a while back. But during a conversation here on the blog someone (Hi, Lauretta!) asked me what drew me to Catholicism. I don’t know if she knew what she was letting herself in for, but I wrote a few paragraphs by way of reply and thought I’d share that reply in a post of its own (slightly edited because I can’t ever just copy/paste anything without editing it and because it’s a post now and not a reply). Bear in mind that even though this goes into more detail than the About Me page does, I’m still leaving out a lot. I didn’t go into all the various false paths and blind alleys and dead ends I wandered into along the way before I found Him Who is The Way, the Truth and the Life. So without further ado, here’s the story of my conversion, take two.

My Conversion Story: What Drew Me to Catholicism

Scott Hahn played a large part in my conversion (and I got to tell him that when I met him at Samford University a while back). His conversion story was out on cassette tape then and somebody gave me a copy of it or we had it at the Catholic bookstore where I was working. While I was a Buddhist, I might add. Yes, you heard that right. While I was still a Buddhist. Had been for many years, though I was raised Methodist. But I had many questions as a child and young adult and I never heard answers that were satisfying to my heart or my mind, so I went on a long journey of exploration and experimentation. And when I say long, I mean long! Forty years (counting my whole life up until I finally heard the call) of searching for truth and finding glimmers and tantalizing hints here and there and yet I knew that I had not found IT and I didn’t even know what IT was, only that I had not found it.

In the meantime a close friend of mine had decided to get serious about her faith or, rather, the faith of her grandfather who was Catholic. She went through the RCIA and got very active in the Church. And since we did everything together back then, I got very active in the Church right along with her, helping with the music side of things, playing guitar for the youth group when they sang at Mass, washing dishes and cleaning up after Lenten meals, things like that.

On the way home from work one day I happened to spot a little Catholic bookstore. Aha, I thought, I’ll have to tell my friend! I dropped in to explore a few days later and fell headlong into an entire world that I had not even suspected existed.

I started working there as a volunteer without any thought of converting, mind you. But I had volunteered to put the books in order (they were just placed any old way on the shelves and that drove me crazy!), and to put the books in order I had to at least read a little bit of them to see what kind of books they were. So I read a little of this kind of theology and that (who knew there were different kinds?), a little Church history, the lives of a few saints, a few of the great spiritual writers, some Fathers of the Church, some apologists and some Bible studies. Then I discovered Scott Hahn’s tape sets. I was hooked! Fascinated! When I became the buyer for the store, I started stocking every tape set of his I could get hold of. And listening to them over and over. Thrilling stuff!

And then my friend and I got into an argument. She said that I should be Catholic and I was perfectly happy as a Buddhist. Even though I was still searching for the ultimate truth and was beginning to suspect that the Church might have at least some of that truth. (Oy, how hard-headed could I be?) Then the new Catechism was published and we started carrying stacks of them at the store. Couldn’t keep them in stock. And everywhere study groups were popping up and my friend mentioned that her parish was holding study classes on the Catechism. And I shocked her by asking if I could attend the classes with her. Well, why not, I said, I’ll just collect another religion if nothing else. That was what I was thinking but God had different plans.

The class was led by a facilitator who somehow somewhere sustained an injury early on and the parish priest took up where she left off. And the class really took off, too. How mysterious are the ways of the Lord! The priest was from Ireland and had been in this country for many years, a good faithful devout knowledgeable priest. And he made Catholicism come alive for us! That was one of the best summers of my life and by summer’s end I went to the priest to ask for instruction. Our instruction class only had four people in it, we didn’t do the RCIA, just a simple talking about the teachings of the Church and what it means to be, to live as a Catholic.

I was received into Holy Mother Church at the Easter Vigil in 1996. I was on fire then. I’m on fire now. I have my struggles but the good Lord and His Church help me through them. My struggles are not with the Church but with myself. I accept all that the Church teaches and I wouldn’t change a thing even if I could. Would that more Catholics would embrace their faith and live it! But I know many who do. Sometimes I wish I had grown up Catholic but I realize that God can use even the stupid things I did to bring good out of them.

So, in answer to the question, what drew me to Catholicism, I’d have to say: Truth. And He Who is the Truth. In Catholicism I discovered the Church and the Church led me to Christ. I also discovered the Blessed Mother and she also led me to Christ. I discovered the Catholic interpretation of Scripture and Scripture, read in the Church at Mass and interpreted by the Church, also led me to Christ. The Rosary led me to Christ. The Divine Mercy devotion and teachings led me to Christ. Devout Catholics led me to Christ. Thanks be to God! May nothing ever separate me from Him or His Holy Church as long as I live! Amen!

Recently I found three really interesting pages that I want to share with you: Catholic Cross ReferenceOnline Catholic Library and a page on the Church Fathers at the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology. I added the first two to the main Resource page because they cover so much ground it’s hard to categorize them any further without adding them to every page in that section (and the thought of doing that makes me break out in hives). I added the St Paul Center page to the new Church Fathers page which I added earlier today here on Catholic Heart and Mind. :)

Catholic Cross Reference

  • Online Catholic Library: Looks like a really long and really good list of links to a lot of really good Catholic material. Audio, articles, books, documents, theology, spirituality–Looks like if it’s Catholic, it’s on their list. :)

Online Catholic Library

The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology is a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition. The Center serves clergy and laity, students and scholars, with research and study tools — from books and publications to multimedia and on-line programming.

Our goal is to be a teacher of teachers. We want to raise up a new generation of priests who are fluent in the Bible and lay people who are biblically literate. For us, this means more than helping people to know their way around the Bible. It means equipping them to enter into the heart of the living Word of God and to be transformed and renewed by this encounter.

We read the Bible from the heart of the Church, in light of the Church’s Liturgy and living Tradition. In this way, we hope to help people experience the heart-to-heart encounter that Jesus’ disciples experienced on that first Easter night, when they knew Him in the breaking of the bread: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us…while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (see Luke 24:13-37)

Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles