Easter Gift – Book Give Away

March 29, 2010

Easter is only six days away now, and it serendipitously falls on my birthday this year. My first birthday as a Catholic will be my first day as a Catholic. My journey to enter the Catholic Church has seemed so laborious and fraught with indecision. Although I think that anyone looking back, even at my very first post, will see that I’ve spent the last year and a half only coming to terms with what I already knew I was supposed to do – become Catholic. And now my first Communion is imminent. I have a lot to look forward to this week in the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil. (And I just realized that I forgot the last Stations of the Cross this past Friday, which I meant to attend. Oops.)

I’m beginning to absolutely love Catholic liturgy. Passion Sunday was fantastic. How better to remember what Christ did than to hold blessed palm branches to lay down for our King and to read our part in His death He died for us? They’ve thought of everything to remind us of all the important Christian truths, events, and their meaning, if we only listen as we go through the motions. Honestly, much of the time it’s fairly difficult for me to focus, and I’m disappointed that I feel rather distracted and ill-prepared for my entry into the Church. So I’m extra thankful for all the liturgical aids that keep re-directing my mind and heart to focus on uniting myself with Christ in His death on the cross giving me hope in the resurrection.

On the subject of preparing for Easter, three weeks ago I had my first confession. I brought my list on which I wrote nice and small to get it all on one side of the paper. I cried. I burned it afterward. Chris and I celebrated with queso and chips. It wasn’t particularly difficult for me to say my sins out loud. As Chris had told me it would be beforehand, it was the least judgmental conversation of my life. Telling a priest your sins isn’t hard at all. It’s calling them to mind, realizing what you have done and being sorry for them that is difficult. Then there’s the beautiful prayer of absolution at the end. I’m not sure if this is the one my priest used, but it’s lovely:

God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son
has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I was surprised to actually feel better after my confession. I honestly wanted to do better, to behave as Christ would in my life, and was more patient with the kids. It has slipped away over the weeks, but gives me a hint of the grace available through the sacraments.

I’m a little concerned about the logistics of Easter Vigil. There’s a practice session early in the morning, during which I hope the RCIA class will provide babysitting, otherwise we’ll have a very loudly protesting, rampaging two year old boy destroying our ability to figure out what where we’re supposed to stand. Later that night, we plan on bringing Isabel with us, but getting a sitter for Chris Jr. We think she’s old enough to handle the late night and maybe even get something out of it. Hopefully. My family won’t be there to help, since they’ll be out of town, so we’ll have to haul her along with us the whole way. In a way, I’m glad I won’t have an entourage of opposition there. I’ll be more able to immerse myself in what I know is going on instead of explaining what I believe and why Catholics do what they do (and why that’s not un-Biblical or unreasonable). On the other hand, I very much want to share this with my family because it means so much to me, even if they have no idea that it does.

Another practical concern for Easter Vigil is they are not reserving seats for us candidates and the catechumen. I can’t think of good reason why they aren’t, since this mass is integral to our entrance to the Church. This wouldn’t be such a big deal except our church is massive. With six weekend masses, we still have a packed church with standing room only, and the traffic to get in and out of the church backs up for blocks in either direction all Sunday morning. It’s like that on normal Sundays, and we all know there are those know there are those who come out of the woodwork twice a year at Easter and Christmas. If we don’t get there at least an hour early, I may not have a seat for my Confirmation and I’m sure Isabel would handle that rather poorly. I’m sure we can work it out alright, but it’s an added stress.

So that’s where I stand, on the verge of becoming one of those reviled by the world at large, deemed un-Christian by some of our close Protestant brethren, and despised as a mind-controlled fool by non-Christians, but utterly resolved to give up my self as Christ has given Himself to me.

Book Give Away

In recognition of this great gift that I am about to receive this Easter, I want to offer a choice of gifts to those who would ask. For a while now, I’ve wanted to offer a free copy of Hilaire Belloc’s The Crisis of Civilization to up to 10 people (limited since I don’t have infinite resources). I chose this book because it puts the entire Christian civilization into a long term historical perspective in a readable manner, and it’s eye opening. I was ignorant of much of history, and this book does much to describe the organic nature of the Catholic Church and how Christianity shaped the world. It’s of vital importance to have this perspective, since those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.

I would like to offer alternatives, if you are interested in something else. I’m happy to substitute any of Hilaire Belloc’s books, particularly The Great Heresies, which is also a nice Catholic history of the Church in relation to those who have separated from her teachings. I’d also like to offer either of my chosen Confirmation saint’s works, The Catholic Controversy and Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales. I personally believe that The Catholic Controversy is the finest work of counter-Reformation apologetics ever written, and I can’t help but think St. Francis prayers for reconciliation in the Body of Christ were in part answered in my own conversion. Finally, you have the option of choosing Adoration: Eucharistic Texts and Prayers Through Out Church History if you are more inclined to strengthen your faith in the Eucharist through historical and contemplative reading.

If you want to take me up on this offer, shoot me an email at soimarriedacatholic@gmail.com with your name, book choice, and address and I’ll send it off as soon as I have a moment!


Hilaire Belloc and “The Modern Mind”

December 27, 2009

It’s a funny thing that Hilaire Belloc is now one of my favorite Catholic authors. When I ordered the books for Chris, it was purely to humor him for Christmas, several years ago. I didn’t really want to order the dirty Catholic books. And now, my recourse in times of intellectual exhaustion is to the clear hand of Belloc.

We’ve all dealt with people who insist that something is true because “everyone” knows it. For instance, Catholics worship Mary, right? And religion is responsible for violence and evil in the world, like Richard Dawkins says. And the existence of pedophile priests shows that celibacy is a bad thing. I groan internally every time I hear these all too common assertions. What’s worse is that most people, when confronted about the falsity of these things, continue to adamantly defend their baseless position. The truth seems to mean very little to them, and evidence is too easily brushed aside. More important to them is the testimony of others who “must know” what they’re talking about, or worse, what seems likely in their estimation of history and reality. All too often, people are content with the version of the truth that is handed to them on a platter or conjured up in their own imagination, with no critical thinking, investigation, questioning, research, or evidence. It’s sad to see this disinterested regard for the truth, and frustrating to engage it. Belloc writes about this invincible density of mind in his essay “The Modern Mind” (highly recommended reading). Some of my favorite lines:

“It is the spirit which lives on bad science and worse history at third hand. It is the spirit, not of the populace or of the scholars, but of the half-educated…

Its three ingredients are pride, ignorance, and intellectual sloth; their unifying principle is a blind acceptance of authority not based on reason.

Pride causes those who suffer from this disease to regard whatever they think they have learned, whatever they have absorbed, through no matter how absurd a channel, as absolute and sufficient.

Ignorance forbids them to know with any thoroughness what men have discovered about these things in the past, and how certainly.

Intellectual sloth forbids them to examine an argument, or even to appreciate the implications of their own assertions…

I have said that its unifying principle was the acceptation of false authority: blind faith divorced from reason. The “Modern Mind” takes for granted without examination a number of first principles — as, for instance, that there is a regular progress from worse to better in the centuries of human experience, or that parliamentary oligarchies are democratic, or that democracy is obviously the best form of human government, or that the object of human effort is money and that the word “success” means the accumulation of wealth…

Why is this mood so dangerous to the Catholic Church? That patently it is so, we see. It inhibits men from so much as understanding what the Faith may be, and bars the action of a true authority by the unquestioned acceptation of false; we can see it doing that every day before our eyes…

It is a peril because true faith is based upon reason, and whatever denies or avoids reason imperils Catholicism…

The “Modern Mind” is confirmed in its folly by the fixed idea that someone or other somewhere “proved” its errors to be truths and that the proof was final and obvious…

What are you to do with a man who always argues in a circle? Who tells you that some political arrangement is good because it is “democratic,” and when you ask (a) whether it is as a fact democratic, (b) why democracy is an evident good, answers you by saying that you are sinning against democracy and its holy name.

What are you to do with a man who does not recognise his own first principles? Who tells you that he believes a thing on the authority of a name or a bit of print, and who, when you ask him the grounds of his confidence in such, answers you by giving another name and another bit of print?”

When you decide to search for the truth, you may find that religion is not responsible for all the evils of the world, nor are science and religion at odds. And just because you can pull out a Bible verse to “prove” something doesn’t mean that’s what the Bible teaches. Also, the existence of sinful people in the Catholic Church who do not follow their own religion do not disprove Catholicism:

And priestly celibacy does not cause pedophilia. The profiling of pedophiles discounts any situational causes other than having experienced abuse as a child for the psychosexual disorder. Nor is the Catholic Church more rampant with pedophiles than any other denomination. In fact, it would appear as if the Catholic Church has a smaller percentage of pedophiles:

  • The Wisconsin Psychological Association’s survey found offenders distributed among the following professions: Psychiatrists 34%, Psychologists 19%, Social Workers 13%, Clergy 11%, Physicians 6%, Marriage Counselors 4%, and Others 14%.
  • US Catholic clerics (priests, deacons, bishops, etc.)¬†accused of abuse from 1950-2002: 4,392.
    About 4% of the 109,694 serving during those 52 years.
  • The Center for Domestic Violence found that 12.6% of clergy said they had sex with church members. 47% of clergy women were harassed by clergy colleagues.
  • The Presbyterian Church stated that 10-23% of clergy have “inappropriate sexual behavior or contact” with clergy and employees.
  • The United Methodist research (1990) showed 38.6% of Ministers had sexual contact with church members and that 77% of church workers experienced some type of sexual harassment.
  • The United Church of Christ found that 48% of the women in the work place have been sexually harassed by male clergy.
  • The Southern Baptists claim 14.1% of their clergy have sexually abused members.

The above statistics are a good example of a need to think critically about information given. The statistics are similar, but taken from different sources and different surveys and ultimately testing slightly different things. They can’t be used to make a definitive comparison between denominations about sexual abuse. Instead, they only suggest that Catholic priests are not the only and possibly not the worst predators out there. It also points out that sexual predators find positions of trust from which they can find their victims. More shocking in the first statistic is the number of mental health professionals who abuse their patients.

I would have more people ask the questions “Is that true?” or “How do they know that?” when they hear proposed statements, read primary sources instead of third hand accounts and opinion pieces, and not reiterate common soundbite knowledge without finding out if it’s true or not. Until then, my friends, do your best to wrestle with this fog. All we can do is challenge the common knowledge that “everyone knows” and hope people listen.