Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lead Kindly Light

As I've read more and more about Cardinal John Henry Newman, I realize I know very little about him, and that he is not as simple as I had imagined. But I read this story the other day about how he was away from England and was quite sick and had to be brought home, and how at the same time he was in this spiritual journey from Anglicanism to Catholicism, and so he wrote this beautiful hymn which is absolutely amazing no matter what your denomination is and I thought I'd post the lyrics.

Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead though me onThe night is dark and I am far from home
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see
The distant scene one step enough for me
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Should'st lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path but now,
Lead Thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears
Pride ruled my will, remember not past years
So long Thy powers has blest me,
Sure it still will lead me on.
O'er moon and fern, o'er crag and torrent, and till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile.
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

"I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life" - John 8:12 NIV

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Best Simpsons Episode Ever

I just saw the funniest episode of the simpsons, online, it's the Protestant vs. Catholic one, and it's right here:

The funniest quotes are:

"I'm Bart Simpsons' Father and I'm sick of you teaching my son your time-tested values"

"Log cabin full of taste my stomach is with thee, blessed art thou among syrups and - No Praying to the condiments!"

"man you guys have more crazy rules than blockbuster video""Mr. Simpson I can only absolve you if you're a catholic. 'right. and how do I join, do I wail on some unitarians?'

"Homer you've been out all night, and it looks like you accepted someone as your personal something"

"Bart get your things, you're leaving with me! - sorry mom this is a Catholic church, chicks don't have any authority here"

"Bart we're here to bring you back to the one true faith, the western branch of American Reformed Presbyo-Lutheranism"

"Once you go Vatican, you can't go back again"

"Mom a religion isn't cool just because they bond onto some rock band"

"Hop in boy, we'll show your mother that our God kicks her God's butt"

"Back off you serpents of the Holy See"

"Can't we all get together and concentrate on our REAL enemies, monogomous gays and stem cells"

Roman Catholicism Pros (please don't be offended)

I have been accused by some people of not so much converting TO anything but rather FROM something. As my former Pastor said to me 'you've told me why you don't believe in Protestantism, but what is so great about Catholicism'. This blog is not meant to anger anyone, to sling mud, or to attempt to convert people, it's just to say what I enjoy about the Latin Rite Catholic Church. They are not in order from 'most liked' to least, just the order I thought of them in.

1. Orthodoxy - Having the teaching of the Historic faith (again this is up for debate). I also like that the Church usually picks a middle ground position. Ex. they are Augustinian, not Pelagian, and not Calvinistic, they don't tend towards extremes in official dogma (though in practice and low level teaching they are basically Pelagian - at least where I live). But I read a quote from Chesterton: "when the world went Puritan in the seventeenth century, the Church was charged with pushing charity to the point of sophistry, with making everything easy with the laxity of the confessional. Now that the world is not going Puritan but pagan, it is the Church that is everywhere protesting against a pagan laxity in dress or manners. It is doing what the Puritans wanted done when it is really wanted. In all probability, all that is best in Protestantism will survive only in Catholicism, and in that sense all Catholics will still be Puritans when all Puritans are pagans." I realize it can be an offensive quote but I think it's honest and I agree mostly with it. I like the fact that I can read the church fathers and not be scared of what I'll find, I like reading back through the councils and seeing the continuity.

2. Church Hierarchy - I enjoy the fact that there is a structure of Pre-eminent Bishop of Rome (pope) then the college of bishops then the Priesthood, then the Diaconate, then the laity. It makes it alot easier to control. For example if my Priest started teaching heresy, my Bishop could simply discipline or remove him.

3. The Saints and Our Lady - At first I thought that I would NEVER pray to the saints and that it would be one of the worst parts of conversion, but now I Love it. It is so wonderful to feel the community of God's people and to pray to the Blessed Mother. I can't really explain it that well, but I feel like it's truly real. My prayers are answered and it is much more experiential than apologetical. I'm excited as I still try to narrow down my patron saint, I'm still deciding between: Augustine, Patrick, Thomas Aquinas, Gregory of Nyssa, or another.

4. The Liturgy of the Eucharist - I go to basically an 'evangelical' Catholic church so there not really liturgy in the sense that I normally imagine, however there is always the liturgy of the Eucharist, which I absolutely love. The way the words flow and the idea of what is happening is just amazing and I always find it beautiful.

5. The Unity and Universality - I could go to mass all around the world, Chesterton says that it is the only type of Christianity that is truly Catholic (Universal) - though I don't think it's true anymore - but it challenges me to remember that Jesus died for everyone, not just english speaking upper middle class white people.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Encouragement - Hymns & Aquinas

I feel blessed to have been raised in a loving and faithful Evangelical community and as I enter Catholicism, I find equally wonderful things which encourage me in the faith. So here are some notes of encouragement from both sides of Western Christendom.

He Giveth More Grace by: Annie Johnson Flynt
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

I think I will always love hymns, they are so beautiful. Catholic Theologian Peter Kreeft writes that 'In heaven, Protestants will teach the Catholics how to sing". The next thing I include, are quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas, who is one of the serious candidates for my patron saint, I've narrowed it down to either him, St. Augustine (as he is loved by all, and a genius), or a few others.

"Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you."

"If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because He Himself is the way."

"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. "

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I had a dream last night and I've been thinking about this issue alot. I know I'm only 20 but I just was realizing the reality of this truth. One day I will die. I will get sick and not get better, there will be a point in my life when my body will be in a piano box somewhere underground. I'm just thinking about how strange death really seems. All the time we joke about killing ourselves, but honestly can you even imagine what death will be like. Like I guess I mean the process. At one moment we will be alive and then that will be it. No job title, no bodily appearance, no loving family, none of that will mean anything. It will just be us and God (if people like me are right) and I mean I guess the theory I hold to is Purgatory and then being with Jesus and glorified forever. I have faith, but that is quite a thought. Like it's fine to theorize about it now, but to think about it as a reality, that's crazy.

I wonder how much dying hurts. What will it be like to be consciously dead. I find we tend to imagine death in a way that is similar to just becoming invisible. Will we see? our soul doesn't have eyes does it? that's our body. Will we hear? Will we have any empirical senses at all. It is almost so incomprehensible that I can't really think about it. I guess that's what lots of people do who are dying, they don't think about it. Maybe that's the only way we get through it.

But I was just thinking if somehow on my way to work tonight or afterwards I just get in a car accident and that's it, how strange it would be. Like one minute I'm thinking about what movie I'll rent next and listening to Vivaldi and bam, game over. It's odd. But it happens to everyone.

St. Paul says that we died to ourselves in Baptism and are raised in the newness of life. My baptism was amazing, so maybe death won't be that bad. I am comforted by the idea in Abraham's story that we go to dwell with our fathers. And if God is our ultimate Father, it still works. Maybe I'll see my grandpa.

The Apostles Creed ends with "I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting". I think i'll feel alot more comfortable in a body again on the day of resurrection... but maybe I'll get a better one.

I read the first third of that book "90 minutes in Heaven" by some Baptist pastor who apparently died and went to Heaven and then came back and wrote a book about it. I think people loved it not so much because it was something new, as much as it reaffirmed every stereotype imaginable about Heaven. I think people like to trick themselves into thinking they know exactly what will happen when they die. Well I don't know what will happen for sure, I know none of the details, I don't know if I'll see or sense or have some totally different Operating system, like switching from PC (life) to Mac (death). But I have faith in God, I believe in the grace of Christ, and with any luck I will be with Him in Paradise as he promised the theif on the cross.

968 civilians dead in Iraq this month

This is a story I just decided to read today. I went to BBC news and just picked one of the many stories about tragedy. I was thinking about what it would be like to live in Iraq right now. I'm not writing this to say 'The US are murderers' or anything like that. I don't think it helps to blame anyone really. But it just made me think about life and theology as everything seems to.

I can't even imagine the panic and fear and bitterness that would occur in my country if near 1000 civilians were killed within 1 month. I think it's just awful. I see stories like this every day but somehow it doesn't affect me. I've become completely desensitized to all of it. If one of my parents died, my whole life would change till the day I died, everything would be different. I'm sure that 1 of those thousand people was a mother, a father, a child.

So much for moral evolution - as the humanists call it. So much for utopia. With all of recorded history mankind has not learned any lessons from war except how to kill more efficiently. I think of all those funerals, all that pain, all the distress and instability. I wonder what God thinks about it all. I honestly don't know. If anyone was desensitized to it, it'd be Him, he's watched it for alot longer than I have. What has the church done I wonder. I heard that the Iraqi Orthodox Church has suffered to the point of near non-existance, as attacks come to Christians for perceived ties between Christianity and the West. I don't think either side has really shown moral fervor.

It's strange for me to think about the story in Genesis 4 of Cain murdering Abel. How God says that the bloodstained ground cries out to Him. I wonder if it still does. Sometimes all there seems to be in the empirical data of the universe is apathy. However sometimes it feels like the darkness of life may indeed serve as a dark sky in which Good shines like stars which appear every once in a while. Hmm. I guess if the universe is created by a good God, the question is why is there evil? The real question to me is, if there was no creator or absolute moral value, why would we care? Why would it pain us so much.

I wish I could go to one of the funerals of the 968 dead. Maybe it would make it feel more real to me. Maybe if all of us lived in that kind of community and shared humanity, we would stop killing people. The crazy thing is, it would make sense if there wasn't enough to go around, then murder would be obvious. But why? according to my grade 12 education we have 30% surplus in life sustaining necessities. It just doesn't make sense to me.

Because they're real people. They aren't infidels, they are beings made in the image of God. Hmm. I don't understand alot of things. Life is so short.

St. James writes in chapter 4 verses 14-15 "you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’"

I think maybe we just lie to ourselves in thinking that because we are North Americans we are somehow invincible, we can fight anything, nothing can touch us as long as we have money, in God we trust it says on the american dollar. Strangely enough in life it seems that money is alot easier to trust in.

Something else I mark as strange is that the Epistle of St. James is all about living right. About the importance of a living faith. So my interpretation today is that he is saying to live right, faith working in love, but that ya life is fragile. Life is just a mist. But inspite of all that, have faith in God, and trust in his providence. In Ecclesiastes the author comes to the same conclusion:

"Fear God, and keep his commandments...For God wil bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" 12:13-14

He starts off by saying that the earthly pursuit of pleasure is meaningless, He says "Nihil Sub Sola Novum" - Nothing is new under the sun. People just live and they die and it seems so meaningless. YET - this is the part where the conclusions differ between the Scriptures and ours, the modern world sees this and says 'eat drink and be merry' (ironically another bible verse) and the Scriptures say 'Fear God', Trust in his providence.

I guess the thing is that maybe somehow it is God's will that those 968 people died, many never acheiving their dreams, or getting to see the Carribean or driving a car even. But the point is that life viewed from our perspective seems meaningless, but our only hope is in believing God.

"the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster...but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself" Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-5