Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Father Corapi: In Reality, Sadness Has No Place At Christmas Time Or Any Time

For Humanity And Divinity Have Been
Joined In Christ Jesus.

In the course of a life’s journey there are often stretches of bad road. It seems that some people have an easier time than others, but it is a rare individual that never encounters a rough stretch. In recent years, perhaps that’s why I have found an increasing number of people that liken themselves to old cars. One poor woman said she felt very old. When I reminded her that she was only 39, she responded that she’s like a three year old car – not that old, but with over 500,000 miles – most of it over bad roads.
It is a rather well known fact that the Christmas holidays are the most difficult period many people face all year. Many of my pastor friends tell me that more people die during the week before Christmas than any other time.
With the erosion of family unity has come sadness, all at a time that should be joyful. Sometimes we can only be happy by willing it, often not merely by feeling it. Reality demands that at Christmas we will to be happy, after all “A Child has been born to us!”
As I look out my window the snow is falling and the pine trees are clothed in Christmas white. It is very silent, perhaps a prelude to a silent night not far off. At a time when the forces of evil are relentless in their attempts to not only take Christ out of Christmas, but to suppress Christmas altogether, we must be just as relentless in our efforts to give glory to God through his Son, Jesus Christ.
This year approach Christmas as you would approach the Christ Child himself – with reverence and with thanksgiving. Allow nothing to rob your joy at this precious time. Sadness has no place in reality, true reality, for the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us. Humanity and divinity have been joined in Jesus, now come to us as an infant. In the cold winter of human hearts there is often no room at the Inn for the Holy Family. Make room in the warmth of your heart for the infant King the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Often the greatest joy is experienced by giving something to others: A smile, forgiveness, perhaps the gift of faith itself.
Have a most blessed and Merry Christmas, and may God give you the Gift Who contains all gifts: the Holy Spirit.

God bless you,
Fr. John Corapi

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pope's Homily 1st Advent/Pro Life Vigil 11/27/10

Dear brothers and sisters,
With this evening’s celebration, the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new liturgical year beginning with its first stage: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord. In this Advent period we will once again experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and cared for us to the point of becoming a man. This great and fascinating mystery of God with us, moreover of God who becomes one of us, is what we celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the season of Advent we feel the Church that takes us by the hand and - in the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary - expresses her motherhood allowing us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.
While our hearts reach out towards the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church’s liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord in the splendour of glory. This is why we, in every Eucharist, “announce his death, proclaim his resurrection until he comes again” we hold vigil in prayer. The liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole Bible concludes, the last page of the Revelation of Saint John: “Come, Lord Jesus “(22:20).
Dear brothers and sisters, our coming together this evening to begin the Advent journey is enriched by another important reason: with the entire Church, we want to solemnly celebrate a prayer vigil for unborn life. I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages. The beginning of the liturgical year helps us to relive the expectation of God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself small, He becomes a child, it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is near, who wanted to experience the life of man, from the very beginning, to save it completely, fully. And so the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and the beginning of human life are intimately connected and in harmony with each other within the one saving plan of God, the Lord of life of each and every one of us. The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity.
Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth. He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First letter to the Thessalonians which was just proclaimed: “May the God of peace himself - St. Paul writes - make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ “(5:23). Therefore, we are spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us. We operate in earthly realities and through them we can perceive the presence of God and seek Him, truth, goodness and absolute beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and we long for total fulfilment.
God loves us so deeply, totally, without distinction, He calls us to friendship with him, He makes us part of a reality beyond all imagination, thought and word; His own divine life. With emotion and gratitude we acknowledge the value of the incomparable dignity of every human person and the great responsibility we have toward all. ” Christ, the final Adam, - says the Second Vatican Council - by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear…. by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. “(Gaudium et Spes, 22).
Believing in Jesus Christ also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love. He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests. The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church’s concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care ” (ibid., n. 51).
There are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary’s womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb. With the ancient Christian writer Tertullian we can say: ” he who will be a man is already one” (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.
Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation. The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will. Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II’s passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: ” respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!”(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5). I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.
To the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with faith, with her maternal womb, with loving care, with nurturing support and vibrant with love, we entrust our commitment and prayer in favour of unborn life . We do in the liturgy - which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us - worshiping the divine Eucharist, we contemplate Christ’s body, that body who took flesh from Mary by the Holy Spirit, and from her was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!
courtesy of Vatican Radio

The Pope’s Prayer for Nascent Life

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with Your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of
Your Body and Blood
render us participants in Divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless
Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly Present and alive among us, we beg
Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.
Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.
Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of
Your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of ever human life.
Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no-one endures suppression or injustice.
Gift creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children
Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.
Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of
Your Charity,
the consolation of
Your Divine Heart.
Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb
You took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Saviour,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.
The Pope’s decision to usher in Advent with an evening of prayer for the unborn is a beautiful symbolic gesture, according to the newly named Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, a renowned bioethicist and former head of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the "Vigil for All Nascent Human Life,” in a special evening prayer celebration Nov. 27, the night before Advent begins.
Cardinal Sgreccia told EWTN News in an exclusive interview that there is a “a very prominent logic" to praying for nascent human life as Advent begins, "because Advent is dedicated to awaiting the birth of Jesus."
Traditionally, the Pope celebrates vespers or evening prayer to mark the start of Advent.
For this year's vigil celebration, he has called on Christians around the world to join him in praying for the unborn.
The "beautiful and well-chosen" theme should remind believers that Jesus Christ himself humbled himself to be born from the womb of Mary, the cardinal said.
It is “very wise,” for the Pope to use this season to call attention to the lives of preborn babies, entrusted to their mothers' care as they "await the light of birth," he said.
Cardinal Sgrecci said the Pope’s gesture is dramatic “in a period when nascent life is undervalued” and children are “not considered as a grace of God and a service to the world.”
The value of life must be promoted, he added, "because if children aren't born the very world is extinguished!"
Through prayer, said Cardinal Sgreccia, men and women are opened up to the eternal and given courage to confront difficult situations. Through prayer, he added, people come to know that they are being watched over.
The experience is much like the look between a mother and a child, he said. "Our mothers have always felt like this. Christian pregnancies are lived in this way."
In addition to their prayers, the cardinal said, people can help mothers and children by encouraging and promoting life in many different ways. He pointed to helping out with initiatives to assist new and expectant mothers, supporting adoption and making donations to pro-life institutions.
Cardinal Sgreccia also urged believers to make spiritual sacrifices, to offer up their sufferings to God for the sake of the unborn.
What is most important, he said, is "respecting life before and after it is born, helping it wherever it is — in misery, poverty, difficulty, obstacles.”
Christians, he said, must be “the voice of love, because love and life are tied together."
"Where there is love, life is enabled,” he said. “Life grows well when there is love from the mother and father and the society around it."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This Thanksgiving, Give Thanks For What You Have ....

And For What You Have Lost!  Remember That Everything Comes From Our Heavenly Father.
This Thanksgiving holiday may be the only one some of us have left, or it may be the most important one some of us will ever have. Let’s make the most of it. From the beginning, this mostly secular holiday has had a somewhat “holyday” dimension to it. After all, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God, mostly for surviving, but surely for the food they had that helped them to survive and ultimately prosper.
Taking things for granted is an occupational hazard of the human condition. It is easy to forget that all things come from God. Whatever we have is a gift from our Father, “Who art in Heaven,” and on earth, and in every heart and mind that permits him entrance.
This Thanksgiving some of us are having our own personal struggles, and it is not as easy perhaps to be thankful. Millions of people are nowhere near as well off as they once were. The lines at the local food banks and shelters are longer than they have been in recent times many places. Those of us who are able must help those less fortunate when we can. I spent one Thanksgiving homeless, roaming the streets of Los Angeles when I was younger. I can tell you it is a cold and desolate feeling.
Some of us are mad at God this Thanksgiving. I can understand that, although it doesn’t do any good to bang your head against the rock wall of Reality. Some of us don’t have what we had last year. I know dozens of people who have lost more than 40-50% of their wealth this past year. I lost my best friend this year. I know what it is to be mad at God too, although it isn’t the right thing to do, and it certainly doesn’t help. God gave us what we had to begin with.
The Prophets got mad at God at times.
They got over it, and so will we.
Some people lost wives, husbands, and children this year. I can’t imagine the depths of their suffering, but I sympathize with it. I don’t have a wife or children in the normal sense. I acquired a dog ten years ago at a very dark and painful time in my life. He saved my life when he was a puppy by giving me a reason to live. Years later he saved my life from two intruders who broke into my home early one morning. He was my best friend for years. He died tragically from cancer a couple of weeks ago. He bled to death internally and died as I held him on the examination table of the veterinary clinic. He was scared and could hardly breathe as he looked into my eyes.
I was mad at God for taking the only real friend I had for many years; the only one I lived with and could be close to through many dark and troubling years. He was always the same, day in and day out. He loved me unconditionally, and every morning he greeted me as though he hadn’t seen me for years, although he slept on the same bed that I did every night of the ten years he was with me.
It’s hard to lose things, harder to lose what we love. Yet, it was God who gave us these things from the beginning. I remember that there were over 3,000 sunrises and sunsets that I spent with Sage. He loved to walk with me anyplace we went. He loved to swim more than anything else. He was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and it was in his genes to be that way. He was loyal and he was loving, and he is gone, but I am thankful to God for the years He gave me to live with Sage. He always slept with one back leg over my ankle, as though he wanted to keep track of me through the night. He liked to watch football games on television, and sat next to me on the sofa with one paw draped over my leg.
He would often steal my shoes or socks and race joyously through the house and prance and dance until I told him to hand them over, which he always did as though it was his highest and happiest mission in life.
Loss is hard, but sometimes it is only in loss that we realize what we’ve had, the greatness of the gift and how much it has contributed to our life. It’s easy to give thanks when everything goes well. It’s easy to love when all is comfortable. It’s the highest and best thanks and love when we can do it from a place of loss. Be thankful for what you have, and for what you had, even if it was only for a little while, for as a wise man said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”
So, this Thanksgiving let’s be thankful indeed for all we have, and for all we’ve had. It is all evidence of the love and care of God our Father.
Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving,
Fr. John Corapi

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pope's 'unprecedented' pro-life vigil - JOIN!

Nov 27, 2010 -
Catholic bishops across the U.S. are urging all of the faithful to unite their prayers with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, Nov. 27, in an unprecedented worldwide vigil for unborn life.
The Pope will celebrate a special Vespers service that Saturday evening at St. Peter's Basilica, heralding the first Sunday of Advent. Pope Benedict has recommended that “parishes, religious communities, associations and movements” join him for evening prayer, in “churches throughout the world.”
The season of preparation for Christmas, the Pope said on Nov. 14, “is a favorable time to invoke the divine protection of every human being called into existence, and to give thanks to God for the gift of life we have received from our parents.”
Although it is common for the Pope to encourage prayer for particular intentions, the request for a coordinated worldwide vigil –to be held on the same date and approximately the same time, in all dioceses–  is highly exceptional. Several bishops' comments have indicated that nothing comparable has ever occurred in the history of the Church.
While many Americans may be occupied with the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and the shopping blitz of “Black Friday,”  bishops across the country are encouraging believers not to neglect the Pope's historic call to prayer.
“At this moment in history,” Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco wrote, “when societies are endorsing the killing of human beings as a solution to social, economic, and environmental problems, the Holy Father is reminding us of the necessity and power of prayer to protect human life.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta stressed that those Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church should nevertheless join their prayers with those of the Pope and his flock throughout the world. He also encouraged those who cannot attend a vigil service, due to other commitments, to participate to the best of their ability.
“I invite all Christians to begin the Advent season uniting in prayer for God's protection and help for human life,” he wrote. “All are welcome to take part in a special prayer on November 27 whether at home or traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays.”
The Diocese of Davenport in Iowa has produced a booklet that will allow families who are unable to attend the full services, to join in some of the same prayers that Pope Benedict XVI will pray at St. Peter's on the night of the vigil. That booklet is available from the diocese's website, at http://www.davenportdiocese.org/lit/liturgylibrary/litPrayerforLifeFamilyBooklet.pdf.
All of the vigils will feature exposition of the Eucharist and and benediction, with most slated to include the Church's traditional evening prayer of psalms and petitions. Some parishes will also be hosting Marian processions and recitation of the Rosary. While most participating parishes will hold services during the evening, some have scheduled them earlier, or in conjunction with a vigil Mass.
Those planning to attend should confirm times and parish participation, either through the Internet or by contacting their local diocese before the Thanksgiving holiday, since offices may be closed the following Friday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Defending the Honor of Those That Silently Defend YOU

There have been many an example given in the last couple weeks alone of relative atrocities committed by our TSA (Transportation Security Administration). These actors aren’t the clean-cut do-gooders one might expect to be working a job of such critical perceived importance. No.
Rather, looking upon them & listening to them speak, one might wonder what gutter they were dredged up from. Better on the Government payroll than the welfare roll, right? More to the point, these people now follow a mandate to either view you naked in astonishing detail or, in place of that, lay their hands upon your very private places in very public view.
Now the Dept of Homeland Security, shoulder to shoulder with the White House, has issued a statement decrying the “overblown outrage.” They point out that “fewer than one half of one percent of the 34 million passengers who traveled on airplanes in or to the U.S. last week were subjected to crotch-area pat-downs.” Most of you are at least adept at basic arithmetic. So take a moment & do the math.
Better yet, Jim Geraughty, columnist at the National Review Online, has already done it for you: and you can see it here courtesy of AlwaysCatholic blog, written by Sean Norris (@commompatriot).

The Lesser of Two Evils?

Well I purposely didn't comment on this when I first saw the news that Archbishop Dolan now heads the USCCB. Although I've left comments on Courageous Priest and some other places in my travels regarding my confusion about why everyone seemed so happy, I have reserved my personal blog comment till now. I must admit that when I saw an initial interview with Dolan when he arrived in NY (my old stomping grounds), he seemed like a really nice down to earth kinda guy. I'm not saying that has changed per say, but just that he should remember that often times, nice guys finish last ... and lose it all. 
What we really need in every parish and diocese is for priests and bishops to develop the backbones required to STAND STRAIGHT in the face of popular opinion realizing that relativism and complacency is killing the country and sending souls to perdition! And that is what I beg all to pray for ... strong clergy that stand for the TRUTH in the Way HE taught through apostolic succession as they are meant to do. The primary objective has always been to lead souls to heaven!!!!
Now I realize that the alternative was much worse connected to "THE SCANDALS" *shudders* and all the rest, but as I mentioned elsewhere, wasn't it Dolan who just a short time ago, sat smiling and greeting the LGBT members of a certain Manhattan Church in his diocese during a Mass where they were welcomed to partake of the Eucharist?
It gives me pause as well to have heard also that he is of the opinion that the current state of the Church in America is "going well". Michael Voris give a much more informative perspective that I can at the moment, so I invite you to have a look at the video below ... and PRAY ... PRAY ... PRAY for your priests and all religious and clergy that they receive the graces required to be the servants God desires!

In Somewhat Of A Surprise…
Archbishop Timothy Dolan Has Been Elected President
Of The United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops!
Well this is a pleasant surprise .... is it really?
What do you think? Sound off and leave a comment.

WORLDWIDE ROSARY TODAY 11/23/10 for Persecuted Catholics

60 Catholics were brutally murdered while attending Mass in a Catholic Church in Bagdad , Iraq . They are glorious martyrs.
But 400,000 Catholics remain and are being persecuted for the faith. And we’re being asked to pray the Rosary to help them.
Tell friends about this Rosary
See this impassioned email I received from an Iraqi Catholic:
"I need help. I am Chaldean. We are Catholics from IRAQ who are persecuted for our faith. As you may have heard, the Muslim extremists bombed a Church in Baghdad , killing 2 priests and 58 believers.
"Is there anyway we can set up a rosary rally for Chaldeans? So all can join in? We need help. Please, I am begging you. I am begging you."
So please pray the Rosary on November 23 for persecuted Catholics in Iraq . And tell everyone you know to please join in.
Massacre at Mass in Baghdad
Spread news about this Rosary to your friends.
Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church
25585 Berg Road
Southfield, MI 48033
Tel: (248) 356-0565
Fax: (248) 356-5235
Email: MotherOfGodChurch@yahoo.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
And please remember: the Rosary saved Austria from Russian Communists. It can save Catholics in Iraq too. There used to be 1.5 million Catholics in Iraq , but only 400,000 remain. They urgently need our prayers!

The Real Scoop on the Pope's Recent Condom Statement

Clarification in CONTEXT regarding the Holy Father's words on condoms ... geeesch! What the media will DO for a HEADLINE!

November 23, 2010 by John Thavis

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict commented in a new book that using condoms to reduce the risk of disease could, in some circumstances, be a step toward moral responsibility, he used the example of a male prostitute.

That raised the question: Was the pope deliberately limiting his observations to this particular group?

The answer is no, according to Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, who presented the pope’s book today at the Vatican press office.

Father Lombardi acknowledged confusion over the gender question. He said the Italian version of the book, which translated the pope’s example as “prostitute” using the feminine gender, was an error. The original German used the masculine noun for prostitute, but there was debate over whether the word was being used generically or specifically.

So Father Lombardi took the question to the pope.

“I asked the pope personally if there was a serious or important problem in the choice of the masculine gender rather than the feminine, and he said no, that is, the main point — and this is why I didn’t refer to masculine or feminine in (my earlier) communiqué — is the first step of responsibility in taking into account the risk to the life of another person with whom one has relations,” Father Lombardi said.

“Whether a man or a woman or a transsexual does this, we’re at the same point. The point is the first step toward responsibility, to avoid posing a grave risk to another person,” Father Lombardi said.

For his part, Peter Seewald, the German journalist who posed the questions in the book, said at the press conference today that “there is no difference between male prostitute and female prostitute” in the pope’s remarks, despite all the controversy over the translations. He added: “The pope indicates that, in addition to the case he cited, there may be other cases in which one may imagine that use of a condom could be a step toward responsible sexuality in this area, and to prevent further infection.”

Here once again is the key passage on the subject in the book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” when Seewald asks the pope whether it was “madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.”

Pope Benedict: As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.
There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward discovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.
Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?
Pope Benedict: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

Muslims vs. Martyrs

November 21, 2010
Muslims vs. Martyrs
By Jeannie DeAngelis

President Obama has assumed the role of a traveling advocate for Islam. Every chance the president gets, he climbs on a soapbox to address issues of callousness toward the Muslim faith. The president is well-practiced in Muslim apologetics, and regardless of nation or venue, he stresses the need for tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of all things Mohammad.

When traveling abroad, America's living example of ecumenical tolerance makes it a priority to identify first with the religious roots of his childhood, while at home, the president forfeits religious neutrality only when hosting Ramadan celebrations at the White House.

As far as Christianity is concerned, Obama takes a "not just" approach to clarify America as "no longer a Christian nation." In fact, Obama mentions his personal conversion to the Christian faith only as an addendum. Moreover, the president has yet to expound upon how someone so obviously enamored of Islam could leave such a "great religion" (he was registered as a Muslim in school in Indonesia) for Christendom if convinced that foundational principles of "advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings" are common to both faiths -- a belief proven false daily.

In Obama's worldwide undeniably pro-Muslim sermons, the plight of the persecuted Christian church goes unmentioned. Not once has Obama called to task the mujahedin who systematically murder and deny both Jews and Christians the respect Barack demands the world bestow on the religion of his youth.

Take Iraq, for instance. Recently, 53 Iraqi Christians were murdered in a church raid by militant Muslims in Bagdad. "Gunmen identifying themselves as members of the Islamic State of Iraq ... broke through [a] cathedral's security wall, took 100 worshipers hostage and shot the priest. Most of the victims died hours later when the attackers detonated suicide vests as security forces raided the building."

The subjugation of Iraqi Christians is so unrelenting that since the start of the war in 2003, 1.3 million Christians have diminished to what is now estimated at below half a million.

If religious tolerance is what drives Barack Hussein Obama, then why has he failed to mention the brutal persecution of a faith to which he purportedly adheres? In fact, when provided the opening to address the blood of Christian martyrs, Barack shrewdly twists the question into yet another excuse to promote Islam.

Obama concentrates on the supposed difficulties Muslims face as a minority religion in America, yet while in Cairo, America's "assalaamu alaykum" president overlooked the struggles endured by Egypt's largest religious minority, the Coptic Christians, and instead placated Islam -- a religion guilty of bigotry toward all other faiths.

In Ankara, Turkey -- where, by law, Iranian converts from Islam to Christianity who remain in Turkey face court-ordered arrest and deportation for apostasy -- Barack stated the following:

And we will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better -- including my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country -- I know, because I am one of them.

Similar oppressive situations exist for Christians around the globe. In Pakistan, the president puts more effort into the "exotic pronunciation" of Pock-ee-ston than addressing the pressing issue of Asia Bibi, sentenced to death by a judge for "blasphemy after she engaged in a religious discussion with co-workers." Why, when visiting Asia, did Obama neglect to mention Muslims unjustly beating Bibi for her faith, locking her in a room, and announcing "from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey"?

Barack Obama has been feted in Muslim countries, has bowed to the Protector of Mecca and Medina, and has appeased nations that define "the Middle East policy of former U.S. President George Bush as 'sickening,' and accuse America of 'contributing to the slaughter of innocents' by supporting Israel." And he continues to do so while Christian pastors sit shackled in prison cells in Turkmenistan and face certain death in Iran.

In Ethiopia, converts to Christianity are attacked regularly by Muslims, while in India, where Obama spent time Koli dancing with schoolchildren, Muslim students severed a Christian professor's hand in response test questions given months prior on an exam.

What really stands out is how Obama, while recently visiting the most populous Muslim country in the world, squandered an opportunity to speak on behalf of persecuted Indonesian Christians.

It was there that Barack Obama chose to reminisce about hearing the Muslim call to prayer and to stand barefoot beside Michelle wearing a "head-covering adorned with gold beads" at the Istiqlal Mosque in central Jakarta. While there, Obama spoke of "Indonesia's history of religious tolerance and its commitment to democracy."

Either Obama failed to do pre-trip research, or he felt that the 2005 decapitation of three little girls from a Christian school did not meet the litmus test for religious intolerance. Barack never mentioned "[t]he girls' severed heads ... dumped in plastic bags in their village in Indonesia's strife-torn Central Sulawesi province, along with a handwritten note threatening more such attacks." The note, written in the blood of innocents, read, "Wanted: 100 more Christian heads, teenaged or adult, male or female; blood shall be answered with blood, soul with soul, head with head."

While in Indonesia, Obama also ignored "incidents of church attacks and religious violence ... throughout Java outside of traditional 'hot spots' such as Greater Jakarta and West Java."

At home, the president espouses the "right" to build controversial mosques like Cordoba House in New York City, but he has not yet broached the subject of Muslim protestors, in the name of "interfaith harmony," preventing Indonesian Christians from building churches. Moreover, while visiting a Muslim country that excludes Israelis from entry, the president felt it appropriate to rebuke Israel for housing plans in Israel's capital, calling the holy city of Jerusalem a settlement.

As exemplified by Iran's vow to usher in a "world without Zionism," most people are well aware that aggression exists toward Israel. Nonetheless, Americans remain largely uninformed that Christians are "despised and rejected," jailed, beaten, and martyred in countries where Muslim majorities subjugate minority religions.

Barack Hussein contends, "All men and women are created equal, they have certain inalienable rights, and one of those is to practice their religion freely." The question that a nation built upon a Judeo-Christian foundation needs to ask is this: Why would Obama, the self-appointed global ambassador for religious tolerance, refuse to address the brutal, bloody, life-and-death struggle his supposed Christian brethren face worldwide at the hands of a religion he maintains is one of peace?

Author's content: www.jeannie-ology.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sharia Law in God’s Country?

Sharia Law here in the hinterland? Unthinkable, right? Not anymore, at least not since large numbers of Somali Muslims have decided to trade their desert sand for our frozen tundra. And while the snow isn’t a problem for our new neighbors the law of the land is proving to be, which is why they’re lobbying to have Muslim law recognized and enforced here in Minnesota.

Last month Somali employees began refusing service to Minnesotans attempting to purchase bacon from the frozen food departments of local Target stores. Pork, after all, is unclean and mustn’t be handled

In addition, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on more than 5000 cases of Somali cab drivers refusing to pick up fares that failed various Sharia litmus tests.

So, evidently, if Sven and Ole are spotted outside the airport with so much as a bottle of wine in their possession they may well have trouble hailing a cab. Even sight-impaired folks with service dogs are reportedly being stranded curbside because animals are considered unclean and for a Muslim to transport one in his automobile would violate Sharia law.

But here in “God’s country” our strength is our diversity, or so we’re told by our social engineers; so  there’s no stopping Sharia law.  Rather than showing their Muslim mutineers the door, Target stores are merely reassigning them to departments where they’ll be less apt to run afoul of Sharia law.  And what about those Somali cabbies?  Still gainfully employed, of course, and electing on their own who gets a ride home from the airport and who doesn’t. It’s multiculturalism at its best.

Still, one can’t really blame the Muslim for the absurd surrender of the Christian. The people tolerating this sort of nonsense in their various countries were once a Christian people. And when formerly Christian societies begin laying down their swords, abandoning their founding principles, criminalizing Christianity, and effectively eliminating their own borders, should we really blame the inevitable Muslim interlopers for stepping into the void?

Christians could mount some sort of legal challenge  in defense of their own culture and laws, I suppose, but that would require cooperation from at least a few Christians that still actually give a damn. And there’s the rub.  Most of us can't even stir ourselves when creatures like Lady Gaga "entertain" the kids dressed as a nun while desecrating a rosary and engaging in simulated gay sex. Clearly, an unimaginative little stain like Gaga has nothing to fear from the Christian world.

Christianity withstood every assault leveled against it over two millennia--the Romans, the Barbarians, the Vikings, even Napoleon, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mao. But it's having one 'hell of a time' with modern democracy.  Over the past half century the Christian surrender has been complete. And an anti-Christian society is no match for Islam.

Even the Catholic Church—the once great nemesis of Islam—has been busy Protestantizing its sacraments, discarding its sacramentals, and plundering its own sanctuaries.  Who’s fault is that?  The Muslims?

Catholic schools and universities routinely teach the mythification of Sacred Scripture, the  denial of Genesis, the promotion of evolution, and the recasting of  defenders of absolute truth as blood brothers to the fascists. Shall  we blame Islam for this, as well?

It may be fashionable to hate Muslims right now but it’s not right and it only exacerbates the problem. If we had any appreciation for history we’d be terrified of what’s in store for us, realizing along with Hilaire Belloc that “cultures spring from religions” and that ultimately the vital force which maintains any culture “is its philosophy, its attitude toward the universe”, and that the “decay of a religion involves the decay of the culture corresponding to it.” Belloc argued that the “bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral doctrines—the very structure of our society is dissolving.”

So said Belloc—but he doesn’t play for the Yankees nor does he work for the Fox News Channel. So, whatever!

 “O Stupid Catholics, who has bewitched you?”, Fr. Richard Perozich asked Catholics in San Diego last month. “It is either going to be the way of evil or the way of truth. We must engage it as an ambassador for Christ and not as an agent of the devil.”

But when Nancy Pelosi, Roger Mahony, and Joe Biden become the new face of Catholicism in the West is it any wonder that Islam is rising? There’s nothing but buffoonery standing in its way.  The Catholic Church is far too busy closing her own churches and proclaiming the good news of ecumenism and Theology of the Body to stand up to much of anything, even the renegades and apostates running her own institutions.

Sharia law is coming, and so is the Divine chastisement we no longer fear because we no longer believe. Instead we blame everyone and everything for our predicament, which is a consequence of own crisis of belief, fostered and encouraged by the policies of our own shepherds. We’ve become faithless and afraid, hoping to win the approval of our secularist jailors by hiding our Faith and even denying our King. But killing Muslims, bombing their cities, banning burqas, railing against them on TV is not going to change the fact that we’ve dropped the Cross—which is only the reason the Crescent is rising.

If we continue to reject the social kingship of Christ there is no hope for us.  Our  faith will have failed to such an extent that all we can do is make lame appeals to a democracy which, as the late, great Michael Davies contended, was itself “enshrined in the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man, the declaration which constituted a formal and insolent repudiation of the Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Clearly the enemy has won total victory over us when all we can think to do here on the eve of our total destruction, is appeal to him for our salvation and behave in public as if Our Lord no longer exists.  

Our Holy Church teaches that Omnis potestas a Deo – “All authority comes from God – not “We the People.” We the People overthrew the Social Kingship of Christ in the first place, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Is this the fault of the Muslims? Or are they merely the instruments of God’s justice, the Divine remedy for universal apostasy among Christians?

Our only help is in the Name of the Lord. Unless we return to the proclamation  of His law, I fear we can expect Sharia law to become ours here at home and throughout all Christendom.  It’s Christ the King—or chaos. There is no alternative.

Please God ... let us wake up
before it’s too late!
by Michael J. Matt, Editor of The Remnant

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Letter of the Law or the Spirit of the Law?


Catholics are as resilient a religious denomination as has ever existed, which is why it is the oldest Christian one. What other religion stands up to so much hostility? What other religion has been attacked more acutely from the inside (as in the abuse cases)? What other religion is so open to public mockery, and yet takes it so humbly? With the election of a brave, outspoken new bishop to head the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (one who has no hesitation in going after The New York Times), there may be a very positive turn in public perception. It is for us to pray for bishops and priests, not criticize them.
Our Church is filled with heroes and yet every once in a while it doesn't hurt to ask ourselves the question: Are we careful not to fall into the trends of the Pharisees (or Sadducees)?
This is the chore of our time: studying the Pharisees and making sure we're not imitating them!
It is a question that leads to soul searching.
Are we mean-spirited, in the cause of "righteousness"?
Do we seek institutions more than God and Jesus?
Do we operate only by laws (like Pharisees), or do we love (like Jesus)?
Do we ignore the afterlife, as Sadducees ignored life after death?
Do we pray like Christ, or favor philosophy like the Pharisees?
Do we live on by the letter of our religion (again, are we legalistic) or do we live by its Spirit?
“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” says a Mass reading this week (from Revelation 3).
Do we listen to the Holy Spirit? Do we prefer Him or institutionalism? Do we mingle among the aristocrats, or among the disenfranchised? ("Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places" -- Luke 11).
Do we disdain miracles? (The Sadducees doubted or restricted miracles, and disdained the prophetic. Jesus said their forefathers had killed the prophets.)
Do we encourage healing and exorcism or discourage it (as the Pharisees attempted to stop Jesus)?
Do we follow the Bible because it is supernatural, or only for its plain sense (as did the Sadducees)?
We all need to ask: are we humble, or are we pretentious?
Do we speak plainly or in a way that seeks to impress?
Are we full of pomp? Do we lengthen our "tassels" (Matthew 23)? Are we materialistic? Are we too into the "trappings," instead of the essence (clean on the outside, like Pharisees, but not inside)?
Do we argue over the technicalities of religion instead of pursuing its larger aspirations (as did both Sadducees and Pharisees)?
Questions, questions! Soul-searching. Let us not be surprised on how we are evaluated when we die.
And let us ask: Is religion a means to an end -- or (as in the style of Sadducees) an end in and of itself? Many are those who will be surprised at how they are evaluated when they die -- that what is in the heart is more important than outward appearances; that treating others well scores higher than religiosity.
Do we honor God with our lips while our hearts are far away from Him?
Finally, are we progressing to a higher place in the afterlife, or entangled in a legalism that knows the structure of religion without its Truth?
Do we hold "to a form of godliness," although we have "denied its power" (see 2 Timothy 3)?
Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches," let us repeat from Revelation 3.
"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ," says Matthew 23. "But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."
We ask these questions at a critical time when Catholicism is challenged as much by a worldly approach as it is by scandal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"How I Solved the Catholic Problem"

by Kristine L. Franklin

Guatemala is at a turning point. Historically it's been a 100% Catholic country - but that's changing - rapidly. Demographers predict that early in the next century Guatemala will become the first mostly-Protestant Latin American country.

The jet made a careful descent between the three volcanoes that ring the sprawl of Guatemala City. It was April 19th, 1992. My husband, Marty, and I had reached the end of eight years of preparation to be Evangelical Protestant missionaries.

We were finally here, excited and eager to settle in Guatemala. We knew our faith would be challenged and stretched, but we were more than ready for it because above all else, we desired to serve God with everything we could offer. Our new life as missionaries had just begun.

I didn't feel even a twinge of regret over what we'd left behind in the States: family, friends, a familiar language and culture, and amenities like clean water and good roads we Americans so often take for granted. In spite of the unknowns ahead, I knew we were being obedient, regardless of the cost. We were living smack in the middle of God's will, and it gave us a great feeling of security. We had given ourselves fully to bringing Christ's light to the darkness of this impoverished, Catholic country.

As the jet touched down onto the bumpy runway, tears welled in my eyes. "Thank you, Jesus," I whispered as I reached over to squeeze my husband's hand. Marty and I had come to the end of a long journey, but we were also beginning a new one. "Some day, Lord," I prayed silently, "I hope this foreign place will feel like home."

I was elated as we walked down the exit ramp from the plane and began the long-awaited adventure of being Protestant missionaries - missionaries sent to "rescue" Catholics from the darkness of their religion's superstition and man-made traditions and bring them into the light of Protestantism.

There's no way I could have known that three years later, almost to the day, my husband and my two children and I would stand holding hands again, elated again, waiting to be received into the Catholic Church. Let me explain what happened that led me, a staunch Evangelical, to become Catholic.

In the Beginning

I was raised in a devout Fundamentalist home. When I was 5 years old I asked Jesus to be my Savior. I was watching cartoons and it was time for a commercial. I figured that was as good a time as any to get saved. I'd been told many times by my folks that all I had to do was "open up a little door in my heart and let Jesus come in, and I would be a true Christian."

That was it. Once Jesus was in, He would never go away. And when I died, I would go to heaven. It was a sure thing, the best deal in life, the free gift of eternal life. I couldn't earn it, I could only ask for it, and as soon as I asked (if I really meant it), then it was a done deal! One minute I was a little sinner on the way to hell, the next minute I was a Christian.

When I told my mom I'd become a Christian, she wept for joy. I didn't feel any different, but I knew my black heart was now as white as snow. No matter how bad I was, no matter what naughty things I did, when God looked at my heart from now on, all He would see was white, because Jesus was my personal Savior. As I grew up and found myself involved in sins of one kind or another, I doubted the sincerity of my "conversion" at age 5 and, just in case, I got "born-again" at least on two other occasions (just to be sure).

This is the Catch-22 of the typical "born-again" theology taught by many Evangelical and Fundamentalist denominations: Although we were taught that "faith alone" saved a person, the assumption was that right away the convert would exhibit a changed life and would continue growing in holiness out of sheer gratefulness to God for the gift of salvation. Under this system, the whole conversion event was completely subjective and valid only with the right measure of sincerity and true repentance - what Evangelicals call "saving faith."

On the other hand, if a person known to be "born again" falls away from Christ, it's said that he had "never really been born again." In other words, the possibility always exists that you might not actually be a Christian, though you might be completely convinced that you are. (Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants would never say it that way, nor do they even like to think about it, but they do recognize that this is so.)

The "Catholic Problem"...

Just as I knew for certain I was a Christian at 5 years old, I knew with equal certainty that there were others who were not Christians. I had been taught that some of these non-Christian people lived in places like Africa and Asia. Missionaries were frequent visitors at our little church and we listened with awe to their stories. Once some missionaries came from Mexico, where, tragically enough, the people thought they were Christians, even though they weren't. The Mexicans, we were reminded, were a lot worse off than the heathens in Africa. At least the heathens knew they worshipped demons and false gods. But the poor Mexicans were Catholics. They had been deceived into thinking they were real Christians, and this made them a lot harder to convert.

But it wasn't just the Mexicans we worried about and prayed for.

Most of our neighbors weren't Christian either. Most were Roman Catholics. Their kids went to Sacred Heart school, where nuns and priests taught them to worship statues and pray to Mary whom - we were repeatedly warned - Catholics thought was more powerful than God Himself. I was taught to feel sorry for Catholics, because they were members of a cult, and they didn't even know it. They were like Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses, who had been deceived into thinking that their good works would get them to heaven.

All of my father's relatives were Catholic. I remember when one of them died, my mother cried bitterly because he was in hell, not because he was a great sinner, but because he was Catholic. And there was no way a Catholic could be a "born again" Christian. In fact, as far as we were concerned, being Catholic was far worse than being simply unchurched. Being Catholic was to live a lie, a lie which would only be exposed at death, when the unsuspecting person ended up in hell for believing he could work himself to heaven by good deeds. This was the way Catholics and their theology was explained to me.

I was not allowed to go to the funerals of any of my Catholic relatives. It was too sad, my Mom told me. Funerals were supposed to be happy because the person who had died (if he had been "born again") was with Jesus, free from suffering and pain. Catholic funerals weren't happy at all. A lot of people cried because they didn't know for sure if their loved one was in heaven. But we would know, Mom assured us. That was the great thing about being real Christians.

These prejudices and misconceptions about Catholicism were reinforced continually throughout my childhood. Not only did I hear strong opinions against Catholicism, but also against most other Protestants, those in other denominations.

We were taught that only in our church, or a church which shared our Dispensational interpretive system,1 could a person find the complete truth about the Bible. The big denominations, the "mainline churches," were all apostate we were warned. Those churches were best avoided, for in them, a person would hear error taught and might be deceived into believing it. Errors included things such as infant baptism, amillennialism, speaking in tongues, faith healing or, worst of all, that a Christian could lose his salvation through serious sin.

We had the truth at our church, period. Anyone who wanted the whole story about God would have to come to our church and study the Bible the way we did. When meeting someone from another denomination for the first time, we were taught to view with suspicion that person's claim to being a Christian. If they didn't believe pretty much what we did, there was a good chance they weren't really "born again." We were constantly reminded by our pastor that we were obligated to share the real truth with them, especially if they were Catholics. We had Jesus, they didn't. It was that simple.

Over the years I came to know many "true Christians" from these other "erroneous" churches. This had an effect on me. I gradually loosened my Fundamentalist views on truth and adopted the typical, somewhat vague belief of contemporary evangelicalism that as long as one has a "personal relationship with Christ," that's all that matters. To my shock, I even met a few Catholics whom I judged to be "born again," (though I could only wonder how they could possibly grow spiritually within the Catholic Church, and I had no idea why they remained in it). As their friend, I saw it as my duty to urge those "Christian" Catholics to find a better church, a Bible-believing church. And some of them took my advice and left the Catholic Church. Some however, stuck with Catholicism, which only made me question the validity of their commitment to Christ.

From the time I was a kid, I was taught that in the hierarchy of careers, foreign missionary service was right at the top of the list of things that please God. Marty and I discussed the possibility of his teaching in a school for missionary children. Since he already spoke Spanish, we knew it was likely we'd end up in Latin America or Spain. We prayed that God would use us as missionaries to bring Catholics to Christ. We wanted to bring them "true Christianity." From the time we made that decision until our arrival in Guatemala, a little over eight years went by.

Shortly after we arrived in Guatemala my tidy paradigm of "true Christianity" began to disintegrate. For more than two years, I experienced a persistent nagging at the back of my consciousness regarding several theological issues. Getting to the mission field brought those problems to the fore.

Perhaps the most distasteful of the nagging issues was what I had come to see as the cultural hegemony inherent in Evangelicalism's mission strategy. Evangelicals were (and are) importing wholesale a specifically American brand of piety, imposing the forms and symbols and jargon of "American Christianity" on the people in other countries. This religious colonialism bothered me a lot.

There was also the problem of illiteracy in Latin America. Since childhood I had been steeped in the mindset that the Bible is the literal touchstone of all things Christian. Consequently, I had a hard time integrating the Evangelical "read it for yourself" approach with a culture in which many people couldn't read.

And finally, the Protestant notion of sola scriptura (the Bible alone) fell apart each time I tried to test it. I began to see that Evangelicalism's insistence on going by the Bible alone led continually into division and problems. Worse yet, claiming to go by the Bible alone didn't really provide any certitude of belief for believers.

Because of my upbringing and theological training, I didn't realize at first that as soon as I allowed myself to question these three problem areas I was pointing myself in the direction of Rome. I thought I was just settling some troubling issues, but it was really at this point that my journey into the Catholic Church began.

I believed, as most Evangelicals do, that my own brand of Christianity was the most "authentic," i.e. the closest to the New Testament beliefs and practice - the most "biblical." In Guatemala I was confronted with something I had never considered before: that my Christianity was in fact, a largely American phenomenon.

Marty and I spent our first few months in Guatemala "looking for a church." What we expected to find was authentic, Latin American Christianity. What we found was simply transplanted American Evangelicalism, the only difference being the language. It was like watching the Dukes of Hazard dubbed into Spanish. Guatemalan Evangelicalism was a clone of its stateside counterpart. The music was American, the Sunday School curriculum was American. Church government was copied from whatever denomination had founded that particular church. Evangelism was geared, like advertising, to reaching the most people with the most attractive gospel. In most churches, American missionaries wielded a powerful influence, despite the fact that evangelicalism has been present in Guatemala for over 100 years. I realized pretty quickly that Americans are boss there. There are native Evangelical pastors, sure, but the real influence and authority lay in the hands of the Americans.

There were other unfortunate parallels with evangelicalism in America. Poor people went to poor churches; the middle-class and wealthy attended more upscale churches which attracted people from their particular level of society. Only in one large, downtown Evangelical church did we ever see rich and poor in fairly equal numbers, though most of the poor people sat in the balcony, not down front where the more affluent folks sat. I had never, until then, realized how Protestant churches are almost always separated by class. I was unsettled to realize that I had never attended a church with poor people. I had always looked for a church with people "like me." Where was the One Church of Jesus Christ which embraced rich and poor alike? For some reason, I had expected to find it in Guatemala. I didn't.

I began to reflect upon something I'd heard from a visiting missionary years before. He'd said their mission had begun to target only the wealthy and middle-classes in large urban areas with the gospel. The reason for this was that "poor people would want to be like the rich," so, according to his logic, starting churches among the rich made it easier to reach the poor. Starting a church among the poor however, would not reap a harvest with the rich later on. After all, the rich don't want to be associated with a "poor people's religion."

I remember reading an article on church growth in which the Evangelical author stated that "multiplication occurs in homogeneous churches." Translation: If you want lots of people to come to your church, don't mix the poor and the rich, and don't mix the races. Many Evangelicals would balk at such a blunt way of characterizing this attitude toward Latin Americans, but it is a fact, and the proof is the way Evangelical "missions" are run down there.

In Guatemala there are the Ladinos, predominately European of Spanish descent. They make up the ruling class. The underclass, for the most part, are pure Mayan Indian. There were Ladino churches and Indian churches. If you saw a woman in a Ladino (upper class) church dressed in native clothing, it was a good bet she was someone's maid. This stratification of Evangelical churches had never bothered me before. In fact, I had never really considered it. But now my conscience was pricking me. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Evangelicalism was not promoting harmony between the races and classes but, rather, was structured so as to reinforce these social and cultural separation between believers. What bothered me most was that this attitude was very American.

Segregation was only one of the problems I observed with the imported evangelicalism of Guatemala. A bigger problem is the disease of dissension, which is endemic to protestantism. When the Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists, and the other well-meaning missionaries came to Guatemala, they brought with them all the doctrinal spats that American churches split over. Guatemalan churches, like their American counterparts, are constantly in a state of strife and doctrinal turmoil, splitting into new churches. New denominations spring up in Guatemala at a breathtaking rate. Pastors, (often self-proclaimed, with little or no education) found new churches, taking large portions of their former congregations with them.

In one little Evangelical church the leaders decided to get hymnals (at great expense to the members) and tone down the music on Sundays, so the neighbors wouldn't think they were Pentecostals. Some members left because they didn't want to give up swaying and hand-clapping during worship.

Another church split over the election of a female elder. Splinter groups split from splinter groups which had split from other splinter groups. The church was "multiplying," all right.

American Evangelical missionaries pour into the country to do what they called "church planting." This means that the newly arrived American "pastor" goes door-knocking until he finds a handful of converts, then they proceed to meet and call it "church." (This is typical of non-denominational Evangelism the world over.) Although several missions groups, including the one which had brought us to Guatemala, work to unite Protestants and help them work together, I realized that there is no reason to assume that unity can be established when unity has never been established between Protestants, since Luther's day!

I asked myself where was the "one body, one faith, and one baptism" St. Paul spoke about so passionately? I began to fear that the answer could not be what American missionaries were peddling, at least it couldn't be the whole answer.

One day we drove through a small village where I counted three Pentecostal churches on one block. Before the arrival of protestantism, this town was united in its Catholicism. The Catholic parish used to be the center of the community, but now there were multitudes of competing Protestant churches, each promoting its particular brand of evangelicalism: Church of Christ, Presbyterian, non-denominational, Assemblies of God, Mennonite Brethren, and Baptists of every conceivable stripe were all there, scratching around for converts, and reminding their flocks that all the other groups were wrong (especially, of course, the Catholics).

I thought about this choose-your-own-church syndrome constantly. While all of us missionaries from these various denominations proclaimed the purity of our gospel, the truth was, there was no way for any of us to know for sure which of us had it "most right."

I had no doubt that people who previously had no relationship with Jesus Christ were being saved and brought into God's family through the great efforts and sacrifices of Evangelical missionaries. Still, along with the message "You must be born again," came all the same difficulties of disunity and division that plague American evangelicalism.

The problem of the poor and illiterate forced me to rethink several issues. For one thing, I had been taught that to know God one must know the Bible. I had been taught a very detailed, specific interpretive system and had a great deal of experience in using it to understand Scripture. I'd been reading and memorizing Scripture passages since childhood and, I thought, I knew what it all meant. I knew the Bible was meant to be taken literally, most of the time, especially regarding creation and the End Times. I knew the spots where taking it literally could get you into trouble. A good example being the Bread of Life discourse in John 6 or the teaching on justification in James 2:24. Regardless of what other denominations taught, I knew the truth because I knew how to study Scripture for myself. At least that's what I thought.

Most educated Evangelicals are confident in their theology, and I was no exception. For example, if I met a pastor who taught that infant baptism was acceptable, I knew he was wrong and I could prove it from Scripture. I could read the Bible and understand it and apply it to my life. I could use the study tools necessary to understand what it meant. I had well-used lexicons and concordances and had studied the Bible for years. But when I came to Guatemala, living in a country of high illiteracy, I was forced to ask the following question for the first time in my life:

"If a person's knowledge of truth depends to a great measure upon his ability to read and understand and use Scripture, and if that person's growth in Christ depends upon his being able to do the same, what about the illiterate?"

Guatemala has an illiteracy rate of about 50 percent. How would those illiterate believers grow in Christ? How could they fulfill the mandate of prayer and daily personal Bible study? Translating the Bible into a person's native language, (Guatemala has over 22 distinct Mayan languages in addition to Spanish) wouldn't even begin to help him understand, in context, Scripture's meaning. Illiterate people have always depended for knowledge of the truth and for spiritual growth, not on the Bible, a book they can't read, but on the Church and its teaching and preaching.

This realization was earth-shaking. I saw that evangelicalism had become, by its "Bible alone" principle, a religion of the literate elite. As a missionary taking the gospel to illiterate people, I realized I had to be absolutely sure, before God, that what I was telling them was, in fact, the Christian Faith, free from error. It had to be 100 percent Truth with a capital T. The problem was, using the "Bible alone" principle I had been taught, I had no way to be absolutely sure.

I witnessed among Guatemalan Evangelicals a cacophony of conflicting teachings. Pentecostal television preachers railed against the devil and cast out demons right and left. Fundamentalist non-Pentecostal preachers were just as busy railing against the Pentecostals for speaking in tongues, which was, they warned, a sure sign that they were in cahoots with the devil.

Some preachers were teaching a "health and wealth gospel" in one of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nations. Many preached American-style democracy as the "biblical" government God wanted to see in Guatemala. Baptists preached that infant baptism didn't count and that those who practice it aren't "true Christians." Lutheran missionaries were busy baptizing babies. Quakers told people they didn't need any outward symbols of Christianity.

Every Evangelical preacher waved his Bible around, claiming it as his authority. "The Bible says . . ." is perhaps the most common phrase heard on the radio in Guatemala these days.

With all the competing voices, how was one to know who was right? What mere man could stand up with a clear conscience before a group of illiterate people and say, "This is what the Bible means?" The sheer arrogance of what was going on made it difficult for me to listen to sermons after a while. All of them were "preaching the gospel." But whose gospel? I wondered. Around that time, a more fundamental question loomed: What is the gospel?

I remember hearing one day how a Methodist missionary on one side of the mountain made a deal with the Pentecostal missionary on the other side saying, "I won't tell your people they need to baptize their babies if you won't tell mine that they need to speak in tongues."

I had plenty of theological training. I knew the answers I'd learned in my Bible classes at college. I knew what I'd been told was true, but I also knew many good Christians who did not hold to some of those teachings. Even I held opinions which differed from what I was taught as a child. Still, I wanted to be able to tell a new Christian where he or she could go to church and really learn the truth about God. I began to ask myself, "What exactly is my personal theology?" I felt if only I could firm up my own beliefs, I'd be able to find the answer. The more I thought about this, the scarier my conclusions became, because the bottom line for me and for every other individual Protestant Christian was this: Theology for the modern Evangelical is a matter of his own opinion about what Scripture means.

For years my husband and I had chosen where to attend church based on the following criteria: First, the teachings and doctrinal statement had to agree with our own conclusions. Second, there had to be a group of people of our socio-economic level with whom we could share good fellowship. And third, we had to be comfortable with the style of worship. The question, "Do they teach the whole truth?" never entered into the equation, because in the Protestant system of individual interpretation of Scripture, there is no way to know who has the whole truth. Protestantism offers a sort of functional agnosticism with regard to the meaning of Scripture. One simply can't know for sure. But I knew that Christ established a Church, and He meant it to contain all Truth. And I was beginning to see that in the Protestant scheme of things, this was completely unattainable.

We observed many of our non-denominational missionary friends urging these people to find a "bible believing church" where Scripture was taught accurately. This was especially the case after a large crusade in which hundreds came forward to "get saved." The interesting thing was, if the missionaries were Pentecostals or Charismatics, what they meant by a "Bible-believing church" was a "Spirit-filled" church with lively music and overt expressions of the sign gifts. If the missionaries were Baptists or some other form of Fundamentalists, what they meant by "bible-believing" was a non-pentecostal church with heavy emphasis on exegetical preaching and personal Bible study (assuming, of course that the people in question could read). In our dealings with people, what we ended up telling them was to choose a church in which they were comfortable. It was the best we could honestly suggest, because every single church claimed to teach God's truth, straight out of the Bible. Who were we to say one was better, or truer, or more "bible-believing" than another?

At this point I read two important books that rattled me even more. The first was Randall Balmer's fascinating, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Evangelical Sub-culture in America. Balmer, a Columbia University history professor, explored the roots and traditions of my childhood religion with great respect but, nonetheless, with the impartial eye of the outside observer. For the first time, I climbed out of the fishbowl and looked in, and what I saw astounded me. My theological roots were at most only 150 years deep. Contrary to what I had been taught, my version of Christianity didn't go all the way back to the New Testament. Not even close.

From that point on I had a deep desire to understand historic Christianity. I borrowed Paul Johnson's book, The History of Christianity, from a missionary friend. Over the next year I read several books on Church history. I read the works of men I had never heard of before: Anthony of the Desert, Cyril of Jerusalem, Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Ambrose, Eusebius, Ignatius of Antioch. It felt like finding new friends, Christians who knew my Lord so intimately. But their words also profoundly shook my Evangelical theology. The fact that these men were Catholic made me embarrassed and indignant. In all my years as a Christian I had never heard of these people, let alone studied their writings.

I didn't know much about the early Christian Church. In seminary (we attended Biola, in Southern California) we had been taught to believe that after the death of the Apostles, the Church slid immediately into error and stayed that way until Luther nailed his Theses to the door, and then the "real" Christians came out of hiding.

But what I found as I read was that in those formative first thousand years of Christian history the great doctrines, the "fundamentals" of my Christian Faith had been hammered out by the Catholics in councils and synods and by the Church Fathers who wrote and taught and preached! I discovered that although the Reformers were hailed as our heroes, the "Evangelical Protestantism" I had been raised with was quite a long way from the theology promoted by the Reformers. My denomination was a splinter group - a little, teeny, unhistorical, brand-new splinter of a splinter of a splinter. I didn't want the splinter any more. Part of the Church Christ established just wasn't enough. I wanted the whole Church, if it still existed.

This is the point at which I began to have serious doubts about the doctrine of sola scriptura. I noticed that the early Church did not follow the Protestant concept of going by the Bible alone. That was a shocker! My study of the early Church showed that Scripture and Sacred Tradition, promulgated by the Church's teaching magisterium, was the model of authority for the early Christians.

In place of the "One Faith," I saw in Guatemala hundreds of "faiths," hundreds of competing preachers. When there was One Faith, Christianity swept the world like wildfire. At no time in the history of Protestantism has an entire pagan nation turned to Christ. I thought of all the many pagan groups to whom the Catholic Church came and preached the Gospel and who were converted to Christ as a result: the Slavs, the Irish, the Gauls, the Saxons, the fierce Nordic races, the Japanese, Indians of South America, Africans, the list was endless. And here we were in Guatemala as "missionaries," making Catholics into Protestants. These people had been Catholic for five hundred years. All we were doing was "converting" Christians to our way of understanding the Bible. Not a very impressive thing when you compare it to the 2000 years of Catholic evangelization.

The most astonishing discovery came when it dawned on me through long hours of reading and studying Scripture and conservative Evangelical commentaries on biblical sufficiency that Scripture doesn't even teach that it alone is sufficient for knowing all Truth about the Faith. Protestants presuppose sola scriptura, without giving the slightest thought to the possibility that the "Bible alone" is an incorrect view. If that presupposition were erroneous, I reasoned, then everything which was built upon it would be dubious as well.

I knew I couldn't stay where I was as an Evangelical. I had been sharing my struggles with Marty, and he had been doing similar study and soul searching. We decided to resign from our mission board and return to the United States, where my husband took a job teaching in a public high school. Upon arrival back in the States we didn't know where we were headed theologically, but we did know that Evangelicalism was behind us forever. From the time we made this difficult decision to the time we entered the Catholic Church, six months went by.

At first we attended a small Episcopal church, where our need for solemn worship, liturgy, and a meaningful Eucharistic experience was met to a certain extent. At this time the Catechism of the Catholic Church had just been published in English. I bought a copy and Marty and I began to read. It didn't take long for us to realize, with a mixture of anxiety, relief, and joy, that we had finally found the answers to all those doctrinal and moral questions Protestantism could never hope to answer.

The Catechism was the first Catholic book I had ever read. Many more Catholic works soon followed, as well as wrenching sessions in prayer, as the truth became clear and the cost of discipleship became obvious.

Years of prejudice and ignorance do not disappear overnight. We had to lay aside our Protestant glasses, as it were, and see things with Catholic eyes. Having lived in more than one culture, we'd had some practice at this. Still, it was difficult because we were on the verge of giving up our autonomy as determiners of Truth. We had always been in charge of what we believed. Our beliefs had always been stated, "I believe Scripture teaches," and now, in exploring Catholicism, we realized we were heading toward a Faith that would require us to state and believe, "The Church teaches . . ." In some ways leaving Protestantism was like a death. But new life was just around the corner.

In February, 1995, Marty dialed the number for the priest at Blessed Sacrament Church and asked if we could have an appointment. Although I had led the way in some respects toward Rome by my incessant reading and discussion and questions, when it came right down to it, Marty was the one who made the call and said it was time we acted upon what we now knew was the truth. We were on the brink of a life-changing decision. Everything up to that point had been a kind of intense theological investigation without any sort of real commitment. Were we ready to take the next step? Were we willing to go wherever Christ led us?

We had been willing to give up our home and friends in America and go live as missionaries in a foreign land. But now we asked ourselves if we were willing to give up everything for the sake of the gospel - not just material possessions or a job, but our reputations and the respect of our family and friends as well. We had done all the reading and studying, and praying. Now the time had come to speak with a Catholic priest.

I was never more nervous in my life than I was the afternoon Marty and I walked up the steps of the rectory at Blessed Sacrament parish and rang the bell.

Marty gave Fr. O'Donnell a brief explanation of our story and at the end said, "We're pretty sure we want to be Catholics."

Father smiled warmly, "Only the Holy Spirit could have done this in your lives. Welcome home." I fought back the tears that welled up in my eyes. The relief was overwhelming. Home? I'd begun to think finding our true Christian home was an impossible quest. But now I knew it had been there all along - Holy Mother Church, waiting for her children to find their way into Her arms.

The news of our conversion to the Catholic Church didn't go over well. Friends and family were shocked and many were angry with us. We heard all the questions and challenges.

"How could Kris and Marty Franklin buy into the deceptions of the Roman Catholic Church?"

"What went wrong?" they asked us and each other in dismay.

"Nothing went wrong," we assured them. "In fact, everything is finally right." But they couldn't hear us.

There was a lot of speculation about why we were becoming Catholics, much of it unpleasant, all of it inaccurate. Some thought we'd simply grown weary of fighting the "good fight." Others thought we couldn't handle the pressures of missionary life and had popped our spiritual corks. Some thought we must have been lured by the strange attractiveness of the Catholic liturgy, or by some wily, fast-talking, Scripture-twisting priest. One of my family members told us we had lost our faith completely and had walked straight into the jaws of Satan.

The truth was just the opposite. We had found Jesus Christ in the last place anyone, ourselves especially, could have imagined, and His arms were opened wide to welcome us.

Blessed Sacrament Church was packed for the Easter Vigil Mass. At Communion, the priest leaned close and whispered, "Kris, you've waited all your life for this." Then he held up Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life and smiled and said, "The Body of Christ."

"Amen," I said. "I believe it." As I received Jesus sacramentally in Holy Communion for the first time, I thanked Him with all my heart for the miracle of grace He had worked in my life to unite me to Himself in this way, in a wonderful, mysterious way I could never have imagined possible. The day we landed in Guatemala City for the first time, I had hoped we were home. In reality, we were only en route to our real home, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

In the Catholic Church we have found the fullness of the Christian Faith. Not seventy-five percent of the Truth, not ninety percent, but all of it, one hundred percent. We have found real worship, shaped by and focused on Jesus Christ, not on this minister or that minister's opinion about this or that passage of Scripture. We have embraced the Faith of our Fathers, the teachings which Christ intended us to have.

We found in our long, circuitous journey home to the Catholic Church that there is indeed only one Gospel, the Catholic Gospel. There is only one place where one can find the fullness of truth and the most personal of relationships with Jesus Christ - and it isn't Protestantism. The last place we looked for truth was where the Truth had been all along. We are home to stay.

1The term "Dispensational" refers to a brand of biblical interpretation, common to Baptist and other similar Protestant denominations, in which Scripture is divided generally into five or more epochs or "dispensations." According to this theory, God deals differently with people depending upon which dispensation they are in. This interpretive theory was invented by Protestant minister J.N. Darby (founder of the Plymouth Brethren) in the nineteenth century. It was popularized in America by the Schofield and Ryrie Bibles, widely-used among Evangelicals. Dispensationalists place heavy emphasis on the "End Times," especially the "rapture" and the "tribulation."