Coming Closer Together: Fostering Community in Your Church

Coming Closer Together: Fostering Community in Your Church

Credit to VinnyCiro

For many people, attending church gives them a chance to be involved in a community. Some might not have other places where they feel like they’re part of a community of like-minded people. Ensuring that your church offers a place where everyone feels welcome and surrounded by people who support them is an important part of sharing your faith with each other. If you want to foster community within your church, there are several ways you can do it with structured planning and with more organic approaches. Try these ways to strengthen the community in your church and create a supportive network of people with a shared faith.

Supporting Church Members

Churches often aim to be supportive communities, where members of the congregation can find comfort, as well as practical help. There are lots of ways that everyone in the church can support each other when help is needed. Some churches offer support groups addressing various issues that help people in the congregation, as well as the wider community. Other churches might have advice available on a range of life issues, perhaps through their website or other materials. Being there for church members who are struggling is always helpful. For example, if someone is ill or grieving, bringing them meals can be a practical thing that helps.

Church Activities

Some churches don’t want to make the structure of their community too rigid. But even if you want to avoid having a strict schedule of events, you can still arrange regular activities and things to do. Of course, there are important dates when you might arrange community events to celebrate and recognize your faith. You can also organize activities outside of these dates as fun things to do that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the church directly. A church cookout or a bowling trip for younger members can be great opportunities to get to know each other.

Coming Closer Together: Fostering Community in Your Church

Credit to VinnyCiro

Organize a Church Retreat

If you want to go beyond short activities now and then, another idea is a church retreat. It can be a chance to connect with and explore your faith, while at the same time getting closer to other members of your church. Spending time living together for a couple of days can help you to understand each other better and see how everyone acts outside of church. There are some Christian retreat centers you could choose from, which make a useful base for a conference or a more fun family trip. Consider the purpose of the retreat and how it will help your church community.

Encourage Involvement from Everyone

If a church community is to flourish, it’s important for everyone to get involved. Individuals need to make an effort to take an interest in each other, be supportive and be a part of the community in any way they are able. It’s hard for a community to stay together if only a few people make an effort.

The church offers a strong sense of community to many people, so helping the community aspect along can be valuable to everyone.

What If God Isn't Real?

What If God Isn’t Real?

My son’s question…

As I sat with my older 3 kids last night waiting for Ash Wednesday Mass to begin, my 10 year old son was having an attitude about being at church. It’s not really out of the norm for one of them to grumble about it, so I politely explained to him how important it is that we do everything for God.

He then asked me a question that none of them have ever asked me:  Dad, what if God isn’t real?  Would we still have to go to church?

Wow – how do you respond to this as a parent? How would I respond to this if another adult asked me this question?

My response to him…

Here’s how I responded:  We wouldn’t exist without God. Nothing that is here in the world today would exist.  There would be a big emptiness. Luckily, son, God is real, and it is because of what Jesus has done for us and promised us that we are here tonight, and every week.

Within the same discussion, he said, “Dad, I don’t want to get the ashes on my forehead.”

I explained to him why we get the ashes and asked why he didn’t want them.  His answer? “The priest has germs and the ashes are hot because they come from a volcano.”

I don’t know if it’s his age, or what, but he’s really been a tough one to get involved and interested in church. As the spiritual leader in my house, though, it’s my job to keep him steered in the right direction.  He received his First Communion a few years ago and has gone to Confession several times.  He attends Religious Education classes every Sunday through Easter, but the remaining time after that he attends Mass with the family.

What I can do as a dad…

I’m going to keep steering him towards God and encouraging him. Sometimes I forget he’s only 10 and that he gets nervous about things.  I also forget that when I was 10, I was a Southern Baptist preacher’s son, and I didn’t always want to be there, but my parents didn’t give up. They did what I’m doing today. They kept me in church and learning about God.  Going to church wasn’t optional, it was our way of life and tradition.

This year for Lent, I’ve really thought about how I can give back to others, including my family.  I spend a lot of time doing things that don’t really have much value to others. Like any typical man, I love video games – mainly, sports games on the XBox.  I stopped to think that if I spent as much time with my kids reading and praying with them as I do on other things, maybe they would grow in their faith more than they have.  It really hit home with me when I started thinking about all the time I have wasted.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s ok to have occasional “me” time, but it needs to be limited, and it doesn’t need to interfere with family time.

When I pondered my son’s attitude and questions again, I realized it all comes back to how well we teach him and raise him in the Catholic faith.  Are we truly being mirror images of Jesus Christ?  Or are we too busy getting wrapped up in our busy lives? If we can’t answer this question honestly and quickly, chances are we have work to do.

I see myself in him…

I see so much of me in my oldest son that I almost feel like I’m talking to myself sometimes. He’s a sweet, caring, smart boy who is trying to find his place and purpose in this world.  He needs my guidance and my support.  School and RE teachers can only do so much.  The real evangilization comes from mom and dad.  What can we do to further his spiritual development?  What are we doing today to hinder it?

Prayer is a great place, and the best place, to start as a parent. Instead of trying to do things on our own, we need to ask God for help. We don’t have to be in this parenting thing alone, and we aren’t.  We should ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for us and pray that God touch our lives as parents, and our kids as they learn and grow.  Pray the Rosary.  There is no better way to touch the heart of Jesus than praying His rosary!

I really hope I can get through to my kids that going to church and being Catholic shouldn’t be something they regret. It is what defines us. As Christians, we are called to reflect Christ in all that we do.  If we aren’t doing that with our own family members, how can we expect to change the world?

 

7 Ways To Be A Catholic Dad To Your Kids

Society has painted an inaccurate picture of what a good dad should be.  Selfish, lazy, abusive, and controlling, are common attributes we see all over TV and in the modern world. Dads are doing things to their families today that are unthinkable and despicable. These types of dads do not deserve to be called “dad.”

What Has God Called Us To Do?

Dads are called by God to be the spiritual leaders of the household. We should be raising our families to live and grow in the Catholic faith.  As heads of the household, this does not mean we can do anything we want and treat our family members any way that we want. Being the spiritual leader of the household is a major honor and responsibility. Everything that we do should reflect a Christ-like image. In today’s world, we are so “busy” doing everything else that we often neglect to put our family’s spiritual well-being first. God has not called us to be a busy bee.  He has called us to take up our crosses as dads and follow Him. He has called us to be faithful.

Here are 7 ways that we can guide our kids at home:

  • Don’t Rely on Religious Education Classes to Teach Everything
  • Listen
  • Go to Confession as a Family
  • Teach them the Holy Rosary
  • Educate them with Bible stories
  • Talk about what the Catholic Church believes
  • Go to Mass

Don’t Rely on Religious Education Classes To Teach Everything

Don’t get me wrong, the Catholic Church has a fantastic RE program and our kids should absolutely attend!  But, we can’t expect to send them to a weekly class to get all that they need for their spiritual nourishment. Dads need to take the lead and guide their kids in everything that they do so that what they do is pleasing to God. The most important example of a spiritual life starts at home.

Listen

One of the most important things as dads is that we need to listen to our kids and respond with empathy and understanding. Sure, we need to guide our kids with directions as they are completing their homework and chores, but we also need to be a silent listener to allow our kids the comfort of confiding in their dad.  Sometimes we are too quick to respond and we don’t always completely hear what our kids are trying to tell us. I am so guilty of this! We need to be slower to speak and model the importance of listening with a comforting ear. Our kids are learning so much every day in the world and we need to be able to hear about their experiences. Not all of these experiences will be positive so this will be a good opportunity to guide them in their spiritual journey to handle situations in the right way. If we don’t listen, how do we know what’s really happening in their little worlds?

Go to Confession as a Family

7 Ways To Be A Catholic Dad To Your Kids

One of the most important sacraments in the Catholic Church is the wonderful gift of Reconciliation! Use it! Go to confession regularly!  Don’t just go once a year. God has called us to ask Him for forgiveness for our sins, and we need to receive absolution. Again, this is another wake up call for me. This is an area where I think I can improve as a dad. We need to teach our kids the importance of confessing both venial and mortal sins.  Confession has always been one of those things that has been hard to go to. Make it a regular occurrence and encourage your family to go. Don’t let anything hold you back from going!

Teach them the Holy Rosary

Prayer is touching the heart of God in one of the most intimate ways possible. Make learning and reciting the Rosary a daily practice in your family. What a wonderful way of contemplating on all of the major events in the life of Christ. If your kids do not have their own rosary beads, make it a habit to get them their own.  There are so many tutorials online on how to pray the Rosary. Get your kids involved in learning how to recite it and get them comfortable with praying it daily. The rosary is the most powerful weapon in protecting our souls from the fires of Hell.

Educate them with Bible Stories

7 Ways To Be A Catholic Dad To Your Kids

Our kids need to know the major stories in the Bible, along with many of the Catholic traditions that trace back to the time of Jesus. Make it a habit to pick up the Bible every night and study God’s word. There are wonderful Catholic study tools and children’s Bibles on the market, so investing in them is a very good way to run a successful Bible study at home.

Talk About What the Catholic Church Believes

We need to educate our kids on what the Catholic Church teaches and believes. Use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as your guide in educating them on the important foundations of our faith. Teaching them about the sacraments is a great place to start. Not many kids actually know what the sacraments are. Most of them don’t learn them until they are in religious education classes. Make it a point to be the leader in developing your kids’ understanding of the Catholic faith from an early age.

Go to Mass

This may seem like an obvious one, but go to Mass. Demonstrate to your kids the importance of attending weekly.  Talk to them about the different parts of the Mass and encourage their participation.  We are so fortunate as Catholics to receive Jesus himself in the Eucharist.  Many younger kids will not understand how and why we receive His body and blood. Talk to them about it and answer any questions they may have.  Get your kids in the habit of getting up and going to church on Sunday. Make it a requirement. We can’t control what our kids do when they are old enough to leave the nest, but we can control the foundation we set at an early age.

Conclusion

In all things that you do as a dad, don’t ever forget to be humble. Demonstrate that power, money, success or fame don’t lead to heaven.  Take up your cross.  Lead by example. Just because God has called you to be the head of the household doesn’t give you the right to be exempt from things. Lay the foundation of serving others first. If you teach your kids to be selfish and money hungry, what do you think will happen in the future? We need to teach our kids how to serve the hungry, the needy and the naked in our world. Giving to others is a great sign of Christ’s love. Be sensitive to what you say and what you do around your kids. Don’t just talk the talk.  Walk the walk. Be a sign of Christ’s love to your family.

How to Join the Catholic Church

How to Join the Catholic Church

Coming into “full communion” with the Catholic Church is an absolutely beautiful experience.  It is one that a candidate should never take lightly and should fully understand what they are doing and why.

Here are the steps you take to join.

Note:  there are several paths you may follow depending on whether or not you have been previously baptized in the Catholic Church.

Find a parish – Hopefully you will have a local parish nearby.  If you are unaware of where a Catholic parish is in your area, search Google or MassTimes.  Most parishes have their mass times posted online.

Contact the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Coordinator – Call the church office and get in touch with their RCIA Coordinator.  He or she will more than likely want to meet with you to talk about your background, as well as go over the process to come into the church at Easter Vigil.

Attend RCIA –  For children at the age of reason (age 7) and for adults, the Catholic Church has a very well-established RCIA program.  RCIA is designed to teach the basics of the Catholic faith to new Christians as well as those who are converting from a non-Catholic background. If you have already been initiated into the church, you do not have to attend RCIA. Even if you have not yet made up your mind whether or not you are going to come into the church, you can still attend RCIA to gain more knowledge about the faith.

There are 5 stages of the RCIA process:

Inquiry – this is the initial period where you are asking questions, figuring everything out, and determining whether or not you are ready to commit.

Catechumanate – period after you have made the decision to enter the church and are being “catechized” about the faith, or learning all of the basic points of the Catholic Church.  You will attend regular RCIA meetings to discuss readings for the week, as well as major points in the Catholic faith.  You will attend, learn, and grow all the way until Easter Vigil.

Purification and Preparation – Your sponsor and the Church will help you along your path to the day you are received into the church during Lent.

Initiation – this marks the time when you are received into the church and will receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist).  For those who have previously been baptized, you will not be baptized again.

Mystagogy – a period of reflection after being received at Easter Vigil where you are able to reflect and learn more about the mysteries of the faith.

My Experience

I was born and raised a Southern Baptist down in the deep south (Georgia, if you haven’t figured that one out by now).  I am the son of a retired Southern Baptist preacher and my older brother is still a Southern Baptist preacher. I spent many years playing the piano for a non-denominational Christian church until I moved to Ohio in 2004.

I really didn’t know much about the Catholic faith, nor did I have much desire to, until my wife got me to attend mass with her. It was so foreign to me. There were bits and pieces of things that reminded me of my Baptist background, but there was so much I didn’t know.

The one thing that stuck out to me right off the bat was the amount of scripture readings in each Sunday mass. There wasn’t any of this “look at how well I sing” or “we have a huge congregation” or “our band is awesome.”  Don’t get me wrong, being able to use your talents for God is wonderful, but I just began to feel as if the Protestant churches I had been attending emphasized themselves more than God.

What’s so wonderful about the mass is that it is not about our accomplishments – how well we sing, what we wear, how many Sundays in a row we attend Church.  The mass focuses on Jesus and His body and blood which we receive every mass in the Eucharist.

My wife and I decided we were going to attend RCIA so we began the long process. We quickly got involved in the weekly RCIA classes, and began to learn more and more about the Catholic faith. By Easter Vigil, 2008, we had come into full communion with the Catholic faith.

Going through RCIA opened my eyes to the many things I thought I knew about the Catholic faith, but I quickly began to realize I was wrong. And those preaching to me from Protestant pulpits were wrong. And my dad was wrong about it. God moved us into the Catholic faith and I am so glad he did. It’s truly the only church He founded and the only one that is traceable back to his time on Earth.

Important!!! Go to mass regularly – Once you are fully in the church, you have only just begun your new life in Christ’s church. Attending mass on a regular basis very important in the continual development of your faith. Meet new people and ask questions. Receive the Eucharist weekly and look for ways to participate and interact with other Catholics.

I hope this brief explanation of the process is helpful if you are considering joining the church. If you have any questions that I may not have answered above, please contact me at jeremy@goaskyourdaddy.com.

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Catholicism 101: What's The Deal with Statues and Images?

Catholicism 101: What’s The Deal With Statues and Images?

The Catholic Church’s history stems all the way back to the time of Jesus Christ.  In fact, it’s the only church in existence that does. There are over 2,000 years of Christian tradition that still influence Catholicism today, so today I’d like to touch on the tradition of the presence of statues and images inside Catholic parishes.

Before we dive into the meat of the conversation, one needs to understand a Catholic’s belief regarding the communion of saints.  Catholic tradition (stemming back to Jesus himself) has taught us that just because a member of the body of Christ is no longer with us physically on earth, he or she is still a part of the spiritual body of Christ.  We do not separate our departed brothers and sisters from the body of Christ’s church.  The Bible teaches us that those in Heaven are aware of the prayers of those on Earth, which is why we ask them to intercede for us (NOT WORSHIP).

When we ask a saint to intercede for us, we are making God happy. God loves it when we ask others to pray for us, and it makes no difference if that member of the church is here with us, or in Heaven.  These godly men and women prayed fervently while here on Earth, so why would they stop praying for us once they are in Heaven?

Because the communion of saints is so important to us, we want to always remember these souls and ask that they pray for us and with us to God. We don’t pray to them INSTEAD of God, we simply ask them to intercede on our behalf.  This does not violate 1 Timothy 2:5.  Isn’t it kind of great we have a whole spiritual army praying with us?

Why statues?

Catholicism 101: What's The Deal with Statues and Images?

Let’s think about one of the greatest college football coaches ever to step onto the field – Bear Bryant – for the University of Alabama. I think most of us would say he will forever be known as a legend – not only in Tuscaloosa, but in all of college football. He accomplished so much on and off the field, and left a legacy that few may ever be able to imitate.  Because of his accomplishments and the legacy he left, the university placed a statue of him outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

When fans file in and out of the stadium for games, or just leisurely pass by, they can stop and remember the wonderful coach that Bear Bryant was, and never forget all that he did in support of the university.

With this in mind, would you say that any fan worshiped the statue of Bear Bryant?  Of course not!  The statue is simply there as a reminder of the school’s rich history and to honor the life and career of Bear Bryant.

We can apply this same logic to why we as Catholics place statues of important figures in our faith. We place statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, popes, and other saints inside our churches to simply remember and honor the lives they led. There is no act of worship taking place when we do this.

Jesus wants us to never forget Him.  We are to always remember the sacrifice he made at the cross, and having a crucifix with Jesus on it inside our church reminds us of that sacrifice.

Why so many images?

Just as we honor with statues, you will also find many images (both on the walls and inside stained glass) to remind us of the different events in the life of Jesus. A good way to think about this is in comparing this to me hanging a picture of my family in my house. I’m not worshiping the image, right?  It is hanging up because I am proud of that person and love them. It’s the same with religious images. With such a rich history, the Catholic Church encourages us to think, and think often, about all of the things that make us Christian.

Why does Pope Francis bow to and kiss a statue of Mary?

Catholicism 101: What's The Deal with Statues and Images?

To an outsider, mostly of the Protestant denomination, it may appear as if the Pope is bowing in worship to the statue of Mary, and is committing idolatry. This is so far from the truth. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the most honored saint in the Catholic faith, and rightfully so, but we are forbidden to give her more honor than we do to Jesus.

The Pope is simply showing honor to the Blessed Mother AND to Jesus when he bows to and kisses the statue. This is not idolatry, but rather following God’s commandment that we honor our father and our mother. Showing honor to Mary honors God.

There are three “levels” of honor/worship recognized in the Catholic Church.  If you are not Catholic, and are looking at this from the outside looking in, looks can deceive you.  There are three Greek words used to identify these levels:

  • Dulia – This is a type of honor that is reserved for only the saints.  We honor the saints for the exemplary lives they lived while on earth, and to recognize them as stewards for Christ. This level of honor is subordinate to the honor we give to God.
  • Hyperdulia – honor/veneration reserved only for Mary.  Mary is the Mother of God, a positive role model for her “yes” she gave when she was told she would bring Jesus into the world.  Again, this level of honor is subordinate to the honor we give God.
  • Latria – This is the highest form of honor/worship and it is only given to God. To worship another figure or anything other than God with this amount of honor is strictly forbidden in the Catholic Church.

Conclusion

I hope this brief explanation of one aspect of my Catholic faith has been educational and provided you with new information.  If you have any questions about what I’ve covered today, or have another question about the Catholic faith you’d like me to blog about, please send me an email or post it in the comments section.  God bless!

Be A Dad Who Always Makes Time For His Family!

Be A Dad Who Always Makes Time For His Family!

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There’s no question that being a daddy takes a lot of time and hard work. That’s why I am committed to being in the moment of every part of my kids’ lives from day one until I leave this earth. Right now, I have the pleasure of having all of my kids under my roof, but I know one day they will move out and build families of their own. The day will come when I will have to pick up the phone to talk to them, and I’m not looking forward to it.

Being a dad means more than handing out directions. It’s about letting you kids see how a daddy should be present for his kids, both physically and emotionally. Kids gain early impressions of how they will treat us as they get older by the way we treat them today. Are we going to set up and be the dad we know our kids need even when they may be grown up and living miles away, or are we just going to go about doing what we want to do for ourselves and forego having a lifelong relationship with them?

I may not understand every decision my kids make in their lives, but that doesn’t mean I can’t support them and show interest in what they are interested in – whether it be in school, play, sports, or every day life choices.  I can’t imagine being a dad that decides that he would rather stay home than attend sporting events, ballet recitals, school activities, first communions, or family vacations. My life would be completely empty if I didn’t have my kids.

Unfortunately, my own dad has decided that he is not going to continue to be a dad to me or to his grandchildren. I am at wits end with him.  I have tried everything I know to do as his son to tell him that being a dad doesn’t stop even though I’m 37 and living over 400 miles away. He has 4 grandchildren that are begging to see their Pawpaw and they are once again going to be disappointed that he has chosen himself over spending time with them over the Christmas holidays.  Although my mom makes the effort to travel to see her grandchildren, she has not succeeded with getting my dad on a plane to visit a couple of times a year.

There is absolutely no excuse for my dad’s behavior. Even though he’s in his mid 70’s, he’s not dead yet and has been given every chance possible to visit and spend time with me and my kids.   Every time he has been invited to visit and attend a special event in my kids’ lives, he’s said no. And no is the answer my kids keep hearing regardless of the reason, which at this point doesn’t even matter to them.  They want to see their Pawpaw and play with him. They don’t care that he has a reservation with his couch to watch TV.

I want my dad to have a strong relationship with me and his grandchildren.  I want my kids to be able to remember all of the fond times they spent with their grandfather.  I honestly can say I don’t even think they will remember much of him after he’s gone.  They keep asking me why their Pawpaw doesn’t want to see them.  Even if it’s not the impression he is intending to put out there, that’s how they are perceiving it. Only grandma travels to visit, so they automatically think Pawpaw has better things to do than come with her.

How am I supposed to tell my kids that my dad will not be joining us for the Christmas vacation we had planned for the families to get together?  I’ve already heard all of his excuses and have passed them off as just reasons not to want to make an effort to spend time with us.  I’m not about to make those excuses for him when explaining to my kids where Pawpaw is.  They are going to hear the truth every time.

My dad is missing them grow up. There’s no excuse in the world that will suffice. No action on his part is acceptable other than true effort to see his grandchildren.  I’m not apologizing for moving to Ohio.  I’m not apologizing for becoming Catholic against his wishes. I’m not doing it. I’m living my life the way God has directed me to, and I am raising my kids to do the same. If he wishes to see his grandchildren, who are all the greatest blessings God gave his son, then he needs to make the effort and stop saying “no.”

Dads, it’s time for us all to step up and be the fathers that God has called us to be. Don’t let time slip away.  Before you know it, you’ll be longing for the good ole’ days and all you’ll have left is today. Love your kids and put them first. Whenever you have the chance to spend time with them, do it. Don’t make excuses and don’t put other things above them.

Dad, if you are reading this by some chance, just look at what you are doing every time you refuse to make an effort to see us.  Do you think it is fun for me to have to explain where you are to your grandchildren? I already went through a period of time with you and mom separated – and you might as well have been 2,000 miles away. Your grandchildren are the greatest and they deserve a grandfather who makes an effort to see them – even when he’s not feeling his greatest.  I’ll do whatever it takes for that to happen – even if I have to drive down there myself and bring you back. You are getting up there in age, dad, and you don’t have much time left to be able to make a difference in their lives.  Is this really the example you want to leave them before you are gone? Mom is always the one who makes the effort to call and to visit.  I know you have a phone and can use one.  Their eyes light up every time they get to talk to you or see you.  Imagine how their eyes are going to look when they find out you are going to miss the big trip that’s already been planned for Christmas.  What do you have that is more important that seeing your family? When they ask me where you are, I’m going to tell them you said you weren’t coming.  I am not looking forward to their reactions, but I’m also not going to stick up for you any longer.  You either want a relationship or you want to do what’s best for yourself.  I’m a great dad, and they are great kids.  We aren’t perfect, but we are family.  I wish I had a way to be able to credit you for raising me to be a great dad, but I have become one on my own.  I have worked hard, but it comes with ease because my kids make living worthwhile.  I will continue to work hard and show my kids what a dad is supposed to be, and when they have kids of their own, they will be able to count on their grandfather no matter what. Think about all of this. Think about all you are missing out on as you sit at home during our vacation. I still love you dad, but please make more of an effort. Time is running out…

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An Attitude of Gratitude

The priest spoke this morning on having an attitude of gratitude in our lives.  We need to be grateful for our families, our friends, our church, and most of all, for our Lord and Savior who died for us. Too often, we get distracted by the busy world to be grateful for what we have, who we have, where we live, and what God has done for us.

There are people in this world that need our help. We don’t have to be rich to be able to make a difference in the world.  One small random act of kindness can go a long way.  From feeding one homeless person a meal to adopting a child, we can show our gratitude for others.

The current election in the USA strays far away from what really needs to happen in our world.  Rich businessmen and powerful politicians care more about doing what’s best for themselves than reaching out to others in need. While there are still some good people left in Washington, I can’t help but think of the select few in the world who haven’t thought of anyone else but themselves.

From the time we wake up in the morning until the time we go to bed, the number of blessings we receive (whether we realize it or not) are so many in count that we are overwhelmed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. The air we breath is enough to be grateful to God for giving us another day to live.

I can’t always say that I have lived with an attitude of gratitude. I am extremely blessed with a wife, 4 kids, a job, a roof over my head, and a strong foundation in God’s love. God wants me to get out into the world and feed the hungry, minister to the poor, and clothe the naked. What I do for the least of us I do for God.

Just as I’m writing this post, my oldest son and daughter started slapping each other over a Kindle. What a perfect opportunity I had to tell them that their love for each other was so much more important than an electronic.  I hope that I can get through to them to realize that the way they treat each other now will carry on through life)

What will you be grateful for today, tomorrow, and the weeks/years to come?  Are you living with an attitude of gratitude? 

Why Leaving the Protestant Church Was the Right Decision

Why Leaving the Protestant Church Was the Right Decision

I don’t usually talk about why I left the Protestant Church very much, and I’m sure to push a few buttons whenever I do, so here goes nothing.

The Protestant Church is a man-made denomination.  A denomination that does not originate from Jesus Christ himself. There are over 43,000 Protestant denominations. How could any of them be THE church Jesus founded?  The answer is none of them are. Jesus founded the Catholic(universal) Church, but he never said that we were to found 43,000 denominations that twisted the words that He said.

Here are ten reasons I left the Protestant faith in the rear view mirror and why I will never go back. There are more, but these are the biggest ones.

  1. Jesus called me to the Catholic Church.  This is by far the biggest reason for leaving the man-made Protestant faith and joining the only true church founded by Jesus.  In 2009, my wife and I followed God’s calling to the Church He founded.
  2. Once saved, always saved is a lie. Jesus came to die for our sins once and for all. But, Protestants believe that once you are “born again” and profess Jesus Christ as your “Lord and savior” you are saved forever. Even if you are a murderer, or someone who falls away from the church for the rest of your life.  This is simply not in the Bible and not true. We all fall away from salvation because we are human, but Jesus is always there to welcome us again with open arms.  We are constantly working towards our salvation, which is why we must confess our sins and be truly sorry.  We cannot do that without the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  3. Protestants don’t believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Jesus was so very clear when He said, “This IS my body and this IS my blood.” Jesus meant it literally. The Catholic Church teaches that when we eat the bread and drink the wine that through the power of the Holy Spirit we are consuming Jesus Christ himself. He said it and meant it at the Last Supper.  Never was this meant to just be an “emblem” or “symbol.”  The Protestant Church added this to the long list of lies they teach their congregations. The Catholic Mass leads up to the Eucharist – the point where we can actually consume Jesus, body, soul, and divinity. Definitely NOT just a symbol. If it were, why did he say what he said during the Last Supper?
  4. Protestants don’t recognize the Blessed Virgin Mary as anything more than the bearer of the savior.  Our Blessed Mother is truly the Mother of God. She was the vessel by which Jesus came into the world.  It is because of her “yes” to the calling to bear Jesus as a virgin that we honor her and consider her the mother of God. Protestants only recognize Mary at Christmas and maybe Easter. Jesus told us to honor her and it’s even written in the Ten Commandments that we are to honor our father and mother.  Mary is a positive example of everything that we should strive to be.  She is alive in Heaven and can direct our prayers to God. The Blessed Mother should be honored at more times than just Christmas and Easter.  By praying the Rosary and just by asking for her intercession, we honor God!
  5. Protestants only follow what’s written in scripture. While we should hold all of the scriptures as sacred and true, we have to understand that there was NO BIBLE at the time of Jesus, and that a lot of the events that happened during his life were not written down. Sola Scriptura was made up by Protestants. Jesus told us to continue to honor and follow the traditions handed down by his very disciples, which is what Catholics do.  Protestants try to find an answer to everything written in the Bible. It’s just not what God wanted us to do.  Jesus handed down traditions beginning with his apostles, and are still carried out today.  Jesus did not sanction just the Bible as authority.  He handed down his authority to the apostles, with Peter being the first Pope.
  6. Protestants limit baptism.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that infants cannot be baptized.  In fact, Jesus calls all of his children to be baptized. Protestants made up the fact that one must be “born again” and able to “accept Jesus Christ as his/her personal Lord and savior” in order to be baptized.  No where in the Bible is this present. Jesus would never deny a child from the Sacrament of Baptism!
  7. Southern Baptists count their numbers.  Never have I seen a church so fascinated with counting how many people are in their congregation and broadcasting it all over the place.  Jesus never said to do this.  Catholics are more focused on true worship and are not concerned with the number of people joining their parishes.
  8. Alter calls are pointless.  Another man-made tradition is the alter call.  At the end of every Protestant service is an opportunity to show everyone that you are serious about accepting Jesus into your heart. Many times, if one person goes up front to the alter, other people start going up front.  It’s a monkey-see, monkey-do situation. Just not biblical!
  9. Baptists believe Catholics worship Mary.  Oh geez, if I had a nickel every time I heard this ridiculous accusation.  Baptists are really taught by their leaders that Catholics are evil and practicing idolatry by “worshiping Mary.”  No Catholic worships Mary.  If a Catholic states that he or she worships Mary then they have no real understanding of the real place Mary holds in the Church. Mary is a very important person in the Catholic Church who is very deserving of high honor, but this honor is subordinate to the worship and honor that we reserve for God alone. Mary is the vessel by which God chose to send Jesus into the world, and this is the main reason Catholics honor her. Jesus loved his mother, and even up until the point of his death told us to behold her. Let’s put it this way. We honor our earthly mothers, right?  But none of us would say we worship her.  Same goes for Mary. Honor her?  Yes.  Worship her, no. Baptists are clearly misinformed that we worship Mary.  To worship anyone other than God alone is grounds for excommunication. Do you hear that, Baptists?
  10. Too many interpretations. Almost every Protestant Church I ever attended had different interpretations of scripture. I am so glad the Catholic Church has already interpreted everything for me, and all I have to do is focus on doing what God has called me to do. One Protestant Church cannot possibly differ so much from another, but this is reality. With over 43,000 Protestant churches, there are too many interpretations to count.  Jesus came to divide, but not in this manner.

 

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Dear Strangers, Stop Telling Me: "You Have Your Hands Full!"

Dear Strangers, Stop Telling Me: “You Have Your Hands Full!”

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Win Your Order

Being a parent of 4 kids is fantastic!  I wouldn’t trade this time with them for anything.  I love everything about my family and enjoy every second of it.  One thing that really irritates me is when someone sees me by myself with all 4 kids, or I tell them that I have 4 kids, and they end up saying, “oh, you have your hands full!”

Yes, I have a lot going on and yes my kids take up a lot of my time, but being a dad isn’t about being “busy” or “overwhelmed.” That’s why I want people to stop saying that annoying phrase to me. My kids aren’t bothering me when I’m with them, nor are they making me wish I didn’t have them. When you see them with us at the grocery, or at a practice, game, or church, they aren’t interfering with our lives.  They are making our lives better!

What do I say when strangers say this to me? My response is always, “No, not full. Blessed!”  My kids are blessings from God, not inconveniences. I prayed from the time I was a kid that God would one day make me a daddy, and he blessed me with four beautiful and healthy kids that are so loving and so kind.

I remember I was at Kroger one time with 2 of my kids. I believe I had the baby and my oldest son with me. The kids were being so good and were helping me shop.  Some lady walked up to me and I knew what was going to come out of her mouth (and I was right).  “I said, ma’am, I have two more at home.”  She responded that I must be busy and overwhelmed all the time.  I said, “Nope, I’m spending time with them right now and I’d like to get back to that if you don’t mind.”  My oldest son, of course, heard what she said and asked why I had my hands full.  I had to explain what it meant and to ignore her.

Visiting down south in Georgia it’s even worse. I get the traditional “southern guilt” whenever I go down there. It’s obvious that they think I have too many kids and “bless my heart” for going out into public with them.  I politely smile, whisper the “Hail Mary” under my breath, and keep moving along.

So the next time you see me out and about with 1 or all 4 of my kids, remember that I am spending time with them and enjoying watching them grow up.  God gave me these little bundles of joy, so in return I am being the dad He has called me to be.  Loving and taking care of them is my top priority.

Pray For Orlando

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My heart goes out to the victims and family members of the Orlando shootings over the weekend.  I can’t fathom someone having so much hatred in their heart to commit the murder of so many innocent people. The 49 people that were killed along with Christina Grimmie were more than just a number. They were someone’s child, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, and best friend. The families and friends they have left behind now have to live every day in pain and sorrow, knowing that there was nothing that they could have done to intervene.

When things like this happen, people often blame God. How could an all-powerful and loving God allow something so bad to happen? God gave man free will.  We have the ability to be good and the ability to be evil.  The night club shooter committed an evil act on his own free will.  God did not cause this to happen.

I pray for the souls of those lost in these tragedies, and for the healing and comfort of the family, friends, and communities the victims have left behind. May God’s tender mercy and loving arms comfort all that have been affected by loss.  I pray that, despite the horrible act that was committed against them, that the families are able to forgive just as Christ commanded that we forgive our enemies.

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Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Amen.

Why Can't Non-Catholics Receive Communion?

Why Can’t Non-Catholics Receive Communion?

A common “complaint” I hear about the Catholic Church from other traditions is that we forbid non-Catholic Christians from participating in the Eucharist. This is sort of true, but not in the sense that we are “forbidding” it. There are several reasons for this so in today’s post, I’ll explain what the Eucharist is, why it is reserved for confirmed Catholics only, and how a non-Catholic should react during the distribution of the body and blood of Jesus.

What is the Eucharist?

Everything in the Mass leads up to the moment that the priest, through the power of God, transforms the ordinary bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This process is called transubstantiation.  This means, that when we partake of the bread and wine during Mass, we are not just eating and drinking a symbol, but we are actually receiving Jesus’ body and blood. We receive Jesus – body, soul, and divinity. This is what He told us during the Last Supper.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

John 6:53-56

Why Can’t Non-Catholics Participate in the Eucharist?

A non-Catholic should not partake in sacrament of the Eucharist because of what we read in the verse I posted above (John 6:53-56).  The bread and wine do not stay bread and wine. During Mass, the priest prays over the bread and wine, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become the body and blood of Christ.  Jesus said “this IS my body” and “this IS my blood.”  He was being literal. The Catholic Church, since the time of Christ, has taught that Jesus himself is truly present – body, blood, soul, divinity – in the Eucharist.

When we go to receive Communion, we are confirming our faith as Catholics that, along with all of the teachings of the Church, we believe that we are partaking of his actual body and blood – not just a symbol with bread and wine. The Eucharist is the center of the faith we have in Jesus Christ – that we are to consume him and become like him.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30:

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died.”

What is Paul saying here?  He is saying that whoever partakes of the bread and wine without discerning the body and blood will be condemned. Taking Holy Communion without believing what the Catholic Church has taught for over 2,000 years puts one in a state of spiritual danger.

Non-Catholics (and non-confirmed) Catholics are asked to refrain from receiving Holy Communion.  It is not a rejection or a judgment upon that person, but rather we are emphasizing how incredibly important it is to receive our Lord and Savior in the Eucharist, and that the person receiving must fully believe in and understand what they are doing and why they are doing it.

What to do during distribution of the body and blood if you are not Catholic:

Near the end of Mass, when it is time for the distribution of the body and blood (formally part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist), all confirmed Catholics who are in a state of grace, proceed to the Communion line to receive the Eucharist.  Those who cannot receive have several options.  One:  Remain seated, allowing those receiving to proceed or two: cross their arms in the form of an X across their chest to signify they are unable to receive and proceed in the line. Although the body and blood will not be distributed if this outward display is made, a blessing will be said for the individual.  It is perfectly acceptable for a non-Catholic to receive a blessing.  Actually, it’s encouraged and acceptable for a non-Catholic to participate in everything during Mass except for Communion. My parents are both Baptist and have attended Mass with me.  They both commented on how beautiful it is.  Of course it’s beautiful!  Jesus Christ established the Mass.  Everything He creates is beautiful!

So, the next time you hear that Catholics do not allow non-Catholics to partake in the Eucharist, you will know why.  We are receiving Jesus himself and must believe that he is truly present. It’s a beautiful thing to receive him in this sacrament and should not be taken lightly.

 

Curious about other Catholic topics?  Check out some of my previous posts below:

May, The Month of Mary

Why do Catholics go to Confession?

First Communion 2016

What is the Rosary?

Common Misconceptions of the Catholic Church

 

May, The Month of Mary

May, The Month of Mary

If you are not Catholic, you probably wonder why we place so much emphasis on the Blessed Mother. If you are Catholic like me, you often wonder why non-Catholics don’t do the same.  Mary also has her own month, which is this month.  In this post, I’m going to address three questions:

  1. Why do Catholics emphasize Mary so much?
  2. Why is May the month of Mary?
  3. What are different ways we honor Mary?

Why do Catholics Emphasize Mary So Much?

May, The Month of Mary

Close your eyes and try to imagine the time when you were conceived in your mother’s womb.  Impossible to do, right?  Before you were even born, your mother cared for you, loved you, nurtured you, protected you. Then, the miraculous day came – you were born. Your mother was there for every minute of your life.  She nursed you, clothed you, bathed you, kept you safe and educated you.  Your mother was the person you knew you could count on to provide for you. You honored her, respected her and trusted her.  You confided in her when you were a teenager.  Even when you became older, your mother was your source of inspiration and knowledge.  If anyone needed to find out something about you, they went to your mother. When you were in need, you asked your mother to pray for you.

So, now I want you to imagine an angel has come to you.  You’re a virgin and very young. The angel tells you that God has selected you, out of all of the women in history, to conceive and deliver the Messiah to the world.  She tells you to not be afraid and to trust in God.  You are told that you are blessed among all women and that the child growing inside of you is blessed as well. You say”yes” without even thinking about it – because you want to honor God.  The world now has their savior, born through you.  How would you feel?  Wouldn’t people who knew you, or came into contact with you, honor and respect you for being so faithful to God?  God, through His love and mercy, placed the child inside of you, cleansed you of all of your sins so that the savior of the world would be born of a sinless virgin, and eventually would assume you, body and soul, into Heaven with Him.

We all love and cherish our mothers, and we expect others who know her and are friends with her to love, honor and respect her as well. I don’t think any of us would say we, or friends and neighbors, worship our mothers, right?  That would be crazy. We do, however, honor our mother because it’s in the Ten Commandments.

Mary is the mother of God for the simple reason that Jesus Christ, her only Son, was God. This means that Mary is our heavenly mother.  Catholics honor the Blessed Virgin Mary because of the “yes” she so graciously gave when God chose to bear His son, Jesus, into her womb.  Jesus honored His mother in every way that a child and a young man should honor his mother.  He obeyed her, trusted her, respected her and even right up to the point of His death on the cross told those around her to “behold thy mother.”  We are to be imitators of Christ, therefore as we honor Mary, His Mother, we are honoring Him.

Non-Catholics should be careful in asserting that Catholics “worship” Mary. Not only does the Catholic Church forbid any type of worship of any creature other than God, it is in violation of the Ten Commandments.  Any Catholic who tells you that he or she “worships” Mary is in a complete state of confusion about their faith.  Mary is due honor, but this honor is subordinate to the honor we place upon Jesus Christ.  This type of honor does not interfere with or replace that honor and glory given to God.  We ask Mary to intercede on our behalf to her Son when we pray.  This is nothing different than asking a family member or a loved one to pray for us.  They are both interceding.  One just happens to be the Blessed Virgin Mary – alive and able to hear us in Heaven.  How do we know this? The Bible states that those in Heaven are aware of our prayers on earth. Who knows a child better than its mother?  It pleases God when we ask for others to pray for us (1 Tim 2: 1-5)

Why is May the Month of Mary?

May, The Month of Mary

The custom of honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary goes all the way back to the 13th century. The Catholic Church regularly practiced incorporating feasts and celebrations from the secular world into the Catholic faith.  They did this because it was a very good way of educating those outside of the church and bringing in new followers of Jesus Christ.  Sometime during the 16th century, we see literature documenting honor and devotion to Our Lady.   Extending from the Jesuit Order, the practice of honoring Mary in the month of May, by the year 1700, had reached students at the Roman College and eventually made it to the Gesu Church in Rome.  It spread Church-wide from there!

What are the Different Ways We Honor Mary?

May, The Month of Mary

  • Love, honor and worship Jesus Christ, her Son, by attending Mass as much as possible during the week.  This is the greatest way to honor Mary!  We should follow Mary’s command in doing whatever Jesus tells us to do.
  • Pray the Rosary – there is no powerful prayer greater than that of the Holy Rosary.  If you don’t know what the Holy Rosary is, read my past post, What is the Rosary?. The Rosary allows us to meditate upon the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary.
  • Attend holy days of obligation for Marian feast days
  • Pray daily Marian prayers

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Why do Catholics go to Confession?

Why do Catholics go to Confession?

A question I often see in social media posts as well as in conversations I have with non-Catholics is centered around why we go to confession. In this post, we will explore:

  • What is Confession?
  • When was it started?
  • Who started it?
  • Why is it necessary?
  • How is a good confession made?

What is Confession?

Confession, or most commonly called the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an ongoing process that Catholics follow to recognize their sins and shortcomings by performing an examination of conscious, confess those sins to a priest, receive absolution, recite the Act of Contrition, and perform a penance.  The end result is that God has forgiven the sins of the contrite through the priest.  The contrite strives to not commit the same sins over and over again because the sins separate him or her from God.

The contrite can go to their parish’s regularly scheduled confession time, or he or she can schedule a time aside from the regular hours to meet with the priest.  Confessions can only be heard by an ordained priest.  They are almost always conducted in privacy by use of a confessional.  The contrite can also choose to sit in front of the priest if they so desire.

Types of Sins

There are two types of sins that a contrite must confess.  Venial sins are “forgivable sins” that do not constitute the more severe mortal sins.  Venial sins do not result in a complete separation from God, but do require cleansing through Purgatory prior to entry into Heaven.  Mortal sins, committed with full knowledge, are severe enough to separate the individual from God and the gift of Heaven.  Murder, idolatry, and adultery are all mortal sins.

When was Confession Started and Who Started It?

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the first Easter Sunday evening when he appeared to the Apostles.  He also charges the same to the Apostles at the time of his ascension into Heaven.

John 20:21-23: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive men’s sins, the are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.

Jesus handed down the ministry of reconciliation as he wanted this to continue after He ascended into Heaven. Only twice in scripture do we see God “breathe” into human beings.  The first time it happened was in the book of Genesis when God breathed life into the man and woman that He created.  The second time is when Jesus Christ breathes into the Apostles (His priests).  He commanded that his priests on Earth, through the breath of life, forgive sinners who were genuinely sorry for the sins they committed against God.

Why is Confession Necessary?

Confession is not about what we did, but is about what God does!  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is God’s loving kindness in action! We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.

God offers his peace and forgiveness to those who ask for it.  Forgiveness is granted if the contrite are genuinely sorry and promise to change their actions to be more Christ-like. Saying the sins out loud verbally acknowledges our shortcomings.  The absolution we receive from the priest (forgiving the Sins through God) assures us that we are forgiven because of God’s loving grace and kindness.  The penance we perform after receiving absolution from the peace is simply the act of doing a good dead to make up for doing something wrong.  As a dad, I make my kids do a good deed when they make mistakes to make up for what they did.  As sinners, God gives us the same commandment to perform the penance to reestablish the relationship He so desires of each of us.

How to Make a Good Confession?

Just like we need to prepare ourselves (physically and spiritually) to attend Mass, so must we prepare our hearts and minds for Confession.  We can’t just go confess our sins without some prep work.

Perform an Examination of Conscious.

What did I do that offended God or my neighbor?  How many times did I do it?  Most often, Catholics look at the Ten Commandments as guidance to what constitutes a sin that must be confessed.  Be truly sorry before you go to confession. After all, confession is the decisive rejection of the sins you have committed and the desire to do better and avoid the occasion of sin in the future.  If you aren’t sorry for your sins, you won’t be forgiven.

Confess all of your sins to the priest.  

You will start your confession by making the sign of the cross, then state when your last confession was. The priest may, at this point, read from scripture. Confess your sins, starting with the most difficult, in kid and in number. When you are finished, say “I am sorry for these and all of the sins of my past life.”

If you get nervous and forget a sin that you intended to ask to be forgiven, you are still forgiven of that sin, but do confess it next time. Remembering a sin, but intentionally not confessing it, does not constitute a good confession.  Again, the sacrament is not about what we did.  Focus on what God’s mercy does for us!  If you would rather stay anonymous during the confession that is perfectly acceptable.  The priest has heard it all.  There is nothing you could confess that is a surprise to him.

Receive absolution.  

The priest will offer some advice and may read from scripture depending on the types of sins that you confessed.

Pray an Act of Contrition:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all of my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

Ending the Confession

The priest will make the sign of the cross with you.

Do your penance

The priest will assign you penance. Complete the penance as quickly as possible.

 

Interested in learning more about what Catholics believe? Check out my other posts on the faith!

First Communion 2016

Common Misconceptions of the Catholic Church

We are Called to Love

What is the Rosary?

Daddy, Are There Ghosts?