Heinous crime causing faith crisis
OK some random thoughts ...
I just noticed that the BTK
serial killer was a very active Lutheran, and as is typical with serial killers, folks are stunned.
The same held true with one of the Baton Rouge serial killers. He was a man that seemed, outwardly, to be knowledgable with scripture and, in fact, was TEACHING about scripture in the hours just prior to his capture.
What is the deal here?
At the church I used to attend, a man who had spent several years in jail had reformed himself and had all of the outward signs one might think would indicate a strong relationship with God. Calm, confident in the Lord, knowledgeable about scripture, kind; a real pleasure to be around. Several months later he committed a violent crime that is likely to keep him in jail for the rest of his life.
Putting myself in my shoes a few years ago, this would have caused a crisis of faith of monumental proportions. I am looking back with the people I know remaining at the Church and it IS causing deep questioning of their faith. They cannot seem to understand how a man who knew God could do something so horrific. Once saved always saved is a doctrine that permeates even churches in denominations where it is not officially taught but the seed is sola fides. People just assume that because one knows scripture and demonstrates a certain level of aptitude with being nice that they are "of the Lord" ...
Catholics on the other hand were attacked BECAUSE their members were bad examples. Everybody knew bad Catholics, but nobody could pinpoint the bad apples at their church. If something happened like above it was all too easy to say "Well he just didn't know the Lord" ... but the burning question remains .... He did know the Lord. He knew TOO MUCH about the Lord and that is why it is an uncomfortable thing to deal with. To the Protestant these examples eat away at their theology. Bad Catholics go to Church. Bad Protestants stay home or collect in like groups. Solid faithful Protestants hardly see their fallen brethren at their worst so when it happens that they do fall away it is a challenge to them.
Catholics see it every week and what used to be a frightening idea that there was something wrong with Catholicism became even clearer as I watched my friends struggle through watching a friend go back to jail. There is noting wrong with Catholicism. Its just easier to see people as they really are in the Catholic Church.
My family is turning into the Trapp family. My children just love the Sound of Music. My wife even purchased two books about them. One is the story itself, with a nice scene from the movie on the cover and the other deals with the Catholic traditions that the family engaged in over the course of daily life. I am looking forward to hearing what my wife learns from these books.
Our recent movie choices have been refreshing (for the most part) ... among them being
Song of Bernadette
Sound of Music
A Man For All Seasons
Those are some pretty hard hitters on the list of best Catholic movies ...
Symbolism as it relates to me specifically
I am a revert and it is only fitting to note that my return to the Church is a journey come full circle. The circle is also deeply symbolic of the Eucharist which was the primary draw back to the Church for me. Also full is an appropriate choice of words because I have found the fullness of the faith, of which I had part of as a Protestant.
Please seeThe simplicity of what you see
for a small writeup about the simplicity of such images as the circle. My lifelong affirmation of the Real Presence
for a small writeup detailing the importance of the Eucharist in my return to the Church.
HaloChristian symbolism of the circle
Standing for eternity, because it is without beginning and without end.
The Three Intertwining Circles
These indicate the doctrine of the equality, unity, and coeternal nature of the three persons of the Trinity.
Source: Christian Symbols and Glossary
OK, I had a change of heart on the name of this blog.
Once Catholic Always Catholic has a few problems.
1. It was intended to parody the doctrine Once Saved Always Saved as held by some Protestants.
2. It implies final perseverance and thus could be thought that I personally held to a OSAS type doctrine.
3. It might have been thought that I was ONCE Catholic and not now, although the second half of the prhase should have cleared that up.
4. and others I really do not care to think of or delve much into ...
Now Full Circle is the new name ... ta daaaaa
I will go into the deep symbolism of Full Circle in a future post ... but now you know why it has changed.
Summa mamas: Responses to your choosing to adhere to Catholic teaching on contraception
The above blog entry are reflections about how to respond to certain rude questions posed to almost everyone about kids. In reference to contraception the following statement was made.
"why are people so defensive about it? is it because it really is a matter of morality and people know it, even if only on a subconcious level?"
I firmly believe so and I think this is the root of why Catholics who have more kids get this type of treament simply by being PRESENT with a large number of kids. Even those with no kids who are trying desperately to have children come under scrutiny when responding boldly that they "don't contracept". To a degree I think our society is woefully ignorant on the matter of birth control but then again how can they be? Every marital act is a sobering reminder that unencumbered a child could result. They think because the issue has been "settled" in society for decades that it can be safely ignored when their conscience brings it up ...
The problem is that at the most basic level the question ISN'T settled and you can tell by the defensiveness displayed by people when even simple responses to this question invoke nearly violent rages against the Catholic position as irresponsible, tretcherous, or even an attempt to build numbers in a declining Church.
It is incredible how loud the simply spoken or unspoken truth can be ... I know. I used to be one of the ones who got mad.
Images removed to speed up blog loading ... it is still fun anyway. create your own personalized map of the USA
A quick tour of Baton Rouge
They had a thread on DCF
about wanting to see where folks lived. I thought it was a good idea so I participated and I thus give you a quick tour of Baton Rouge.
Mark Twain called this the ugliest building on the Mississippi. It is the Old State Capitol.
The tallest state capitol in the US (still I think) ... Huey Long met his end here.
The Stockade Inn off Highland road
But this is what we mostly see ... (my son standing in what we set our clocks by around here ... afternoon thunderstorms)
So there ... a quick tour around my hometown.
Salvation is from the Jews, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
I am currently reading Salvation is from the Jews.
I am juuuust about to start the chapter on the Holocaust. What I have read so far is incredible. I expect the rest to be the same ... please ... read this book.
"Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" by Dr. Ludwig Ott is something that I picked up for reference. It actually seems halfway decent for reading as well. It is also jam packed with information of where to go to see the history of particular doctrines. This will be most helpful for the ECF web site
and just for my general knowledge about certain distinctively Catholic doctines.
I read things REALLY SLOW, mostly because I have three kids and there is little time to read ... I usually need to sleep when they do.
Zombo com, Latin music at mass, mass an intimately personal experience
is odd, but for some reason I cannot stop laughing at it. I found it at Southern Appeal
Today, for the first time, we put all three of our kids in the nursery for mass. For the first time since Easter Vigil last year that we were able to focus and really participate. Mass nearly moved both my wife and I to tears. I cannot express to you how blessed we are to be Catholic.
Also, today I noticed that for the second week in a row we sang some part of the mass in Latin. We did the Sanctus and tha Agnus Dei. We also sang a song early in mass in Latin. This is all supposedly at the request of the bishop, although I am not certain if it is for Lent only or permanently. We can hope correct?
I actually have good reason to hope
The new priest likes to chant portions of the mass ...
The introduction of Latin into the music has been VERY welcome ...
Focus has been placed diocese wide on implementing Redemptionis Sacramentum
Apologetics groups are sprouting up like clover patches in March ...
Now, back to being blessed to be Catholic. My wife mentioned today that she has been so impressed with how intimately personal mass is. It is completely difficult to explain this to someone who hasn't experienced it. YOU receive Jesus but everything up until that point is like a present unwrapping every week. I hope one day to find the words so that I can bring more folks to the tremendous richness that we have been experiencing as Catholics ...
I'LL LEAVE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IF
I'LL LEAVE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IF
Interesting read from Catholic Answers ... it is basically a challenge to non-Catholics. If you can convincingly refute one of the 4 following, I will leave the Catholic Church. I have edited the article to get the gist of the 4 points out. Read the article for further clarification.
1. The Catholic Church, in nearly 2,000 years of existence, has never reversed or contradicted a single doctrine, once that doctrine has become part of the infallible teaching of the Church.
2. A Christian cannot have an absolute assurance of which books belong in the Bible without accepting the authority of the Church.
3. The Bible does not teach that Scripture alone is the sole rule of faith for Christians (sola Scriptura).
4. The beliefs, government, and worship of early Christianity were clearly Catholic and not Protestant.
There is some overlap with my 10 reasons for being Catholic. I have bolded those in common.
Ignatius Insight: More Episcopalians crossing the Tiber
More Episcopalians crossing the Tiber
As a former low church Episcopalian myself, I cannot seem to figure out why it isn't happening faster.
More on this later ... if I stay up.
Cardinal Arinze, selling house, Feedreader
Quick notes ...
Cardinal Arinze and his comments on the world over are STILL causing a buzz in circles of Catholics intent on fidelity to the Magesterium.
A RealAudio stream
A LifeSite article
is also available.
Some choice quotes
Cardinal Arinze responded, “The answer is clear. If a person says I am in favour of killing unborn babies whether they be four thousand or five thousand, I have been in favour of killing them. I will be in favour of killing them tomorrow and next week and next year. So, unborn babies, too bad for you. I am in favour that you should be killed, then the person turn around and say I want to receive Holy Communion. Do you need any Cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?
Laughing, Arroyo responded, “It should be pretty transparent.” To which the Cardinal concluded, “Simple, ask the children for First Communion, they'll give you the answer.”
The Vatican Cardinal responded, “No, no. You see, let's get it clear. These rainbow sash people, are they really saying we are homosexuals, we intend to remain so and we want to receive Holy Communion. The question arises; take the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It says it is not condemning a person for having homosexual tendency. We don't condemn anybody for that. But a person stands condemned for acting on it.”
The rest of the interview is worth listening to, and I have provided you no excuse ... so listen. Personal notes
Please pray that our house be sold and at or near market.
I am using Feedreader
now which allows me to keep up with far more blogs than I used to. This has helped out tremendously and will likely replace My Yahoo as my preferred method of blog reading. Eventually I will add my favorites to a blog roll.
The Top 10 reasons why I am Catholic
Or statements that Protestants might be shocked to hear come out of a converts mouth ...
1. By the grace of God, I believe Christianity to be true.
2. The WHOLE of Catholicism CAN be reconciled with the scriptures and Catholicism is internally consistent.
3. Catholicism claims the Eucharist to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, which is the easiest Catholic belief to identify in scripture and the most overwhelming as far as evidence goes for historical continuity.
4. Catholicism appears more like the Judaism of the Bible than any other Christian faith; the same Jewish faith which Christ came to fulfil, not replace.
5. Catholicisms moral teachings exceed those of any other Christian faith both in logical purity and difficulty to adhere to apart from the grace of God.
6. Fundamental Catholic doctrines have not changed in 2000 years.
7. Catholicism suffers from no difficulty in linking itself back to the apostles. The documented evidence for this claim is overwhelming.
8. The bulk of distinctive Catholic doctrines are documented as present in the first few centuries thus the early Church resembles Catholicism far more than any other alternative, requiring one of two conclusions
a. If you are not Catholic, the gates of hell prevailed in a manner of decades, which is contrary to scripture
b. or Catholicism/Orthodoxy is the true faith
9. The Catholic Church almost uniquely handles disputes in the manner depicted in Acts 15 whose results are binding on the faithful.
10. Catholicism contains the highest form of worship available to the Christian in the Sacrifice of the Mass.
To expound a little more on 10, I read another convert say at one time that ALL that is positive and present within Protestantism is available in Catholicism. Bible studies, great preaching, good fellowship, deep Christian reflection, extemporanoeous prayer - just to name a few. The full extent to which Christian worship and love can be extended can only be found in the Catholic Church and nothing I have picked up in a Protestant bookstore can hold even a tiny candle to the historical writings of the great doctors and saints of the Church.
So that is why I am Catholic ...
We have been pressed upon a big deadline at work which has had me working long hours. I really do intend to finish my conversion story on these pages (although I think I am not going to necessarily write them in the order I started in) ...
Couple wed 83 years die four days apart
This is an attempt to give folks a look into my tastes by description.
time (rating) song by artist - note
9:41 am (100) Dance the Dance by Jazzanova - IMHO quite possibly the most intelligent electronic song ever produced. There is enough to keep the ear interested and the brain working for a lifetime of listens ... supurb. For those into synth programming, you will get a kick out of the sound pallette. Especially you old school knob twiddlers. Heavy jazz influence.
9:51 am (90) Hymn To The Sun by Anjali - A downtempo groovy song with a whispy lyricist (similar to The Cardigans) ... there are some samples from some 70's funk piano chords mixed in with a most excellent barrage of rhythm samples. Add some ethereal resonant chirps and a constant harpsichord and there you have it.
10:05 am (90) Fog Plants by DJ Cam ... OK DJ Cam got me over my bias against folks with DJ in their name. If I were not a big fan of Severed Heads this song would likely annoy me to no end. It is a very rare talent that can make stuff that is disparate and often out of key sound good together. It is really less a song than a landscape of sounds with rhythm. Lots of bleeps, blips and samples from uhhh more modern classical tunes ...
10:24 am (100) Well You Needn't by Thelonious Monk - This is a classic. Monk is a pioneering jazz pianist. This is one of his most recognizable works ... be do be do .. be doop ... be dooop
10:28am (90) 6 Space by Ils - OK, this dance song has one desciption. Analog, fast and hard. It even has the "obligatory sci fi sample" (credit Strong Bad) "Welcome to the next level ... the next level" .. That said it is interesting enough to not fall into the has been bin of the millions of other really bad so called "dance" tunes. On the other side of the electronic afficionados tastes lie seas of songs that should have never left the sequencer and been pressed to vinyl, CD ... or any other medium for that matter.
10:42am (90) Rippin Kittin by Golden Boy - I like Golden Boy. I like this song. I shouldn't but I do. This song has a rather disturbing mofif. "Mommy can I go out and kill tonight ... I feel ... feel like taking a life" ... This song to me represents all the life I simply couldn't understand about this scene. I never could get into the scene, so to speak, because of its polarizing stance against who God created me to be. In that way this song is quite tragic to me. A glimpse into the reality of promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse that permeates the electronic music scene makes me long for a Catholic alternative (Data are you listening?) ... The life is nothing but drama and pain. Blips and bleeps are not incompatible with holiness.
This final song brings to mind a really good topic that I will discuss at length in the near future ... The seeming dichotomy between the holy life and appreciation of secular music. There are nuggets of truth in everything. In this case wew have the sheer gifts of God given to all those created in His image. The ability to appreciate them without compromising yourself to the secular and oftentimes synical views contained within is one of the greatest spiritual battles I fight.
Considering adding an ECF blog
I am considering creating a blog that pretends to be various ECFs during key times in their lives. I would include actual quotes and various circumstances related to portions of their lives ... I might even modify it to allow commentary on current day topics using ECF quotes (similar to the one below).
Anyway ... tell me if you have any thoughts on the matter ...
EO vs. Catholicism - Witnessing Elliot Bougis' conversion
The following(And you can quote me)
apparently upset some EO apologists. Here is a summary
So I got to thinking and decided to compile this long list of almost exclusively Eastern patristic quotes about the Roman See. I've arranged them as chronologically as I could and have emphasized key words. Let me also admit that reading such profoundly Romish stuff by such profoundly Eastern Fathers makes my bowels quiver. I nearly wept for my lingering this side of the Tiber when I first read (a year ago) the great Maximus's acclamation of Rome's supremacy. Seeing it all again, and now with so many more buddies to back him up, makes my head spin.
And now his response to their criticism ...(ecumenical warm fuzzies)
And now, a final request: I’ve heard both of you say the Fathers I shamelessly ripped out of context and manipulated for my own dark papal schemes quoted do not support Catholic ecclesiology (nor even imply it!?), and that they are all of them perfectly compatible with EO ecclesiology. I’ve followed up on the works you guys have suggested, and am “in country” now trying to make my way through it all. But in the meantime, I’d like you – in all humble, unsneering honesty – to explain in as few words as necessary how or why any EO layman, priest or bishop would ever say what the Fathers said in my post. How, in as few words as necessary, do you reconcile all the Eastern papalism of the pre-schism Church with EO ecclesiology? Further, why does the East still have to make space for the apostate Roman see, when any other apostate see would go the way of, well, apostate sees – into the margins? On the one hand, why can’t (or doesn’t) the East just ignore the Pope and, on the other hand, how could it ever embrace him?
Notice I am NOT implying you CAN’T answer of these questions; I am simply admitting in a roundabout way (and now in a direct way) that I’m just too dumb to see how it can be done. I genuinely want to hear your explanation. (And please don’t pay too much mind to the Calvinist up above; since he’s withdrawn from the apologetics biz, I’m his hobby hunting great white whale.)
If any of you do not read Elliot Bougis, you should. He posted on Mark Shea's blog during a period when he took a break and at the time he was waffling between EO and Catholcism. It appears now he is going to take the plunge and cross the Tiber so to speak. Witnessing this guy convert (or nearly so) has been a real treat.
I am curious what you others of you hear as "high virtues" from any non-religious folks you might know ...
A few examples ...
1. Hypocrisy is the worst attribute any person can have - in application this one means that having high moral standards makes one a hypocrite so the obvious solution is to avoid having standards one cannot keep to.
"It is impossible to make it to your wedding day without having sex. After all, you didn't so that makes your theory about what is and isn't moral suspect."
2. Individual freedoms trump the good of others and the individual freedoms of others - highlighted by key phrases such as "freedom of choice", "my rights" and whatnot.
"It is 'my right' to not have to listen to what you have to say about your religion."
3. Tolerance - The necessary partner of excessive individual freedom. Keep in mind though, we are not talking religious tolerance. Religion interferes with 1 and 2 and is to be rejected at all costs.
"Your religion is too black and white. You need to be tolerant of the lifestyles of others."
Anyone care to guess when this was written?
Who do you think of first when you read it? ... I replaced a few words and cut a few things out to try and mask the time period a littleQuote:
(They) work to pull down and to destroy, not to edify and elevate. (they) do not adhere even to their own traditions, but harbour dissent even from their own founders.
But what shall I say concerning the ministry of the word, since they make it their business not to convert the heathen, but to subvert our people? This is rather the glory which they catch at, to compass the fall of those who stand, not the raising of those who are down. Accordingly, since the very work which they purpose to themselves comes not from the building up of their own society, but from the demolition of the truth, they undermine our edifices, that they may erect their own. ... The consequence is, that they more easily accomplish the ruin of standing houses than the erection of fallen ruins. It is only when they have such objects in view that they show themselves humble and bland and respectful. Otherwise they know no respect even for their own leaders. Hence it is [supposed] that schisms seldom happen among (them), because, even when they exist, they are not obvious. Their very unity, however, is schism. I am greatly in error if they do not amongst themselves swerve even from their own regulations, forasmuch as every man, just as it suits his own temper, modifies the traditions he has received after the same fashion as the man who handed them down did, when he moulded them according to his own will. The progress of the matter is an acknowledgment at once of its character and of the manner of its birth. ... In short, all heresies, when throughly looked into, are detected harbouring dissent in many particulars even from their own founders. The majority of them have not even churches. Motherless, houseless, creedless, outcasts, they wander about in their own essential worthlessness.
The short and not so long of it.
A quick update ... I had a long update but the cache cleared it out and I lost it ... darned technology ...
Anyway, here are the quick hits
My wife and I have had a five year plan to get out of Louisiana and into a place that is more conducive to raising a large family with the support necessary to properly educate and form our children in the Catholic faith.
1. We are going to sell our current home, which we love. It is just too small.
2. We have signed a contract to have a home built in a neighborhood close to here. We will have almost twice as much room as our current home.
3. My near future with my current job is looking brighter. When I took the job it was for the pay increase and the flexibility to work at home on occasion. I had concerns about the stability of the position but it is looking more and more like those concerns will fall by the wayside.
1 & 2 above were totally a God thing. We had a six month plan to look for a place to live. This dropped in on us a little early. So much for comfort zone. I am going to miss our first home ...
Tonight my wife and I had a big kink thrown into our five year moving plan ....
We found a good school run by lay Catholics that appears to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. This gives us access to a significant number of families whose loyalties lie with Rome. It is about 1/4 mile from the entrance to our new neighborhood. We are in prayer on the matter, but this could be the answer to a significant amount of our prayers.
is coming along nicely. Bookmark it and make sure to thank the others who have been helping me. They know who they are ... poke around the site.
My Top 10 favorite albums of all time
in no particular order
808 State - Ex:El
L.F.O. - Frequencies
Pet Shop Boys - Actually
Clan Of Xymox - Medusa
Future Sound Of London - Lifeforms
Bjork - Post
Everything But The Girl - Temperamental
Severed Heads - Come Visit The Big Bigot
Jazzanova - In Between **
Yellow Magic Orchestra - Solid State Survivor
** most recent addition to the list ...
Later I will make a post listing some albums that do not make this list but that need to be mentioned for the significant influence they had on my songwriting.
[NOTE: It needs to be known that these posts are short starters for longer overviews that I eventually intend to complete in a more thorough manner. There are few actual references to information (ie lengthy scripture quotations etc) because my time to blog is limited. Anyway, I have decided to be more candid with these and clean them up when I organize them in the future. The initial goal is just to get down the basic story.]
Shortly before and just after my wife and I were married the topic of birth control came up regularly. We had decided prior to marriage to use the pill just like all of our friends and relatives. The wedding day and the honeymoon came and went. We were together. Life was beautiful. Despite those facts, my wife was extremely depressed. This was a shock to both of us because we had just been through the most beautiful wedding that God could have blessed a couple with and the start of our marriage was wonderful. Once again, we were together. Life was beautiful. Why the sorrow?
Shortly afterwards my wife noticed that the times in her when she was depressed and significant hormone changes tended to coincide. This caused her to suspect the birth control pill of affecting her in a negative way. Prior to our wedding my wife received an unsolicited email from a friend with several bits of information about known side effects of the pill. We had neglected to read the email thoroughly when we received it but these recent developments begged us to pull it up and really delve into what the email contained. What it claimed left us horrified. The email noted that side effects of the pill included depression, stroke and even in rare cases death. Not only that, the email alluded to the fact that it was an abortaficient, which meant that it would expel an egg AFTER fertilization. My wife and I are staunchly against abortion and we firmly believe that life begins at conception so the idea that we could be terminating a pregnancy after conception weighed very heavily on us. During the time following the reception of that email my wife and I looked into the matter further. We specifically looked into what doctors had to say and what various Christian leaders had to say about the use of the pill and other birth control methods. In our reading, we happened upon a stunning fact. Prior to 1930 EVERY Protestant denomination was unified in teaching with the Catholic Church that contraception in any form was immoral. It was the Lambeth Conference in 1930 that was the first declaration by a major Protestant denomination (Anglican) to allow for the use of contraceptives and then only in difficult circumstances. The questions raised by this were obvious: Why did the whole of Protestantism modify their teaching on this matter and even more curiously, why DIDN'T the Catholic Church modify its teaching on the matter? These side questions distracted us from a settling answer on the matter of other birth control. We had to press on.
We decided to consult other friends to ask how they arrived at their conclusions. The more that I asked the question the more I realized that it just wasn’t asked any more. When presented with the information we had found some even responded, "God is bigger than the pill. If He wants to bless you with a child then He will” and the issue was promptly dropped. We found this to be akin to testing God. Why would this be any different than expecting God to stop us from stealing chocolate from the candy store by performing some extraordinary miracle? Why were we trusting God to undo our decision to not have children? That rationale simply did not sit well with us. Some concluded that it is wrong to bring many children into the world if you cannot provide a prosperous life for them and that any method was just as good as the other. To me this was motivated by material wealth and implied that those who cannot afford to exist shouldn’t. This also didn’t sit well with us because scripture stated in Psalm 127 that children are a blessing from God. Still, the avoidance of the issue was what stood out. Thinking back, without the depression that came about in the life of my wife I am not sure we ever would have asked any questions about birth control itself. I firmly believe that it is by the grace of God that this issue was raised in our lives.
Meanwhile my wife and I struggled with birth control questions for a brief period before finally determining that NFP was a good method if properly utilized. It must be noted that during this time our thought process had not come in line with what the Church teaches about NFP. We were purposefully avoiding pregnancy by using NFP. We had not entirely embraced the idea of openness to life and we had not discerned the difference between NFP and other forms of contraception. The difference is quite clear. On one hand we have the conscious decision to have sex given available information and on the other we have the deliberate interruption of fertility during sex. My favorite response about this not so subtle difference from a rather brash apologist I read online was “What? You don’t know the difference between having sex and not having sex?” Still, within 5 months of our marriage, my wife was pregnant with our first child.
Our future research on this matter will lead us closer to the teaching of the Church, not because we sought what the Church had to say about it but because we became increasingly aware of good reasons not to practice birth control. A prime example is my own existence. I am the fifth of six children. If my parents had chosen to stop at two or three like the majority of couples today, I would not exist. I have five siblings and at current count they have fourteen children. The legacy my parents will leave is impressive indeed and each and every life that resulted during the course of their adherence to Church teaching is a blessing in my life and for certain the lives of others.
Even though we had come to a better conclusion than the pill on the matter, the questions about our decision lingered … especially the troubling ones that raised real issues about teaching authority in the church we were attending.
[in final affirmations add story about contraception coming up before V2, being tabled til theologians could recommend FOR its use and Humane Vitae coming out opposed to it anyway]
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To learn more about the next step in my conversion you have to know a little bit more about me. I come from a background of musicians. My mother taught piano. Also, my brother is a professional bass player for a fairly well known blues band. Finally, I spent a significant amount of my summers writing songs despite my thorough lack of training. For my mother and brother it was a vocation. For me, it was the sheer beauty of it that uplifted me. My own songwriting experience allowed me to experience musicianship and thus music at a level that is a little beyond that of your average pop music fan. My taste in music at one time was an obsession. I had found a small niche of music, or genre rather, that spoke to the depths of my person at the age of 14. You couldn't hear much of it on the radio so I began to seek friendships with those that had similar tastes. I met a couple of friends in school, one with some musical training and one with just good taste in music. Our friendship developed into a band, which for me was a hobby and to this day represents some of the fondest memories that I have as a youth. The love I have for music remains to this day. As my tastes matured I longed for something deeper. That something I found in classical music and jazz so both are very much a part of my music collection and a significant amount of time late in college was spent listening to everything I could get my hands on. To me, experiencing music was the way I got to know God before I had the foggiest idea what His place in my life was. I was wandering in wonder. That was my knowledge of God.
Upon my zealous reversion back to Christianity my attendance at non-denominational Protestant services exposed me very much to contemporary Christian music, which I fought very much against despite the will of my friends to convince me that the message was what was important. Over my years as a Protestant I slowly was able to sing along and find a value in the words themselves, but the music left me wanting for something that I got in secular music and most prominently in classical music. The choir in Neptune of Holsts' The Planets never failed to give me chills. It always touched me in a very deep way and that was something that I could not get from the praise music I was singing, no matter the venue. Where was the awe that I was brought to when I was listening to the finest musical talent in the world? Where was the mystery? Where was the sacred? I must stop for a moment to highlight a lesson that I took from this that I wish many folks in Catholic churches would learn. There is spiritual value in singing along in church. The actual participation in every aspect of the mass brings you to a deeper realization of what is going on. It is an opportunity to praise God and in the mass is far deeper than that. You can participate in ways that Protestants cannot. Much of Protestant worship is very much geared towards praise. Catholic worship is geared towards the Most Blessed Sacrament. In it we touch God in a very real way. We join our sufferings with His and He gives us Himself fully in the Eucharist. The music should be beyond that of pop songs that happen to mention scripture, or God or something Jesus did. The music should be the best mankind has to offer; that which is created by the greatest gifts He gave to man. It is what we should expect, but we should also do what we can to participate ourselves. Every action we make towards Him is a good one and singing is such an easy way to do something simple that grows like an oak tree from the smallest seed.
My thoughts on music further extended into art and architecture but at a later date. My first flirtation with that was when I became engaged to my wife. We started attending a local Episcopal church downtown known for its beauty and architecture. I have no qualms admitting that reason. We were tired of going to church in warehouses. We only attended the church downtown for a few weeks before we started attending the church of her youth, which was also a beautiful little chapel on the campus of a local high school. What was common with both was the artistry. The colorful stained glass windows and adornments were a constant reminder of the greatness of God. The detail given to the flowers on a weekly basis were a reminder to life and the regular renewal of that life. All in all things were simply beautiful and it enhanced my ability to focus on worship. After months of attending church in both places I realized something was happening to me. I was beginning to enjoy art. I was beginning the journey I had in my youth with art, and more importantly with God. Beauty drew me in and it enhanced my relationship with Him far beyond that which I could have ever achieved on my own or by only reading or singing praises.
Man is created in the image of God, and we are endowed with attributes that are similar to certain awe-inspiring aspects of God. He is the Creator. All He creates is good. Man is creative. We do not create in the sense God does because we are incapable of creating something from nothing. We can however take what is created and craft it into a work of art, or a piece of music or poetry. It is in this sense that we have a similarity which in itself inspires us to contemplation of the great He who Is. In every imperfect painting of a waterfall that we create, we can further strive to realize the perfection of God's creation in the flowing thunder of Niagara Falls. Art itself is a catalyst that assists our getting closer to God by understanding the attributes that we are endowed with that are mere types of what He actually is capable of. Our imperfect understanding of the mystery that is the chasm we cannot bridge keeps the well of desire in our hearts for Him overflowing. The beauty we see is a grace that keeps us coming back.
These aspects are not limited to just art and music but also flow into the liturgy itself. The first time I attended an Episcopal church I thought to myself that I was getting back to something that was more real. I was getting back to something that was beautiful and that was ordered towards thinking about God at a very high level. That is where I wanted to be. God wooed me towards Him with beauty. After all, it only makes sense. He is the one who invented the passion for it.
"Art is beauty made a sacrament" - V. McNabb: Thoughts Twice-dyed.
I was not convinced that this was the end of the road but I had quickly come to the conclusion that the Episcopal Church was really no different than the Catholic Church. The only difference was that folks wouldn't get on my case about it. And they didn't ...