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Archive for July, 2007

It’s That Time of Year

**When moms of public school students begin dreaming of the morning the yellow school bus arrives on their street (or so I’m told).

**When moms of homeschoolers begin stalking the UPS guy (unfortunately, our UPS guy has first-hand knowledge of this behavior) who will deliver their boxes and boxes of books/curricula…..and the Runningkids start asking, “When can we start school?”

**When (and this is the real purpose of this post) RCIA programs begin to gear up for the fall.

If you’re trying to understand Catholicism because you or someone you know is being drawn to the Catholic Church, now’s the time to begin checking into RCIA schedules at your local parishes. Attendance at RCIA classes do not imply a commitment to become Catholic, just a desire to learn/understand more about Catholicism.

A year ago, I was resisting attending RCIA, yet, I had a hunch I should ready myself to be accepted into the Church just in case God led me in that direction by the time Easter arrived. I went with the confidence that I could stop attending at anytime.

If attending the classes feels too “public” for you, there are more anonymous ways to investigate Catholicism.

**Make an appointment with one of the priests and start asking your questions that way.

**Check out the blogs in my side bar. Most are written by converts to the Catholic Church. Last year, I found lots of helpful insight in the Conversion category over at Rafting the Tiber, especially two posts entitled “Should I Become Catholic?” and “What Does Your Heart Tell You?”.

**Consider joining the Catholic Spitfire Grill. This is a yahoo group originally formed by a group of homeschooling moms from the Sonlight forums. They wanted a safe place to discuss/question/investigate Catholicism so they created such a place. You will find both cradle Catholics, converts, and inquirers of all sorts but you won’t find hostility or bashing, no matter how silly you may think your question is. There are some very knowledgeable and godly people over there.

**Take a glance at my reading list. My favorite title for recommending to most folks investigating Catholicism has become David Currie’s Born Fundamentalist: Born Again Catholic. Having come from a reformed, evangelical protestant background, Currie understands first-hand the hesitations and questions that many evangelical protestant Christians have about Catholicism and does a good job of addressing those issues.

**Request some of the free resources available here or here. Nobody will ever know you did. 😉

Whether you are investigating Catholicism because you sense the Holy Spirit is leading you in that direction or you’re investigating Catholicism to disprove its claims, it’s important to learn about Catholicism from Catholics…..not pew warmer Catholics (Fr. Longenecker calls these folks the “Holly and Lily Crowd“) but orthodox Catholics who are passionate about living their faith. It may sound like I’m stating the obvious but I learned the hard way how much truth there is in this statement:

“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church,which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

Bishop Fulton Sheen

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In case you haven’t been following the comments section of this post, I’ve received some additional questions regarding Mary. Because Mary and beliefs about her can be a huge stumbling block to many, I thought it better to create a whole new post instead of responding in the comments section of my previous post.

Here are my friend’s comments:

http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a394d3ff9758a.htm
I stumbled upon this, which is a bit unrelated to my original train of thought, but helpful as I search out the “brother” meaning/usage. I hope it’s not too harsh, but will be a worthwhile read.

Actually I was originally pondering how God extols the joy and even duty of married “love” (I’m being delicate) in Scripture and why both Mary and Joseph would maintain her virginity after Christ’s birth; it seems contradictory and we know God cannot contradict Himself, hence bells go off and we search further. The passages about marriage I’m thinking of which seem to contradict a wife remaining a virgin include
Gen 2:24
Song of Solomon 4:1-5:1
1 Cor 7:1-5 (pre-Mary, but true nonetheless)

Is 7:14 is the clear prophecy that the messiah will be BORN of a virgin–the Hebrew word translated here virgin is found elsewhere in OT in Gen 24:43, Ex 2:8, Ps 68:25, Prov 30:19, Song 1:3, 6:8 and in those places refers only to a chaste maiden who is unmarried (notes from my NAS bible); vice a perpetual married virgin.

Interesting difference between what God tells us about married love and what the Catholic church says about Mary and Joseph’s life in that area.

Clear as mud? )

First, about the link… I don’t know anything about that website or the scholarship of the authors of those posts although they make some interesting points. If your read through the entire page, you will also see a post which begins: BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF JESUS (this is a revision of a previous article of same name) and which is written by someone obviously way more learned. For now, I’m going to defer to that author.
Before moving on to the relationship between Mary and Joseph, I want to reiterate what I explained in this post about Holy Tradition. Catholics believe the revelation of God can only be fully understood in light of Holy Scripture along with Holy Tradition. God cannot contradict Himself in either area. It’s important to keep this in mind because although a doctrine or dogma cannot be anti-biblical, it may be extra-biblical — that is, not explicitly explained within the Bible but elaborated on and developed more fully by others in the early church. Some examples of this would be the acceptance of the belief of the Trinity or the Canon of the New Testament.

On to the issue of the marriage relationship between Joseph and Mary –

To say their family life wasn’t normal would be the understatement of the year. They may have been the ideal family but they certainly weren’t “regular”. Their lives were full of “unnatural” circumstances – a virgin girl giving birth to a child, the responsibility of loving and raising the Son of God who was God Himself. To understand the Holy Family, we have to abandon our tendencies to view their plight with our modern human sensibilities. They were totally unlike any other family. For Joseph and Mary to choose to live a life of abstinence would be unusual and unnatural, but not inconceivable given they weren’t your typical family. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was a necessary and unavoidable choice.

In trying to grasp the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity, it’s helpful to understand her title of “Theotokos” which literally means “God-bearer”. Origen first used this term to describe Mary in 254 A.D. Later on, however, the Council of Ephesus officially gave this title to Mary in 431 A.D. in response to the heresy known as Nestorianism. Nestorian held to a belief that Jesus was really two persons – one human and one God and that Mary was only the mother of the man Jesus. It was important for the Council of the Church to refute this heresy about the identity of Jesus and to re-affirm what had been believed since the beginning of the Church – that Jesus was fully God and fully man in one person. It’s interesting that the way the Council did this was to re-affirm Mary’s identity as “God-bearer”.

Something else that is helpful is to understand typology. I’m sure you’ve heard of Old Testament stories or people that point to something in the New Testament. Stephen Ray says this about typology and types:

“It is like a taste or a hint of something that will be fulfilled or realized. types are like pictures that come alive in a new and exciting way when seen through the eyes of Christ’s revelation…………………The idea of typology is not new. Paul says that Adam was a type of the one who was to come – Christ (Romans 5:14). Early Christians understood that the Old Testament was full of types or pictures that were fulfilled or realized in the New Testament.”

There are many parallels between the story of the construction of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and the New Testament stories of Mary. The Catholic Church believes that the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was a foreshadowing or “type” of Mary. In Exodus, God gives very specific instructions about the construction of the ark. It would be a sacred place where God himself would dwell. Once the Ark was constructed, the Lord’s Shekinah glory (in the form of a cloud) covered the tent of meeting and filled the Tabernacle. The metaphor of the cloud represents the presence and glory of god. This metaphor is also seen when the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and “overshadows” her so that she may conceive and bear Jesus. Mary is a living shrine of God Almighty in the same way that the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament served as God’s dwelling. Also, the language of “overshadowing” was language used to describe a marital relationship. Hence, the Holy Spirit has espoused Mary. Understood in that way, it would make sense that Joseph understood that Mary was a consecrated vessel and therefore refrained from having normal marital relations with her. No doubt he had heard of the fate of Uzzah who was struck dead for touching the Ark (2 Sam. 6:6-8). Amazingly, Mary was mother, daughter, and spouse of God. There are many more parallels between stories of the OT Ark and stories about Mary….too many to list here but they aren’t difficult to find with some “googling”.

Another interesting tidbit I learned while in the process of writing this entry was that in Jewish law, if a man was betrothed to a women and she became pregnant with another’s child, the man initially betrothed to her could never have relations with her. He could instead choose to put her away privately or publicly condemn her. Obviously, Joseph chose the former.

This brief look at the “whys” of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity really only scratch the surface in helping to understand this idea. There’s so much more information available and it’s written by folks much more learned than myself on this subject. I invite any readers of this blog who may have more to add to what I’ve written to please do so.

For further study, I would suggest checking out these resources for starters:

Mary, the Second Eve

Hail Holy Queen

Scripture and Early Church Father on Mary

More Interesting Stuff on Mary

 

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Continuing on from my last post…..

The first really big decision Dh and I had to make as a married couple was where we would attend church. It’s unbelievable to me now that we didn’t have that worked out before the wedding, but if my memory is correct, we didn’t. So during the first year of our marriage, we attended a Baptist church, enrolling in the membership class there, a Presbyterian Church, also enrolling in the membership class there, and a Catholic Church enrolling in RCIA. It was one exhausting year. How would we choose? Would we base our decision on doctrine? Worship Style? Both? Could all three be right, even though they held vastly different views on some issues? When our whirlwind denominational tour of churches ended we found ourselves at an Anglican Church. Honestly, I didn’t really understand Anglican beliefs, but it was a good middle ground for us both in doctrine and worship style.

The issue of how to discern truth arose again with the birth of of the first Runningkid.    Dh felt strongly that we needed to have her baptized as an infant. I, on the other hand, had only ever considered adult baptism as a valid option. I agreed to have her baptized mostly because it was so important to him but never really settled the issue in my mind. With the birth of each successive Runningkid, the question of infant vs. adult baptism grew heavier and heavier. One of our daughters was two years old before I would agree…….the poor thing. After each birth, our priest would meet with us privately to help us sort through my questions. It was in these meetings that I first began to hear the names of some of the early church fathers.  I didn’t really understand who those guys were so I wasn’t willing to give them a whole lot of credence with this issue that concerned my children.

The process of thinking through the issue of baptism for our children left me unsettled – not about them being baptized – but about the vast array of beliefs that christians all over the world hold to as gospel truth. How can these beliefs be in opposition to each other if they are gospel truth?! I had no answer so I did what any well-adjusted, educated person might do……….ignored my nagging questions and decided that Jesus would figure it all out when we get to heaven. 🙂

That kept my misgivings at bay for a number of years…..until about 18 months ago…….

(to be continued) 

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For folks who have been drawn to Catholicism, the emotional aspect of the experience (which often involves feeling as if the rug has been pulled out from under you) can be very similar but the actual conversion tipping point may vary widely. I already explained how and why I became convinced that I couldn’t live without the Eucharist here. the second “scale tipping” issue for me was becoming convinced of the necessity of visible unity in the Church.

While in college, I led an evangelical bible study in my sorority. Ironically, the woman who sponsored me through RCIA this past year may have even been in that bible study. It was sort of a “seekers” study so I’m sure I was probably trying to evangelize her. 😉 I recall one particular evening when the group started discussing what heaven might be like. I decided to share a perspective about heaven that I had recently heard…after all, I was the experienced, mature Christian with more bible knowledge than most of the other gals in the room….at least that’s what my pride told me. I can still remember how dumb I felt when this idea met resistance and I realized I really had no idea what I was talking about. That experience has stuck with me all these years, not only because it dented my own pride, but because it really set me wondering about the idea of truth, maybe for the first time in my life.

How can I know what is true?

Who knows the truth for sure anyway?

How can two different Christians have two different ideas about truth?

I can’t say I really wrestled with these thoughts for very long at that time. My undergraduate years ended and I started my “real life” as a young professional, hanging out with Christian friends who thought, talked, and believed like me. It was very easy to have a black and white mindset about issues of faith and I liked it that way. It was very comfortable. I was never really challenged on why I believed what I believed…………until just a few years later.

It was then that I met a young Catholic fellow who would challenge me to consider the continuum between black and white. It was a very uncomfortable friendship at times because we had such different perspectives on certain subjects, but it was also very invigorating. We would have hours-long discussions and I would walk away feeling like I had gotten a new and fresh glimpse of God……and He was much, MUCH bigger than I had previously thought. This friend obviously loved God but had such a different manner of experiencing, communicating, and speaking about his faith. He rarely spoke the name Jesus and certainly didn’t pray as openly (and verbosely) as I did. He seemed to hesitate when I asked him about the day (and time) he became a Christian, as if he maybe didn’t understand my question. He didn’t fit into my mold at all.

We discussed assurance of salvation (once saved always saved), baptism, how one is actually saved, differing interpretations of scripture…and on…and on…and on. Sometimes, our differences would come down to semantics, but sometimes they were much more.

I’ll spare you all the details but suffice it to say, God, in his sense of humor, intended for this young Catholic guy to be my husband. In human terms our union didn’t make sense. What he held to be true on some issues regarding his faith stood in opposition to “my” truth. I didn’t go to the altar understanding how God would work out our differences but I did go with confidence that He would. I was scared to death but I knew this union was a good thing. I was experiencing God in more profound and greater ways than ever before. I knew that to not marry this man would be to miss out on wonderful things God had for me. I also must admit that I was convinced God would use to me to change my future husband’s thinking on some issues. Oh, how the Lord must have been laughing! 🙂

(to be continued)

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Hey, I’m all for different styles of worship! 😉

HT: Standing on my Head

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…as in the Proverbs 27 kind:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. ” Proverbs 27:17

I am truly blessed to have a small handful of good “sharpeners”. The majority of these women are non-Catholic women who are sincerely trying to understand my decision to become Catholic. They could choose to turn away and ignore my decision (or treat me as if I’ve sprouted a second head) but they haven’t done that. Instead they are asking great questions and it’s forcing me to have to articulate what I believe as a Catholic….and why. (That’s the sharpening.) Whenever I have their permission, I’ll post their questions here because other readers of this blog may be asking the same questions. Here’s a good question I received a few weeks ago. My friend’s question is in blue, some scripture references follow in black, finally my reply is in green.

“How is it that Mary could have been a virgin for her whole life? From Matthew 13, Mark 3, and John 7, it seems pretty clear to me that the apostles weren’t writing about cousins or the brethren, but about specific people who were the sons and daughters of Mary.”

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” Matthew 13:55

“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.” Matthew 12:46

“And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Mark 3:31 – 35

 

“So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his brothers did not believe in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil. Go to the feast yourselves; I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” So saying, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.” John 7:3-10

Given the above verses, the Catholic Church’s claim that Mary remained a virgin for the entire span of her life definitely seemed outlandish…even “man-made”….to me in the beginning. Of note is that in some translations (I’m using the RSV above), the word “brother” is used whole others use the word “brethren”. However, as I studied this issue more and more, it really came together in my mind. Here’s why.

The ancient Hebrew and Aramaic languages have no words for special degrees of relationships (i.e. cousin, brother, etc.) like we do in our modern languages. Anyone belonging to the same family, clan, or tribe was called “brethren”. In the Greek Old Testament, a “brethren” can be a cousin, uncle, nephew, or more remote kinsman.

Another basis for the Catholic position is that Jesus never refers to these “brethren” as children of Mary although he, himself, obviously is.

Finally, some say it is doubtful Jesus would have handed over the care of Him mother to the Apostle John is she had other sons who could care for her….that this act would have been a great insult to any biological brother if He had them.

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