Monday, November 7, 2011

Fr. Barron on Conscience and Morality

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment....For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God....His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."
1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.
1789 Some rules apply in every case:
- One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
- the Golden Rule: "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them."
- charity always proceeds by way of respect for one's neighbor and his conscience: "Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their sin against Christ." Therefore "it is right not anything that makes your brother stumble."
To get the full scope on the conscience and morality you can read the Catechism 1776-1802, but to sum it all up: God often speaks to us through our conscience and we are obliged to follow our conscience, but because we are fallen human beings our decision-making is often clouded from sin, temptation and other harmful things, therefore we must allow our consciences to be well-formed so as to be better able to hear God and make decisions in conformity with His Holy Will and for the true good.  This is one of the many reasons that is it good to learn as much as you can about the teachings of the Church, read Scripture, pray, surround yourself with friends also seeking holiness - because all these things will help to form your conscience well so that you can make good decisions, especially if you find yourself faced with a moral dilemma.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

All Saints & All Souls: Highlighting the Body of Christ

Tuesday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints' - a holy day of obligation giving us the opportunity to glorify God through all His holy saints who constantly intercede for us; a day to celebrate the Church Triumphant.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of All Souls' - a day to intercede for the Church Suffering, the holy souls in Purgatory. 

To what are the terms Church Triumphant, Church Suffering and Church Militant referring and what is significant about these holy days and the doctrine of Purgatory?

The Church is the Body of Christ - Christ is the head and we are the members of the body.  The Church is made up of both those who are living on earth and those who have passed on and are awaiting the resurrection.  The 'Church Triumphant' are those members of the Body of Christ, the Church, who have entered into the glory of God in heaven and who pray to God for us that we may also enter into the joy of eternal happiness with Him:
"And another angel came and stood  at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God." - Rev. 8: 3-4
The saints have triumphed over sin and Satan through the holy 'blood of the Lamb' and therefore are referred to as the 'Church Triumphant':
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. - Rev. 12: 11
Then we have the 'Church Suffering', who are the holy souls in Purgatory.  Purgatory is often a misunderstood doctrine - and, yes, Purgatory is a doctrine of the Holy Church - always has been, always will be.  Doctrines and dogmas of the Church are unchanging because Truth does not change.  Purgatory is not something the Church just 'made up' - it is a part of the sacred deposit of the Faith given by Christ to the Apostles and handed on to us by them as well as having Scriptural basis.  The Catechism #1030 says this about Purgatory:
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
Purgatory does not mean that Christ's sacrifice for us was not sufficient.  Purgatory is actually a great grace of God and reinforces the fact that Christ's redemptive act is effective.  When we sin we incur a dual punishment: eternal and temporal.  Eternal punishment is hell; temporal punishment is repairing the damage our sin has caused.  Again, this does not mean that we are working our way toward heaven apart from Christ or that Christ's sacrifice was not sufficient.  Let's look at the words of St. Paul:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church... - 1 Colossians 1: 24
Does Paul mean that Christ's sacrifice was not good enough?  No, of course not.  The sacrifice of Jesus was perfect and complete.  But God loves us so much that He wants us to be in a relationship with Him, uniting our imperfect sufferings to the perfect suffering of Jesus, thereby, echoing St. Paul's words, "I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions..."  In Revelation 21, St. John describes the "the holy city, new Jerusalem", heaven.  At the end of the chapter he says, "But nothing unclean shall enter it...".  Purgatory is a part of the redeeming blood of Jesus having its effect in cleansing us that we may be clean to enter heaven. 
In the whole land, says the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.  And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.  They will call on my name, and I will answer them.  I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The Lord is my God.'.  - Zech. 13: 8-9
Purgatory is a cleansing fire from which all our impurities and disordered attachments are purified as gold in the fire that we may be clean through the blood of the Lamb to enter into the joy of heaven.  Contrary to many misconceptions, Purgatory is not a permanent state.  Those who are being cleansed in Purgatory are assured of heaven but are simply being purified before entering.  We speak of this in terms of space of time, because that's how we experience life, so we say things like 'in' Purgatory and 'how long' someone is in Purgatory, but God is not limited by space and time, so how that actually all looks we don't know because it has not been revealed. 

We have the opportunity to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory and offer our sufferings on earth to God in union with the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf, just as St. Paul mentions in 1 Colossians.  So All Souls' Day is a day particularly set aside for that very purpose, though we are called to pray for the holy souls often.  An example of praying for those who have died is provided in 2 Maccabees 12 in which the leader of the army brought his dead soldiers to be buried and he and all with him prayed for those who had died:
In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.  For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that  is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.  - 2 Maccabees 12: 43-45
One saint who was particularly devoted to the holy souls in Purgatory was St. Gertrude.  She composed the following prayer for the holy souls:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with all  the Masses said throughout the world today, for the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those within my home and within my family.
Read more about Purgatory from Catholics United for the Faith here.  I highly recommend reading it.

The 'Church Militant' are those of us still here on earth fighting the good fight so as to win the prize:
For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. - 2 Tim. 4: 6-7
Each day, because of concupiscence (the tendency to sin) and the temptations of Satan, we engage in a battle to choose Christ over sin.  This is why we are called the 'Church Militant' because we are engaged in a battle.  Thanks be to God that Jesus has won the ultimate victory over sin and death - we must, however, choose to partake in that victory by His grace.
This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. - 1 Tim. 1: 18
So the Solemnity of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls are important because they remind us that we are all one body in Christ and have an initimate connection to one another and can assist each other in being holy children of God and guide one another on the path to the new Jerusalem, the holy city: heaven. 

May the saints intercede for us to our God, may we pray for each other and encourage one another in living holy lives pleasing to the Lord and may we pray for the holy souls in Purgatory who no doubt pray for us as well: May perpetual light shine upon them and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Do We Use Holy Water When Entering a Church?

Holy Water recalls the waters of the Sacrament of Baptism through which you entered the Church and became a member of the family of God by being 'born again of water and the Spirit'. When you enter a church and dip your finger in the font, you are invited to remember that you are a son or daughter of God; that you are part of His family and are called to a life of beauty, truth and goodness, rejoicing in the grace of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Father spoke saying, 'This is My Son, with whom I am well pleased.' When we make use of holy water, we too are reminded that we are called to live lives pleasing to the Lord, not in servitude as a slave, but as children of a loving and merciful Father. Holy water reminds us that death does not have the last word. We die with Christ in order to rise with Him and that is exactly what happens in Baptism. We die to sin, to live in Christ. Water is life-giving - without water, no living thing or person can survive, therefore, holy water is also a reminder that without the grace of God, who gives us the true living water that will allow us to never thirst again, we cannot live. Through the waters of Baptism we are given new life that by the grace of the Holy Spirit we may one day enter into the joy of eternal life. "...whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." ~ John 4:14