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Friday, September 21, 2012

Sometimes people surprise you. You think they'll ask for a certain thing or other from you via prayer, you think you know the struggle, and you turn out flat wrong. I did today. I often pray, quite frankly, that the theological columns don't add up straight for many of you anymore; often, you have to lose before you win. I know that the dark night of honest doubt for a Protestant ends in the pot of gold that is the Catholic Church.
I don't believe it is triumphalistic, precisely because, like Louis Bouyer, I believe the legitimate goals and desires of the Reformation find their completion in the Catholic Church. No, my brothers, the irony does not escape me.
The other delicious irony is that God was trying to give me simply Jesus, even as I swore up and down that it was these Romish sorts cluttering up the gospel with extraneous details. It's hilarious to me now: that mere Christianity finds its fullness in Rome? Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see. I dare you.
I took note that R. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary is blogging again. He tries hard. And whatever else we say, he's consistent, and he's bold. But if I can put it this way, his theology is like the losing campaign of a presidential candidate: you can sense the courage and the ardor, but everybody can sense that generally, no one is buying the message. Somehow, Christianity has moved on. Reformed theology has moved on. The battle-lines aren't drawn where they were back then. A great many people are asking if there ought to be battle-lines at all.
That is not to say that it's blindingly obvious to everyone that it's time to come Home. Nor is it guaranteed that all steps taken after throwing off the shackles of confessionalism lead to Truth. But it is high time to re-open questions once thought answered. It's when you're left holding an empty bag that you wonder about the utility of clutching it. If you will forgive the analogy, being Protestant was like shouting slogans that no longer referred to real things. It's like when a candidate is mailing it in with cliches; you sort of know the words meant something once, but nobody believes deploying them now makes any difference.
I just hope you'll know when to put the shovel down. Put your knives down. The door's open. The party's been waiting for you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I think it's sort of funny that when Protestant girls get frustrated about being single, they joke about becoming nuns. Some guys joke about the priesthood. In my limited experience, Catholics don't do this.

I would hope it is because we recognize that a call to the priesthood or religious life is not a fall-back; if this is God's plan, nothing else will fit. I could be wrong, but I don't think there are armies of sexually-frustrated priests and nuns; I think they freely enter into that state, and they mourn that which they did not choose. But no one gets dragged into anything.

There are two aspects of carrying the cross as a single person if you believe you are called to marriage: the physical, and the emotional. The physical is about recognizing rhythms. At certain times, you will be physiologically tempted to commit sexual sin. Again, in my experience, you just have to recognize the moment, and develop a specific plan of action: leave the room, call a friend, sing a hymn. It passes. It really does. Usually in a few minutes. Also, we have to decide that we're not going to feed the desire. The things on the way to sin are called, "the near occasion of sin."

The other part is harder. The reason is that our hearts cry out to be connected. We reach out, and if that reaching out involves the opposite sex, we face a danger that we'll move emotionally too fast, that we'll build up something into more than it is. You have to know yourself; if you can't serve the other person unselfishly, you've gotta back away. You can't decide what's best for someone else, and you can't control the situation.

I guess the two challenges are there with any vocation, but a special vocation sort of presupposes acquiring and using these graces of detachment for the good of the Church.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

There is a lot of suffering going on, it seems. Old friends going through things I cannot even fathom, living Job's experience for real. Others are looking their own deaths right in the face, fighting for life each day. A brave face, to be sure. A happy face, even. But they know the stakes. And it hangs in the air: "Why?"

And I don't have an answer. I wish I did. You can't just make it OK. You can't bring back the dead. But I don't doubt God's goodness; I can't. That would be like calling flowers ugly, or hating kittens, or something insane. Still, we're left here, thinking in spite of what we know: This isn't right.

And nothing could be more correct. Our Savior himself wept, even though he was about to reverse the death that caused his tears. This isn't right. If Jesus can say it, so can we. And we should.

But not with bitter hearts. Not with doubting hearts. Rather, we should say it with groanings that believe promises, with tears that hope to be wiped away.

Because our brothers have already borne witness: Jesus has risen from the dead! This is why we're here in the first place. Their faith, hope, and love has not been in vain. We are the products of their courage. Our Blessed Mother did indeed bear spiritual children, and we are them.

God, give me the grace to suffer as well as these other brothers and sisters. Don't be ashamed of me because my cross is light, and yet I struggle to carry it.