The Catholic Church teaches that: “By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (CCC 221).
Through Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, our participation in this eternal exchange is possible. Man has been created by love and for love.
Here on earth our lives as Christians consist in the image of Jesus being reproduced in us by means of the love of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts which empowers us to love God and neighbor and in so doing fulfill the law of Christ.
Enter Fr. Ed Broom, O.M.V.
A priest for more than 30 years dedicated to giving the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Fr. Broom knows well what it takes to live out the Christian faith by following in the footsteps of Jesus.
In his recent book titled From Humdrum to Holy, Fr. Broom has put together a comprehensive yet eminently practical plan of action to grow in holiness and therefore closer to Jesus.
At 24 chapters and a little over 120 pages, it is comprehensive in its scope of topics and short enough to be read in one sitting.
One of the book’s most powerful points is its first chapter which focuses on the question of our existence: “why are we here in this world?“.
Fr. Broom’s answer is St. Ignatius’: “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.”
This constitutes a strong foundation that keeps everything in the book firmly grounded in the reality of our daily lives and the choices we make.
Chapters 4 and 17 build on that foundation by reminding us of the importance of self-knowledge and the possibility of falling into mortal sin and dying in that state. Far from being fear-mongering, such exhortations help us not forget that our choices have eternal consequences and that this life is an arena of combat in which a lot is at stake.
Take heart and step into the fray
The remaining chapters present us with a rich treasure trove of steps and actions we can take to start living holy lives and walk more closely with our Lord.
Everything from morning prayer to daily Scripture reading, spiritual reading, learning about the Faith, daily examination of conscience, prayers of dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invocation of angels and saints, more frequent reception of the sacraments with adequate preparation and many others are presented so they can be immediately applied in your life.
In sum, Fr. Broom has provided us with a fine resource we can constantly go back to for encouragement and sound advice on how we can better live the fundamental vocation of all Christians; the universal call to holiness. It is my hope and prayer that this book will strengthen your resolve and furnish you with the tools and means to do the will of our Father in heaven.
This post is by Jesus Florez, a Proven Catholic apologist.
In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus declared He would draw all men to Himself. He also affirmed that there would be one flock and one shepherd.
This is a clear indication that our Lord Jesus intended unity to characterize the new people He would gather around Himself. The early Christians were clearly aware of this. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in the early second century to St. Polycarp “let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation”.
Ut Unum Sint
According to Scripture and Tradition, the Catholic Church believes that the unity Christ willed for the new people of God is one of a common faith, worship, and government: doctrine, liturgy, Magisterium.
Throughout the centuries there have been many heresies and schisms that have threatened to sever these bonds. In our present time, we experience the great divisions among Christians precisely over matters of faith, worship and government. The rampant fragmentation among Protestant Christian communities is only one example of how deep these divisions run and how serious they are.
Be Reconciled to Your Brother
We seek the reconciliation of all Christians in accordance with the will of our Lord and the means He provided for the continual transmission of the Christian faith. Among other things this means communion with the successor of St. Peter, the bishop of Rome, whom Jesus Christ our Lord established as His vicar on earth and the principium unitatis, the principle of unity, among believers.
In 2016 Pope Francis met with several Protestant pastors from different denominations and traditions in an effort to promote ecumenical dialogue and foster collaboration among fellow Christians. One of them was Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church in Redding, CA.
After meeting with Pope Francis, he proceeded to write an article and preach a sermon (iTunes podcast link) to his congregation in which he talked about unity among believers. I’ll comment briefly on three points I believe to be praiseworthy and then I’ll complement with additional reflections and considerations.
A Path to Reconciliation
When Pastor Kris met with Pope Francis he was very pleasantly surprised by his gentle demeanor and remarked during his sermon that he was convinced the Pope was filled with the Holy Spirit.
He also led a prayer for the Pope as part of his preaching. As a Catholic, it’s very encouraging to see this from a Protestant pastor who influences many people. It’s a clear sign that he has the right disposition of heart in order to make ecumenical dialogue possible. I applaud this as a Catholic and see it as an exhortation for all of us to do the same.
Towards the beginning of his sermon, Pastor Kris made the interesting observation that the first Christians didn’t have a New Testament, let alone the whole Bible. He also commented on how important it was to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. We wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Kris on the importance of a personal relationship with Christ. The Church enjoins us to approach Jesus in constant and fervent prayer and to hear His voice by frequent and prayerful reading of the Holy Scriptures.
Having said all this, realizing that the New Testament Scriptures didn’t exist as a unified canon for centuries and mentioning this during a sermon calls into question the Sola Scriptura paradigm whereby the Scriptures function as the formal principle of theology and the formally sufficient rule of faith without the need of a divinely appointed teaching authority.
We would encourage anyone that has become aware of this fact to continue to explore how in light of this millions of people, most of whom were illiterate, came to faith in Jesus and flourished in their relationship with Him.
Come, Holy Spirit
During the last portion of his sermon, Pastor Kris talked at length about the role of the Holy Spirit and how through it we can become part of the mind of Christ and achieve unity even if disagreement remains concerning doctrine and church government.
We readily agree with Pastor Kris in acknowledging the crucial role the Holy Spirit plays in the economy of salvation and God’s designs. One needs to look no further than St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Dominum et vivificantem“. However, we would balk at the idea of achieving unity while jettisoning unity of faith and government.
We would encourage people to explore the possibility that the gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit are not only personal and experiential but also hierarchical and communal.
For example, we believe that by a special gift (or charism) of the Holy Spirit the Roman pontiff is protected from error in declaring a point of faith or morals to be definitively held by all the faithful. We also believe that this gift is passed on by means of material succession within the context of the family of God.
Looking to Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of Our Faith
Before His Passion, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed for the Church. Since it is Him doing so, we believe that His prayer is infallibly effective, and therefore there will always be only one true Church of Jesus Christ.
We confess, in the words of Blessed Paul VI, that “the Church founded by Jesus Christ and for which he prayed is indefectibly one in faith, in worship and in the bond of hierarchical communion” (Paul VI, Creed of the People of God, 21).
We earnestly pray so that all who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior work together to overcome division and return to the one household of God, the Church of the living God, so that the world may believe that the Father has sent His Son to unite all things in Him.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer!
About the Author
This post is by Jesus Florez. Here’s Jesus in his own words:
I’m a Proven Catholic apologist thanks to the efforts and expertise of our friend and mentor, Devin Rose.
I now share his mission to equip Catholics to defend their faith and help Protestants consider the claims of the Catholic Church.
I’m originally from Colombia in South America and grew up Catholic but lukewarm at best. At age 18, I joined a Catholic Charismatic community that helped me have a deeper and more personal relationship with our Lord Jesus. Since moving to the United States in 2015, I became very interested in apologetics and in 2016 I participated in Devin Rose’s Proven Catholic apologist course as a beta tester and earned my certificate soon after.
I work full time as a receptionist at a local nursing home and in my free time I enjoy reading about our faith and spending time with my wife.
A non-denominational pastor thunders to his congregation: “My brothers and sisters, I used to live in bondage! I was bogged down under the weight of endless religious rules and precepts I had to painstakingly observe.”
“However, one day I came to the realization that all those things could never save me. The answer to my anguish and anxiety had been staring at me all along. Christ saves, not religion! Therefore, don’t labor in darkness anymore and see the light that only Jesus can bring. Can I get an amen?!”
This sounds a lot like what the average non-denominational Evangelical minister is preaching from the pulpit. Here we can see that familiar and quasi-rallying cry of a great portion of American Protestantism, namely religion doesn’t save, Christ does.
What are we to make of this claim so often bandied about by our Protestant friends? After all, at first blush it appears unassailable and quite pious.
All it takes is a question or two
To respond, I’d like to propose two simple questions that can help us see how the well-known quip doesn’t hold under scrutiny and ultimately becomes self-refuting when properly analyzed.
When considering the elements that constitute a religion, we can distill it down to two, namely: a worship code and a moral code. These correspond to the two following basic questions: are all forms of giving adoration to God valid and are all types of behavior valid and pleasing to God?
Is God pleased by the way I’ve chosen to worship Him?
Let’s consider number one.
The Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life and consequently, the highest form of worship human beings, empowered by Christ, can offer to God. Such a statement is either true or false.
For the vast majority of Protestants it is categorically false. This shows that for a given person or group of people, not all forms of worship of God are valid, otherwise they would have to include the Catholic Mass. As we can see from this, from the moment a Christian makes a decision as to what one can do or not do in order to offer adoration to God, he is ipso facto practicing a religion.
Let’s consider an additional example. Some groups of charismatic Christians would see a concert with loud music, stage smoke and dazzling lights as a valid way to give adoration to God. Conversely, some other Christians, such as Quakers and some Calvinists, would look at such activity and say that it is in fact a synagogue of Satan.
In the midst of that bombardment of visual stimuli, what God would there be to offer worship to? They are not worshiping God but themselves, these other Christians would say. Here we can see again that both groups have made pronouncements as to how one ought and ought not to worship. In so doing, they are practicing different religions.
Is God pleased by the behaviors I’ve chosen to embrace?
Let’s consider number two now.
We’ll use the issue of homosexual behavior and same-sex unions as our example. Many Christians in the Episcopal tradition, for example, have no qualms about blessing the union of same-sex couples and officiating wedding ceremonies for them in church buildings. They are very clear in declaring that the love these couples have for one another is pleasing in the sight of God and we should not hinder them.
Diametrically opposed to this we find many other Christians in other traditions that strongly condemn such actions and view them as the closest thing to the Devil waltzing about in the household of God. In making judgments as to what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable moral behavior, both groups are practicing different religions.
In summary, in examining the two questions I’ve put forward one can clearly see how the claim in the title of this post becomes a self-refuting proposition, for we have demonstrated that all individuals and groups must make decisions as to how they ought to worship and not worship and how they ought to behave and not behave. These are undoubtedly the elements of a religion.
Hence, whether one likes it or not, as soon as one wants to follow God, one is also choosing a particular religion, with its specific rituals, beliefs, history, and practices.