Should converts have a place in the Church?

Recently in the Catholic media there have been a few opinions voiced regarding the place of converts in the church.

One article I recall, a non germane “expose” regarding Pope Francis and the reception of the pontiff by converts to the faith, speaks brazenly of an opinion that converts dare not hold. Of course, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

It is disgusting that an author speaks ill of his fellow Catholics in such a way. Regardless if one is a convert, or like myself, a ‘cradle’ Catholic: we are one in faith, one in belief. There is no hierarchy of “catholicness.”

If you ‘google’ around and research the recent articles from the more progressive left, you’ll find a similar critique of orthodox Catholics and converts, again implying a separate level of belonging.

Question: who are some of the greatest of our saints? Were they not converts?

Remember: evil is benign at first.

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Correctio Filialis

If you have been following the latest news from within the Church, you are familiar with the ongoing debacle regarding Pope Francis and his questionable teaching on communion for the divorced. It began with the Dubia of the four good cardinals, and now, we have this: the Filial Correction.

Our Holy Father has remained silent in the wake of the Dubia, which out of the signatories, only two cardinals remain living. Read, then and behold: a letter signed and delivered to the Pope.

Most Holy Father,
With profound grief, but moved by fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ, by love for the Church and for the papacy, and by filial devotion toward yourself, we are compelled to address a correction to Your Holiness on account of the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia and by other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness.

We are permitted to issue this correction by natural law, by the law of Christ, and by the law of the Church, which three things Your Holiness has been appointed by divine providence to guard. By natural law: for as subjects have by nature a duty to obey their superiors in all lawful things, so they have a right to be governed according to law, and therefore to insist, where need be, that their superiors so govern. By the law of Christ: for His Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to rebuke Peter in public when the latter did not act according to the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2). St Thomas Aquinas notes that this public rebuke from a subject to a superior was licit on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith (Summa Theologiae 2a 2ae, 33, 4 ad 2), and ‘the gloss of St Augustine’ adds that on this occasion, “Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects” (ibid.). The law of the Church also constrains us, since it states that “Christ’s faithful . . . have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence, and position, to manifest to the sacred pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church” (Code of Canon Law 212:2-3; Code of Canons of Oriental Churches 15:3).

This is only the opening paragraph. You can already see the amount of talented scholarship and effort put in, and it is not without ground. Even Bishop Fellay has signed, along with other prominent scholars and theologians.

The official website can be found here.

My thoughts regarding the matter are unimportant; I find the need for this public awareness fitting. I love our Holy Father, as every Catholic ought – his authority is given by Our Lord and Saviour and is to be unquestioned. However, something is obviously wrong in the way the texts of Amoris Laetitia have been written and there is a case for certain scandal regarding a certain ghost-writer of the document.

(Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth)

I digress. Let us pray.

Dearest Mother of God, truly the Theotokos and Mother of all the Church: hear our supplications as we call out to Thee. Safeguard, dearest Mother, our Holy Father, from all heresy and error. Protect the Church, dearest Star of the Sea: let not the tempest drown Her, as we raise our intentions up to You. For Thou alone art closest to the ear of the Father, the mercy of the Son, and the breath of the Holy Ghost. Pray for our Church, oh holy Mother of God: pray for us to Thy Son.

To Thy Son, oh Mary, intercede.

Oh Christ, the eternal King and High Priest: protect Thy Vicar upon this Earth and have mercy upon the sins of Thy Church. For we are only human, and only Thy grace can aid us in our hour of trial. Gentlest Saviour, we adore and magnify Thy most holy and divine name. We confess that we have sinned against Thee: in what we have done, in what we have failed to do, for we have not loved our neighbour as ourself and we humbly implore Thy forgiveness. Let Thy will be done, O eternal and life-giving Trinity. One God, in three persons: have mercy on us. Thy love is all around us, like a vast and mighty ocean: we are safe in Thy stronghold.

Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Through the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Amen.

Seventy Times Seven

Compassion is a talent, a virtue: honed and practised, one we ought to teach to our children from a very young age. When we know compassion, we know also the basic tenet of forgiveness – that big word, the ‘f’ word we dread and use rarely. I hope the word burns within you: forgiveness is humbling, and to be forgiven is even more so…we ought to forgive because we all can recall a time when we have done wrong to someone else, whether it be to someone we love, a community we once belonged to, a mistake against our future. Notice how I write “we” instead of anything more singular? It is because none of us are exempt.

I’ve done wrong to others, and you have. Perhaps I’ve caused you to remember all those people in your life who have caused you harm, betrayal, or turmoil. Perhaps you do not feel vindicated enough for being the ‘offended’ party. Perhaps, you remember with sorrow, the greatest regret of your life – the greatest mistake, the most painful recollection of selfishness. I know I do. ‘We’ are guilty.

It is of great virtue to recall that all of us are of flesh and soul, of mind and body, spirit and blood. That each of us are created by one Father, crafted in His image, and it is literally the sin of the world that Christ bore on the cross for all of our redemption. Therefore, we ought to pray for the grace to be able to forgive, and forgive radically.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. and since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” St Matthew 18:21-35 (ESVA)

You see here that Our Lord commands not just forgiveness, but forgiveness without limit. The Jews of the time placed a special significance on the number “7,” for it meant a certain height of infinity – and today we know, it remains just as special (the seven sorrows, joys, days of creation). Our Lord doesn’t mean just seventy-times-seven, no, He means again, again, again, and again: today, tomorrow, always. He commands us always to forgive. My friends, it is very important that we read this gospel as often as we can. Weekly, monthly – however, as long as it becomes a habit. Our Saviour continues to teach the apostles that those who sow mercy will also receive it, and forgiveness is contained in every drop of Christ’s Precious Blood.

Oh, but how difficult that is!

If anyone has ever read The Brothers Karamazov, you may recall how Fyodor, the father of Ivan and Alexei (amongst others), reacts towards his own embarrassments, mistakes, and maniacal behaviour – he begins the blame the victim, and even, hate him. This is because he couldn’t bring himself to forgive himself for his wrongdoings, and rather than straighten up and carry on, Dostoevsky, in his psychological way, creates a narrative around hard-headedness.

We as Christians ought not to have hard hearts, and I am as guilty as the next. We have to forgive: radically. Ourselves, others; we do this because God forgives us.

This is why He left us a Church.

This is why He left us the sacraments.

This is why He left us the confessional.

Because He loves us. He forgives us.

Confession is mandatory. Let us pray for the grace of a good and holy confession, for graces that come from forgiveness, and from being forgiven.

Faithful Before Thee

Faithful before thee, Mother of God, now kneeling,
Image miraculous and merciful — of thee
Not for my soul’s health nor battles waged, beseeching,
Nor yet with thanks or penitence o’erwhelming me!

Not for myself,– my heart with guilt o’erflowing —
Who in my home land e’er a stranger has remained,
No, a sinless child upon thy mercy throwing,
That thou protect her innocence unstained!

Worthy the highest bliss, with happiness O bless her!
Grant her a friend to stand unchanging at her side,
A youth of sunshine and an old age tranquil,
A spirit where together peace and hope abide.

Then, when strikes the hour her way from earth for wending,
Let her heart break at dawning or at dead of night —
From out thy highest heaven thy fairest angel sending
The fairest of all souls sustain in heavenward flight!

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The Grace of Time

There is no tear, no scar nor wound, neither is there any embarrassment or humiliation that the balm of time cannot heal. For time itself is a form of grace: to persevere, to inspire hope for what has not yet come, and console us as we rest in the prison that we have built for ourselves. Because, in time, that prison dissolves and falls around us. Then we can walk freely and embrace the seconds of grace freely given to us. And when we understand that everyone we meet, brush arms with, or lock eyes with, has time to their own to fall and rise, and to wrong and resolve, then our understanding of humanity; the brokenness of our flesh and desire; becomes the light through the rubble of our choices as individuals. What time we give of ours so that it may become another’s, begs us to love our friends and neighbours because we share that same ache, that same inclination towards utter imperfection. That no man is greater than the next in the human condition, but with grace and time, we can become holy and grow our resolve to resist our desire towards self satisfaction. When we practise and grow in virtue, we know it is right to rather act in pursuit towards that which is authentic and true. With depth of understanding comes depth of love: and this is a divine love, because it comes from God alone who loves each one of us.

– from my exposition for the first day of University classes. Cameron dP O’M.

Living and the Dead

Today I travelled a wee bit outside of town, and came across a beautiful little village that contained two churches and a chapel. One, Anglican, the other, Catholic. Both were imbibed with the beautiful of 500 years, another a more Victorian structure (that was the Catholic) with seating in the upper part of the church as well as the lower. It is amazing what a God-fearing priest can do to revive the dusty faith of and ageing population.

Now, in both churches, the altars were facing ad orientem. Central to the Catholic church was the tabernacle placed beyond the altar. On said altar remained three traditional Mass cards, and a statue of Our Lady and St Therese on either side. The priest is a young, recently-ordained fellow and in charge of three other parishes. I had missed daily Mass, but it was evident how used the building was. According to the figures, it has been growing and growing each Sunday do to the attraction of traditionalists and those who seek a proper Mass each Sunday, as both rites are offered at the Church. I knelt at the altar rail for a prayer, and was moved at the tranquility the little building enclosed. There was a quaint little pump-organ placed in the back, and on it by some sort of Divine Providence was placed my favourite hymn. I managed to walk a little further around town, and enjoyed the familiar spray of salt water on my face. The beauty of God’s creating is amazing. And for someone struggling like I am, a five-hour drive from home truly does one a world of good.

The Anglican church was a fully wooden Gothic building, and a very grand one with the full English pipe organ, now in disuse (such a pity for a beautiful thing). Of course, the minister is a liberal who preaches the modernist concept of tolerance.

The building is threatened with closure.

So, it seems as though a dead faith makes a dead church… but a ‘lively’ faith, creates a lively congregation.