Friday, February 21, 2014

Pope Francis Reaches Out To America's "Born Again" Christians

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It began with a simple video message, recorded on a common smart phone.  It was given to Tony Palmer, who is a bishop within a Protestant church.  He carried it himself to Kenneth Copeland Ministries, where it was shown before an Evangelical/Pentecostal conference that was being held there. The short video message appears to be directed not just to this particular conference, but to all those whom the delegates represent.  Therefore, I think it's safe to say the message is intended for all American Christians who would identify themselves as "Born Again."  This would include America's Pentecostals, Charismatics, Evangelicals, Baptists as well as general "Bible Christians."

There is nothing in the message that is bargaining or propositional.  The pope simply makes a heartfelt plea for "Born Again" Christians to recognise Catholic Christians as spiritual "brethren" and thus embrace each other as such.  It is little more than an appeal to please recognise and acknowledge Catholics as Christians, and work together in the years ahead, to try to bring unity between us.  There are no calls for conferences, or meetings, or ecumenical synods.  It is simply a "first step."  In the video the pope promises to pray for America's "Born Again" Christians and sends them his blessing. Likewise he asks for the same prayer and blessing in return.  If you're a "Born Again" Christian (Evangelical, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, Bible, etc.) then this message is for you,  I ask that you share this message with as many people as you can using the "share" social media icons below. If you're a Catholic, I ask you to share this message as well using the same method.

For those of you who are "Born Again" Christians, there are some common questions you may have about Catholic Christians.  Perhaps some of these facts below will be of help...
  1. We Catholics are Christians.  We are very ancient Christians from a very ancient Church.
  2. We Catholics only worship God as the Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit).  We do not worship anyone or anything else.  We do not worship Mary.  We do not worship the pope.  Period.
  3. We Catholics trust in Jesus Christ as our one and only Savior and Lord.  We regularly ask Jesus to live inside of us every week at holy mass.
  4. We Catholics do confess our sins to priests, but we ask for forgiveness from God.  It's written right into our confessional rite.  Just so you know.
  5. We Catholics do not believe we are saved by our good works apart from God's grace.  We believe God's grace is present in everything, both our faith and our works, and that it is God alone who saves us through Jesus Christ.
  6. We Catholics do pray to Mary and the Saints, but when we do, we do so through the Holy Spirit, because we know that to the Christian "death has no sting" and that means the dead in Christ are not dead at all. They are just as connected to the Holy Spirit as we are, if not more so.  It's an ancient practise that Christians have been doing since the early Church.  Protestants may not agree with it, and that is fine, but there is nothing in the Bible against it, and in fact, there is evidence in the Bible supporting it. 
  7. We Catholics acknowledge, as a matter of faith, that Protestants (those baptised in the name of the Trinity) are our spiritual brethren in Christ.  This is written into our Catechism and the most important documents of the Church.
Hopefully, these facts were helpful in giving a basic understanding of who Catholics are and what we believe.  Please share this message with as many people as you can, using the social media icons below, especially "Born Again" Christians in the United States.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love and Marriage

A Nuptial Mass Celebrated in the Middle 20th Century.
I predict that on this day, the 12th of February, in the Year of Our Lord 2014, the final battle over gay "marriage" in the United States has begun.  I predict it will eventually end in the United States Supreme Court (perhaps within a few years) with a stunning defeat for proponents of traditional Christian marriage. I pray to God I am wrong about this....
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight gay couples that seeks to force Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states or countries that allow them... read more here
Now this isn't the first time this has been tried, but in the past, federal judges did side in favour of recognising gay "marriage."  What makes my home state of Missouri different?  Simple.  We have a state constitutional amendment that specifically defines marriage as strictly between one man and one woman...
That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman. -- Missouri Constitution, Article I, Bill of Rights, Section 33
This isn't just some state law.  This is written into the very constitution of our state.  Therefore, the governor, all elected officials, and state judges, are sworn to defend the constitution, and likewise the Missouri definition of marriage.  This is nothing short of a battle that is absolutely sure to land in the United States Supreme Court.  It's the ACLU versus the Great State of Missouri, and you can rest assured that Missouri will spend every last dime of its legal resources to defend this section of her constitution, because for Missouri, this isn't just about marriage.  This is about state sovereignty, and the ability of the people of Missouri to govern themselves.  For Missouri, the question isn't just "what is marriage?"  It is also "what is Missouri?"  Are states truly able to govern themselves?  Or are they just vassals to the legal whims of the United States federal government?  Likewise, the ACLU will spend every last dime of its legal resources to defeat it, because their credibility is now on the line.  If they can't defeat Missouri's constitutional prohibition of gay "marriage," then they can defeat no state's constitution on this issue.  Certain states will become invincible, and other states will have a clear path marked out for how to defend against gay "marriage."  The ACLU needs funding, just like any legal organisation, and if they fail in this case, they will lose donors -- guaranteed.  Literally everything is riding on the line for both sides here.  This is going to be legal Armageddon.

At the heart of this issue, on a legal level, is states rights.  Do states really have the right to govern themselves?  Does it really matter if the people of a state vote on a certain issue?  The Missouri Marriage Amendment passed by a popular vote of 71% in 2004.  I was part of that 71%.  Does my vote really count?  Does it even matter?  Do any of our votes count?  Are we Missourians?  Or are we just vassals to the U.S. federal government?  Can we, as a people of a state (any state), decide our own destiny?  Or will it be decided for us?  Are we truly free to govern ourselves?  Or is that freedom void where prohibited by judicial fiat from federal courts?  Whatever decision comes down from Mount Olympus, those "gods" in dirty black robes on the Supreme Court, it will decide more than just what marriage means in America.  It will also decide what America means, and what it means to be a state within this federal Union.

As for the issue of marriage itself, on a cultural level, I concede the battle is nearly lost, and I have to say it was lost long before gay "marriage" entered onto the scene.  I would say we (Christians) began losing the battle long ago, about the time of the 1950s.  This was when marriage began to be defined strictly in terms of "love" and not "family."  People began to marry for feelings rather than practicality.  Now I'm not saying spouses shouldn't have feelings for each other -- they should.  What I'm saying is that feelings are only a fraction of the picture.  One must consider the viability of parenthood, whether or not ones potential spouse will make a good parent.  The desire for children itself should also be a component.  Then there are spiritual elements to consider, such as "can this potential spouse help me get to heaven?" and also "is this somebody that I can help get to heaven?"  Which leads to the next logical question, "can we (together as a team) help our children get to heaven?"  Other factors to consider are manners, upbringing, discipline, empathy, etc.  What I'm saying here is this.  When FAMILY becomes the focus of marriage, that changes just about everything.  The whole reason why people get married in the first place changes, because the focus is different.

But around 1950 is when the cultural focus changed from "family" to "love," and when that happened, the battle was over before it ever really begun.  We lost.  The defeat of Christianity on the issue of marriage was inevitable.  It would take more than half a century, but defeat was assured.

Immediately following this paradigm shift in the understanding of marriage came the rapid onset of divorce.  After all, if the focus of marriage is "love" instead of "family," and you're not feeling a whole lot of love for your spouse any more, why stay married?  And so they didn't.

What followed was the sexual revolution -- of course -- which is a perfectly logical progression when you stop and think about it.  If the focus of courtship changes from "family" to "love."  Why court at all?  Courtship simply became "dating," and dating was all about -- you guessed it -- love.

Then came widespread artificial birth control, followed by abortion on demand.  Then came "safe sex."  Then came "living together."  After all, if the focus of marriage is "love," you really don't need marriage to love somebody.  So just dispense of marriage all together -- and so they did. 

Then and only then, after all that, came the struggle for gay "marriage."  For many of the proponents of gay "marriage," the focus is love.  Why not?   If the focus of marriage is love, and straight people can love each other through marriage, then why not gay people?  It's only logical.  Right?  If you don't agree, then you must have something against homosexuals.  You must be prejudiced.  You must be a bigot.  Are you saying that gay people can't love each other just as much as straight people can?

You see, when the focus of marriage is "love" instead of "family" the argument against gay marriage is lost before it is ever begun.  Now Christianity has lost so much ground, nothing but a miracle can gain it back.  I wouldn't say the situation is hopeless, because I believe in miracles, but I'm also going to be realistic.  It will take a miracle.

So now that we know what the focus of marriage should be -- family not love -- then the next question begins to answer itself.  Why do we have state civil marriage?  If the focus of marriage is love, then really, the state has no business in marriage.  It's just another case of the government sticking its nose into the private affairs of people again.  Why should the state care who I love?  What's the point of the state even offering marriage licenses in the first place?  However, when we shift the focus of marriage back to family, where it should be, then the reason for civil marriage starts to present itself as obvious.  Thousands of years of societal evolution has determined that the best circumstance for creating more children, and raising them in stable and nurturing environments, is the traditional family as defined in the Christian sense of one man and one woman, for the purpose of creating and sustaining new life.  New life in a stable home = new productive citizens = new taxpayers!  Yes, insofar as the government is concerned, it really is that simple.  So legal incentives are given to a male and female couple to engage in this sort of relationship.  It's sort of like a bribe you see.  "If you do this traditional marriage thing, and make new productive taxpayers for us, we'll give you a few perks!"  I'm talking about some tax incentives, and legal benefits, that simplify family affairs.  In other words, the state has always had a selfish motive in recognising marriages legally, but that's just how the state works on everything really, or at least most of the time.  Civil marriage benefits the couple, the marital act, and the family it produces. This in turn benefits the state.  It's a mutually beneficial arrangement.  When it comes to civil marriage, "love" never once entered into the equation.  The state could care less if couples love one another.  All the state wants is the product of the relationship -- children! -- preferable in a stable home.  The state obviously can't guarantee a stable home, but it can do everything within it's power to help, and the benefits of a civil marriage contract do contribute toward that end.

The most interesting thing about the whole gay "marriage" phenomenon is that as the culture forgot what the focus of marriage is, so did the state.  The state seems to be oblivious to the fact that granting marriage licenses to gay couples actually harms the state in the long run.  The damage won't be seen overnight.  This sort of thing will take a generation or two to manifest, but when it does, you can rest assured the state will awaken from its amnesia.  What it will do about it, if anything, remains to be seen. By then, the social problems may be beyond repair.  There are those who subscribe to "replacement theory," which states that in time, as demographic populations shift, so will governments.  Old governments will simply be replaced by new ones, that may or may not, have anything in common with the old.  This may solve the marriage problem in the long run, but again, that is just speculation and remains to be seen.

What I believe to be certain in the short term is this.  The ACLU case against the Missouri Constitution will go immediately to the federal courts.  How the federal courts rule is completely irrelevant, because regardless of who wins, the other side will appeal the decision.  Then it will work its way up to the United States Supreme Court.  The "gods" from Mount Olympus may refuse to hear the case at first, but they won't be able to put this off indefinitely.  Eventually they will consent to hear the case.  When they do, they will run into two issues that even the most conservative justice will have difficulty avoiding.  The United States Constitution clearly implies that a marriage contracted in one state is automatically valid in all 50 states, by virtue of the "full faith and credit" clause...
Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof. -- U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 1
Combine this with the "equal protection" clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and what you have spells certain defeat for traditional marriage in the United States...
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. -- U.S. Constitution, Amendment 14, Section 1
Even the most conservative and traditional Supreme Court justice cannot deny this.  Granted, neither the founding fathers, nor the politicians after the Civil War, foresaw gay "marriage."  Granted, something like this never even occurred to them.  So they could have never imagined that their legal documents could be used for such a thing.  Nevertheless, they did unwittingly provide the ACLU with the legal tool it needs to make gay "marriage" the law of the land in the United States of America.  I predict, that barring an absolute miracle from God Almighty, this will happen, and perhaps within a few years or so, homosexuals will be able to marry and be recognised as married in all 50 of these United States of America.  As for those of us (all 71% of us) who voted to protect the traditional Christian definition of marriage, well, our votes simply won't count.  Missouri, like all the rest of the states, will prove to be nothing more than vassals of the United States federal government.  The "gods" on Mount Olympus (The United States Supreme Court) will rule, and when they do, the politicians of America will cower to the thunder of their gavel.  They will more than decide what it means to be married.  They will also decide what it means to be a Missourian, or the citizen of any state.  It will simply mean -- nothing.  Our votes won't count.  We won't have the power to govern ourselves, for the "gods" on Mount Olympus will simply overrule us whenever they want, just as they did on abortion.

I have said from the beginning, that nothing but a strong "states rights" movement can turn this tide of judicial oppression in the federal government.  Nothing but the willingness of states to call for a constitutional convention, or even secede if necessary, will stop this trend toward absolute judicial rule.  Nothing but a return to state pride, and identifying ourselves as Missourians first and Americans second, will turn these tables.  That and prayer -- a whole lot of prayer... And I do mean a lot... Along with repentance for our sins... And a return to "family" (not just love) as the primary focus of marriage.


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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Church Reform - What Works and What Doesn't

There seems to be a lot of chatter on the Internet about the reforms of Vatican II, and the future direction of the Catholic Church. So I thought this would be a good time to chime in about what I think as a convert to the Catholic Church. You see, I came into the Catholic Church totally by free choice. I had no friends or neighbours drawing me in. Granted, I had an aunt and uncle in another state who were Catholic, but they were in another state, far away, and I rarely ever saw them. Granted, my grandmother, like my aunt, was also a convert, but she had been dead for over a decade at the time, and I really had no previous connection to her on a religious level. When I decided I might want to convert, even my wife was against the idea at first, and as for the rest of my family (parents, siblings, etc.), they thought I was crazy. So the point I'm trying to make here is I had nothing drawing me into the Catholic Church other than the Church itself. I had nothing "vested" in the Catholic Church. There were no family or social "incentives" to becoming Catholic.  In fact, I lost a lot of "friends" over this decision, and so did my wife when she eventually decided to convert as well. What drew me into the Catholic Church was the Catholic Church itself, nothing less and nothing more.

That being said, I think I might have a little insight into the topic of Church reform.  First and foremost, the goal of Church reform should be twofold and simple.  One, to make the Church more palatable to new converts.  Two, to make members within the Church more holy.  Now I would say that while these two goals may seem separate, they are in fact, one in the same.  For holiness on the part of Church members will in fact make the Church more palatable to new converts.

The real question is, how do we get there?

I would assert that everything we need is already before us.  What we need to do is just implement the right things in the right way. We have nearly 50 years since the close of the Second Vatican Council. During that time we have seen sweeping changes in the Church, unprecedented in 2,000 years. We have watched the Church thrive in some places and wither in others. From this, we know what works, and likewise, we know what doesn't work.

Before we talk about what we know works, let's talk about what we know doesn't work. There are two things that have proved to be disastrous to parish growth and parishioner holiness.

The first thing that doesn't work is rigid legalism. We don't see too much of this any more in North America, but if one searched hard enough, I'm sure one could find a pocket of it here and there. What is rigid legalism? Rigid legalism is when the Catholic Christian faith is reduced down to a list of rules -- "do's and don'ts."  It is often accompanied by a "sourpuss" mentality, wherein the joy of Christian life is gone, and the entire faith becomes a "contest" of sorts, to see who is more holy than others.  The enthusiasm of Christian life is gone.  The zeal to win new converts is gone. Such folks eagerly await the punishment of God upon this heathen world, so they can inwardly say "I told them so" as the world goes up in smoke like Sodom and Gomorrah. This kind of attitude is what drives people away from the Catholic Church, and makes them say they hate organised religion.

The second thing that doesn't work is liberal modernism. This is the exact opposite of rigid legalism, and we've seen a whole lot of this in recent decades.  I would say there is scarcely a single city in North America where this isn't going on in at least one or two Catholic parishes.  Actually, the real statistic is probably a lot higher.  Liberal modernism is when the pendulum swings in the completely opposite direction of rigid legalism but goes way too far.  Liberal modernism is when traditional rules and regulations are thrown out completely, and parishes embrace a sort of "anything goes" mentality.  Here we have a lax view of sin, wherein we see issues related to money and sex virtually ignored.  The rich are catered to, so long as they give a generous donation now and then, and as for the sexually deviant, everyone just looks away, as if to pretend it's not really a problem.  However, there is more to liberal modernism than this.  It also manifests itself in the form of teaching that comes from behind the pulpit and in the classrooms, wherein the Catholic Christian faith is turned into some kind of "feel goodism" in which nothing is judged, not even sin, and everybody is just "okay."  The assumption here is that everybody will go to heaven, and sin is more of a relative issue, depending on one's conscience, regardless of how well informed that conscience is.  Lastly, we see liberal modernism manifest itself in the form of liturgy, wherein again there is an "anything goes" kind of mentality.  It begins by tossing out traditional forms of worship, and what made Catholicism distinctively "Catholic" to begin with.  Parishes begin to take on a more traditional Protestant look and feel.  This then leads to innovations in the liturgy, wherein the priest begins to think he needs to do more "interesting" things to keep the attention of the congregation.  Some priests really took this too far and implemented strange innovations that can only be classified as "liturgical abuse."  This kind of attitude also drives people away from the Catholic Church, because it makes those within it look hypocritical.  When Catholicism is reduced to something that can easily be offered by anything else in the world (other religions, denominations or philosophy) why bother with Catholicism at all?  If rigid legalism makes people hate organised religion, then liberal modernism makes people think organised religion is just irrelevant.

Over the last 50 years we have seen how these things have failed to produce personal holiness among parishioners, and by extension, they have failed not only to attract new converts, but they have also failed to retain the youth of long established Catholic families.  They have been miserable failures and today the Catholic Church is suffering because of them, not only in North America, but also in Oceania and Western Europe.

So now that we've discussed what doesn't work, let's take a look at what does work.  I think the place to start is with two popes actually, both still alive, one reigning and the other in retirement.  In Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI we see two completely different styles of Church governance, but though they seem opposite in many ways, they are actually very complementary to each other.  In both Francis and Benedict, together, we have the formula of successful Church reform.

Let us look first toward the reforms of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  In 2007, His Holiness issued a motu prorpio appendix to Church law entitled Summorum Pontificum. In it, he succinctly explained the nature of the Roman Rite as manifested in two forms.  The Ordinary Form, also called the Novus Ordo (meaning "new order") is the form of the Roman Rite that is commonly celebrated in multiple vernacular languages around the world.  The Extraordinary Form, also called the Vetus Ordo (meaning "old order") is the form of the Roman Rite that was commonly celebrated before 1970 exclusively in Latin.  His Holiness made it crystal clear that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the Vetus Ordo) has never been repealed or abrogated.  That it remained in force, alongside the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the Novus Ordo), since 1970 and has never been replaced.  This came as a shock to many priests and bishops within the Church who had treated the Vetus Ordo as just that -- replaced.  The previous pope then instructed that all priests, who are competently trained to do so, may celebrate the Vetus Ordo privately with, or without, their bishop's permission. Likewise, each and every bishop was charged to make welcoming accommodations to any group of parishioners that requested the Vetus Ordo, and that all Roman Catholics have the sacred right to worship God using the Vetus Ordo mass.  What were the results?  Over the last seven years we have seen an explosion of Vetus Ordo masses all over North America, and with them we are beginning to see a renewed desire for holiness among youth.  With that comes new converts from Protestantism and other forms of faith.

However, if that were all the Benedictine reform was, it would be quite a bit, however Pope Benedict XVI did not stop there.  Throughout his pontificate, Benedict demonstrated by example and teaching that traditional elements must be restored to the liturgy, and that pastoral instruction must be consistent with the historical teaching of the Church.  Gradually, Benedict's celebration of the Novus Ordo mass became more traditional in approach, with older styles of music, Gregorian chant, the regular use of Latin, etc.  His papal teachings highlighted a hermeneutic of continuity with the pre-conciliar Church.  In other words, the Church's doctrine is the same both before and after the Second Vatican Council.  He stressed again and again, that everything we do in this post-conciliar era must be interpreted in continuity with the pre-conciliar era, and that this is where Vatican II gets its proper context.  Before the end of his papacy he did two things.  The first was to candidly explain that during the Second Vatican Council, the mainstream news media essentially hijacked the message and meaning of the council, causing many clergy and laity around the world to get a false impression.  Benedict, who was present at the council, knew what was intended by the council's statements and documents.  The media however, gave the world a different impression, and sadly, that wrong impression has played out in dioceses all over the Western world.  He urged the cardinals, archbishops and bishops of the Church to get back to the basics, ignore the media's interpretation, and rather interpret Vatican II within the context of the pre-conciliar era.  During the final years of his pontificate, many parishes, particularly in the United States, began implementing this more traditional interpretation of Vatican II.  As a result, those parishes have seen a revival of their youth, and some growth among converts to the Catholic Church.  The second thing Pope Benedict XVI did, in the last moments of his papacy, was to send out a "tweet" through the social network Twitter, urging all the faithful to remember the joy of their Christian baptism, and bring that joy back into the world.  With that last papal address, Pope Benedict XVI slipped away into retirement.

What followed the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI was the election of Pope Francis, and Francis wasted no time picking up right where Benedict left off.  The joy of the gospel became the focus of his papacy.  Francis' style is remarkably different than Benedict, but that is not bad thing. What it does is emphasise the other half of this Benedictine-Franciscan renewal of the Church.  While the Benedictine side dealt with the renewal of tradition, procedure and doctrinal stability, the Franciscan side deals with attitude, mindset, and childlike humility.  In other words, it's not just all about tradition and procedure.  It's also about attitude and passion.  Keep this in mind.  It's not an "either/or" thing.  It's a "both/and" thing!  We must have BOTH Benedictine continuity AND Franciscan simplicity!  Some have tried to pit Francis against Benedict, and nowhere is this more seen than in the mainstream media.  This demonstrates an immature mindset and a complete lack of understanding about Catholicism.  Woe to anyone who looks to the mainstream media as "experts" on the Catholic Church.  They have no clue as to what they're talking about.  Within the Franciscan side of the Church's reform we can expect some changes.  These will be mainly procedural in nature, probably to simplify and streamline canon law, so as to make it easier for non-Catholics to convert to Catholicism, and help people live within the framework of Church life.  To expect any changes to doctrine, tradition or morality is very naive.  That's not how it works in the Catholic Church.  Still, we have yet to see what the Franciscan side of the reform will look like.

So all we really have to work with, for the time being, is the Benedictine side.  To renew our parishes, it seems the best thing to do is work with the Benedictine model.  It is a model that Pope Francis not only fully supports, but it is also the model he will be building upon in the years to come.  If we want to prepare ourselves for the Franciscan side of the reform, we must prepare the foundation with the Benedictine side of the reform.  Those parishes that fail to lay the Benedictine foundation will not be ready for the Franciscan renewal.  To illustrate, let us look to history.  Saint Benedict of Nursia came long before Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Benedict laid the foundation of Western monasticism.  Saint Francis refined Western monasticism by building upon the foundation laid by Saint Benedict. Saint Benedict brought Christianity to Western Europe.  Saint Francis renewed Christianity in Western Europe, again building upon Saint Benedict's previous work.  Benedict always comes before Francis.  Benedict lays the foundation, and Francis builds upon it. I don't think it is mere coincidence that these modern popes of Church renewal and reform chose the names Benedict and Francis in that particular order.  They are two sides to the same coin, but one always comes before the other.

So the message I'm trying to get across here is this.  If you love Pope Francis, and you want your parish to be ready for his reforms when they come, and you don't want to be left behind trying to catch up, then this is what you need to do.  Lay the foundation of Pope Benedict XVI's reforms in you parish.  Get it ready for Pope Francis' renewal.  While many parishes will obviously not be able to accommodate the Vetus Ordo mass, they can still implement the traditional liturgical renewals in the Novus Ordo mass.  They can carefully work on sticking to the rubrics of the mass, return to an ad orientem position, bring back the bells and incense, start doing Gregorian chant (or at least Roman plain chant), and most of all, they can start kneeling for communion again and encourage reception on the tongue.  Homilies must be doctrinally sound, and parishioners must be encouraged to live holy lives.  Pastors must be pastors, and instruct their congregations not only corporately, but also individually, in loving pastoral council.  The sacrament of confession must be made widely available, and people encouraged to visit.  Sometimes even communion must be withheld, for public sins, until they are repented of privately in the confessional.  These are the Benedictine reforms, and this is the foundation Pope Francis will work to build on.  We must get the foundation of our houses in order, so we will be ready for the Franciscan renewal in the years ahead.  We don't want to be left behind!


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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!