The First Steps towards understanding Mercy

        Today our youngest, John Paul, got serious about crawling.  A few little steps and lunges at a time, but it is the beginning of his journey towards independence.  The troubles and joys this will bring will arise in the minds of each and every parent who survived it at least once.

    One of the interesting things about our John Paul, compared to his four siblings, is his very delayed desire to crawl.  The fact is the boy loves his standing bouncy toy.  He bounces in that thing for hours each day.  He also realizes if you walk, your hands can play with toys when you go places.  So the reality is, crawling is not a very efficient or fun use of time.  So after some coaching, the boy finally realized all the pieces for walking are not in place yet…so crawling is not such a step down.

    Today I decided to join the nine day consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary being directed by Father Heilman of the website The Roman Catholic Man (Nine Day Consecration) using the writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe.  I’m already glad I did the reading and lesson…because like John Paul I found myself wanting to walk faster in faith, but I found myself without all the necessary tools.

   The one lesson I gained the most from today is the need for mercy in the grand plan for creation.  I recently came to understand grace as the extension of kindness to the unworthy, and mercy as the withholding of a justified punishment.  This made sense, but how does that relate to our salvation.

   St. Maximillian Kolbe explains the role of mercy in salvation history in the form of a math problem we all once faced in middle school.  Remember the problem where the teacher says:”To win this game you must obtain 100 apples.  I will start you with 33.  How long will it take you to obtain 100 apples if I give you 1/3 of difference you are missing each day?”  At first you say two days!  1/3 each day!  Then reality sets in.  

    You realize each day you would get only 1/3 of the way to the objective each day no matter how hard you try.  Even when you are down to one apple, the teacher will only give you a third of the remaining apple needed to reach victory.   Therefore you will NEVER reach 100 apples because I will keep giving you smaller and smaller slices for ever!

  Having the sun shine on us as we collect those apple parts would be a whole lot of grace.  But to reach 100 apples you need a game changer.  That game changer would be mercy from someone who will bridge the gap by giving you some of his apples, I will not provide, to reach 100.

  This is the mercy we need from God everyday.  We are imperfect creatures, and no matter how hard we try will always be imperfect.  God took care of this imperfection problem by providing a game changing assist. God the creator of our souls, worked through the Holy Spirit to place Jesus in our physical world as the son of Mary.  

    God became one of us, spoke to us, broke open the gates of hell, and offered each of us a spot in his family through his offer of adoption.  These acts provide us the missing “apples” to put 100 in in our basket if we but stay on track to be in his family.  This offer of mercy still must be earned, but it sits on the table for all to take advantage of if we are smart enough to grasp it.

    Quite a lesson, and there was so much more…what a wonderful journey to start crawling on.


The Harvest of Salvation

    Many modern Catholic theologians, and clergy, assert the world’s population has a reasonable assumption of reaching heaven.  This theological viewpoint by nature runs over quite quickly into how they interact with the world through preaching, parish life and politics.  Although I am just a novice in understanding grand theological ideas; the assumption cannot be true due to conflicts with sacred scripture, Church Fathers teaching, and natural law.

    We are created in the image of God and built to share in knowledge and the life of God (CCC356).  Our capacity to do so however depends on each of us freely choosing to offer back to God all of the creation he provided to us (CCC358).  The stain of original sin on our nature makes it impossible to do be completely intimate with God without constant reliance on our Lord’s sacraments and teaching (CCC 402-406).  This results in the “hard battle…” of life in the real world where one who lives in ignorance of man’s wounded nature “gives rise to serious error in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.”(CCC407)

    Our Lord also clearly repeats this theme in scripture through his parables.  In the parable of the sower we find all the seed is good.  The seed just lands on different ground.  The seed only thrives when it can find enriching soil and few external dangers.  Some ground is easily fertile, some is fertile but full of thorns, and some falls on rocky infertile soil.  The end result is two thirds of the seed yields very little healthy wheat.  Meanwhile the fertile soil thrives with the fewest plant failures.  The moral of the story becomes the minority of people grow into wheat the Father takes into heaven.

    Now the great philosopher would reply, any man can have their own faith in God which generates hope.  The same person could then use their intellect, and observations of nature to do good works of charity for others.   So therefore the scripture, tradition and sacraments are not required for assumption into heaven for eternal life.  So therefore reasonably people can assume God has a wide entrance to everyone to obtain heaven.

    The philosopher would err however in his final assessment.  By relying solely on our own intellect for decisions, we in fact prevent ourself from submitting our intellect to the will of God.    This fact, in and of itself, means the person living alone is not ready to become one with God.   No being ready to form complete union with almighty God prevents us from obtaining the gifts of heaven.  Giving back everything to God includes submitting all of our intellect to the words and commands of Jesus for introspection.  

    The lone person also becomes one against the fallen world, with all of its physical and spiritual dangers. With no community in which to find refuge from hostile forces, the lone person must fight alone and will be unaided by the wisdom of others on their quest for heaven.  So at the end of the lone journeyman’s life, it will not be a final chance to beg for God’s mercy (which those who submitted our lives before hand may possibly receive).  It would be a complete act of mercy from God to grant mercy to someone who did not submit completely to his rule, and is still defiantly saying they are their own judge on matters of faith and morals.

    We have scriptural evidence for this when Jesus himself tells Saul his work of persecuting christians hurt his body, and he needed to change.  Saul becomes the Apostle Paul, and every day begged for mercy he did not deserve.  Paul submitted his teachings, and service to the guidance of the other apostles in Jerusalem to insure their continuity with those of the remainder of Christ’s body.  Paul celebrated the eucharist with the rest of the church as daily nourishment for his journey.  Paul did this because the Body of Christ on earth was the church, and its sacraments is God’s life blood poured forth to the nourishment of the individuals in that body.

    If men as great as St Paul and other church fathers realized how thin the path to heaven was, then the historical and theological evidence clearly comes down against a “reasonable assumption” for each person to reach heaven.  It is time to recognize how this carefree attitude hurts moral decision making in our daily lives and the governance of our church.  If we recognize the real rocky path towards heaven, maybe we’ll re-acquire the missionary zeal of those first christians once again.


The Blacksmith of My Manhood

My father in his trusty Model A pickup 

My father in his trusty Model A pickup 

Give a lad a training suitable to his character and, even when old, he will not go back on it.

Proverbs 22:6 Catholic Online 

   Good fathers remain indispensable to every child on the planet.  A father is the person God entrusts to look at each child he gives them, and call them into adulthood.  Fathers should take the faith filled heart a mother forms, and steel it like a blacksmith works metal.  The steel must withstand every tempest the world will throw at it until our bodies fade to dust.  I am blessed my father did this for me, and I accepted his molding to form the man I am.

    From an early age I remember my Dad as a pillar of strength and determination.  He still gets up before dawn, works long hours, deployed at our nation’s call for forty-five years, learned things from diverse resources way before the birth of the internet, demands honesty and gives it unfailingly, requires common sense be applied to all critical thinking, expects you to know a fact based history on what you speak, and displays a dogged determination to achieve which puts a bulldog to shame.  My father steeled my heart to respect my mother and her core values.  He then slowly built a frame around my heart to carry me into adulthood.  

    My father’s greatest wisdom, in forming his children, was to ensure we knew how to think.  My father knew our world would be as different from his as his world was from his father’s.  As a result, he knew his children needed well rounded educations grounded in those family core values.  This frame protected us, gave us limbs to build new futures, and a head to seek the wisdom of the Lord in new faraway lands when he was not there to guide us.  My father trained our character traits to last a lifetime.  

    After meeting many people with dads who failed to accept their duties as fathers, I know I am a blessed child.  I also believe this is why I am committed to do the mission my father does, but often shields from view of his own children.  My father throughout the years tended to lost sheep, and got them better prepared to meet the world.  He gave these lost sheep the blacksmithing their fathers should have given, or the sheep rejected out of the pride of youth.  Some responded well, others did not.  In any case he tried, and willingly gave of himself without desire for acclaim or fortune.

   I am blessed with a Dad who embodies God’s call for father’s to follow.



A Lesson in Forgiveness for Thanksgiving

    A few weeks ago a most incredible person told me a story, a story of forgiveness which humbled me.  The story goes something like this…

    Years ago this person suffered a great injustice at the hands of another.  Bonds of trust broke, and a relationship broke into pieces.  The breakup effected more than the two inside the relationship.  The shattered relationship hurt many others, and still does to this day.  Defenses went up to prevent additional pain, but the grace of forgiveness remained open to the offender.  Not only does forgiveness flow, the offender gets prayers and encouragement to return to the church and obtain salvation from the victim!  

    I suffered a few injustices in my life, and I will admit my pride gets the best of me from time to time when the wound resurfaces.  When I asked the person, their response was “To hold on to the anger and hate is to condemn your own soul to Hell.  We can only move forward to Christ when we release the hate and let it fade away.  We can only achieve heaven when we wish for those who harmed to repent and join us again on the path to heaven.”

    I prayed about this on a few nights since I heard this sermon of word and deed.  I realized how much more I need to grow as a person to reach this type of holiness…and I hope I can imitate their example with a few more years of practice.  Until then, I’ll also pray this incredible person continues to show people like me the true path of Christ in this fallen world.


P.S. The photo is of Kellie at the Antiedam Battlefield Museum.  It was a wonderful moment to watch her enjoy flowers, amidst the stories of war.  It reminded me of the decades it took to heal the wounds from the Civil War, and the lesson above being the path towards reconciliation.