Tag Archives: religion

Buy It, Borrow It, or Bag It: Unveiling Grace by Lynn K. Wilder

Unveiling    I had no real reason to want to read this book…until I had the opportunity to tour a Mormon Temple prior to its dedication. For the record, I pride myself of being open minded where religion is concerned. I was a huge fan of Donny and Marie back in the day and they were the first people I knew of to be part of the LDS organization. They seemed pretty normal so I have never had a problem with the Mormon religion…then again, I only know enough about it to be dangerous- or to get it horribly wrong.

To play fair, the Mormon Temple was a beautiful building and I learned a few things about the religion while I was there…there were also things that I knew were somewhat glazed over and presented in such a way to unite rather than divide. While this did not bother me, it caused me to want to know more so I looked up Lynn Wilder’s book about how she and her family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and ultimately left the religion for something a little more traditional.

When I started the book, I really liked it. I felt that it was full of information, tied a few loose ends together, explained why Mormons seem to be so into genealogy, etc…but then it kind of fell apart. While I’m not knocking anyone, I couldn’t help wondering if this family did ANYTHING other than read the Bible, or other scripture and talk about it. I kept feeling like I wanted to hear them say they went to the movies, ate dinner at McDonalds or something “normal,” but even as this family began to question their beliefs and leave the LDS church, all they do is talk theology. I’m sure that’s not the case, but that’s the way it read so I preferred the first half to the second.

I must say that reading this book did not cause me to conclude anything about the LDS church. I suspect that somewhere between what I heard on the tour and what Wilder said lies the truth. Being Catholic, I am sure that truth is something I probably wouldn’t agree with but if the beliefs of the Mormon Church give people comfort and help them get closer to God, who am I to judge? I read for personal information only…not to make generalizations about an entire religion. Borrow it if you have a penchant for religion and desire to read about the mysteries of the LDS faith.

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Review of the Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism

This was published originally by the CatholicPhilly.com and is copyrighted to them. I do not own the piece, but thought I would share this really nice review!

‘Catholicsm’ isn’t so hard after all
BY LOU BALDWIN
IG Catholicism Cover     Idiots Guide to Catholicism1You can’t judge a book by its title, let alone its cover. Take Idiot’s Guides “Catholicism” (Julie Young and Father Eric Augustein, Penguin Group, 2015. 366 pp. $19.95).

It shares shelf space with such other distinguished titles in the Idiot’s Guides series as “The Catholic Catechism,” “Catholicism for Dummies” and “Catholic Mass for Dummies,” all of which suggest that particular demographic is well catechized.

Flippant title aside, “Catholicism” is a clearly written book, which explains in laymen’s terms what the Catholic Church believes, teaches and doesn’t teach. The particular expertise of the two authors are complementary. Young holds a degree in writing from St. Mary of the Woods College and has written for a number of Catholic publications. Father Augustein, who is vocations director for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, holds degrees in philosophy and theology from La Salle University and St. Meinrad School of Theology.
The book is broken down into 22 chapters over five parts: “What is Catholicism;” “The Sacramental Life;” “Living the Good Life;” Prayer and Holiness” and “Catholic Life and Culture.”

The writing is unquestionably orthodox in presentation yet in ways one might not have considered. For example the simple explanation of original sin as it is inherited from our first parents, refers “to people’s natural inclination to reject the will of God in favor of their own selfish desires and personal satisfaction.”

Breakout factoids and ancient and new quotes help to enliven the text, for example: “Ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Christ – St. Jerome;” “In the London betting houses I was in 44th place. Look at that. The one who bet on me won a lot, of course – Pope Francis.”

In another quote from Francis further in the text, the Holy Father comments, “The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.”

In its coverage of all things Catholic, the book is indeed thorough, to the point of overkill. Devoting 10 pages to a list of the popes of the Catholic Church is a bit much, unless the authors were paid by the word.

With that quibble aside, Idiot’s Guides, “Catholicism” would be a great supplemental reading for anyone considering entering the faith, good for catechumens and catechists alike. Also it could make lively discussion for parish study groups, no matter what the participants’ foundational catechesis.

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: “Julie is ready to be baptized”

VBS Jesus     It was all my cousin’s fault that I started attending Vacation Bible School at my father’s church in the first place. She was spending a few nights with my grandmother and going to VBS so she invited me to come along. We were like Frick and Frack and when she told me how much fun she was having, of course I wanted to go along too.

So the very next day, we were sitting together in a pew singing The B-I-B-L-E song…I loved that tune. There is a lot of stand up/sit down action in that song and…hey, I’m a Catholic…so you know I can totally do that! When the pastor’s wife asked if anyone had brought a friend with them that day, my cousin jumped up and said “I brought my cousin with me, Mrs. Chapman!” which resulted in a huge smile from the pastor’s wife and a special sticker for my cousin’s special evangelization efforts. I narrowed my eyes  suspecting that my cousin was less interested in my theological development as she was about sucking up to the Lady in Charge.

But whatever. We had to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag. Neither my cousin nor I had ever heard of this practice. She attended public school and wasn’t overly religious while I started every morning with the traditional Pledge, a quick Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be so neither one of us were familiar with the words and had to mumble through 95 percent of it.

The rest of the morning was spent learning the special VBS song, making our crafts, having a snack and learning about Jesus of course. I couldn’t help noticing that as we listened to the Gospel stories and discussed them as a group, I was one of the few kids who tended offer a lot of input to the conversation. I would bring up a LOT of different things, ask questions and give responses that boggled our teacher’s minds. I remember my cousin asking me “How do you know all of that stuff?”

“Religion class,” I shrugged.

“Well the teachers sure are impressed with you,” she noted.

It appeared that way and boy, did those teachers beam at me later in the week when the Pastor’s Wife took a moment to offer  one last solemn prayer just before the end of VBS Ice Cream Social and ask if there was anyone present who “wanted Jesus to be in their hearts forever.”

I was stumped. Wasn’t He already there? What kind of guy was He to leave me hanging like that? Here I am going to a Catholic school, attending Mass each week and praying to Him and He isn’t even THERE yet?? Well,  I wasn’t going to wait a minute longer. I looked at my cousin and nodded and we both raised our hands. The Pastor’s wife called us up to the altar along with a few other kids (I was surprised that there were not more people getting in on this deal…after all, this was JESUS we were talking about!) and took us off into another room to discuss Jesus’ life and ministry while everyone else went outside to eat half-melted ice cream in little plastic pods with tiny wooden paddles. (Yes, I seriously questioned the fairness of this in my head.)

I don’t remember the exact line of questioning, but I do remember Mrs. Chapman asking me why I wanted a personal relationship with Christ and my offering a very long, drawn-out, parochial school child answer. I’m sure I mentioned something about how God made us and wanted us to belong to Him forever, that Jesus sacrificed Himself for me and that I couldn’t take something like that for granted, etc…She had to think that she hit pay dirt with me. LOL Finally she taught me some little prayer in which I was supposed to “invite” the Lord in…as a girl who was a little more accustomed to elaborate rituals this was a bit….simple, but hey…simple can be good.

It didn’t matter. Me and JC were good to go and I happily skipped off to get my ice cream. (I have no clue how my cousin did in the cross examination.) I didn’t give it another thought until a few days later when someone from my father’s church called my mother and said, “We feel that Julie is ready to be baptized.”

“WHAT???” My mother said. I recall her sending me to my room while she and my father gently explained to the well-meaning person on the other end that I was already baptized and a practicing Catholic. When they got off the phone, my mother rounded on me. “What on earth did you tell them to make them think you wanted to be baptized?” She demanded.

“I never told them that I wanted to be baptized,” I countered. “I did that two years ago, remember?”

“So what happened?” My father asked. “Did they say something to you about it?”

I shook my head and then remembered the prayer session. “They asked me if I wanted Jesus in my heart and I said yes, but what’s so wrong with that???”

My father groaned, realizing what had to have occurred. He assured me that I had done nothing wrong but told me not to worry and that Jesus was already there. I didn’t have to go say a special prayer for that. “So if you are ever asked about that again, don’t worry about it and don’t answer the Altar Call.”

I wasn’t completely sure what an Altar Call was, but I was glad that I wasn’t in any trouble and that I was not going to have to endure the dreaded “Dunk” (aka a Baptist Baptism.) I don’t tell this story to bash my late father’s religion or its practices. To the contrary, I am proud that they offered the opportunity to the VBS kids, I just wish I would have known what that whole thing was about before putting my parents in an uncomfortable situation. Still, I can’t help wondering how bummed my father’s church was not to score the child prodigy who waxed ideology in Bible class  and answered deep, theological questions just like she was a 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple…

Of course if I recall the story correctly…His parents put the kibosh on His plans as well.

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Confessions of a cynical Catholic: Why I am Catholic

Baptismal font     I don’t tell many people the true story of how I became a Catholic. It’s not that I am embarrassed by it, but it does cause people to give me a lot of strange looks. I get it. I will be the first person to admit that it is a strange tale, but it is my tale and for the first time, I am willing to come clean about it.

I am a Catholic because at the time, I couldn’t swim.

I am not a cradle Catholic. My mother converted to Catholicism when she was 21 and my father was an American Baptist. When they married, they had the logic that they vowed to expose my brother and myself to Christian principles but wanted to let us choose our own “religion” when we felt the time was right. However, when they enrolled us in a Catholic school, they had to know that there was a possibility that this decision could come sooner rather than later.

Now, my brother started his academic career at the local public school but then transferred to the parochial school when he was in the fourth grade. I began in the first grade when at the time, first graders prepared for first Holy Communion. None of us really and truly knew what was happening. My mother assumed that these little “gold books” had something to do with our religious education, but she didn’t think anything about it. Suddenly about a month before receiving a sacrament I technically didn’t qualify for, my teacher asked if we were all Catholic.

“What’s Catholic?” I wanted to know.

“What’s Catholic?” She repeated, like I’d lost my mind. “Haven’t you been baptized?”

“I’m not sure,” I told her. “What’s baptized?”

She gave me a confused look. “You don’t know if you have been baptized?”

“Nope,” I confirmed.

She tried again. “Well, where do you go to church?”

When I answered that I attended church in the same building that we were standing in, she seemed happy with that answer. However, a second later I added, “Of course sometimes we go to my dad’s church.”

The faculty all looked at each other like they didn’t know what to do and my teacher finally told me to go home that night and ask my mother if I had ever been baptized and more specifically, if I was Catholic. I rode home on the bus, came in through the back door and say my mother stirring spaghetti sauce. “Mom, am I Catholic?” I asked the minute I walked in.

“No, and who told you that you were?” She asked.

I shrugged. “Well no one…but we’re getting ready for First Communion in a few weeks and apparently I have to be or I can’t do it.”

“THAT’S what this has all been leading up to?” My poor mother cried. “No, you are not Catholic. No, you’ve never been baptized. Your father and I wanted to let you choose….”

That night, my mom and dad sat my sibling and I down and explained some of the differences between their two religions. To be honest, it seemed to my 6-year-old mind that they were pretty similar in what they believed and who they believed in…but the way they went about initiating new members was verrrrry different. My mother explained that in the Catholic Church a priest would pour a bit of water over my head while my father described some sadistic practice in his church in which a preacher would lead me into some pool I’d never seen before and push me under water.

“But I can’t swim!!!” I protested. “What if I drown?”

“You won’t drown,” my father countered. “It’s only for like a second.”

No part of this sounded reassuring. To complicate matters, I learned that if I became a member of the Catholic Church I would be expected to swallow a consecrated host. I couldn’t swallow an aspirin at the time and was more than a little nervous about that possibility. (My father let me that I could “chew” the cracker that they used at his church – maybe he was trying to make up the ground he’d lost in the Baptism discussion?) While I am sure that I should have based this monumental life decision on something deep and theological, I was too consumed with the possibility of my untimely demise in the water or by choking on the Body of Christ. What was a girl to do?

Very quickly my brother announced that he was going to become Catholic. My parents assured us that we did not have to make a decision right away, but because of my situation I had to know if I was going to go for it or wait so that she could tell my teacher what to do about me and first communion. I remember thinking that I didn’t know if a Catholic host was wet or dry, what it tasted like or how creepy it would feel when it melted in my mouth. Still, it seemed like the lesser of two evils. “If he’s going to be Catholic, I guess I will be too,” I declared.

A few weeks later, we gathered at the back of the church after Mass and I was welcomed into the Catholic Church feeling pretty good about my new religious life knowing that I was a child of God with my feet firmly on dry land. It wasn’t the most theological plan ever, but when I was six, it was all I had. The following month, I went up to the table of the Lord and received the Eucharist for the first time. (To my utter relief, I learned that I was allowed to chew it.) Two Sacraments of Initiation down, and one to go.

Good news though, I had better reasons for getting confirmed than I did for being Baptized. Luckily I realized that I liked being Catholic and thankfully, I didn’t have any dinner reservations that day. (Just kidding!)

 

 

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Fabulous Fridays- Fighting the Father, Son and Holy spirit

HolyTrinityWindowLevelled  I am sorry that I have been remiss in my Fabulous Fridays postings, but as some of you know, I have been commissioned to write the Idiots Guide: Catholicism for Pearson.

If this doesn’t prove that God has a sense of humor, nothing does.

I have been a Catholic since I was six-years-old. I have only attended Catholic schools and quite frankly, lacking a habit or holy orders, I thought I was pretty qualified to write this thing…until I realized what I was being asked to do. I was being asked to put the entire body of Church thought into a piece of prose that could be easily understood by the masses.

Am I the only one seeing a problem here?

I can’t help wondering if somewhere in heaven God and Satan have not made another wager on humanity like they did with Job and that somehow I became the pawn they are betting on. In the brief period of time I have been working on this manuscript I have found myself fighting the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in such a way that I would not be a bit surprised if I am not an atheist when this whole thing is over.

My former religion teacher, who is truly one of the most amazing people I have ever met, said that she doubts it and that somehow, she suspects my faith will be even stronger. I hope so, but this sure isn’t easy. Being called to write something on His behalf is a little like being appointed an ambassador of a country you’ve lived in all your life and yet you know nothing about. I have had to define things like “faith” take on the issues of creationism and evolution, struggle with the issue of humanity and divinity where JC is concerned, and try to reel myself back in before going over to the dark side and deciding that we made the whole thing up in order to feel a little less alone in the universe.

On the other hand, I am actually being paid to think about these great mysteries and I have to say, it’s got to be the closet thing to nirvana that I have ever felt. I was the kid in religion class who had all of the questions, “Where did Mrs. Cain come from?” “Exactly WHO was Jesus talking to in the Garden of Gethsemane if not Himeself?”…and now I am charged with offering some answers. it’s a tall order and all I have to say is that I sure hope He knows what He is doing, because quite frankly…I wouldn’t trust me if I were him.

So, for the time being, if my Fab Friday posts are a little hit or miss, just know that I am probably knee deep in some philosophical question that you wouldn’t want me riddling out on here. If you are a person of faith, I am accepting all prayers that I get through this project in one piece and if you are not…I’ll take a simple wish of good luck. I’m pretty easy to get along with. (Don’t ask my family for validation on that, though…they have been known to lie.)

Take care, keep rocking and Fab Fridays will be back in full swing before you know it!!

J-

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