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Friday, September 10, 2010

Welcome to aCd

Welcome to the first blog post of ‘another Catholic dude’ (aCd). My wife suggested that I name this blog “Another Catholic Dude in California”, or ACDC, but I don’t like dropping the initials of small words in acronyms, and ACDiC just didn’t seem to work for me. In addition, my original thought in selecting “another Catholic dude” was that I am going to be “another Catholic dude with a blog”, and ACDiCwaB is right out. Besides, I’d already reserved this blog name and figured that changing it in the name of having a catchier moniker to go by just wasn’t worth the effort. After all, we Catholics are lazy, aren’t we? At least, some protestant folks believe that is the truth, particularly when it comes to scripture study. Of course, some of them would also say that we are needlessly over-industrious when it comes to performing works in hopes of gaining our salvation.

I’ve met a lot of protestants who are mistaken about what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. This is understandable – after all, they aren’t Catholic, so it seems reasonable that they would have some misconceptions. The scary thing to me is the number of Catholics (and “ex-catholics”) I’ve met who are mistaken about what the Roman Catholic Church Teaches. The sad state of catechesis in the church established by Christ is a real tragedy. If we are to take our faith seriously, we must learn our faith and be prepared to explain it to anyone who asks. Though not all of us are called to preach, or even to be formal catechists, we owe it to ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and most of all to Jesus, to be informed not only as to what the Church teaches, but why she teaches it.

My personal belief is that no Catholic should feel uncomfortable when the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, or any other group known for door to door proselytization comes knocking. Even if we are not prepared to refute their doctrines, we must be able to stand firm on our beliefs and be able to explain them - To go on the offensive, as it were, but always “with gentleness and reverence” as Peter commands us.

For if we belong to the true church of Christ, as we are supposed to profess (many Catholics, including my former self, do not believe that there is anything special about the Catholic Church when compared to other Christian Denominations), then we have nothing to fear from the truth. Truth can not, by nature, contradict truth. Therefore, all truth should point the way to the Catholic Church, and vice versa. What, then, do we have to fear from the truth?

Nothing at all…

But, as I said, many of us have grown complacent and fail to question our own faith when we don’t understand it. This is not to say that we can not accept the teaching of the church without understanding it, but that seeking understanding of our faith can only strengthen that faith. The two go hand in hand, and contrary to what the modern atheism preaches, honest reasoning never contradicts our faith, but enhances it.

Anyway, that’s a whole bunch of stream of consciousness right there. But back to laziness. See, for the first ten years of my Catholic life (I was baptized and entered the church at the age of 19), I was content to go through the motions of going to mass and receiving communion, singing in the choir, volunteering at youth ministry, and doing any number of good things for the church. But as I got older and wiser, I started to realize that I was selling my faith short. I had no personal prayer life. I didn’t really think about God when I wasn’t involved in one of those activities. In short, I was in need of re-conversion.

My crisis began at a friend’s party, when his wife and I began discussing religion, and I found myself unable to justify my belief in Catholic doctrine. I went so far as to say things like “humans are not very good in the truth department, and the Church is a human institution…how can we know what the truth is?” and “One church is as good as another, but I like the Catholic Church.” I didn’t leap to the defense of the Eucharist, or the primacy of Peter, or the communion of saints. My argument for the Church was a weak and lukewarm “You have no way of knowing what is true, and I have no way of knowing what is true…so why argue about it?”

In short, I was lazy, and maybe just a little bit afraid that my church was not the “right” one. So I retreated behind that defense and continued to practice my faith (with the exception of certain doctrines which I found “difficult”.)

I won’t go into the events which sparked my interest in learning more about my faith, except to say that it started with the “difficult” aspects with which I personally disagreed, and was magnified with questions I had gotten at Youth Ministry from some inquisitive teenagers which I couldn’t answer off the cuff. I figured if I was going to be teaching these kids, I needed to know not just what the Church taught, but why it taught that.

Things started slowly…I learned about the specific issues which were haunting my conscience, and made peace with those first. But over the next few years, I still sort of compartmentalized my life – work life, family life, faith life…each fit into its own little box. Even though I was interested in learning things about the faith, I didn’t do much to incorporate that knowledge into my daily life. I was outwardly content, but inwardly, I started to become acutely aware that the way I lived and organized my life was dissonant with what I professed to believe.

Then, a few years ago, my wife enrolled in a class called the “Serra Catechetical Institute” which was put on by the Oakland Diocese’s department of evangelization and catechesis. It was a sixty hour course with a load of reading that included the US Catechism, scripture, and a selection of papal encyclicals. She couldn’t stop saying good things about it, and how much she was learning about our faith. She came home after each session and we had great discussions about our faith and catechesis. About that time I also discovered Catholic Radio, more specifically the radio show “Catholic Answers: Live!” Between the information my wife was bringing home and listening to top notch apologists answer all sorts of questions on live radio during my commute, I began to develop a better understanding of the key points of the Catholic faith. More importantly, I developed a hunger for more…I wanted to be like those guys on the radio, able to deftly and charitably explain any Church dogma, doctrine, discipline, teaching, theological speculation, or devotion to anyone who asked.

I signed up for SCI myself, but my first attempt was thwarted by the beautiful gift of our third child (among other factors), and I missed too many classes to get my certification. Still, I kept on reading books, participating in online discussions, debating friends on facebook, and developing an understanding to go with my faith. The Dominican model of “faith seeking understanding” seems to suit me.

I am preparing now to begin taking SCI again as a birthday present to myself (The first class is ON my birthday). I intend to blog a bit about the class here as we make our way through the curriculum.

I’ve found, however, that despite all this, I am still lazy when it comes to scripture study. There are parts of the bible I have never read, and that concerns me. If the bible is a love letter from our God (As Patrick Coffin is fond of pointing out), then I should have read every word by now. But, for whatever reason, it seems that I am far more likely to read about scripture than to read scripture itself, and this seems backwards…

During a recent trip to a local Catholic bookstore, I found a pamphlet which claimed that if I followed the schedule within, I would be able to read the entire Catholic Bible and Catechism in one year by spending just half-an-hour a day. For 89 cents, this was something I just couldn’t pass up. So, on the day after my birthday, I am going to begin this program. In addition, I’m going to blog about it here. So, if you’ve never read the bible in its entirety, or if you have but it’s been a while, I invite you to join me on this journey. Each day I’ll post the next day’s readings if you want to follow along. If I follow the schedule, this means that I will finish reading the bible all the way through on my 37th birthday.

Anyway, until next time, please keep me in your prayers, and I hope that you enjoy reading the thoughts of another Catholic dude.

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