Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, IX

"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Cor 11.23-25).

The Didache - one of the earliest Church documents (A.D. 70, written while John was still living) - identifies the Eucharist as the sacrifice of Malachi 1.11.

"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. ... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Ignatius of Antioch, "Letter to the Smyrnaeans" 6:2-7:1 [A.D. 110]).

St. Vincent of Lerins, a fifth-century French bishop writes, "[I]n the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense 'Catholic,' which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors" (Common, 2 [italics added]).

Why I Am Catholic, VIII

I truly worship in the Mass, because the Mass is worship - a higher form of worship than that formerly available to me:

"Protestants, in their worship services, offer songs and praise and prayer to God; this is their highest form of worship. Since they don't have a priesthood, they have nothing else they can offer. Catholics on the other hand, offer the Sacrifice of the Mass to God. Our offering of sacrifice is made only to God and is our form of worship. This allows us to give lesser things such as songs and praise and prayer to those who can pray in our behalf before God: the saints and especially the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the Protestants see us offering what is their highest form of worship to someone other than God, it appears to them that we are worshiping someone other than God."

St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church

This quotation does not necessarily address a Catholic's nearness to God - there are countless Protestants who are nearer to God than I am - but it addresses, rather, the offering itself. And Protestants are unable to offer the true and proper sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist (Malachi 1.11). This reality left me questioning myself as an evangelical - If Christ is here, why am I not?

(And through the transition this quotation provides, I will next enter into the following reasons why I am Catholic: the Eucharist, which is the primary reason for my catholicity, and the communion of saints.)

Why I Am Catholic, VII

Mass is profoundly beautiful.

Friday, October 27, 2006

For Tim and Jerry, Hal, Walvoord, and Others

"In the daily exercise of our apostolic ministry, we are often offended when we learn what certain people are saying, who are filled with religious zeal yet lack correct judgment and level-headedness in their way of seeing things. They see only ruins and calamities in society’s present situation. They are used to saying that our day and age has worsened profoundly in comparison with past centuries. They behave as if history, which is the teacher of life, had nothing to teach them and as if at the time of past Councils, everything had been perfect where Christian doctrine, customs and the Church’s just freedom were concerned.

"It seems to us that we must state our complete disagreement with the prophets of misfortune, who always announce catastrophes as if the world were close to its end.

"In the present course of events when society seems to be at a turning point, it is better to acknowledge the mysterious plans of divine Providence which, through the succession of times and the work of human beings and most of the time against all expectations, reach their goal and arrange everything with wisdom for the good of the Church, even the events that are in opposition to it."

- Blessed John XXIII, Pope (Address for the Opening of Vatican II)

Why I Am Catholic, VI

As a Protestant, I sometimes lived under a misguided suspicion that if it was not necessary, it was not needful. There is no such confusion in Catholicism.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, V

I love the liturgical calendar within Catholicism. Every week, season, and year I am pressed up against the reality of Christ. His heart beats in my ear; I learn its rhythm. I rest my head upon his breast.

Why I Am Catholic, IV

Catholicism stretches across time and space to embrace her history, the history of the Body of Christ. She embraces her sins and learns humility. She embraces her saints and learns wisdom.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On Differentiating between the Sexes

"She has big boodies," Avery began, explaining to Will that the mermaid was indeed a mermaid. "She has long hair," she said, caressing the glistening lengths. "And she has a fin. That's how you can tell she's a girl."

"Na! Me(r)hmah!" Will, uh, countered.

Why I Am Catholic, III

I am a sinner, and Catholicism knows it. As a real sinner, I freely ask and freely receive His real mercy, each moment, every day. I am no longer burdened with the nonsense of my improbable though obligatory saintliness. Instead, I begin Mass saying, "I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault . . ." And the acknowledgment of my sinfulness frees me to become genuinely holy.

Confessing that I need so much mercy is not oppressive, but liberating. It allows me to laugh, to smile, to live again. It broadens me, making me small enough for joy - simply because there is mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, II

Catholicism is the substance of which my Protestantism was the shadow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why I Am Catholic

I love the concreteness of Catholicism, the reality of it. In it, I touch and smell and taste. Yet it remains faith. Invading me through my senses, it captures all of me.

It embraces things created and, through them, sees its Creator, refusing to separate the material from the mystical. It is ash, leaf, and oil; it is water and fire; it is bread and wine - and these very material things are the vehicles and accidents of the mystical. The tangible conveys the intangible. The visible unveils the invisible. Catholicism is incarnational.

The formative years of my faith were spent as an evangelical Christian. There, I learned of Jesus' love for me. Now, as a Catholic Christian, I am staggered by His touch.

Annie at Large

Anna was admiring her reflection in the oven door. Then she bent over and pointed at it and said, "Hey! What are you looking at?"

. . . . .

On the way home from church, we passed some young trees that had already lost their leaves. Anna screamed, "Look! Those trees are barefoot!"

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A New Series: Why I Am Catholic

On Monday, I will begin a new and somewhat-unusual series titled "Why I Am Catholic." Each day will contain a post that includes a sentence or short paragraph about some richness I have found in Catholicism.

(I will still post about other happenings in my life, of course.)

This series will run for some time - perhaps a month. And it will most likely appear intermittently after it is officially over as I discover more about the richness of my faith.

I hope you enjoy it and take the time to understand, each day, what I am writing. Each post will be concise, and, hopefully, rich in its concision. Nothing will be posted on the series on Saturdays and Sundays.

Please feel the freedom to engage me, to agree with me, or to disagree with me. Your thoughts are, as always, welcome.

In short, the series will be an explanation of something so difficult for me to define. It will be an attempt to help you, my family and my friends, understand that I have fallen in love.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Flannery: On the Eucharist

I saw the following Flannery O'Connor quote on "Martha, Martha" - and straightaway had to steal it.

"Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the 'most portable' person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, 'Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.' That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An Education in Plumbing and Prayer

After my parents left, my squat water heater under my kitchen counter broke. I've got two water heaters, one on each side of the house. The other water heater services the girls' bathroom. My dad and I (mostly my dad) changed out the girls' water heater last summer. I had to change the heating elements in the kitchen water heater about a year ago. And now it's busted.

I put a compression valve on the cold-water pipe (neither of the water heaters had one for some, er, odd reason) when I noticed it was slowly leaking yesterday. And I drained it this morning.

When we get the extra cash, we'll go out and buy another R2 unit for under the kitchen counter. This water heater heats the water for the washing machine, our bathroom, and the kitchen - which includes the dishwasher. So, let's just say we're roughing it for a few days. We stocked up on paper plates, cups, bowls, and plastic dinner ware. We're learning that there is more than one way to heat water.

And I learned something else.

On the first of two trips to Lowe's hardware (which is about 30 minutes from us - and, yes, two trips - I bought the wrong valve the first time [doh!]), I was praying about the situation - when my freelancing money would be arriving, disrupted plans, etc. As I was praying, I was meditating on our Lord's passion and it struck me how insignificant this mess is. Sure it's frustrating and inconvenient, but some people don't have clean water to drink, much less running hot water in their homes. I'm just camping in style, as it turns out.

Trust isn't really trust until life turns south, until you've prayed to no apparent effect. It is at the moment you choose to trust in spite of your circumstances and unanswered prayers that trust is truly born. Trust would be a little thing without trouble.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sacrament of Faith

Sunday, my children were baptized into the Body of Christ. Their heads still smell of balsam.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fridays Are for Fear and Trembling

The house is still a wreck. I've been working on it, and there are sections that look nice. But I've got a long way to go.

We're counting down to the baptism - it's going to be crazy with all four kids, but it will be memorable and emotional and fun. And I hope it will draw others to(ward) Christ. I'm excited. And shaking (as my Dad would say) like a dog trying to pass a peach pit. We've been waiting a long time for this.

My parents are getting in late tonight or early tomorrow. It'll be nice having them here to witness such an important event for our family. And it'll be nice having them here.

(By the way, two dresses down, one to go - the girl's going to make it! And I'm going to lose a butt-load of money.)

Hospitality: Opening My Eyes

We are called to hospitality. Peter tells us, “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay” (1 Peter 4.9). Hospitality is motivated out of love for our neighbors and reveals itself generously and sincerely. It’s aware of the need around it, and it looks for ways in which to give.

In your communities of faith, family, and work, you know people who have babies, who have lost jobs, who are moving, or who have had a loved one die. All of these are situations that open the door to hospitality.

And we offer hospitality. We set up a date to clean a home or prepare a meal. We make a pie, and then ask when we can bring it over. We drop off non-perishable groceries when no one is home. We give, and we give creatively and secretly. I have been blessed by others’ hospitality.

But hospitality doesn’t end with our community, or with our friends. We are also supposed to love the neighbor who smells, who dresses strangely, who is uneducated, who is different: “Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you” (Luke 14.13,14). Are we hospitable to the poor, to those our society has rejected?

I turn on the news and I hear about immigration. I think about the pregnant women who risk everything that their children might be born on American soil. I think about men wanting a better life for themselves and for their families. Then I hear our angry speeches. I understand the issue is complex, but I still wonder if the wealthiest nation on earth has an obligation toward its impoverished neighbor – if the Rich Man has an obligation toward Lazarus. Shouldn’t our obligation to love one another and to care for the poor be the driving factor in our discussions?

My own great-grandmother emigrated from Poland not so long ago.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7.12), and, “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23.9).

Few of us know the bitterness of watching our children suffer. What would that be like? What would we do to alleviate that kind of suffering? There are people in our world who need a meal, who need a place to stay. There are people who have hungry children and no way to feed them.

We must stop talking about what comforts opening our home to those in need may steal away from us. Instead, we must begin talking about how our indifference and prejudice may steal away our souls.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dad Is Great | Green Poo

The children ate cheesecake for breakfast.

. . . . .

The boy was dirty. I took him to the bed to change his diaper and the little girl followed. She sat on the bed, crisscross-applesauce.

"What are you doing?" I said.

"I want to watch," She said.

I raised an eyebrow and opened the diaper. Green poo the size of a baseball lay in the soft Luvs cradle. The girl began gagging.

She said, "I can't look!"

I said, "That's my boy!"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Then Again

Tuesdays might be for bathrooms. I tackled my bathroom today - just finished around 10:00 p.m. Yeah, it was that bad - and I'm not quite finished, either. No, it's not a ginormous, Hollywood thing. It's itty bitty. Well, I painted it too. It's amazing how many little areas you have to tape up and paint around in a little bathroom. Ugh. I won't be painting in there again. Ever.

Since today was a bust for trash. We'll make it "Wednesdays Are for Waste" tomorrow. As long as we understand that by waste I mean trash.

Tuesdays Are for Trash

Today I'm going to go through my house and see what I can throw away: Old junk, old clothes (no, too old for giving away), old food (ditto), old people, old toys. Well, any number of things - old textbooks, notes, and books too. As much as that will hurt. I figure if I haven't looked at it since I graduated, it just ain't worth keeping. All within moderation, of course.

Clean with me, children. Clean!

Monday, October 09, 2006

My Calendar

This week is a busy one, but it will also be, we hope, a very, very good one.

The yellow-haired child turns four on Thursday. Ugh. Man, knocked on my ass again by the progression of time. Having kids will do that to you. It's one thing to turn 36, it's another thing entirely to have the near-preemie you were just rocking in your arms be nearly as tall as your wife. Or to have your little one with the shock of fuzzy orange hair - that became yellow - be old enough to start Kindergarten next year. (Not that that will happen - not sure she'll be ready.)

My parents are coming on Saturday because Sunday all four of the kids will be baptized. Now while we've talked with the potential screamers about what they will be doing so they will not appear to be demon possessed on such an important day, we're still praying, crossing fingers, and tossing salt - generally covering our bases. Please do likewise.

So we have our regular schedule of Crazy Wednesday (choir and faith formation after school, which with the giant drive home and homework means no free/family time on Wednesday.) Added to that mid-week madness is (1) mowing the lawn, because if I wait much longer I'll have picketers protesting the destruction of an old-growth forest; (2) cleaning the house - I'm thinking of putting a burn barrel in the yard to handle this project, and (3) sewing the girls' baptismal gowns (this last one is Laura's job).

Laura finished Sophie's dress yesterday and it looks beautiful. She wanted to do this project - I was ready to buy some simple dresses. So it'll be special. She has this week to work on the other two dresses, but she never has much extra time anyway. And she's already always tired. Will she make it? I've started a kitty - let me know if you want in.

We also need to call our sponsors and try to meet with them this week. It's difficult becoming Catholic without knowing anyone Catholic - you need other Catholics to stand up for you for certain things - a role generally filled by family and friends. But when your family and friends are Protestants, that becomes problematic. So the church eeny-meeny-miny-moes a couple of people to stand in. It's well-intentioned, but kinda funny/quirky regardless.

I don't know these people, they don't know our legion of children and they're making commitments toward them. Now the local body does this sort of thing for every baptism (same as Protestants will do in a dedication service) in a general way, but the specificity of it in our situation is been a source of some chuckles for me.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Best News of the Week

Best news of the week came yesterday to the Lyons household - we're halfway through the pregnancy and we found out that our soon-to-be new addition is a boy! I'll see if I can post a couple of the ultrasound pictures (I don't have a scanner) - we got a good profile or two.



Yes, yes, yes - a new season of Lost began this week. (If you missed it, check out ABC.com to watch it online.)

It was an intriguing episode that raised even more questions and answered none. I suppose that's one of the reasons I like the show. I hope they'll wrap a few of those answers up for us throughout the year.

If you have never watched this show, watch it. Get the first two seasons from Netflix or Blockbuster or even Wal-Mart and catch up - it's a good way to spend your time in front of the TV, if you're disposed to doing so.

Asking Forgiveness and Justification

Just a question more than anything else: If all our sins (past, present, and future) are forgiven when we become justified or saved, then why do we need to ask forgiveness when we sin?

To me this article on forgiveness smacks of Love Story sentimentality - "Love never means having to say you're sorry." And of Dr. Bannister's reply (to himself, as it were - both characters are played by Ryan O'Neal) in What's Up, Doc? - "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

And if we need to ask forgiveness (Lord's Prayer, 1 John 1.9, etc.), what are the implications concerning justification?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Our world is broken. It is drenched in sorrow. And though we mourn, though we stand with those who mourn, all of life is not grief. Indeed,

There is joy even in the mourning.

. . . . .

From the breakfast table this morning, across the house, I heard the yellow-haired child yelling, "Stella! Stella!" in her husky shouting voice. (So it sounded to me, anyway, even though it turns out she was only calling the name of our cat, Tula.) This one is anointed with joy. She shines so brightly. Her eyes like the ocean, her hair like the sand. Her smile remakes the world.

. . . . .

There is wonder in our world still. Above and around all the evil that dandies up our news, that illuminates their boring texts, lies joy. Not joy in evil, but joy that evil is neither the first nor the last word. Evil is small and temporary. Joy is boundless. And

Joy comes in the morning.

Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. ... The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn Super-men and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth" (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, final paragraph).

We live in the first day of the new creation, in which Christ has already inaugurated his eschatology through His resurrection - the Kingdom is now and not yet. We, as Christ's ambassadors, as His very Body, are to redeem our world. We carry the Kingdom within us. Oh, Christ! Ah, joy!

Morning has come.

St. Cyprian says, "It may even be ... that the Kingdom of God means Christ himself, whom we daily desire to come, and whose coming we wish to be manifested quickly to us. For as he is our resurrection, since in him we rise, so he can also be understood as the Kingdom of God, for in him we shall reign."

And so Christ inaugurates His Kingdom with Himself, inaugurates the new creation of which He is the first fruit. And He is with us today. He is Emmanuel. He is with us in our brothers and our sisters - in us - for we are His Body, we are becoming His Body. He is with us in the Blessed Sacrament. (Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.) And though we wait for the consummation of His Kingdom, we glory in Jesus Christ who stands here with us even today.

Christ is among us! goes the Orthodox greeting. And we respond in like fashion, He is and shall be.

Brother, Joy has come. Sister, He is here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On Mariology and Purgatory

On the Catholic Catechism Dialog Blog (CCDB) I've expressed some thoughts I never would have imagined I'd be expressing a year ago, yet they seem so sensible now. One post is on Mary and her treatment within Catholicism and the other is on Purgatory. I'm thinking through both subjects at the moment - the last obstacles for me, if you like, of my journey into Catholicism.

So, for those of you whom I love who remain Protestant, check them out (and don't skip the comments). I don't imagine you'll be convinced, but perhaps they may help you consider questions you have never before considered. They are not exhaustive posts, by any stretch of the imagination, but they may just get a conversation or two started. And conversation, for me at the moment, is more important than persuasion.

If you have questions for me, ask them here or there - here may be less threatening for you since you will not have a gallery of Catholics peering over your shoulder (though there are, thankfully, some).

Monday, October 02, 2006


We've been sick around our house for a few weeks now - a couple of months if you count swimmer's ear. It's been one thing after another, but, then, some seasons of life are like that. In spite of the germs, I've been enjoying fall the past couple of weeks.

Yesterday, we went up to Pilot Mountain. We stood looking at this beautiful hunk of rock thumbing out of the flat earth around it; we were overcome by the beauty of this bit of creation on the clearest of days. It was magnificent. We may have been wheezing and coughing as we tried to express the beauty of it, but it was worth every interrupted sentence, every half-thought, worth the exhaustion that followed the hike.

It's a necessary occasion, walking into the wild (or semi-wild). Ungangly trees, feeding on rock, praise in their inhibition. They achieve an Oriental beauty and call us out of ourselves. Their struggle achieves a splendor, a uniqueness, that could not be, given a more perfect environment.

The struggle and sheer difficulty of life do not destroy God's irrepressible creativity, but reveal it.