Over the past few years I have stepped up my journey. I have been thankfully afforded opportunities to study and learn more deeply the Faith that I was born into. I have realized I am very ignorant of my Catholic Faith. I am amazed at every turn, of the teachings, dogmas, and practices that I know very little about despite a Catholic education. I am very disappointed and alarmed by my lack of familiarity with a Faith that should be guiding every moment and action of my life. I am sure there are many from my generation in the same situation. As I learn about our Salvation History and all those who have gone before us, I have been able to grow more in unity and relationship with our Lord. As I understand why the Church teaches what it does, I am finding a peace of being that has surprised me. When we surrender ourselves to God, great things start to happen in our lives, and more importantly in our souls. There are reasons why the Church teaches and mandates certain issues. It is for our own good. Parents implement rules for their own children for the same reasons; for their own good and protection. Children might not understand, but are expected to obey. Our relationship to the Church is no different.
It is not okay to pick and choose what to follow as a Catholic. We are either “all in”, or being disobedient to God. When we decide which Church Teachings we will follow, we are being no different that Adam and Eve in the Garden, denying God’s instruction and choosing for ourselves. We let our pride and arrogance promoted by Satan to convince that we know better. The thing is, we don’t. There is over two thousand years of study and thought that support these Dogmas of the Church, promulgated by some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers in the History of the World. Who do we think we are to decide for ourselves? When we do this, we also accept culpability for these actions. If we aren’t properly educated and catechized then we will be held accountable. It is our responsibility to know the Faith we proclaim.
Here are a few of the big teachings I wish I had known and understood more fully.
Artificial Contraception - This is my biggest regret so far in life. My decision to use contraception was based on ignorance of why the Church forbids this practice;. my ignorance and my lack of Trust in God. If I would have understood that everything the Church teaches is in line with Natural Law, which like God, never changes, I would have had a very different outlook on many things. This is not just a recent topic and problem for our society. It has been an issue since human creation began.
[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife (Divine Institutes 6:20 [A.D. 307]).
God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital ['generating'] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring (ibid. 6:23:18).
This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a mistress, who for some gifts presented to her, is joined to the man to gratify his passion (The Morals of the Manichees 18:65 [A.D. 388]).
God made us in his image. Man and Woman together united is the image of God, and man and woman united have the power to create only like God can. The Angels in heaven do not have this ability, only humans have the ability to create another life infused with a soul and destined for eternity. Who are we to decide how many that will be, that is only God’s decision, and we as his implements and tools should comply and Trust in him to provide us with what we need for the task. God’s first command after he blessed the marriage of Adam and Eve, was to “Multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it” Genesis 1:28. That is what we must then do, even if it’s difficult, even if it means we must sacrifice our own wants and desires. It isn’t really all about us.
The Early Church Fathers were undivided in their condemnation of artificial birth control. In fact, all Christian churches were in agreement on this until 1930.
This article more fully explains the teaching and why it is considered intrinsically evil: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/birth-control
Receiving Holy Communion when not in a state of Grace is a grave offense – This is a teaching that I didn’t know at all. I am not sure if I learned it along the way and conveniently forgot, or if it was sugarcoated during my formative years in an effort by my parish and school community to be more inclusive and tolerant. It is a huge deal though, the biggest! We are talking about the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ after all. We must make ourselves as pure as we can to receive him into ourselves. If we are enveloped in sin, especially mortal, we are doing ourselves more harm than good by partaking in the Body and Blood of our Lord. If we receive in the state of mortal sin, then we are just adding to that state of mortal sin by receiving the Eucharist. So we must go and seek reconciliation first, make ourselves clean and repentant before the Lord.
“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 11:27
Here is an article specifically addressing this issue further. : http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2016/04/the-omission-that-haunts-church-1.html#.WDmAlmbrvcu
Obligation to Marry in the Catholic Church - If we are Catholic, we are obligated to marry in the Church. There is a special dispensation that can be granted by the Bishop in extraordinary circumstances, but these are usually not sought. As a Catholic, when we marry, we are entering into a Holy Union with another person and God, it is a Covenant and Sacrament. Marriages outside the church are not considered valid in the eyes of the Church; therefore those of us living in a state of marriage outside the church are living in a state of sin. If we then receive communion in a state of grave sin we are getting ourselves into more trouble, see above. It is important to understand our Faith so that we are not led astray. There could be some exceptions, but the council and advice of clergy is needed when entering into matters that can have long lasting effects on our lives and more importantly our souls.
Here is an article that further explains this teaching: http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/must-catholics-marry-in-a-church.html
Skipping Mass on Sunday is a Mortal Sin – I actually think most of us know this deep down, we just refuse to acknowledge and accept it. We go to Mass to give thanks and praise to God. That is it. There really is no other reason. He is our creator and through him we are and have everything. Is one hour of Mass per week to much of a sacrifice? Jesus sacrificed his very life for us, and an hour per week is too much to ask of us? I know, so many of us cry that we don’t get anything out of Mass, well, so what? What are we putting into it? Again, it really isn’t all about us, well it is and it isn’t. We come together at Mass as a community, because God made us to be in relationship. He made us for a relationship with him and with each other. Our relationship with God is personal but that is only one aspect of it, we are all the Body of Christ. So we join together as that Body to give thanks and praise to the Head. The Head that makes all the rest of us work and have meaning. We are all in this together, that is why we come together for Mass. Our worship, who and how, gives us our identity as people. Going to a service in a different denomination doesn’t count. Your Sunday obligation is just that, an obligation. Take it seriously. If you don’t understand the Mass there are many resources to rectify this. Once we start understanding the roots, origins, and significance of what happens at Mass, we will never want to miss. I can guarantee that.
Here is an brief explanation of the parts of the Mass, there are entire Bible Studies and books dedicated to this topic. I would encourage all to dig into this. You won’t be sorry. http://www.verdekc.org/explainingthemass.html
Confession in Not Optional – The church requires that we partake in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year. They encourage it more frequently but oblige us just once a year. Frequent Confession is medicine for the soul. There is nothing better than reconciling with Christ and hearing those words of Absolution. Jesus gave us this sacrament as a gift. How would you feel if someone rejected a gift that you gave them? Jesus gives us this Sacrament very plainly in Scripture.
As the Father has sent Me [with all authority, Mt. 28:18], even so I send you.. And with this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. (Jn. 20:21-23; cf. Lk. 10:16; Mt.16:19, 28:18-20).
I totally get this is a tough Sacrament. It is very difficult to sit in front of a priest and betray your most intimate and embarrassing vices. That is why it is so necessary. There is something very humbling and freeing when we do this. Stating our sins out loud to another person makes them seem more real and worthy of forgiveness. The right thing is usually the more difficult. I can assure that this Sacrament will bring us all into a closer communion with Christ. That is, after all, why he gave it to us.
James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
We are all brother and sisters in Christ, we are here to make this journey together. We may be at different places on that journey, but that doesn’t diminish our duty to aid each other along the way. As stated before, we are a Community, we are the Church Militant, fighting the good fight, and seeking Eternal Glory for ourselves and each other. Instructing the Ignorant and Admonishing the Sinner are Spiritual Work of Mercy. We are called to judge the actions of our brothers and sisters with charity and call them to conversion. This is difficult. Many quote Matthew 7: 1-2 as reason to not judge others. This is a misrepresentation of the Bible passage, and used as an excuse to not judge and council the actions of others. We are called to judge the actions of others, so that we can help them, guide them to a proper way of living and salvation. We must be careful though, because the true meaning behind this passage of scripture lies in the vice of hypocrisy. We must clean our own houses first, before we can lead others. That is a constant battle and struggle. That is why we need each other so much.
Read this: http://www.jasonstaples.com/bible/misinterpreted/misinterpreted-bible-passages-3-judge-not-lest-you-be-judged/
We must constantly strive for holiness. The only way to do this is to commit ourselves to study, prayer, and the Sacraments. They were instituted to help us along the way. They will bring us to Christ, if we only let them. It is our responsibility to know our Faith, we are culpable. We will be held accountable for neglecting these important Truths, especially if we have the opportunities and decide them not important enough to commit to. I have learned that there is nothing on this Earth more important than our eternal salvation, and everything we do should be helping toward that end. Hopefully by committing to this we can then become beacons for others. The Church’s mission is to make Saints, and she does a great job at it. There are many among us leaving the flock though, or going about their lives in the wrong ways, my prayer is to hopefully help steer them in the right way. That direction can be very difficult but it can also instill in us a sense of peace and joy that is not of this world. That is the best! I wish that for everyone!