Operation Catechize the Catholics

Two days ago on March 14, the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education posted this article, Vatican Official Says There Is Great Need to Catechize Catholics” on Facebook. I got very excited when I saw the title on my Facebook “News Feed”, because this is exactly what I have set out to do on this blog. I then proceeded to read the entire article and my excitement grew even more so. As one who has a great love for Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church, I found the need to use my knowledge in Theology, my teaching abilities from the classroom, and my research and skills to reach out to Catholics and bring them the Catholic faith. I had been thinking about starting this blog for many months, but it wasn’t until January 28, nearly 8 weeks ago, that it came to fruition.

The mission of this blog is – The Engagement and Education of the Catholic Lay Faithful in the New Evangelization. When I read the article above, I knew that what I set out to do was being confirmed. Some will say that I am foolish, naïve, or rigid, but as a Blessed John Paul II Generation Catholic, I find great comfort in the Catholic Church, for I know, that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ upon Peter, the Universal Shepherd.  I am not naïve enough to know the Church in her history and even recent history has not been perfect. However, the Catholic Church has survived for 2000 years! She has seen governments, kingdoms, and tyrannical despots fall; she has witnessed wars, her faithful martyred, and political strife throughout the generations, yet she still remains. The Truth that she proposes to the world is what I hope to bring to this blog.

Being the person who I am, one of the traits that my friends often say I hold is loyalty. When I find a hair stylist (yes…I go to stylist and not a barber) that I like, I will often stay with that person for years. When I find a pizzeria that suits my Italian palate, I will go get a slice on a weekly basis. Okay – with that being said, I want to give you some other blogs that I have come across in my time that are also helping with the catechesis of Catholics. It should also be said that some of these blogs dive into the political realm as well. As the catholic laity, we must engage the secular society politically as well. It is our duty to do so!

Some of these blogs are my friends but they are All my brothers and sisters in Christ, so I am  loyal to them. The work that they do in the Catholic Blogosphere is important. Note – the number system has nothing to do with how I rate these blog’s, – it’s just the order I wrote them in tonight:

  1. Little Catholic Bubble (friend)
  2. By the Light of the Sanctuary (friend)
  3. Pro Caritate Veritatis (friend and co-worker)
  4. Coming Home
  5. Acts of the Apostasy
  6. Conversion Diary
  7. The Anchoress
  8. Fr. Z’s Blog – What Does Prayer Really Say?
  9. The Deacon’s Bench
  10.  Aggie Catholics
  11. Bad Catholic
  12.  Standing On My Head

So as we approach the Year of Faith and the Synod on the New Evangelization in October, know that two to three times a week, more if I can manage it, you will receive solid orthodox theology and catechesis from me via this blog. If you are interested in bringing me to your parish or organization to speak on Catholic teachings, please contact me through this blog. My contact email is located in the “Book Tom to Speak” Tab on the Homepage. Don’t forget to follow me via email so you will receive emails as I put up posts. If you have Twitter, follow me there – @tom_perna

Praise Be Jesus Christ!

Holiness and Martyrdom as a Catholic in America

When Cardinal Timothy Dolan received his red hat on February 18, he said that he was grateful to the Holy Father for giving him this honor, but he just wants to be a saint. If I were to sit down with Cardinal Dolan today, I would share with him that the easiest way to canonization, according to the 6th point in the article – Desiderata for 2012 written by Reverend C. John McCloskey III, is to die a martyr. Knowing the extent of Cardinal Dolan’s experience and education, I would imagine that he would already understand this fact. I make this statement because martyrdom is very likely to appear in the United States of America in the years to come. With the greatest threats against Religious Freedom and attacks on the First Amendment this country has ever seen, it it quite possible that not only will our bishops, priests, and religious face martyrdom, but many faithful and obedient Catholics who will not comply with a tyrannical government could as well. I will let this marinate in your minds return to it at the end.

With that being said, the purpose of my blog is to engage and educate the Catholic lay faithful in the New Evangelization. It’s my hope that through my writing, I will help teach the “basics” of the Catholic faith for Catholic adults, who did receive proper catechesis as adolescents. In the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ and one of his great vicars and universal shepherds, we must remember – “Be Not Afraid!” We must not be afraid of what lies ahead of us or be afraid to learn more about Catholicism. Today, I will discuss holiness, what it means to be saint, and martyrdom.

In Thessalonians 1:6-7, St. Paul says, “you become imitators of us and of the Lord…you became an example to all the believers…” To be holy and to seek perfection is not an option, but an obligation. As followers of Jesus Christ, we must always thrive to be saints. Every Christian has the capacity of becoming a saint. Our purpose in life is to be holy in imitation of Jesus Christ, who is all holy. He is to be our perfect model. As St. Paul says in Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

What is holiness?

Holiness is the separation of the irreverent, seeking and giving oneself to God. God is the foundation of holiness because God is all goodness. The invitation to holiness and goodness comes from God himself.  As Christians, to be holy is to bring our best versions to the world. However, because we suffer from the remnants of Original Sin, it can be difficult and challenging at times to live a life of holiness. We must always remember that we have Jesus Christ as our model and strength and should never get discouraged. Even the greatest saints of the Catholic Church had their struggles and moments of weakness.

What is a saint? Who is called to be a saint? When do we receive this call?

A saint is a person who thrives to live a life of holiness with the help of God’s grace and attains the prize of eternal life (CCC 828). The word saint comes from the Latin term – sanctus, which means “holy.” Sanctification is the process where one is made holy.

All Christians are called to holiness. We are called to holiness after receiving the Sacrament of Baptism. In Baptism, we are claimed and adopted by God as his children. We are restored to the filial (sonship) relationship that was established first and foremost with the first man. In our Baptism, we receive the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. We also share in the three Old Testament offices that are fulfilled by Jesus – Priest, Prophet, and King.

To be a saint is to live a life dedicated to heroism. Heroism is about self-sacrificial deeds; it’s not about self-glorification and narcissism. It requires one to live with heroic virtue! G.K. Chesterton said, the “saints are the heroes of the Church.” Zorro has always been one of my favorite literary heroes. When I think about Zorro, the words of self-sacrifice, strength, goodness, and servant of the people come to mind. Just as Zorro is a great hero, so must we thrive to live lives dedicated to self-sacrifice, goodness, and serving others. Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, there have been many men and women who have answered the call to live lives of heroic virtue and self-sacrifice. In recent years, I think of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Blessed John Paul II, and St. Jose Maria Escriva. These men and women truly lived their lives for Jesus Christ and were filled with joy. St. Teresa of Avila said to be a saint is to live life with joy and passion – “a sad saint is not a saint at all.”

Living the life of a saint is not always the most popular lifestyle in our culture or period of history. To be a saint is to be counter-cultural just as the Church is counter-cultural. During his three-year ministry, Jesus himself was counter-cultural for he ate with sinners, spoke with woman (some became his disciples), and countered the elders of the faith.

Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix says, “Christ does not call us to be popular, or even successful. He calls us to take up the cross each day and follow him. There is only one ultimate failure in life: not to be a saint. Nothing else in life matters, compared to the treasure of Christ’s love.”

As Catholics, how do we become saints seeking holiness?

First, we must receive the Sacraments. Although all seven are fundamental, Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist can be received on a daily basis. The Sacrament of Reconciliation assists us in our relationship with Our Lord and allows us to restore our personal relationship with him when it is severed. If you have not been in some time, I encourage you to find a time and go. The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist is the life giving bread of Jesus Christ. It not only nourishes our physical body, but gives us spiritual strength as well. It is truly Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity. Next, we need spiritual direction. A director of our interior life will aid us in our prayer and help us to discern God’s will for our lives. Lastly, reading the Scriptures, Lives of the Saints, or other spiritual texts will engage us to know God in a personal way and will also assist in our relationship with Our Lord and His Church.

As Catholics who are striving to live lives of holiness, learning each day how to be saints, and living contradictory to the world around us will often bring times of hostility and persecution. We saw this in the Early Church as Christianity grew. Hostility and persecution rose up to meet Christianity and the martyrs of the Early Church were born. The word martyr comes from the Greek term – witness.  St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith was stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60). Other individuals such as St. Lawrence, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Martina of Rome, and eleven of the twelve apostles (excluding John) and many others all died the martyr’s death. In his Letter to the Romans, St. Ignatius of Antioch says about his impending martyrdom, “…Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts…only let me get to Jesus Christ…I would rather die.”

There are two forms of martyrdom – red martyrdom and white martyrdom. Red martyrdom is witnessing to the faith where a person endures death. The Church proclaims those who are killed for the faith are baptized by blood and are directed straight to heaven. The red martyrs are genuine examples of heroic fortitude and conviction that is unparallel. White martyrdom (dry martyrdom) is social persecution rather than death. This form of martyrdom is when a person or group of persons are attacked either verbally or in writing for having a conviction of faith or when they choose not to violate their moral conscience. This is the most common form of martyrdom for us Catholics in America to date, but that could change soon.

Although the 20th century witnessed more red martyrs for the faith around the world than any other century, here in the United States white martyrdom was more common. However, in recent years and with the multiplying of the culture wars, white martyrdom has dramatically increased against Catholics in general (see Huffington Post article). With the announcement of the HHS Mandate and the so-called “compromise”, verbal and hate filled attacks have been on the rise against Catholics since we stand against this unjust law. We will not allow a tyrannical government like the Obama Administration to force us into anything that contradicts our Religious Freedom and First Amendment Rights on the grounds of “women’s health” (see yesterday’s results from the Blunt Amendment – right down party lines). We will not comply!

In the 1920’s, the government of Mexico declared war on the Catholic Church killing bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay faithful in the streets. It was terrible time for the Church in Mexico and many good and faithful people lost their lives. If the dangers we have now continue and the current administration is re-elected for four more years, Mexico from the 1920’s could appear on the shores and in the heartland of the United States.

The Rise of the Faithful Catholics

On Monday, February 13, a religious order of faithful catholic sisters released this statement – read it here.

I read either on Facebook or another blog the statement, why doesn’t the media ever interview religious sisters that are faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church? It’s a good question, but one question, we already know the answer. The media isn’t searching for the truth, they are seeking to distort the truth and destroy Christianity, specifically, Catholicism.

There is no compromise with the HHS Mandate and if it’s going to take Civil Disobedience on the part of us faithful Catholics to reject this terrible and religious freedom-revoking mandate, then so be it! We must, as faithful Catholics (many non-Catholics have come to our defense as well) reject this mandate and all its false rhetoric and flawed statistics. Although this mandate is disguised under a “Healthcare” banner, the bigger issue of this mandate is religious freedom. I use the word “healthcare” with great care since sterilization, contraception, and abortion inducing pills cannot and should not be called “medicine.” Medicine should heal an individual not destroy or allow other diseases to rise.  Don’t forget – the issue here is RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

In Chapter I, section 2, the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) states, “…the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups, and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as we know through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.” (Italicized done by author). For us as faithful Catholics, this paragraph wraps up everything we will fight for when it comes to this mandate. We will not violate our conscience. We will not comply with this law.

As the lay faithful, we must stand with and support our Bishops in this endeavor. I know some of the Bishops in the past have not made the best decisions and have aligned themselves with people they should have clearly opposed. I also know that for 30 years in the US Church things were handled poorly and scandals arose. I further know that catechesis of the faith was watered-down and poor. I am not discrediting any of these issues, but our Bishops are taking a stance and we must support them in all that they do. Our new and young Bishops are strong, orthodox and faithful to the Church. They are attracting great men to the priesthood who are also orthodox and faithful. Religious orders that are faithful to the Church are on the rise and attracting men and women who want to give their lives to Christ and his Church. Oh yeah…one more thing…many of these orders – wear habits too! The “LPN” religious orders are going the way of the Dodo bird. “LPN” stands for Lapel Pin Nuns. You know them well – they dress like everyone else, wear a lapel pin cross and you wouldn’t know if they were a nun or a plumber.

One such order that is rising from Blessed John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization is the Dominican Sisters Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. They are religious sisters of the Dominican Order of Preachers. I have a great love for these holy women of God since I know the order very well and have worked with them in Phoenix, Arizona at St. Mary’s Catholic High School and currently at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin, Texas. In the summer of 2008, I was blessed to visit their Mother House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was invited by some of the sisters I knew in Phoenix at the time to attend their Final Vows. My words cannot do the experience justice, so I won’t even try to tell you how inspiring and beautiful it all was to me.

Mother Assumpta Long, the Prioress General and one of the four founders is one of the most amazing Catholic religious I have ever encountered. Holy, yet down to earth; educated, yet humble. And the young women that are flocking (and I mean as in the words of Forrest Gump…”I was Runnn-ing”) to this order mirror Mother Assumpta, yet have their own unique personalities and gifts. Over the past seven years of working with these sisters, I have met at least 50 of them, however, there are four that stand out to me since I worked with them or do so currently– Sister Mary David, Sister Mary Magdalene, Sister John Paul, and Sister Mary Elizabeth. 

I know times are tough with the current economic difficulties, but if you are looking for an organization to donate to, look no further than this great and holy religious order in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I would also encourage you to make a trip up to see their Mother House. Visit their website for more information.

As these faithful religious orders rise from the last 30 years of debunked Catholicism and as the new wave of faithful Bishops,  priests, and religious come from the JP II generation, we too, the lay faithful, must rise and be as faithful as our pastors and shepherds. Let us stand in solidarity with one another and with the generations before us who were oppressed by tyrannical governments oppressing religious freedom.

As the Christians came forth from the catacombs in the 4th century, we must rise up as they did and bring Jesus Christ and Church with us. It’s time…our time…The Rise of the Faithful Catholics begins now!

Other faithful religious orders for your browsing:

Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration

The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration 

Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Missionaries of Charity

Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia

Sisters of Life

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

Benedictines – Prince of Peace Abbey