Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Sacrament of Baptism

Over the course of my life, I have been blessed to be Godfather to a variety of my family and friend’s children on the day they receive the Sacrament of Baptism. After a very difficult beginning to 2015, this past month will be a month I won’t soon forget. Two weeks ago I was Godfather to my friend’s little girl, and this afternoon, on what would have been Dad’s 68th Birthday, I will be Godfather to my nephew, whose middle name is the same as Dad’s.

As one who prepares adults to receive the Sacrament of Baptism on the Easter Vigil each year, which is a moving experience itself, witnessing and being asked to be a Godfather is one of the best honors a Catholic can receive from either family or friends. Not that numbers matter, but with this month’s two baptism’s, I am now Godfather to five children. Even as I write these words, I shake my head thinking how unworthy I am to fulfill such an important role. It’s only through the grace of my own Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and the frequent reception of Reconciliation that I am able to fulfill such a duty.

Me being Baptized by Rev. Joseph Nativo at St. Lucy's Catholic Church in Newark, NJ on March 17, 1974.

My Baptism by Rev. Joseph Nativo at St. Lucy’s Catholic Church in Newark, NJ on March 17, 1974.

Since I spoke about infant baptism above, I draw your attention to paragraph 1282 below and paragraphs 1250-1252 in the further reading section. Infant Baptism has been part of the tradition of the Church since the very beginning, but it’s on this subject that many non-Catholics disagree with the Church’s position to baptize infants claiming that a child has no sin and has no reason to be baptized. I can’t tell you how many people I have spoke to in my position at the parish in RCIA that wished they were baptized as children.

So with this all being said, I felt today was the perfect opportunity to give you what the Catechism of the Catholic Church quickly teaches on the Sacrament of Baptism –

Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ. [#1275]

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). [#1276]

Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord’s will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by Baptism. [#1277]

The essential rite of Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water or pouring water on his head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. [#1278]

The fruit of Baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ. [#1279]

Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship. Because of the character Baptism cannot be repeated (cf. DS 1609 and DS 1624). [#1280]

Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, can be saved even if they have not been baptized (cf. LG 16). [#1281]

Since the earliest times, Baptism has been administered to children, for it is a grace and a gift of God that does not presuppose any human merit; children are baptized in the faith of the Church. Entry into Christian life gives access to true freedom. [#1282]

With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God’s mercy and to pray for their salvation. [#1283]

In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate’s head while saying: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” [#1284]

For further reading on the Sacrament of Baptism, I would highly encourage you to read paragraphs 1214-1274 in the Catechism. Please also pray for my nephew today on the day of his Baptism, pray for his parents, and pray for me.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Baptism of Jesus Christ

Today, in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we commemorate the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eastern Church celebrates the same event on January 6, however, their day is titled – Feast of the Holy Theophany of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. Although the event has different names, it does not change the fact that we both celebrate the day Our Lord Jesus, who did not need Baptism, chose to be baptized in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist.

As we celebrate this day, we should also remember that through Baptism we are united with Christ – “Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord’s will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by Baptism” (CCC 1277). Every time we walk into a Catholic Church or chapel, we cross ourselves [Sign of the Cross] with Holy Water, and every time we do this, it   should remind us of our very own Baptism. We should get into the tradition of celebrating our own Baptism by Renewing Our Baptismal Promises each year. In 1982, in Wembley, Great Britain, Pope St. John Paul II said,

“Together we shall renew our baptismal promises as an offering of ourselves to our heavenly Father, joined to the sacrificial offering of Christ in the Eucharist… Together we shall renew our baptismal promises. We shall reject sin, and the glamour of evil, and Satan, the father of sin and prince of darkness. We shall profess our faith in the One God, in his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, in the coming of the Holy Spirit, in the Church, in life everlasting.”

With this being said, let’s quickly examine what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the Baptism of Jesus Christ –

Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan. John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. A crowd of sinners – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.” This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God. [#535]

The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death. Already he is coming to “fulfill all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son. The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”. Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened” – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation. [#536]

Baptism of Jesus Christ

Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father’s beloved son in the Son and “walk in newness of life”:

  • Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him.
  • Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father’s voice, we become sons of God. [#537]

All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. [#1223]

Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his “beloved Son.” [#1224]

In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a “Baptism” with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible “to be born of water and the Spirit” in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

  • See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved. [#1225]

Renewing My Baptismal Promises

Ever since I heard the homily about the importance of Baptism and lighting a child’s baptismal candle each year following their Baptism by Fr. Jim Wall, now Bishop James S. Wall of the Diocese of Gallup, I always wanted to renew my baptismal promises on the actual date of my Baptism – March 17.

Being Baptized by Rev. Joseph Nativo at St. Lucy's Catholic Church in Newark, NJ on March 17, 1974.

Being Baptized by Rev. Joseph Nativo at St. Lucy’s Catholic Church in Newark, NJ on March 17, 1974.

For whatever reason, I have never done so until today. After reading Rosario Rodriquez’s blog post last week titled, Today is the Anniversary of my Baptism, it got me thinking that I should do the same thing since my baptismal date was coming up.

After speaking to my Pastor, who is also my boss, Fr. Will Schmid, and explaining to him what I had in mind regarding my baptismal promises, he agreed to renew them with me today.

Baptismal Promises:

V. Do you renounce Satan?  R. I do.

V. And all his works?  R. I do.

V. And all his empty show?  R. I do.

V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?  R. I do.

V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?  R. I do.

V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?  R. I do.

V. And may almighty God, the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.  R. Amen.

On January 8, 2014, Pope Francis said the following about knowing our baptismal dates,

“Many of us have no memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, and it is obvious why, if we were baptized soon after birth. I have asked this question two or three times already, here, in this square: who among you knows the date of your Baptism, raise your hands. It is important to know the day on which I was immersed in that current of Jesus’ salvation. And I will allow myself to give you some advice… but, more than advice, a task for today. Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism. To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past – and not by our own will but by that of our parents – and that it has no impact on the present. We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live out our Baptism every day as the present reality of our lives. If we manage to follow Jesus and to remain in the Church, despite our limitations and with our weaknesses and our sins, it is precisely in the Sacrament whereby we have become new creatures and have been clothed in Christ.”

Share with us in the comment box below the date you received the Sacrament of Baptism.

If you don’t know the date of Baptism, I would encourage you to seek it out so when the date comes up on the calendar, you can ask a priest or deacon to renew your baptismal promises.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Motherhood, and Sacrament of Baptism

Luke 2:21-22 says,

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.’”


This is the account in the Sacred Scriptures of Jesus’ circumcision. The Blessed Virgin Mary was not present at the Baptism of Our Lord, which the Latin Church celebrated yesterday, but she was present at his circumcision. The Sacred Scriptures don’t really tell us what Mary was feeling during this time, however, St. Luke does say that she kept all these things, pondering them in her heart (Lk 2:19). He also states that her soul will be pierced with a sword.  This is in reference to Jesus’ Crucifixion on the cross.

Knowing what we know about Mary and her total trust in God, I would speculate that she offered up everything she and St. Joseph experienced to God and had great faith in His Divine plan. The gift of motherhood is a precious gift. Mary was a great mother to Jesus who obeyed all the commandments of God, which included circumcision. Circumcision finds its fulfillment in the Sacrament of Baptism for us in the New Covenant. To understand the connection between circumcision and baptism, please read yesterday’s post – The Circumcision and Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As I did with the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I provide you with experiences from mothers talking about their children receiving the Sacrament of Baptism. They are very heartfelt, honest, and loving testimonies.

After my children were born, the next important day in their lives was their baptisms. Bringing them to church to become Catholics was special to our family. We were so blessed to have our parish priest Fr. Joseph Nativo baptize them. We had known Fr. Nativo since we were children and had always gone to St Lucy’s Church. Who better to baptize our children than the priest who married us and be surrounded by all our family. – Joyce

I felt excitement about my son joining the faith; to know that he was set apart for God. I felt joy as we honored our vow to God to bring our children up in the Catholic faith. It was a joyous occasion that would impact his life and ours forever. – Melanie

On the day my son was baptized, I was thinking what a privilege it was to engage on a journey where by my husband and I would be responsible to form this precious soul to authentically live out his baptism.  We committed to our son to pray with him and for him daily so that he would learn the ways of living out the call to be priest, prophet and king.  We planned on doing all of this, from day one, by living a fully happy and holy life and knew that we really wouldn’t be understood by most people around us.  So, it was a beautiful day because it was a day that our married vocation expanded and our first-born had the full possibility of heaven. – Christine

The morning of my daughter’s baptism I was feeling overjoyed that this day was here.  I was excited that she would be welcomed into a community of Catholics and into God’s loving arms.  She wore the same baptismal gown that my brother and I wore as infants and that tradition meant a lot to me as well.  It was touching knowing our family and friends would be a part of this special day. – Carla

My Goddaugher/Niece and I on the day of her Baptism.

My Goddaugher/Niece and I on the day of her Baptism.

I recall the excitement surrounding our children’s baptisms. The finality of knowing there is no longer original sin on their souls. Also the comfort in knowing if anything ever happened to them God forbid. We wanted them baptized as soon as we could get a priest to do it. To be full in the Church and received this way is an awesome sacrament. I think I need to thank my husband Dan for making me aware more fully how wondrous this sacrament truly is. Each child we have I begin to realize the awesomeness of our faith. – Erika

I remember the night before each of my boy’s baptism. I was very excited to have them be fully welcomed into the church. The fact that all of our favorite family and friends gathered on this wonderful occasion was a blessing! I love that Father Rob Clements and Father John Erich also included a blessing for my husband and I. As parents we need all the blessings and prayers we can get. I thought baptism was a beautiful sacrament to start my boys on their lifelong journey to get to heaven! – Dena

The Circumcision and Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Today, in the Western lung of the Catholic Church, we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ. On January 6, the Eastern lung of the Church celebrated the same event, however, their day is titled the Feast of the Holy Theophany of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. Although there are different names for the same event, they commemorate one sign – Jesus Christ, who did not need to be baptized, chose to be baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River to reveal to us his self-emptying act. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1223-1225 states,

“All the Old Covenant pre-figurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan.After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying.The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his “beloved Son.”In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a “Baptism” with which he had to be baptized.The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible “to be born of water and the Spirit” in order to enter the Kingdom of God.”

On January 1, when the Latin Church was celebrating the Mary, the Great Mother of God, the Eastern Rites of the Church (and the Orthodox) celebrated the Circumcision of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, which according to Jewish custom would have occurred eight days after his Nativity in Jerusalem (although he was born in Bethlehem).

Although Jesus did not need circumcision or baptism, he chose to participate in both because he wanted to become like one of us and be our example in all things. The Metropolitan Cantor Institute (The Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Pittsburg) says,

“According to the Law of the Old Testament, as given to Moses, each male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day from birth. This was considered both a mark ‘in the flesh’ of belonging to the covenant that God made with the people of Israel, and also a ritual purification…the circumcision of infants under the Old Covenant made it clear than the entire life of the Jew belonged to God. Even then, it was commonly known that the ‘inward circumcision’ of pure conduct and intent was even more important than the ‘outward circumcision’…According to the Fathers, Christ underwent circumcision for two reasons. In doing so, He kept the Law given by God perfectly, including this rite that incorporated a child into Israel; by doing this, He also “emptied himself” to become just like one of us, even though He was in need of no purification of any kind.”

Circumcision and Baptism are clearly connected in the Sacred Scriptures. In Deuteronomy 30:6 (read also Dt 10:16 and Jer 4:4, 9:26), it says, “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul, and that you may live.”

Baptism of Jesus Christ

The book of Deuteronomy states that the Lord God will be the one who will take the initiative with us. Although the old covenant plays an important role for the Jewish people, it does not cleanse your heart nor provides sanctifying grace. The New Law of Love, given to us by God Himself through the person of Jesus Christ, would cleanse us and be written on the hearts of man through Baptism.

The fulfillment of circumcision and the cleansing of the hearts of man in the New Covenant, through the Sacrament of Baptism, come to fruition on Pentecost. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we receive Baptism and the new law is written upon our hearts. Acts of the Apostles 2:37-39 states,

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart [emphasis mine here and below], and said Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

All that Jesus gave to the Apostles during his 3-year public ministry is given to them through the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The authority given to St. Peter in Matthew 16 is now brought to fulfillment. The New Law of Love, the Beatitudes, fulfills the old law, the Ten Commandments. The new law is written on the new hearts of the faithful through the Sacrament of Baptism. Jeremiah 31 says, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant…I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts…” (vs. 31, 33).

Prophesizing the coming of Baptism, Ezekiel 36 states, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (vs. 25-26).

In the New Covenant, which Jesus Christ established with us, the law of God is written on our hearts and we no longer have hearts made of stone, but we have hearts made of flesh, filled with the sanctifying grace of God.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This coming Wednesday, November 21, is the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (in the Temple) and that is why today’s “Mondays with Mary” is dedicated to this important date in the liturgical calendar.

As stated by tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as a child around the age of three, was brought to the Temple and presented before the Lord. This celebration has its origin in an Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church (more than likely Syria). It seems from Church writings that the feast begin somewhere between the 7th-11th centuries in the East. It has its celebration origins in the Latin Church sometime during the 14th century and around the time of the Avignon Papacy. In Greek circles, the feast is known as the Entrance of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Temple. It is believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary also during this day entered the Holy of Holies, being the first woman to ever do so. Some will disagree with that last statement; however, this memorial is to show the Blessed Virgin Mary’s dedication to the service of God and complete and total obedience to his will. Even as a small child, the Blessed Mother knew how important it was to be aligned with the will of God.

I draw upon St. Francis de Sales, one of thirty-five Doctors of the Church to assist in our understanding and reflection of this important day in the life of the Blessed Mother and the Church she would eventually protect. The excerpts below are from a sermon given by St. Francis on November 21, 1617 –

“Similarly, never was “so much perfume” and ointment offered to God in His Temple as the most holy Virgin brought with her on this day. Never until then had the Divine Majesty received so excellent and pleasing a gift as the offering He received from the blessed St. Joachim and St. Anne. They went to Jerusalem to fulfill the vow they had made to God to dedicate their glorious child to Him in the Temple, where young maidens were brought up for the service of the Divine Majesty.”

Do you not see that our glorious Lady was longing to see the day when her parents would offer to God, for it is true that she had the use of reason from the time of her Conception?…Moreover, the holy Virgin and her glorious Son, Our Lord, had the use of reason from their mother’s wombs and were, consequently, endowed with much knowledge. Nevertheless, they concealed it under the law of profound silence.”

“Oh, my God, how I wish I could adequately picture to myself the sweetness and consolation of this trip from St. Joachim’s home to the Temple of Jerusalem! What contentment this little child displayed in seeing that the long-awaited hour had finally come! Those who went to the Temple to adore and offer gifts to the Divine Majesty sang all along the way. The royal prophet David composed a psalm expressly for this purpose, and Holy Church has us say it every day in the Divine Office: “Beati immaculati in via” [Ps. 119] – “Happy are they whose way is blameless,” who walk in Your way, Lord, without stain of sin. “In Your Way” – that is to say, in the observance of Your commandments.”

St. Francis de Sales continues his sermon by explaining how we, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, must make vows and be obedient to them as we walk this earth. Religious Orders take a variety of vows during their discernment period until they profess final vows. They will also renew these vows on a yearly basis.  St. Francis de Sales says speaking of his own vows, “This commemoration of our vows is made principally to strengthen our fervor, to renew our promises, and to reaffirm our good resolutions.”

For us as Christians, dedication to God begins at the Sacrament of Baptism and continues throughout our Sacramental life. Baptism is the day that we are first dedicated to God. St. Francis says that our birthday is not as important as our Baptismal day, because at our birth we are children of Adam and without grace, but on the day of our Baptism we are filled with God’s grace. Bishop James S. Wall, Diocese of Gallup (NM) once said in a homily, parents and children should celebrate the Baptismal Day by lightening the candle that was given to them on that day just as they celebrate their birthday with candles. He continued by saying the day of our Baptism is the day we are welcomed into God’s family – the Church.

We must be humble, obedient, and always open to God’s will in our lives, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary was from the day of her presentation in the Temple. Let us pray that through her loving and motherly embrace, we may come to know Jesus Christ through the Sacramental life as deeply as she knew Him when she carried Him in her immaculate body.

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.