Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

Where Better to Start?

Here I am, on the path of growing apologetic’s– which is nothing like growing pains I hope– and I thought to myself, Self where better to start than the bible.  Or more appropriately, Catholic Answers pointed me in that direction, but that is hardly the point.  The point is that I’ve done a series of posts on the Rosary, Communion of Saints, Advent, and Prayer.  But I have not yet done one on the bible.  It is very prudent that my first series of posts since a long batch of silence would be on the thing that has been giving Christians hope and inspiration and teaching for a very long time.  Just how long? Read the rest of this entry »

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And Its Back!

Pocket Apologetics Kit

It’s been almost a year.  A year of wandering, poking around, searching, brainstorming, trying this, trying that, reading, digging, asking how, how, how… How do I become an apologist?

I know what an apologist does—they defend the faith.  They answer the tough questions, speak up for the Church, and help people determine what is true to the faith and what is not.  They know the theology, the doctrine, the traditions, the history not only of the faith they defend but of other faiths too.

The skills of an apologist is many—ability to debate and reason with love, to remember scripture and writings of other great figures, the desire to learn and understand and the motivation to put their mind to use.

My problem is how do I become an apologist?  Where do I start?  Read the rest of this entry »

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There Are No Cons

Jesus in Prayer

I struggle with spontaneous prayer, which as a former Protestant this is a bit difficult to admit; however, I have always been fond of talking to God. Then when I started on the road to Catholicism, the first structured prayer that I learned was the ‘Our Father’. It was odd to me. It seemed dry—I did not see the beauty in what I was saying. I did not realize that the ‘Our Father’ was the way that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Now, the ‘Our Father’ springs to my lips easily, while I’m working and I struggle with people and projects; while I’m running and struggle to keep going; while I’m cleaning and thankful for all that God has blessed me with; while I try to fall asleep to still my mind on the peace of God. I have not abandoned spontaneous prayer. In fact, often times I couple the two together. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Underestimated Holy Spirit

I don’t know about you, but I know something about me… I underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. My first step towards Christianity as a Protestant was my belief in Jesus. I was still not quite right with God, but I was headed in the right direction. At that time, I believed that God was a very unkind God (the Old Testament was my proof—He wasn’t very nice to his chosen people. I know now that they had it coming to them as they just refused to listen) and the Holy Spirit was just this odd, third entity that I recognized as important, but less important than both God and Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is not at all less important in the Trinity, nor should he be any less respected. I could be totally off base here, but I think that as Protestants and Catholics (perhaps the majority of Christian believers), we put more emphasis on Jesus and on God and tend to remember the Holy Spirit as an afterthought. However, we must remember that the Holy Spirit does not come third to the Father and the Son, but is the third person of God. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 2

Praying Angel

This is a continuation of the series of posts on prayer, in particular The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 1.  See also the introductory post, In His Holy Name.

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer in the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God.” (Catholic Catechism 2725)

Previously, I asserted that prayer should be easy and natural, but thanks to Adam and Eve, it isn’t. In our sinfulness—our shame and guilt—prayer has become a difficult thing to do. Yet it, is a necessary and a good wholesome response to God’s love and a reflection of our own love for God and his commandments. We can read the bible, study his word and tradition, go to church, and perform acts of charity and mercy, but if we do not pray, there is no point to it. There is no relationship with God without prayer. The Catholic Church (and other sects of Christianity of course) knows this and knows that the tempter knows this. That is what makes prayer a ‘determined response on our part’ and ‘a battle’—for if we can be stopped from praying, nothing we can do will bring us to God or impart God’s grace in our lives and our hearts.

Before we can take up the shield and sword of God, let us take a moment to learn more about prayer, in particular the When and Where. The other three W’s (What, Who and Why) were covered in the first post here.

When Should We Pray?

“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.” (Eph 6:18)

God gives us the aid of the Holy Spirit

Saint Paul directed us to pray without ceasing. By praying without ceasing, we welcome God to walk with us in our lives and establish our foundation in God. Prayer becomes a constant conversation with God. This is an easy thing to say, but perhaps a difficult thing to put into practice. There are many objections to prayer—no time, too many distractions, it is dry and boring, not being heard to name a few. I would be the first to admit the constant, ceaseless prayer is difficult at best, maybe even impossible. I would also propose that it is also very simple, all we have to do is ask for God’s help to make prayer a continuous practice, and in that way a prayer will make constant prayer possible through the Holy Spirit.

Some people pray only when the road becomes difficult, others pray only when the road becomes easy. As the Catholic Catechism beautifully states it, “We pray as we live, because we live as we pray it.” So the answer to when should we pray is clear; with the aid of the Holy Spirit, always, constantly, and without ceasing.

Where Should Prayer Happen?

“According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.” (CC 2562)

The Immaculate Heart of Jesus

Just as our works are in vain without prayer, our prayer itself is in vain if it is just lip service. The bible speaks of this often, “The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men, therefore I will again deal with this people.” (Is 29: 13-14) While the Catechism asserts that the church is the proper and favorable place of prayer, as well as a sacred place in the home, monasteries, and shrines, the true place that prayer should happen is in our hearts. (CC 2691) As we see from Isaiah, it does not matter where our physical body is, if our spiritual body is far from God.

Let’s pray that God imparts the Holy Spirit upon us so that we can continuously pray with our hearts close to God!

References and Additional Reading

Catholic Catechism, available online

The Holy Bible, available online

Rahilly, Alfred. “Reason.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 1 Feb. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12673b.htm>.

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The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 1

From Microsoft OfficePrayer should be easy and come naturally from us. After all, God created us to have a relationship with him, and a huge part of any relationship is communication, the ability to talk to one another. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, that natural, easy communication with one another and with God became broken. Adam ate the forbidden fruit, suddenly became aware of his iniquities and hid from God in shame. [3] God never stopped communicating with Adam—Adam stopped communicating to God out of shame and fear.

We inherited this brokenness. As such, it is our own fears, desires, shame and sin that make prayer difficult. However, the story doesn’t end with Adam. We can learn about prayer from many different people in the bible—Abraham and the prayer to save others (Gn 18:27), Moses and the prayer of the mediator (Ex 33:12-17), David and the prayer of the king (2 Sam 18-29), Elijah and the other prophets regarding the conversion of heart (1 Kgs 18:36-37), the Psalms as a prayer of the assembly, Saint Paul and his many letters (Rom 8:27), and Mary the mother of God (Lk 1:46-55) are just a few. [1,3] The most important figure for us to learn from is Jesus. It was Jesus, God made man, who came down from heaven to restore our relationship back to God.

We inherited that brokenness, but Jesus came to heal us and to teach us how to have a relationship with God. With his help, we can learn to communicate with God again.

What is Prayer?

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” (CC 2559) [1]

From Microsoft OfficeSome people might think that prayer is just talking to yourself or delusions that the invisible will listen to you. Others only pray in time of need or only of requests of God. In fact, prayer is much more. Prayer is communication with God. It is spending time with him and the basis of our relationship with him.

Mother Angelica says it beautifully in her book titled Journey into Prayer.

The word Prayer means many things to many people. To some it means asking for “things”—for health or success. To others, it means repentance, imploring God’s Mercy for their sins and infidelities. Prayer is Praise and Thanksgiving to many and to the majority it is a cry in times of distress.

Prayer is all these things, but it is more. It is Union of Love: God’s Love and your love; it is an awareness of God’s love for you—His personal love.” [2]

Why Do We Pray?

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chr 7:14, emphasis added) [3]

From Microsoft OfficeJesus said to ask and it shall be given (Mt 7:7). [3] Let us keep in mind however our feelings for a family member who only speaks to us when they want something. It becomes irritating, and there is little for a relationship to build on. While it is good to ask of God our needs, as he wishes to provide for us, let it not be the only reason we pray. Let prayer be a covenant, a communion and a seeking of the face of God.

Who Can Pray?

From Microsoft OfficeAnyone. This may seem like a silly answer, but it is the basis of Christianity. There are no barriers based on gender, race, or (oddly enough) religion. Anyone can come before God, humble themselves and pray. God listens to what is in our hearts and responds accordingly. I remember when I was not yet a Christian; I fell to my knees and asked God for his salvation. I do not find it a coincidence that I became a Christian a month later and was baptized a month after that. God still heard my prayer to him, despite my lack of willingness to follow him and his church.

There are examples of pagans praying to God in the bible. One such example is the book of Jonah. Jonah, a prophet of the Lord, was sent to the pagan city Nineveh to warn them that the judgment of the Lord was upon them and that if they did not repent, the Lord would destroy the city. The people listened, put on sack cloth and repented. They called to God to spare them, and God listened. [3]

When and Where will be covered in Part 2.

References

[1] Catholic Catechism (CC), available online

[2] Mother Angelica, Journey into Prayer, available online

[3] The Bible, available online

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In His Holy Name—New Post Series

There are some practices in the Catholic Church that I am not used to yet. For example, the Liturgical Year begins around November 27th (on the first day of Advent). Because the Church year begins on Picture from Microsoft OfficeAdvent and not January 1st, I totally missed the Pope’s declaration of the Year of Faith. Apparently, the Year of Faith begun on October 11, 2011 and will go until November 24, 2012. [1, 2] (I find it rather interesting—coincidence or something more?—that I started this blog on October 10, 2011). That’s great that the Pope declared a Year of Faith, but what does it mean?

The Church Liturgical Year rise and falls with the life of Christ. The Liturgical year starts with Christ’s birth, climaxes with the death and resurrection of our Lord, and ends with a reminder of our own mortality and a call to repentance so that we may always be ready for the second coming of Christ. Each month has a particular focus, so it seems natural to me that the year would have a theme as well.

The Year of Faith is the Pope’s call for all people in the Church to study our faith, to learn more, to grow, and to become stronger, so that we can defend it and evangelize others, in particular the people (and countries) who were confirmed Catholic but have left the Church. [2] In his apostolic letter titled Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI states, “… the Church… clasping sinners to her bosom, is at once holy and always in need of purification. The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.” [1] His apostolic letter is full of beautiful gems that are worth reading. You can read the entire letter here or highlights and summary by Catholic Online here.

Prayer?

At reading this, I rubbed my hands in anticipation and thought, this is great, it’s the whole reason I started this blog! But where do I begin? January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus (also a feast day on January 3rd). [3] Benedict Baur is quoted on Catholic Culture, “In His name we pray to the Father with assurance of being heard.” [3] It occurred to me, the best place to start anything is in prayer.

Picture from Microsoft OfficeAnd I must admit—I’m not very good at praying. When I was a little girl, I would talk and sing to God all the time, but then I became a teenager and an adult, and somehow I lost that ability. Praying feels awkward. Questions like, ‘Am I talking too much and not listening enough?’, ‘Am I asking for too much and not thanking enough?’, and ‘Is it selfish to be asking so much for me and not much for the rest of the hurting world?’ rise up and then I kind of flounder around like a fish out of water. It was so easy when I was a kid; why isn’t it easy now?

So in light of the Year of Faith, the Holy Name of Jesus, and all those barriers to prayer, here is my next series of posts this month.

  • The first post will be on the five W’s (who, what, when, where and why) of prayer during the week of January 8, 2012.
  • In the second post, I will explore the benefits of structured and spontaneous prayer in the week of January 15, 2012.
  • For the week of January 22, 2012, I will explain the meaning of various Catholic prayers such as Our Father and Hail Mary.
  • The month will wrap up in a list of ways to improve our prayer life.

Happy New Year my friends!

References

[1] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (11 October 2011), Online

[2] Keith Fournier, The Door of Faith: Pope Calls for Year of Faith, Issues Apostolic Letter (18 October 2011), Online

[3] Catholic Culture, Month of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 2012), Online

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