Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

The Question of Free Will

Without free will, we would be like animals

I wonder why we were given free will. Intellectually, I understand—God gave us free will because he made us in his image. He made us to be rational, thinking human beings with the ability to make choices. If he had not given us free will, then we would not have been any different than an ape, a parrot or any other animal. We were purposefully given cognitive abilities, a soul, a beautiful home, and a question—will we choose to love God or not?

On some level or another, this makes sense to me intellectually. Until I look at my life, all of my mistakes and goof ups, the broken relationships, my love ones and their regrets, this sad, sad world, it is then that I no longer understand. Free will gives us the ability to choose, and sometimes we choose wrong, sometimes we choose right, sometimes we can’t tell if it’s wrong or right until many years later. And sometimes I wish that we didn’t have to choose at all because sometimes it isn’t as clear as black and white.

Free will seems to be the crux of humanity. Somehow it makes us beautiful and at the same time makes us the most dangerous being on earth. For with free will, we are given the ability to love one another at any time and the ability to take that love away at the drop of a pin. We are given the ability to make a mess of our lives and to hurt those closest to us.

What would have the Garden of Eden looked like?

It’s a pessimistic thought, really. Perhaps not totally Christ-like. And yet it is the truth. I wonder what it was like for Adam and Eve. They were not placed into a broken world, but into a beautiful world with beautiful relationships. They were naked in mind, body and spirit. Their lack of clothes not only showed the perfect union between Adam and Eve but also between them and God. What would it have been like to be totally naked before our spouse and our God—I’m not taking about physical nakedness but where we drop all of our guards, walls and masks to be in perfect union with one another and with God?

Unfortunately, free will ended that. Adam and Eve were graced before the fall with gifts of perfect unity, but when they listened to the serpent, that unity was broken. And unfortunately, it was broken for all. As a result, we have this sad world with dissent placed between husbands and wives, children and parents, best friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

It isn’t all pessimistic however. We were given a way out, one that God devised before Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. A woman and a man showed us that we can live in this broken world with free will and be in harmony with God and with one another. Where Eve used her free will to listen to the serpent, Mary used her free will to have faith in God. Where Adam chose not to stand up for God’s commandment, Jesus laid down his life. Both were given the same weaknesses as we have and both were able to use their lives for the good of all.

Jesus chose to sacrifice himself for us

Jesus and Mary set an example for us. It is like they are saying; look, free will isn’t just for us to destroy one another, but for us to use it for good. Despite my past, despite all that is broken due to poor choices, I find hope in this. I find optimism among the pessimism. After all, one cannot know white without knowing black, love without knowing hate, right without knowing wrong. One cannot know what it is like to be whole without knowing what it is like to be broken. And we would not know these things without free will. It is through Jesus and Mary, ultimately through God, that we are given hope.

I may not always understand or even like free will. Without it maybe we wouldn’t be such a sad world. But without it, we would not have known Jesus and Mary. Without it, we wouldn’t have the ability to know God. In this light, I suppose that I can accept free will—maybe only with a prayer that God grants us the wisdom to use it correctly.

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IgnitumToday: Another Path to Holiness

English: Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, and child ...

Today, I direct you to one of my favorite blogs called Ignitum Today, where I was welcomed to submit a guest post.  Ignitum Today is a multi-blogger site that cover topics relevant to the younger generation of the Catholic Church.  The site features many talented writers, such as Brandon Vogt which is one of my favorite, published authors. 

With much excitement, I submitted a post on how the Holy Family can teach us to become holy ourselves.  You can find the article here

There are many different paths to holiness– a person does not have to be a nun or a priest to become a saint.  Do you have examples of ‘average’ people becoming a saint?  Any particular person, Catholic or non, alive or dead, who inspires you?  Share in the comments.

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Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord

God is God, capable of the impossible, just and loving.  This is the basis of Christianity.  If God is capable of the impossible, then why did Jesus come into the world through a woman?  Could he not have just sent Himself down to the earth?

It’s simple really.  It was all for us out of His great love.  Throughout the bible, we see all of the chances God gave His people to trust Him, but time and again the people (just like us) failed God.  It all started with the beginning of time, with Adam and Eve.  They too were given an opportunity to trust God, and they failed.  Through the disobedience of a woman, sin entered into the world [1: 494].  It is only fitting that through the obedience and profound faith of another woman, that the salvation of the world should be born.

Before their disobedience, Adam and Eve were perfect in God, created to be in union with Him, and without sin.  They could not have been in the presence of God without being sinless.  God created Adam from the untilled, unstained, or in other words, immaculate earth.  It is fitting that Jesus, who is much greater than Adam, was also created from an immaculate womb [1: 494].

Inmaculada Concepción (La Colosal) (Immaculate...

 

The only way for a womb to be immaculate is to be without sin—all sin, original and personal.  This is the basis of the Solemn Feast of Immaculate Conception celebrated by the Church on December 8th.  God could have just descended down to earth, declared the kingdom of God was upon us and saved us all with a wave of his hand.  But it was through humanity that his people fell away from him according to their own free will, and so it was by that very humanity and free will that He brought us back to him [2].

Mary, a human not a God, was born without sin but not without a need for a savior [2].  For no human is without a need for a savior.  It was not because of her own merit that she was given the special privilege and grace of being sinless, but because of the coming deeds and merits of her own Son.  She was created with him in mind, and he came down to earth for all of us, out of the Father’s (and his) great love [1: 492].

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the coming of Christ, let us not forget Mary.  Let us remember her humble words of free will and pray that we are made as immaculate as she.   “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

English: 1950. Oil on Canvas. 94" x 70&qu...

References

[1] Catholic Catechism, 487-587

[2] Hail Mary, Conceived Without Sin, Catholic Answers, Tim Staples

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Come Christ, Come

There were many reasons that I left Christianity in high school and followed other, less justifiable paths of religion.  While not a main reason, a significant reason was the history of the origins of Christian holidays, traditions and symbols and the lack of knowledge among Christians of this topic.  Much of the holidays and traditions had been absorbed from pagan religions.  I remember pointing to this fact and saying that all Christians are blind if they celebrate these holidays but deny the history of them.  I had felt like it was just one more justification of the falsehood of Christianity and that I was going back to the source of it all, back to the pagan religions.

It was really I who was blind and too proud to admit it.  I didn’t delve any further into the issue, learning just enough to feel correct, but not enough to actually prove that I was.  Perhaps my heart already knew I was being silly and feared that if I looked any further than the surface, I would be humbled.  Now that I know the truth about the holidays—yes the holidays came from pagan culture, but only because the people fell from God and it was easier for the people to accept God by absorbing their culture rather than annihilating it—and about Jesus, I believe that it is our duty to know the history as well as meaning of the traditions we celebrate.  We never know when or where we will need to witness to someone who was much like I was, disappointed with Christians and their inability to defend their faith.

Sometime I will come back to the subject of Saints and finish that series; however, with the onset of Advent, I am going to move on to another series of posts:

  • This first week of December, I will discuss the Solemn Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.  A mouth full and very much Catholic, this celebration is really all about the preparation of Mary to bear the Savior of the world.  With Mary, we too are preparing for the world to bear the coming of Christ.
  • The second week, I will dive into what Advent is, how the Church celebrates Advent, and some suggestions on how all Christians no matter the domination could prepare themselves to accept Christ.
  • The third week is the week of Christmas in which I will present the early history of Christmas and the Christmas tree.
  • As the month of December ends, I will close this series with a post that summarizes the Feast of the Holy Innocents (a remembrance on Dec. 28 by the Church of all of the babies sacrificed by Herod in his attempt to kill Christ) and the Feast of the Holy Family (a celebration on Dec. 30 of the role model that the Holy Family is for all families).
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Ave Maria! Part 3

Previously…

This is a continuation of the posts on the Holy Rosary titled Ave Maria!  The previous posts are as follows:

This post will cover a couple of different ways to pray the Rosary.  I encourage all to visit the websites and documents that I reference at the end of the post for more information on the subject.

How is it Prayed?

While researching how the Rosary is prayed, I discovered that there are many ways based on culture, tradition and reformation.  In an essence, there are standard prayers in the Rosary, but I get this sense that as long as the Rosary is said with the meditative focus on the life of Jesus, there is no right or wrong way to pray it.  Of course, the Church does have a standard way for the Rosary to be prayed, however a person is not condemned for not following this standard or for not being able to meditate on all 20 Mysteries in  one sitting [1].

generally available marian image image created...

I personally have struggled with the Rosary for many reasons.  The top reasons was its devotion to Mary and that I did not understand that the Rosary is a meditative prayer.  I fell into the trap of just reciting the prayers to say that I’ve recited them.  I did not know that there was more than one way to pray the Rosary or that the Rosary can be practiced as just one Mystery at a time instead of five or twenty.  Pope John Paul II reminds us that the Rosary was a body and a soul– the body is the prayers and the soul is the meditations.  Without its soul, the Rosary is just an empty babbling of words.  The meditations are defined by the Mysteries of the Rosary [2].

But what is a Mystery?  The broad definition of a Mystery from the view point of the Church is an idea that we need revelation from God to understand [1].  The Trinity is an example of a Mystery; it is something that is difficult to understand without faith in God.  A Mystery in terms of the Rosary is a segment of Mary and Jesus’ life that is focused on during the recitation of the prayers.  The Mysteries of course were standardized by the Church, and these Mysteries highlight the critical points in Mary and Jesus’ life that the beliefs and foundations of the Church is based on [3].

These Mysteries are as follows [3]:

Joyful Mysteries

  • The Annunciation– The messenger of God visits Mary to ask her to carry the Son of God
  • The Visitation– Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth while both were pregnant
  • The Nativity– The birth of Jesus
  • The Presentation– Mary and Joseph present baby Jesus to the temple
  • The Finding of Jesus in the Temple– Mary and Joseph lose Jesus for three days only to find him teaching and learning in the temple

Luminous Mysteries (Added by Pope John Paul II)

  • The Baptism in the Jordan– The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus when he was baptized
  • The Wedding at Cana– Jesus’ first miracle performed at the urging of his mother
  • Proclamation of the Kingdom–Jesus preached to the people about the coming of the Kingdom
  • Transfiguration of our Lord– Jesus’ face shone with the glory of God
  • The Last Supper– the institution of the Eucharist

Christ on the Cross cropped. Crop of old Mass ...

Sorrowful Mysteries

  • The Agony in the Garden– Jesus prayed while he was being betrayed
  • Scourging at the Pillar– Pilate had Jesus scourged
  • The Crowning of Thorns– The guards mocked Jesus, adorning him with a crown of thorns
  • Carrying of the Cross– Jesus fell three times while carrying the cross
  • The Crucifixion of the Lord– The death of Jesus

Glorious Mysteries

  • The Resurrection– After three days, Jesus rose from the dead
  • The Ascension– After forty days with his apostles, Jesus ascended into heaven
  • The Descent of the Holy Spirit– Like tongues of flames, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples
  • The Assumption– The Mother of God was assumed into heaven, body and soul
  • The Coronation– The Mother of God was crowned Queen

There will be a page added with a guide on how to pray the regular Rosary and also the Scriptural Rosary.

REFERENCES

[1]  The Rosary. Women for Faith and Family, http://www.wf-f.org/Rosary.html

[2]  Prayers, The Rosary Army, http://www.rosaryarmy.com/?page_id=583

[3]  The Holy Rosary, The Vatican Holy See, http://www.vatican.va/special/rosary/index_rosary.htm

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“All For You”

All For You

by Aquinas.  Found in The Rosary Magizine issued in May of 1894.

 

“All for you!” breathe parted lips;

“All for you!” beam lifted eyes;

“All for you!” beats loving heart,

As a little maiden hies,

Laiden with sweet vines and flowers,

Gathered in May’s dewy hours.

 Rosary

“All for you!” the sweet voice says,

And the fragrant treasure lies

Scattered round our Lady’s feet,

While the love-lit, azure eyes

Upward lift to Mary’s own,

Looking down from May-day throne.

 Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, temper...

“All for you,”—the flowrets dropped,–

Clasps the little maid her beads;

Breathes Hail Marys all for love,

Quite forgetting childish needs;

But the May Queen knows each one,

And she breathes them to her Son.

 Thomas Aquinas stained glass window.

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Ave Maria! Part 2

Previously…

As a continuation from my earlier posts titled Ave Maria! which introduced this series on the Holy Rosary and Ave Maria! Part 1 which explained at a high level what the Rosary is, here I present the early history of the Rosary.  I have found the history of the Rosary to be fascinating and encourage all to research it as well.  I include my references at the end of the article.  Please remember I am no expert on the Theology of the Catholic Church and welcome all to question my research.

Where did it come from?

Saint Dominic of Guzman, by Claudio Coello, Mu...

There is no telling when the praying with beads or knotted cords first came about.  Even before the foundation of the not established until 1214 and 1460 [2].  Before that, it was known in a different form and a different name:  the Marian Psalter [1]. Before the Church and Christianity, other religions had been known to use some way to keep track of the number of prayers that was said, whether that was by knotted cords or beads or dropping stones in a bowl [1].  The Rosary as we know it today was not established until 1214 [2].  Before that, it was known in a different form and a different name:  the Marian Psalter [1].

In the middle ages, the laity (ordinary people) would gather while the monks recited the 150 psalms of David in Latin.  Most of the Laity could not read Latin.  In an effort to accommodate them, 150 Our Father prayers were substituted in place of the psalms of David.  Over time the Creed was accepted along with the Hail Mary prayer.  Eventually, a second form of prayer rival to the recitation of 150 Our Father prayers developed.  This was the recitation of 150 Hail Mary prayers called the Marian Psalter [1].

It wasn’t until the Albengensian Heresy in the 13th century when St. Dominic received the Holy Rosary from the Blessed Virgin Mary as ammunition to end the Heresy [1, 2].  The Albengensian Heresy claimed to be Christian while condemning marriage and procreation as evil and that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were an illusion.  Many people begun to follow these beliefs particularly in France and the spreading of these beliefs threatened Christianity [1].  St. Dominic preached to these people unsuccessfully until at last Mary appeared to him in a vision and told him to use the Marian Psalter in conjunction with his preaching.  St. Dominic divided his preaching on the Incarnation of Jesus, the motherhood of Mary and the sanctity of marriage between the Hail Mary prayers and Our Father prayers which led to the conversion of all those who heard him [1].

St. Dominic’s practice of interspersing the life of Jesus with the Marian Psalter was known as the Psalter of Jesus and Mary [2].   From St. Dominic, the body of the prayer was the recitation of 150 Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, and the soul of the prayer was the meditation on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus [1].  The actual meditations were not set as they are today until the preaching of Alan de la Roche in 1460. Alan de la Roche introduced set meditations for the Psalter and named the practice as the Holy Rosary, giving us the practice we have today.

References

[1] The Secrets of the Rosary, Part 1 by St. Louis de Montfort, http://www.rosary-center.org/secret.htm

[2] Theology for the Laity, In Defense of Tradition, by Father Paul A. Duffner, Light & Life Vol 49 No 5, Sept-Oct 1996, http://www.rosary-center.org/ll49n5.htm

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