Sunday, October 20, 2013
First, a quote from one of my favorite colonial writers, Fr. Bartolome de las Casas—a true saint I would love to see elevated to the altars of St. Peter's. In AD 1508, he wrote, "There were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it."
He goes on to describe the atrocities in detail, in several books. He wrote them for the same reason Allied troops took pictures of concentration camps: so that no one would ever forget what Columbus and his cohorts did.
And yet, it seems we've all forgotten. We even have a federal holiday to celebrate the monsters. And that's why I can't join the Knights of Columbus, despite how great, wonderful, generous, faith-filled, and loving their membership tends to be. I would simply feel very uncomfortable being a part of an organization named after a guy who, after adjusting for relative proportion to global population, killed the same quantity of people as Hitler. You can do the math for yourself.
(Noncombat) Death Toll of Columbus:
3,000,000/500,000,000 = 0.6% of total global population.
(Noncombat) Death Toll of Nazis:
14,000,000/2,300,000,000 = 0.6% of total global population.
Names matter. Just imagine people 300 years down the road creating the Youth of Hitler to celebrate their European heritage. Hitler did, after all, struggle bravely against overwhelming odds to rally a people on the brink of collapse. But no one in their right mind would tell people to emulate the better qualities of a genocidal maniac while ignoring his atrocities.
Please don't get me wrong. I'm not calling Venerable Fr. McGivney (the founder of the Knights) dumb or crazy. He simply didn't know any better. Hardly anybody had a reliable history of Columbus in his day, and he could have easily written off anything negative he read as anti-Catholic propaganda. And anti-Catholic propaganda was a very real thing back then. All I'm saying is, today, we know better. And we should work to correct past mistakes.
And yet, the Knights of Columbus aren't doing anything about their name. Again, they're great guys. A wonderful organization. And they've really got zero to do with Columbus. So, my question is, why drag around the baggage of being named after a genocidal maniac? Changing their name would do so much good, and it would fit in perfectly with the general thrust of Pope Francis' program for the Church. Heck, it would fit much better with Christ's program for the Church.
I say rename the organization after a saint.
Why not Knights of St. Columba, like its European counterpart?
Saturday, August 17, 2013
A Hindu saint who was visiting the Ganges River to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples, smiled, and asked:
"Why do people shout in anger at each other?"
His disciples thought for awhile. One of them said, "Because we lose our calm, we shout."
"But, why should you shout when the other person is right next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner," replied the saint.
His disciples gave some other answers, but none were satisfactory. Finally, the saint explained:
"When two people are angry at each other, their hearts become distant. To cover that distance, they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other over that great distance.
"What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small...
"When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper, and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally, they need not even whisper. They only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.
"So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant. Do not say words that distance each other more. Or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not be able to find the path to return."
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Monday, July 8, 2013
Me: Good to meet you, James. Thank you for taking the time today to share your beliefs.
James: Any time. What questions do you have for me today?
Me: Well, first of all, it would be great to give my readers a crash course in the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) faith in your own words. What does it mean to be Mormon, what do you believe, and why do you believe it? It doesn't have to be fancy, just an overview, straight from the heart. I'd also be interested in hearing about your perception of Catholics, what you think some of our most common misunderstandings are, and things that we do and say when dealing with Mormons that you wish we wouldn't.
James: To me, Mormonism is the search for, and the pathway back to God. It is the giving up of incorrect notions both secular and religous surounding who He is and what we have to do to find Him. Nothing could be more fundamental, nothing could be more important. This shows itself in many ways. For example, we believe in the Bible as the word of God, but also the Book of Mormon, which we believe, is another record of Christ and his dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the American continent. We believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost but as three separate and distinct beings. And we believe that the days of revelation and miracles are still upon us.
As to how I view members of your religion, I have been impressed with those Catholics I have met who are sincere in their faith and willing to follow the gospel of Christ. They have been considerate and willing to discuss beyond hot button topics. There are of course misunderstandings when it comes to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and Eternal Progression. However, more fundamentaly I have noticed some Catholics feel that as a Mormon I am either pushing an agenda in order to deceive others or completely deceived myself and so deserve pity. I think it's hard for some Catholics to understand how a normal person, like myself, with a wife, three beautiful daughters, and a regular job can believe in Mormonism.
Me: You mentioned that Catholics have misunderstandings about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and Eternal Progression. Can you please give my readers a little background on these subjects and the correct understanding of them? Also, I noticed that you are an active member of Catholic Answer Forums. What is your overall impression of the Catholic apologetics presented there? What about apologetics elsewhere? Do we Catholics do a good job of giving our message in truth and charity? Where and how can we make improvements?
James: Most of the concerns I have about how Catholic's view the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith have to do with pre-judging them before finding out about them. If someone conscientiously investigates both, asking God about the truth, I have very little concern. They made the effort and reached their own conclusion, but so few have truly done so.
The Book of Mormon claims to be another testament of Jesus Christ like the Bible. Written by prophets in the Americas beginning 600 years before Christ; it tells the story of their civilization, their teachings, and their personal journey's to find Christ. The climax of the book tells of Christ's visit to the people of ancient America. Now, this is an amazing claim. What if it were true?
We claim there is a way to find out. Simply read the book and ask God in sincerity if it is true. Is this not simple and straight forward? One person asking God. However, many would turn to the world. They would ask others who have not read it what to do. They would look on the internet and see what anti-Mormon's say. Typically these people do not even open the book, convinced before they even read a page, that it is false teaching ment to deceive and lead them astray. I marvel that somehow a religious book about Christ could cause such fear that people would not even open the book. I have studied it many times. I have asked God and I testify it is what it claims to be, a book which will teach us the way to Christ, if we allow it to do so.
Now, having not read the Book of Mormon, which Joseph claimed to translate by the power and gift of God, people precede to join the band wagon and call Joseph a fraud. I admit he is polarizing. To my way of thinking there are only two ways to take Joseph. He was either a fraud and liar who set about to deceive his followers to the end of his days, or he was one of the great prophets like Moses, or Abraham. Their is very little room for a rational opinion that settles in between these two extremes.
Why? Because he claims to have seen and spoken to God the Father and Jesus Christ, to have translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates found in a hill, to have received the Aaronic priesthood from the hands of John the Baptist, and to have received the Melchizedek priesthood from the hands of Peter, James, and John. Further, he claims to have been commanded by God to start plural marriage, before finally being killed for his beliefs.
So, was Joseph a conman of extreme proportion? If someone reads about him and comes to that conclusion then so be it, but I have found otherwise.
Probably the biggest problem I see with this issue is how it is presented. It is usually brought up for shock value. As though we LDS believe we are better than others, which is not the case. Or that God was a sinner, which we do not know. Or simply that we are extreemly deceived.
As LDS we believe that men and women are not separated from God by type but by degree. In other words, God is not a different sort of being from man. Instead he is a glorified, exalted, man. The most simple and straight forward statement on the matter comes from Lorenzo Snow who said, “As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be."
I first joined CAF (Catholic Answers Forums) to share ideas. But I have found I end up doing more explaining and defending of my own faith. I have learned some, but in depth discussion has been difficult. I think this is largely due to former Mormons who are now Catholic and are confrontational and somewhat abrasive. There have been a handful of Catholic posters who I have found sincere and respectful.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Born as a son,
led forth as a lamb,
sacrificed as a sheep,
buried as a man,
he rose from the dead as a god,
for he was by nature God and man.
He is all things:
he judges, and so he is Law;
he teaches, and so he is Word;
he saves, and so he is Grace;
he begets, and so he is Father;
he is begotten, and so he is Son;
he suffers, and so he is Sacrifice;
he is buried, and so he is Man;
he rises again, and so he is God.
This is Jesus Christ,
to whom belongs glory for all ages.
-- St. Melito of Sardis (AD 100-180), Bishop and Martyr
Sunday, June 23, 2013
As to why I've started this dialogue, part of the charism of the Benedictine Order in modern times has involved conversing civilly about faith with people in other religions. And since I've had such a hard time respecting Mormonism in the past, I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to learn to be more respectful, gain new friends, and grow in the unconditional Jesus Christ showed for everyone.
First, let me further clarify my attitude toward the LDS Church. Regardless of whether or not Mormons are Christians in belief, they are certainly Christians in matters of the heart, such as love, service, and self-sacrifice. So, from now on, I will refrain from criticizing them or their Church in a polemical fashion. Good people who follow their conscience deserve neither scorn nor ridicule, but understanding and friendship. No matter what I think about their choices and lifestyle, I must love them and never condescend. That means showing reverence for them, and for their ideas, voices, and perspectives. My concerns must always be voiced politely.
Which brings me to an important point: there needs to be a revolution among Catholic apologists. We have to stop writing alarmist and belittling articles. We have to stop cracking jokes and laughing at the expense of others (something of which I am very guilty). We can present saving truth without resorting to damning others, and we don't need to water down our own religion to do it. Our Catholic religion, at its root, is already scandalously gentle and as broadminded and expansive as the heavens themselves. We just need to rediscover how to tell truth in charity, and for the sake of charity.
For example, our Youth Catechism (YOUCAT), restating an immemorial teaching, boldly declares, "Atheism is not a sin if a person has learned nothing about God or has examined the question about God's existence conscientiously and cannot believe." Neither does the Lord Jesus Christ condemn Mormons, nor anyone else who acts in good faith and seeks truth according to the Father of lights.
Does that mean there is no value in being a Catholic, or in correcting those we believe are living in error? Of course not. If there were no value in it, I would not be a Catholic, nor would I be seeking to convert others whose hearts are open and willing. As St. Paul explained two-thousand years ago, "Circumcision, to be sure, has value if you observe the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Again, if an uncircumcised man keeps the precepts of the law, will he not be considered circumcised? Indeed, those who are physically uncircumcised but carry out the law will pass judgment on you, with your written law and circumcision, who break the law. One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; his praise is not from human beings but from God." (Rom. 2:25-29, NABRE).
Likewise, he is a Catholic who practices, to some degree, the one, universal religion. For the word "Catholic" simply means universal.
And just what is this universal religion? It is the same question the prophet St. Micah once posed to himself. "With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow before God most high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my crime, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Mic. 6:6-8).
When I read the Desert Fathers and other early Church literature, there's a silence and a holy composure that we've regrettably lost. It is a humility that comes from defeat, and a wisdom that arises from pain and persecution. It is the sacred realization that "...God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." (Jn. 3:17). My prayer is that this verse permeates the Mormon-Catholic dialogue I have agreed to undertake. Anyone from either of the two participant religions is free to join, but only accurate presentations of each religion's teachings will be permitted. I would also ask that discussions of modern political issues be avoided.
May God bless our common endeavor!
Saturday, March 30, 2013
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height
and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
so shall he descend to your roots
and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,
that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you
that you may know the secrets of your heart,
and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness
and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh,
but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart,"
but rather, I am in the heart of God."
And think not you can direct the course of love,
if it finds you worthy, it directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires,
let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved
in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
--Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), Maronite Catholic Mystic and Poet