Sunday, May 29, 2016

Catholicism Explained - The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

"For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." - John 6:55


Catholics believe that Jesus is with us, not only spiritually, but physically, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

As with all Catholic doctrines, this belief comes from the teachings of our Savior Himself:

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day." - John 6:52-54

Jesus promised to give us His flesh and blood to eat. How does He do this? Catholics have always believed it is through the Eucharist, the sacrament which Jesus instituted at the Last Supper:

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you." - Luke 22:19-20

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." - Matthew 26:26-28

When He said, "Do this in memory of me," He gave the Apostles the power to consecrate bread and wine as His body and blood. From that moment forward, the Apostles had a unique duty, a glorious responsibility: at their word, God would change bread and wine into the living flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.


This power was not restricted to the Apostles. It was passed down through the ages so that Jesus' ministry could continue. Peter and James, John and Philip, and all the other Apostles laid their hands on their successors and thus gave them the power which Jesus had given them. These successors, in turn, passed this power on their successors; and their successors passed it on to their successors; and so on, until the present day.

From the very first century, there has never been a time when Jesus was not physically present on earth.

He really meant it when He said, "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)



So, the successors of the Apostles have the power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. But how does this work? When does it happen? The answer is this: at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Mass is the highest and most essential form of Catholic worship. It's what happens at a Catholic church every Sunday. At every Mass, unleavened bread (the host) and wine (in the chalice) are brought to the altar. The priest prays over these gifts, which are our offering to God, and then says the words of consecration: "This is my body," "This is my blood," just as Jesus told us to.

At the words "This is my body," spoken over the host, the bread changes into Jesus' living body, blood, soul, and divinity. At the words "This is my blood," spoken over the chalice, the same thing happens to the wine: it becomes Jesus' body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Now, no visible change comes over the host or the chalice. It still looks like bread and wine. it still smells like bread and wine. It still tastes like bread and wine. It still feels like bread and wine. If you took it into a laboratory and did scientific tests on it, it would still have all the properties of bread and wine.

Nevertheless, it is not bread and wine. It is Jesus. It has kept all the physical appearances of bread and wine, but its actual substance has changed.

This phenomenon - a change in something's nature without a change in appearance - is called transubstantiation. It's a mystery and a miracle, something that can't be explained or proven by science, but which must be believed by faith. I like to think of it as a change without the normal physical or chemical change that we're used to seeing in this world.

Catholics, then, believe that Jesus is present, not only in spirit, but in body. Not only can we talk to Him; we can reach out and touch Him. Not only can we take Him into our hearts spiritually; we can take Him into our stomachs physically - and we do, every time we receive Holy Communion.



It's an awesome thing to think about, isn't it? The humility and love of our great God knows no bounds. Not only does He become one of His own lowly creatures and suffer horrendous suffering and disgraceful death for their pitiful sakes - He takes on the appearance of the food they eat and dwells with them forever. 

Once He took on our own nature; now He takes on the appearance of bread and wine.

Once He came to us as a little baby; now He comes to us as a tiny host.

Once he entered the cold discomfort of a stable; now He endures the continual cold indifference of a world that does not recognize His presence.

Once He lowered Himself to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; now He lowers Himself to be taken into a pitiful human body.

His love knows no bounds! Who would have expected that after being beaten and spat upon and crucified, He would have anything left to offer the world? He already gave us everything; He already lavished upon us more than we ever could begin to deserve in a million eons.


And yet He has given us more.

He has given us more.

What one of you would die for a friend? Perhaps some, perhaps many, perhaps even all of you. But what one of you would be willing to hide yourself under the appearance of a piece of broccoli or a slice of pizza and enter that friend's body in order that they might grow closer to you? Would you be willing to rest on a human tongue, slide down a human throat, end up in a human stomach?

If any of you are willing to do that, then I am very, very impressed.

God has held nothing back. He has challenged the human concept of perfect love. He is willing to do anything and everything to bring His beloved human creatures closer to Him. And He has done anything and everything. He has made Himself available to each one of us in a personal, individual, physical way.

It's already more than awesome that we can talk to Him from our hearts anywhere and anytime and He will listen to us with a father's heart. But that we can reach out and touch Him? That we can take Him into our very bodies? That we can sit there in an adoration chapel and look with love on the very body that was pierced and bruised and slain for us?

We have no right to think for even a moment that God owes us such love, to suspect that He would consider making Himself available to such a crazy degree - and yet He does.

God's love transcends anything the human mind can conceive. It's more than mind-blowing.

That's why the doctrine of the Real Presence makes so much sense: it doesn't make sense. It's just the inexplicable, unbelievable sort of thing that God would do.



There's an explanation of the Real Presence - one of my favorite aspects of Catholicism. Any comments, questions, or concerns? Any ways I could make this feature better? Any suggestions for the next Catholicism Explained post?

Note: I will be out of town next Sunday, and thus there will be no Catholicism Explained feature next week. However, God willing, it will be back on Sunday, June 12. :)








Saturday, May 28, 2016

We Will Dance Again - A Short Story

(To be quite honest, I'm only putting this up to avoid having three "Catholicism Explained" posts in a row. This short story is inspired by and based on the song, "The Ashokan Farewell," and I thought it was vaguely fitting for Memorial Day weekend.)


           
It was evening when she said goodbye to him - a lonely and cloud-swept evening, with the sunset burning a red fire beyond the forest of pines. He was leaving, marching far away where she could not follow. Never had she thought there would come such hard times as these.

            He held her in his arms and let her cry. She needed to cry; tears are good when life's cup is bitter. Closing her eyes to the dying sunlight and burying her face in his chest, she choked forth her farewell.

            "You must come back to me, you know," she said. "I cannot live without you."

            He stroked her back with his strong fingers. "I will come back to you, if I can. But when a man's country calls to him, he must answer its bugle. Do not weep if the price of freedom is my blood."

            "Promise me we will dance again," she pleaded.

            He kissed her forehead. "We will dance again."

            Then the war swept him away on its swift and merciless wings. It swept the whole country away in a terrible torrent of blood, North and South falling like wheat before a gale, until from the red clay of South Carolina to the cornfields of Ohio not a family lived who did not feel its wrath.

            It was evening when she saw him again, again to say farewell - a blood-red evening, with a crimson sun sinking in an angry sky above a blood-soaked battlefield. He was fading away from her, slipping into a far-off world where she could not follow. Often had she dreamed of such heartbreak as this.

            She held him in her arms and did not cry. Tears held no comfort at a moment like this. She wiped the blood from his face with tender fingers, and looked deep into his dying eyes with a breaking heart.

            "You could not come back to me, my darling," she said. "But I have come to you, so all is well."

            He grasped her hand with his weak fingers. "Forgive me, my love, that I cannot stay with you," he whispered. "But a bugle-cry is calling me, sweeter and stronger than that of war. Do not weep, for I fly to freedom - and you will follow me, someday."

            Two sudden tears ran down her face. "Promise me we will dance again."

            A radiant glow came into his eyes. "Yes, my love - we will dance again."

            Then Death swept him away on swift and merciful wings - for death always comes softly to heroes. But it left her alone on the battlefield, holding a corpse in her arms. A tear dropped onto the battered face, and she kissed the lifeless forehead one last time. Then, looking up to where the evening star blessed the sky like a promise of hope, she whispered, with an anguished glory in her voice - "Yes! I know we will dance again."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Catholicism Explained: Does the Church Replace Jesus?

Welcome to the first installment of Catholicism Explained! This is the blog feature where Christians can come together and talk about the Catholic faith, one aspect at a time.

To begin our discussion about what Catholics believe, I thought it'd be a good idea if we discussed one thing Catholics don't believe.

Catholics don't believe salvation comes from anywhere but through Jesus.

I don't know how widespread this misunderstanding is, but some Protestants seem to think that Catholics "replace" Jesus with prayers or works or ceremonies or beliefs - that we place our hope for salvation, not in Jesus, but in the Catholic Church.

A few weeks ago a dear non-Catholic relative of mine told me, "I hope you're placing your hope in Jesus Christ, and not in your confirmation or your baptism." That made me giggle a little bit. The thought of me placing my hope in my confirmation or my baptism instead of in Jesus was just so ridiculous.

Not that I don't put hope in my confirmation or my baptism - I do - but only because it is through these sacraments that Jesus comes to me. Confirmation and baptism and the Holy Eucharist don't replace Jesus; they lead me to Him. They unite me with Him.
The First Holy Communion:
That's the way the entire Catholic Church works. It doesn't offer a different way to Heaven - it is the way to the Way. It's a doorway through which Jesus' blood flows, a window through which God's grace streams.

Next week, on the feast of Corpus Christi, I'll talk at some length about one of the ways Jesus comes to Catholics most vividly: the Holy Eucharist.

Well! Sorry if the hurriedness with which I wrote this post came blatantly through. :) Any questions? Concerns? Comments? Let's talk!












Sunday, May 15, 2016

Introducing Catholicism Explained

Dear readers, I have an idea.

It's an idea that will actually require commitment from me, the most uncommitted blogger in the history of bloggerdom. (My spell check is cordially informing me that "bloggerdom" is not a word. But we know better than the spell check, don't we? Of course we do.) Because it involves a consistent weekly post. And that is something I have never been able to pull off for more than...oh, one week.

But this time I think I can do it.

The idea is this: Every Sunday I will post about one aspect of Catholicism. (For example: infallibility, Marian doctrines, the Real Presence.) It will be an aspect of Catholicism about which I feel there is much misunderstanding in the non-Catholic community.

I hope this will create a friendly, charitable, explorative atmosphere in which Catholics and Protestants can discuss their differences and arrive ever nearer the truth.

So! My dear fellow Christians, if you're interested in "arguing theology" - not "arguing" in the sense of "bickering," but "arguing" in the sense of "thinking things through" - check in next Sunday for a discussion on one aspect of the Catholic Church's teachings. (I'm not 100% sure what that aspect will be yet, but I'm 90% sure it will have something to do with papal infallibility or the Church as a means to salvation.)

This blog feature will be geared towards promoting this mindset:

1 Corinthians 1:10 Follow us at http://gplus.to/iBibleverses:



So I promise I'll be a nice arguer. :)







Sunday, May 8, 2016

Beautiful People - May

'Tis that beautiful time of the month again! (Beautiful...get it? For the Beautiful People link-up? Lamest pun ever, right?)

PAPERFURY

This month I've decided to do my character Dar Beauregard, from my space opera The Prince's Pendant (which is struggling desperately to become a trilogy). Because I haven't talked about Dar in quite some time, and that is simply a disgrace.

So! Without further ado! On to the questions!

How often does he smile? Would he smile at a stranger?

Dar smiles all the time. He's rather proud of his smile, as it's simply the most charming thing in the universe. (He would say that himself, jokingly; there are girls in the universe who would say it seriously.) He doesn't just smile when he's happy: he smiles when he's teasing, and when he's uncomfortable, and when he's trying to get someone to trust him.

Oh yes, he smiles at strangers - in fact, he probably smiles at strangers more than he does at anyone else. He likes to appear carefree and nonchalant at all times. It's part of his professional front - he wouldn't have ever become such a successful thief if it wasn't for his disarming mannerisms.

What is the cruelest thing he's ever been told? And what was his reaction?

Hmm, Dar hasn't been exposed to much cruelty in his life. Really his problem isn't that he's been treated badly, but that he's been spoiled rotten.

Probably the cruelest thing he's ever been told was from his little half-sister, Isabelle. She told him she hated him, stamped her foot, and ran away crying. He stared after her for a minute and felt terrible; but he couldn't spend too much time feeling sorry for himself, because he had some important spy-work to do. So he sighed and shrugged it off.

What is the kindest thing he's ever been told? And what was his reaction?

When he decided to do something truly brave and selfless for once, Timandra told him he was a hero. Coming from Timandra, that's a pretty serious compliment. He laughed and said he didn't feel like a hero, but really he appreciated her approval and encouragement.

What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

When he was twelve years old, he had an argument with his mother that culminated in his running away and joining his uncle's band of thieves. This was the start of his career as the most accomplished thief in the universe.

What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

Timandra would say, "Shakespeare!" But that's only because she thinks everyone would benefit from reading Shakespeare.

I would say "Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton!" But that's only because I think everyone would benefit from reading Chesterton. Actually he might appreciate Mere Christianity more. Or maybe St. Augustine's Confessions. I think Dar would like reading books on philosophy and/or religion. He just seems like a thinker.

Speaking of G. K. Chesterton, he'd probably enjoy the Father Brown mysteries. He's a lot like the character Flambeau.

Has he ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did he react?

Being the world's most accomplished criminal is rather a dangerous job, so I'm sure  he's been injured tons of times. As far as I know the most serious injury he's ever sustained was getting knocked on the head during a sword-fight. He got dizzy and unsteady and his attempts at laughs came out as moans, but that was about it. Honestly everything Dar did or said in the last chapters of The Prince's Pendant was written in for comic relief.

Does he like and get along with his neighbors?

Eh, he doesn't really have neighbors. For a long time he lived on a forest-covered planet where literally no one but he and the other thieves in his gang lived. He got along with them pretty well...as long as he was respected as the greatest thief in the world. When he didn't have their respect any more, things got ugly.

Now that he doesn't live there any more, the neighbors he brushes shoulders with most frequently are the friends he got to know in The Prince's Pendant. He gets along with them perfectly. Most of the time. Sometimes he'll do something so cock-sure and childish that it aggravates everyone else.

On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy is he to get along with?

One. Unless for some reason you dislike continual banter and feigned arrogance and affected gallantry. Or unless you're a Festerlonian agent who's up to no good, in which case you might want to steer clear of him.

Dar's got a pretty easy-going temper, and it's hard to get under his skin. Most annoying behavior rolls off his back, and if by chance he does get irked he usually responds with good-natured sarcasm.

If he could travel anywhere in the world, where would he go?

He kind of can travel anywhere in the world. So I don't know. People tend to take for granted blessings they already have. :)

Who was the last person he held hands with?

His little half-sister, Isabelle.

I hope you've enjoyed meeting Dar! Are you doing Beautiful People this month? Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world? (I would go to Rome.) Have you read Orthodoxy or Mere Christianity or Confessions? Or the Father Brown Mysteries?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pro-Life Rant, Anyone?

Somehow I got to looking at pro-abortion pins on Pinterest the other day. Don't ask me how that happened or why I felt like getting myself worked up into a frenzy. After fretting and fuming over the craziness of the world in general, I ended up deciding to vent my frustration through a blog post.

Therefore, I hereby intend to show you some of these obnoxious pins and critique them. I can't promise that I will remain calm. I will probably end up screaming a few times. But that's okay, because all like-minded readers can come and scream with me in the comments afterward, right? :)


Revolting Pin #1:
I pinned this merely to rebuttle against it:  WHY ON EARTH DOES THAT MATTER? A preborn baby is a PERSON. Saying they don't matter just because they don't "think" or "scream out when they are aborted" is absolutely twisted and wrong. This is the kind of thinking that will be absolutely condemned as worthy of Hitler someday. While we're on "scientific facts," a baby has its own unique DNA from the moment of conception. So there.:


Which are all very good reasons for justifying murder, right?

Uh, wrong.

Seriously, though. This is just so twisted. It implies that the only reason killing someone is wrong is because it causes people emotional or physical pain, completely ignoring the sacredness of human life. In my limited experience with pro-abortion people, I've found that they often don't argue that a preborn baby isn't a person as much as they argue that killing an innocent human being is sometimes justifiable.

And while we're on the topic of "scientific facts": a preborn baby has its very own unique DNA from the moment of conception.  So there.

Rebuttal Pin #1:
Pro Life:




Revolting Pin #2:
Pro-choice:

The logic here is fatally flawed. It makes the case that war, hunger, poverty, etc., etc., are just as heinously wrong as abortion is. It completely ignores the fact that abortion is THE DIRECT TAKING OF AN INNOCENT HUMAN LIFE.

War is not murder - it's a horrible thing that pretty everyone wants to avoid, but which is sometimes necessary. Hunger and poverty and homelessness are not murder - they're unfortunate facts which, again, everyone is trying to fix. Our planet's degradation is not murder - quite often it's a lot of hype about nothing. Capital punishment is not murder - it should be avoided and used only as a very last resort, but it's not the taking of an innocent human life. As for human rights - fighting for the unborn IS fighting for the most basic of human rights - life! And what good are education and employment to a dead person?

Abortion IS murder. It's legal murder. That's why it's so horrible. That's why it's more urgent than all the other horrible things which everyone knows is wrong and everyone is fighting against.

Rebuttal Pin #2:
Please don't end your baby's life,that is the truth.:

THIS is something to worry about. Tell me this cause isn't worth fighting with all my might and main.



Revolting Pin #3:
Even if it was a baby, a person has a right to decide who goes inside of or uses their body at any time.

This one makes me so mad I might just have to go punch a pillow.

It's a just anger, though.

Just look at their reasoning. Just look at it. "Because this doesn't look like a human, it isn't a human." I thought judging people by their appearances was seen as a horrible atrocious thing in America! But here they are, not only pointing fingers and making fun of the way someone looks, but using the way a person looks as justification to kill them. This is OUTRAGEOUS, people. This is beyond bigoted. Not even racists use outward appearances as justification to kill someone.

Plus, look at how they contradicted themselves there. First they say, "This is not a person." Then they turn around and say, "This is a developing human organism," as though "a developing human organism" is a totally different thing from a "person." They just CHANGED TERMS on us and hoped the way "developing human organism" sounds will hide the reality of what a "developing human organism" is. Let's break this down:

"Developing" means "growing." The plants in my sister's upstairs nursery are developing. My cats kittens are devloping. My baby sister is developing. I'm developing. You're developing. The fact that we're developing doesn't make us less human than we are, and the fact that my baby sister is less developed than I am doesn't make her less human than I am.

"Human organism" means "person." I think that's pretty obvious. I'm a human organism. You're a human organism. My baby sister is a human organism. It sorta sounds like the term an alien from Lost in Space would use, but it doesn't change the fact that WE ARE PEOPLE.

And it doesn't change the fact that this little baby is a person, either.

So to translate what they just said to ordinary terms, "This is not a person. This is a growing human creature." Uh.....where's the difference?

Rebuttal Pin #3:
Pro Life:

Annd since I've realized that two of my rebuttal pins are pretty much repeats of each other and there are lots of really cool prolife pins on Pinterest, I'll end this post with a boatload of common sense. :)

Pro-Abortion Lunacy:

Pro-Life:

Luke 1:41-44..."When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped inside her..." (The baby was John the Baptist.):

We have truly failed as a society if the only way we can "help" a pregnant woman in crisis is to kill her child. End abortion #ProLife:

Pro-life: Using Humour Not Horror -Sometimes humour, warmth and humanity gets the point about abortion across.With this thought in my mind. I have collected or created a few pro-life memes which use humour rather than horror to celebrate the miracle of life and birth.:




Monday, May 2, 2016

Character Bio - Rosalie

Time for another character bio! This time we'll be interviewing Princess Rosalie of Bonador. I love this girl. She's quite possibly my favorite character in this story. (But, ha! I'd say that about every character. So forget I said it.)

Speaking of this story! The first draft, I am very pleased and excited to announce, is finished at 61,728 words.  Of course, there are a ton of plot holes, and inconsistencies in the story world, and unfulfilled foreshadowings (that's not a word? it should be), and incomplete character arcs. But hey! None of that really matters in a first draft, does it?

Princess Rosalie
Age: 16

Best Rosalie picture yet!:
Rosalie's older than this adorable little child I
found on Pinterest, but she still looks strikingly similar.
Her face is just more developed, that's all.
Oh, and her hair is even darker.
Rosalie was but an infant when the King of Bonador died in battle and left the kingdom in her father's care. Thus, from her earliest days, Rosalie was surrounded by all the comforts of court and all the honors due a princess. Her life, however, has been fraught with sorrow. Bonador is a kingdom torn by war, and this war often took her father far away to fight on the borderlands. Sometimes he was away for years at a time.

Rosalie's childhood was spent in the gardens of her castle, far away from the war and from all shadow of the horror her brother lived through. Her life was not without sorrow, however; she missed her father and her brother dreadfully, and when she was five years old she saw her mother fade away, never to return.:
This could well be Rosalie, picking flowers in the castle courtyard
under her mother's watchful eye.
When Rosalie was five years old, her mother died. When she was ten years old, her older brother, Tristan, went to join his father as a soldier on the borderlands.

For all this, Rosalie never lost her child-like innocence and cheery good spirits. Indeed, Tristan often complains that she is too cheerful, that her innocence approaches naiveté - and this last accusation cannot be denied. At the beginning of the story, sixteen-year-old Rosalie, homesick for her father and brother, decides to pay them a visit at the front. Impulsively, she sets out in her floating ship for the borderlands, little thinking of the dangers she might meet in the wild. It is on this journey that she meets Ellen. Since the girls are both headed for the borderlands and Ellen's griffin is hurt, Rosalie offers her a ride on her ship. This is the beginning of their adventures together.

18th C. swashbuckling on Mars or in Mu? - Page1:
General idea of Rosalie's flying ship. The balloons should be pastel in color -
Tristan refers to it contemptuously as a "floating cake."
So there's an introduction to Rosalie! Feel free to ask her any questions you can think of in the comments. Rosalie's a pretty talkative person, so the more the merrier. :)