Sunday, July 31, 2016

Catholicism Explained - Mary the Mother of God

Catholicism Explained is back! We're starting on a full-fledged discussion of Marian Dogmas, so let's buckle our seatbelts and dive in. (Look at that. A mixed metaphor. How eloquent am I.)

If you'd like to read previous Catholicism Explained posts, here are the links:


Mary, Mother of God

Mary and Jesus:

This is the most basic of Marian dogmas, the reason Mary is such a huge part of Catholic life. She got to be the mother of God! Carry Him in her womb, cradle Him in her arms, steady His first steps! No one else in the history of the world ever did anything so epic. Her vocation was 100% unique, and so grandiose it outshines the legacy of even the greatest saints.

As Jesus' mother, Mary was closer to Him than any other human. She loved and knew Him in a way no one else ever could. As such, she is honored above all other creatures.

Which brings us to a point that should probably be made sooner or later: Catholics honor Mary; they do not worship her. Worship is reserved for God alone. Honor, on the other hand, is something we may (and often should) give to God's creatures. Everybody honors somebody, whether that somebody be a parent, a government official, or a historical hero.

The honor Catholics give Mary is just like the honor we give any admirable person - except it's magnified a couple of thousand times, because Mary's a couple of thousand times more deserving than anyone else. :)

Honoring Mary doesn't take anything away from God; rather, it glorifies Him. (I wrote a post explaining this a while back.) Catholics know that Mary's merits are not her own; rather, her splendor is a reflection of God's, just as the moon's light is but a reflection of the sun.

Scripture

Mother Mary and Angel:

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is God. The truth of Jesus' divinity is the basis of Christianity, the most important belief a Christian can hold. It's essential - anyone who doesn't believe Jesus is God can't call himself a Christian.

Scripture also makes it abundantly clear that Mary is Jesus' mother:

"And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus." - Luke 1:31

Mary is referred to as Jesus' mother multiple times throughout the Gospels:

"And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus said unto him, 'They have no wine.'" - John 2:3-5

"When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, 'Woman, behold, thy son!'" - John 19:26 

To state the argument as a logical syllogism, then:

A. Mary is the mother of Jesus.
B. Jesus is God.
C. Therefore, Mary is the mother of God.

Elizabeth was the first one to acknowledge this fact at the Visitation:

"And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" - Luke 1:43

Church Fathers

Icon in an Orthodox Church: “The first steps of Jesus”:

The above understanding has always been that of the Catholic Christian Church. Early Christians referred to Mary as "theotokos," which means "God-bearer," and early Church fathers used this term and concept in their writings:

"The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God." - St. Irenaeus, A.D. 189

"The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God." - St. Athanasius, A.D. 365 

"What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose?" - St. Ambrose of Milan, A.D. 377

(The above quotations, along with many others, can be found in this article.)

Significance

MOST HOLY NAME OF MARY: Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, for all who celebrate the glorious Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she may obtain your merciful favor. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.:

So why is Mary being the mother of God such a big deal? Why do Catholics harp on it so? Well, as this excellent article from Catholic Answers explains, to reject the fact that Mary is the mother of God is to reject that Jesus is God.

Here's why: Jesus is one person, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. When He became man, He took on a second nature, but He did not take on a second personhood. He remains totally the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, although He now has both a human nature and a divine nature. (Jesus being one person with two natures is one of those teachings, isn't it? - you take it for granted as you grow up, and then one day when you sit there and think about it, it's mind-blowing.)

Some argue that Mary can't be the mother of God by saying that she is only the mother of Jesus' divine nature - but if you compare that view with the fact that Jesus is one person with two natures, it doesn't work. If Jesus was two different people, then it could be that Mary is the mother of the human Jesus and not the mother of the divine Jesus; but as it is, there's only one Jesus. Mary is the mother of all of Him, not just His human nature.

That doesn't mean, of course, that Mary provided Jesus with His divine nature. My blue-eyed mom is entirely the mother of my brown-eyed brothers, even though she didn't provide them with their brown eyes. Nor does this dogma mean that Mary existed before the Trinity or anything ridiculous like that. It simply means that when God became man, He took on a human mother who was just as dear to Him as our mothers are to us.

That's a beautiful thought, isn't it? God having a mother? He knows what it's like to fall asleep in her arms, to run to her for comfort, to help her around the house. He really is, as St. Paul said, "a man like us in all things but sin."


Well, that wraps it up for today! What do you think? Comments, questions, concerns, corrections? Do you have any ideas for improving this feature?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Character Bio - Arthur

(Sorry for the absence of Catholicism Explained this past week! I was out of town Sunday and didn't get around to posting. However! I fully intend to have that little feature up-and-running again by next Sunday. So.)

At the end of Tristan's interview, we held an election to determine which character I'd introduce to you next - and the winner, I'm happy to say, was Arthur.

I'm glad for a chance to focus on Arthur for awhile, because he's going through a lot of changes as I write the second draft, and I still need to get a feel for who this boy really is.

Arthur
Age: 19

Arthur:

Arthur was born to the two serfs Martha and Geoffrey, and thus into the service of Lord Garlon (formerly known as Lord Stonedon). When he was a toddler, Garlon entrusted his family with the care of two homeless baby orphans named Abel and Ellen.

Arthur grew up side by side with these two. Much of their shared childhood was spent in the fields. Although Garlon gave Ellen and Able special privileges (education, fine clothes, etc.) for no apparent reason, they never pretended to be superior to their foster-family of serfs.

At the age of 17, an opening in the Castle Guard gave Arthur a chance to trade a hoe for a sword. Out of the some dozen serfs who competed for the position, Arthur was chosen. Some say his promotion from serf to guard was a reward to his family for fostering "Garlon's favorites" rather than a reflection of his own suitability. This rumor stings Arthur's pride - or what small amount of pride a born serf can afford to cherish. As a result, he takes his position very seriously and often exasperates Ellen with his phlegmatic professionalism while on duty.

Although on guard he exchanges signs of informal friendliness with no one, Arthur is a very kind-hearted, down-to-earth boy who would do anything for the good of his family and friends.

Post any questions you have for Arthur in the comments, and I'll put up an interview soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Catholicism Explained - Marian Dogmas

Hello, my dear fellow Christians! (If you're a non-Christian, you're more than welcome, too. Pull up a metaphorical chair and make yourself comfortable.) Would you believe it, this Catholicism Explained post is actually on time. (Conscience: it's 5:39 in the afternoon and you're only just starting. Me: shush, conscience, don't make things so complicated. Conscience: well, a fine Catholic example you're giving, shushing your conscience.) Well, more or less on time.

So far we've skipped around talking about a variety of topics, including:

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
Is the Eucharist Literal or Symbolic?
Sacred Tradition
The Sacrament of Confession
Why Do We Need Priests?

Today we're going to jump into something new: Marian dogmas. I envision this as an introduction to/general overview of what Catholics believe about Mary. If one of the dogmas sparks interest, we can explore it in next week's post. We could spend a long time talking about this. :)

The Four Dogmas
(Confession: I had to double-check what the four dogmas were using this article.)

There are four Marian dogmas in Catholicism (a dogma is a really important teaching - big T Tradition as opposed to little t tradition - that Catholics are morally obliged to believe). These are 1) that Mary is the Mother of God, 2) that Mary is ever-virgin, 3) that Mary was immaculately conceived, and 4) that Mary was assumed into Heaven.

We'll go through them one by one.

Mary is the Mother of God

Blessed Mother and Jesus. Happy birthday Mother Mary:):

This one is simple. When God became man he did it through the cooperation of a mere woman, Mary. It was within her that Jesus was conceived and nurtured and through her that He was born. She was a mother to Him in every way. Since Jesus is God, and Mary is the mother of Jesus, Mary is the Mother of God.

Some object to this teaching saying that Mary is only the mother of Jesus' human nature, not His divine nature. This objection overlooks or undermines the fact that Jesus is one person. Jesus does have two natures, one of which was inherited from Mary and one of which was not; but He is only one Person. Mary is fully the mother of this one Person, a Person Who is God as well as man.

Several analogies which have helped me with this:

1. Humans are made up of body and soul. My body comes from my parents, my soul comes directly from God. My parents did not create my soul. Nevertheless, we don't speak of my parents as being the mother and father of my body only; they are the mother and father of me. In the same way, Mary did not provide Jesus' divine nature, but she's still Jesus' mother in a complete and perfect way.

2. My dad has brown eyes; my mom has green-blue eyes; my brothers have brown eyes. My mother did not give my brothers their brown eyes, but she is the mother of my brothers, brown eyes and all.  

Mary is Ever-Virgin

The Blessed Mother.:

Scripture is very clear that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. She remained a virgin, so Tradition tells us, throughout her pregnancy and delivery. Furthermore, she never lost her virginity after Jesus was born.

This is an ancient Tradition which has always been part of Catholic Christianity, although it isn't explicitly stated in Scripture. It's one of those acts of faith where we take the word of those who lived in the years close after Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles.

Some object to this doctrine by quoting individual Scripture passages, mainly Matthew 1:25 which states that Joseph did not know Mary until after Jesus was born and verses such as Matthew 13:55 which mention Jesus' "brothers and sisters."

However, the "until" in Matthew 1:25 does not necessarily mean that Mary lost her virginity; just because something did not happen until a certain point in time does not mean it did happen after that point in time. As for Jesus' brothers and sisters, they were not the children of Mary, but other close relatives - one Aramaic word was used for brothers and cousins alike.

(Fun fact: an early tradition - a small t tradition, not required by faith and not necessarily true - states that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were his stepsiblings, the children of the widower Joseph's first marriage. Just thought I'd mention it, because I found that fascinating.)

Personally, I don't really get it when people reject this dogma. If Scripture is silent on the matter of whether Mary had children besides Jesus, why not believe what Sacred Tradition has always taught?

The Immaculate Conception

Annunciation /Jacob Kapkov:

Catholics have always believed that Mary was immaculately conceived. This simply means that from the moment of her conception, God preserved her from the stain of Original Sin which every other human being since Adam and Eve had been born into.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation, he greeted her with the cry, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!" Catholics understand that "full of grace" to mean "empty of sin."

The Immaculate Conception makes perfect sense, considering Mary's role in salvation history as the Mother of God. Her mission was a unique and infinitely grand one, a calling to which even the greatest of future saints could not begin to aspire to. God always prepares us perfectly for our life's work. For the Mother of His Son, He performed the great and unparalleled favor of shielding her from Original Sin - sparing her the inheritance bequeathed her by her first parents.

Would you put a sparkling gem in a dirty box? Stable a valuable racehorse in a filthy barn? Entrust your baby sister to the care of any hobo on the street? Of course not! Why, then, would God give the duty of raising His Son to a regular, sinful woman?

The Assumption

The ASSUMPTION of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY  -  August 15th  -  A Holy Day of Obligation:

This one means that Mary was taken (assumed) into Heaven, body and soul, by God at the end of her life. I've heard it described as "the natural result of the Immaculate Conception" - Mary was not only preserved from Original Sin, but from all the effects of Original Sin, one of which is bodily decay.

God couldn't leave His Mother who had never refused Him anything to rot in an underground tomb. Her womb had sheltered and nurtured the Word Incarnate; her fingers had stroked his tangled toddler hair; her eyes had wept a mother's tears over his bleeding body. Leave that body to satisfy the appetite of worms and flies? No, no!

Again, this doctrine is something Scripture is silent on. But it has been believed from earliest times and consistently taught by the Church.

Obviously I don't see reason to take issue with any of these doctrines - but maybe you do! Let's discuss, friends. Which dogma do you find most interesting? most troublesome? most hard to wrap your head around? And of course let me know if anything's unclear or poorly argued, or if you have ideas for Catholicism Explained!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Of Skillful Writing and Captured Hearts

It's amazing, the effect books can have on our lives.

Old books, old keys, old times............:
Image not mine.

A few months ago, I was bemoaning that little fact with my sister. I say "bemoaning" because in this case - the case of the Chronicles of Prydain - the effect of the books in question was to break our hearts in half and crush our souls like grapes (to borrow a phrase from Tangled).

It was cruel, what Lloyd Alexander did to us. He invented this wonderful world, drew us into the very pages of its history, introduced us to all these beautiful precious characters who became our best friends, made us laugh and cry and bite our fingernails and tear out our hair and dance for joy and then - bam. The conclusion of the series left us curled up in little balls of misery.

We still remember the adorableness of the characters; we smile at the funny memories we've made; but even as we smile at the fun we sigh at the pain, and our hearts are overshadowed with the knowledge of how it all ended.

You see what Lloyd Alexander did to me? First, he captured my heart. The first chapters of the Prydain books were grappling hooks in my soul, and as the story progressed my heart was drawn deeper and deeper into Prydain until it became irrevocably bound up with the characters' fates.

At this point, Lloyd Alexander held my heart in his hand. He had power over it. He had control over it. He could poke it or bounce it or stretch it or throw it high into the air or do whatever he wanted with it.

And what did he choose to do with it?

He held it out over the Grand Canyon and dropped it.

It fell to the ground, where it shattered into a million pitiful pieces.

And although I've managed to pick up the pieces and put them together again, my heart will never be quite the same as it was before.

First he captured my heart. And then he had the power to break it.

Okay, so, that might all be a bit dramatic. But you get the point: when a book is well-written, it has the power to change people.

.:
Image not mine.

I was so happy when I hit upon that truth, I basically jumped around like a frog and screamed. I'm sure my sister thought I was crazy.

But it was so exciting! You see, for some time I'd been torn between the idea that my writing has to be good enough to sell and the idea that it has to be good enough to lead people to God. Most writing advice, whether on blogs or in books or in talks, is about entertainment - plot, pacing, POV, voice, characterization. In my silliness, I began to look down my nose at such writing advice as caring more about hooking readers than edifying them.

But once I drew that connection between Lloyd Alexander's enjoyable story-telling and the effect of his writing on me, I realized that the two focuses aren't competitive, but complimentary.

A story can't change someone until it has entertained them!

Typed out in black and white it looks so obvious it's not worth saying. But sometimes it's the obvious things which need the most emphasis.

This is why all that writing advice is so important. This is why it matters that our sentences don't jerk and our characters don't fall flat. This is why it matters that we capture our readers and don't let them go.

It isn't just to impress editors and agents and publishers. It isn't just to up book sales. It isn't just to win readers.

It's to impact readers. To edify them. To change them. To transfer the story written in ink on paper into a truth inscribed in beauty on their hearts.

Some writers, it is true, might employ writing advice for the former reasons. But that doesn't mean we can't employ it for the latter reasons. We should write well in our attempts to change people; as a matter of fact, we must.

Mediocre writing will never change hearts. Ever. It has to sparkle; it has to shine. It has to draw a net around that heart and pull it out into the ocean of story-land or into the sea of poetry.

Only then, when our strings of letters and bundles of words are infused with a magical power of their own, can they do their noblest work.

Pinner says,"I adore old typewriters...mostly because I love the look of old type..." Me too!:
Image not mine.

Well! There's the end of today's ramble. Was I the only one who needed this post? I have a feeling most people are much more sensible and less persnickety than I when it comes to writing advice. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Beautiful People - July

It's time for Beautiful People again!

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This month I've decided to introduce you to a book I've never mentioned on this blog (which is ironic, seeing as how it has much more to do with tangle webs and fairy rings than medieval fantasy or space opera does). It's been in the works since I was about eight years old. The last draft I finished was supposed to be the last one; but looking back I decided that although that "final" draft is horrendous, the concept is worth taking up again.

So here we go! I am pleased to introduce to you the titular character of my middle-grade fantasy, Lillian.

There are two things you should probably know before reading the questions:
1. Lillian is three inches tall.
~and~
2. She was raised by mice.

Pruning lavender is important in keeping a lavender plant producing the type of fragrant foliage that most gardeners grow the plant for. If you are wondering how and when to prune lavender, this article can help.:
Lavender is Lilian's favorite flower.
By the by, none of these pictures are mine.

Does she want to get married and/or have children? Why or why not?

Since Lillian is very little in age as well as in stature, she doesn't think about such things yet. She's a very loving person, though, so she probably will want to eventually.
What is her weapon of choice? (It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical weapon.)

Lillian and weapons. Hmm. That does not compute.

I suppose it'd have to be the passionate side of her character. If she's upset or angry or horrified or delighted, it shines in her eyes and bounces from her voice. She doesn't realize how helpful this is, but it has come in handy a number of times when asking permission to do something, go somewhere, etc.

Unfortunately this trait can't protect her from the Turvies. They're not very sensitive to shining eyes and trembling voices.
What’s the nicest thing she's done for someone else, and why did she do it?

Lillian's always doing nice things for people. Most recently she cleaned the entire mouse hole without being asked. It was a surprise for Mrs. Mouse, who was out on an errand.

THUMBELINA BY LAUREN MILLS:
Thumbelina illustrations are so perfect.
(Lillian doesn't look at all like this Thumbelina, though. She has jet-black hair
that's perfectly straight except for the locks at the very end. Because I know
you were all dying to know that.)
Has she ever been physically violent with someone, and what instigated it?

Oh no. No. She may have pushed or slapped her older brother Andrew a few times the way little kids do, but that's about it.
Is she a rule-follower or a rebel?

A bit of both. Generally, Lillian is a very obedient little girl, and her conscience keeps a close hold on her curiosity and love of adventure. Mind you, that curiosity and love of adventure is still there...
Is she organized or messy?

She's fairly organized, but not in an over-the-top way. Just enough to keep things tidy and homelike rather than reminiscent of a pigpen.
What makes her feel loved, and who was the last person to make her feel that way?

Lillian always feels loved; she can't help it, being around her family as much as she is. Mrs. Mouse continually dotes and fusses; Mr. Mouse is a gentle and caring father; Melissa always has time for her (unless Tipperkik Fieldmouse is around); Andrew considers her one of his best friends; and little Coreopsis adores her.

So, whoever she's spent time with most recently was the last person (or mouse) to make her feel loved.
What does she eat for breakfast?

Whatever she can get her hands on - usually the mouse hole is well-stocked with cheese and nuts and berries. Lillian is especially fond of berries.

Beatrix Potter:
If Beatrix Potter were alive today she could totally illustrate Lillian.
Oh well.
I guess I'd better finish the book before soliciting the services of dead artists, huh?
Has she ever lost someone close to her? What happened?

Very interesting question. Let's just say, "not that she knows of."
What’s her treat of choice? (Or, if not food, how else does she reward herself?)

I mentioned her liking for berries. Mrs. Mouse makes a delicious triple-berry pie, and that would have to be her favorite treat.

I hope you've enjoyed meeting Lillian! Are any of you doing Beautiful People this month? If so, do share!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Catholicism Explained - Why Do We Need Priests?

In last week's Catholicism Explained post on the Sacrament of Confession, a very sensible and relevant question popped up: "Why confess your sins to a priest?" I originally planned for this post to be a "Part Two" of the Confession post, but it struck me that this question would be best answered by exploring another aspect of Catholicism - priestly authority.

(If you're interested in a direct answer to the above question, though, I'd recommend reading this article, which explains things a lot more clearly than I can.)

Priestly Authority

Jesus had tons of disciples, but He didn't give all of them the same kind of job. Twelve of them were picked in a very particular way to be His closest followers. We know them as the Twelve Apostles.

To these Twelve Apostles Jesus gave special authority. It was they who were told "Do this in memory of Me" at the Last Supper, they who were told "Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them." Catholics believe that these Apostles were the first priests - the first to be given the authority to perform sacraments like Mass and Reconciliation.

These Twelve Apostles, under the leadership of St. Peter, took command of the Church after Jesus' ascension into Heaven. Actually - the Twelve Apostles didn't take command. The Holy Spirit did, working through them.

The Apostles led the early Church, taking a position above the ordinary Christians just as they had occupied a position above the first disciples.

Not only did the Twelve Apostles have a leadership role in the early Christian community - they considered their position something which must be passed down. That's why they drew lots to decide who would replace Judas. If Jesus' ministry was going to continue - if His Church was going to go on - there would have to be leaders to carry it out.

Eventually, the Apostles ordained deacons and presbyters to help them with their duties and act as their successors.

This ordination, which was performed through the laying on of hands, continued from the earliest years of the Church through the ages and is still performed today.

That means that every Catholic priest has been touched by someone who has been touched by someone who has been touched by someone who has been touched by someone (and so on through two thousand years) who has been touched by Jesus.

There is literally a physical line drawn from present-day priests to Jesus!

I don't know about you, but that strikes me as incredibly powerful. We can trace back the "spiritual lineage" of priests, so to speak, all the way back to Jesus in a powerful, tangible, physical way.

Now, that's not the reason priests are so important, but it does point to their importance. The laying on of hands is an outward sign of what's really going on when a man is ordained a priest.

And what is really going on is just this: the authority - the power - which Jesus handed on to His Twelve Apostles and which they passed on to Matthias and Stephen and Timothy and the rest, the authority which set them apart from all of Jesus' other followers, is being passed on in our present day.

That power is here. Among us. Now.

Every priest stands in the place of Jesus. He has the authority to hear confessions and speak the words of absolution, to say Mass and transform bread and wine into Jesus' body and blood, to anoint the sick, to join a man and a woman in marriage.

It isn't the priest who is doing all of these things - it's Jesus.

So when we walk into the confessional and kneel to confess our sins, we shouldn't imagine Fr. John or Fr. Smith or Fr. Brown behind that screen. We should imagine Jesus, for it is Him whom we've really come to. It is He whose Sacred Heart is open to embrace us. It is He who turns a loving ear to our contrition.

Why Not Just Confess in Private?

A Protestant might well ask why we can't just confess to Jesus at home, in privacy. For me, as a cradle Catholic, this is a tough question to answer. Not so much because I feel there isn't an answer, but because I'm so used to the idea of sacramental confession.

To be quite emotional instead of strictly reasonable, confessing my sins to Jesus only in private wouldn't feel right. It wouldn't feel - real.

Now on to the reasoned, logical explanation. :

I'm not saying there isn't value in confessing one's sins to Jesus privately. We should do that. We should do it regularly. And internal, spiritual repentance is the meat and potatoes of sacramental confession - without true inner contrition, any confession is worthless.

Sacramental confession isn't the only way sins can be forgiven. Of course God understands if someone can't make it to or doesn't understand sacramental confession and makes an act of perfect contrition privately.

But sacramental confession is ideal. The article I gave you a link to at the beginning of this post puts it this way:

"As Christ well knew, confession of sins to a priest requires humility, trust in God and the Church, and contrition of heart.  Confession of sins to a priest gives us the assurance that our sins are forgiven, even though we may not be perfectly penitent.  For that is what God requires outside the bounds of sacramental confession: a man who goes directly to God for forgiveness of sin can be forgiven, but only if he is perfectly contrite and resolved to sin no more.  Those who are outside the Church by birth and circumstance can still be saved and forgiven of sins, but only if they are perfectly penitent and are unaware of the divine institution of the Church.  A Catholic who will not consent to a sacramental confession, is the man the Church grieves for the most.   He has all the instruments of salvation laid out at his feet, but he will not lay his pride down at the foot of the Cross to pick them up." 

Personally, I think sacramental confession - and this goes for all sacraments - is so important partly because we humans have bodies. We aren't just spiritual creatures; we're physical, too. And if we want to belong completely to God, we can't just give Him our souls - we also have to give Him our bodies.

Praying in private and thinking about God is a crucial part of the Christian faith, an indispensable part without which our faith would be nothing. But hand in hand with interior spirituality comes outward spirituality, living out what we believe in works and rituals as well as in thoughts and words.

In Conclusion!

There were several other very good questions after last week's post which I didn't get into here. I suppose we could discuss them in the comments? Or continue this topic in next week's post?

As always, feel free to comment with any questions or concerns! And do please forgive the lateness and lameness of this post.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tristan's Interview

Sorry I'm rather late with this! I actually have a valid excuse this time. Has anyone else out there ever had to deal with a keyboard with nonfunctional spacebar, n, and b keys? If so, then you know my pain.

Anywho. I figured it's high time I posted Tristan's interview. His story (well, not his story, but the story he plays a very prominent role in) has been going through some rather drastic changes lately. So if you've been following these interviews and happen to remember those ancient ones of Ellen's and Able's, this is a head's up that some of the information in there might no longer apply.

Thank you to all who provided such excellent questions! Forgive Tristan's frequent terseness in answering...

Tristan:

Me:
So, Tristan, why don't you like cheese?

Tristan:
*looks at me with one eyebrow raised*
Why don't I like...cheese?

Me:
Yes. You see, when I introduced you to everybody I mentioned that your least favorite childhood food was cheese, and so they want to know why.

Tristan:
Oh.
*a brief, blank pause*
I don't know. I just didn't. I like cheese now.

Me:
You can't be picky about food when your at the front, right?

Tristan:
Right.

Me:
Do you ever consider your own future, perhaps as a father? An uncle?
(Writer's confession to audience: I do. See?)
This is just so cute. I can see Tristan with a little baby like this...maybe in a sequel...:


Tristan:
*looks at me for a moment*
No.

Me:
Oh, come on, Tristan....*sighs* Okay. Are you the jealous 'leave-my-sister-alone-you-scum' type or the easygoing 'it's-all-in-fun' type when it comes to your sister and her social escapades?

Tristan:
Wait...has my sister been having social escapades?

Me:
Not necessarily. But if she was, how would you react?

Tristan:
*shifts uncomfortably*
I can't imagine little Rosalie involved in any sort of romantic nonsense. I don't think I'll have to worry about it any time soon.

Me:
Well, you never know... Next: Of your friends who lived through the war, who was your best friend?

Tristan:
*runs hand through hair* Vollapax.

Me:
What would you think (or do) if someone told you Rosalie was engaged?

Tristan:
I just told you I can't imagine Rosalie even having a sweetheart. Why should she get engaged all of a sudden?

Me:
Gee, Tristan, you just don't get the idea of an interview, do you?
What would you do if someone hinted at you being enamored or distracted romantically?

Tristan:
Anyone who would hint at me being enamored or distracted romantically would have to have lost his wits long ago. I'm not the romantic type.

Me:
*under my breath* Oh, really? We'll see about that...
*louder* Would you like to live into peaceful old age?

Tristan:
*with wrinkled brow*
I...suppose so. I never thought about it. Yes, I suppose I would.
*shrugs*
It doesn't matter, though. I can't keep myself from getting killed. Wanting to live into old age won't help anything.

Me:
When the war ends, what do you plan to do?

Tristan:
I...don't plan to do anything. I never thought about it. All I ever think about is ending the war, not what will happen after the war if it ends.

Me:
If it were your choice alone, with unlimited power and cooperation, how would you end the war and continue with life?

Tristan:
*shrugs* I don't think unlimited power and cooperation would change things very much. All my ideas and suggestions are well respected as it is, and if they are rejected I trust Father knows more than I.

As for continuing with life - the idea of a life without war is so strange, so foreign. I can't imagine it. It's what I've always wanted, I suppose, but when I do think about it - which isn't very often - there's just a sort of numb feeling. I guess I know it'll never really happen.

Me:
What is your favorite animal?

Tristan:
Winged horses. *smiles* Vollapax in particular.

Tristan's winged stallion, Vollapax - unfailingly loyal to his master:

Me:
Do you ever plan to have a pet?

Tristan:
No.

Me:
What about Vollapax?

Tristan:
He's not a pet. He's a comrade in arms.

Me:
What is your best virtue?

Tristan:
Courage.

Me:
How do you feel about having this much responsibility? Being general of the army, and all.

Tristan:
I suppose if I thought about it I might get a little scared, but I don't think about it. I just do my duty, that's all.

Me:
If you weren't a soldier, what would you like to have done?

Tristan:
*a long pause*
*smiles foolishly* (author's note: this is an extremely rare expression for Tristan and I am shocked and flabbergasted to see it on him now)
I really don't know. I never think about it.

Me:
*laughing*
Heavens, Tristan, you never think about anything!

Tristan:
*soberly*
Do you know how much thinking goes into battle plans?

Me:
No. Which is why I'm dreadfully glad I haven't had to write from your point of view yet, and why I sincerely hope I never have to. Now. What irritates you the most?

Tristan:
Soldiers trying to shirk their duty.

Me:
What brings you the most joy?

Tristan:
Knowing I've done my duty.

Me:
What words do you long to hear?

Tristan:
That we've won the war.

Me:
What words do you dread to hear?

Tristan:
That we've lost the war.

Me:
Coffee, or tea? With cream and sugar?

Tristan:
*raises an eyebrow*
You think I'm going to be picky about it? We're lucky to get stale water at the front.

Me:
Touché. All right, Tristan, that's all. I'll let you get back to your war now.

 :

Well! That's Tristan. I hope you've enjoyed meeting him.

Now it's time to vote! Who would you like to meet next?

The candidates are:

1. Arthur - a young guard, one of Ellen's closest friends
2. Romuald - a rather mysterious visitor to the castle who wears an eyepatch and owns a black griffin











Sunday, July 3, 2016

Catholicism Explained - The Sacrament of Confession

Catholicism Explained is back! Do forgive me for failing to put up a post last week. I've made a firm purpose of resolve not to do that again.

Speaking of forgiveness and firm purposes of resolve, this week we're going to talk about the Sacrament of Confession.

How to Describe Confession to Protestants (Dr. Taylor Marshall's Becoming Catholic Series, Pt.5):


Definition

Confession (also called Reconciliation or Penance) is the sacrament by which sins committed after baptism are forgiven.

(The definition of a sacrament is "a outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." There are seven sacraments in the Catholic Church - Baptism, Confession, Confirmation, the Eucharist, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.)


The Biblical Roots

"Jesus himself instituted the sacrament of Penance when he showed himself to his apostles on Easter day and commanded them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained' (Jn. 20:22a-23)." - YouCat, 227

Forgiving sins was a huge part of Jesus' ministry. Often if not always when he healed someone from a physical disease or hurt, He would forgive their sins and tell them to go and sin no more. Jesus is the Divine Physician, and healing souls is His specialty!

Continuing Jesus' work was the Apostles' special duty, the mission to which they would give the rest of their lives. In His name they were commanded to heal the sick and drive out demons. Doesn't it make sense that they were given the power to forgive sins, too? :)

Jesus writes on the ground...2008. by Yongsung Kim "neither do I condemn you"! FRAMEWORKS GALLERY:


Sacred Tradition

Historically, the sacrament of Confession has always been an important part of Catholic Christianity. Here are some quotes I found on this webpage:

 “Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure” (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70]).

“You [priests], then, who are disciples of our illustrious physician [Christ], you ought not deny a curative to those in need of healing. And if anyone uncovers his wound before you, give him the remedy of repentance. And he that is ashamed to make known his weakness, encourage him so that he will not hide it from you. And when he has revealed it to you, do not make it public, lest because of it the innocent might be reckoned as guilty by our enemies and by those who hate us” (Treatises 7:3 [A.D. 340]).

“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles” (Rules Briefly Treated 288 [A.D. 374]).

Jesus, I Trust in You. Divine Mercy Image. Venerate this Image Daily - Click image to honor and respect. I promise that anyone who endearingly venerates this Image of My Divine Mercy will not perish. Beautiful Catholic Prayers. SimplicityHumilityTrust.org:

How it Works

To make a good confession, five things are necessary:

1. Examination of Conscience:  in preparing for confession, the penitent takes some time to reflect on the state of his soul and think about his sins. Only mortal (serious) sins (like missing Mass on Sunday, adultery, murder, etc.) must be confessed, but it's a good exercise in humility to confess venial (less serious) sins as well.

2. Sorrow for Sins: the penitent must have true contrition (sorrow) for his sins. Contrition can be either perfect, meaning motivated by love of God; or imperfect, meaning motivated by fear of punishment or hatred for the ugliness of sin. Either perfect or imperfect contrition will do, but perfect contrition is - well, more perfect.

3. Firm Resolve Not to Sin Again: the penitent must be determined to stay out of sin in the future and to avoid the near occasion of sin. I can't have the mindset, "Oh, stealing is bad, but that's okay; I'll just go to confession every time I do it." That's a big no-no. :)

4. Confession of Sins to a Priest: the scary part. Just kidding. :) After the penitent has told his sins as clearly and simply as possible (I'm not very good at this), the priest gives him absolution. At this moment the sins of the penitent are destroyed. (It feels really awesome.)
It isn't the priest who forgives our sins, but Jesus. Just as in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, God uses a man as His instrument in bringing grace to us poor mortals.

Mercy and Confession: 10 Tips on How to Confess Well - Catholic Exchange:

5. Penance: the penitent performs the act of penance which the priest assigned him. In the old days penance was really long and arduous, but now it's usually something simply like five Hail Marys or Three Our Fathers.

And then the penitent does a happy dance.

Let it go, let it go!!!:


Seriously, though:


Harvesting The Fruits Of Contemplation: Confession - The Forgotten Sacrament and Grace:


Well! Thanks for reading! I'm guessing this post will need a Part Two as it didn't really get into anything deep, just covered the basics. Any questions? Comments? Concerns? Corrections? Ideas for how to make Catholicism Explained better? Let us discuss!