People seem to chip away at the foundations of belief in God. More and more the news media, television programming, political put downs, etc. are in the air thicker than fog. Religious people are the object of many jokes and scorn as if we are the dumbest of humans. Abortion is looked at as a “choice,” sin is virtually non-existent in many peoples consciousness, and worshipping God is soemthing they don’t have time for. Why then do we believe?
In his book, Why Do We Believe? (Strengthening Your Faith in Christ), Father Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR reminds us that Christ is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father.” Under the section entitled “Why Believe in Jesus Crucified?”, Father Groeschel asks the question “why would anyone remember Jesus of Nazareth two thousand years after His death?” He states that Jesus was seen as a misdirected, prophetic young man from the peasant class who offended the authorities of Israel. Even if He offended them for very good reasons, He was considered unwise and therefore died the cruel death of capital punishment. The charge against Him was blasphemy because he had “made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). Father Groeschel goes on to explain how knowledge of him developed through the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles and especially through the writings of the early Church Fathers: Clement, Ignatius, Justin, and Irenaeus. He says within three hundred years of the coming of Jesus Christ, His disciples had transformed the Roman Empire and its treatment of human beings. Instead of fighting barbarians, they converted them. This amazing transformation accomplished by a humble carpenter is one of the great mysteries – perhaps the supreme mystery – of world history. And, Father Groeschel says, it happened for only one reason: He was crucified and rose from the dead.
Of course, if Jesus’ death had been the end, no one would have remembered him. We believe in Jesus crucified, the one who claimed to be one with the Father, and we believe He was resurrected. They are the two great summits of our faith. The only way we can believe it is through the gift of faith. Without faith, it may seem like a myth. Father Groeschel calls faith “the decision to believe”.
In my life away from the Church, I was curious about religion and kept trying to find logic in the gospels. It was when I decided to believe (through God’s grace) that I began to see the important message of Christ crucified and rising again. There is more to this life than what this life has to offer. There is a life eternal. To find it we just have to ask. Ask and ye shall receive!
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12th, is one of the most important feast days of the year for me. The miracle of relearning the rosary and praying to her, the Patroness of the Americas, brought me to a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. At that retreat (for post-abortive women to find God’s forgiveness) I also learned that she is the Patroness of Unborn Children (and her tilma is the only image of Mary pregnant). When I saw her image at the retreat it was a sign to me that she was leading me there. After a great healing that happened to me there, I continued to ask her to guide me to her Son. Because of her intercession I became The Happy Catholic. She continues to point me in the right direction. I am no one (the daughter of dust), yet she directs me. She is a powerful source of conversion as was witnessed by the nine million conversions of the Aztec people in 1531 who believed in killing children (20% of their population) and offering it to the Mother Goddess.
Today in America, 25% of unborn children are aborted. We make the Aztecs look like kids in short pants. Women continue to seek abortions in record numbers. These abortions are “blessed” by the medical community, the lawmakers, and an overwhelming number of parents, boyfriends, and people in general who call themselves “open minded”. As we become more and more nonchalant over this personal desire for a more carefree lifestyle, and give it titles like “pro-choice”, “a clinical procedure,” and the ever popular “women’s rights,” those of us with a clear vision of what it is cannot lose hope. Our Lady of Guadalupe is Our Lady of Hope. She turned a whole nation of godless Aztecs, who murdered their young, into a deeply religious nation, and she did it almost overnight.
On this feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us pray for hope. If she melted the hearts of a whole nation, she can change the world today.
Mary conceived Jesus in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb. Her immaculate heart turned my cold, selfish heart into a fervent love. The world is in so much darkness, it can make us shiver. But she is the Mother of Hope. Let us pray for the miracle today! And, by all means, do not lose hope!
Our mission (should we choose to accept it) is to “know, love and serve God.” We can know Him by reading His word, by receiving Him in Holy Communion as often as we can, and by prayer and fasting. We can love Him by our obedience to His commandments. And, we can serve Him by asking Him to bless our thoughts, words and deed. The decision to serve Him must be a daily one. The decision is best made in the morning before the world wakes up.
Funny, I recited that answer decades ago in elementary school and am just now coming to understand the wisdom of the answer. Not all of us are quick.
This Advent season, God invites us to come to Him. I want to know, love and serve Him better and with fewer distractions. May God grant me the grace to do so. May He always be praised!
The Happy Catholic
“God is love and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (I John 4;16)
How can we bother with love today when our pocketbook is empty, our health is questionable and our world seems determined to get more and more complicated and cold? Wouldn’t we look like fools to smile at strangers or hold a door open for people who would close it in our face without a moment’s hesitation, Why isn’t the proper response to ignorance more of the same?
It says in the same first letter of John, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1;8) We are all sinners and we never know what is going on with others. The grouchy waitress could very well have a sick husband at home or may have just found out she is losing her job. It isn’t a personal attack. It is an unconscious blunder. We don’t show kindness only to good people; we show it to all without exception. Jesus did not come for the righteous. He came for the sinner (you and me and the other guy). Let’s be an example of a charitable Catholic Christian and make our side of the world a little brighter.
We are called to practice the virtue of charity, even if the recipients are not receptive. In fact, we are called to be even more loving to those alienated from righteousness. We are told not to love the world or the things of the world. Yet, we are asked to love all of God’s children. Also in I John (2;9), it says “Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in darkness.”
Jesus didn’t determine the worthy. He healed the outcasts. A good practice for us today might be to give God the gift of loving Him by being charitable to others. Then perhaps another bit of wisdom might show itself in our life. “And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.
May God be with you!
The Happy Catholic
Another step in my conversion story – After my visit to the local Catholic Shop in Norristown, I started to secretly say the rosary, praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe to help America after 9/11. I bought books about her and began to feel something stirring inside me. Just before the attack on America, I was telling a person (who was Buddhist) about my lack of consistency in faith and he suggested I develop a “practice.” This rosary was part of my new way of life. Another thought came to me. Perhaps I should go to confession. It had been quite a while.
For some reason, I wanted to go confession. I wanted to go to Mass. What was happening to me? It wasn’t like I felt the need to go (even though it was great) it was as though I just really wanted to.
I went to confession. For some reason I mentioned an abortion I had in early 1973. It was my fourth time confessing it. The priest told me that God has forgiven me, but it seems I couldn’t forgive myself. He suggested I go to a place called Rachel’s Vineyard . With the same inward desire, I did some research and found a weekend retreat. Again, what was happening to me? Although I didn’t understand this new perception of my life, I felt a deep gratitude.
St. Bernard said, “Ingratitude is the enemy of the soul, the destroyer of merit and virtue, causing the loss of favors. It is a burning wind that dries up the fountain of piety, the dew of mercy, the torrents of grace.” I had lived a life of ingratitude. Only now, I was beginning to be grateful and recognize I was receiving graces. May I continue to glorify God with what remains of my life.
This Thanksgiving, I wish you the wealth of gratitude.
My name is Kathleen Mulhall Haberland. This is my first blog as “the happy Catholic.” By God’s grace I have been granted the gift of faith. God continues to be revealed to me in kaleidoscopic, yet microscopic revelations – a realization here, an understanding there. I invite you to accompany me through my journey and then to accompany me through the new insights of a each new week.
I had spent the major portion of my life tolerating the members of my Catholic family who continued to go to Mass on Sundays and say rosaries and, worse yet, novenas. I mentally labeled them naive and smugly tolerated their lack of intelligence. We all got along well, but I would have loved an opportunity to question them. Life evolved into a series of events where I progressed from laughing at their silliness to wanting what they had. I prayed in earnest for seventeen years for the gift of faith. On September 11th, 2001, I received the first installment.
As the planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, I was sickened at the fear I felt that life, as we in the United States knew it, was going to end. The people trapped in the towers went to work expecting just an ordinary day. Instead they lived their last day. I watched in horror with my husband. We were on vacation at the time, but it quickly ended as all we wanted to do was go home.
I kept getting a mental picture of me as a young schoolgirl in my blue serge uniform from St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Norristown, PA. In this image I was kneeling down saying a rosary and looking up into a light. I remembered the event as being on a Good Friday between the hours of noon and three o’clock. I had been trying to remain silent for three hours (not easy for a kid!). While I was saying the rosary, I got a distinct feeling of God’s presence. It was a time of innocense, of course. But in that moment, I felt a personal encounter with God.
Why was I remembering that moment now? I flicked the remote trying to follow all the events of the day. On one station (I know now to be EWTN) I heard an old priest and an older nun discussing the World Trade Center. The priest (I came to know later as Fr. Benedict Groschel) and the nun (Mother Angelica) talked about what we should do at times like this. The friar said that we should pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe because she was the Patroness of the Americas. I had never heard of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The next morning I went to the local Catholic Shop (looking over my shoulder to make sure none of my friends saw me) to purchase a rosary and a little pamphlet on how to say the rosary Isince I had long forgotten the prayers). I asked Our Lady of Guadalupe (whomever she was) to help America. It was the beginning of becoming The Happy Catholic.