Thursday, September 29, 2005

I Need a Revival

Did you ever get those moments when you can really feel the work of God in your life? When the new springtime of the Church is sprouting up life abundantly, and you are filled with a sublime peace despite all the world's woe?

I have.

But it's been a while.

Traditionally, these dry spells in one's walk are what I have heard referred to as "the desert." There isn't much in the way of life around, and the air itself seems parched with thirst.

About a month ago, we moved (a mere 5 min drive from our previous house, to be closer to school), and since that bit of turmoil, our prayer life has diminished significantly.

We used to do a daily Rosary, my wife and I, but I think we've fingered the beads about 3 times under the new roof. We used to do the Liturgy of the Hours Evening Prayers (or at least Night Prayers) with our children at bedtime, in addition to their "kid prayers." But that's been relatively rare recently too. I had just gotten into the habit of starting the day off with Morning Prayers too, but I don't think I've done that at all in the new place.

Yeah, the move tired us out, and yeah, we had the additional stress of our eldest starting school, and yeah, there are a million excuses. None of which, I'm sure, would carry any weight before the Judge.

Inasmuch as I do need to revive my prayer life and get reconnected to Christ, I'm under no illusion about using emotions as a spiritual litmus test. I went through a phase, as do most Christians during their maturation process, where I believed if I didn't feel a tingle in my spine that the Holy Spirit wasn't really working in me. There was a time when I believed that when I wasn't happy, that God wasn't happy with me.

How arrogant was that! To think that God's mood was dependent on mine!

So while I acknowledge that I'm in a desert, that doesn't mean that there can be no fruit here. Even the cactus flowers. So I apply my problem solving technique: find the absolute (profound communion with Christ), evaluate where I am in relation to it (somewhat lacking), and change where I am (the hard part).

I'll be receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation via my priest this weekend, and traditionally his advice has been to pray: somewhat of a cliche, but true nonetheless. So in anticipation of his penance, I will pray starting now.

A long time ago, back in my Protestant days, someone told me the best prayer you can make for yourself or for somebody else is to petition for an increased hunger for God. So in the off chance that God should happen to read my blog (hey, who put my tongue in my cheek?), that is my prayer, Lord - cause my hunger for you to grow.

Monday, September 26, 2005

True, True, True #2

A review of Edward Green's book "Rethinking AIDS Prevention" on reveals the following interesting tidbit:

"...the African countries with the highest condom user rates and numbers of condoms available, Zimbabwe and Botswana, also rank at the top of the list for rates of HIV infection."

As Spock said, "Fascinating." Who would have thought that a disease spread mostly through easy sex is more abundant in regions that promote easy sex? The shallow logic that "condoms prevent AIDS" can't see that far into the moral equation.

Check out the whole review, and if possible, read the book... I plan on hunting it down.

This is an issue near and dear to my heart; I spent a lot of time promoting chastity and marital fidelity with my Challenge Team tours. We didn't promote condom use, or any other articifical method of preventing pregnancy or disease transmission.

Our message, derived in large part from the message of the Church, was simple: if you want the best guarantee to a safe & pleasant sexual experience, save it for marriage.

I recall an article on AIDS in Africa that I read in Scientific American a few years ago, in which the author used the word "condom" some 40 times, and mentioned the concept of chastity only twice.

The ultimate problem with AIDS transmission in Africa, and elsewhere, is that there is a culture of disrespect for sexuality in general, and for women in particular. What better way to stem that than to promote an alteration of lifestyle towards the absolute standard of Purity?

That idea is an overlooked element to most attempts at problem solving in today's world: find the absolute, evaluate where you are in relation to it, and change where you are. In the fight against AIDS, that means encouraging proper use of sexuality.

Kudos to Uganda for reducing the AIDS epidemic by encouraging chastity among its populace... something the amoral man can only understand as "partner reduction." But if I decided to eat only healthy food and somebody said that I had implemented "unhealthy food reduction," would you really think I had stopped eating unhealthy food? As Rush Limbaugh's Undeniable Truth #34 says: Words mean things.
A Parent's Worst Nightmare

This morning my wife woke me, saying she couldn't find our eldest daughter (5 years old) anywhere in the house.

I won't keep you in suspense: we found her, eventually.

Until we did, we looked everywhere - under beds, in closets, in the basement, in the attic, outside. We checked all the windows for signs of forced entry, and began to mildly panic. We even called the police.

After about 30 min, our second daughter (3 years old) announced she found her. She was curled up in a relatively small wicker basket in the corner of our living room where we keep some cozy blankets for couch-snuggling, and had covered herself with one of the blankets.

When I lifted it off her, she had a mischievous smile on her face; I thanked the police dispatch lady and hung up.

Wow. Did she ever get a lecture!

What a scary situation that could have been... You try not to imagine what some sicko could be doing to your kid, but that's not easy to do.

I literally thank God I don't have to live that nightmare out.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I Believe in the Resurrection but This is Ridiculous

From "Benedict XIV, at the end of the general audience Sept. 14, encouraged..."

A few days ago I saw another site refer to "Pope Benedict XV."

Attention all reporters & editors confused by Roman numerals: visit here for a refresher.

Benedicts 14 and 15, to my knowledge, have yet to be resurrected.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

For Ryan

Ryan, a cow-orker (*) asked me to write about him. Everybody wants their name in lights these days. :)

He said that I could say that I'm working on converting him, because he's full of sin and evil.

True, I am working on showing him the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church. True, he is full of sin and evil.

So am I though - I'm under no illusions about my own fallen state.

But God loved me enough to woo me in, and his love for Ryan is no less.

That's the main reason I keep this blog: I want other Protestants out there to know that I have found a deeper truth. I was no lukewarm Christian, either. I prayed and read the Bible every day, I tithed at church, I went to Bible College, I evangelized my peers, I walked the walk and talked the talk.

I felt enormously cheated when I found out that I had been living an incomplete variation on an ancient faith. This variation was historically recent and blind in one eye, with a passively aggressive attitude towards Rome. We "protest," after all. We must be angry about something.

Not that the criticisms of the Reformation era were invalid, but the devil sure ran with them to chop up the Church.

And so I blog on - for Ryan, and anybody else who is directed to this site through the workings of Google or the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I Missed my Calling as a Greeting Card Writer...

...because I can come up with something like this in 5 seconds:

Fun should never be a goal... [open the card] ...merely an unavoidable byproduct of real friendship. [cute graphic of two teddy bears on a swingset]

In real life, I'm not actually that sappy.

Monday, September 19, 2005

True, True, True #1

Brian Saint-Paul scribes some heavy truth in Explaining Away the Young (that's from September; if the link doesn't take you to that article, look under More Columns at the bottom), specifically about the "magnetic quality of truth."

In summary, he says that the reason that young people are being drawn to orthodox Catholicism and are rejecting the aging liberal movement is because truth matters to them. They have seen the previous generation decay with lax spirituality, and have decided that's not for them.

I couldn't agree more. That's why I converted. The appeal of absolute truth is, not ironically, absolute.

The Free Methodist church I grew up in, back in Estevan, Saskatchewan, went through a pretty rough period when I was about 10. Many families in the church left for other places of worship to escape the turmoil, and in like manner, I recall visiting some other evangelical-type churches in town with my family. After one service at the Alliance Church, my folks asked what we thought of it. I remember expressing frustration at the concept of even looking for a different church. "When I get bigger," I said, "I'm going to become a pastor and start my own church. Everybody can come there and all believe the same things, and I'll call it the... United Church."

My dad looked at me with a sort of sadness in his eyes, and said, "Son, somebody already tried that."

It was another 10 years or so before the concept of the real United Church - the Universal Church - the Catholic Church, made itself known to me.

Just like the parable (Matt. 13:44,45) of the man who found a treasure buried in a field and sold everything to buy the field, I had no trouble making my decision. I was willing to accept the metaphorical mud, weeds, and snakes that had crept into the Roman Catholic Field for the treasure of absolute truth.

Who am I to interpret truth? "Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth." (Job 40:4) Am I holier or wiser than the saints and scholars who have lived the Catholic faith for 2000 years? Can I do better at embracing and expounding the Truth than they did? Will the Holy Spirit lead me into truth more than he did them, or can his leadership be perceived as submitting to their authority? Did Christ leave us a Church as a group of people to have potluck suppers with, or as a sanctuary of trust for the Holy Banquet of the Eucharist?

My answer to those questions lies in my choice to become Catholic.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Best Movie of All Time is...

...or at least, one of my top ten favorites... Mystery Men! It won't surprise me if you haven't heard of it.

Hollywood has been less and less able to satisfy my appetite for quality entertainment, usually because they have to throw in at least one scene of tawdry debauchery.

Sadly, this movie has one or two such scenes, but it's of such ample quality otherwise, that the missing morality doesn't detract from it sufficiently to move it off my list.

This movie slipped under a lot of radars, despite its star power: Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Janeane Garofalo, Greg Kinnear, Hank Azaria, Geoffrey Rush. Never thought you'd see a cast like that, eh?

I won't spoil it, but I'll give a basic plot overview: Greg Kinnear plays Captain Amazing, who is the Superman/Batman/Captain America type superhero of Champion City. He's getting a little too old, and is quite full of himself, and has already defeated and locked up every supervillian he has faced. So, in an attempt to return to his glory days, he secures the release of one of them, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), who turns out to be a little more than Captain Amazing can handle this time.

The Mystery Men - the quintessential wannabees who have some superpowers, albeit rather narrow ones - attempt to organize a rescue mission.

The great thing about this movie is that it doesn't make fun of itself; despite its absurd pretense - that people can have superpowers - it presents itself as a regular movie. There is some poking fun at the superhero mythos (in the same way Shrek pokes fun at the fairy tale mythos), but the movie doesn't try to come across as fake. The Mystery Men don't sit around in a fortress watching a crisis monitor; they have regular jobs and problems with their families.

And there's a real moral to the story too, which I also won't spoil.

And I'm not the only one who had an opinion on it...

Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 61%!
Ebert & Roeper gave it one thumb up!
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (a great site for reviewing movies from a faith perspective!) said it was "Dopey... kooky... chaotic... toilet humor..."

Well, not everyone shares my taste.

Some of my other favorite movies:

Tears of the Sun
About Schmidt
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Life Is Beautiful
Anything with "Star Trek" in the title
Story Of Us

As I think of/see more, I may add to this list.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Good Stuff

(Today is The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross)

After viewing the ads that Google AdSense has put on my site, it occurs to me that in constantly decrying what is false and speaking against what I don't believe in, I'm defining my worldview by what it is not.

So to balance that, I wish to post some of my perspectives on life to give a more positive picture.

I am a conservative. In Canada, our two main political parties title themselves by their ideologies, which should make things easier, but in reality the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party agree on most issues which normally divide conservative voters from liberal ones (public health care, not running a deficit, social spending up the wazoo, etc). So true conservatives in Canada have no real place to call home, insofar as party membership is concerned. I'm one of those rare Canadians with a fridge magnet that says "Proud to be a Republican" (courtesy of a friend who moved to the States to work for Crisis).

G.K. Chesterton commented that "all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution." To conserve something requires therefore an active effort; the status quo will never remain as the default. The universe and its components, by their elemental nature, move from a state of order to disorder; from calm to chaos. This applies to the physical and sociological world.

But Christ is the ultimate renewer. He is the source of life and the fountain of goodness, and by his eternal (meaning "present-in-every-moment") sacrifice on the cross, he brings all things to the Father in himself. He is the supreme conservative, the supreme conserver.

Did you ever notice that world history runs in cycles? Every empire rises and falls, every movement starts and ends, every philosophy is accepted then rejected, every discovery heralded then deplored. And then it all happens again. As I often meditate while showering, "Shampoo, rinse, repeat." There is no end to the cycle. Ecclesiastes 1:9 - "What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun."
But Christ is not a cycle: he is a constant; he is the constant. Jesus remains, and he provides life to his Church.

That's why I live my life with the standards I do: because God cares.

The other day I withdrew $300 from my bank account, but the machine gave me $320. You wouldn't believe the amazed look on the teller's face when I came in to give it back. I'm not trying to brag about my honesty; it just baffles me that most people wouldn't return the extra money. That $20 wasn't mine; I didn't earn it, and the bank didn't owe me anything (although I had to wait 10 minutes to see the teller!). The bank lady said that if I were simply to have taken it, they would have had no way of knowing who it went to. I replied, "But I would." Sure I was raised well, but a bad upbringing is no excuse for unholiness.

I strive for holiness so I can be near to God; purity is a prerequisite for proximity to the Creator. His presence itself is a purging flame, and only those who have been redeemed by Christ's sacrifice on the cross can withstand it, and they rejoice - a.k.a. Heaven. The Catholic understanding of Purgatory is simply a drawing near to him, enduring the searing pain of separation from worldly attachments, with the inevitable destination being Heaven. Even Hell itself won't be a physical separation from God, but rather having to abide his universal presence, with no place to hide, while in an unredeemable state; what will make Hell hell is the agony of being unable to exult in his glorious presence.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Magic Amulet Around My Neck

When I was attending Aldersgate College, our Church History class took a field trip to St. Peter's Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan. This little abbey has about 30 monks who live by the Rule of St. Benedict, and there is a beautiful old wooden church nearby that has paintings that rival the cathedrals in old Europe (in all things but scale). Of course, as a Free Methodist, I didn't really get a sense of what was happening there, but it was a memorable experience.

After my conversion years later, when I lived in Ottawa, I discovered that my roommate was also from Saskatchewan, and his uncle happened to be the abbot of that very abbey. You know how life has these moments where something happens and suddenly you can see the circle of God's plan that brought you to that point?

This was one of those moments that solidified my conviction that God really wanted me to be a Catholic, and that he had been dropping hints all my life.

My roommate obtained for me a St. Benedict medal that he got his uncle to bless. It's a good solid one, larger than a quarter, and it doesn't feel like pressed tinfoil like some of the cheap medals out there.

I wear this medal around my neck and always keep it outside my clothing, unlike my crucifix and Miraculous Medal. Among the many uses of the St. Benedict medal are exorcism and resistance to temptation - so I figure if the "evil spirits that wander now throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls" are scared of this thing, I might as well show it to them. Usually it keeps them at bay.

But if one of the fallen ones gets brave enough to toss a bad idea my way, I find it's a great help to grasp the medal and whisper the translation of the Latin prayer abbreviated on it: "Begone, Satan! Suggest not to me thy vain things! The cup thou profferest me is evil. Drink thou thy poison!" [Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!]

Check out this site for more info on the medal.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

First Day Of School

Just like Nemo jumping on Marlin, yelling "First day of school!" my 5 year old daughter started school today.

We're sending her to a Catholic school, naturally. She looked so adorable in her little uniform.

Here starts the adventure, they say. The hardest part is going to be having to take vacations in summer now, or more specifically, not being able to take vacations whenever we want. Couldn't quite convince the wife to home school them, and she doesn't want my job either, so I can't do it.

But this is a great school. They've recently been unshackled from a repugnantly liberal principal, and a lot of her favorite staff & students/families went with her, so good riddance - have fun in public school where there is no moral structure to destroy anymore! We've now got a seasoned principal, straight from the Knights of Columbus, who has come out of semi-retirement to take the helm for a few years.

I plan on joining the school board too - a good friend of mine is the chairman, and he's desperate to have more board members who see the importance of real Catholicism in a Catholic school.

Still, all that's far too complicated to get into this day - my eldest child has begun school. What a milestone. I remember when she was born and I held her in my arms in that hospital room. My wife was in a deep sleep after her labour, and nobody told me that I could put the baby down, so I just held her. My arms got really sore - it must have been 4 hours.

At one point I tried to sing Happy Birthday to her, but I couldn't finish it without crying.

And now she's sauntering off to school, about to make new friends that she'll tell her secrets to, and suddenly her life won't revolve around home anymore. I won't be there to participate in all those learning and growing moments. In a way, I'm petrified that she'll grow increasingly distant from me just from the plain fact of growing up.

Everybody I know tells me to enjoy the moments I have with my kids right now, while they're young, because before I know it they'll be grown up and I'll have missed the opportunity to bond with them. That's advice I've taken to heart, and I think I've done a pretty good job so far. So I can only hope and pray that as my baby gets bigger and bigger, she'll know she can always cuddle with her daddy, no matter how sore my arms get.

I often wonder what my kids' lives will be like, and I've got some suspicions which I won't share here (don't want to jinx or encourage it!). But whatever what trouble they get themselves into, or what difficult decisions they need to make, or how scared they are, I want my kids to know they can always talk to me, and that I'll always love them.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My Reasoning

This was a document I prepared for my baffled family & friends when I became Catholic. It's quite long, as it expounds on a lot of different Bible passages (taken from my Thompson Chain Reference NIV Bible). Enjoy.

Catholic or Protestant? Which is the most correct way to go? Which one is closer to, or even absolutely, truth? Upon initial examination, it would seem as though the differences are myriad. Mary, the Saints, Purgatory, the list goes on. Yet every difference between the Catholics and the Protestants can be narrowed down to one, on which all others hinge.

That one is what Martin Luther termed Sola Scriptura or the concept of Scripture as the highest authority in a Christian's life. This was my mindset. After all, man can fail - he is a sinful creature. Therefore, we must rely on something not as fallible as humanity. By stating this, one is compelled to ask if such a conclusion is Biblical. The Scriptures themselves were written by men, albeit by the Spirit's inspiration. The question is thus posed, can that same Spirit work today as It did two thousand years ago? Why would the Spirit's teaching stop with the canonization of the New Testament Scriptures?

Of course, this must be verified Scripturally, since as a Protestant, that was my supreme authority. II Tim. 3:16, our favorite verse in support of S.S., states that Scripture is useful, or profitable, depending on the translation. Neither term indicates exclusivity. We, as Protestants, take this to mean that when we know the Bible, we can get everything that we need for our lives, because it is the Inspired Word of God. But what if two individuals disagree on an issue?

I will never forget an experiment that our Biblical Interpretation professor at Bible college conducted. As a class we were trying to convey to her how individuals can be led by the Spirit to discover the Truth of Scripture. So, on a whim, she gave each of us an assignment - go home and get right with God. Repent of all sin, and accept His forgiveness. Then pray for the Spirit to guide us into all Truth, as per Jesus' promise. Once we had completed these steps, we were to study a passage of Scripture (I believe it was a Psalm), with no insights from commentaries or other people. The next class, we gathered together and compared what had been revealed in that time of study. There were close to twenty of us there, and there were three or four different trains of thought that emerged from the reference.

So does the plurality of the interpretations render them void? By no means. What was beautifully demonstrated here was personal Bible study and application. That the Spirit leads us when we partake of the Bible, it cannot be denied. However, one has to remember the purpose of offices of authority in the Church. We are called as Christians to submit to those in authority over us. Paul tells us this time and time again, pertaining to worldly rulers, family authority, and church leadership. I'm not suggesting that only the leaders can be spoken to by God, but look at the history of the Bible: Moses as the leader was the one that God communed with. The same is seen with Joseph, King David, the prophets, and the list goes on throughout the Old Testament. And in the New Testament, the Apostles had a special authority over the early church. The Great Commission was given directly to them, and not to every Christian as the Evangelical tradition would have (which doesn't negate the individual's call to evangelize - the rest of Scripture clearly maintains this). My point is, God uses the authorities of the Church to speak to us today just like He has throughout times past.

Why? Because people are at different levels of discipleship in their personal walks, and we would have countless direct contradictions if doctrine was based on every individual's different perspective. Wait a minute - isn't that what there is among Protestants? One only needs to mention the word "tongues" to begin a raging debate about what is right or wrong. The same with baptism, communion, the list goes on. A person could argue that Catholics have equal diversity, and to an extent this is true. Every movement has its liberals, its middle-of-the-roaders, and its conservatives. But Catholic teaching, approved by its top earthly authority, the Pope, is uniform. If a priest in Portugal doesn't agree with something in the Catechism, he is viewed by the Catholic Church as wrong. Whereas if a Free Methodist minister and a Baptist minister disagree on a doctrinal issue, who is in error? Whose interpretation of a certain passage is right, and how can we know?

Scripture is great for personal devotions, we all agree. I will never lose my love of Bible study and application. But what does II Tim. 3:16 say? Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. Why? So that every man of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work. How can something that is useful equip thoroughly? Catholics will be the first to admit that this verse advocates Scripture as necessary. But if it is merely (I mean no offense to the written Word) useful, what else is required?

In Deuteronomy 4:2 Moses says, "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you." Context? He is addressing the people of Israel just after God has let him see the Promised Land. Three points stick out.

1) Moses, a man, is saying it. He is anointed by God to say it, but he is still a man.
2) In light of the post-Moses prophets and the New Testament, what he commanded has been "added" to. We would be remiss to renounce David, Isaiah, Luke, etc. as disobeying God here and thus in sin. What they wrote lined up with, and in some cases fulfilled, what Moses wrote, and by obeying these "additions," we are still obeying the timeless commands of the Lord.
3) Some church historians tell us that after the formation of the New Testament Scriptures, Inspiration (note the upper case "I") ceased. How did they arrive at that conclusion? By putting out a piece of blessed litmus paper that had a lesser colour change after the Scriptures were decided? Correct me if I'm wrong, but Moses here seems to believe that further refinement of his commands is not necessary. Upon continuing Inspiration, however, later writers enhance God's commands. My question is, why does it have to stop at a certain point in time? I don't mean the canonization of new scriptures, but Roman Catholics believe that whatever the Pope declares as Ex Cathedra is just as inspired as the Bible. Is the cessation of Inspiration a Biblical concept? We are promised by Jesus that His followers would do greater things than Him, and again told that the Spirit would be poured out in greater measure in the last days. This seems to indicate an increasing and not decreasing availability for Inspiration.

At this point, a definition of "the Word of God" is in order. John 1:1 indicates that the Word is God, and with God. That's Jesus! So where do we jump to the conclusion that Scripture (one of the many things the Word created) is the entirety of the Word? Perhaps I'm jumping too far with this thought, but that almost rings like the principle in Romans 1:25; in short, the worship of created things rather than the Creator.

Now consider this: I Thess. 2:13 says that the church in that city accepted Paul's words as the Word of God. II Thess. 2:15 records Paul's exhortation to that same church to stand firm and hold to the teachings that were passed on, "by word of mouth or by letter." The same idea is echoed again in 3:6 and 3:14. Peter refers to Paul's writings as Scripture (II Pet. 3:15-16), true, but what about the stuff that Paul taught that he didn't write down? Was it Inspired as well? And was it lost forever? Paul commanded the Thessalonians to hold to that which he wrote and that which he spoke. Obviously they held to what he wrote, or else we would not have it today. Did they disobey him and do away with what he spoke? The same idea is seen at the very end of John's Gospel (21:24-25). "This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.... If every one of [the things Jesus did] were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." John testified and he wrote, just as Paul did. Their readers held to it, and passed it down, just as the ancient Israelites passed down the Law until it became written. Only instead of Jewish scribes passing it down, it was the Church. (Obviously, at the onset, it was not named the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus' commission to Peter [on this rock I will build My church....] is what aligns the Church Jesus was speaking about with the Catholic Church today, which traces its papal lineage back to Peter.) Eventually, somebody deemed it wise to write down the oral Traditions and hold to them just as much as the Old and New Testament Scriptures.

Time passes. Martin Luther looks at the Bible, then looks at the Church, and sees stuff that wasn't written in the Bible being practiced in the Church. This was the beginning of Sola Scriptura. A good fifteen hundred years after Christ ascended. Did the Church before Martin Luther's time miss out on the Truth? Did fifteen centuries give a better perspective for Luther? Or did the Church, which had held fast to the teachings of Paul and John and Peter, etc. throughout the ages (and thus to the teachings of Jesus) continue to hold a doctrinally correct definition of the Word of God?

As I stated before, once Scripture is seen as one of two contributors to doctrine, the other being the Traditions God has Inspired in the Church (not to be confused with the traditions of men in Matthew 15:9), not every doctrine needs to be based in Scripture. To be sure, it must not contradict, but it need not be rooted there.

It cannot be denied that the Roman Catholic Church has had its share of blunders. This is understandable. Throughout history, certain individuals have assumed varying positions of power and not been spiritually up to the task, to say the least. Corruption has set in to an alarming degree. It appears that the Catholics are under an immense spiritual attack, moreso than the Protestants or Orthodox. Someone once asked me, "Why would Satan attack a dying dog?" Perhaps because it's the biggest dog - which, when healthy, can do him the most harm. It is unfortunate, nay, an ecclesiastical tragedy, that the Catholic Church has been susceptible to these attacks, and has so many lax members who carry false ideas of the Way.

I have heard it said that the Catholic Church is very close to being labeled a cult by Protestants. But when one looks at the cults back in the days of the early church, that accusation makes very little sense. A cult was defined as a deviance from the approved beliefs that used unInspired documents as its basis, which thus required an undermining of the authority of the Church. How did the Church fight the cults? By declaring certain Scriptures to be inspired by God, and thus declaring others not to be. The Church (as the foundation and pillar of the truth - see I Tim. 3:15) eliminated those "scriptures," such as the Gospel of Thomas and other Gnostic works, by canonizing what it still holds to. It took several centuries before individuals started to look at the Scriptures that were canonized and using them as their sole authority. It was the beginning of cults, all over again, with one major difference - these "cults" were using the approved Scriptures. Nevertheless, the Word the Lutherans, and others to follow, were to use as their authority, was Inspired, and thus useful. But never intended to be used without correct interpretation from the authorities in the Church. So instead of being wrong, the Protestants are merely incomplete.

This is what I believe, and what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. Papal Infallibility, the Sacraments, and everything else hinges on this one important topic that even Luther recognized as pivotal. With the Church to interpret the sacred Scriptures and continue to give us access to God's Word through Tradition, I firmly believe and know that I am proceeding deeper into my relationship with Christ. Every night before devotions, I pray for the Spirit to lead me into all truth, and having been shown the above as truth, I can do no less than obey it. To ignore it would be sin, and my conscience could not show its face before God in sin. To quote Martin Luther at his trial for heresy against the Catholic Church, "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."