Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Universal Call to Holiness
And Particular Vocations

Anyone who visits Washington, D.C., should take the time to visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a magnificent structure dedicated to the Mother of God. Some of the readers who followed Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Journey to the United States may remember that he presided at a Solemn Vespers in the Crypt Church of the National Shrine. Yes, that one.

The Great Upper Church is a monument to the Catholic faith--we not only express our Catholicity in what we believe, in how we behave, and in the prayers we offer. Our Catholicity is expressed in the architectural and artistic patrimony of the Church. The National Shrine is a notable example of this.

When a pilgrim enters the Great Upper Church, immediately above the doors is one of the world's largest marble relief sculptures, titled The Universal Call to Holiness. It prominently features a dove in the upper centre, with streams of light radiating from him towards all sorts of people: priests, couples, single people, religious, as well as famous contemporaries such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II.

The relief sculpture, proposed by His Eminence James Cardinal Hickey, then-Archbishop of Washington, is a tribute to a teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the "universal call to holiness." The holy Council taught:

Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification".(215) However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called "evangelical."
...
Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history (Lumen gentium, 39, 41).

The Church's supreme authority is abundantly clear that each person, not just those who have a parish named after them, or those who lived in former times, but each and every one of the baptised, is called to live a life of holiness, of the perfection of charity. The late and great Pope John Paul II reiterated the Church's teaching in the following terms:

The Council Fathers laid such stress on this point, not just to embellish ecclesiology with a kind of spiritual veneer, but to make the call to holiness an intrinsic and essential aspect of their teaching on the Church. The rediscovery of the Church as "mystery", or as a people "gathered together by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", was bound to bring with it a rediscovery of the Church's "holiness", understood in the basic sense of belonging to him who is in essence the Holy One, the "thrice Holy" (cf. Is 6:3). To profess the Church as holy means to point to her as the Bride of Christ, for whom he gave himself precisely in order to make her holy (cf. Eph 5:25-26). This as it were objective gift of holiness is offered to all the baptized (Novo millennio inuente, 30).

Our Lord was clear that the programme of discipleship consisted in the perfection of charity (Jn 13:34-35); St Peter instructed his readers, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, 'You shall be holy for I am holy'" (1 Pet 1:14-16). And, if we take our clue from the sacred liturgy, the fact that the gospel of the Beatitudes is proclaimed on the Solemnity of All Saints indicates to us that holy women and men are those who were obedient to the Beatitudes and that Christian holiness likewise requires obedience to the Beatitudes. Jesus taught the Beatitudes for all of His followers.

Holiness is for each and every Christian. Only when that is established can we approach the question of the particular vocation. Each figure in the relief sculpture of The Universal Call to Holiness falls into one of only four categories: (1) Holy Matrimony, (2) Holy Orders, (3) consecrated life, and (4) the single life. These four "states in life" are a particular means to holiness. In Holy Matrimony, the husband and the wife offer each other in exclusive and life-giving generosity, whose expression of love yields a growth in spousal love and parental love. In Holy Orders, the ordained man is configured to either Christ the Servant (as a deacon) or Christ the Good Shepherd (as a priest or bishop) for exercising the ministries of teaching, sanctifying, and governing the Church. Consecrated life is one of profound self-donation to the Lord by the profession of the evangelical counsels. The single life is the state in which one offers her or his virginal and celibate consecration in witness of the Age to Come, in which "none are married or given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven" (Mt 22:30). Every baptised Christian, in addition to her or his obligation to pursue holiness in the perfection of charity, is called to one of these states in life.

What is significant, however, is how each of these four states are rooted in the mystery of Christ. Our Lord, and Our Lord alone, lived each of these states in life all at once.

Christ is given into Holy Matrimony in a nuptial bond with the Church as His spouse (Eph 5:21-33). In fact, the Magisterium teaches that the sacrament of Holy Matrimony is founded upon the mystery of Christ's union with His Church (cf. Pius XI, Casti connubii; Leo XIII, Arcanum divinae sapientiae).

Christ is our Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1-18) and is therefore our Great High Priest (cf. Letter to the Hebrews).

Christ lived, perfectly, a life of obedience, material and spiritual poverty, and chastity in his utter dedication to God the Father. In fact many scholars believe that "Jesus the Nazorean" refers His taking of the Nazirite vow of asceticism (cf. Num 6:1-21). Those who have read Prof Jaroslav Pelikan's famous tome Christ Through the Centuries may remember his chapter "The Monk Who Rules the World." Some may even recall Dom Columba Marmion's Christ the Ideal of the Monk.

Christ, of course, was unmarried, at least in the earthly sense. He had no wife and experienced perfect virginity in His complete self-donation to the Father's will and the proclamation of the Kingdom.

Each of us who is called to a particular vocation--whether married, ordained, consecrated, or single--will find in Christ the Perfection and the Ideal. In Christ we find the Exemplar of Holiness and the Exemplar of Vocations!

Finally, we cannot forget that the root of the vocation is in the family. Once, when I lived in New York, I visited the mother-house of the Sisters of Life, founded by His Eminence John Cardinal O'Connor and Mother Agnes Mary Donovan SV. At the mother-house, we were challenged with a question from one of the sisters: "Where does a vocation begin?" After each of us gave a failed answer, the sister said: "The family! It is in the family that the Lord plants the seed of a vocation."

Holy Church teaches that the Incarnate Word was born into a family and was raised in a family. Thus we have a devotion to the "Holy Family"--the original "domestic church" where the Incarnate Word began His vocation--as a nuptial, a priest, a religious, and a single Man. It is in the family, therefore, that the parents have a grave obligation, indeed, a privileged role with God to assist their children in pursuing holiness of life and in discerning a vocation to either marriage, ordination, religion, or as a single person. Even as we grow older and continue to discern, we must never forget that each of us is a member of the Holy Family--and that we can continue to invoke the prayers of St Joseph and the Mother of God to assist us in our vocation, just as they assisted Jesus Christ in His.

I invite you to make the following a regular part of your daily prayers:

Heavenly Father,
bless Your Church with an abundance of holy and zealous
priests, deacons, brothers, and sisters.
Give those You have called
to the married state
and those You have chosen to live
as single persons in the world
the special graces that their lives require.
Form us all in the likeness of Your Son
so that in Him, with Him, and through Him
we may love You more deeply
and serve You more faithfully,
always and everywhere.
With Mary we ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

This post is a tribute to the Revd Fr P. Terrio, Director of Vocations of the Archdiocese of New York, and Mr M. Irizar, a candidate to Holy Orders in the same archdiocese.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Church's Bible, the Bible's Church

As of tomorrow, 10 January 2011, I will have been a Catholic for eighteen years. I was baptised at St Mary's Parish in Muskegon, Michigan, by the late Fr Marvin Archer on the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord in 1993.

I came to join the Catholic Church from the Baptist denomination. In seventh grade, I read a book about the Catholic Church that utterly astounded me: as a Baptist, I was always under the impression that any gathering of "Bible-believing Christians" was haphazard. As a former confrere put it, "I am a Christian; I happen to go to a Baptist church." My reading of Church history, on the other hand, demonstrated to me beyond any reasonable doubt that the Catholic Church of today traces its lineage to the original community of disciples gathered by Jesus Christ. In other words, no other denomination could make the same claim as did the Catholic Church: that Jesus Christ is our Founder. It would not be until I was a sophomore in high school, however, that I was received into Holy Catholicity.

At a local parish, I introduced myself to a priest after Mass and indicated that I wanted to become a Catholic. He was an elderly man, and a serious one, but full of warmth. I remember his tight grip on my hand as he was greeting parishioners on their way out of Mass. In front of me was a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that seemed strangely familiar, strangely "right." We never had statues in Baptist churches, but the mere gaze upon this figure proclaimed to me Christ who was eager to receive my soul, full of love and mercy.

After the priest finished greeting the parishioners, we drove to his rectory. I was shocked by how bare and simple it was--hardly any furniture, a small television, and a little dog. At the time, I had been attending a Baptist church just around the corner from this parish, much to the priest's surprise, since he was accustomed to slander and misinformation about the Catholic Faith on the part of non-Catholics, especially Baptists and Fundamentalists. We chatted for a while and, as I was leaving, he gave me two books. The first, Catholic Answers to Fundamentalists' Questions, was a useful compendium of Catholic replies to common Fundamentalist misinformation. The second was a catechism, Instructions in the Catholic Faith, which is unfortunately out of print.

Instructions in the Catholic Faith was unique in that the beginning of each chapter began with a section from the Scriptures and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. I distinctly remember reading those chapters on the peculiarly "Catholic" doctrines like the Eucharist, papal primacy, and purgatory with the accompanying texts from Scripture. I was astounded at how biblical the Catholic Faith was, so astounded in fact that I checked these Biblical references in my NIV Bible just to make sure. And, sure enough, those Scripture texts cited by the catechism to substantiate those peculiarly Catholic beliefs. From that book began my journey to the study of sacred theology, my "love affair with the Truth" to use the title of a documentary on Pope Benedict XVI.

I had been vaguely aware of the Baptist comment that "Catholics don't read the Bible." My experience of the Catholic Church during the first few years of exploration completely obliterated that. When I attended Sunday Mass, I noticed that there were always three readings from the Scriptures, generally the first from the Old Testament, the second from the New Testament, and a Gospel. Between the first and second readings was a sung Psalm. We never sang the Psalter in the Baptist church! In fact, it was fairly common for there to be only two to five verses read by the pastor followed by a forty-five minute speech. The Catholic homily, on the other hand, is rarely more than ten minutes, but is preceded by a "Liturgy of the Word" that is often lengthy. More to the point, at the Easter Vigil, there is an extremely long Liturgy of the Word with eight readings from Scripture. The charge that Catholics don't read the Bible is nothing more than misinformation. Really, "misinformation" is a euphemism for "lie"--it is a patent lie that Catholics don't read the Bible. What do we have Lectionaries for?

A year after my baptism, when I was seventeen, I ordered a set of the Liturgy of the Hours and began to use it, albeit with some difficulty at first. Coming from a Fundamentalist background, the breviary is a most unusual book: in four volumes, the Bible arranged for prayer at least five times daily, preceded (generally) by three Psalms and a short reading (as is the case for Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, and Evening Prayer). The so-called "Office of Readings" began with three Psalms but concluded with two lengthy readings--the first from Scripture and the second, generally, from one of the Fathers of the Church. Here again I encountered what was assumed nonexistent as a Baptist--that there are writings from the first Christian centuries, and let me tell you, they don't sound anything like any Baptist preacher I know!

So here I am, attending Sunday Mass with three readings, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and reading the Bible on my own time. I was getting myself soaked in Scripture.

One day, I was with my Boy Scout troop manning a fundraising booth at the annual fair. I saw one of my former confreres at the Baptist church I attended during my earliest years. When I mentioned that I had become a Catholic, he launched into a two-dimensional commentary on how Catholics don't read the Bible. Catholics attend Sunday Mass with three readings, but "Catholics don't read the Bible." Priests and religious are required to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours but "Catholics don't read the Bible." Every parish had a Bible study group going on but "Catholics don't read the Bible." I remember being very, very irritated by this man whose contact with the world beyond his prejudice was governed by the garbage he was fed at my former Baptist church, passed off as "Sunday School." Little did I know that this promised to be a consistent experience.

When I was a senior in high school, one of the sign-language interpreters came from my former Baptist church (which was, in fact, right across the street from the school). She is a wonderful lady, and to this day she is a friend of mine. A genuine Christian. But, for the life of me, her self-advertisement as a "Bible-believer" had little to show for it. I distinctly recall a discussion in the hallway before class about why the Catholic Old Testament was slighly longer than the Protestant one. I had begun to explain that the Jews of Alexandria had translated the Old Testament into Greek and this was the Old Testament used by the earliest Christians...

"I'm really not interested in that," was her interruption.

I was astounded. A "Bible believer" not interested in the history of the Bible? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Fundamentalism.

As a Catholic, I am continually in awe of the reverence that the Church shows to the Bible. "The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord, in so far as she never ceases, particualrly in the sacred liturgy" (Dei Verbum, 21). The parish I was baptized had a beautiful, silver-plated cover for the Book of the Gospels. During the reading of the Gospel, it was held aloft by the priest during the singing of the Celtic Alleluia, and kissed when the reading reached its conclusion. Anyone can see this sort of thing when they watch the pope's Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve: an ornate Book of the Gospels is enthroned on an elaborate stand , then carried in procession accompanied by candles, enveloped in clouds of incense, and not just read alout but sung. It is brought to the pope at the conclusion of its proclamation for him to kiss and to take up and bless us with the sign of the Cross. I am appalled, on the other hand, to see Bibles rolled up in one hand by television "preachers," slammed on the pulpit, and worst of all, quoted in isolation from the rest of the text. If singing the Bible, incensing the Bible, kissing the Bible, enthroning the Bible, does not count for reverence and veneration, I don't know what does!

Additionally, an ancient monastic praxis of reading the Bible known as lectio divina is a uniquely Catholic patrimony. Every silent retreat I have ever attended as a Catholic has included strong encouragement not only to spend time with the Bible in prayer each day, but has recommended especially the method of lectio divina.

There is more! The 'Biblicality' of the Catholic Faith, if I may coin a word, is understood in terms of culture. Catholics are not satisfied with simply a retrieval of doctrine from the Bible but even more a celebration of Biblical symbols in the life of the Church. It is true that there is a three-year cycle of Scripture readings on Sundays (and a two-year cycle for weekdays), but there is also a liturgical year which commemorates the various events of the Biblical narrative: the Annunciation (25 March), the visit of the Magi on Epiphany (6 January), the Baptism of the Lord (Sunday after Epiphany), the Presentation of the Lord (2 February), the Purification of Mary, the Temptation in the Desert (First Sunday of Lent), the Transfiguration of the Lord (6 August), Pentecost (fiftieth day of Easter), and so forth. There are also days in which the memory of various Biblical figures are commemorated, such as Sts Peter and Paul (29 June), St Andrew the First-Called (30 November), St John the Apostle and Evangelist (27 December), the Prophet King David (29 December), the Prophet Isaiah (6 July), the Prophet Elijah (20 July), and so forth. Still, Fundamentalists say that "Catholics don't read the Bible."

And again, the symbols of Biblical narratives are used: on Epiphany, extra candles are lit in the church as a reminder of the Star that led the Magi to the infant Jesus. On the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, water is sprinkled on the liturgical assembly as a reminder of our baptism. At Easter, the astronomical interplay of the sun and the moon reminds us of the Light of the World who was resurrected. During the Advent season, the "Jesse Tree" serves to remind us of the ancestry of Jesus, rooted in the history of Israel. I could go on. And still, Fundamentalists say that "Catholics dont' read the Bible."

As a seminarian preparing for Holy Orders, I am required to devote a bulk of my time to the study of Scripture. According to the supreme authority of the Church, "Hence, [seminarians] should be trained for the ministry of the Word, so that they may gain an ever increasign understanding of the revealed Word of God, making it their own by meditation and giving it expression in their speech and in their lives" (Optatum totius, 4). At my own seminary, I am proud to say, at least eight, 3-credit courses in Scripture are required for Ordination: Introduction to Scripture, Matthew and Mark, Like-Acts, Pauline Literature, Johannine Literature, Prophets, Psalms and Wisdom Literature, and the Pentateuch.

Every non-Catholic institution of higher learning offers degrees in the study of Scripture, but the Catholic Church alone has a system of credentialing those who undertake such a study at a higher level. These degrees are known as the Licentiate of Sacred Scripture (abbreviated "S.S.L.") and the Doctorate of Sacred Scripture ("S.S.D."). In Rome, there are at least two institutions of higher learning known for their curricula in Scripture, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Gregorian University, both of which are operated by the Society of Jesus (popularly known as the Jesuits). In point of fact, one of the editors of the current Critical Text of the Greek New Testament is himself a Jesuit, His Eminence Carlos Cardinal Martini, who holds a double doctorate in both fundamental theology and Scripture. The pope also has a body of advisors on matters of Scripture known as the Pontifical Biblical Commission. And, according to Fundamentalists, "Catholics don't read the Bible"?

In recent times, popes have issued numerous documents on the Scriptures, beginning with Providentissimus Deus (Pope Leo XIII, 1893), Dei Filius (First Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope Pius IX, 1870), Spiritus Paraclitus (Pope Benedict XV, 1920), Divino afflante Spiritu (Pope Pius XII, 1943), Dei Verbum (Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, 1965), and most recently Verbum Domini (Pope Benedict XVI, 2010). I wonder how many Fundamentalist have even heard of these documents, let alone read them.

The Catholic Church is, for lack of better phraseology, the house of the Scriptures. Our art, our study, our liturgy, our prayer is saturated with the Scriptures.

At a deeper level, however, Catholicity and Protestantism differs enormously in the "reception" of the Scriptures. Since the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, the "deposit of faith"--that is to say, the body of doctrines--was "once for all entrusted to the holy ones." In other words, the delivery of the doctrine of Christ happened once and only once; it cannot be "delivered again." The body of Catholic doctrines that is believed today was set in motion by Christ and His Apostles; Scripture is a reminder of what Christ and the Apostles has taught. This is a crucial difference between the fundamental theology of Catholicity and of Protestantism. Recall that, at the Transfiguration, God commanded Sts Peter, James, and John to "Listen to Him!" Colossians 2:3 speaks of "the knowledge of God's mystery, that is Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." It is Jesus Christ who is the locus of Divine Revelation, it is He who discloses God, not the Bible. Remember that the Pauline communities were already Chrisians when the Apostle wrote his epistles (cf. Rom 15:15); many of these communities were founded by Paul himself, and not one of the ancient Christian communities were founded on the basis of an apostolic letter! This is precisely the Catholic position: the Faith is handed on to us by the preaching and teaching of the Church's leadership and the Bible is a reminder of what was handed on. Protestantism, on the contrary, is only one-quarter as old as Christianity itself, and for that reason it does not exist in the privileged stream of apostolic succession; it has tried to use the Bible to represent a "leapfrogging" of Church history from the age fo the Apostles to the time of Martin Luther. Christianity is just that: the religion of Christ, not the religion of the Bible, otherwise it would be called 'Bibleanity.' The Bible cannot be a 'reset button' that can be hit whenever we suspect our pastor of un-Biblical doctrines--to do so is to usurp the privileged work of the Holy Spirit, who was sent to lead us "into all the Truth." The Catholic Church, therefore, is a Biblical culture. Fundamentalism--the attempt to be "Bible-based"--is ultimately an idolatrous and blasphemous endeavour because it is Christ who is our foundation. Christ reveals God. To substitute the Bible for Christ...I won't bother to finish that thought because, if I needed to, then my reader has wasted time reading this post.

The Scriptures is preeminently the Book of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. That's all there is to it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Why I Am A Catholic Christian

The eighteenth anniversary of my baptism is fast approaching, and a recent viewing of anti-Catholic propaganda on my Facebook page has led me to decide upon a series of postings on why I left the Baptist denomination to become a Catholic. I am, to be frank, exhausted by the sheer intentional ignorance of so many people about the Catholic Faith. Despite my two masters' degrees in theology and Scripture, there will still be people with no more than a high-school education who will pontificate a contrarian position.

Bring it on.

As I said, this is a first in a series, and in this particular posting I wish to provide my own "top ten" list of why I became a Catholic, in no particular order:

1. The Baptist denomination, as well as every other Protestant denomination, is a product of human imagination. The Catholic Church of today, on the other hand, is descended from the first community of disciples organized by Jesus Christ. As the Psalmist says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain" (Ps 127:1).

2. Some Fundamentalists insist that the "true church" remained in hiding from the end of the Apostolic Age until the Protestant Reformation. The evidence of NT manuscripts and the field of textual criticism contradicts this assertion at least five thousand times over. (For you duller ones, it means this: if the "true church" went into hiding, then show me at least one NT manuscript that was created by these supposedly "hidden Christians.")

3. Many Protestants insist that the Bible is a toolkit for becoming a Christian when, in fact, the collection of writings that constitute the Bible were determined to be "inspired" and therefore "canonical" on the basis of ecclesiastical authority. To be a Protestant, then, is to use a Catholic book to engage in antii-Catholicism. That's analogous to using the United States Constitution as a Communist manifesto.

4. No other community claiming the name of "Christian" has maintained Jesus' commitment to the poor and marginalised as much as the Catholic Church. Who could possibly be the Pentecostal counterpart to Mother Theresa of Calcutta or the Baptist counterpart to Francis of Assisi?

5. As a Protestant, I often came across passages in the Bible that was difficult to understand. When I asked my Sunday School teacher or my pastor about these passages, a common rejoinder was "you'll find out when you get to heaven" which, even to my twelve-year-old mind was a plain cop-out. If the Bible is the toolkit for a "personal relationship" with God, why would He even bother to put in a passage that was undecipherable?

6. The radicality of Christian discipleship exhibited by the early martyrs, Desert Fathers, of Sts John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Dominic Guzman, Ignatius Loyola, Edmund Campion, Isaac Jogues, of the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, John Cardinal O'Connor, and many others is unmatched by Protestantism. There are, to be sure, towering figures who command even my respect such as John Stott and C.S. Lewis, but for the life of me I cannot find any Protestant spirituality that is comparable to the Imitation of Christ or Christ the Life of the Soul.

7. Protestantism is only one-quarter as old as Christianity itself. Need I really explain this one?

8. The liturgy of the Catholic Church is chock-full of Scripture. When I attended Protestant churches (and anyone can pick this up from your average televangelist), an entire sermon consisted of a long-winded exposition of one to five verses of Scripture. The Catholic liturgy, on the other hand, consists of three Scripture readings on Sundays and a number of Rites that is plentous of allusion to Scripture. Not only that, but the Divine Office--prayed five times a day by clerics--is full of Psalms, Canticles and Readings. To say that "Catholics don't read the Bible"--as one member of my former Baptist church told me even as I carried my copy of the Divine Office with me!--is patently false. Heck, I even run a Bible study camp for Deaf Catholic adults every year in New York!

9. There have been some real idiots for popes and bishops, and I really do mean idiots. That having been said, enter A. J. Tonybee: "...no merely human institution with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight." What would Rabbi Gamaliel say to this? (Cf. Acts 5:34-39).

10. I have met Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. Since I have become a Catholic, Jesus has consistently beckoned me to follow Him more closely than the day before. He has made His voice clearer with every reading of the Scripture, with every prayer I offer, and every act of charity I show. To not be a Catholic, then, is to abandon Jesus Christ for an idol of my own fashioning.

Okay, okay I lied. I really have eleven reasons off the top of my head, and here is #11:

Almost every exposure to the Protestant "gospel" has been about what God can do for me: get me a pre-booked place in heaven, get me prosperity and wealth, get me the gift of tongues, or whatever. As a Catholic, I know that God offers salvation freely in Jesus Christ, but the Catholic Church has been more interested in what we can give to God--our own lives. In other words, if I had to describe the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism, I'd say that whereas Protestantism asks what God can do for me, Catholicism asks what we can do for God. It's the difference between being selfish and being self-giving.

Stay tuned for more.