Category Archives: Sacraments of the Catholic Church

Personal Piety vs the Missal

I feel as though sometimes people pit the Missal (and the General Instruction on the Roman Missal) against their own personal piety as well as their own tastes.  Truth be told, there is a great deal of flexibility in the Mass.  All one has to do is read the Missal and the GIRM to see this.  That is not to say that Mass is a free-for-all.  Far from it.  There is a proper form and proper matter to the Mass.  Within these constructs there is freedom and choice.  For example, there are several different Eucharistic Prayers that may be employed in a Mass.  The Prayer of the Faithful is guided but not dictated.  The music is not specified.  There’s some room, folks.

So maybe you can feel me when I say that equating your choices and your likes with “the voice of God” is a dumb thing to do.  I’ve never been to a Mass in which every single thing tickled my fancy.  I don’t always like the music, or the lector’s pace, or the homily, or the choice of crucifix, or the type of kneeler.  But you know what?  I don’t come to Mass for any of those things.  No, they are tools in the hands of the Lord to move me toward the source and summit which is the Eucharist.  Christ is going to show up.  He has promised us that.  Even if someone intended to attempt invalidation, God still supplies the grace.  It’s on their head, not yours or mine.  I am here to receive Jesus.  Keep your steel guitar.

Let’s talk about gestures, shall we?  Do you bow your head at the name of Jesus or cross yourself at varied times during the Mass?  There are some times that the faithful are instructed to do so (beginning and ending of Mass signs of the cross, bowing during the three lines in the Creed regarding the Incarnation) but there is no rule prohibiting you from crossing yourself at other times.  In fact, I’m often baffled that folks at Mass seem to be more vigilent about crossing themselves before the Gospel (a sign prescribed for the Deacon/Priest/Bishop at that time) and holding hands during the our Father (not prescribed at all) than bowing for the Incarnation in the Creed, “…and by the power of the Holy Spirit, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” which is prescribed.  I say, be as pious as you wanna be, just so long as you keep the main thing the main thing.

If an extra crossing here and there and holding your neighbor’s hand helps you draw nearer to our Eucharistic Lord, then go for it.  We all need to do all we can to prepare our hearts to receive Him.  Don’t get bent out of shape, however, if your neighbor has his hands together in prayer during the Our Father, or that he chooses to kneel and pray after Mass.  Let’s keep the main thing the main thing, alright?

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On a side note, how did you do with your Easter Mass assignments?  I hope you were able to be the welcoming and kind face that visitors to your parish need to see.  May they be moved to return to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass next week and renew their faithful walk with Christ.

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Tactical Catholic Podcast Episode 018

Coming up tomorrow on the Tactical Catholic Podcast…

Lent. It’s Ash Wednesday, and Lent has begun. We can discuss Mardi Gras, Fish Fry, Lenten penances, fasting, chocolate, and a whole lot more.

Don’t give this podcast up for Lent. Add it and promise to join us weekly.

Ash Wednesday is coming soon

Ash Wednesday is coming up (18th). My suggestion is to come up with a lenten penance now before Lent begins.

What can I do?

Pick a lenten sacrifice that makes you mindful of your faith and draws you nearer to Christ. We should all cut dowon on snacking and sweets anyway, so I typically don’t recommend those.

  • How about giving up an hour a day to devote to service or prayer?
  • Read 30 Days to Morning Glory and make a total consecration to Christ through Our Lady.
  • Read Consoling the Heart of Jesus and renew your consecration to Christ.
  • Begin praying the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Give up TV, internet browsing, Netflix….
  • Exchange a hobby for a spiritual good (ex. give up golf for Lent and donate what you would have spent on greens fees to a worthy charity)

This will help you get started and hit the ground running next Wednesday.

Tactical Catholic Podcast Episode 009: It’s great to be in the R-C-I-A

In Episode 009, we will lift the veil of mystery surrounding the RCIA. 

  • What is RCIA? 
  • What is it not? 
  • How should a parish run their RCIA? 
  • How does someone join the Catholic Church?
  • Who came up with the RCIA acronym?

Tonight, join us as we talk about the RCIA, the absurdity of relativism, how we can help our friends into the Catholic Church, and how real evangelization works.  It all starts LIVE at 9pm central time at Fiat Ministry Network.

Miss the show? Download the audio for free on iTunes and leave a review!

RCIA: How a Year-Round Model Works

More and more parishes are seeing the benefits of engaging a year round RCIA, but some pastors are hesitant. They pause because they likely have never seen it in action. What does a year round RCIA look like? Read the rest of this entry

Tactical Catholic Podcast Episode 002 Ready for Download

Tactical Catholic Podcast Episode 002 is now on YouTube and ready for download on iTunes.

The Key to Effective Evangelism

I have been an evangelist since 1990. In the last 24 years sharing the Gospel as a Protestant and, since 2002, as a Catholic, I have learned a lot about how to effectively share Christ with others. Today I give you the number one most effective witnessing tool you can have in your Gospel arsenal.

It’s honesty.

Yes, honesty. Honesty trumps knowledge (you can always find information), quick wit (usually gets one into trouble as it leans to sarcasm), physical appearance (in fact, it enhances it), and even doctrinal purity (which can always be corrected).

Why honesty?

Ever bought a used car? The salesman was dressed neatly, he was super knowledgeable with regards to the vehicles, he probably was clean cut, and he likely had answers to all your questions with little or no hesitation.

You bought the car.

Did you notice anything later about the car you wished you had known? A feature missing, a blemish, a mechanical imperfection, a smell?

Full disclosure would have been nice, eh?

When you witness, before you share a word about Jesus you are sharing yourself. What you present must be honest. You must be honest, genuine, real. Speech, knowledge, and appearance can mask dishonesty, but cannot overcome its absence. In the end, you are a liar and the Gospel equivalent of a used car salesman or politician.  The world has a really good BS detector and if you’re not the real deal you will be found out.  Believe me, I know.

In 2002 I had a great ministry career and a growing family.  My ministry was my top priority, often at the expense of being a good dad and a good husband.  My priorities were way off, to say the very least.  You can fool some people but you can’t fool the people who know you the best, and you definitely cannot fool God.  The most important battlefront for sharing Christ was the battlefront of my own home and I was losing.  To this day, I am working to make reparations for the damage I did through my attitude, distance, and selfishness.  Few knew of this because public ministry is, well, public.  But my wife knew and my small (at the time) children knew that daddy was supposed to do more than he was doing.  God had to hit me with the “spiritual 2×4” to knock sense into my brain and make me see I was not fulfilling my vocation and that He was prepared to take steps to move me in the proper direction.  Full disclosure is what was necessary, and that meant resigning.

If you expect people to flock to Jesus and place their faith in Him, they need first to see that Jesus has made a difference in your life, is making a difference in your life, and will continue to make a difference in your life. Try to present one thing and live another and you will build a case for the other team.  How much more refreshing would it be to stand as a fell0w beggar who has found a place to eat to say to the other beggars, “Please come with me to the place where I found nourishment.”  Bring them to Jesus because his mercy and generosity in your life has changed you.

Pride and fear make it hard to be real.  In fact, the scriptures tell us that “The fear of man brings a snare” (Proverbs 29:25), but we have to kick pride and fear in the gonads. We must present reality for it is in the lived witness of the Christian that people place their trust. I will give you another example.

Years ago, some friends and I wanted to understand Mormonism and foster a dialogue with Mormons. So we ordered a Book of Mormon and accepted the invitation for a visit. Before our first session, my friend counseled us against argument and focusing on obscure teachings. Our goal was dialogue and earning the right to be heard. Therefore, we were going to listen and not introduce conversation without first being invited. We also agreed to total honesty regardless of our comfort.

The Elders arrived and were warmly welcomed by us. We sat in our den and let them do their thing. When asked why the invite, we told them the truth. We answered their questions, but mostly we listened. At several times in the discussion, topics of morality and family life came up. In particular, the divorce rate among Baptists (I was Baptist at the time) was mentioned as we discussed marriage in the Mormon faith.  We did not argue and agreed how saddening it was to know the rate was truly that high.  We were honest even regarding our own personal moral struggles. By the end of the first session we were beginning to have dialogue. 9 sessions later, we had gained new friends, an understanding of Mormonism, and the knowledge that those guys had seen our faith in a real way. All defenses were down. We could speak freely about matters of faith and morals. We had respect for one another as children of God, while still acknowledging (and discussing) the many theological issues that divided us.

So?

So be honest. Guys, we have a huge opportunity to engage our fellow man in dialogue. Big topics for guys: Faith in Christ, true masculinity, lust, pornography, drunkeness, marriage, parenting, selfishness, finances, anger, true love, and those are just a few. Do you struggle with any of those? I do. Struggling is not something to hide. We can be honest.

Dude, if you are an addict, you know there is no magic zap that takes the desire away. It is grace, hard work, accountability, and time that brings recovery. We can share our struggles. Somebody you know needs to hear how God is helping you improve your life. They need to see it is possible for them. SHOW them Jesus in your life through the grit. Victories and pitfalls are part of the same story. Man up and be real.

Jesus is the Standard, not some dude you know

Catholics understand that we are all called to holiness. That is why it is called the Universal Call. This call to “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” applies to you whether you are Catholic, Protestant, agnostic, atheist, white, black, slave, free, man, woman, boy, or girl.

And since we know these words (Mt 5:48) come from Jesus, who is the Christ, we know they are trustworthy. So now what?

Oh crap.

Now you could do what many do and convince yourself that God only winks at justice and that He overlooks your iniquities. Problem is that our God is a consuming fire. He is purity. Sin, even ignored sin, has no place in his presence. God is truth and justice. He cannot pretend.

Well then we can believe that God has set a standard that is impossible. That wpuld reduce Christ to an arrogant prick who is not trustworthy. Jesus does not command his followers to do what is impossible.

Jesus knows that in Him we are made righteous. Romans 6 reminds us that we have been born anew and are dead to the life of sin. If God has said you are clean, you are clean. This ontological change is wrought by Christ Himself, infusing you with His very life. What remains is for you to abide in Him.

Men, God has given us every possible grace so that we can live in Him and free from sin. It is hard work to strive against sin and temptation. The easy way is to give in. After all, isn’t everybody else giving in? The true fight is to stick it out like a man. “Submit, therefore to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee.” Why, because you are a badass? No, because the life of Christ in you is connecting you to the fullness of the Holy Trinity. God wins. Stick with Him and don’t strike out on your own.

Why this rant? Because I know how fickle we can be. I know how often we look at men getting away with things. We say, at least I am better than that guy. It doesn’t matter. God’s perfection is the standard. Best you and I get in gear and follow Him instead.

Why I Miss Preaching: A Catholic Convert’s Confession

I spent 10 years in the pulpit as a Southern Baptist minister, and I loved every minute of it. Whether it was youth, young adults, small or large congregation, I loved standing before them as a preacher and catechist.

Why?

Because each time I did, I stood there not to increase my fame or wealth or power, but to guide others. I was a poor beggar myself, coming back with joy to share with others the food I had been given. It was a great honor to stand in that classroom or auditorium and beg others to taste and see how great is the power of God for our lives.

I miss having that audience. I miss the travel. I miss meeting new faces. But that was then. Sometimes when I am feeling sorry for myself I long for those days. It was so much fun, none but other ministry converts could probably appreciate the feeling.

But things are different now, right?

Yes and no.

I still have the opportunity to teach and speak as a catechist and public speaker. However, those opportunities are less frequent than when I did it full-time. Still, I get a real thrill getting to speak to others and share the beauty of our faith. Most especially, I love getting men worked up about being men, chosen by God and given a purpose. I love challenging them to get off their butts and invest themselves in the sacramental life.

I am still a beggar, coming with joy to tell others about the food I have found. This time, I have found the living bread, which gives us life and unites us with one another and our Maker. Christ is the Eucharist, His body, blood, soul, and divinity. Apart from the life giving Eucharist we are missing so much. The sacraments, most especially Eucharist and Reconcilliation have changed my life. I will never be the same.

So, yes. I miss being a preacher, but I do not regret my choice to become Catholic. In this Church, founded by Christ and built upon the Apostles and their successors, I have new life. In the sacraments I have all I need to sustain and strengthen me in my relationship to Christ and my fellow man. I cannot imagine my life apart from Christ and His Church, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

Know Your Faith: Study

It’s amazing how little we sometimes know our faith. It’s even more amazing to consider how selective we tend to be in the practice and teaching of our beliefs. I believe the cause is poor catechesis. However, we have been given a great tool to aid us, the Catechism.

Read the rest of this entry