Jesus Christ IS The Divine Mercy
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Devotion to Christ is caring more about knowing the Truth than discovering one may have been incorrect in what they initially believed.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fellowship vs. Faith

Fellowship among congregants of any Christian faith is certainly beneficial and is extremely influential in many Protestant born faiths but to what degree of importance should fellowship play on a personal level in one’s relationship with Jesus Christ? Loyalty and devotion belong to Our Lord and fellowship must grow from it; Loyalty to the congregation equal to or stronger than the devotion to God is misplaced. When fellowship becomes the influential factor equal to or greater than one's relationship and devotion to Our Lord or it is the foundation or key enticement to one’s faith, it becomes a detriment to true devotion to God and instills a resistance against seeking the fullness of knowledge and truth over what one may have believed in the past. It is at this level one either intentionally or unintentionally abandons the very devotion he or she claims to live by, most commonly for the sake of pride.

The unrealized negative influence of fellowship as it pertains to conversion from many Protestant systems of beliefs to Catholicism is the difficulty one finds in separating from the communal aspect of their congregation as oppose to the devotion toward seeking truth and fullness in Christ. Such instills an opposition to the personal desire to return to that path of true growth and fulfillment in the most intimate of relationships possible with Jesus Christ. The reliance upon such a fellowship tends to serve more as a means to pacify the longing for answers to unresolved questions and inner conflicts our soul knows must exist but our system of beliefs does not provide.

Each heart knows when there is something lacking even if not knowing what it is consciously. How many of our Christian brothers and sisters from various Protestant faiths have questions but find no answers and just accept it that way because they don't know where the answers may be found or fear where the truth will lead them? Yet seeking and acknowledging the truth is crucial to our level of intimacy with Jesus Christ.

We are of a physical nature and more easily relate to what and who we sense around us and it is most difficult to completely relate to God until we have developed the strength, trust and confidence in our personal faith to center our devotion and desire to learn upon Him rather than the support of “personal” relationships built upon the congregants around us. If the foundation of our faith is formed on those around us we hinder the growth in that most intimate of relationships with Christ and center it on the congregation first; the warmth of others instead of the warmth of Jesus. However, the discovered beauty of separation from this level of fellowship is answered questions and the fulfillment of that intimacy with Jesus Christ. Rationally speaking, when we know intimacy and devotion with one person, everyone else comes after that person. This is where fellowship should grow from and where its place should be; never the fellowship foremost, then Jesus.

It is only right that we recognize the sincere difficulties others have faced in their own personal separation anxieties from the fellowship state of mind during conversion. It is after all, this "personification" of faith that is the alluring force of attraction exercised by many Protestant denominations. Physical signs of affection; live forms of entertainment, refreshments provided in what should be respected as a house of God, the new media fad of mega churches and alike are often the means of allurement and expressing fellowship yet such should never be the influential means to base one’s faith. On the other hand, those who have entered a truly intimate relationship in its fullness with Jesus Christ express true devotion as they relate to their Christian brothers and sisters because of that union with Jesus Himself; not vies versa. Although misguided devotion is unintentional on the personal level, it has been the intentional means of attraction on the denominational level.

In many locations the Catholic Church is lacking in the appropriate support new entrants to Catholicism should have available to them to adjust in this realignment of priorities. But because of the Church's growing recognition of this and the return and conversion of so many, we are growing in our ability to provide such support; further growth is ahead of us. In reality this support should be from the faithful parishioners with the guidance of the Church, not "the Church" itself. It must always be recognized that it is our devotion in our relationship with Christ, not fellowship, that is to come first and foremost and again, that Godly relationship must be the source of a properly placed fellowship. Today it is more commonly the Protestant converts to Catholicism who know through their past experiences how to maintain a proper perspective and instill fellowship from a relationship with Jesus Christ rather than fellowship being the primary devotion. With the growing number of those returning “home”, scripture most certainly will be fulfilled through the reunification of that one earthly Body of Christ and source of the Holy Bible all Christians refer to, His Church.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Conversion of Faith

Struggles in Returning “Home”
written by a follower of SDM
The intent of this article will be to hopefully help those who may be struggling with their return to the Catholic Church due to either conflict within family members or friends who are not supportive of a denominational change or personal conflicts in making a decision to leave belief systems that one has been a part of for many years. I was a part of both of these conflicts and I hope to offer some hope to those desiring to return to a Church, 2,000 years old; rich in both history and beliefs that I had discovered to be full of wonderful grace and solace to a very weary traveler.

As I traveled across West Texas recently on a trip to the New Mexico Mountains, I noted with certain sadness how dry, hot and parched the land was. As far as the eye could see, the land, which normally is rich with a mix of dark and light greens of the mesquite and cedar trees and farmland the color of red soil growing cotton and various other crops needed for a thriving economy, was sadly dying from lack of rain. Farm equipment lay to the side of the road and in some cases had “for sale” signs on them. Tractors were abandoned in the fields. Many ranches have had to sell their cattle and the small deer that roam the plains have left their fawns due to lack of water. I saw some of those on the side of road, fed on by those roaming scavengers looking for a meal.

Observing all this while driving down the long stretch of highway, I was reminded of how I felt a year ago when I began searching for fulfillment in a faith that had become for me, unsatisfying. I was parched, dry and thirsty. I was unable to grow spiritually much like the crops of Texas. I began searching for the flowing waters that would soothe me and bring me to that green, grassy pasture of my soul where I could lay down by those streams and cool my parched lips bringing me closer to the One I needed so desperately. As the psalmist sings in Psalm 23:2 “In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength.”

When I began contemplation of returning to the Church of my childhood, I knew it would conflict with those closest to me. Having been married 41 years and part of the Methodist Church during that time, I realized this would take me on a journey requiring much prayer, knowledge of the Catholic faith and most importantly spiritual guidance. For one contemplating this return, these three essential elements are needed in order to complete the journey, remaining somewhat intact and able to weather those developing storm clouds on the horizon that may occur.

The most important beginning of any journey is prayer. One must develop a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit in order to be able to recognize the call to return to the Church. It is a “spark” that may lie dormant for many years but once rekindled will burn out of control requiring immediate attention and the realization that God is at work in you. I actually “wrestled” with the call and found myself in a state of some deep depression for a while because I resisted the “call”. I fought it with every fiber of my being even though I knew this was what I had been searching for over a period of many years...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Conscience – Good or bad?

Our conscience alone is not justification for our choices but rather the voice of reason calling out in recognition of something within us that conflicts with what we know to be righteous in our heart. When there is no question as to right or wrong and no desire to choose what we know to be wrong it remains silent and without conflict. Its voice is louder or softer as it has been nourished or deprived offering guidance prior to our final decision. It is an urging to abide by what we know is right according to human dignity providing us recognition of conflict that we may further seek to determine what moral or faithful choices we should make; but we are not forced to follow it. Our conscience is not the final determination. If our conscience is not properly nourished and well formed, it is weak and easier to convince our self to push it aside.

A simple fictional example; “Susan” has a good friend “Betty” who is married and has two children. Both women consider themselves to be Christian in faith. “Betty” has chosen to have an extramarital affair against her better judgment and in doing so she desperately attempts to ignore her conscience. Susan does not wish to upset or interfere with her friend’s choice so Susan avoids offering any guidance in opposition to Betty’s plan even though knowing Betty to be making a serious mistake in judgment that could critically alter the lives of many of those around her. Susan, although knowing in conscience she should make an effort to offer her friend guidance, eases her own conscience by convincing herself her silence is justified because “it is not her business” or “Betty is not happy with her current husband”, or some other self-determined “reason” (excuse). Perhaps Susan even finds Betty’s affair somewhat suspenseful. Yet, if Susan were to learn of Betty abusing drugs or about to drive while intoxicated with the children in the car she may be more inclined to intercede even though each instance is Betty’s “business” in relation to Susan. In each case, each choice would have a substantially harmful affect on Betty’s life and the lives of those around her. In each case, each instance is self destructive, one potentially no less detrimental than the other, and each are highly personal in nature. Our conscience knows this to be wrong but rather than follow it one may seek to convince one’s self otherwise in order to push it aside. We must rely on our conscience if well formed in matters of moral judgment. It is every person’s right and obligation to discern choices based on their urging of conscience but we must not forget that our choices may be righteous in dignity and trust in God our Creator or wrong unintentionally or deliberately, but in all cases leading to an outcome both here and in our eternal life.

The voice of conscience comes from that inherent moral code which we have naturally received in our hearts in the likeness of God. The development of a well formed conscience must continually be nourished by the teachings of our faith strengthening our morality in order that we may be righteous in our choices. We have the free will to choose but our choices are not free from consequences.

We have as individuals and as a society proven without doubt that the further we get away from practicing our faith and a relationship with God, the more decrepit our self respect and our respect for others becomes until society as a whole has turned perverse lacking true dignity at its foundation. This is reflected in the parallels between our society today and that of the society of Caligula during its brief existence. There is no denying every person has a conscience no matter how efficient or poorly formed, tainted or dormant it may become during life. Where there is no conscience there can be no soul and where there is no soul there is no life, hence each living person has a soul and a conscience...