Friday, December 30, 2005

Response Regarding My Post on Free Will

My friend Bret, who is a Baptist minister in California commented on my blog regarding free will. I have been wanting to respond to it, but haven't had the time until now. His remarks are italicized.

The concept of free will is a very interesting bird. What Scriptures would you point to that specifically teach free will.

Sirach 15:14 “When God, in the beginning, created man, he made him subject to his own free choice.”

Sirach 15:20 “No man does he command to sin, to none does he give strength for lies.”

Ezekiel 18 This entire chapter speaks of man choosing either good or evil and the ramifications of that choice.

Galations 5:1 “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Acts 7:51-53 "You stiff-necked people, uncircumised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You recieved the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it."

How does the idea of free will keep God from being the puppet of human free agency?
How can God be sovereign while still captive to the whims of humanity.

God can and does choose to act within the hearts and lives of man. He is by no means a puppet of humans. We owe our very existence to him and therefore He “remains the sovereign Master of life” (CCC 2280). Many humans choose to honor and serve Him - which pleases Him. Many do not, which is not pleasing to Him. When we look towards Him, He may very well choose to speak to our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit or may even perform miracles, answer prayers etc. But ultimately we choose to follow Him or not. Certainly it is His desire that all should follow him. The CCC covers this better than I can in two excerpts:

302 By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, “reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well.” For “all are open and laid bare to his eyes,” even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures.

306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan.

If free will does not exist, then we are simply the puppets of God. If that is the case, the God is the author of sin. It would be God that causes people to do both good and evil. The concept of pre-destination would state that "if God is "absolutely" sovereign over all things, such that He decreed that Adam would fall, that he decrees who will repent and who will not.... that this view clearly makes God equally as responsable for the evil in the world and the damnation of the wicked, as it does for all the good things." (

This is a very invovled subject - an interesting one to dialogue over.

You are right. The majority of my sources came from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) Article 3 on Man’s Freedom (1730-1748)

It is based on both scripture and the teachings of the Church. But since we already disagree on the concept of Sola Scriptura, the fact that Protestant Bibles leave out the seven Deutero-Canonical books which is part of my source citation, and the authority of Church’s teaching I am certain we cannot come to any kind of agreement in this discussion. But I do appreciate your response because it makes me delve even deeper into my beliefs. I can say I have certainly learned a great deal through your questions and concerns.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


In one of Father Phan's sermons he preached on the seven habits of highly effective Christians. In his list, forgiveness was one of the habits. He stated that in order to be able to love, one must be able to forgive. And that means even forgiving those that do not show remorse for their actions.

Sometimes all of this in theory is easier said than done. Sometimes it takes a long time to forgive, but as a Christian we must. I didn't understand the power of forgiveness until I had to really do it.

After my failed marriage, I have to admit I was very bitter and angry towards my ex. We stayed on fairly friendly terms and the divorce was amicable, but I did harbor a grudge. I was angry at myself for many reasons, but I also wanted to place a huge pile of blame on my ex. But once I started going to Church (a year after the divorce), I realized that the anger and resentment was a burden to keep. As I went through the annulment process and had to write out many details about my marriage, I finally decided that the bitterness and anger served no purpose except it continued to hurt me. My ex had moved on and although at one point I wanted him to truly regret hurting me; I realized that it wasn't up to me to make anyone feel any other way. And I realized that wanting him to hurt was wrong, despite any amount of hurt I felt. I understood that the only person's feelings that I could be responsible for was my own. So I decided to let go of the hurt and anger and realized that what happened in our past didn't matter. I focused on the good things that came out of my marriage. It's not that I don't remember the bad stuff... but I know it doesn't serve any purpose to dwell on it. I use my knowledge to hopefully avoid future mistakes and that's it. And amazingly he and I have become good friends again. We talk from time to time as friends and it's a nice feeling.
I've discovered that if you can truly forgive, it is so freeing. It allowed me to move on. I think if I had been able to do it sooner, then my relationship with Marty might have been different. Because I think Father Phan is right.. we can't really love until we learn to forgive.

Once I learned how rewarding forgiveness is, I placed all of my burdens of dealing with others that have caused me pain into the hands of God. And there were more. Some even more painful than my marriage; but the thing is that once I was able to do this... I was also able to let go and move forward. Not forgiving keeps us anchored to our past and the only way that we can get beyond our pain is to make the decision to forgive and if you are Christian, to give it to God. It doesn't mean that we'll ever forget the pain or that we even have to become friends with those we forgive. It just frees us of the burden that we hang on to when we don't forgive.

I am still ever so thankful for this journey I am taking into the Catholic faith. It has done more for me in the past nine months than I could have ever imagined. It has allowed me to deal with the blows of life so much better. Just because I'm going to Church doesn't mean I still don't struggle... far from it... but I am simply able to deal with things better. I have realized that I don't worry so much. I have become a much happier and content person. And the peace is simply amazing. And I thank God for all of it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Blessed Christmas

This was a very nice Christmas this year. A bit rushed, but still good. Christmas Eve Mass was simply amazing. The music was awesome and I didn't even squeak on my clarinet. I also did fairly well singing, other than an early entrance on Do You Hear What I Hear? It was two hours long when you counted the music that started at 6:30, but it didn't seem that long by any means. I still love going to Mass and was happy to have Josh be there. He asked several questions afterwards and made a similar comment that I did after my early visits to mass saying that the service itself seemed more "religious" than other churches. I think overall he enjoyed it. I don't know if he'll return, but the choir director is going to be his piano teacher starting in January so who knows where that will go.
I received two very special gifts this Christmas. My RCIA sponsor and good friend, Carol, gave me a beautiful white beaded rosary that has images of famous basilicas in the "Our Father" beads. It has been blest by both the Pope and our local Bishop. I am very pleased to have it and hope to use it soon. My sister, who I could write an entire blog about her "religion", gave me a beautiful Catholic family Bible. Although I have a strong opinion about her church, it is nice that she supports my decision to become Catholic by giving me such a beautiful Bible.
Now I'm home for a few days and perhaps I'll be able to get more posts soon. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

I'm sure that most of you reading this blog do not need a reminder of remembering Christ as we celebrate His birth tomorrow. I can't believe it is actually tomorrow. Where has the time gone? My schedule seems to be off this week without having RCIA. We did have a choir/music rehearsal on Thursday night and I think our Christmas eve Mass is really going to be special. It will be my first Catholic Christmas and I am looking forward to it so much. I am also especially thankful that my son will be sharing in it as well. You see, my son is not what you would call religious in any way. And yes, it is my fault really. As he was growing up, I was going through my non-religious state where even I didn't know what I believed. And Josh is at an age where he is in the same boat. He considers himself agnostic at this point because he is not certain whether he believes in God or not. And that is something that may be difficult for him to overcome... but he is at least curious about it at this point. So that is a small step. After his father passed away, he asked me if he could go to church with me some time. I told him of course and would ask him if he was interested in going on various Sundays. I never pushed him. He hadn't taken me up on any offers, but I figured all I can do is pray for him. When I mentioned that I might be playing at the Christmas eve Mass, he seemed interested. And then I didn't even ask him about it, but he asked if he could play. I told him of course! So he and I will be playing tonight with some other musicians. And what a special time for him to experience a Catholic Mass! I don't expect him to know God personally any time soon, but at least I know that the Holy Spirit is doing some work in him. What a great Christmas gift!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Apologies for lack of posts

I know that there are a few regular readers stopping by to visit so I wish to apologize for not having much posted. I have some thoughts for posts, but haven't had time to get anything down as I have had a very full plate lately on top of being sick. Unlike my other blog, posts here tend to take more time and effort to produce so I don't want to throw just anything out here. So bear with me and be patient. Christmas break is here and as soon as I finish shopping, cleaning, music rehearsals and church, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled posting.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

RCIA week 13

I have to admit that I didn't take in a lot of what was discussed this week. I was so very tired. In fact, I went to bed shortly after coming home after class. However, one thing that we did talk about is our obligation to go to Mass every week. I know I posted about this at one point perhaps in my other blog, but I'm going to repeat myself here... so just bear with me.
One of the things that actually might have prevented me from coming into the Church... or so I thought, was the fact that I would have to go every week. It wasn't because of any of the Church's teachings that so many other people have obstacles with... like birth control, praying to Saints, the veneration of Mary etc. I just wasn't sure I could make that kind of commitment. But once I started going, I realized, it's not that difficult. Sure, some mornings I am tired, but I can always go to the later service at 11:15. But I find that I always get something out of Mass. I can't imagine how much better it will be when I can receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, but Easter really isn't all that far away. I can understand the obligation to go every week. I think when people miss a service here and there, it just gets easier to stop going all together. At least that's what happened to me back in the day of going to the Baptist church. Sure, other factors played a part, but by not going, it was easier to just walk away.
Now I am in a state where my life revolves around the Church. I make my decisions based on whether or not I will miss Mass, RCIA class or choir rehearsal.
Sometimes I wonder whether if I will be able to keep this commitment. I know that sometimes I will get involved in things for a period and then move on to something else... but I am really thinking that this time is different. I feel God's graces and His presence and the joy I have for Him. No, I don't make a big show about it, but it is a part of me now. And I am so thankful.
In order to grow in this faith and in any faith... one has to make the commitment to go and hear the word of God and participate with the faithful others.
I find that since I've been regularly going to Mass, my life has truly changed. I don't worry nearly as much as I used to. I feel a bigger sense of peace and happiness. Have I mentioned before how much I love being part of the Catholic Church?

Monday, December 12, 2005

The truth of God cannot be silenced

I found that statement by our priest in Sunday's homily to be so very true. For me personally, I realize that although I tried to push religious thoughts out of my head for a while, I never stopped thinking about God. I would still pray and ask the "whys" of my life. And I am thankful that He finally spoke up again and allowed my heart to be open to His love.
As we celebrate this season we need to remember that our joy should exist in our hearts. The outside things are nice, but decorations and gifts and such are meaningless without truth of God in our hearts. So many people only briefly remember the reason for the season. I admit that I was one of them. Only briefly thinking that yes, it is celebrating Christ's birth but it didn't have a deeper meaning.
I love the example that Father Phan gave. He compared it to the story of the Grinch. Although the Grinch felt that Christmas and it's celebration could be stifled if he took all the outside things away, he didn't realize the power of the joy in the Who's hearts. Once he discovered that it came from within, his heart was opened as well.
I kind of feel like the Grinch in a way. I feel like my heart had shrunk a bit. After all the dealings with my marriage failing, job frustrations, my mother's passing, and everything else you could pile on my plate, I wasn't very open to God or anything. But it took a special man and his family to show me that I am deserving of love. I think because of that... I was able to accept God's love. And now my heart is growing in it.
So remember... the truth of God cannot be silenced. One may put hands over their ears and shout "na, na, na, na, na"... but eventually God will get through because it is His will.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

RCIA week 12

This week's RCIA focused on some basic things like the liturgical calendar and traditions within the Church. But most importantly, we practiced for our Rite of Welcoming that will be this Sunday. In the service they will announce our first and middle name. We will stand and say "present". Then the priest will say some things and ask us two other questions and I know that the answers are "faith" and "eternal life". And then at some point they ask if we are ready to take the steps into the Church and we answer "I am". Then our sponsors and the congregation affirm that they will help us on the journey. After that, we'll receive a blessing from the priest and our sponsors who will cross various parts of our body (ears, eyes, mouth, shoulders, heart, and feet... I think) And then we're presented to the congregation as Catechumens... or those being instructed in the Catholic faith.
As we practiced the steps, I was excited about taking this next step. I can't explain it, but I am truly excited about becoming part of this Church. And it some ways it still doesn't make any sense but I'm certainly not questioning God. And don't get me wrong... it's not that the faith doesn't make sense... it actually makes the most sense of any faith to me. It's the fact that I even got to this point.
For example: Tonight I was looking for some of my Christmas CD's. As I was going through a stack of CD's I found another stack of Christian CD's that I had put aside a while back, because I was simply not interested in anything religious. I pretty much wanted it to be as far as possible from me. I had turned my back on it for the most part. But luckily I hadn't closed the door... or at least all the way, because God has certainly opened it and I am so elated with Catholicism. It just seems to fit. It feels right. It is exciting to me.
As I was sitting at Josh's concert tonight, a group of people sat down behind me and were having a conversation before the concert started. They were talking about going to mass today because it is a Holy Day of obligation and another guy mentioned that his father and brother-in-law had recently come into the Church. Then a lady said something like how wonderful that was and she was happy about it and how good it was for them. And I just smiled as I listened to them. I didn't recognize them and I think they went to church in either Amarillo or Umbarger, but I just couldn't help but smile. I wanted to turn around and tell them that I was in the process of coming into the Church myself, but I was a bit too shy for that. But as I get involved with Church, attend classes and mass, the more meaningful it becomes for me. And I simply can't wait! And I know time will fly by and soon it will be Easter. But I am relishing it in the meantime.
My sponsor commented on my enthusiasm during our practice. I just can't help but be excited about it. And how I wish I had more time to delve into more books and prayer and research and writing and all of that. I also want to respond to Bret's comments about my entry on free will. But it will probably have to wait until Christmas break. With class, choir practice, teaching, concerts, speech tournaments, Christmas parties, shopping, cleaning, and getting some sleep somewhere in there... I'll just have to wait for some of those things.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Spirit of Christmas

I had so many things to do tonight. I stayed late at school, got home, had to do laundry, make supper, work on lesson plans and try to find time to put up my Christmas tree. I was thinking of just not doing a tree this year, but Josh was insistent. And then I thought of putting it off until Sunday when I might have more time, but he seemed to really want it up tonight. So I relented. And I'm glad. There's nothing like getting a tree up and hanging the stockings to really put one in the Christmas spirit. I've been so caught up in all the other things in life that I've not been thinking about the real meaning of the season of Advent and Christmas. Actually, I admit that I haven't been thinking much of it for many years now. It's not that I didn't care that it was the celebration of the birth of Christ, but it's one of those things where you've distanced yourself from something for such a long time that you can't or won't really focus on it. For me it meant time off from work, making or buying gifts for people, and spending time with family. Church wasn't much in my thoughts although last year Josh and I played a clarinet duet for the Baptism of the child of my cousin. But this year already seems different. Sure, I've got to slow down enough to really focus on it, but I think it is going to be more special because I am going to celebrate it in the Catholic Church.
So despite the fact that I didn't get my lesson plans done, I'm happy that my tree is up and that I'm thinking of what this time of year should really be about. In RCIA class last week, we received a pamphlet about celebrating Christmas as a Catholic. There were a few ideas in it that I thought I'd share with you.
1. Go to Mass - It is a time to celebrate God's gift of Jesus, our savior. Although I cannot participate in the Eucharist as it mentions, I still think attending Christmas Mass will be a very special occasion. This year I may even get to play my clarinet again. We have a new choir director that mentioned an interest in instrumentalists. So I told her that I played the clarinet and perhaps I'll get to praise God through music.
2. Set up a Nativity Scene - This is something that I want to do at some point, but I don't have a one yet. I've looked here and there, but haven't found one. Some aren't just what I'm looking for and others are simply too expensive. Perhaps I'll start out simple and try to add to it each year perhaps.
3. Raise the Christmas tree - Well, we accomplished that tonight. And I do love my tree. It isn't fancy, but I've been collecting ornaments for about 15 years now. My tree has a music theme and just about all the ornaments on it are music related. Music is one of my passions and I love putting all the ornaments on the tree each year. A few years ago, I bought a mechanical Looney Tunes band that sits in the tree and actually plays music.
4. Let Lights Shine - I guess I haven't thought about candles much in my decorations, but it does make sense. I don't have an advent wreath, but perhaps that is another thing I can look to add to my Christmas decorations.
5. Exchange gifts - Most years, I try to really give from the heart. I try to make as many gifts as I can personal. Whether I make them myself or simply find something that will truly bring joy to the person I give it to. And for some reason, although I am usually on a limited budget, somehow during Christmas, I find myself with money. Last year, it was a surprise child support check. The year before, it was a generous Christmas bonus from my boss. One year, it was a refund for an insurance claim on my car. And if it doesn't happen this year, I'll manage.
6. Share a feast - If there's one thing you should know about me, I love food. Although I may be a picky eater, I still love to eat. But I also love to cook. Sharing a feast with the family has been a tradition that will always continue with us. This time of year makes me a little sad as I remember my mom's cinnamon rolls she would make Christmas morning and the amazing meal for Christmas dinner. She was a great chef. But it is also good to know that she is perhaps celebrating with all the Saints in Heaven.
So as you deal with the hustle and bustle of Christmas, enjoy the season and continue those traditions that make it special. This is a time of celebration so share it with those you love and those who are less fortunate. Remember the blessings you have; and finally, take a moment to remember the greatest gift that God gave us, Christ our Lord.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Free Will

In Sunday's adult formation class we covered the first part of Christ's Passion. As we discussed things the subject of free will came up. This was in talking about Judas' choice to betray Christ. Certainly Satan entered into Judas as it is indicated in scripture and had influence on him, but ultimately it was a matter of his free will. In the same way God may inspire or influence us, but He does not make us do anything. Our choice to turn to Him or away from Him is ultimately our will. I think the in same way, Satan attempts to influence us, but if we choose sin, it is still a matter of free will on our part. We have the choice to avoid those things that are sinful, but many times our desires get in the way. Believe me. I know. I think the example of Judas is a way to look at the criticism of those Catholic priests that made bad choices. Many people blame the Church as a whole, but the Church cannot be responsible for the decisions of those men. In all likelihood, similar to Judas, Satan played a role in their demise. And ultimately, they made very bad choices of their own free will. Just as any sinner does - even those in other faiths and those with no faith.
The concept of free will is difficult to understand when Christians believe that God is all-knowing. If He knows everything that is going to happen and the choices we're going to make, how can it really be free will? The fact is that, one may know how a person will choose something, yet still leave it as their choice. For example. I can give an extra-credit assignment in my classes and I can know that a particular student will not do it because of their past choices. But I don't tell that student to not do it, but I let he or she make that choice. In the same way, God may know how we'll end up when we die, but He still ultimately lets us make the choices as we journey through our lives. Sometimes He influences or provides for us to perhaps get us toward the right path, but He never makes our decisions for us. Allowing us free will means that we can be held accountable for our actions when it comes to His judgment. After all, He made us this way as rational humans that has freedom to choose. The more we choose good, the freer we become and the more we can progress in virtue and goodness. Even though it can be difficult to understand all of this in additional to God's omniscience, I think it's simply one of the mysteries of God's being that we will never be able to fully understand.. at least while we are here on Earth.
But the good thing is that despite our bad choices we may make, God is still there and forgives us when we ask for it. But that is the key... acknowledging our failures and asking for His forgiveness. Not always an easy thing, but what a relief when we do!