Thursday, April 23, 2009
Checketts, 21, is a Junior at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Arabic and Theology. Although he grew up in a Mormon family in the small town of Vernal, in northeastern Utah, he was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, less than two weeks ago, at Notre Dame.
I spoke with Checketts on the phone earlier this evening because I wanted to learn more about his journey from the LDS Church to Roman Catholicism. Checketts says he comes from a deeply devout and committed multi-generational LDS family, one in which the family prays together daily, attends church weekly, and which sent its sons and daughters to both Sunday school and “seminary”, a religious education program for elementary and high school students which takes place during the week, usually before school. He says his two older brothers went on their expected missions. Checketts says he has always been keenly interested in religion, in religious texts, and for that reason chose to study both Theology and Arabic at Notre Dame, even before deciding to become Roman Catholic. He says he always did well in the religious education programs in which he participated while growing up in the LDS Church.
He says he began questioning his Mormon faith largely because no one was willing to pin down a time for what is called the Great Apostacy, the idea that the original, apostolic Church completely abandoned the faith and lost the priesthood, only to have it restored by Joseph Smith. Checketts says he was always taught, growing up, that this apostacy coincided with the death of the Apostles but that now, the LDS Church is teaching that it occurred later, but is not specific on the question. He says that the LDS Church lays great stress on certainty in all matters religious, but that it seemed unable to answer the questions, such as this one, he was beginning to ask. He says he also found it impossible to conceive of a god who would abandon his people, his Church, entirely because some members, even some leaders, were losing fervor.
Finally, Checketts says, he decided to follow the instructions found in the Book of Mormon. He prayed, he says, “The most important prayer of my life.”
Moroni 10:4-5, in the Book of Mormon, reads: “And when ye shall receive these things [the teachings of the LDS Church], I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
Checketts says he had been taught that if he did this, and waited, the truth of Mormonism would be confirmed for him by a physical sensation, sometimes called “the burning in the bosom”. Nothing happened; however, he was not yet ready to become Roman Catholic. This did not come until about a year ago, when he says he attended a Roman Catholic silent retreat over Spring Break. Those directing the retreat suggested that the retreatants use the time to pray for discernment over anything that was bothering them, that they felt they needed “to clear up”. So, Checketts says, he prayed about whether or not he should become Roman Catholic, and by the time the retreat had ended, he had a clear answer.
Last September, as a new academic year began, he entered the RCIA program at Notre Dame, and was baptized a little more than a week ago.
One commenter on King’s blog post asserts that Checketts’ conversion was probably a matter of peer pressure, that one could not “party” at Notre Dame while holding to “Mormon values”. Checketts denies he is a partier, says he found the comment "offensive," and he wonders if the commenter himself may be, on some level, questioning his own Mormon faith. He says that other Mormons, not related to him, have responded with "more charity" and have been "more ecumenical" about his conversion, even if his own family is still coming to terms with his decision.
Checketts says he is, for the second year running, President of a group of Notre Dame students that tutors neighborhood children in South Bend, Indiana, where Notre Dame is located. He says he is also involved with various international cultural programs for students. “I am trying to make the most of my educational opportunities,” he says. He also says no one at Notre Dame ever tried to convert him, that everyone he encountered there had been respectful of his previous Mormon faith.
As far as the future is concerned, Checketts says he plans to get a Ph.D. in Theology and then, to teach. When asked about the possibility of the Roman Catholic priesthood, Checketts chuckles. “I don’t think my girlfriend would like that very much,” he says.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
And will be saying again: fully authentic apostolic Christianity - embodied in the Church of the New Testament, the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church" - is visible, historical, and continuous, right up until this very moment, and beyond, until the glorious Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ:
"Thomas and the other disciples who spread the faith to the East left churches in their wake (or at least, nascent Christian communities that would, just as they did in Rome, turn homes into churches and then build basilicas over them). These churches, rooted in the apostolic proclamation but developing within the cultures in which they took root, [became] the churches of the East, in Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, Asia Minor, Armenia, Syria, Persia, and India.They indeed have remained faithful, as have the Churches related to the ancient Patriarchate of Constantinople, and we can use the consensus - despite all "doctrinal dispute"- in faith and practice which exists between these Churches -and the Roman Catholic Church-to elucidate the ancient faith of the Apostles.
"There were doctrinal disputes among them, and between them and the West, but, as joint statements from those churches and the [Roman] Catholic Church during the pontificate of John Paul II proclaimed, they remained faithful witnesses to Christ. And their faithfulness was costly, especially once the East was overrun by Islam."
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
No offense intended. It just seemed like a great headline.
Thanks to Fr. Joseph and South Carolina's own Fr. Mark:
"Orthodox Prayers During Bright Week"
"May Christ our true God who arose from the dead, and trampled down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowed life, through the intercessions of his most pure Mother and of all the Saints, have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and the lover of mankind."
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Since the ACCA is rooted in the Syriac Tradition of the Indian Church, St. Thomas is special to us. St. Thomas, you see, carried the good news of the risen Christ east, all the way to India, even as Peter, Paul, and other Apostles were going West, all the way to Rome. Hence, the Apostolic Church has been present in India, as in Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, since the First Century of the Christian era; its members in India are known as “Mar Thoma,” that is, “St. Thomas,” Christians.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Those of us who have not seen, why do we believe? First, we believe because we have HEARD. We have believed what we have been told about the risen Christ. And we believe what we have heard because we have experienced the positive change that Christ and His Church has made in the lives of others who came before us, whether parents, other relatives, teachers, pastors, mentors, or friends. And, in believing, or, in some cases, at least suspending disbelief, we have begun to experience for ourselves the transforming, loving power of the Risen Lord Jesus. If we were raised in the faith, perhaps we have never experienced a time when we did not know that the risen Christ was there for us. Or perhaps we have wandered off, like lost sheep, only to be returned to the fold. Wherever we have been, we wait, in hope, for that which we have not seen, but yet, have experienced, as we read in I Peter 1:3-9.
RC Deacon Greg Kandra, in his homily for today, takes as his jumping off point the media sensation caused by a British woman who has indeed got talent: Susan Boyle. He speaks of her as a sign of hope. A similar woman, St. Faustina Kowalska, became a special instrument of the Lord to bring a message of hope to a world desperately seeking it: the message of Divine Mercy. Faustina, born in 1905 of a poor Polish family, sought to pursue the religious life as a nun. She was rejected by many convents. Finally, she was admitted and given menial tasks. She died at age 33, in 1938.
However, she was privileged to both see and converse with both our Lord and his Blessed Mother, and she was given a message, “the gospel we forgot,” as one Polish prelate put it, that of Divine Mercy, a word to which the only appropriate response can be, "My Jesus, I trust in you." After her death, her writings were suppressed by the Vatican, possibly due to bad translation. However, when the future Pope, John Paul II, was Archbishop of Krakow, he was able to convince the Vatican, under Pope Paul VI, to reconsider Sister’s writings, and they were allowed to be promulgated. Finally, John Paul himself both beatified and canonized St. Faustina, and declared that St. Thomas Sunday be observed as Divine Mercy Sunday in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. Deacon Kandra writes:
"I thought of Susan Boyle on Wednesday, when Archbishop Timothy Dolan climbed the pulpit at St. Patrick’s at his installation mass and declared in his first homily: “Everybody is somebody.” Susan Boyle certainly proved that. No matter what others may think, the beautiful truth is that everyone carries the spark of the divine. Every life has meaning and dignity. Everybody is somebody.
"That is why the greatest Somebody, Jesus Christ, surrendered himself on the cross – and why he rose from the dead. And when he finally appeared before his followers after the resurrection, his first message was a word of consolation to all those who feel frightened, or insecure, or alone – whether in that upper room, or in a village in Scotland, or in a walkup in Queens [or in a convent in Poland]: “Peace,” he said. Peace. It was his first gift after he had risen.
"In that same spirit, God continues to offer us another gift -- the one that gives this Sunday its name: Divine Mercy. God’s mercy says to us, very simply, 'You are loved -- no matter what. Because everybody is somebody.'
"I think we get a glimpse of that in today’s gospel. It gives us the familiar scene of Jesus appearing to a doubting Thomas, offering tangible proof that he has risen. 'Put your finger here and see my hands,' Jesus says. 'Bring your hand and put it into my side….do not be unbelieving, but believe.'
"But here, we encounter something the world had never known before: we encounter a God with scars. Wounds. A God who has endured pain, and suffered, and bled.
"That invitation to Thomas is also Christ’s invitation to us: 'See,' he says. 'I have known great pain. I understand.'
"He has walked with us, struggled with us, fallen with us, shed water and blood for us. He did it for you and me. He did it for the Susan Boyles of the world. Those who are hurt, or grieving, or dreaming. He did it for all of us, even those who have wandered away, or who doubt – all of the Thomases among us."
Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor.” St. Paul writes that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of humanity, that the weakness of God stronger than the strength of men. He also writes:
“Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…” (I Cor. 1:26b-28, RSV).
This is the power of the resurrection, manifested in the lives of people like Susan Boyle, a devout Roman Catholic, and St. Faustina, and as manifested in the ministries and martyrdoms of a motley band of Gallilean fishermen, the Apostles, including St. Thomas, to whose number was later added a renegade Rabbi, St. Paul. To the incarnate, crucified, and risen Eternal Son and Word of God, to His Eternal Father, and to the all-Holy, Good, and Lifegiving Eternal Spirit, one God, be glory and honor in both worlds and unto the Aeon of aeons. Amen.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
"Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered. Let those who hate him flee from before his face..."
May your celebration of the resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ (whether today or a week from today), be most blessed. Christ is risen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.
Friday, April 10, 2009
"In this world Christ was rejected. He was the perfect expression of life as God intended it. The fragmentary life of the world was gathered into his life; He was the heart beat of the world and the world killed him. But in that murder the world itself died. It lost its last chance to become the paradise God created it to be." Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World
Fr. Stephen on Good Friday, Western and Byzantine: "From Friday to Friday"
"We have struggled for too long as Christians under the yoke of moralism, in which everything of Christ’s is interpreted in moralistic terms - geared only towards our legal admission into heaven.
"This moralism is a caricature of true Christianity. Were the impacts of Christ’s victory on our existence to be forgotten - the faith would be in danger of its own death. If moralism disappears - it will doubtless be replaced by another. Moralism is simple, useful for judging others, and plays well in a world dominated by its neurotic psychological fantasies.
"To understand instead that sin is death - that it attacks us at the very point of our existence - is a different matter altogether. Humanity stands poised at the edge of an abyss - driven there by its own defiance of God - Who alone gives us life and all things. The daily events on the world stage are only a tragic opera that illustrate the inner drama of our lives. In our hearts we are the insane builders of weapons. We are the suicide bombers (a fitting image for much of our sin)."
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The Scripture reference is Matthew 25:1-13 (RSV):
[Jesus said,] "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, `Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."This homily was originally given a year ago at St. Demetrios in Knoxville.
In each of the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, just prior to the recounting of His death and resurrection, Jesus discusses the Eschaton, the end of history. The approach of the Gospel of John is slightly different, but in all four gospels, one thing is clear: the end of history, “the last days” begins with the execution and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In this parable, the Lord concludes by calling upon us to “watch.” We can know neither the day nor the hour of his appearing. This applies not only to the end of history, to the Lord’s return “in glory to judge both the living and the dead,” but to the moment of our own personal eschaton, our own death. Now we do not know if we shall be alive in the flesh when the Lord returns; however, we do know, barring the Second Coming, that each of us one day will leave this earthly life behind, and for that, we are called to be ready, our lamps full of the oil of the Holy Spirit, and with oil to spare, oil that we have purchased with our very life, in which we have been, and are being, "crucified with Christ". This is indeed our own personal apocalypse, and mine is mine alone, and yours, yours alone.
One major difference between our Tradition and Evangelicalism is that we take very seriously the communitarian aspects of the Christian faith. For us, in one sense, everything begins and ends with the Church. However, within the context of this Community, founded by the Lord himself and enlivened by the burning oil of the Holy Spirit, there is, in another sense, an individual relationship with the Lord that is uniquely mine, uniquely yours. There is a place in my heart, the wedding chamber if you will, the Holy of Holies, where no one can enter but myself and the Lord. In this sense, I cannot share my oil with you, nor you with me. I cannot be baptized for you, nor receive the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit in chrismation on your behalf. I cannot be absolved for your sins, nor you for mine. I cannot receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in your place, nor you in mine.
We can and should pray for each other, but I cannot do your praying for you, nor you for me. Hence, this message to watch, to be ready, to stay awake, is uniquely addressed to each of us as distinct persons. And yet, because the bridegroom is delayed, it is assumed that we will, each of us, fall asleep, only to awaken when the call is given: “The Bridegroom is coming.” Therefore, knowing this, we must, when awake, take care to have stored up for ourselves an adequate supply of oil. This is one reason why the Church gives us the seasons of Lent and Advent, so that, for a few weeks, we might focus on repentance, on acquiring the oil that we need. This is why we are called to fast regularly, usually twice a week, in order to focus more carefully on prayer, and are called, upon all occasions, to give of ourselves, and of our time, talent, and treasure, in service to others.
However, we cannot stress enough that the God-given context for this individual relationship with Christ is the Community of the Church, the very Body of Christ. Indeed, in the Orthodox traditions, temples are designed, on the basis of the old Temple in Jerusalem, with this in mind. Our temples are macrocosms of the microcosmic temple of the heart, and vice-versa. Further, if you keep your individual lamp burning, you will shed its light on us, and will encourage each of us to do the same. While there are some things that only I can do, things that only you can do, there is nothing that I do, that you do, that does not impact the Community, the Church, as a whole, either for good or for ill.
We are a team, but as on every team, each member has his or her own role to play, and each of these roles is indispensable. The Church, this Community, is the Body of Christ, and because we are each “members of Christ,” we are, as St. Paul also writes, “members one of another” just as the Divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “members one of another” from all eternity. Thus, the Church, the Body of Christ, who is "the Last Adam," is humanity re-created in the image and likeness of God and is therefore the ikon of the eternally communitarian Godhead.
Therefore, at the end of the Great Fast, as we prepare to enter into the Passover mystery of our Lord’s death and resurrection, let us, indeed, obtain for ourselves an ever greater measure of this precious oil. If we have not yet gone to Confession during the Fast, let us by all means do so. If we need to reconcile ourselves with someone, let us do that. Whatever the Lord is calling each of us to do in this regard, let us accomplish it, and by all means, let us continue to watch and pray, and to pray for those who have left our community. We are at this moment awake, it may be later than we think, and the Bridegroom is indeed arriving soon. To Him be all glory, honor, power, and worship, together with His unoriginate Father+, and the all-Holy, Good, and Lifegiving Spirit, One God in both worlds unto the Aeon of aeons. Amen.
Also, Fr. Stephen has already posted an excellent meditation on the Bridegroom motiff in the context of Holy Week (even though for the Byzantine Orthodox, Holy Week is next week). In it, Fr. Stephen writes:
"It is time again to forgive one another. If I stand with the humble Bridegroom and hear His words of humility: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (he offers no blame), how can I not with Him readily forgive all who have reason to hate me, or who hate me for no reason at all, or whom I hate (sinner that I am) even though their sins against me justly invite my wrath? Do I even dare to think of justice when the judgment of God looms so near? No, forgiveness can and must be given now! Rush to forgive - tell them quickly that their debt has been reduced or even taken away.It is found here. Do read it all.
"The coins with which we must purchase oil for our lamps as we follow the Bridegroom into His bridal chamber, can only be obtained by giving away the currency of our self-righteousness and the wealth of our grudges."
"Love covers a multitude of sins."
Sunday, April 5, 2009
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Psalm (118:22-26, RSV):
"The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the LORD's doing;it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD has made;let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech thee, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech thee, give us success! Blessed be he who enters in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD."
Gospel (John 12:12-19, RSV)
"The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, "Fear not, daughter of Zion;behold, your king is coming,sitting on an ass's colt!" His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. The Pharisees then said to one another, "You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.""The reason the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign." The sign in question is the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). It is also because of this act on Jesus' part, according to John 11:45-12:11, that Jesus' powerful enemies decide that he must die (and Lazarus too). So, today, on Palm Sunday, Hosanna Sunday, the crowd comes out to acclaim Jesus, but on Friday, that same crowd will cry out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Let us never forget that WE are a part of that crowd: WE crucify the Lord of glory.
And yet, He loves us with an everlasting, infinite love and desires nothing so much than that we love him in return and be united with him forever.
Pray: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
Go to Confession.
Reflect on the Most Blessed Trinity's everlasting and infinite love for us, "the sheep that had gone astray," revealed in the execution of Jesus Christ the Eternal Word of God.