Perhaps you think you’re not “God material”?

Goduse

Submitted by Bob Stanley

Stinkin’ Thinkin’? Fr. Thomas Berg writes that we are not necessarily called to be successful . . .

skunk

Biblical truth or a convenient excuse for a poorly run Church?

photo:Wikipedia

5 keys to better discernment

prayingbw

Five general principles of discernment of God’s will that apply to all questions about it, and therefore to our question too, are the following:

  1. Always begin with data, with what we know for sure. Judge the unknown by the known, the uncertain by the certain. Adam and Eve neglected that principle in Eden and ignored God’s clear command and warning for the devil’s promised pig in a poke.
  2. Let your heart educate your mind. Let your love of God educate your reason in discerning his will. Jesus teaches this principle in John 7:17 to the Pharisees. (Would that certain Scripture scholars today would heed it!) They were asking how they could interpret his words, and he gave them the first principle of hermeneutics (the science of interpretation): “If your will were to do the will of my Father, you would understand my teaching.” The saints understand the Bible better than the theologians, because they understand its primary author, God, by loving him with their whole heart and their whole mind.
  3. Have a soft heart but a hard head. We should be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” sharp as a fox in thought but loyal as a dog in will and deed. Soft-heartedness does not excuse soft-headedness, and hard-headedness does not excuse hard-heartedness. In our hearts we should be “bleeding-heart liberals” and in our heads “stuck-in-the-mud conservatives.”
  4. All God’s signs should line up, by a kind of trigonometry. There are at least seven such signs: (1) Scripture, (2) church teaching, (3) human reason (which God created), (4) the appropriate situation, or circumstances (which he controls by his providence), (5) conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong, (6) our individual personal bent or desire or instincts, and (7) prayer. Test your choice by holding it up before God’s face. If one of these seven voices says no, don’t do it. If none say no, do it.
  5. Look for the fruits of the spirit, especially the first three: love, joy, and peace. If we are angry and anxious and worried, loveless and joyless and peaceless, we have no right to say we are sure of being securely in God’s will. Discernment itself should not be a stiff, brittle, anxious thing, but—since it too is part of God’s will for our lives—loving and joyful and peace-filled, more like a game than a war, more like writing love letters than taking final exams.

Read more from Peter Kreeft

Don’t play with the devil, because you will lose!

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A GENERAL RULE: Don’t play with the Devil.

As soon as one knows that it comes from the devil, it must be rejected without any discussion. Check to see if God would suggest the thought, if not, it’s from the devil! Don’t entertain it.

“Playing with the devil” is tarrying with a thought that one knows to be not good, and thus from the devil. Woe to him who consents to dialogue with the devil (who is much stronger than we). Eve succumbed because she “played” with the devil. Instead of cutting him short, she started to discuss the temptation with him. The devil finished by making her fall.

Saint Bernard wrote: “Nobody becomes suddenly bad.” Know that it has not happened all of a sudden. For a long time, they have played with the devil.

If you play with the devil, you will lose. Don’t entertain “what if” bad thoughts. Reject it as soon as you perceive it’s a bad thought or you will fall little by little. He proposes little sins first.

The devil tries to put our minds at ease when we are in sin or are about to sin. The good angels do the opposite. We must not help the devil but must help disturb the conscience of those living in sin. Don’t put them at ease. We must not help the devil give them a false peace.

People today are very external and active. They don’t know how to be quiet, how to think about life. Beware of too much activity that keeps the mind from thinking, keeps us from internal thoughts. True peace of mind does not come from the devil.

The good angel will give reasons why an idea is bad.

The devil uses our situation against us. Are we tired, sick, have evil friends, etc. Beware of “if” or “maybe” proposals and thoughts.

God also uses good friends and sends us lights. Pay attention to influences. Distinguish between good influences and bad or evil influences. Keep the good and reject the evil.

The devil moves the passions since he cannot move the will. He however wants our will. So he moves our passions: sadness, anxiety, etc. Don’t play with it. Say no to sadness. God always gives peace of mind when good is selected.

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On the problem of accurately discerning God’s will for your life

If you’re trying to make a decision and you truly want to do God’s Will, try these 3 steps in order. If the first one works for you, there’s no need to move on to the second. If the second one works, there’s no need to go on to the third. If you get to the third mode, keep trying…it WILL work!

Link

Kreeft: How to successfully discern God’s will for your life … and act accordingly.

Does God have one right choice for me in each decision I make?

When we pray for wisdom to discern God’s will when it comes to choosing a mate, a career, a job change, a move, a home, a school, a friend, a vacation, how to spend money, or any other choice, big or little, whenever there are two or more different paths opening up before us and we have to choose, does God always will one of those paths for us? If so, how do we discern it?

Many Christians who struggle with this question today are unaware that Christians of the past can help them from their own experience. Christian wisdom embodied in the lives and teachings of the saints tells us two things that are relevant to this question.

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Pope recommends spiritual direction to every Christian


“Spiritual Direction – 2 Cents”

Pope Benedict said today, “As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ,” Pope Benedict added. “Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God.”

“A guide can help defend oneself from facile subjectivist interpretations, making available his own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus.”

Link

Editor’s note: A great idea, as far as it goes. I wonder if the pope realizes how difficult it is these days, even to find a good priest, for confession? As for spiritual direction … I would be happy to find just one priest or bishop who would actually provide straight, unequivocal answers to the great Catholic questions of the day. The last one I knew died, several years ago!

The generally lame, post-Vatican II Catholic seminaries and deaconate programs have for the most part, done little or nothing to make spiritual direction either advisable or available for the great majority of practicing Catholics. In fact, the latest John Jay study made clear that the risks to the faithful … both spiritual and physical … may be considerable.

And don’t get me started on the alleged “Catholic” education establishment!

To put it simply: These days, a great degree of caution and discernment is required when selecting a spiritual director. Even for a pope!

The 7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God

I found it fascinating to see what common threads could be found in the lives of these incredible people who place so much trust in the Lord, and thought I’d share in case others find it inspiring as well.

1. They accept suffering

One of the most powerful things I’ve read in recent memory is Brother Yun’s story of being a persecuted pastor in China, as recounted in the book The Heavenly Man. After facing weeks of torture, including electrocution, starvation, beatings, and having needles shoved under his fingernails, he was thrown in a box that was four feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high, where he would stay indefinitely. The day after he was put in this mini cell, he felt prompted to pray for a Bible — a ridiculous idea, considering that many people were in prison at that very moment for being in possession of such contraband. Yet he prayed anyway. And, inexplicably, the guards threw a Bible into his cell the next morning. He writes:

I knelt down and wept, thanking the Lord for this great gift. I could scarcely believe my dream had come true! No prisoner was ever allowed to have a Bible or any Christian literature, yet, strangely, God provided a Bible for me! Through this incident the Lord showed me that regardless of men’s evil plans for me, he had not forgotten me and was in control of my life.

Now, the less saintly among us (cough-cough) might have reacted to that a little differently. Had I been tortured and thrown in a coffin-like cell, my reaction to receiving a Bible would have likely been more along the lines of, “Thanks for the Bible, Lord, but could we SEE ABOUT GETTING ME OUT OF THIS METAL BOX FIRST?!?!” I wouldn’t have even “counted” the Bible as an answered prayer since my main prayer — reducing my physical suffering — had gone unanswered.

Yet what I see over and over again in people like Brother Yun is that they have crystal clarity on the fact that suffering is not the worst evil — sin is. Yes, they would prefer not to suffer, and do sometimes pray for the relief of suffering. But they prioritize it lower than the rest of us do — they focus far more on not sinning than on not suffering. They have a laser focus on getting themselves and others to heaven. In Brother Yun’s case, he saw through that answered prayer that God was allowing him to grow spiritually and minister to his captors, so his circumstances of suffering in an uncomfortable cell became almost irrelevant to him.

Read the other 6 habits

Lutheran Converts: Catholic Church (warts and all) is better than the alternative.

“The Lutheran church has been my intellectual and spiritual home for forty years,” wrote Dr. Root. “But we are not masters of our convictions. A risk of ecumenical study is that one will come to find another tradition compelling in a way that leads to a deep change in mind and heart. Over the last year or so, it has become clear to me, not without struggle, that I have become a Catholic in my mind and heart in ways that no longer permit me to present myself as a Lutheran theologian with honesty and integrity. This move is less a matter of decision than of discernment.”

Link

Editor’s note: Be sure to view the reader comments at the NCR site.

Fraternal Correction: the Forgotten Virtue


The fact is that over and over again Scripture tells us to correct the sinner. Far from forbidding fraternal correction, the Scriptures command and commend it.  I would like to share some of those texts here and add a little commentary of my own in Red.

  1. Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt 18:15-18) Jesus instructs us to speak to a sinning brother or sister and summon them to repentance. If private rebuke does not work and, assuming the matter is serious, others who are trustworthy should be summoned to the task. Finally the Church should be informed. If they will not listen even to the Church then they should be excommunicated (treated as a tax collector or Gentile). Hence in serious matters excommunication should be considered as a kind of medicine that will inform the sinner of how serious the matter is. Sadly this “medicine” is seldom used today even though Jesus clearly prescribes it (at least in more serious matters).
  2. It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened….I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; 10not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you. So the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul commands that we “judge”  the evil doer. Now again in this case the matter is very serious (incest). Notice how the text says he should be excommunicated (handed over to Satan). Here too the purpose is medicinal. It is to be hoped that Satan will beat him up enough that he will come to his senses and repent before the day of judgment. It is also medicinal in the sense that the community is protected from bad example, scandal and the presence of evil. The text also requires us to be able to size people up. There ARE immoral and unrepentant people with whom it is harmful for us to associate. We are instructed to discern this and not keep friendly company with people who can mislead us or tempt us to sin. This requires a judgment on our part. Some judgements ARE required of us.
  3. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any sin, you who are spiritual should recall him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Gal 6:1-2) Notice we are called to note when a person has been overtaken in sin and to correct him. Note too that the text cautions us to do so in a spirit of gentleness. Otherwise we may sin in the very process of correcting the sinner. Perhaps we are prideful or unnecessarily harsh in our words of correction. This is no way to correct. Gentle and humble but clear, seems to be the instruction here. It also seems that patience is called for since we must bear the burden’s of one another’s sin. We bear this in two ways. First we accept the fact that others have imperfections and faults that trouble us. Secondly we bear the obligation of helping others know their sin and of helping them to repent.
  4. My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19) The text is ambiguous as to whose soul is actually saved but that is good since it seems both the corrected and the corrector are beneficiaries of fraternal correction well executed.
  5. You shall not hate your brother in your heart: You shall in any case rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. (Lev 19:17) The text instructs us that to refuse to correct a sinning neighbor is a form of hatred. Instead we are instructed to love our neighbors by not wanting sin to overtake them.
  6. If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother 2 Thess 3:14  Notice again the medicine of rebuke even to the point of refusing fellowship in more serious matters is commanded. But note too that even a sinner does not lose his dignity, he is still to be regarded as a brother, not an enemy. A similar text from 2 Thess 3:6 says  We instruct you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who walks in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition they received from us.
  7. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom Col 3:16 To admonish means to warn. Hence, if the word of Christ is rich within us we will warn when that becomes necessary. A similar text from 2 Tim 3:16 says:  All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. Reproof and correction is thus part of what is necessary to equip us for every good work.
  8. And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all 1 Thess 5:14. Here fraternal correction is described as admonishing, encouraging and helping. We are also exhorted to patience is these works.

Well there are more but by now you get the point. Fraternal correction, correcting the sinner it prescribed and commanded by scripture. We must resist the shame that the world tries to inflict on us by saying, simplistically, that we are “judging” people. Not all judgment is forbidden, some judgment is commanded. Correction of the sinner is both charitable and virtuous.

Read more

Further evidence that suffering is often, a gift from God

Father John Powell,
a professor at Loyola University in Chicago,
writes about a student in his Theology class:

I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer.
Before I could search him out, he came to see me.

When he walked into my office,
his body was very badly wasted
and the long hair had all fallen out
as a result of chemotherapy.

But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm…

‘Tommy, I’ve thought about you so often; I hear you are sick,’ I blurted out.

‘Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It’s a matter of weeks…’

Read the whole story

Submitted by Doria2

Reader recommendation: “Authenticity” by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.

 authenticity

A couple of Amazon reviews of a book recently recommended by one of our readers:

4.0 out of 5 stars Fr. Dubay exposes the dangers of self-deception, November 12, 1999
By  Mark A. Osborne (Montgomery Village, MD USA) – See all my reviews

I was interested in this book because of the topic and the author. The topic, because of my 15 years in a charismatic community which professed to be able to discern the movements of the Holy Spirit and his counterfeits. The author because I respect him after reading Fire Within.

Thomas Dubay argues that the gift of discernment of spirits is real, but it is reserved for the mature, well-trained, obedient person. It is not a gift that should be claimed rashly for oneself. Fr. Dubay emphasizes the role of Church authority in determining the validity of private revelations. He mentions how St. John of the Cross warned readers to beware of private locutions, even legitimate ones. We are not to run after extraordinary phenomena for their own sake, but should be content with an ordinary life of prayer and sacrament. Even when St. John believed he had personally heard from God, he consulted a priest. If the priest disagreed with John’s revelation, John would always obey the confessor.

Thomas Dubay systematically discusses the pitfalls in discernment. For example, he discusses how even a valid “word” from God may be misinterpreted by even the sincere, mature Christian.

He uses the scriptures and the Spanish mystics to describe the qualities of a prophet. He describes the importance of conversion to Christ in being able to discern his will. Other elements are important too: obedience to authority in the larger Church. Unity of a community is an essential sign that it is being guided by the Holy Spirit. An appreciation for sound doctrine. The living of a moral life.

The author’s musings on the selectivity of our minds in rationalizing our positions, particularly in dissent against the magisterium, made me examine my conscience. There was a passage that jived perfectly with The Seven Storey Mountain, which I had just finished.

 

 
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Gourmet Chicken Soup for the Soul, April 14, 2002
By  Zachary Flummerfelt (Wichita, Kansas USA) – See all my reviews

Seldom is a work on prayer and discernment so clear, comforting, and intellectually stimulating. This work is excellent for Catholics looking for an orthodox, contemporary work on discernment. Fr. Dubay, a widely renowned spirtitual director and expert on Sts. Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross, dispels the myths surrounding authentic mysticism.Many are suprised when they hear that St. John of the Cross was extremely skeptical of all private revelations and illuminism. He submitted all of his discernment thoughts to the test of offical Church teachings and the opinion of his confessor. Sound reasoning and many Scriptural references demonstrate that authentic discerment derives from steady prayer, spiritual reading and obediance.

I also highly recommend this work to Protestants. Fr. Dubay has soaked this work with Scripture. He clarifies the often misunderstood Catholic concept of genuine mysticism which is often mistaken for gnosticism or superstition.

Sufficed to say Fr. Dubay’s clear yet gentle way of caring for souls is rare. Few are able to write such a practical work that is free from the campy, “how-to” shallowness of modern spiritual writing.

See it or buy it at Amazon

Book suggestion by:  lindsayraemyers

Are all sins equal?

Q: Are all sins equal?
It doesn’t seem possible or fair. Am I missing something?

A: Only in the Old Testament, under the old law, were all sins essentially equal, because when you broke any part of the law … even the smallest part … you broke it all … and you were condemned as a result, with no hope of recovery … except for Jesus, the Messiah.

Under the new covenant, we operate under the grace of God, not by law.

Jesus is our judge, and he is capable of determining the seriousness of our infractions, without fail … and in a perfect way that the old law was completely incapable of doing.

So no, you’re not missing a thing. It’s the guys that fail to understand the importance of grace, and who read their Bibles lacking true discernment, who are missing something.

Sola Scriptura, the Anemic Man-made False Doctrine!

Sola Scriptura, the Anemic Man-made False Doctrine!

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2Timothy 3:16-17

Those are the most common verses which non-Catholic sects use in a vain attempt to “prove” that the man made false doctrine of ‘Sola Scriptura’, or ‘Bible Only’ is Biblical.

However, when these people quote Holy Scripture, they will invariably quote a verse or two entirely out of context.

Before anyone even begins to discern the message of what Scripture is really trying to present, they must abide by the established rules, the main axioms of discernment of Holy Scripture, one of which is that you never take verses out of context.

It is the context, the senses, and the literary genre, which must be taken into consideration for proper discernment.

It is a virtual impossibility for any writer to put into words the true meaning of what he is trying to convey, without someone misconstruing and twisting his intended message. That is why having only one authority for proper discernment is of paramount importance.

“In these epistles there are certain things difficult to understand, which the unlearned and unstable distort, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures also, to their own destruction.” 2Peter 3:16

More … Link to The Catholic Treasure Chest

Why does the Bible define itself as “allegory” and as “mystery” to solve by seek and find?

Saint Jerome

Q: Why does the Bible define itself as “allegory” and as “mystery” to solve by seek and find?Does the Bible think for you, or perhaps make you think?  

A: The Catholic Church produced the Bible. It remains a Catholic holy book, written by Catholics, for Catholics, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and it truly reflects only authentic Catholic beliefs and practices.

What else would anyone expect?

The Catholic Church has also been very clear about how and why the Bible was written, and what factors the reader needs to understand and take into account, when studying the sacred scriptures.

Contrary to what some people believe, there is absolutely no assurance that anyone reading the Bible on their own is certain to able to discern the Bibles’s true meaning … and the 50,000 different, but all allegedly “Bible-based” protestant denominations, serve as absolute proof of this.

Read the official Vatican document for yourself. It’s fairly short and easy to understand, and it includes complete footnotes and related citations: