Being Lead to Holiness

I have a way of thinking that everything happens for a reason, maybe its my inner Locke and Eloise.

Today I had a 5-hour meeting with representatives from all the NDUS campuses. I knew one of the student reps as we had been RAs together so long ago. Pretty soon, all I could think about was how much I love Fargo and how much I miss it, and how I would take almost any job I could find in Fargo if it meant I could live there forever.

I also spent a large majority of my day contemplating Purgatory. Somebody had challenged its existence and so I kept thinking about my imperfections and how I was grateful that Purgatory does exist so that Christ can continue to apply his once-for-all purifying death to me so that I will be transformed into his likeness rather than simply hiding behind his holiness. I thought about all those poor souls who are there, and how denying the reality of their suffering is a terrible terrible thing for us to do. And so I decided to go earn an indulgence for them (oh goodie!) by praying at a cemetery across town.

I realized that while I am thankful for Purgatory, I do not desire it. I desire only heaven. However, I do desire Purgatory insofar as it will get me to heaven. I would rather be made holy now, than be made holy through much time spent in Purgatory. And so while I prayed for the release of souls, I prayed that I might be spared the suffering of Purgatory.

And thus, God began to work. First thing he did: he made my car stall, about 6 miles or so from home. I had to call AAA and wait for a tow. It required a lot of patience. Anyone who makes a list of my faults knows that patience is near the top of that list. Unfortunately I was planning on going to Fargo this weekend, but that is not likely to happen anymore, and so all of the intense yearning for Fargo that was drummed up today will not come to fruition. Instead I will be stuck here in Bismarck. To top that off, there was something very important I was going to do in Fargo this weekend that I’ve been praying about, but will now have to wait until next weeked.

The point is that God wants to make us holy now and if we pray for it and we cooperate with the graces he provides he will make it happen. I was patient. I didn’t swear or cuss or let my eyes grow dark. I didn’t punch things or have a tantrum. I waited patiently. My reward was a tow truck driver who not only dropped my car off at the shop, but kindly drove me back to campus. And now I stay in Bismarck, but rather than be disappointed, I will do my best to be happy where I am, not where I wish I were.

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5 thoughts on “Being Lead to Holiness

  1. I had to chuckle when I read another person afflicted with ‘impatience disorder’ (I made that up). I too struggle with patience, particularly when I am placed in a situation that is outside of my control. I have wasted a lot of emotional and spiritual energy trying to move those mountains. Your post reminds me that it’s ok that plans change and I can be thankful.

  2. It’s terrible to deny the suffering of people in Purgatory…okay, but I thought they were happy in Purgatory? It is a joyous pain like going through childbirth. How can I do anything to speed the purifying work of Christ? Does Christ operate on man’s schedule? Christ is purifying souls in Purgatory right now. Okay, let’s say I accept that. Does Purgatory imply then that Christ isn’t strong enough to purify souls, that he needs my help to purify souls? If he doesn’t need my help, are you suggesting that he is relying on sinful, faulted men to purify these souls? Why would he put his hope in man to purify these souls and speed their journey to heaven? And if he is relying on men, and men fail him (as they are wont to do, being sinful and not yet purified), then won’t all those souls still get to heaven anyway? Whether I do anything or not, whether I earn indulgences or not, those souls still go to heaven. And since those souls are happy right now in their suffering, since they still have faith and hope in Christ, why should I be compelled to help them?

  3. Yes, they are happy, but their happiness is only in that they will see Christ. They aren’t content suffering for suffering’s sake, but suffering because they will get to see Christ. And no, Christ doesn’t need my help or your help. But you wouldn’t use that as an excuse to not pray in general would you? Christ clearly doesn’t need me to pray for world peace, he is completely capable of establishing world peace. He doesn’t need me to pray for the poor and the hungry, his miracle with the loaves and fishes clearly showed he is capable of feeding all who hunger. Yet I still pray. You and me both have been on summer projects. Does going on a summer project express the weakness of Christ to share his own message about who he is? Did he NEED the prophets to write down his words because he was incapable of composing a book or speaking to each of us individually? You probably get the point.

    The reason that we pray for the Souls in Purgatory is because we are all part of the one body. How can we see a brother or sister and need and do nothing about it? (James 2:15 and 1 John 3:17) We help them out because we are the hands and feet of Christ. We do it because we see Christ in them and we know that what we do to the least we do to Christ. We do it because the ancient creeds speak of a communion of saints and we are a part of that communion whether we are on earth, in purgatory or in heaven. We do it because the Church that Jesus Christ founded asks us to. I pray for my brethren who are living next door to me and I pray for my brethren who have died because in my eyes that distinction is irrelevant.

  4. You’ve come back to this idea multiple times now of authority: whose authority do we trust: that of the Church, or our own individual interpretation? I believe this is a straw man argument that you frequently use to knock down Protestants and build up Catholics. It’s a false dichotomy in several ways.

    First, Protestants don’t just believe whatever they want based on their own interpretations of the Bible. To the Protestant, the Bible is the authority, not the person. How does the Protestant know if s/he is reading the Bible correctly? The Protestant believes that the Holy Spirit will guide them, and the Holy Spirit never fails us. How do we know if we are actually being led by the Holy Spirit, or if we are just imagining being led by the Spirit? We know we are in step with the Spirit if our lives show fruit of the Spirit. That doesn’t mean the Christian has to be perfect or sinless, and it doesn’t mean that their theology will always be correct. But if the Christian is living in the spirit, and trying to be as faithful as possible, then over time the spirit will guide the Christian to truth in the manner that He chooses.

    You perpetuate this notion that Protestantism is a chaotic theology where everybody has their own ideas about who God and Jesus is. But that’s not true. There are some key doctrinal differences between denominations, yes, but the basic message of faith, that Christ died for our sins, that salvation comes only through Christ, that salvation is an act of faith and not works, that the Bible is the Word of God, etc., these beliefs are shared by pretty much every Protestant. To me, that is evidence of the Spirit working in the church, guiding Christians collectively to truth.

    No Protestant relies solely on his own interpretation of the Bible either. If they did, nobody would ever go to church. But Protestants look to their pastors, leaders, mentors, disciplers, and other people of the faith to guide them. Protestants read widely of classical and current theologians, many of whom are Catholic. And Protestants are indebted to the Catholic church for compiling the Scriptures and preserving the Scriptures over the centuries. Nobody disagrees with that.

    Protestants submit to the authority of the Scriptures, the authority of the Spirit, and whether they consciously acknowledge it or not, the authority of the worldwide church (which includes both Protestants and Catholics).

    So that’s step one against your argument: Protestants don’t just willy nilly believe whatever interpretation they want about theology.

    Step two: you personally don’t believe solely in the authority of the Catholic church. You wax eloquently about how great the Catholic church is and how you believe whatever they tell you and that you don’t doubt the Catholic church at all. And yet your personal faith life is filled with your own personal interpretations. Maybe not your own interpretation of Scripture, but certainly your own interpretation of life events.

    In this post, for instance, you claim that God stalled your car in order to teach you patience, which indirectly taught you about Purgatory. That’s an incredible claim to make. What if your car just happened to break down? You do this all the time: you take events that happen in your life, and you interpret God’s will in those events. You see God guiding you this way or that way. You come to these personal interpretations without first consulting the church oftentimes.

    A couple years ago, you were convinced that God was leading you to the seminary. Then you were convinced He’d closed that door. Then you were convinced He was leading you there again. Now you are even more convinced that that door was closed. You were convinced at one time that God was calling you away from your cute Catholic girlfriend so you could be a priest, that God didn’t want you getting attached to a person. Then recently you wrote something along the lines of that you regretted that decision to leave her, or were at least sad about giving up something so great in your life.

    These are all your personal interpretations. Some have proven right: some have proven misguided. I don’t mean to open old wounds or shove it in your face or anything. I do this all the time as well. I, too, thought God was calling me to the seminary at one time, and I, too, thought God wanted me to be with certain women. And who knows? Maybe those failures in both our lives are part of God’s plan for us, whether we realize it at this moment or not.

    The point I’m making that I want you to realize is that you deride Protestants all the time for “personal interpretations” and yet you do it just as much as us.

    ~Dennis

    • Comparing personal interpretation of Scripture to personal interpretation of life events is like comparing apples and oranges. To try to imply that I am just as much as a “personal interpretationist” as Protestants is simply dishonest. Attempts to discern what God is doing personally in one’s life does not equate to personal interpretation in the same sense that Protestants personally interpret the Scriptures.

      You say that Protestantism isn’t a chaotic theology. You defend this by drawing up two or three things that most, but not all, Protestants hold in common. You claim that this shows that the Spirit is leading the Protestant branch of Christianity into collective truth. But for every characteristic that Protestants have in common there are a multitude of differences. And we aren’t talking about differences in application of truth, such as the differences in the styles of services, but differences in what is perceived to be true. This is a serious problem because Jesus didn’t pray for us to be a loose band of people united in as few ways as possible. He prayed that we would be one in mind and spirit, as he and the Father are one.

      How can this oneness be achieved? Obviously it is not through the “I have the fruits of the Spirit” notion. It is achieved when we go to the Church, which is the pillar of truth according to St. Paul. This pillar-Church is not the invisible worldwide Protestant-Catholic-Orthodox Church. The loose relationships between all the many different sects of Christians is no more authoritative over Christianity than if you took all the governors of the United States and claimed that they were an authoritative unit. The pillar-Church is the Church that is lead by the man whom Christ built his Church, lead by the man who Christ commanded to feed his sheep.

      The point I’m trying to make is that authority is the root. Without the authority of the Christ-established Church, any conclusion a Protestant comes to is purely personal speculation. Speculation is not always true. However, the exercises of the authority given by Christ are.

      I would also like to just add that I don’t feel that our conversations are really all that fruitful, so I’m not sure that these discussions that go nowhere are really worth our time.

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