Mar 312018

What is Old Catholic?

old catholic

As with every major feast of the church, I have received a number of phone calls asking about Mass times. They always ask what the difference is between Old Catholic and Roman Catholic. So I thought I would dedicate this week’s posting to discussing those differences.

What are the major differences between Old Catholic and Roman Catholic?

The major differences between our churches are in how we live our faith. For example, we allow our clergy to get married and have families. Our church ordains women to the all ranks of the clergy. We welcome LGBT individuals to participate fully in the life of the church, including seeking Holy Orders if they feel called to the priesthood or diaconate. Our churches practice an open communion which means that anyone can receive communion at our Mass. If you have been divorced, you too can receive communion.

Are you under the Pope?

No. While we respect the Bishop of Rome (often called the Pope), we are not under his authority. Old Catholics were granted autonomy from Rome in 1122. As such, we are a separate Catholic church with our own unique history.

Since you are not under the Pope, how can you still be Catholic?

That is a very good question! The term Catholic means universal. All Catholic churches hold to several universal truths that make them Catholic. One of those truths is the Holy Eucharist. All Catholic Churches participate in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in one way or another. They have a defined leadership of clergy in Apostolic Succession. This means they can trace their linage of Bishops all the way back to the early church. And all Catholic Churches uphold the one of the three major creeds of faith: the Nicene, Apostles, or Athanasian Creeds. As Old Catholics we hold all three of these major points!

What is your liturgy like?

If you have ever gone to a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian church for Mass, you will find that our liturgy is very familiar. Our liturgy has many of the same elements that those liturgies have.

At Saint Francis Old Catholic Church we strive to practice radical love. We welcome everyone and turn no one away from our church. It is our hope that you will find a home where you can be you. And along the way, we hope that you will find a deeper connection to the Divine.

So won’t you join us and experience a different way to be Catholic?

Mar 162018

Forgiveness and forgetting?

forgiveness

Forgiveness has been on my mind lately. I have been faced with several situations where I have had to choose between being angry and hurt or forgive the person.

In the letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul says, “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13. NRSV)

It does not say that we should forgive or to forgive if we feel like it. No, it says we must forgive. It is a command. And for our own health and the health of others, we must forgive. Forgiveness is a healing force just like an antibiotic. It kills anger, hurt, and bitterness, things that can rot and destroy your soul and spirit.

Jesus makes it clear that there are consequences to not forgiving others: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15. NRSV)

If we choose to refuse forgiveness to those who hurt us, then our Heavenly Father will not forgive us. I, for one, need forgiveness as I am far from sin-free! So, I have to forgive others.

Many people say that we have to forgive and forget. I believe that we have to let go of the pain, anger, and bitterness when we forgive others. However, when the damaged caused by someone we trusted is so great, I believe that it is wholly appropriate to remember that a person damaged us. I believe Jesus addresses this when he says, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16. NRSV)

We are called to be wise and sometimes wisdom says that we do not need to put ourselves in situations where we know we will be hurt or damaged again by toxic people. Thus, we must forgive, but not necessarily forget.

 

Jan 052018

Step out in faith

faith

I watched the Saint and the Sultan last week. One of the things that struck me was the willingness of Saint Francis to go against everyone in an effort to bring peace. His faith was monumental in the face of overwhelming odds.

Saint Francis was not worried about his own safety or well-being. He braved the battlefields to get to the Sultan and then risked not even getting a chance to speak to the Sultan. The soldiers could have killed Saint Francis before he even got to the camp.

Regardless, Saint Francis had faith that he was on a mission that was worthwhile. He wanted to see peace and to get the chance to show the Sultan the love of God. The Sultan in turn showed Saint Francis the love of God as well. Together, they discovered that they worshiped the same God. In that realization, they were able to find common ground and have productive dialog. This act by Francis may well have prevented thousands of deaths.

If Francis had listened to the voices of the naysayers, this transformative experience for him and the Sultan would have never occurred. War would have continued and would have been extremely brutal. Also, the vision that Francis had about the nativity of Christ, which led to our modern creche scene, would have never occurred. That vision happened on the way back to Assisi from Francis’ visit with the Sultan.

That is why we have to be willing to see beyond the negative messages around us. While others are predicting failure and bad things, we need to allow room for God to be God and to work miracles in our daily lives. Only then will we experience the great grace and love of God in the most unlikely places and situations.

Be willing to step out on faith. Take time to help those naysayers see the great power of God to overcome even the most outrageous of odds. And remember to give God all the glory when he works those miracles in your daily life.

Step out in faith and join us today to experience a different way to be Catholic!

Dec 292017

Our Human Family

Family

Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. This has me thinking about family a lot. As many of you know, growing up, I had a very dysfunctional family. I have used these experiences as an example of what a family should not be.

As I ponder family, I also see the work the evil one is doing to divide all of us. This is not just a divide in society, but also in our families. We spend so much time looking at all the things that divide us rather than considering the vast amount of things that bind us together. This is the greatest weapon the evil one has today.

We allow him to use this weapon against us rather than stopping him by working to look beyond those differences and working together toward our common goals. I really doubt that any of us want to see people homeless, cold, poor, hungry, sick, and dying. Only a person with no conscience, no soul would find pleasure in the suffering of others. Rather than seeing these people as fellow human beings who need our help, we have allowed the evil one to whisper in our ears that these people do not deserve our help. He uses the message that they deserve their lot in life because they are lazy or unmotivated.

The reality is that they are part of our human family. Yes, they are family. And they are hurting. They need our help and rather than judging them, we need to stop and help them. I don’t care what led them to where they are today. It is not my place to pass judgement on them. No, it is my place to help them. It is my place to show them the love of God.

It takes little to nothing to help someone in need. We only need to a take a moment to change their life. It only takes a moment to make them part of our family. Are we so divided that we cannot help those who are in most need? If the government is going to turn their backs on these people, which is deplorable in and of itself, then it is up to us to help them. Are we so jaded and cold that we are willing to look the other way than to reach out a hand to help them?

They are family. They are Christ. Scripture tells us that we will be judged by how we treat those in most need among us. When we help them, we are really helping Christ who sits as the beggar at our door. Saint Miriam in Flourtown, PA has a wonderful statue at the church door of a beggar. You have to almost lay down on the ground to see under the beggar’s hood. And when you do, you see that they beggar is Jesus.

As we continue this Christmas Season, it is not too late to show the love of God to those who need it most. We need to stop and reach out a helping hand to the beggar on the street. It is up to use to help the single and abandoned mother. Our calling tells us to hug the leaper, the AIDS sufferer, the person with cancer, and bring the love of Christ to them.

Today be the hands and arms of Christ to the members of our human family who need our love and help most.

Nov 182017

Depression and walking on water

depression

I will admit that I allowed my depression to get the better of me this week. It is hard not to at this time of year. Reflecting on the past year has reminded me that 2017 has been a very difficult year. However, I know that I am not alone. So many others have it far worse than I do.

Saint Peter understood this tendency to focus on the wrong thing. When the disciples were in the boat on the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up, they found themselves worried that they might die. Jesus was not with them. Then they saw him walking on the water toward their boat! And Saint Peter, being the one always willing to put his foot in his mouth or show off his lack of humility, asked to walk on the water toward Jesus.

His first few steps were fine. He was doing it! He was walking on water! However, he allowed his human nature to get the best of him. He took his eyes off of Jesus and looked down at the water and immediately started to sink. Jesus grabbed his hand, pulled him up and helped him back into the boat.

For me, especially this week, I took my eyes off of Jesus and started looking at the world around me. I started looking at all the things I wanted to do, the things I wanted to get, the things that I thought should be done differently. And when I did, I got depressed. I took my eyes off what mattered most.

As we draw closer to the Christmas season, it becomes more and more of a challenge for those of us with chronic depression. However, we as Christians also have the great advantage that we can turn to Jesus and ask for his help. We can focus on him and find new purpose. He can guide us to those things that will help us battle our depression. Jesus may not take away our cross of depression, but focusing on him can help make it a little easier to carry.

So look to Jesus today and find the strength you need to keep walking on water!

Aug 032017

Freedom

Freedom

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I start out this blog post with The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus for a reason. This week found us curbing the freedoms that we as Americans take for granted. We have given up the freedom to find a new home, one where we can “breath free”.

This freedom was afforded to millions of refuges, immigrants, and weary travelers who, usual because of war, found themselves suddenly without a country. Also, it is a freedom that most of our ancestors took advantage of. And now we are closing the door to legal immigrants who do not fit our vision for America.

This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Amen, I say to you, as much as you have done to one of these my little brothers, you have done that to me.” (Matthew 25:40) This passage comes from the story of the sheep and the goats. Jesus speaks of his coming again to judge the world and how he will separate out the sheep from the goats.

Then The King will say to those who are at his right, ‘Come, blessed ones of my Father, inherit the Kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation of the universe.’ For I was hungry and you gave me food, and I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will say to him, ‘Our Lord, When did we see you that you were hungry and we fed you, or that you were thirsty and we gave you drink? And when did we see you, that you were a stranger and we took you in, or that you were naked and we clothed you?’ ‘And when did we see you sick or in a prison, and we came to you?’ And The King answers and says to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, as much as you have done to one of these my little brothers, you have done that to me.’

Then he will say also to those who are at his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed ones, into eternal fire, that which was prepared for The Devil and for his Angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not take me in; I was naked, and you did not clothe me. I was sick, and in prison and you did not take care of me.’ And those will answer, and they will say, ‘Our Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and we did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer and he will say to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, as much as you have not done to one of these little ones, neither have you done that to me.’ And these will go into eternal torture, and the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:34-46. Aramaic Plain English Version)

Jesus speaks about the fact that when we treat each other and those who need us most with kindness, when we welcome the stranger and immigrant into our country, our homes, we do it to him. We are called to be like Christ. Our calling as Christians is to follow his example. We cannot close our doors or our hearts to the immigrants, refuges, the poor, women, LGBT, prisoners, and minorities and still claim to be Christians. Yet, so many people who claim to be Christians do just that.

Saint John Chrysostom, a great saint in both the Eastern and Western churches, said, “If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice.” This is very true. By turning a blind eye to the plight of those who need us most, we reject Christ. As a result, we will not find him when we need him most.

Therefore, I ask you to examine your hearts. Do you open your heart and your hand to those who need it most? Or do you demand that we close our borders to everyone? Do you demand that our LGBT brothers and sisters go back into the closet? Have you demanded that women get less pay for the same job as men? Do you look at prisoners as second class citizens? Have you refused to see the plight of our brothers and sisters of color who still face discrimination?

Furthermore, work with me today to see Christ in all those around us. In doing so, we will not end up hearing those depressing words at judgment: “Amen, I say to you, as much as you have not done to one of these little ones, neither have you done that to me.” (Matthew 25:45)